Spot the Writer

How good are you at guessing what people do merely by looking at them? For instance, could you spot the writer in the queue of people at your local supermarket checkout, or buying something in your neighbourhood convenience store? How about on the crowded commuter train or bus you use each day? Have you ever thought about what the people you see walking along the street outside your door every day may do for a living? 
For the vast majority of the population of any country you care to name, if you saw a highly recognisable and successful writer signing copies of their latest work in a bookshop near you, most would simply not realise that you probably had a writer of your very own living in your midst. 
If you were asked to describe what you believe a writer looks like, what would you say? In reality, anyone encountering me on the street would probably do their level best to avoid contact. 
The person they would see before them is a dishevelled, bearded, balding old man with a limp in his mid-sixties, who prefers to wear old jeans and T-shirts – not that I go out much these days. People make completely incorrect assumptions about others. In my case I would be automatically pigeonholed as a sad old loser, judging by the way I look. 
Boy would you ever be wrong! Mostly all I want is to be left alone to do what I love – writing. Physical appearance is immaterial to my way of thinking. What’s inside an individual is what counts with me.
I hardly fit the stereotype of what the English public perceives a writer should look like, and that suits me just fine. It means I can get on with that next novel, apart from the odd interruption to my daily work schedule, like the postman, paperboy, or my grocery delivery once a week. Out of the nine thousand plus people living alongside me in the small English market town in which I live, less than ten of them know that I write. It always makes me laugh when people find out that about me. The look on their faces is always priceless – yet another totally misguided assumption of theirs, blown to hell.
The really weird thing is that in the world of ebooks I’m known to thousands across the planet, mostly in the US. If I was to walk past them would they realise who I was – probably not.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining – far from it. Most of us crave anonymity, and I’m no exception. Just so long as I’m left alone to get on with it, I’ll keep on cranking out a novel, roughly one a year, or every two years depending on the writing flow.
Most writers I know are reclusive by nature. We have to be. How else would we be able to write that book you’re hopefully enjoying at the moment? Unlike most other people, as writers, if we’re serious about what we do, we work a seven day week, usually unpaid. We only get royalties when you buy a copy of one of our books.
So, the next time you’re in town, or taking a walk in your own neighbourhood, don’t just dismiss people out of hand by the way they look. Instead, see if you can spot your local writer.
Good luck.

Ebook Wars

The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that my countrymen are stuck in a rut, particularly when it comes to the question of books. Judging by sales figures it would seem that the English perceive ebooks to be nothing more than yet another passing fad from across the pond in the good old US of A. 
To the reading public of the UK, convention still dictates that a book can’t possibly exist unless it is made of paper, cost lots of money to produce, take years to appear on the book shelves, and is sold for an exorbitant amount. Plus, unless the writer of said book is lauded and fawned over by the media, how can they possibly be taken seriously as a writer, let alone exist?
I was recently told by a fellow writer and good friend of mine who lives in Europe that while discussing ebooks with a French neighbour of his recently, the neighbour floored him by asking, “how do you turn the pages?” When my friend offered to show his Kindle to his clearly out of touch neighbour, plus how it worked, the neighbour declined.
For all my fellow Englishmen and those across the channel who are of a similar stubborn, out of touch frame of mind regarding the electronic book format, here are a few pointers:
Ebooks are environment friendly. No tree is ever murdered in their manufacture, nor do they cost megabucks to produce. It only takes a few hours for the book to appear ready for download as opposed to a conventional paperback which can take a year. An ebook is an electronic computer file. They take up practically no space whatsoever on any hard drive, meaning you don’t have to file them away on dusty shelves, destined never to be opened again once you have read them.
If you don’t have a Kindle or some other ebook reader handy, you can store them on your desk top computer or lap top, accessing them via a totally free Kindle for PC/Mac application or similar.
Guess what – ebooks won’t break your budget either. There are an enormous number of ebooks available for less than £2.00 these days. The best part is you don’t have to specifically make a trip into town to visit the shelves of your nearest book shop. If you have a computer, all you need to do is find the book you want on whatever online book outlet you use, click on it after paying for it, and wait while it instantly downloads to your computer, smart phone, tablet or ereader within a minute!
Come on UK. If the Germans can happily embrace ebooks, surely it’s good enough for us. Currently, they are the second largest market for ebooks after the USA.
For god’s sake get your heads out of your backsides and enter the twenty-first century. I know it’s not easy, but please try. You never know, you may actually find you like the idea of having your personal library at your fingertips, especially if you are one of the thousands who commute back and forth to work each day by public transport.
Ebooks aren’t the spawn of the devil people, despite what most major publishing houses would have you believe! They are merely the electronic age’s most convenient way to read that book you always wanted to lose yourself in for a few hours.

A momentous Moment!

I am very proud to announce that my timely adventure novel ‘The Seventh Age’ has just reached the magical figure of two thousand copies sold. To the unitiated it may not sound like much, but in the world of independant writers it is a big deal believe me. Most of us are lucky to sell two hundred copies.
For anyone who hasn’t yet read it, here is a brief description of what it’s all about:
The Mayan clock stopped predicting events beyond 2012. Why did it not continue beyond that date?
Rebel archaeologist Nick Palmer experiences an almost unnoticed event at Stonehenge during the summer solstice celebration of 2011, which he attends along with hundreds of others, that worries him greatly. He is made aware through a blog, of a sinister organization known as the ‘Order’, that are seemingly bent on preventing his every move to discover the reason behind the worrying event.
During his voyage of discovery, Nick is tracked across the world by an enigmatic entity that has been trapped here on Earth for over twenty-five thousand years, awaiting the discovery of the event by what she refers to as a ‘surface-dweller’. Together with her and the few people he trusts implicitly, they set out to prevent the alarmingly inevitable catastrophic conclusion that will affect not only the Earth, but the whole Solar System’s very existence.
Jack’s latest science fiction novel is a tale told in the present day. Beside its topical theme concerning the dire events in 2012 predicted by the Mayan clock, it is also a story full of mystery and adventure in which the tortured love story of a human and an alien female gradually unfolds.
You can get your own ebook copy from your nearest Amazon outlet. Now onward to the next milestone – three thousand copies sold.
Want to know more about the Mayan Calendar? Then take the time to watch this:

Revisiting the Old Subject of Reviews

Before you all cry oh no not again, bear with me for a moment.
The whole subject of reviews and whether or not they are to be believed, let alone the type of person who writes them and what their motive is has become the subject of many articles in recent times.
As writers, no matter whether you may be top draw, or like the millions of others like me, occupying a position in the midlist, we are all aware of certain individuals who have deliberately written glowing reviews of their own work while rubbishing their opposition. How many more will be revealed is anyones guess at the moment.
Then there are the sad individuals most of us are exposed to daily on various sites like Amazon, who, while never having written anything of their own, let alone got into print, feel the need to find fault? It couldn’t be that they are just the tiniest bit envious could it?
If, and I do say if, the product of all your hard work has been fortunate to find favour with the great reading public, as sure as eggs is eggs you will be targeted by these jealous creatures. Given the recent exposure of certain authors for their underhand actions, I wonder how many of the one star reviews we midlist writers attract were written by similar people.
One of my novels which has sold extremely well ever since I self-published it back in April, instantly attracted the attention of a few of these petty minded individuals. To say they poured scorn on it would be a major understatement. One went as far as to suggest that judging by his standards of English I must not have got any further than primary school. Another accused me of using bad grammar, while a third summed the novel up as complete unadulterated rubbish.
Well I hate to rain on your egotistical parade here folks but for your information, the book in question is selling steadily. In fact it is fast approaching total sales of two thousand copies and shows no sign of slowing up. I’m proud to say it has occupied a prominent position within the top one hundred best sellers on Amazon for several months. Whether you like it or not, it is being read and appreciated by ordinary folk who like a good tale.
You might kid yourselves into thinking that what you say actually matters by writing one star so-called critical reviews, but who is laughing all the way to the bank? Me and writers like me that’s who!
Do yourselves a favour, quit bellyaching and criticising. Instead, why not write a story of your own which the public will enjoy? Don’t just write for your fellow anal retentives.
Remember this – at the end of the day the vicious views of the pitiful few like yourselves doesn’t matter to anyone other than you. Ultimately, all that does is how the reading public receive the product of all your derision.

Please leave your ego at the door?

In the last few days various highly inflammatory articles across the internet have emerged voicing differing opinions regarding the labelling of writers as either independent or professional – whatever that means, while delivering attacks accusing some of being lazy and unprofessional, which has been seen by some to be derogatory and rightly so. 
What is the point?
How a writer chooses to publish their work is up to them. If they are taken up by a publishing house – fine. If not, going it alone is also fine. Choosing to be independent doesn’t mean you are any less professional in your approach if you are serious about your writing. To say that the whole sorry saga has done more to polarise the entire writing community in recent days is an understatement.
On one side of the argument sit those who firmly believe that the only way to produce a written work requires it first be written by a known writer before being  processed by what one article’s author refers to as professional editors and gatekeepers. In the other camp sit those who prefer to go it alone, some employing an editor, some not.
While deliberately choosing not to be drawn into the argument, I have been bemused when reading the often heated debate. It is plain to see that both sides are entrenched in their personal beliefs. Whose argument is right? Whose is wrong? It seems to me there are plusses and minuses on both sides of the argument.
What participants in the argument fail to appreciate is that lambasting the opposition serves no useful purpose other than to feed personal egos. In this particular war of words there are no clear winners. Both sides believe they are in the right. While those involved in the argument continue to name call or throw insults at each other, the rest of us are far too busy keeping our heads down writing.
Whether or not your work was made available to the reading public via a known publisher, or by using one of the many available software packages available to independent writers, doesn’t matter. All that really does at the end of the day is how many readers buy a copy of your work.
Whether or not you consider yourself to be a professional is also irrelevant. If your only reason for entering the world of the written word was to feed your ego by boasting at dinner parties that you are a writer – get out now.
In the last couple of days, two so-called professional writers, Stephen Leather, a successful thriller writer, and an established crime writer, R.J Ellory, both employed by a known publishing house, have been outed for a particular form of self-promotion known as sock pupetting. It involves writing glowing reviews of your own work while at the same time writing derogatory ones involving your opposition using aliases on various internet social media sites and book outlets. If that is an example of being a professional I want no part of it. 
If like me your only goal in life is to write and be read, what label people use when talking about you doesn’t matter. What does, is avoiding these pointless angry debates.
In the world of the written word there is no room for the social climber plagued with an enormous ego. The whole debate over whether or not a writer is a professional is a complete nonsense in the context of the current debate. To class yourself as one requires you be paid royalties. 
Here endeth the lesson.

Detecting a Story

Ever wondered how a writer first discovers then goes about constructing that book you have just read? I cannot speak for anyone else here, but the following are the basics as I see them.
First, an idea gradually forms in my mind, usually sparked by an item of news read or heard, or perhaps a television programme. It might even surface via a passing comment made while in discussion with friends. Naturally it will be vague at the beginning of the thought process, but eventually it forms into something worth writing about.
Next I play around with who the characters are likely to be. Are they good guys or bad? What personal traits do they have?
What genre does the story fits into? This is something that constantly sits at the back of your mind until you have finished writing it. It may start off as a political thriller in the early days, but after constant changes of mind, end up as a murder mystery.
Do I know how the story will end from the beginning? No, I don’t want to know! I definitely don’t want any form of ending to surface in my mind, or the words in front of me on my computer screen come to that.
Why? Because if I know the ending in advance, no matter how hard I try to put it out of my mind, the tendency to write to that specific end will mean only one thing – it will become a short story. For it to be a novel length work, the what, why and how of the story must slowly unfold as I write it. I personally believe the story must build to its climax, allowing not only me as its writer, but chiefly you the readers to discover its destination. Believe it or not, but even I want to know what happens next as the story unfolds. To that end I can spend days deciding where the next small part of the plot goes next and who is involved.
My daily writing regime means that initially I write no more than five hundred words, before spending the rest of the day re-writing them until they not only fit within the storyline, but also maintain the overall flow. Even with fiction you need to do constant in-depth research. Why? Because inevitably you will make mention of, or have your characters involved in, a real place or time, unless you are writing a science fiction story set in the future well beyond our planet and its solar system.
Finally – unfortunately these days, there is a tendency for far too many contemporary novels to ape the current trend within television and film to place the end of the story at the beginning, and then slowly relate how the ending came about. That may be fine for the intellectually challenged among us whose concentration span may be woefully inadequate. But most people of my acquaintance simply can’t be bothered with stories produced in that way.
I hope that this short article has at least answered some of your questions regarding how a story is written, at least from my point of view.