I couldn’t stomach the film Chariots of Fire, But after I first heard this I was hooked on Vangelis’ music forever…
I couldn’t stomach the film Chariots of Fire, But after I first heard this I was hooked on Vangelis’ music forever…
So many returned service men and women suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, often unable to cope with society because of it. This short story is not only a tribute to every Victoria Cross winner, but to all returned service men and women. In particular my fellow PTSD sufferers…
I walked into the autopsy room at the beginning of the day to find a body awaiting my undivided attention which had been found in the woods on the hill beyond the village where I grew up. I was equally shocked and saddened to discover that the corpse on the slab was my childhood friend Dhobi.
Back then most of the kids in our village were merciless towards him, throwing stones and shouting obscenities. None of them knew the simple gentle man hidden beneath the grime the way I did. I was the only kid who didn’t pick on him. To me there was something very special about this loner who had shunned society for the woods. Never once did I wonder why he lived the way he did, nor did he ever offer an explanation. Dhobi was a man of few words.
He taught me how to live off the land, showing me how to make snares, what plants and fungi were edible and those that were not, and what were best for simple medicinal uses. The extent of his knowledge was endless.
Nicknamed Dhobi (a British military slang term for clothes washing borrowed from the Hindi language) for as long as he could remember for the simple reason he hated to wash; to keep out the ravages of the seasons, he wore all the clothes he possessed beneath his tattered ex army greatcoat.
No one knew where he came from. Or cared much come to that. I often asked him, but he merely ignored me. Most adults in our village wanted him arrested; irrationally assuming the worst about him. Fearing that he was some kind of perverted weirdo. If only they had got to know him as well as I had back then…
If my parents had ever found out about my friendship with this solitary man they would have been completely horrified! I used to walk up the hill to the woods from my home every couple of days with my pockets and school satchel stuffed with food stolen from my mother’s larder for him.
Dhobi’s natural gentleness was apparent to anyone if only they would have spent time in his wonderful company. Mice lived in his pockets. Hedgehogs curled up in the folds of his old army greatcoat around his legs as the sun disappeared beneath the western horizon until it was time for them to emerge to hunt for food.
He never ever trapped an animal to eat from his own patch, just in case he may eat a friend of his by mistake. Each spring a Cock Robin appeared in Dhobi’s camp and spent its time in the evenings on his shoulder meticulously pecking mites from his hair and beard. Obviously the respect this gentle man had for all wildlife was passed down through each generation of all the woodland creatures. On one occasion I watched totally spellbound as a Sparrow Hawk brought him a gift of wildfowl.
Dhobi’s greatest friend in his woodland world was a battle scarred one eyed fox that lived with him, keeping him company and sharing the warmth of his constant campfire. At night the old fox slept at Dhobi’s feet beneath the rough lean-to that was his bedroom, lounge and kitchen. Sparrows nested in the bracken that covered it, knowing their young were completely safe under Dhobi’s gentle care.
As I began carefully removing his clothing I found among the few personal possessions he had about him, a faded newspaper cutting from the nineteen fifties showing a photograph of him in uniform with a few lines beneath it explaining the photo and giving his real name. In particular, my eye was drawn to his row of medals.
The first in the line was the Victoria Cross, according to the newspaper cutting, won for an act of total selflessness in the heat of battle when he rescued his comrades one by one while under constant machinegun fire on a now long forgotten hill in the Korean peninsula.
Whatever happened to him to make him retreat from the world of humanity to the natural world? Thinking about it, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) was more than likely was the cause. Maybe Dhobi and his mates fought for a hill too far. No human would ever know nor care except me.
After conducting a thorough autopsy, determining that he had simply expired due to natural circumstances brought on by his lifestyle, I had him cremated then took his ashes back to his campsite in the woods, where I silently scattered them witnessed by the many creatures he loved.
Rest in peace Corporal Phillip “Dhobi” Anderson VC, friend to all who lived alongside him in the woods.
When it comes to meaningful dialogue with our readers it rarely if ever happens, more’s the pity. We writers need the one to one connection. Not just a b….y ‘like’ on Facebook or Twitter!!!
As for reviews, all they tell us is that the individual responsible for it either loved or hated the book in question. I had one so-called reviewer not long ago who demanded that he got his money back, when in fact he had read a giveaway copy of the book he loathed so much. Then again, have you noticed how books written by Indies tend to attract the attention of complete morons!!!
Most writers like myself have a blog like this one where you can leave comments below a post, and a Facebook page where you can voice your thoughts in person on any book written by any of us, should you choose to do so. Or if you want, we can just chat about something else entirely. The point is that by chatting, we get to know each other, hopefully forging a lasting friendship. Trolls never openly engage with any author on Facebook. Why? Because FB doesn’t allow pseudonyms, the trolls favourite hiding place! One recently made the mistake of writing his review having read a free copy of one of my books, using his own name. Then approached me on FB to say he had just posted it. For a few weeks he hung around on one specific writers page I frequent, hoping to find allies. He was disappointed to find that writers tend to support each other, not trolls. So he left. I still check the list of people who view my blog posts on that specific FB page, just in case he sneaks back…
Like you, every writer is plagued with the typical faults, passions and emotions that all human beings share. Some like myself are known to hold strong views on varying subjects. Don’t let that necessarily put you off talking to any of us. We’re not ogres. Just battle-hardened…
Now here is a link to an interview every prospective writer needs to read: https://bookwormex.com/bob-van-laerhoven-interview/
…just endlessly rediscovered!!!
With the simple fact that these days your book will have an upward struggle to be seen on Amazon, considering there are slightly over 38 million other books there already, each one vying for your attention. Does the product of all your hard work stand a chance? One thing is blindingly obvious. It must be an attention grabber, and I’m not talking about the cover!!!
There was a time when I used to write several thousand words per day. In fact I subscribed to the idea that unless I wrote at least five thousand words a day, I wasn’t really writing, merely dawdling. Oh how wrong I was! These days I barely write two hundred words in one day.
Simple – I spend the rest of the day and the one after, even the one after that, endlessly checking each word, often substituting a far better one. I lengthen or shorten sentences, move them around in the paragraph before me. All of this until I’m satisfied that the end product flows. Or to put it another way – unlike many of my fellow writers I prefer painting a picture with as few words as is necessary…
Ask yourselves how many books have you started to read then discarded because they grind to a halt on nearly every page. Usually because the author in question favours endless detail over getting on with the story???
I recall watching this fifty-eight minute episode of Fry’s Planet Word back in 2012 (don’t ignore the red highlighted link I’ve given you. CLICK ON IT!!!) on the subject of James Joyce and the written word. Steven Fry was discussing Joyce’s way of working with an enthusiastic aficionado in Dublin.
Imagine my total surprise when it was revealed that Joyce approached each work in progress in exactly the same way as myself. Some days he would write a chapter, some days a paragraph. But more often than not he would only write a sentence, spending hours poring over it to make sure that each word was the best possible choice to use, and that it was in just the right place within the sentence.
Don’t get me wrong now, I’m not claiming by any stretch of the imagination to be the 21st century version of writers like James Joyce, or George Orwell, or even my literary hero J.R.R Tolkien, who all used this method. But when I learn from programmes like Steven Fry’s that I have unwittingly adopted and employed the same writing techniques, all of a sudden I don’t feel alone anymore. More to the point I no longer think, or believe, that high daily word counts are the be all and end all. Neither should you…
Finally; remember what I said at the conclusion of the first paragraph – Your book must be an attention grabber, I’m not talking about the cover.
Which by the way if you’ve spent money on both content and cover, chances are you will never get your money back, if you’ve written something that doesn’t appeal to the mass market, people will not bother to read.
You must get the reader hooked within the first two pages!!!
Eye of the Storm
“What ye got there, give it me, give it me now blast yer eyes,” One Eye snarled, as he snatched the pretty bauble from my grip.
Ever since I had become his unwilling slave aboard this stinking, barely seaworthy, ancient pirate hulk a few months ago when his captain and crew captured our ship, One Eye had made my existence sheer hell. No matter what I did to please him it was never enough. Whenever I found something I thought I could call my own he instantly took it from me. He constantly beat me, telling me that it, was for my own good. “Now get below and fetch me vittles – quickly now blast yer eyes, else ye’ll be sorry!”
I scurried below, relieved to be out of his cruel reach, however briefly. I searched among the debris of the food locker and the bilge.
“To hell with him!” I muttered to myself.
My own hunger came first as I gnawed on some old brick hard, weevil ridden sea biscuits and on the half consumed remains of a wheel of mouldy cheese that had fallen between the loose planks of the locker’s deck, into the bilge below.
“Where’s me vittles blast ye?” One Eye bellowed down to me through the open hatch.
I hurried back above to where he sat belching and picking his teeth, carrying as much of the cheese and sea biscuits as my young arms would allow. One Eye bit into one of the sea biscuits and broke a tooth.
“Ye young spalpeen, when I get’s me hands on yer I’ll flog yer to the backbone! I’ll rip yer gizzard out! I’ll skin yer alive and eat yer innards so I will!”
I didn’t wait around, but ran quickly back down below into the stinking darkness of the bilges; at least down here I was safe from One Eye’s murderous wrath. He was far too fat and lame to chase after me and because of the loss of his eye a few years back, his vision was seriously impaired.
The old hulk ominously creaked and groaned as it wallowed its way through the choppy seas. High above on the main deck, despite the howling wind, I heard the mate shout the command to shorten sail. Even down here I knew a storm was brewing by the way the hulk rode the seas.
I peered through the crack in the deck planks above my head towards the open hatch. My ears strained for any audible sign that One Eye was hunting for me. But all I heard from him was a low moan and a lot of muttered curses at the loss of the one good tooth left among the jagged stumps in his savage blackened mouth.
A strangely familiar odour wafted past my nostrils. Somewhere down here was some long forgotten discarded salt beef. Hunger took over my soul, temporarily freeing my mind from my fear of One Eye, I began searching along the entire length of the old hulk’s bilges.
I eventually found it slopping in the fetid water of the bilge directly below the captain’s quarters. The decking of his cabin was as loose as all the other timbers aboard this floating coffin. The salt beef must have fallen through the cracks. Here at last was a chance to fill my belly beyond One Eye’s reach. Thankfully, the stinking water trapped here had washed most of the salt away.
As I sat on my haunches savouring the exquisite delights of the salt preserved beef, a commotion above my head caused me to stop chewing mid mouthful and listen.
“Beg pardon Cap’n, ye need to come on deck, we’re too close to the rocks and the storm is gettin stronger by the minute, we daresn’t continue on our present course!” the mate’s voice quivered in fear.
“Storm sail mister mate, rig the storm sail. Order aback blast ye and bring her bow round across the wind d’ye understand mister!”
The old hulk began to scream in protest as the gathering storm intensified. I returned to my feast of beef. Three bells signalled the hour. The sound of men fighting flailing rotting canvas and frayed rope as the storm intensified, drifted down to where I sat in the dark.
The storm grew stronger. The old hulk’s timbers creaked and slowly her planks began to spring under the strain.
“Avast below – rocks! Rocks on the port beam!”
Even before the lookout aloft had screamed out his warning to all aboard I was rapidly returning aft, back to the locker as fast as my legs would carry me. Water was rising below me as I climbed up the ladder to where One Eye sat still nursing his mouth.
Despite the fact that I hated him more than any other being alive, I shouted out to him as I grabbed the pretty bauble he had taken from me earlier.
“We’re foundering yer old tyrant, time to abandon ship – come on blast yer, lest yer want to drown!”
The morning arrived and the sea was calm once more. A graceful ship of the line hove into view from around the southerly point of the bay and sailed slowly through the wreckage that bobbed up and down on the morning tide. All along the shore the splintered wreckage of the ship she had been hunting could be seen. The bodies of its crew lay face down in the sea. Eagle eyes searched the rocky shore for any signs of survivors. A skiff was launched and the captain and some of his crew went ashore.
“Good morrow sir.”
“And to you sir,” the captain replied as he shook the local Revenue man’s hand.
“The Black Bess has led me a merry dance sir. I’ve been chasing her for months since her captain Red John and his scurvy crew boarded the packet that carried my dear wife and only child home from Gibraltar sir – damn his eyes!” The captain’s head lowered in grief, already realizing the sad truth.
“Sadly your wife and child are not here good sir, only the bodies of his crew. I found this locket on the beach sir; would it belong to your wife? Not even Red John’s body is here. I fear he and your wife and child are down below with Davy Jones. Good riddance to him I say sir,” the revenue man concluded, sad to give the captain even more bad news than he was suffering already as he handed over the precious bauble.
“Were there no survivors sir?” the young midshipman who had accompanied his captain ashore, anxiously enquired of the Revenue man.
“Nought but two ships rats young master – one old, fat, half blind and toothless that soon died – drownded by all accounts. The other young and well fed who scurried off as quick as lightening as soon as his feet touched dry land, dropping the locket from his mouth in his eagerness to be gone from here I shouldn’t wonder. I saw them jump ship when the eye of the storm briefly calmed the sea moments before the Black Bess foundered on yon rocks.”
I watched from behind the rocks feeling sorrow for the Captain, as he tearfully clutched the locket he had given his wife while his crew rowed him back to his ship. As sorry for him as I was one thing was clear. I was finally rid of One Eye…
This post is aimed squarely at my fellow writers.
Since the act of reviewing a book was made available to every Tom, Dick or Harriet, and before you even think about writing one, there are a few things everyone needs to take into consideration before you hit the ‘Publish’ button.
To begin with, avoid spoilers (giving away the plot) like the plague. Next refrain from mentioning that you found errors in any given book, whether traditional or Indie published. It is extremely bad form. No one likes a smart arse endlessly droning on about it in every review they write, least of all the publisher and author of the work in question. To say the least, it becomes tiresome in the extreme. To that end there’s a highly appropriate saying which goes something like this – “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” In other words, unless your book(s) is 100% error free, say nothing derogatory. If it is, believe me, it will be a first in the history of publishing!!!
If you don’t want to give the wrong impression, especially if you want to be taken seriously as a writer, refrain from incessantly pouring scorn and finding fault with the majority of books you review. As for the content of your review, always ensure that it is error free. In other words, start the review’s title and every sentence with a capital letter. Then make sure that the content of your review is as word perfect as it can possibly be, not forgetting to make it grammatically correct.
So many reviews by writers these days are chock full of appalling basic errors which should have been knocked out of the potential reviewer when they attended primary school. Then there are the totally uncalled for comments where the reviewer tells the world about certain passages in the book they are reviewing that they objected to. All such comments are mostly penned by jealous writers hiding behind pseudonyms (trolls) on book sites like Amazon and Goodreads, hoping to destroy another writer’s reputation. What they fail to appreciate is that the only person they are hurting is themselves. If they can’t see that, they need serious one on one time with a psychiatrist.
Above all always remember this – no book is ever 100% error free. Not even your own. If all you have to offer is nitpicking criticism then maybe you need to refrain from reviewing. However if you do want to write a review, why not simply concentrate on what you actually liked about the book in question. Trust me you will feel better and your reputation as a reviewer will benefit enormously. Plus you will win the respect of your peers.
One last thing, making apologies for these sad individuals is not something you want to get involved in. There are no legitimate excuses for what some in our industry believe is their God given right to pour scorn!
While we have no say in what the general public say about our work, at least as writers we can set them an example by writing a non-toxic review.
Damn right! But not according to the movie and television industries.
With two exceptions – 2001 and 2010 A Space Odyssey – every other science fiction film or television series that has come out of America simply defies credulity. The fact that the films in question didn’t become just another pair of highly fanciful and therefore totally nonsensicle entertainments, is all down to Stanley Kubrick’s deep respect for Arthur C. Clark. After all, Arthur wrote the book on which the films are based, as well as co-writing the scripts with Stanley.
Like Arthur, I am a traditionalist. By that I mean that as a science fiction writer, every story I write has to be based in reality. Blame my father for introducing me to him and two other top science fiction writers of the twentieth century, Isaac Asimov and John Wyndham, at a young age. All three authors took great pains to make sure that their stories were believable, based on their scientific backgrounds.
While I’m no scientist, I did work in the School of Science at the University of Waikato in New Zealand for a quarter of a century, rubbing shoulders with chemists, physicists, biologists, earth scientists and many fine artisans like tool and die makers, glassblowers, photographers, cartographers etc, etc. So in my own small way, I try to adopt the same approach to writing science fiction that Arthur, Isaac and John took. It’s called research, and getting your facts straight if you were wondering…
Click on the cover to go to The Guardian on Amazon.com
Take the above scifi novella as an example of what I’m talking about. There are no weird and wonderful creatures to be found anywhere in its pages. Only believable characters. As for how they get to and from the Earth, there are no starships as in Star Trek. Only totally feasable computer controlled solar wind powered cargo transporters. The same can be said for the weapons they use. Each one actually exists in the US military today, even though at the time of writing The Guardian they were still in development. Even the two alien females and the guardian itself are totally believable. If you want to get a sense of what I’m on about, maybe you should get your own copy and read it for yourselves.
I seriously doubt The Guardian will ever make it to the plasma or silver screen. Why? just take a look at what is considered to be watchable science fiction these days. It seems to me that every so-called scifi film, and television series made on either side of the pond, is aimed at a collective audience with the combined mental age of a bunch of retarded slugs!!!
I wrote another totally believable Science Fiction tale a couple of years ago. Click on the cover below to go to it on Amazon.com.
Ok so you’ve finally decided to pluck up the courage of your convictions to make your passion for writing a fulltime occupation. Before you even begin, the one question you have to seriously take into consideration is this. Do you become an independent author, or do you try to break into the world of traditional publishing?
If you decide on chancing your arm with the latter, after first avoiding the tempting adverts from vanity press and some of the other fly by night options including the all too common adverts on Facebook by often bogus literary agents looking for new manuscripts, all of them lying in wait to fleece the innocent while masquerading as legitimate traditional publishers or their minions.
Instead, you will immediately be confronted by what the industry commonly refers to as gate-keepers. What are they? Simply put, they are the publishing houses’ often seemingly impenetrable lines of defence, designed to extract the occasional gem for serious consideration from among the monumental piles of utter bilge that are offered on a daily basis. If by sheer good fortune they want to publish your work, depending on how it sells, either they will offer you a contract or end the partnership before it has really begun if you dare to stand up for yourself!
To begin with your manuscript will have to appeal to the lowest order of gate-keeper, otherwise known as a literary agent. Always providing of course that you find one prepared to take a chance on you in the first place, based purely on the fact that they personally like what you’ve written. Even so there is still no guarantee that they will be able to sell your story to any of the top publishing houses. When it comes to it, like any other business, traditional publishing’s raison d’être is to make money. To that end they are extremely picky when it comes to choosing from the thousands of new manuscripts on offer. Cold hearted reality dictates that unless you have written an absolute blinder of a potential best seller, the product of all your hard work will wind up in the garbage bin along with all the others from hopefuls like you and me.
If you haven’t guessed by now, whether your book is published is down to personal choice by the those working for the publishing house concerned. While it may appeal to them, it won’t necessarily appeal to the general public…
Then there is the question of the contract they will offer you if they decide they want to employ you. Are you up to the pressure that will be placed on your shoulders by signing a two, three of four book deal for the promise of a monetary advance? Many aren’t up to working within the confines of an often highly restrictive contract. I know I wasn’t. I was far too bloody minded for the traditional publisher I was briefly contracted to. I touch the forelock to no man!!!
Does all of this sound extremely tough and one sided to you? It should do! By its very nature our business is a merciless one. There is no room for the starry-eyed day dreamer, or for that matter anyone foolishly labouring under the false assumption that having a book published, guarantees them instant fame and fortune. It rarely if ever does. Even choosing to follow the independent route is still no guarantee for success. In either case it always involves a lot of hard work on your part.
Out of the eleven titles written by me so far since nineteen ninety-five, only one came close by Indie mid list standards, being considered a best seller at two hundred and fifty thousand plus copies. I always live in the vain hope that my latest offering might at the very least equal it. But only time and the vagaries of this business will ultimately determine each book’s fate.
Being a true Indie requires a much higher degree of self discipline and bloody-mindedness on your part, more so than for an author in any traditional writing stable. Anyone who thinks it is the easier of the two publishing options, seriously needs to think again. Mind you there are no easy options…
While its true that any Tom, Dick or Harriette can come up with a story, that is only the first step in a long and often tortuous road to getting it noticed in the first place.
If you are a true Indie, by the very definition of the word it means that you must go it alone, literally doing everything for yourself. Even the traditional publishing houses these days require their contracted writers to do far more than merely write a novel to justify their advance.
If you feel you are incapable, you can always take the easy way out, paying lip service to the notion of independance by opting instead to spend a lot of money to employ others to edit, format and market your book for you. Always bearing in mind of course that before you even begin to earn royalties, you first have to recoup your often expensive monetary outlay, a fact than many of today’s crop of indie’s simply choose to ignore, let alone fail to grasp.
Like all true independents I choose to rely on no one other than myself, and a handful of individuals I consider to be competant beta readers of anything I write. To follow in my independent footsteps, you must become accomplished in a number of disciplines. The first of these involves every writer’s nighmare – editing. To make your story stand out among the millions already published, it has to appeal from the very first sentence. While there are a lot of competant people out there prepared to assist you at a price, there are also many charlatans. Like all things we encounter in our daily lives, shopping for an editor or publicist is always a case of buyer beware. Ask them for samples of their work. Examine them closely. If you find an editing error don’t hire them!
I’m still amazed by the number of Indies out there who have convinced themselves that an eye-catching cover is guaranteed to sell their book. It doesn’t! Yes it’s true it will help. But on its own its nothing more than the literary equivalent of eye candy. Ever since the first printed book rolled off a hand operated press hundreds of years ago, what has always sold the book to the reader is its content, never its cover!
Still want to become a published author? If the answer is still yes, good luck. Just remember that you must be prepared for a hell of a lot of hard work, harsh criticism from your fellows, competition, jealousy, envy and heartache.
Do I regret becoming an Indie? Not for one moment. Remember this, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Even if for the majority of writers, you will never grow rich…
The following is the mantra of the blowhard – no matter the subject, I’m always right, while you are always wrong!!!
Since receiving a few complaints via email recently, I need to apologise to the majority of my readers, those who want to comment on any of my blog posts, without being taken to task by total idiots, whether or not the posts are mine, or reblogged from some other source. All of this because I let a blowhard get away with a rant. Mea Culpa…
It is inevitable that when you operate one of the top fifty daily blogs, that sooner or later it will attract the odd blowhard. Or in the case in question, a control freak! You know the kind of individual I’m talking about. Their principal trait is an overwhelming belief in their own self-importance. If that wasn’t enough they are often pompous and condescending. All blowhards are egomaniacs who by their very nature must dominate any post’s discussion (comments), no matter what.
The blowhard is easily recognised in any forum. In their eyes they’re always right and everyone else is wrong. As writers we see it all the time when one of them posts a one star review in a sea of favourable ones, hoping to turn people against a particular book because it is popular…
It would be fair to say that over the years this blog has attracted one or two, along with a couple of grammar nazis and a few literary snobs, each of them examples of the more objectionable individuals any blogger will come across sooner or later.
While most bloggers will simply consign the blowhard’s comments to the trash, from time to time I have had a bit of fun at their expense by letting them have their head. Why did I do that? To expose them to the blogosphere, and to give my readers the opportunity to see them for what they truly are.
Whenever a post attracts their attention, through their often barbed comments they dismiss out of hand everyone else’s opinions, thereby reducing any discussion to a one sided diatribe. I fully admit that the temptation to guide the blowhard towards the point where they are hoisted by their own pétard is huge. Sorry folks, from time to time I just can’t help myself. Occasionally when I’m feeling mischievous I have to reply to their often biased comments, if only to stir them into putting their foot in their mouths yet again.
Like most ranting egoists, once identified, the blowhard becomes an easy target for exploitation at their expense. They are so damned predictable! Occasionally I would set a trap with a specific post, allowing them a platform, thereby flushing them from the blogosphere’s equivalent of the undergrowth into the open, exposing them in the process.
All I can say to the blowhards is this – I feel for your family and friends. It must be sheer hell for them having to live with you. In case you hadn’t noticed, it is at my discretion that this blog allows all readers the freedom to post their opinions without fear or favour. So if you feel that you just can’t help yourself and simply have to dominate any conversation on this blog, forget it – won’t happen!!! Your comments will wind up in the trash, if you can’t keep it civil.
Just in case any blowhard is in any doubt on where they stand with me, be assured that in me you have met your match. My father was oft heard to quote the following when dealing with certain distasteful individuals, “If you give someone enough rope, they’ll hang themselves“, a point of view I firmly share. Blowhards, you have been warned. From now on this blog is not only a grammar nazi and literary snob free zone, but also free from any and all blowhards.
From Sally 😉