More on my re-write

Its a funny thing, but when you undertake to re-write a story you wrote seventeen years earlier, how the way in which you now write, compared to the way you did back then, has completely changed.

Originally, I wrote the story for my own entertainment and that of a couple of close personal friends. Sure it was full of spelling and punctuation errors. But, even though I was the one actually writing it, like my friends, I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. Back then you see, unlike today, I didn’t bother with planning out a storyline. I just let it happen.

The story in question, although I didn’t know it at the time, later became the basis for my first published science fiction space opera “Onet’s Tale”, which for the last four days (Jan 27th – 30th) has featured as a free Kindle download. Over five hundred people took advantage of the offer, for which I am eternally grateful. After all, its nice to know that a few hundred people spread far and wide across the planet are reading the end product of a lot of sweat and toil on my part. I wrote the first draft of “Onet’s Tale” back in 2003, while staying with two very special friends of mine – Fran and Graeme back in New Zealand.

Now its the turn of the original story “Turning Point”, set here on Earth in the twentieth century. A story about how humanity fights back against an alien invasion by a fierce warrior race from across the cosmos, known as the Drana. A few of “Turning Point’s” major characters are met a thousand years later in “Onet’s Tale”, by its own set of main characters, led by a Nephile named Akhen and a former disgraced Drana soldier – Khan.

My much missed second home, New Zealand, features heavily in “Turning Point”. In fact a great deal of the action in the final chapters occurs there.

So far, I’ve been through the original manuscript a couple of times checking spelling and punctuation. In a few days or so, I will begin filling it out where necessary. The story itself needs little or no additional material. Maybe just a bit more in the way of dialogue between the various characters.

Well, my rest break is now over, so I had better get back to it.

More later…

How Does Your Rating Grow?

For the last three days, I’ve participated in Amazon’s free Kindle download program, giving away several hundred copies of my science fiction space opera “Onet’s Tale”. It finishes tomorrow, Monday the 30th January.
So far 439 copies have been downloaded in the US, together with 139 here in the UK, 6 in Germany and 1 in Estonia.
Having observed this exercise in promotion, it merely reinforces my belief that Amazon’s rating system is a load of old bunkum, which serves no useful purpose whatsoever. 
For instance, how can a book which is being literally given away be rated as a number one best seller – which it became in Germany on Saturday, when only 6 copies were downloaded? The mind boggles! But then again a lot of what Amazon does, completely baffles most of us in the world of words these days doesn’t it.

Hey ho, if nothing else it has been an interesting insight into the mindset of those who love to get something for nothing. And, for a few days, it has felt good seeing so many copies being downloaded across the world. 
There is one thing I can’t help wondering about though. What if all the folk who downloaded their free copies actually had to pay for them? How many would be have been so eager to participate I wonder? Don’t get me wrong here folks, I’m overjoyed that so many copies of my science fiction space opera, now dwell on Kindles and Kindle for PC programs.
Here’s hoping that the folk who did participate in the free download, enjoy reading the product of all my sweat and toil, written back in 2003 and published in 2010. Hopefully they may feel inclined to review “Onet’s Tale”, depositing it on the Amazon site from which they downloaded their free copy. 
After all, its the least they can do, don’t you think?

More on Literary Snobs

In a recent blog post of mine “Books and Literary Snobs”, I began it by saying the following:
“Since the emergence of the internet, online publishing and the plethora of books now available to us, a second disturbing breed has emerged – the literary snob.
While thanks to small press and self-publishing, it is true that the vast majority of published authors these days far outweigh the fortunate few, chosen by establishment publishers, rarely if ever will any of the former become successful.”
Since writing that post I have become even more aware of another trait among today’s literary snobs – pomposity. Sadly there are a number of people who will only ever read an author their fathers introduced them to.
The emerging author of today will be deafened by the loud ‘tut tutting’ being uttered by these narrow minded individuals who are quick to judge, based only on one reading experience of a new author’s work. If they had their way, the only books made available to the general public to read would have been written in the nineteenth century, or maybe up until the middle of the twentieth. Certainly none published by anyone other than the ‘big six’ establishment publishing houses would be allowed into the public domain in their view.
A little further on in my previous post I added the following:
“Yesterday I read a list of best selling books that were rejected for years, in some cases – decades, before the snobs within the world of establishment publishing took notice of them. The list of titles, too numerous to mention here, astounded me. Perhaps it shouldn’t. After all, they were first timers once just like you and I.”
One thing all of these pompous literary snobs seem incapable of comprehending is the fact that all writers, be they first timers, or old established hands, if they are at all serious about writing, continue to hone their ‘voice’ until the day they die. Writers like Dickens were panned beyond belief when they were first published; something the pompous literary snob of today conveniently seems to forget.
I feel exceedingly sorry for these lonely pathetic individuals whose personal library is severely limited to a few volumes written by authors such as Tolstoy, Pushkin, Dickens, H. Rider Haggard, H.G Wells, Jules Verne, Agatha Christy, Graeme Green, or maybe even Arthur Conan Doyle. Unfortunately, they are the kind of people who firmly believes that reading anything new, is somehow beneath them.In a way, they remind me of my father’s generation who clung to the dream that England still ruled the waves, and had an Empire. Like them, today’s literary snobs are dinosaurs!

While they continue to prevail, be they private individuals or so called literary critics, all unfortunately still listened to by the ‘big six’ publishing houses, what chance do today’s emerging writers stand? Most establishment literary prizes like the ‘Booker’ here in England are never won by a newcomer beyond the world of the establishment publishing scene.
While those of us who live in the real world are prepared to read something new, be it from someone who has self-published like myself, the ‘big six publishing houses’ are all sadly missing out on so much promising talent by ignoring today’s plethora of new writers, or worse, dismissing them out of hand simply on the word of pompous literary snobs who currently hold sway, or narrow minded literary agents in the pay of the ‘big six’.


Rewriting The Past

Ever thought about revisiting a piece you wrote years ago? I am right now, and it’s scary. 
At the time when I originally wrote the piece in question back in 1995, spending my Friday nights conceiving a chapter for my own entertainment and that of my friends when I saw them next at work on Monday, I thought it was brilliant. But then I would wouldn’t I. After all, it emerged from my mind, no one else’s.
Out of that first attempt at science fiction came my sci-fi space opera “Onet’s Tale”, which I wrote back in 2003, eventually published in 2010. I shudder now when I look at the first story. Not because it is necessarily bad, more that my use of words back then was so darned flowery. In my defence I say only this – I knew no better at the time, so sue me!
While it is currently fifty thousand words in length, so much of it is nothing more than long descriptive passages. I blame those on my days when I used to write for various magazines in New Zealand. After all, description is what constitutes any article worth its salt in the ‘travel’ scene.
Little did I know back then in 1995 that seventeen years later I would be totally consumed with writing blog posts, short stories and full length novels. If we’re truthful, none of us really know what lies ahead of us.
Meanwhile, I’m about to begin on chapter 8, having cut a whole lot out already, not to mention altering punctuation, style, etc, etc, etc. I shall doubtless be occupied with it for several months yet.
What will I do with it when I’m done? Who knows? Maybe I’ll offer it to my editor as the prequel to “Onet’s Tale”, which technically it is. Or I may even publish it on my blog a chapter at a time.
Thinking that far ahead hurts my brain, so I’ll stop right now.

The Television Licence Fee – are we getting our money’s worth?

Brendan O’Carroll aka Mrs Brown

Practically every television channel here in the UK, with the exception of those operating under the banner of the BBC, finance themselves via adverts. So, why the hell should we still be paying a television licence fee each year? After all, it’s not as if what is currently on offer is worth watching, unless you have the same IQ as a dust mite, or lower, plus the attention span of a goldfish.
More and more these days we are subjected to endless repeats of mind numbing reality shows, crappy game shows, or perhaps regurgitated episodes of programmes first transmitted in the 1960’s. As for what passes for humour here in the UK these days, well it leaves much to be desired. Whatever happened to belly laughter?
Checking the list of programmes available each day, I find it extremely difficult to find a brand new program truly worth watching. The boss of the BBC told us (that’s if you were watching the brief interview a couple of months back on a dreary Saturday morning show) that they can no longer afford to make too many new programmes and therefore will be concentrating on repeats.The only programs the BBC make these days that are worth my time are those made about the natural world.
So where is the money I pay each year in licence fees going to I ask myself? Don’t quote me here, but I strongly suspect I’m actually paying for the BBC Director General’s lunch. Of course I could be wrong, it could be going towards the travel cost for a BBC executive to go on holiday.
For folk of a certain age like myself, who miss the old style comedy and variety shows which we always knew would occupy an hour or two on a Saturday night, not to mention the riveting play that always appeared on Sunday night, there is very little tailored to our taste these days.
But folks don’t despair. 
There is just one exception these days shown at 9.30pm on a Monday night on BBC1, so as not to upset the easily offended who double as the politically correct Gestapo.
I refer to “Mrs Brown’s Boys”, an Irish made half hour of side splittingly funny belly laugh humour in its classic irreverent form, starring the Irish writer-performer Brendan O’Carroll in the title role of Mrs Brown. 

Times were when shows like this would grace our screens at 7, or 8pm – good family entertainment. But no longer it seems. Instead, the two hour timeslot in question is more likely to be filled with brain dead garbage like East Enders or something equally facile like a weight loss program.

If I have to continue paying a television licence fee, then I want to see more than just one show like “Mrs Brown’s Boys” per week, and far less reality television, cooking, real estate and so called antiques programmes as well as endless repeats. 
The home for repeats is now the channel named ‘Dave’, where you can endlessly watch all those nauseating programmes which today’s younger viewing audience seem to like until you’re blue in the face, starring total prats like Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson.
Bring back proper entertainment say I. Remember when comedians like Les Dawson graced our screens?

Whatever possessed me?

How I’ve always imagined Glob would look
Why did I spend the better part of last year writing about a bunch of goblins? Why not? 
Goblins, unlike dwarves and elves, have always received bad press whether told about by travelling tellers of tales in the countless centuries past, or much later in books – think of Tolkien’s Orcs as an excellent example. 
When I wrote a short story in the early months of last year, about the five goblins I’ve got to know really well – Globular Van der Graff, (Glob), Makepeace Terranova (Make), Byzantine Du Lac (Byz), Eponymous Tringthicky (Mous) and finally, curmudgeonly old Neopol Stranglethigh (Neo), not forgetting for one moment Bejuss, the one eyed lisping raven with the twisted beak, little did I know how the concept would mushroom into an anthology about them. By writing the thirty tales, I determined to show that despite everything, not all goblins are bad.
To say I had endless hours of fun while writing their tales, would be an understatement. After writing a science fiction space opera entitled “Onet’s Tale” back in 2003, finally published in 2010 by the small press IFWG Publishing (my only published novel to date), which is a chilling, often brutal look at life in the cosmos through the eyes of an alien trapped here on Earth, writing a fantasy was a pure delight for me.
Will I write another fantasy? Who knows for sure? At this moment in time, while I grit my teeth and wait for my editor to begin, I’m catching up with my reading. Meantime, to keep my hand in, I’m reviewing every book I read as well as blogging and writing articles about whatever takes my fancy.
So Jack, why don’t you go down the ‘self-publishing’ route I hear you cry? No waiting around for your editor or publisher to get your manuscript into print when self-publishing.
The answer is simple really, I’m old fashioned in that I believe in loyalty. 

Having taken seven years to find a publisher, I’m not about to abandon them, even if by modern day standards, with the advent of self-publishing currently on offer via Amazon, Smashwords and the like, you can get your latest book out there in a matter of a few days.

So, like me you will all just have to wait for “Globular Van der Graff’s Goblin Tales for Adults” to appear next year 2013. Sorry about that everyone, but there it is.


PS – I’ve seen the final version of the map of Goblindom, the land where Glob and his brothers live. Now its up to my editor and the creativity of the map’s originator, Duncan Boswell, to make it look pristine.

PPS – In the meantime, to keep my mind off the inordinate amount of time it will take to see Glob’s tales finally in print, I’ve decided to revive (rewrite) the original scifi story (Turning Point), begun in 1995, which launched the notion in my mind to create the scifi space opera “Onet’s Tale” – see the advert for it to the right of this post under “Jack’s Books”.

More later – hopefully…

My Constant Companion


A few years ago after returning to the UK from a blissful life in the sunshine of New Zealand, beside my two bags, passport and a banker’s draft for my entire worldly wealth, I also brought something else with me as a reminder of my time beneath the southern skies – skin cancer.
About seven years ago, I underwent surgery to remove a couple of particularly nasty ones on each side of my forehead. The rest were treated by being frozen – with one exception, the one on the lower right hand side of my back. This one was treated with some kind of heat source and a medicinal paste. With the exception of the scalpel, none of the treatments actually worked permanently, by the way.
The surgeon, who quite frankly scared me with the heavy handed approach she took, cut out the two on my forehead. In the process she completely turned me off going under the knife for the one on my back, which now measures two by two and a half inches. While having the stitches removed for one of the two on my head went reasonably well at my local GP’s surgery, with a certain amount of pain, the same could not be said for the second one. The skin on your head is not as elastic as other parts of your body. So when the surgeon had forcibly stretched the skin to stitch the wound together, it created for me a few weeks of pure unadulterated agony! Just enduring the removal of one stitch by the nurse reduced me to a screaming wreck. And so I had to go back to my GP each week for the following four weeks to have the rest removed one at a time.
Since that excruciating experience, I’ve stayed well clear of any kind of doctor. While the two which were cut out have not re-appeared, the rest, spread across my head, face and body certainly have. As for the nasty looking, constantly weeping monstrosity on my lower back, well, washing T-shirts stained by it is instantly preferable to letting a butcher with a scalpel in their hand anywhere near it, thank you very much…

My review of Dead Men by Derek Haines

This book is not the kind I would normally read, but something about it got my attention. It is a look at life in Australia seen through the eyes of three individuals. The beginnings of Haines’ story “Dead Men” reminded me of the one-way trip I took to New Zealand with my parents in nineteen fifty eight aboard the T.S.S Captain Cook as a ten pound assisted immigrant, aged ten. Above all, it reminds me of those early years when to the local Kiwi kids I was nothing but a pasty faced bloody pom and therefore a natural target. But after that the similarity ends.
Written with the irreverence for acceptable, politically correct language, which real Aussie’s like Derek and new Kiwi’s like I hold dear, Dead Men is a vivid, sometimes bitter tour through the lives of David an Aussie, Antonio, born in Italy and a hard working trucker, and finally, Steven, born in England, who when he was young was always in trouble with the law, as they forge a life for themselves in the tough environment of Australia with similar results.
The one thing that comes through in this book is that though we may all live in different countries across the world, daily life is the same for all of us. We all have problems at work and at home. Some make a success of their career at the expense of their personal lives, while others drift through life or turn to crime. If you are looking for a rip roaring yarn, “Dead Men” will disappoint. 
However, if you want to read about three average human beings and their struggle to keep their heads above water, despite experiencing personal heartbreaks, then read on. “Dead Men” is a sad but true look at life for some people in this day and age.
I give “Dead Men” four out of five stars.

My review of Victims of Yalta by Nikolai Tolstoy

A Temporary time of Peace and Friendship

When I was a small child, I lived on a mixed arable and fruit farm, here in the English county of Suffolk. During the late nineteen forties and the beginning of the nineteen fifties, the number of farm workers were swelled by a few POW’s, mostly Italians.

The one whose memory still haunts me to this day was the other POW, the huge Russian who scared the pants off of the Italians, the two local farm workers, the pig man and my father, the farm foreman.

While I can no longer see his face, the most enduring memory I have of him is the incredible gentleness he showed to me and the other kids on the farm. While he terrified the men, he had a soft spot for our filthy urchin like faces poking out from beneath our many layers of winter clothing and wellington boots. I firmly believe he looked on us as his surrogate children, desperately missing his own family.

When you are a small child, any tall thickset adult looks like a giant in your eyes. That is the way we all saw him. He was our very own friendly Russian giant.

Even though neither party spoke the same language, we didn’t need it. He laughed at our antics as we played happily around him in the dirt while he toiled in the fields. And on occasion when he broke into song, which wasn’t very often, we all sat totally spellbound as the exquisitely beautiful sound of a bass baritone voice singing a Cossack song filled the Suffolk country air.
Tolstoy’s book “Victims of Yalta” is a highly detailed account about what happened to the men like him and the Cossack nations who fought against communism.

When the German army steamrollered its way east to attack Stalin’s Russia, the Cossacks volunteered their services. In short they chose the wrong side in the war, but for the right reason, at least in their eyes. Between them they had a common enemy in the Communists. On the part of the White Russian Cossacks, they had never forgiven the brutal murder of their beloved Tsar and the Russian Imperial family, while for the Germans; the thought of bolshevism turned their stomachs.

It wasn’t until maybe thirty years ago that I thought of him again. It happened when I first read Nikolai Tolstoy’s heart rending expose about the White Russian Cossacks and what happened to them after the Second World War ended. It is a story of political decisions made without the least concern for those it directly affected – in this case the Cossacks who fought for the German army and their families.

Thanks to a cowardly decision by one British politician to forcibly repatriating the entire White Russian Cossack nation, bloody murder was done. Innocents were machine-gunned alongside their men folk as soon as they crossed the border by members of the NKVD, the forerunner of the KGB. I won’t name that particular politician here firstly because members of his family are still with us, and secondly to even think about him turns my stomach. You can find out for yourself who he was when you read Nikolai Tolstoy’s powerful book “Victim’s of Yalta”.

I give “Victims of Yalta” five stars, and, I will always carry the memory of our gentle Russian giant with me till the end of my days…