Profit or Quality?

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Silly me, what a stupid question! Of course it must be profit. No large corporation gives a toss about quality.

I’ve spoken of this in the past and been taken to task by certain individuals who I’d swear have shares in Sony, for spelling out the mistake of incorporating obsolescent technology with bad design in the end product, all for the sake of maximizing profit to the detriment of quality.

While they have spent a lot of time, energy and money to produce their latest gaming console, the PS4 still retains the same mechanical defects of their previous consoles and controllers in the form of a dust attracting disc drive and internal fan, and a controller with physically operated buttons and springs instead of a touchpad, and mechanical joy sticks. Which begs the question, why spend hundreds on a games console that you know will stop working.

Fact – from new, the internal disc drive will last a month at best before the dust attracted to it every time it spins up will stop it functioning, which means having to get inside the console (if you know how), just to clean it.

Fact – the Sony controller will give you 730 hours, or a month’s continuous use, before it also succumbs to one of several defects.

These are as follows:

1 – it will simply stop working.

2 – it will suddenly decide to turn itself off. I have two controllers with this defect.

3 – it will cause your game to begin to veer off to the left on your television screen. I have two with this defect.

4 – your controller will simply fail to respond to any and all of its buttons and joysticks. I have one with this defect.

Unless or until Sony decide to design and manufacture a quality product in the form of a game console that has no moving parts, specifically designed to download games from Playstation Network instead of relying on games discs manufactured out of cheap plastic which crack thanks to the internal heat build up of the current consoles, I will not be investing in another.

In the meantime at least I can still download games directly to my old PS3. But I still cannot find a controller no matter the manufacturer, that will last longer than a month’s continuous use.

The battery in the controller I bought recently from China lasts for two hours. Sony’s battery maintains its charge for at least two day’s continuous use.

With zero quality control by the games console manufacturers these days, the end user simply cannot win.

PS – The divisions within Sony could not be more different, I don’t have any problems whatsoever with my Sony Vaio laptop. So maybe the PC division should to take charge when it comes to designing and manufacturing games consoles? They at least produce a quality product…

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Short Story Writing

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On its own is a short story important? Not necessarily. But as a proving ground to try out ideas with the view to expansion into larger works at a later date, short stories are an invaluable tool.

The trick is to always to keep it short – between five to fifteen hundred words. While you’re writing, if it’s any good your mind will automatically want to expand it to novelette, novella or even novel length.

Don’t give in to temptation. You’re writing a short story!

The main thing to remember once you’ve decided on its subject, is that it must always be brief and to the point. I know I’m repeating myself, but its a fact. How many short stories end up as novelettes when the author looses all sense of self-control?

If you believe your short story is truly worthy, hand it over to a few people to read, in other words employ beta-readers. If their verdict is favourable, the next thing to consider is whether or not to leave it as a single short story, or perhaps the first of a series or anthology, just like my Goblin Tales.

To create any story, especially a short one, you must keep you’re writing tight. Don’t get carried away with what I call flowery prose. In other words don’t feel the need to fill it with utterly pointless rambling.

Unfortunately many short stories I see these days were quite clearly not thought through before being published. To that I say be your own worst critic. If it looks and sounds like total rubbish when you read it out loud, chances are that’s exactly what it is. But don’t let that put you off. Learn from it. So get busy and write a short story.

Remember – mighty oaks from little acorns grow.

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All Writers Crave Feedback

Feedback

When it comes to meaningful dialogue with our readers it rarely if ever happens, more’s the pity. We writers need the connection. All a review ever tells us is that the individual responsible for it either loved or hated the book in question.

Most writers like myself have a blog like this one where you can leave comments below a post, and a Facebook page where you can voice your thoughts in person on any book written by us, should you choose to do so. Or if you want, we can just chat about something else entirely. The point is that by chatting, we get to know each other, hopefully forging a lasting friendship.

Like you, every writer is plagued with the typical faults, passions and emotions that all human beings share. Some are known to hold strong views on varying subjects. Don’t let that necessarily put you off talking to any of us. We’re not ogres.

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Now a word to the wise, so please pay attention!

With book sites like Amazon, we are well aware of the inevitable one star reviews, often written by other writers hiding behind pseudonyms. And so, unless you have just landed on planet Earth within the last half hour, by now you will have noticed that my latest offering is now in its second free Kindle download giveaway day.

Here’s the rub. I fully expect it to gain endless one star reviews as a consequence. That always happens when a book is given away in any promotion. To that end I would remind anyone who has taken advantage of the offer, that you did get it for nothing. Therefore if you feel the uncontrollable urge to write a cutting review of your free copy, don’t! No one likes an ungratful smart-arse. Peversity on your part will hardly endear you to others, now will it. For the majority, please feel free to write your reviews and post them on whichever Amazon site you downloaded it from.

Lastly, I’m well aware that there will be errors. All books have them. Once the promotional period is over I will take it down temporarily to search them out before uploading the corrected version.

As they say in America – have a nice day.

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Come On, Own Up, How Many?

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Here is a question for all my fellow writers, both published like myself, and those who just love to write for the sheer joy of doing so. How many hours do you spend writing each day and how many words is usually involved?

Ever since I changed the way I write from how I used to in the past, when I would spend hours to achieve a daily word count in the thousands, I now stick rigidly to a short but extremely intense daily session. I find this is the method that works best for me. If you are wondering how long, these days I limit myself to adding no more than one to two hundred words per day. In my case I start writing at five in the morning, finishing promptly at eight am. I find that to continue beyond that three hour working window of 100% concentration, means that silly errors will inevitably begin to creep in due to my state of total mental exhaustion by the end of each session.

The rest of the day is taken up with a lot of thought about where the story wants me to go next, not the other way round, while I carry on with my normal daily activities. You must remember that a story is a living thing…

Years ago when I was still in the workforce I used to spend two to three hours writing each night from Monday until Friday. Then on the weekends I would write for twelve hours on both days. On public holidays the number of hours sometimes stretched from twelve to eighteen. While to the unitiated, endlessly pouring out words might seem to be the only way to write a story, trust me when I tell you it isn’t! In fact its often the worst possible way of going about it. If you don’t believe me, just look at the hundreds of thousands of poorly written books out there by writers who convinced themselves that high daily word counts is the only way to go. A daily three hour session is by far the best way from my point of view.

I would love to hear how you go about it, but I know you lot of old. Most of you are too damned shy! Don’t just leave it up to the normal three or four regulars to comment. There is absolutely no excuse for you not joining in. You never know, you might even gain some useful ideas and tips on the subject from one another. So leave your thoughts for others to read as comments below this post.

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A Quick Update

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Thoth

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Just a quick update to let you know how my latest science fiction WIP The Guardian is progressing. I’ve added a paltry one thousand words since the previous post on the subject. While it may not sound like much, in doing so I have now expanded several passages that desperately needed attention. Plus, at long last I can finally announce that I am now completely satisfied with the private scenes between Adler and Lynne. Specifically I am referring to when they are share their infrequent extremely passionate moments together as their love affair continues.

Meanwhile I have to say that I’m still not fully at ease with how the next chapter entitled Cat and Mouse, (which I have finally begun) will work out. Unlike all of the chapters before it, this one is going to be complicated in the extreme. Why? Because of way the story dictates that it be written. You all know how I’ve often said on numerous occasions in the past that any given story always writes itself, and that all you can ever do is slavishly follow where the story wants you to go next.

Well I’d better get back to it. Like all writers, I am merely the slave of my muse who even while I write this post, demands I get on with the next one thousand words.

Oh, if you are wondering why the picture of Thoth? It’s simply that he was the ancient Egyptian god of knowledge and writing. Even though I don’t necessarily believe in such things, at the moment I’ll take all the help I can get until I finish writing this particular science fiction novella. Maybe he’s looking over my shoulder as I write it. Then again, maybe he isn’t.

Click here to find out more about Thoth if you wish – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thoth

Oh well, I must crack on. More later from this particular member of Thoth’s army of lowly scribes…

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As a writer, sooner or later your editor will let you down!

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They’re not pefect despite what they may say…

Face it, some editors only really care about how much money you are paying them. It is not until you become a writer yourself that you not only notice the errors that editors miss in any given book, but also how many there are. I’m not just talking about incorrect spelling, but the use of totally wrong words; things like missed spaces between a fullstop (period) and the capital letter of the next sentence, as well as either a lack of punctuation or far too much of it.

Let us also remember that some editors see nothing wrong with a book’s pages becoming nothing more than solid blocks of text with no break to make it easier to read. To give you another example, some editors in cahoots with certain publishers plead the old chestnut ‘house style’ as their excuse to cover a multitude of sins, like which type of quotation marks they prefer – single, or double.

It matters little that the book you are reading was self-published, or produced by a small press or one of the traditional big five publishers. More and more these days, with each book I pick up, I’m finding errors, which any editor worth their salt should have picked up on long before it went to print. If they were threatened with the sack, or were told they would not be paid for allowing those annoying mistakes to slip by, maybe all editors would be more vigilant! Heh, a chance would be a fine thing. Or in other words, don’t hold your breath…

Before any of you reading this while professing to be an editor has an attack of apoplectic rage brought on by what I’ve just said, if you are truthful, you know deep down that in all likelihood you have never ever turned in a totally error free manuscript for publication in your entire working life, due to time and business constraints. That being the case, the editor’s credo should be more haste, less speed. Maybe you need to stop thinking about how many other writers are waiting for your services, along with how much money you charge and concentrate on presenting a quality product for publication instead. Just a thought…

Why am I bringing this to your attention as editors and writers? Simple. When a member of the general public reads and reviews a book, their opinion (which is all any review is when you think about it) won’t necessarily be about its content or subject matter. More than likely these days what it will be about are the mistakes the reader found, or thought they had.

For instance – quite often anyone who is not an American writer will be taken to task for what some Americans see as misspelt words. To them I will only say this – apart from American English (which bares little or no resemblance to the original – English English), there is also Canadian, South African, New Zealand, Australian and Indian English. To my knowledge they are the main branches of the language. Each form of the language tends to spell some words differently.

Getting back to the general public – will they blame the publisher for any mistakes found in any given book? No. To the average reader, publishers and their editors don’t make mistakes, which of course is total baloney! They’re human just like the rest of us, despite believing they are a cut above humanity in general!!!

Instead you will find that to the reader’s way of thinking, the fault lies wholly with the writer. Once again many readers cannot seem to appreciate that all you did was write the story, employing someone to edit it for you. If you as the writer are to be blamed for anything, it’s thinking that once you have written the manuscript – that’s it, job done. Wrong! Never let your editor get away with too much by not picking them up on those inevitable mistakes. Like you they’re not infallible. Between the two of you, errors should be eliminated.

Here’s a thought – if you want to improve your image as a writer, learn to edit. While your at it, employ beta or copy readers. Personally I do both. With each book I write, the number of errors has dramatically reduced. For instance, my novella Cataclysm, written last year, literally only has one very minor error – a space between quotation marks and the first letter of the first word in a sentence. If I can do my level best to eliminate all errors as a self-published writer, so can the editor you are employing.

Am I going to fix it? No. That way the author hating internet trolls, grammar nazis, literary snobs, and other assorted self proclaimed experts such as pedants and armchair critics will still be able to appear smug when writing their inevitable caustic reviews of it. You just can’t please people like that. So don’t even try. Don’t be put off over attempting to edit. It’s not that difficult. Like anything else, all it takes is time, patience and application, as well as a damned good command of the English language.

Remember this – It doesn’t matter what we do as writers, if we make use of professional support and it is less than satisfactory, we’re sunk!

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What Happened To The Well Written Book?

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E.L James

Fifty Shades of Grey, that’s what!

Come on now, own up, how many of you read it from beginning to end, and liked it? When it first came out I did what I usually do when a novel captures the public’s imagination, I went to my local Amazon site. Using the ‘See Inside’ option, I began to read the first paragraph of the Kindle version. That’s as far as I got. To say I was appalled would be an understatement. It wasn’t the subject matter of the book that bothered me. There have been many well written examples of erotica across the centuries, if that’s what rocks your boat. It was the simple fact that Fifty Shades is so poorly written. Having said that, I must congratulate Erika for writing a book that has sold in its millions.

Now it has been made into a movie, it evokes memories of when Vladamir Nabokov’s novel, Lolita, a tale about a paedophile’s sexual obsession with a twelve year old girl, published back in nineteen fifty-five, eventually appeared on the silver screen in the early nineteen sixties, starring James Mason, with Sue Lyon taking the part of his vulnerable young target. Thinking about it, Lolita was probably the first modern fiction written about paedophilia. Back then in the fifties and sixties, the practice of grooming children by both men and women to fulfill their depraved sexual needs was hardly ever heard about. Thankfully today’s society abhores paedophiles, therefore no book of fiction featuring one of them would ever be taken up by any reputable publisher, not even Amazon. If a publisher ever contemplated it, massive public protests would ensue and they would soon find themselves out of business, especially here in the UK.

Whoops, sorry about that, I’m getting a bit off piste…

The point I’m trying to make here is that even though English wasn’t his first language, at least Nabakov knew how to write, unlike Erika, who has no excuse whatsoever given her former occupation as a television executive, where an excellent command of the English language is mandatory to hold such a position; paramount in fact.

What totally galls me and just about every other writer I know, whether mainstream or Indie, is that Fifty Shades of Grey, appears to be what many think constitutes a ‘well written book’ these days. It isn’t. But it is proof that language standards have dropped, nay plummeted.

It doesn’t help when books like that are critically acclaimed, purely because it is popular with airheads and other illiterates, while genuinly well written books are totally ignored, or worse, not even considered by publishers and the general public.

Erika was lucky that she self published it when she did. Had she tried to do the same today, I doubt if she would have been successful. Why? Because as Derek Haines says in his recent postΒ  Self Publishing Is Dead, Long Live Self Publishing | Just Publishing the gold rush days for those wishing to cash in on self publishing are now well and truly over. In other words, if that is your reason for writing a book, you are too late. Hopefully once the get rich quick fraternity have given up and disappeared, only those of us who are serious about writing will be left.

If Fifty Shades is the kind of badly written book you truly want to read, god help you. Here’s a thought – why not choose to buy a truly well written book instead? You never know you might actually enjoy reading it, whether its erotica or something else.

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Why should any writer bother to update an eBook?

As you will all know, in a recent post I said that I was giving one of my books a much needed spring clean. Thinking about it I sent the following email to Amazon:

Dear Amazon, a thought occurred earlier today. Why is it that when a writer uploads a second, third, fourth, tenth incarnation of their work that the relevant eBook on peoples various Kindles, Kindle for PC and Smart Phone apps, isn’t automatically updated? After all through KDP you always inform us of something that needs changing.

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This morning I received the following reply from Amazon’s eBook publishing arm Kindle Direct Publishing:

Hello Jack,
Thank you for contacting Kindle Direct Publishing.
I understand your concern regarding the automatic updates to books.
At this time, customers who have purchased a Kindle book cannot automatically download the revised content.
Our technical team is aware of this issue and working to automate this process.
Publisher feedback serves an important role in helping us to improve our platform and provide better service.
Thanks for taking time to offer us your thoughts.
Have a nice day!

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Note the word ‘purchased’.

In other words – go take a hike mister! No writer enjoys being given what amounts to the ‘Bums Rush’, least of all me.

All of this begs the simple question, why if they cannot automatically update, do they bother to notify the author(s) of any given eBook about any errors, insisting they be fixed? You would have thought that rather than merely pay lip service to what amounts to one sided quality control on the part of the author, that they would at least follow through at their end after a writer had taken the time and trouble to do what he or she was asked.

The current KDP publishing system is a total nonsense. Even so I shall continue to clean up Glob’s tales as promised, come hell or high water…

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It’s Spring Cleaning Time in Goblindom

Now that my latest novella Cataclysm has finally left home, I have the time to do something I’ve wanted to do for the last two years.

What is it I hear you cry? Since I first published Glob’s tales back in 2012, I’ve never been happy with the end product, especially from a formatting point of view. So from now until its done, whenever that may be, I will be in full format mode along with sentence reconstruction mode where required.

I owe it not only to you the readers, but also to Glob, his brothers, Bejuss and all the good folk of Goblindom. Here’s hoping that when I resubmit the MS to Kindle Direct Publishing, that they (Amazon) will have come up with an automatic system to update all copies of not only Glob’s tales, but also all other revamped eBooks already out there on Kindles and all Kindle computer and smart phone apps. Thinking about it though, a chance would be a fine thing. When has Amazon ever used commonsense by offering anything like that in the past?

You never know, once I’ve fully reacquainted myself with Goblindom I may even feel inclined to write the prequel that The Story Reading Ape has been pleading with me to produce for many months…

The Time Before Map

The Revamped Goblindom Map

I’ll keep you up to date via future progress reports.

PS – just sent this to Amazon. Click on it to read πŸ™‚

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Writing – Passion or Obsession?

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If you are a writer, what we do becomes one of two things, either a passion or an obsession. Some new writers simply can’t, or won’t, take the time to pace themselves. It appears that they are driven by an impossible dream – to become famous at any cost!

As we progress, we all learn our craft. We all make mistakes along the way, and hopefully, we learn from them. With some of the obsessives, they either don’t care, or they ignore all of their mistakes and errors in their quest for fame and fortune. All that matters to them is quantity, not quality.

Because of the obsessive’s attitude towards writing, no matter that we are either conventional or Indie writers, we are all lumped in with them when it comes to the increasing amount of criticism we all encounter each time we produce a book for publication. It doesn’t help that the review system of many publishing outlets has degenerated to the point where it is no longer a place to find fair, unbiased opinions on a book, written by normal people with no grudge to bear towards the author of the book being demonized by the self appointed armchair critics and pedants that frequent all review sites today.

It’s bad enough that writers are constantly being taken to task by grammar nazis over something like a split infinitive, without armchair critics and other assorted self-appointed guardians of literature, or as I prefer to think of them, stick-in-the-muds trapped in a timewarp of their own making, chipping in with their often totally wrong so-called ‘reviews’.

So what is to be done? Simple! Take a long hard look at why it is you write. If your are an obssesive, wanting to become an overnight success – forget it! Most so-called overnight success stories in writing took decades of practice to achieve. If you can’t pace yourself and learn, then may I suggest you find some other craft to destroy in your attempt to become one?

Leave writing to those of us who are prepared to learn through experience, taking the tried and true long route…