The hidden problem with research

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There is one thing that will soon become all too apparent to you while conducting research for any fictitious historical story you might care to write. When it comes to the written records of events in days gone by, every historian you come across has an entirely different opinion, based on what they believe actually happened. You will find that they agree on some points while differing on others. This is all too apparent as I continue to research a series of three specific ancient battles, fought back to back during the short time period of barely a month here in England, almost a thousand years ago.

The only thing the historians involved do agree on, is to disagree with one another over their fellow academic’s interpretation of what they think happened. All of this shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of you. Particularly as in this instance today’s historians are at an enormous disadvantage. They don’t have access to sworn eyewitness accounts of the particular series of events I am still researching. Therefore anything they come up with can be nothing more than conjecture. I do beg their pardon – I should have said theory, the posh word academics use in preference to the aforementioned. In other words, in this instance they are relying on pure guesswork on their part…

While researching for my latest story, so far I’ve read a dozen different versions, based on what the academics involved, think happened. As I said in a previous post, the initial account about what I’m interested in was not written until fifty years after the three battles happened. In other words, just like today’s crop of historians, its highly doubtful that the chronicler(s) involved back then, were able to lay their hands on any eyewitness accounts, mainly because of the fact that for one thing, at the time in question most people could neither read nor write. Secondly, given the fact that it is highly doubtful that any survivors of the events were still alive a half century later, when the chronicler(s) wrote their account to please the country’s new masters during those troubled times, it could not at the time be accepted as the truth. Which begs the question why today’s historians defer to it???

PS – I’ve come up with a possible title for the story

PPS – as the three events I’m interested in happened in a short time frame, I’ve had to reassess the probable length of the story. It looks likely that it may end up as a long short story (novelette). At best, by adding what my fictitious characters get up to in the narrative may add a couple of thousand words.

High ho, high ho, It’s back to work I go…

🙂

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The Guardian – Another Progress Report

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Is one of these The Guardian?

As I’m halfway through writing chapter two of The Guardian, I need to take a break while I do some more thinking. Without giving too much away, I will say that at this stage in the novel there is an undeniable sexual tension gradually developing between the two main human characters – Adler and Lynne. Whether or not they become lovers, I haven’t decided yet.

I’ve just introduced a third human character Professor Ephraim Adelmann, an old friend of Adler’s. Lynne is not best pleased by his attitude towards women.

Like most of the academics I formerly worked with for twenty-five years at the University of Waikato back in New Zealand, while academically brilliant, Ephraim wouldn’t last five minutes in the real world. His speciality is ancient languages. I based him on a particular academic I have admired for years who works in the British Museum, Irving Finkel, who is an acknowledged expert on ancient languages.

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          Irving Finkel

I’m finding it difficult not to spill the beans when it comes to clues regarding The Guardian, which is why I constantly need to step back and seriously think about what I am going to say next. In the past, especially with my archaeological adventure The Forgotten Age it was fairly obvious what was going on. As a consequence it was an easy book to write. Well not this time. By hook or by crook I’m determined to keeping you guessing until its time for Adler and Lynne to encounter The Guardian.

More later…

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What’s Your Style?

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Have you ever thought about the way you write? We’re not talking about subject matter here. That’s another thing entirely. I’m talking about your writing style. Developing your own doesn’t happen over night, It takes years to perfect. At the beginning you may unconsciously write in a similar fashion to one or more of your literary heroes. But gradually you will find that the way you write has become unique to yourself.

I am reading the second in a science fiction trilogy by a friend, Nicholas C Rossis. Having read the first book I was struck by how much his writing style reminded me of the way Isaac Asimov, best known for his Foundation Series, wrote back in the day. I’m not insulting Nicholas, merely pointing out an example of how we are all influenced, consciously or otherwise, by the way others write.

The other day while perusing Facebook, I came across one of those idiotic “Who Are You Most Like” things. This particular one concerned well known writers. All you had to do was insert a passage from something you had written. I chose a paragraph from one of my blog posts instead of one of my books. Instantly it compared my writing style to the horror writer H.P. Lovecraft! I wasn’t sure whether to feel insulted or flattered. Thinking about it I’m plumping for the former. After all, I’ve never written anything that could be classed as horror. Although certain among the Internet Troll community may think otherwise.

I dread to think what the idiotic comparison thing would have said if I’d supplied it with a sample from my latest novella. One thing is certain, it wouldn’t have compared me to Hans Christian Anderson, or Dr Seuss.

The brothers Grimm, maybe…

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PSDon’t forget that you can download a free Kindle copy of Cataclysm from your nearest Amazon outlet from today until Friday.

😉

Creative writing courses are killing western literature, claims Nobel judge

I totally agree with what Horace says. How about you?

Creative writing courses are killing western literature, claims Nobel judge.

Progress Report 6

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The story might be located here

Well, chapter one is done and dusted until I reach the end and begin the inevitable rewrite. I started writing chapter two a couple of days back. Trying to tell you the reader a story without giving too much away isn’t easy. I’m applying the ‘Red Herring’ approach a lot this time. After all, we can’t have you thinking “I’ve cracked it!” within the first few chapters now can we.

What I will say is that at the moment, the story involves Dr Gilbert Briggs and a geologist travelling back in time to several key locations, in his quest to discover if the subject of endless debate down the centuries actually existed. So what is it I hear you cry? That’s for me to know and for you through Gilbert’s eyes, to find out. As for its location, that’s if you think you might know…

One other thing I can tell you is that the story quite possibly involves ‘ancient gods’, race memory and ancient cataclysms across the world. I’ve changed the working title once more. This time just one word –  Cataclysm. For now it suites my thinking.

This time round I’m only writing a couple of hundred words each day before going back through them to ensure you don’t become convinced you know what’s going to happen next. As for character conversations, first of all I just write what I want them to say before changing the words so that even when they are having a conversation, your still left guessing. Then I stop for a few hours to think things through, usually by playing my favourite video game Mass Effect 3. Doing something completely different to take my mind of things helps enormously.

More later.

PS Even writing this post, I’ve had to rewrite it several times for the reasons stated above. Devious or what?

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As Writers, We Demand To Know!

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In fellow writer Derek Haines’ recent post Who Are Your Readers, he raises some pertinent points regarding demographics when it comes to the literary world. Without exception, all publishers be they traditional or self do not pass on the information to we writers. Why? Because they keep it to themselves, guarding it jealously to sell books. We’ve all seen examples of how they use it. Think about those annoying emails from Amazon et al. You know the ones I mean. They begin with “Since you showed interest in etc, etc”.

Well, as the writers of those self same books, we also need access to that knowledge!

Just think about it. Wouldn’t you like to know which gender your books appeal to? Which genre is selling? Which is not? As Derek says, you can’t draw any real conclusion from reviews these days, since their value was cheapened by the likes of Amazon and Goodreads when they gave over their review systems carte blanche to their inhouse trolls, and the growing number of self important armchair critics and pedants that crawl out of the woodwork.

As a writer, what do you think?

When we write a book, no matter the genre, in effect we are reduced to adopting a ‘hit or miss’ approach. Will it sell, or won’t it? If the publishers shared the knowledge with us, it would go a long way to deciding what that next book would be. If, like me, you write purely for the eBook market, you soon find out that the largest market for that particular format is the US. No one told me. I had to find it out for myself!

What about paperbacks or hard cover? Which countries are hungry for them? Which are not? Which country loves Fantasy? What about Adventure? Which gender prefers which genre?

All this information is held in secret by all publishers. If only they would tell us, we wouldn’t spend months writing a book that no one wants to read. But then again, when have publishers given a tinker’s cuss about writers?

My fellow writers, do yourselves a favour and reblog the living daylights out of this post to all the writers you know. It’s high time we showed all publishers that we mean business. Let us become organised!!!