Internet Friendships

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Is there anything more unusual, or indeed as unlikely as an internet friendship? I prefer to think of the phenomena as being a classic Claytons situation. If you are wondering what I’m wittering on about, bear with me.

Years ago, in the nineteen-seventies, a southern hemisphere company whose name totally escapes me now, marketed a non-alcoholic beverage resembling bottled whisky in Australia and New Zealand, advertising it as the drink you have when you’re not having a drink, under the brand name Claytons.

The word soon entered the Australian and New Zealand vernacular. No matter whether you are an Aussie, or a kiwi like myself, we use it to describe all kinds of things that are obviously not what they seem. For example, a common-law couple might be described as having a Claytons marriage.

So, now you know. To me, an internet friendship is the kind you participate in when you are not participating in one. Or is it?

Strictly speaking, at best we can only ever say that we are acquainted with one another. To become true friends requires that we physically meet or have met at some time during our lifetimes, spending time together. Think about it.

All we have to go on when engaging via the internet, to help us decide if we like one another, are the totally sterile typed words on the screen in front of us, just like these ones. What we cannot do is pick up on each other’s tells, such as audible inflection, avoiding or making eye contact, etc, etc.

While we may enjoy reading what each other has to say, chances are that if we ever actually met we might find we have absolutely nothing in common, or worse, that we instantly dislike each other.

Yes, you can use applications like Skype or similar video call systems to contact one another, but all that does is let us see each other, warts and all, as well as putting an actual voice to someone we know through uploaded photographs and by what they type.

Even then there is no guarantee that we might actually want to meet. Take the use of our everyday speech patterns. Some people’s voices can, and do, get on your nerves. Especially if they are of the whining variety. Some people tend towards the endless use of expletives, seeing nothing wrong in peppering every sentence they utter with them.

In a way its a blessing that we are separated by the many miles between us. If we ever did actually meet, chances are that after we had sized one another up in the first thirty seconds, that one or both of us would turn on our heels and head back home. Humans are funny like that. Some would say that we can and do act irrationally when it comes to meeting one another for the first time. Remember, when we actually meet, we don’t just use our eyes and ears to size one another up. Our other senses along with our inbuilt intuition comes into play. A few thousand years ago it used to be known as our fear or flight response.

Our typed conversations hide a multitude of sins. For instance – it might be that one of us has a body odour problem. Or perhaps one of us is inclined to pick their nose. It might even be (god forbid) that one of us spits, or doesn’t use a hankerchief when clearing our nose! The point is, how would you or I know? We wouldn’t. No one would. And yet, despite all of that, we do become friends in the completely unfeeling world of the internet.

At best maybe what we are is the electronic twenty-first century equivalent of nineteenth and twentieth century pen pals, destined never to meet, but happy to communicate with one another, maybe not every day, but certainly several times each week.

PS – If memory serves, a glass of Claytons tasted positively foul – bleh! No make that double bleh!!

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What It Takes To Be A Serious Writer

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In the good old bad old days, wrongly or rightly, writers were shielded by their agents and publishers from their reading public to maintain an air of mystery, and to shield them from the more repugnant elements of society, among other things. These days since the internet became reality, it has become a necessary tool for all writers to be able to let their readers get to know them.

Even so, as a writer you need to be cautious. There are a few drawbacks. Theย  spread of internet trolls, armchair critics and pedants springs to mind. But, always providing the writer doesn’t engage with them, they remain where they belong, lurking in the darkest recesses of the internet fora. With the way the review system operates on a lot of book sites these days, they do their darnedest to put people off buying books written by every writer they hate. Usually their stupidity, bile and invective has the complete reverse effect. Some foolishly think that they will be able to get at any writer who maintains a blog by offering a less than civil comment. If you are a member of one of the three groups mentioned above, know that your comment will never see the light of day…

The time has long since gone when serious writers simply wrote books. Contrary to popular belief, being a writer is not only a lonely existance, but also unless you are one of the fortunate few, the amount of money we receive in royalties is minute to say the least. Any serious writer who makes ยฃ12,000 per annum, or more, is doing well. Most mid-listers make far less; new writers, practically zero.

Nowadays, we spend a lot of time either with our own webpages where we advertise our wares, or as in my case (and that of many other writers) we operate a blog like this one, contributing to it on a daily basis. Let’s face it, people are curious about us. They want to know everything about their favourite author(s). Once again there is danger involved in maintaining any form of public forum. How much do you reveal about yourselves? Short answer – think before you type. There are people out there who will think nothing of revealing your innermost secrets to the world in an attempt to turn potential readers away from your work. After all, like everyone else, we are human beings with the same character flaws, hates, foibles, desires, regrets, financial and health problems as anyone else.

Besides writing that novel, the odd short story, and maintaining a blog, we also interact on popular social media sites as well as placing links for our latest novel, novella, anthology and blog posts on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc, etc. Participating in all of these activities has become an absolute necessity since the concept of publishing, and what publishers were prepared to do for their writers changed for the worse from the point of view of the writer a few years ago.

To keep our names in forefront of the reader’s mind we need to ‘self-promote’. The myth that any writer worth their salt does nothing but slave over their latest manuscript is just that – a myth. Some of us attend various book fares, book signings and conventions. Some of us don’t. I am one of the latter, owing to poor health. Besides which, until someone comes up with a way for writers like myself who write purely for the eBook market to digitally sign your copy, I won’t be doing it.

For all writers, being able to meet you when you visit our blogs, like what you’re reading, and become a follower, means everything to us all. As readers, while you might never consider reviewing something of ours on an internet book site, being able to read your comments on our blogs as well as chatting to you on Facebook also means everything to us. Plus, never forget that always providing we post on our blogs and talk to you on Facebook etc, at least you know we’re still breathing.

So, if you are thinking of becoming a serious writer, all it takes is dedication, mental strength, doggedness, and above all, you must become resigned to the fact that you will be living on an income well below what is commonly held up as the ‘poverty’ line. If you are serious about writing, be prepared for the long haul.

One other thing, if you want to know more about me, why not wade your way through the over three thousand posts I have produced to date on this blog?

Post Script

Today’s reader only thinks about one thing – getting a free copy of your book. Even when so many offer their work for a paltry $0.99 in an effort to be read, the vast majority still refuse to buy.

Now is the time to put them to shame. If we were to charge the reading public the true price of a book based on the number of hours we spend writing, editing and perfecting the manuscript, the cost would be astronomical. Most books take several months to complete.

If I charged a penny per hour for a book that took me say six months to complete for publication, the purchase price would be ยฃ43.80 per copy.

So stop whining about a book being priced at ยฃ/$0.99 or ยฃ/$2.99, when you think it should be free, and support its author! Of course you could join those who constantly tell authors they like the sound of their book(s) and will add them to their TBR list (to be read). Which of course they seldom if ever do. Personally I prefer my own approach – ignore the one, two and three star hate reviews. Or worse, the spoiler variety. First I read the book’s hook. Then I browse a few pages. If I like it I actually buy a copy. Now there’s a novelty…

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For Goodness Sake Make Time!

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I forget how many times I have told people, especially new writers, to pace themselves. I was having a conversation on Facebook with one of my female writer friends yesterday. She has bought copies of five of my eBooks, which I am eternally grateful to her for. Three of them are short novellas, averaging 168 pages. I don’t know about you but I can read a novella in an afternoon, or a morning. For instance, if I start reading at twelve noon, I will have finished it by seven in the evening, barring interruptions and calls of nature. When I read a full length novel (150 – 200,000 words) it takes me the best part of three twelve hour days.

As writers, if we are going to do justice to our own writing, there is nothing more stimulating than spending hours reading other people’s books. From them we glean those ideas that hadn’t necessarily occured to us. With every book I write comes endless reading beforehand. Its called research. The writer in question makes me laugh. She claims that she has no time to read. When I told her about my reading a novella in seven hours, she assumed that what I’m doing is speed reading. Sorry to disagree with you my dear friend but it isn’t. It’s just a normal reading pace. She seriously needs to make time to read. In other words, she needs to pace herself.

I’ve seen photographs of her with a library of books in the background. I’m assuming that given her profession, the library is her own. Maybe not. If, as she claims, she has no time to read, why does she have access to one, if not to read the books? in my case my own library is divided up into actual physical books in my five shelf bookcase, as well as eBooks and PDF files on this laptop. I’ve read every single one of them at least five times. Some like Graham Hancock’s epic work Fingerprints of the Gods, several dozen times. In that case it will usually take me a week, simply because its seven hundred and nineteen pages are jam packed with information…

Currently I have one hundred and seventy three eBooks and one hundred and twenty physical books. I also have one hundred and forty-two PDF files which I constantly refer to when I’m in research mode.

How many books do you have? Have you read them all?

A lot of people buy books, millions of us in fact. But how many can truthfully say that they have read every book in their possession? Some people like to kid themselves that by having a large physical library in their home, it will impress their visitors, by creating the illusion that they are well read, and therefore intelligent.

If you want to impress the hell out of your visitors; read the damned books in your personal library to become fully conversant with the content of each of them! That way when your visitors ask you about a certain book you won’t be caught out in a lie.

Despite what some idiots believe, books are not for decoration, even though the multicolours of the jacket’s spine undoubtedly creates a splash of colour.ย  Every one of them contains the end product of a writer’s accumulated knowledge and hard work. They are meant to be read, not just looked at!!!

PS – I will admit that since I became a fulltime writer, I no longer read for pleasure. Plus, these days when I read a book, the editor in me is constantly on the lookout for poor grammer, spelling and punctuation.

That is the one major drawback with full-time writing; the end of spending hours simply reading for pleasure…

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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…

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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…

Then and Now

I was having a conversation with my good friend Jamie Boswell, here in my home town yesterday. His brother Duncan (the man responsible for the superbly executed map of Goblindom in my fantasy anthology Globular Van der Graff’s Goblin Tales for Adults and his girlfriend are soon off to New Zealand, the land I love, for a few weeks. Like most young people operating on a budget, when it comes to seeking a bed for the night, they plan to find a cheap hostel for the first few days they are there. And so I suggested to Jamie that he might mention they utilize the YHA hostels that pepper both of the main islands (North and South) that go to make up the bulk of the country.

Like a lot of people these days, Jamie hadn’t heard of the Youth Hostel Association, despite it being a worldwide organisation. And so I hunted out my life membership card to show him. On opening it, a ghost from the past stared back at me from a grainy 1 x 1/2 ” passport style photograph.

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Me aged twenty-six in 1974, a lifetime ago.

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Compare that to me today in 2020 now almost seventy-two – almost… A lot has happened in the intervening forty six years, not all of it good.

Ah the ticking of time…ย  ๐Ÿ˜‰

For God’s Sake, Get a Life!!!

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I know I’ve mentioned this in the past, but it bears revisiting. Besides which, its been a while since I had a rant about one of my pet hates.

What is it with idiots who begrudgingly part with a paltry US$0.99 for an eBook, then demand their money back? Once again I merely say this to them – try before you buy you moronic idiots. Use the darned ‘See Inside’ option. That’s what its there for!!!

Use those two remaining brain cells rattling around inside your heads for a moment and think about it. When you visit your local high street book store, you don’t just grab a book off the shelf, pay for it and rush out of the book store do you? If when you got home, you found out that the book is not for you simply because it never occurred to you to take a look at the first few pages back in the book store, or in some cases – the ending, after laughing at your stupid demand for a refund the kind folk in the bookstore would simply kick you out of the door. Who could blame them!

This mind numbingly stupid nonsense is down to Amazon for deciding that it would be a brilliant idea to give a refund, no matter the book’s price.

I even had one idiot write a complaint about one of my eBooks, thinly disguised as a negative review simply because he had trouble downloading it in its entirety from the Amazon outlet near him. Hardly my fault, but he didn’t seem to appreciate that fact.

Come on people. I mean to say, I could understand it (almost) if you had paid US$15 or $20 for the book in question. But US$0.99 – really? Don’t even get me going about the other kind of idiot who loves to complain about a book when they get it for free during a promotion. For your own sakes do yourselves a favour and get a life!!

Rant over…

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…

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 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 each night actually looked like. Far too often my childish imaginings were way off target whenever I saw a photograph of them. 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 me, or did it?

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, climbing trees, making friends with the Jersey cow named Gwen that gave us and the owner of the orchard we had moved to and his family, fresh milk each day, plus making tree huts out of whatever was at hand, 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 at sixty-six, 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. Yes, 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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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 that says writer to you?

In my own case, if I managed to conquer my fear of what lies beyond my front door for a moment and left the safety of this house to head into town, chances are that because of the way I look folk would 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. Why? Because most people are far too quick to judge others by the way they look, often making completely incorrect assumptions. Everyone makes snap decisions about others…

If writers were easily recognisable, we would lose our anonimity and to a large extent our privacy. If your are 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. I’m comfortable with who I am. You should be too…