A thought has just occurred…

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…no, wait a minute. That’s not strictly true.

I’ve been thinking for several years now about why today’s generation don’t read as much as my own did, and still do come to that?

For instance, why do so many of the one, two or three star book reviews on Amazon and other internet book sites, often written by ordinary members of the public, focus on how any given writer approaches dialogue between characters in particular? Why is it that they they feel obliged to go on the offensive?

I believe I know why. Today’s generation relies heavily on visual images such as in films, on television, and even via the Internet, particularly channels like YouTube, for any story to have a chance of gaining their attention.Think about those annoying video clips some writers are forced to put out by their publisher in the vain hope of attracting prospective readers?

If you want a for instance, I’ll give you one! Think about how today’s generation believe that a book’s cover is all important, and not the text! They want to see pretty pictures not words! Think about why so many writers offer up their latest work’s cover for scrutinization across all social media platforms these days? Once again in a vain attempt to attract today’s generation, that’s why!

Quite frankly I can see a time in the not too distant future when illiteracy becomes the norm unless today’s generation buck up their ideas, starting with losing themselves in the pages of a book!

My friend and fellow author Bob Van Laerhoven reminded me of how vital the cover is these days, when he asked me the other day if I had thought about the cover for my work in progress Autumn 1066 yet? Even though we were both joking about it, we know that for it to sell, it will either need a scantily clad buxom young Saxon or Viking female, or a muscular Saxon or Viking warrior in his prime on the cover for it to even be considered by today’s generation! Whether we like it or not, PULCHRITUDE IS WHAT GAINS ATTENTION AND HOPEFULLY SELLS BOOKS TODAY!!!

It’s my contention that because of the highly visual age we live in that today’s generation have completely lost the means to emerse themselves in anything written down, such as a book, unlike my own generation who were brought up on the written word. In other words quite literally they must have everything spelt out for them visually.

Then there are those individuals who when they come across written dialogue, apparently consider it a foreign language. The following example is the rough draft of one particular short piece of dialogue from the story I am in the process of writing, in this instance involving two eleventh century Saxon thegns:-

What do you think Beadurof?” Colby wondered.

About what?”

The shapely hips on the comely wench yonder. Hey Aldred, we’re glad you brought your beautiful niece with you. Oh and just look at the way her hips swing? Not to mention how her shapely rear quivers as she walks. Very desirable, don’t you think?”

Aldred bit his tongue as he fought hard not to smile. Because of Cynric’s tender age and slender build, his nephew could so easily be mistaken for a young female from behind at a distance. Smirking, he briefly glanced in his direction. Cynric’s face flushed bright red with anger at the good natured jibe by one of Aldred’s oldest friends.

“If she gets cold sleeping on her own tonight or any other night, I’ll fight you for the honour of protecting her Colby. I’ll keep her warm, providing she lets me have my way with her that is. So what say you my beauty?” Beadurof replied with a grin on his face as he blew a kiss in Cynric’s direction…

So, did you imagine the scene while reading it? No? Then you are a lost cause…

As a member of today’s generation, its incumbent upon you to tell the rest of us why you find it so difficult to do the same damned thing when reading, instead of wanting it spelt out to you on a silver screen? Seemingly it’s something today’s generation are incapable of!

It would appear that for them to be able to understand the above example at its most basic level, requires that they actually hear the characters speaking, and not via the medium of imaginary voices in their heads. Plus they need to be able to see the characters portray their facial expressions and both their physical and emotional reactions.

I have only this to say on the subject – wake up idiots! What you want is utterly impossible to achieve in a book. Reading a book requires your participation as well. All you have to do is use your imagination! For your information the difference between a book and a visual interpretation of a story via a film or television script is that the former asks you to engage your brain, or if you prefer it – your mind’s eye. Whereas the latter does not. In that instance, all you need to do is to sit in a vegetative state in a darkened room eating popcorn while staring at the silver screen!!!!

~~~

Lastly – I’ve been accused of being overly fond of description, in particular by one of my more vocal peers in the past. You know who you are. 😉

In my defence, I only ever do that when creating the back story. I’m about to disappoint the particular individual once again, when I tell them here on my blog in front of witnesses (metaphorically speaking that is) that my historical adventure Autumn 1066 will be no different. Without a descriptive background constantly running throughout the book it just won’t work. So, you can either like it or lump it while eating your Païdakia my friend.

Rant over. Now I’d better get back to it. First things first – I need another cup of coffee and a smoke…

😉

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…

🙂

What it takes to write a book

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I’m taking one of my frequent breaks while writing my latest story to reveal how I go about doing it. I’ve spent the last twenty-two years honing the particular method that works for me.

First I write a paragraph. Then I take a cold hard look at the words I’ve written, in particular their order as I’m doing right now while writing this post. It is at this point that I begin to edit the words written, not only for ease of reading, but also from the point of view of spacing, capitalization when required, spelling, grammar and punctuation. While at the same time asking myself what other words can I use that mean the exact same thing, but still clearly convey my meaning to the reader, bearing in mind that there is alway more than one way to say something.

There is only one method when it comes to writing to be avoided at all costs. Sitting in front of your exercise book, typewriter or computer kidding yourself that by churning out thousands of words per day, that somehow by osmosis, doing so makes you a writer. It doesn’t! For the serious independent writer like myself, this line of thinking is a complete fallacy!

In the end all you have achieved is a big mess for someone else to fix, when you should have cleaned the manuscript up yourself before presenting it to your editor, if you use one!

All you have to do is think back to those bad marks you got in class for handing in sloppy work when you presented your essay or composition to your teacher? In this instance imagine that your editor is that teacher, wearing his or her ‘we are not amused’ expression on his or her face, at the prospect of having to make sense of your rambling manuscript…

We all see prime examples on a daily basis right here in the Blogosphere. If you can’t write an error free blog post, what makes you think you can write an error free book manuscript?

NaNoWriMo and other get it down quick notions have a lot to answer for! I’m pretty sure the concept was dreamt up by someone with an obsessive-compulsive disorder. 😉

Once you are finally happy with the paragraph, move on to the next and repeat each step I have mentioned. If your word count reaches somewhere between two hundred and fifty and five hundred words using this method, take it from me you have done a good day’s work.

Why do I limit the number of words I write each day? Simple – a little thing I call brain-fade! Ask yourself how long you can work at 100% capacity before you lose your concentration. This is precisely the reason why I constantly stop what I’m doing to take a breather. What you have to learn is to walk away from it! Go and make yourself a drink or get something to eat. In other words distract yourself. You can always return to it later. I normally work for no more than two hours at a stretch each and every day until I’ve reached the last word in the manuscript.

Each morning when I switch this laptop on, I open the Word file I’m using and once again begin the editing process by reading through what I’ve previously written. Often I see something that needs to be changed. Once I have corrected any mistakes during the daily read through, I can then begin to write the next paragraph.

See, its simple if you know how. My method of constant editing is not for everyone, but it works for me. Remember what I said earlier – a high daily word count is not a good thing unless you have no choice ie, you are a contracted writer for one of the big five publishing houses, where time is money and badly written manuscripts are the norm…

There is one last point for you to consider, turn off the in house spelling or grammar checkers within any writing software package you use. There is no substitute for having a dictionary like the Oxford English and its thesaurus close at hand. Learn to rely on the mark one eyeball like every writer worth their salt does.

PS – right that’s it, lesson over…

😉

On Reading Trends…

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With no book sales since September the twenty-fifth, or sixteen days ago if you prefer, it got me thinking. The other day I was reading one of my old mate Derek Haines’ blog posts from months ago on the subject of what he thinks today’s public seem to prefer when it comes to reading matter.

He looked at the sales figures for the best-selling ebooks at the time of his post. Any book longer than twenty-thousand words didn’t make it into the top twenty. Why? because most people these days, and by that I mean those a lot younger than both Derek and myself, appear to have little or no interest in reading a full length novel. Whether you believe it or not sales figures back up the assertion. Both of us watch the marketplace closely. We’ve become more aware of this latest trend in reading habits in the last several months.

So what’s the answer? It matters little which genre you choose, nor the target audience you aim at. Or for that matter how much money you spent getting your book out there. It appears that for the forseeable future, if you want your book(s) to be noticed by airheads, forget about writing full length novels. Instead it would appear that you must keep your next book’s word count below the twenty thousand ceiling.

As for my generation (the early Baby Boomers born between 1945-50) we’re to long in the tooth to bother about people who do not like to read. We were brought up on novels and so we’ll carry on championing them.

When you read your next novel, don’t keep quiet about it, tell your friends. In the meantime whatever my next book is about, will it be longer than twenty-thousand words?

Stupid question…

😉

~~~

Two links for my books on Amazon US and Amazon UK

Whether By Accident Or Design, Amazon Has Become A Literary Gatekeeper.

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“Hearken to my words writers of the world. Know that once your book passes through these portals, it shall never see the light of day again unless hell freezes over first, or a miracle occurs!”

~~~

Call me a pessimist if you must, but after over two decades of writing and publishing, I’m forced to the inevitable conclusion that despite self-publishing and print on demand still being the way to go these days, it is also the quickest way for your book(s) to rapidly disappear from the public’s attention, due to the sheer number of titles on Amazon since it became the major player in the self-publishing game.

Unless you are extremely lucky, no matter how well written and edited it may be, no matter how spectacular the cover, or for that matter, the amount of time, effort and money spent on marketing it, within a few short days after launching your book on Amazon, its destined to join the slush pile of over five million others as more and more titles appear each day, nudging your work farther down the list.

What is the alternative? Indeed is there one, given that these days even glowing reviews are no guarantee of keeping any book in the public eye for very long. First of all, don’t give up. Carry on writing. But don’t expect to be read by anyone other than your nearest and dearest if you decide to publish on Amazon in the accepted sense of the word.

My anthology of Goblin Tales is a classic case in point. More people have read the tales since I began posting them here on my blog during the last few weeks in an attempt to keep them in the public eye, than have actually bought a copy for themselves from Amazon to read at their leisure, during the entire time the anthology has been available for purchase.

This realisation, epiphany, call it what you will, gave me an idea. Why not try what Charles Dickens did back in eighteen thirty-six, even though, unlike him, I’m up against literally millions of other writers?

~~~

The whole publishing ethos has changed so much in the last few years since self-publishing and print on demand became a reality. Everywhere you look there are people only to willing to creat covers, promote your book, review it, edit it, even format your manuscript, all for a fee of course. Therefore the cold hard reality is that they are the only ones who benefit in any way shape or form from the product of all of your hard work.

Yes but it’s what you have to do to bring it to the attention of the reading public – right? That and hawking paperback and hard cover copies of it around all your local book fairs, conventions, book shops and libraries.

Are you sure about that?

I’ll tell you what I think the problem is. It’s a modern-day catch-22 situation. Don’t publish and no one will read it. Publish on Amazon, and still no one will read it because it is one of over five million titles. Ask yourself how many people you know who actually bother to look beyond the top one hundred recommended books these days? Practically none!

What is the ultimate goal for any writer? Surely it’s to be read…

That’s true, but when your book winds up in Amazon’s slush pile within a few days of it being released, no amount of money spent, or marketing will bring it to the attention of the jaded reading public, despite what the many pundits out there with a vested interest in making money from your book may say.

Not too long ago before the sheer number of books in Amazon’s title list got totally ridiculous, the big five traditional publishing houses relied on one star reviews for any book appearing on Amazon to turn people off self-published titles. These days there is no longer any further need for this less than acceptable practice to continue, thanks to Amazon’s open door policy and its slush pile. Conventional publishing houses do not hoard titles like Amazon does. If a book isn’t selling, all unsold copies get pulped. As a self-published author you can’t even remove one of your own titles, because Amazon insists that it must stay on your Author page, just in case someone might want to return it years down the line. Highly unlikely I would have thought, wouldn’t you?

Whether we as writer’s like it or not, if we don’t want our book(s) to be read, all we have to do now is self-publish on Amazon or Smashwords. To that end, both Derek Haines and myself are seriously contemplating the unimaginable – no more self-publishing of our books.

I can’t speak for what Derek’s solution to the problem may be. Or even if we both change our minds, and simply carry on. But in the meantime I’m now seriously considering doing what Dickens did back in the nineteenth century when he serialized his first work – Pickwick Papers, to raise awareness of his writing. In my case taking a leaf out of Lucy Brazier’s book by publishing each chapter here on my blog.

At least that way any further books by yours truly won’t get buried and forgotten about before anyone has had the chance to read them. Plus by adding the post(s) as I produce them to Twitter, Google+, Pinterest etc, and the many writer’s groups on Facebook, that’s a whole lot of potential readers (especially on Twitter) for each episode, always providing they feel inclined to actually read them and not just ‘like’ them. Even what I’m proposing is no guarantee that anyone will want to avail themselves of my books. But then again, doing nothing is not an option either.

All I’m asking you to consider is to seriously think about what I’ve said before you rush to publish the product of all your hard work. Meanwhile I’ll continue on with my promise to Adele, Kate and a few others to rework and reformat Goblin Tales for its 3rd edition, this time as a paperback…

😉

That old familiar feeling is back – tiredness…

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Unless you have all been living in a cave or on a desert island, or perhaps on top of a mountain, minus any form of internet connection, you’ll know that for the last several months I’ve devoted all of my time, concentration and energy to writing my latest novella, a love story entitled, Céleste, set in space.

Yesterday morning (Thursday the 4th) I finally finished it. The next stage is to go back over it by reading it through one last time before I reformat it, prior to publishing the Ebook version in a couple of weeks from now via KDP.

I’ll begin on monday morning, but not before. That will allow me the sheer luxury of taking a short break in the form of a three day weekend starting today (Friday the 5th) to clear my head in preparation for the task.

When you read Céleste’s tale, you will see that I’ve left a few things unanswered or hinted at, here and there. Why? To give myself the excuse for writing a sequel, (not that I need one) always providing of course that you all want more once you have shared in Céleste’s tale with her, and hopefully enjoyed it.

But not this year! I am now suddenly very tired. I need to rest and recharge for several months. Besides which, with my sixty-eighth birthday looming on the horizon (March 8th), its high time I took it easy for a while, don’t you think? I may even catch up with my own reading, starting with unread copies of books written by my friends Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval. The problem for me when reading any book by either of them is that I always guarantee to get story ideas. On the other hand my chess board awaits…

As I said in a previous post, I’ll let you know when the Ebook version is available.

Love to all,

Jack

😉

Well, Its Hyperlink Time

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As I draw nearer to completing Céleste, now is the time to begin inserting the hyperlinks necessary for the e-book version. What do I mean by that? As it will be in preorder mode for maybe a week or ten days prior to its publishing date, you will still be able to take a look at the first few pages using Amazon’s Look Inside feature. The first hyperlinks you will come across are on the second page. They consist of two pre-publication reviews by two fellow science fiction writers. I will also be adding them to Céleste’s blurb on Amazon, minus the hyperlinks. After you have read what they have to say, by clicking on their hyperlinked names in the e-book, you will be taken directly to books by them I deem to be their best. I’ve done this in grateful thanks for their involvement in Céleste’s journey from idea to end product.

The other hyperlinks you will find are on page three, consisting of chapter headings. By simply clicking on the relevant chapter you can go straight to it, once you have bought your copy.

As for Céleste’s e-book price, I’m still thinking about that. One thing is certain, it won’t be any more than my usual US$2.99. Both of my fellow authors, Nicholas Rossis and Derek Haines, agree that I’ve cracked it once again with this science fiction romance. Its success or failure all depends on whether or not the reading public agrees with what they had to say in their pre-publication reviews…

More later folks,

Jack

😀