An unfinished story

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If you read yesterday’s post, you will know I mentioned where on occasion I never finished a story for various reasons. Here is an example:

Retaking London

Adolf Hitler’s dream of a united Europe ruled over by Germany finally came true in the guise of the European Union and its stranglehold on the countries under its banner. A massive seed change occurred when two decades after its formation, in no time at all, the EU decreed that the common man cost too much to maintain.

Billions were instantly thrown out of work. Daily, the numbers of people starving to death grew. Wars sprung up across the world, stirred up by the EU to keep its enemies divided.

Meantime it ensured that its own private army threw a military cordon around each of the new city states, formerly the capitals of the countries who had joined the EU, as impregnable walls were rapidly erected by slave labourers behind endless minefields, sown in land now devoid of all life, to keep out the common man. Once the walls were finally constructed, the labourers were executed by firing squad. George Orwell’s frightening scenario in his dystopian novel 1984 had become reality.

Food production and manufacturing moved to the Far East where massive farms and factories controlled by the highly paid mercenary army of the EU, using expendable forced labour from among the local indigenous populations, worked to death to create all that is necessary to maintain the lifestyle of the EU city-state elite.

Former provincial cities across Europe were forcibly abandoned and then levelled, leaving nowhere for the starving billions to live. Each new city-state behind its impregnable wall, built massive airports for cargo planes transporting food for each of them from the far eastern factories. Beyond the walls surrounding each of them, lay fields of death sown with landmines.

The one thing that the EU could not concieve of was a fight back by pockets of determined men and women.

~~~

Here in England campfires dot the Chiltern Hills, mirroring similar makeshift campsites elsewhere across the entire European continent. In the distance the glow from London lights up the night sky. Everywhere the whimpering cries of the sick and starving fill the air in all campsites.

Four men, Hassan, Dmitri, Rodrigo and Michael sat talking together on an old log, illuminated by the flames of their fire. “So, we begin tonight,” Dmitri declared as he stirred the embers. His companions all nodded in agreement. Michael and Hassan had recently returned after an exploratory mission north in search of food and medicines. What they found lit the fires of hopeful rebellion among their comrades.

In an abandoned factory complex in the former manufacturing heart of the British Isles, the Midlands, they found forgotten supplies of chemicals. In another location they came across a herd of over a thousand pigs, which initially were earmarked for food. But when Hassan came up with his idea they became what he hoped would be the second ingredient needed for their plan to retake London.

Before the madness from Brussels had set in, Hassan held the chair in medieval history at Southampton University. Rodrigo and Dmitri, before arriving illegally in the UK hidden in one of the last eighteen wheeler trucks to cross the English Channel from Calais by ferry, both worked as miners in their respective home countries. Michael formerly worked as a laboratory technician at the defence research facility at Porton Down. Six weeks after the forcible eviction of the majority of London’s population, Hassan and Michael met on the exodus towards the Chiltern Hills.

For man to survive the EU had to be defeated, fortified city-state by fortified city-state. If they were successful in retaking London, word would quickly spread to other groups across the whole of the Continent.

Hassan soon became all too aware from talking with those excluded from London that no military presence extended beyond the wall’s limits in any shape or form other than the fields of landmines. Nor where the walls manned with observation points. The city was seen as impregnable by its inhabitants.

A germ of an idea began to form in Hassan’s mind as he and Michael talked about how to retake Britain’s capital. Now that they had teamed up with Dmitri and Rodrigo, they had the nucleus of an army of determined fighters.

While scavenging teams were employed to find food and uncontaminated water for all, Michael began assembling and training sabotage teams. Meanwhile Rodrigo and Dmitri organised scouting units tasked with searching out potential weaknesses in London’s perimeter wall. Eventually two were found.

At London’s former westernmost point on the outskirts of what had once been Heathrow Airport, close to where the suburb of Hounslow once stood, lay a disused railway track linked to the old London Underground network. A few miles away, the totally unguarded fresh water reservoirs south of Staines were still linked to London’s water supply via underground pipe lines.

Rodrigo and Dmitri explored along the entire length of the now disused line to where it descended below ground level. London’s perimeter wall was built two miles away beyond the underground entrance. The railway line allowed them access to explore at their leasure, entirely unobserved. As they slowly walked along the tunnel, their path was eventually impeded by the wall’s foundations blocking the way forward.

In the meantime Hassan organised teams to pinpoint which rivers lead into London’s former Central Business District where the rich now lived, cocooned from everything beyond the wall.

Michael began work manufacturing waterborne chemical weapons, ably assisted by volunteers consisting of former high street pharmacists and chemistry teachers. Rodrigo and Dmitri trained vast armies of willing volunteers in mining techniques. As more and more weaknesses were found, teams of miners began work, chipping away at the wall’s foundations beneath ground level.

Under Michael’s leadership work also began on all water supply pipes leading into London. At the junction of each pipe a chemical cocktail would be triggered by an explosive clockwork mechanism, releasing it into London’s water supply in a progressive sequence when required.

Rodrigo and Dmitri employed the tried and tested ancient medieval technique of undermining, using piled up wood and the slain pigs to break through the wall’s foundations that blocked off the old underground railway system directly beneath London’s CBD in several places, creating volcano like temperatures to melt the mix of concrete, reinforced steel, brick and stone used in the wall’s construction, enabling Michael to employ his latest batch of chemical weapons in the heart of London’s water storage system. In a stealthy operation worthy of any covert military attack force, Michael and his two assistants stole quietly along the now disused underground railway system, heading towards the old Canary Wharf underground station.

~~~

And that’s as far as I got with this one before I abandoned it. At the time my heart wasn’t in it. Dystopia really isn’t my thing. Too depressing for my liking. Will I finish it? Maybe one day. Maybe not…

😉

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

Will you be remembered?

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For every writer, the one thing they want whether they admit it or not is for their work to be constantly in the public eye. How will they achieve that? By writing numerous works of literature? No!

For you to become noticed globally, your books have to fulfil the following criteria of being highly original, influential, and important.

Each and every one of us secretly hopes that just one of our books will fit the bill. In the meantime with every one we pen, we want it to become a best seller. But that is a completely different kettle of fish compared to a book being regarded as a seminal work of literature by the literati, particularly here in the UK.

~~~

Here is a partial list of works of literature currently deemed to be seminal by them:

The Iliad and The Odyssey

The Barchester Chronicles

Pride and Prejudice

Gulliver’s Travels

Jayne Eyre

War and Peace

Does anything strike you as unusual? No? Well It should! For starters every book’s author is deceased. Still don’t believe me?  Then take a look for yourselves.

~~~

A work by a living writer is yet to be included. Maybe its high time the literary snobs consider modern day work don’t you think?

Just because the names of the odd one or two indentured writers in the stables of the big five publishing houses are bandied about from time to time, is no guarantee that they’re work is any better than the thousands of Indie authors, who choose not to be slaves to big business! Or that any book they write, now or in the future, will be considered as a seminal work.

I would add that for a work of fiction to be considered as truly worthy is all down to how well it is written in the first place as well as the above criteria, not as some believe by how much hype and advertising by its publisher equates to copies sold. Or for that matter how much the toffy-nosed literary critic in the publisher’s pay actually likes it.

PS – will one of mine ever fit the bill? A chance would be a fine thing…

😉

 

Why do we bother to write?

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It’s a damned good question – why indeed?

Writing is a thankless task. To begin with it helps if you have masochistic tendencies. Without a doubt it has to be one of the most disheartening things to engage yourself in these days. Right from the start everything is stacked against you. From the assortment of literary critics, conventional publishing’s gatekeepers and literary agents, not forgetting the trolls, all of them only too happy to trash the product of all your hard work – which is why so many of us prefer to self-publish. But even going down that route has its drawbacks. Then there is the fact that unfortunately we’re living in an era when the majority of the population these days struggle to read anything longer than a tweet. Before you start screaming at me, yes I can hear your hackles rising from here over that last sentence. But whether you like it or not its a fact! How many of you will actually bother to read the rest of this post – maybe a half dozen?

These days authors whose books are read in large numbers (over two hundred thousand) are few and far between – fact!!

Until someone actually dares to tell us to stop writing, not that we’ll take any notice, because we’re masochistic remember; we will persist because we love the written word and what we do. The fact that the product of all our hard work will be lucky if maybe half a dozen copies are bought, no matter how aggressive the marketing, before it rapidly disappears from the public view into the slush pile, particularly on Amazon, is something else to consider.

These days the only way to shift numbers of your latest work is to endlessly give them away. Does that guarantee sales? No! Does it mean that the free copies will be read, let alone reviewed? No!

Even going to the trouble to give the public the chance to sample your book(s), by giving them the opportunity to read the first few chapters using Free Book Preview on Kindle, does not mean that they will bother. I offer this service from time to time on my Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and Facebook pages. But like I said earlier, anything longer that a tweet won’t necessarily be read.

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I stated the following on my Facebook page the other day – “Now that ‘Race Against Time’ is out there, I’m back reading through both ‘Fingerprints of the Gods’ and ‘Magicians of the Gods’ by Graham Hancock, looking for the subject for my next novel, having abandoned the idea of writing about my favourite sixteenth century artist, and all round bad boy, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.”

So I have a hell of a lot of reading to do over the next few months while the rest of you are texting each other, taking selfies, or playing games on your Smart Phones, anything but actually reading a book!!!

😉

Let’s face facts – these days many people simply can’t be bothered to read a book, especially here in the UK, particularly if its an e-book!

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There is an old saying – “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” The same applies when it comes to asking people to read your books, especially here in the UK where e-books still take a back seat to their paperback and hard cover cousins.

The one thing you can never do is force someone to read your book. All you can hope for is to make them aware of its existence by using all of the social media sites as well as word of mouth and emails to advertise its existence. Why is that? Because the numbers currently waiting to be read is quite literally in the millions. So, don’t be too surprised if after all your hard work writing it, plus spending money having it edited and marketed, that apart from the few taken for free on promotions by the growing number of tightwads who begrudge paying money for a book, that any and all interest in it will dramatically fall, often within a single twenty-four hour day once the promotion is over.

Don’t be tempted to beg potential readers to read your book with ‘buy my book’ pleas, or for that matter to bombard every book site you can think of on a daily basis with your titles. Both practices only highlight how unprofessional you are!!! All it does is turn people off, especially on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Unless your name is Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown or Stephen King etc,etc, like todays painters we have to have another source of income while we’re alive. When a painter dies, normally their works increase in value. In our case, our publishers continue to make money. In both cases neither the former writer or painter benefits.

So do you still want to write? If your answer is yes, be prepared for a hell of a lot of hard work for little gain, let alone recognition.

One thing you must do is maintain a high profile on social media at all times. The other thing I would also advise you to do is to operate a blog like this one. Don’t just talk about all things writing as so many tend to do. Your potential reading public want to know about you, what makes you tick. Your likes and dislikes. But don’t bore them to death…

During your writing career you can expect a hell of a lot of criticism, not only by the reading public, but also by some of your fellow writers, who think they know far better than you how to write your story.  TAKE IT FROM ME – THEY DON’T! If you want my advice – grow a thick skin. Turn the other cheek and never stop writing.

😉

On writing

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Why do we write? Why do we feel driven to do it? Perhaps its a state of mind. Some believe it is a calling.

One thing is certain, many like myself willingly sacrifice what most would consider a normal existence for an impoverished lifestyle of self-imposed solitude in order that the story which has consumed us for months or years in many cases, finally appears in print.

Pass any of us in the street and you would be hard pressed to pick us out of the crowd. Most of my neighbours have no clue that I’m a published author. If pressed by one of them, would I tell them? Maybe, if I thought they were genuinely interested. Most are not.

Touch wood that so far no one round here has ever asked me the inane question that writers of my acquaintance in the US have been confronted with from time to time, “Would I have read anything you’ve written?”

I wonder how many of them wished they’d answered with, “How the hell would I know, I’m not a bloody mind reader you idiot?” or a series of four letter words to that effect. Perhaps the reason I haven’t been subjected to stupidity like that is because the only thing my neighbours do know for certain about me is that I don’t suffer fools.

After twenty-one years of writing, what is patently obvious to me is that we are a breed apart from the rest…

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…

😉