To all the whingers and whiners…

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While many authors and certainly the greater part of the literary world turn up their noses at the phenomena of the eBook, there is no getting away from the fact that being able to buy a book cheaply, or more often than not these days, getting it for free to download to the eReader of your choice, resonates with the public at large, particularly in the United States. But if you expect to get your next read for $0.99 or less, don’t complain when the book that has taken your fancy is not a literary masterpiece.

Time and time again some authors together with assorted literary snobs, armchair critics and pedants, endlessly decry an eBook for its lack of literary quality. All too often they take great delight in pointing up any given eBook’s faults. But does it really matter when it is free or priced so cheaply? The short answer is no. You get what you pay for…

The vast majority of the reading public these days are only interested in whether or not the story appeals to them. They couldn’t care less about the author overusing the comma, or which form of a particular word is used in any given circumstance. If asked about their views on the particular author’s use of the colon or semicolon, chances are they would think you were referring to a particular part of the author’s anatomy rather than two types of punctuation. As for whether or not they considered that the author in question used far too much passive voice or descriptive prose? Only pedants, critics and others of their ilk care about things like that!

Today’s eBook is the modern-day equivalent of the Victorian Penny Dreadful. Rather than throwing any book written by myself which I consider to be sub-standard, into the corner, If it’s still a good story it ends up in the eBook market. Judging by the hundreds of thousands of copies of my eBooks out there, my storytelling appeals. In the end that is all that matters.

Yes, each and every eBook penned by myself automatically attracts the attention of the trolls. But so do eBooks by any author you care to name for that matter. Even best-selling authors working through the big five publishing houses are not safe from scorn being poured on their books by trolls. In that regard the literary world is a natural habitat for bitchy individuals jealous of the fact that our cheap books, yours and mine, are being read. To them I would only say this – TO ALL LITERARY SNOBS, ARMCHAIR CRITICS AND PEDANTS – FOR GOODNESS SAKE WRITE A BOOK THAT IS GOING TO SELL, AND STOP COMPLAINING WHEN  SOMEONE ELSES’ BOOK IS BEING READ WHILE YOURS ISN’T!!

Meanwhile I’ll keep honing my skills until I’m happy that the book I’m working on fulfills all the requirements necessary to make it worthy of the appellation ‘Literary Masterpiece’.

Not much chance of that. But I can dream…

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Imagination and Observation

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When I was a child during the late nineteen forties into the fifties, our only family entertainment was the radio. Times where tough back then. To all intent and purpose, Britain was bankrupt and in a period of enforced austerity. It was still recovering from the ravages and deprivations brought on by the Second World War. Food was still being rationed. No one had much money.

One thing I absolutely loved to do was imagine what the people we used to listen to on the radio might actually look like. Far too often my childish imaginings were way off target whenever I saw a photograph of them in the Radio Times.

When I was ten, we finally got our first black and white television after we had emigrated to New Zealand in 1958. My favourite childhood activity of imagining what people looked like faded into the distance. For all of us the difference in the post war standard of living between New Zealand and here in Britain was startling. For the first time in their lives my parents had spare money left over each payday. Compared to what they had to put up with in Britain, New Zealand was and still is a paradise.

Apart from playing outside, being able to climb trees, go eel fishing. I made friends with the Jersey cow named Gwen that gave us fresh milk each day, plus making tree huts out of whatever was at hand. However, my main passion for reading, instilled into me by my parents from the age of four, meant that I still liked to imagine what a character, or characters, in the particular book I was reading at the time looked like. Even today, whenever I read any book I find myself creating a mental image of what those characters may look like, or at least how I would like them to look that is.

When I write a book, I conjour up mental images of my characters in my quest to get to know them intimately. Plus, having created that mental image, it makes it easier for me to work out what physical attributes to give them along with the various mental and emotional traits which are necessary for the reader to also imagine them. As their creator, you will soon find out which characters you like and which you loath. Even we writers don’t necessarily like every character we create. In that regard, people in books are really no different from people we all encounter during our lifetimes.

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Large crowd smilingSpot the writer…

Continuing the twin themes of this post we now move on to observation. I don’t know about you but I like to observe people. Doing so is just another tool that I use when creating my characters.

Here’s a challenge for you. Could you pick out the writer from a crowd of people in the street? What does a writer look like? Is there anything about their physical makeup or their attire that says writer to you?

In my own case, on the extremely rare times when I leave the safety of this house to head to the corner shop, chances are that because of the way I look folk either ignore me, or having briefly observed me, simply pass me off as a dishevelled down and out and cross the road to avoid me. In their wildest imaginings it is safe to say that not one of them would make the connection between the individual they saw before them and the successful mid list writer that I have become, which suits me down to the ground. Why? Because most people are far too quick to judge others, often making completely incorrect assumptions.

Everyone except writers tend to make snap judgments about others. If writers were easily recognisable, we would all lose our anonymity and to a large extent our privacy which most of us value highly. If you’re passionate about writing, the last thing you need is to be constantly interrupted. From my personal point of view, there is a lot to be said for looking dishevelled. It doesn’t mean that I am someone to be avoided at all costs, far from it. It’s just my way of keeping people at arm’s length. I’m comfortable with who I am and the way I look…

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Why bother to write?

Have you ever thought what motivates someone to want to write?  A few mercinary individuals write for purely business reasons and monetary gain, plus to inflate their egos.  Most don’t. Personally I write the kinds of stories that I would like to read and that give me endless pleasure. If other people like them, it’s a bonus.

All of my life I have read and enjoyed a broad mix of literary works. Granted most of them were written by so called ‘established writers’, or to put it another way, the chosen few seen as cash cows to be milked mercilessly under contract to one or other of the ‘big five’ publishers to churn out X number of books for Z amount of money.

One of my favourite series by a major publisher was the “Gunner Asch” collection of stories written by the German writer Hans Hellmut Kirst. His hapless young German soldier’s misadventures during World War II gave me hours of literary pleasure.

Today due to the phenomena of eBook publishing, some excellent writers previously ignored for one reason or another by the ‘big five’ are thankfully emerging from among the dross which sadly makes up the great majority currently on offer, via your nearest eBook supplier.

Writers like Derek Haines and David Toft immediately spring to mind. Both of them are responsible for excellent stories. In David’s case his novels are published by Wings Press a small press publisher, while Derek has gone along the self-publishing route as have I. David writes exciting paranormal thrillers. Derek writes hilariously funny works of fiction like ‘Hal’, the story of a misfit member of the English aristocracy who find himself in all kinds of trouble on an alien planet.

While I love reading science fiction (I had minor recognition for my first published book, the space opera “Onet’s Tale” which I serialised here on my blog), I thought I had finally found my niche in the fantasy genre when I wrote a fantasy anthology Goblin Tales. Even though it received mostly rave reviews, it simply doesn’t sell. I even went to the time and trouble to produce a paperback copy of it. But it has made little difference.

Never mind. Just so long as I can still see the screen on my laptop and the keys, I’ll continue to write those stories I have always wanted to read myself, plus write blog posts like this one. There was a brief moment in time back in 2012/13 when I became a best selling author thanks to one of my books – a hybrid science fiction/archaeological/action adventure entitled Race Against Time. Nothing lasts forever…

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The reviews still keep coming…

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on 22 September 2016

This is a rollercoaster of a read. From the start, we know something is going to go horribly wrong and from then on we are hanging on to the coat-tails of the characters. It really is a race against time and I held my breath as they slipped past their adversiaries by the skin of their teeth.

The writing is fast paced and yet in a few sentences the author describes perfectly the country or area they are in. I cared about all the characters that we were introduced to and hated the evil ones. Fantasic read highly recommended. Don`t just take my word for it, buy a copy for yourselves you will not be disappointed.

on 18 November 2016
From the dawn of mankind until twenty-five thousand years ago an alien race still lived alongside our ancestors. Then, because humanity rebelled against them, they left. However, two of their race stayed, one cared about humanity and one hated humanity.
They also left behind a network of powerful artefacts which were counting down to the destruction of Earth and all it’s inhabitants.
Zero hour happened on 21st December 2012!
So why are we all still here?
Read and find out.
Note: This is an updated version of this author’s previously published book ‘The Seventh Age’
on 18 September 2016
If you like your action fast paced this is for you. A beautiful ancient mystical being, an English Archaeologist and an ever changing band of misfits and rogues working together to save the world from a count down to an apocalyptic end.
A secret society and an evil god trying to stop them from achieving their aim. Working against the clock to reactivate an ancient machine, it takes them across the globe. Will they make it? Love, treachery, heroism and around the world action – what’s no to like? This would make a great movie.
“Race against time” is an outstanding example of how an author can turn extensive archaeological knowledge into a superb adventure story, chock-full high-caliber entertainment. With the abrupt ending of the Mayan Calendar in 2012, and the prediction that the Solar System will be annihilated in that very year, as a starting point, Jack Eason tells a gripping tale that spans the world, that is often funny but at the same time suspenseful, and that is populated by characters we love to love or to hate. At the end, when the reader thinks that everything will collapse, Eason provides an ingenious, surprising end. An adventure story that also is instructive, a mix of genres that also is a fast-paced and highly entertaining yarn….Eason succeeded in forging all these elements seamlessly together.
on 21 February 2018
If you like Sci-Fi and a fast paced, international novel, this one is for you. I enjoyed this tale.
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How essential is research to a writer?

Research-introduction

Its everything!

I can’t speak for any other writer out there, but when it comes to my own books, they are the end product of seventy percent research time plus thirty percent writing.

When I finally decide on a topic, I spend many months finding out everything I can about it. It doesn’t matter which of the genres I write in.

Without comprehensive research, no story gels. More often than not, as I spend ten hours a day, seven days a week for maybe four to six months reading up on the subject, I will come across a sentence in some dusty tome which gives me the inkling of an idea for the story. As for my resources, here at home I have an extensive research library of my own. Plus I also make use of the internet. Although, having said that, there is a lot of disinformation and plainly incorrect articles on the net.

To give you an example, take most things which appear in Wikipedia with a large pinch of salt. Never rely on just one source! Use Wikipedia by all means. But check what is there with reputable sources like the British Museum, British Library and other institutions. Many of the better universities across the planet can also prove invaluable when it comes to research, especially these days via the internet.

Another excellent source for me are serious documentaries on television, particularly when it comes to history, geography and the universe in general.

So, to sum up – research is the key to a great story unless you are merely engaged in writing what the Victorian’s termed ‘A Penny Dreadful’, or a potboiler if you prefer. But remember this, even they needed a degree of research to be beleaved by their readers…

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Time to fess up!!!

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Here is a question for all my fellow writers, both published like myself, and those who just love to write for the sheer joy of doing so. How many hours do you spend writing each day and how many words does it involve?

Ever since I changed the way I write from how I used to in decades long since past, when I would spend all day and long into the night to achieve a daily word count in the thousands, I now stick rigidly to a short but extremely intense daily session when I have a new story in mind.

I find this is the method that works best for me. If you are wondering how long; these days I limit myself to adding no more than one to two hundred words per day.

Once I get back into the swing of things, I start writing at five in the morning, finishing promptly at eight am. I find that to continue beyond that three hour working window of 100% concentration, means that silly errors will inevitably begin to creep in due to my state of total mental exhaustion by the end of each session. The rest of the day is taken up with a lot of thought about where the story wants me to go next while I carry on with my normal daily activities.

Years ago when I was still in the workforce I used to spend two to three hours writing each night from Monday until Friday. Then on the weekends I would write for twelve hours on both days. On public holidays the number of hours sometimes stretched from twelve to eighteen. While to the novice, endlessly pouring out words might seem to be the only way to write a story, trust me when I tell you it isn’t!

In fact its often the worst possible way of going about it. If you don’t believe me, just look at the hundreds of thousands of poorly written books out there by writers who convinced themselves that high daily word counts is the only way to go. A daily three hour session is by far the best way from my point of view.

I would love to hear how you go about it, but I know most of you are reluctant to own up. There is absolutely no excuse for you not joining in here. You never know, you might even gain some useful ideas and tips on the subject from one another. So leave your thoughts for others to read as comments below this post.

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The reality of writing

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What is the ultimate conundrum?

When it comes to the book we writers have spent many months working on, sooner or later we are all presented with the same conundrum. Will it sell, bearing in mind that this business is extremely fickle?

Daily I see countless writers both new and old, endlessly blogging about spending not only a considerable amount of time and effort, but also their hard earned money, on a book they wrote that simply isn’t selling, in the vain hope that what they’re doing will increase its chances in today’s saturated market.

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it until the day I die. If your book doesn’t work, no amount of money spent on changing its cover or having it edited by someone who professes to be a professional (by the by there is no such beast), together with purchasing a number of copies of the new version from your publisher to give away in a book store or at writer’s convention in the vain hope of promoting it to an already jaded reading public, will not make one iota of difference in the end. All you’re doing is flogging a dead horse!

Despite what so many still foolishly believe, the fact that you have availed yourself of the services of an editor and maybe even a publicist, or perhaps you have spent money having it’s cover, hook and link added to one of the countless number of book advertising web pages who demand payment for doing so. Or maybe you even shelled out yet more money by employing a reviewer to help kickstart your book’s chances. Even then, using all of these options still doesn’t guarantee sales. No marketing strategy ever does, no matter how slick it may be.

Face it – there is no magic formula for literary success. It’s always down to luck!

In the end, the only thing that does matter when it comes to sales, is whether or not the story in question actually works. It’s immaterial that you and your immediate family circle and close friends loved it. After all, you and they are too close to be objective.

So, what might the discerning reader be looking for? I can’t speak for others, but when I am perusing the millions of books currently available, first of all I narrow down my search to the genre that has appealed to me my entire life – science fiction or its derivatives. Next, I totally ignore the often gawdy covers, if I want to look at pictures I’ll go to an art gallery or buy a daily newspaper!

Instead I read each book’s hook. If what I’m reading intrigues me, bearing in mind that as a successful science fiction writer, I am extremely hard to please these days, then and only then will I read the first few pages. If I feel that the story appears to show promise, I’ll buy a copy. If not, I’ll move on to the next one.

Oh, and before you ask – no I don’t take any notice of book reviews, no matter whether they are good, bad or indifferent. I prefer to make up my own mind about a book thank you very much!

The other thing to remember is that having enjoyed reading a specific work, when I see another by the same author, I will always seriously consider it, just so long as it’s as good as the previous one. In other words whether or not the author shows consistency!

What do I mean when I say does a book work? There is nothing mysterious or complicated about it. If a story has been carefully thought out. If it gradually builds towards a climax, with the odd red herring thrown in for good measure. If the characters and their relationships with one another are believable. Then and only then do I consider that any given book works.

There are a few other things to remember. In this business, to succeed you have to gain a reputation as a storyteller – not an easy thing to achieve. To do that first you must have written several books, preferably honing your skills with each one. Normally your first few won’t do it for you. Secondly, you will find that even though your book or books are read as a result of those free giveaway promotions by tightwads looking for a free copy, doesn’t mean that your book will actually sell in the thousands. More than likely the chances of selling more than a dozen copies per year is slight, no matter how much time, effort and money you may have put into promoting them.

Only one of mine ever became a best seller. Because of it, I earned the elusive epithet a consumate storyteller from a few of the more prominent writers around the world like Robert Bauval and Bob Van Laerhoven. Men who despite their own success are always willing to acknowledge the product of someone else’s hard work.

Never once have I pinned my hopes on whether or not any of my covers appeal like so many do these days. What ultimately matters is what’s contained within a book’s pages, and whether or not the story actually works. Remember, in this game you are only as good as your last book. Having said that, I continue to enjoy regular monthly royalty payments from my publisher as some of mine still continue to be bought and read. It’s all thanks to that one best seller a few years ago…

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