Wise words from one of my literary heroes

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Vain, selfish and lazy? Those sentiments Eric Blair aka George Orwell stated still apply for some within the writing community. Fortunately most writers I know are none of those things. These days the only people you will come across like that are certain editors and literary agents as well as some writers and literary critics. The latter category, especially the odd one or two who write for newspapers and literary magazines here in the UK, can definitely be said to be vain and selfish. To those two unsavoury qualities I would add a few others – condescending, snobbish, scathing and vicious, particularly when it comes to one leading newspaper’s literary critic and his deep loathing of Indies. Compared to him, internet trolls are rank amateurs.

As for the rest of what Eric is quoted as saying – writing is a long exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness, he’s perfectly correct. It still is. With a few exceptions, I seriously doubt that anyone who reads books has the faintest notion of what we go through when writing one. Blair was also right when he said that – one would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist, nor understand.

In my own case, what drives me to write is not so much a demon as the burning desire to share a story with you the reader. So the next time you read any book, whether you liked it or not, ask yourself what kind of hell did the author of this book put themselves through when he or she wrote this? How many sleepless nights did they suffer to bring the story to me? How many times were they afflicted with the one problem all writers suffer from time to time – writer’s block?

As if all of that wasn’t enough for the writer to contend with, there are the endless attacks by internet trolls, once published. In some cases they are actually disgruntled fellow writers who are seriously annoyed that people buy, like, and praise your work while shunning their own. As writers we all know at least one of these often angry individuals.

Some trolls are nothing more than malicious individuals hiding behind pseudonyms, thriving on hate while hoping that you will react, judging by their often incomprehensible one star reviews.

Do I still want to write? Hell yes, even though it often drives me to distraction. Once you have been bitten by the writing bug, everything else in your life apart from writing posts like this, and chatting to readers, writers and friends on Facebook, rapidly vanishes into the distance.

You heard it here first folks. It helps if you are completely bonkers with a masochistic streak when it comes to writing.

😉

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Is screen writing an art form?

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Without a shadow of a doubt, the answer has to be categorically no!

My fellow writer and friend here in the UK, Andrew French decided that he wanted to turn one of his books into a screen play. So, with ‘how to’ suggestions from someone involved in the scriptwriting industry here, away he went.

Andrew said to me yesterday, “I don’t want anyone else adapting my work. It wouldn’t be the same.” From that point of view I can completely understand why he did it. After all would you allow a total stranger anywhere near your baby? No neither will the author of a given work, if they’ve got any sense… Far too many good stories have been ruined in the past by total Philistines ie editors. Or in this instance scriptwriters!!!

When you read a book, through the use of your imagination you become part of it to the point where if you close your eyes, your right there with the characters. Not so with a script. With the latter what your reading is nothing more or less than simplistic writing in the form of an instruction manual for totally unimaginative ninnies, devoid of everything that you experience when reading any work of fiction.

Give me the book over the darned film any day…

😉

Announcing the release of Autumn 1066

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Down the centuries the British Isles has always been seen by invaders as a legitimate target for exploitation. This novella concerns the last few weeks of  Anglo-Saxon occupation, ending on the 14th of October, 1066.

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At long last my historical novella Autumn 1066 (paperback only) is now available for purchase.

Please take note of the following number:- ISBN-13: 978-1546685302.

First of all, may I suggest that you order your copy directly from CreateSpace by inserting the above ISBN number when looking for it. Ordering directly from the printer is by far the cheapest purchasing option.

I ordered six copies to give to my friends at US$2.15 each as opposed to US$5.38 each on Amazon US, and UK£4.17 on Amazon UK. The CreateSpace price for my latest book works out at roughly what you pay for the average ebook these days. Which makes it value for money, I’m sure you will agree…

Buying from CreateSpace is a no-brainer in my book!!!

Of course if money is no object, you can always order it from your nearest Amazon outlet. Here are the links for Amazon’s two main outlets:-

AmazonUS

AmazonUK

Unfortunately, the one thing you cannot do on CreateSpace is post a review. That can only be done at Amazon sites. Here’s hoping that you enjoy reading the novella. If that is the case, do please post a review on Amazon.

PS – Are you one of those strange individuals who do not believe in ordering anything online? In that case, write down the title and the above ISBN number together with CreateSpace’s link – https://www.createspace.com/. Then head off to your local bookshop armed with all the information, and tell them (don’t ask) to order a copy for you…

Enjoy…

😉

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!!!!

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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…

😉

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Two links for my books on Amazon US and Amazon UK

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