Stage One

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Niccolo Machiavelli

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Michaelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

Stage One of the research I need for my next book has drawn to its conclusion. I have been reading about Machiavelli and Caravaggio in search of the traits my new chief character needs. From Machiavelli comes intrigue and deviousness. From Caravaggio comes hotheadedness, raging against the world and murderous intent.

While I was reading about both men an idea for a working title sprang to mind – Good Never Triumphs.

As yet I still have to determine the gender of the character, and the time in which it will be set. Before you ask ; no it will not be set in the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries. I have also decided that he, or she, will be a sailor wandering the seven seas. This is where I can draw on my own life as I spent many years doing just that, first in the Pacific in the Royal New Zealand Navy, then the Pacific, Atlantic and Mediterranean in the Merchant Marine and much later on my own sailboat off New Zealand’s East Coast. What he or she gets up too is still undecided. Might he or she be a murderer one step ahead of the authorities? Perhaps they are involved in the drug or contraband or people smuggling game! At this stage its anyones guess.

I’m in no steaming hurry to begin writing. But mark my words, by hook or by crook it will be written. This will be the first time in twenty-three years that my main character will be thoroughly evil.

In the meantime I have a lot of thinking to do…

😉

 

To be avoided like the plague!

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It would be fair to say that some new writers fall into one or two of the inevitable hidden traps lurking within the world of words from time to time. Here are just a few examples.

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Let’s start by talking about one aspect of your book’s characters. Never ever reveal everything there is to know about them in one go. Think about it for a moment. Isn’t it far better to gradually find out tidbits of information about your friends, family members and work colleagues? Of course it is. The same applies to your characters. So why tell your readers everything you feel they need to know about them within the first few paragraphs?

Next we come to one of my pet hates – stating the obvious. Just because most of us at some point or other have done it in real life, doesn’t make it acceptable. You don’t have to look too far for classic examples of this particular trap. How many films, television programs and computer games do exactly that? Far too many, that’s how many.

Want an example?

How about when someone knocks on the door in a particular scene in a film or television drama? Why do the writers of the offending piece feel the need for one of the characters to vocalise, when it is blindingly obvious to you the viewer? You’ve got ears. So chances are you heard it, as did the characters!

When it comes to writing something of this nature, remember that if you need to tell your readers that someone knocked on the door at a given moment, either say so when you are writing the scene, or have one of your characters vocalise it – never do both! What makes you think that it is perfectly acceptable when telling a fictional story? It isn’t.

Before you start, don’t give me any of that art imitating life baloney. Just don’t do it, alright – grrr!

Next we come to writers who rely on the ‘third person’ where each and every character is referred to by the narrator as he, she, it, or they, to tell an entire tale. It’s fine if it is used in its proper context such as an item of news or as a voice over in any television documentary.

And now for the dreaded hero cliche. In certain films the hero or heroine is usually portrayed as some kind of superhuman, who follows a strict moral code. When it comes to writing, never portray your chief protagonist or protagonists in a perfect light. Instead, make him, her or them totally believable. While they may not be real, your readers need to think they are within the context of the story. To that end give them human faults, frailties and habits, both good and bad.

Just remember that most real hero’s are normal individuals just like you and I, with one major difference. In a given set of circumstances, they did something completely out of character to save the day.

Lastly, because you blindly accept without question what the various characters say and do in any film, play or television drama, it doesn’t follow that your readers will when they deign to read your book(s), if your characters aren’t believable.

If you want my advice, such as it is, think long and hard about each situation before you write that book. I’ve briefly touched on a few of the problems that still catch new writers out. There are many more traps for the unwary.

Here endeth the lesson, at least for now…

😉

The Guardian – Another Progress Report

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Is This The Guardian?

As of now, I’m four thousand, three hundred and forty-seven words, or if you prefer it, ten pages into the WIP.

Finally, I’ve solved the previous problem I had regarding the addition of more characters. Plus, I’ve more or less completed the core of the second chapter. At least now, I’m satisfied with what chapter two is all about.

There are three new characters, loosely based on people I knew way back in the nineteen sixties when I served alongside them in South East Asia. The new characters are an ex Royal Marine, an ex US Special Services soldier, and a former nurse in the Israeli Defence Force.

How long each of them lives for, how much we will learn about them; whether or not they can handle themselves in the situation I am about to drop them into alongside Adler and Lynne, only time will tell.

One thing is certain; Lynne will have to watch the nurse like a hawk. On that subject, I’m saying no more. You will just have to read The Guardian to find out why when I publish it won’t you.

Sorry this progress report is a short one folks. But by now those of you who have been following the reports will realise that I do a lot of thinking before I write each chapter, and each mini scene within any given chapter. Chapter three definitely needs a lot more thought, and some more research, this time on future weaponary which might be available in the twenty-second century, even though I have already begun to write it. It’s high time I stirred things up a bit. Up until now the storyline has been steadily building up to this next chapter and the ones to follow, while establishing a few facts about the characters.

PS – I already did the weaponary research last night. Made my selection of weapons needed. That leaves me more time for thinking. 🙂

More later

😀 😀 😀

At the moment, The Guardian is a red pen free zone

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Is this The Guardian? Wait and see…

One of the joys of writing a first draft is that it is a red pen free zone. Until you reach the end of the story, anything goes, incorrect spelling, incorrect punctuation, even the wrong words and phrases – you name it and you will find you have added it. Beginning the first of many editing sessions is the time to take a critical look at what you had initially written over the many months since you started.

By not worrying too much about what you have written in the first draft, it allows you to get that idea out of your head and onto paper, or in my case, this laptop’s screen. Initially you can write the way you think, instead of observing the standard form of English required for the finished product. To look at it another way, just imagine that at this stage your WIP (work in progress) is nothing more than a very long letter to a friend or relative. While it tells the tale, inevitably it is a tad mixed up. Everything you wanted to say is right there in front of you. Now all you have to do is make sense of it.

The time when you have to become your own worst critic comes much later when you begin that first editing session. To achieve this you have no choice but to become totally ruthless – not an easy process when it comes to your literary toddler. But until you delete some passages, replacing them with others. Cut and paste a particular sentence, or sentences, into the correct place, or maybe even totally rewrite a paragraph or chapter, you haven’t edited it properly.

As for my new science fiction novel, The Guardian, I have finally written the core of chapter one in just 1,996 words. In it I have established the three principal characters Major Adler Stevens, Lieutenant Lynne Crawford, and The Guardian itself. All the way through the chapter, the characteristics, quirks, likes and dislikes, all part of the relationship between the two humans, have been revealed. Not so with The Guardian. All you know about it at this stage is that it watches anyone it deems to be a threat, and…

Oops almost gave something away then LOL.

Fleshing out the chapters will come much later, once I have finished writing the first draft. Now it’s on to chapter two for me.

More later, be good.

😉

“Man, the novella I’m working on is so emotionally draining.”

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What we’re talking about here is one writer’s admission that whether she realises it or not, she is finally getting totally inside the heads of her characters. She is a dear friend from across the pond in the US State of Kentucky.

She said to me recently while we were chatting on Facebook, “man, the novella I’m working on is so emotionally draining.” To which I replied, “Congratulations, you are finally allowing your characters to take you over.” Meaning that in effect she has stopped trying to dictate what her characters get up to, by following a preconceived plan, to become a reporter of her character’s every move as they write the story for her.

Untill you as the writer first get to know and believe in your characters, no matter whether they are good or bad, how can you possibly expect your readers to do the same thing when they read your book? In a lot of cases these days, so many characters in books are one dimensional to the point where I have to wonder why the author of the book included them in the first place. In other words, unless you invest all of you’re time and energy in your main characters, in effect they are nothing more than peripheral to the story. The concept cannot be taught no matter what some may say. To achieve it you have to allow the story to write itself. Yes it is emotionally exhausting. That’s the way it should be for the author of any book.

My friend has finally emerged from the chrysalis stage of her career, to become the writing equivalent of a beautiful butterfly. In other words, a fully fledged writer.

I’m so proud of you Mysti Parker, so very proud. 😀 xx

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Click on Mysti’s picture to go to her Amazon page

 

 

It’s Confession Time

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If you are a man of a certain age, you have already lived a lot longer than millions of others. If like me, you are a widower with no immediate family, and a senior citizen, you are entitled to a few pleasures in your twilight years.

In my case, especially when I’m writing or researching, I enjoy a glass or two of my favourite brand of English bitter each day – John Smith’s. The other pleasure for me while writing is to be able to create a rollup and smoke it. In my case, these days I prefer Amber Leaf tobacco.

Unlike the vast majority today, whether or not I die from smoking tobacco, or supping a pint or two each day simply doesn’t bother me. I’d rather die happy than miserable, especially when I read about various individuals dying, allegedly having led ‘healthy’ lives, eating organic this and that; refraining from alcohol in any form, and never ever smoking during their lifetimes, not forgetting, participating in some form of exercise regime.

I have to ask myself – why then did they die? In the case of the males, it was probably because of the lifestyles enforced upon them by family, their doctor, and society in general. Far too many men die comparatively young these days from stress related illnesses, brought on by the current mania and fashion for healthy living and working insanely long hours.

I can hear all of the lovely ladies who follow my blog, and others like you out there, tut-tutting as you read this confession of mine. I’m sorry to disappoint you all. No amount of castigation on your part will deter me. Think about it for a moment if you will. Would you rather I was content in my dotage, or not?

Face it ladies, I am who I am. I eat and drink what I like, not what you would have me believe is good for me. However, I no longer eat fatty foods. As you get older, your body simply can’t handle certain things like animal fats. Never the less ladies, I still enjoy being a carnivore, eating meat products of all kinds.

Happiness is growing old disgracefully…

😉

There Is Nowt Queerer Than Folk

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People in general are probably the most complicated, dangerous, confusing, annoying, tiresome, argumentative, frustrating, angry, illogical, emotional and idiotic creatures roaming this planet of ours. Don’t even get me going on the differences between the genders…

To begin with, the greater majority of mankind believes in some form of non existant all powerful entity. Why? What’s wrong with standing on your own two feet? To any logical thinking being, any form of religion makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Where is this all powerful being when we need them the most, like when we are involved in a war, or are suffering a family crisis? Nowhere, that’s where! So why bow down to them? It makes no sense at all.

Religion is hardly peaceful or benevolent, despite everything its devotees preach. Each religion believes it is the only true one, conning its faithful into thinking that all the others are unbelievers to be destroyed! I’ve lost count of the number of wars that were, and still are, being fought in its name – an ugly trait of those who still believe that they are still the masters of all mankind. It seems that we can’t get through a single century without declaring war on each other. Once again, why is that? In the days of yore the common people were given no choice in anything. Once upon a time we were ruled by Emperors, Kings, Dukes, Earls, Barrons and tribal Chieftains. What they decreed simply happened.

I’ve got news for you people. These days we do have a choice, despite what our political and religious leaders may say. Our politicians, backed by the more fantical religions, have taken over from any kind of royalty, prosecuting wars in other lands like there is no tomorrow, usually because those countries are oil rich. While we can’t do much about the religious fanatics, except ignore them, every few years we do get the chance to vote out the political party that is annoying and frustrating us the most. The real trouble is that instead of thinking first, many simply give their vote to a specific political party because that’s the way their family members and them have always done it. In my own case, I usually vote for the Labour party. Why do I do that? Habit, pure and simple!

More and more these days people simply don’t bother to vote, believing that their one vote won’t make any difference. Total rubbish!

With barely a fortnight to go, the good people of Scotland will get the chance to vote, either for independence from the rest of the UK, or to maintain the status quo. This is a historic moment in the history of these islands. The Scots won’t get another chance like this in the forseeable future. The political pundits and polls suggest that both sides of the argument, for and against, are about even. When have polls and pundits ever got anything right when it comes to elections, or in this case, probably the most important referendum that Scotland will vote on?

Since the Jacobites were beaten in the eighteenth century, ending any previous thoughts of Scots’ independance, the proud nation has been nothing more than a vassal state of England. Despite all of the scaremongering and threats from the UK parliament, personally I hope that Scotland achieves it dream to break away from the houses of parliament, otherwise known as Westminster, once and for all.

Role on the eighteenth of September…

What it takes to get the job done

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There is still a lot of argument going on within the world of writing on how to go about writing a novel, novella, or even a short story. Certain actions on your part as the writer are absolutely fundamental to any story. First of all, the writer needs a strong story idea. Having a vague notion simply won’t work. This applies to all genres. Next the writer needs a hook in the first few pages to capture the reader’s interest and attention. The third thing all writers need are believable characters. How much you reveal about them is down to you. But remember this, the reader needs to know what makes the main character or characters tick.

Secondary characters and those inhabiting the periphery usually don’t need so much detail. Think of them as strangers in a crowd. Do you really need to know every nuance about them? No of course not. If your readers are a bunch of completely nosy individuals, wanting to know everything about every character, let them use their own imagination.That way whether they realise it or not, they become involved in the story.

After that, what happens is largely down to the type of story it is. Not every story needs to be planned out. Some stories literally write themselves as in my fantasy anthology Goblin Tales, where, given the characters I created, they virtually dictated what will happen in each circumstance. As a consequence, writing Glob’s tales was a pure joy.

Others require a degree of planning and a lot of background research like my best selling Scifi-adventure story The Seventh Age, where a lot of the action takes place in various historical locations across the Earth. Plus I made use of events that where happening across the world at the time of writing.

A lot of writers, particularly new ones, can and do over plan to the point where the story they are writing becomes inflexible. Don’t get bogged down with rigid ideas. Flexibility is always key to writing any story.

The same amount of research also applied to Seventh’s archaeological adventure sequel The Forgotten Age. In that instance I had already established the main characters in the previous novel. What I needed that time was yet more background research, this time on Egypt, the Giza Plateau, Egyptian burial rites and customs, Mastabas, and anything I could find on the supposed lost library of the ancients rumoured to be either beneath the Sphinx, or the Great Pyramid, also known as the Pyramid of Cheops, or Khufu. Even now, eminent Egyptologists still argue over which pharaoh was responsible for its construction.

All of the above points are fundamental to creating a story. After all your hard work, whether or not your readers will like what you’ve written is literally in the lap of the gods.

One other point for you to consider – a lot of publishers and editors abhor prologues and epilogues. Are they necessary? Once again, it all depends on the type of story. While I don’t always use them, they do come in handy to give the reader a preamble before they start chapter one and what happened as a consequence of your characters actions.

Remember this; no matter what, you won’t please everyone, especially armchair critics, pedants et al.

OK that’s it. Back to researching my next novel…

Remember That Words Are Our Craft

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As writers we are always on the lookout for those personality traits which each human being has within them when creating our characters.

To that end, besides acting as a means for our readers to get to know us, blogs are a positive gold mine, especially when certain commenters lose their composure, and drop their guard. Remember that words are our craft. What you say, or don’t say, how you react to a post, gives all of us useful information to draw upon. So don’t be surprised if one day when you are reading one of our books, that a particular character seems very familiar to you.

People simply can’t help themselves when any blogger writes a piece that they feel needs to be commented on. Some have extremely strong views on a specific subject. Others simply agree with what was said. Yesterday’s post on spamming and unsolicited book links in proposed comments certainly qualified. One or two of the commenters where forthright in their opinions.

Some hopefuls even attempted to chastise the blogger in question, taking offence at what was said, often resorting to foul languge. Needless to say, certain comments wind up in the bin, unpublished, having given us useful information for a particular type of future character, usually of the evil kind.  Still others tend to go off at a tangent, talking about something else entirely.

So, to all of you, bear in mind that once your comment has been approved by the blogger, literally everyone who reads the blog, and your comments, instantly forms their own opinion about you. In short, unless you are careful, you will expose your real selves to the world and everyone who reads a blog, intentionally or otherwise.

Having spent twenty-five years in a university in New Zealand, without exception every one of the academics I worked with gave me an endless supply of character traits, which I have used in two of my books. The same can be said for the people I met and served alongside in the military back in the nineteen-sixties. In their case I created military style characters for two of my science fiction novels.

Even talking to our friends give us useful character traits. So, if you don’t want to wind up in any writer’s next novel as a shady, or even a bad character, think long and hard before you loose all sense of decorum…

On second thoughts, don’t. We need you to lay yourselves wide open. Far too many books these days contain shallow uninteresting characters…

😀

 

Totally Incomprehensible Acts

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There is an unwritten understanding that all self-published writers will help each other out however they can. For my part I use this blog from time to time to pass on my own experiences in this bitchy world we all inhabit – aka, the world of publishing. I also try to make people aware of other writers who also have a blog by creating a link to their posts via the medium of the reblog. From time to time I offer positive comments on their posts in support. I don’t have to do it. It’s just in my nature to want to help others…

Yesterday, through our mutual friend The Storyreading Ape, I saw another post that cried out to be reblogged to make it known to those of you who follow my blog. Because I totally agreed with its sentiments, I also left a comment. Then I received the following from the writer concerned:

“Thank you for reblogging my post. However I deleted your comment because I find it extremely offensive when people shorten my name without asking permission. My name is ………; and I clearly indicated that I go by ….. In the future, please respect a writer by using their given names unless otherwise indicated. Thank you.”

To say I was totally taken aback would be an understatement!

Because of that childish outburst, simply because I used the first part of their double barrel Christian name instead of the second part as they insisted, like you I can only assume that they are not only wholly insecure but also deeply ungrateful for my wishing to help publicize both them and their blog. Once I got over the writer’s irrational outburst, I immediately deleted the reblog of their post as well as blocking their blog from my list of Blogs I Follow. You will note that to prevent the writer being embarrassed or harrassed for their incomprehensible act I have deliberately left out any reference to them, their blog and the post in question.

As writers we all need to embrace positive public relations. Clearly the writer in question either doesn’t realize this, or they have decided that they don’t need to avail themselves of it, taking the totally misguided view that their talent alone will ensure their success as a writer. This particular writer obviously needs to reassess their attitudes. All writers need allies and friends, especially other writers…