Willful neglect and social media overload.

noI have been engaged in an experiment of willful neglect. This blog and other social media have been little used this past nine months. I have, for a long time been deeply skeptical about the call to scream into the virtual void that is Social Media. It is accepted wisdom among the author/publisher community that one lives or dies by how often one screams in the void. It is said we should blog x number of times and tweet every day and give Face to the Book once a week at least. Then there is Goggle+ and Goodreads and Amazon forums and Linked-in and on and on. The list is near endless. This is how we make a brand. This is how we get sales and readers, expect— except it’s not. It’s just not.

There is only one way to sell books as an author/publisher – word of mouth. End of story.

How to start that momentum is tricky and one I’ve not fully resolved yet. But it starts with producing work that is as good or better than any mainstream publisher – I do that.

Then one needs to actually write – you know write books. Not blogs or tweets.

One needs to keep them coming so readers have a journey to make and that keeps them coming back. So one needs talent and persistence and a very good editor. Did I say how important that is? It’s vital and any Indi who thinks they can produce worthwhile books without a good editor is deluded.

Luck, yes luck. We all need a bit of that. Getting noticed by the right people is vital and impossible to predict or demand. No amount of tweets or FB or blogging will provide that. So has this willful neglect resulted in a drop off in my modest sales figures? NO.

I’ll repeat that – NO.

In fact, my sales are on a steady upward climb and what could be doing that? Readers speaking to readers. The age-old method that only a multi-million sales campaign can partially cheat.

Now I am clear about this and sure I’m right, I can get back to blogging about what I want, when I want and Tweet hardly at all and give Face only when I feel like it and not torture myself with guilt about not following the stampede to social media overload.

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The new nest.

Bhaile Argid (Home Silver)This is our new home in North Tipperary called Bhaile Argid this is Irish for Home Silver or Silver Home. Named for the hills it sits below – the Silvermine Mountains.

David's workplace

The house is over 200 years old but has been modernized and restored beautifully. We struggled to fit all our stuff, this house is large but is smaller than the huge place we left. All our art and clutter was a challenge to find a place for. Teh result is the kind of comfortable eclectic considered mess we both rather like.

Fuel prepLivivng room

We are settling and I am finally getting back to writing after a three month lay off. The location is a tiny and pretty village and the house is the center of it. There is an old thatched pup near but the clients are nice well behaved local people – so far!

LocationThe village

New York Icon Stories

I intend this blog to be more personal now I have my website up for the books.

I have been putting off writing about our extended US visit to Virginia and New York City. Now I’ve had time to digest that trip, the next few post will be devoted to those visits. All posts will be brief from now on, as I try to resist my temptation to let the creative juices take control. I’m told blog readers have a very limited attention span for posts! I’m not sure I agree with this social media accepted wisdom – I read all of a post if it’s interesting and can’t believe my literary minded readers are any different, however I will be doing this as a series of short essays rather than a young novel.

 

New York Streets
New York Streets

New York, New York it’s an icon. All the English speaking world knows New York or they think they do. Since birth we have been presented with images both visual and literary of this city. In film, song, books and later, TV, the streetscape are familiar and often better known than our own capital cities so when Brigitte and I had the chance of a week there we were excited and looked forward to seeing , smelling and pounding the sidewalks of this iconic place. We found an apartment for short term rent just off 2nd Ave in the shadow of the UN building. Lets say nothing about that other than it was a great location. The apartment its self was tiny, dirty, ill-equipped and expensive but it served well as a base to explore, mainly on foot.

Our arrival from Newark by bus, left us near Grand Central and we had what I suspect was a typical bad tourist experience with a New York Cab – he ripped us off for a three block journey. I learned quickly that if a cabby says he has no change you say ‘Not my problem’ and do not make the mistake of handing over a twenty for an eight-buck fare! He was gone before I could do anything. On our return to the same bus stop on leaving, we walked or in my case staggered with a suitcase with broken wheels – I thought I’d die! That arrival and departure were the only low points in an otherwise packed week filled with delights and strained necks from all the looking up.

New York was a deluge; a flood of impressions, an overload of stimulation and it left us breathless and excited but at times uneasy. Not fearful, the unease was a philosophical thing. Big cities and the life of big cities with populations much greater than the whole of little Ireland, are a shock to the system. One question kept circulating: “Why do people choose to live here?” There are many possible answers and many of them are based on the income of the people you are considering. Those near the top of the scale can have escape from the hustle and speed and I guess some have bolt-holes elsewhere to go and slow down. But for those in the lower reaches – it seems a grind. A relentless grind to make ends meet and to climb a ladder that may or may not be there in reality.

All cities offer that promise – the promise of an income, a living that does not depend on the weather and the earth and the strength of your back. But all cities also grind up these seekers and trap them and use the big promise to keep them working and supporting the beast – the beast of consumerism that must be fed low income workers to survive. Why do so many people live in New York? I still don’t know the answer.

Next time – a food rant and first impressions of the cultural icons.

Keep Calm, It’s Only Creative Evolution.

Creative DNA
Creative DNA

The process of writing has one characteristic that most writers will know; it evolves over time and can be frustratingly unpredictable in how that evolution plays out.

Sometimes there is the dreaded block as a contrast to the good times when the flow is easy and satisfying. There is the tooth pulling one sentence at a time grind. There is the inspired spark that brings a smile that strengthens the will to write.

This process of change over time can bring fear and worry as we struggle with real or imagined deadlines or try to maintain our daily word count. There is much advice both free and purchased to help us cope but the truth is there is no need for fear or worry. Just accept the changes. Accept the inevitability and indeed the benefits of this evolutionary process.

If one writes formulaic cliche ridden pulp fiction, one can expect to face fewer such changes. Just churn away and try not to hear the whispers of creative guilt nagging in the background.

If one strives and constantly reaches for ever better prose and ever richer depth and imagery, then the evolution will be jerky and at times painful. Fret not, this is as it should be.

Relax and let it happen. Be patient and kind to yourself. Accept the dry days when the words won’t be found and the plot escapes. Don’t panic and cherish the overall desire to keep writing. The flow will come back when it’s good and ready and the imaginative juices that bubble away in the background have done their cooking. Then we will get the smile again.

So keep calm and let evolution work it’s magic.

 

The Midi-venture.

Strangford Narrows
Strangford Narrows

We have three classes of adventure: Mini-venture, Maxi-venture and Midi-venture. A mini is confined to one day. Midis are up to one week and Maxi any more than that. Maxis tend to involve long plane trips and hire cars such as our recent three-week trip to Virginia and New York.

TopplessThis most recent Midi was the first trip in our new toy: A Peugeot 306 Cabriolet that has acquired the name: Prim-pretty-pug. A convertible or soft-top car is the supreme gawping tool here in Ireland – when it’s dry. Too hot and the hood must go up to protect the fair skinned but fortunately too hot isn’t something we do here often.

Cottage and new toy.
Cottage and new toy.

 

 

View of narrows from cottage.
View of narrows from cottage.

We booked three nights in an Airbnb cottage on the shores of Strangford Lough in County Down, Northern Ireland. It proved to be a perfect retreat; comfortable, beautifully located and close to some stunning scenery best viewed from a slow driven Prim-Pug. The weather was mostly kind-we had only one day when the top had to be up.

Audley's Castle on the shore walk.
Audley’s Castle on the shore walk.

Those are the facts: here are the impressions. Continue reading

Hibernation.

Butterfly-03I’ve been in social media hibernation for almost six months. But I’ve emerged from my chrysalis: The Butterfly Effect Trilogy is reborn with a whole new plot line and new energy. This will be my ‘East of Eden’. My big book, my last big push to get all that’s in me, and all I have learned into a big book. (Well, three books but in my mind it’s one 400,000 word body.)

I intend to use my familiar characters Bonny, Lauren and Daniel to scream my indignation at the world. The themes will be huge and will include all the dangers and threats of East v West. Fundamentalism v Rationalism. Individual v State and above all, the tricks and political veil used to blind us will be lifted for any who cares to see. This will not be a political rant – but rather a subtext in an exciting espionage/ romantic/thriller, literary fiction trilogy.

My hibernation was a deliberate decision and enabled me to recover. It was not a health issue but rather one of creative energy .

In February this year I posted about the crisis I suffered and the drastic solution: http://wp.me/p18yK8-rG. I called it ‘Creative Infanticide’; a rather dramatic title admittedly but it was a dramatic moment in my writing life. I threw away an almost complete novel and stopped the ongoing processes for the two that were to follow in the Butterfly Effect Trilogy. Continue reading

Skellig Inspiration

The cover.
Skellig Testament.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The body of this post was first put up more than a year ago. That trip inspired me to write a new novella based on a question that I had then: What makes a man choose to go live on a rock on the sea? Out of that rose Skellig Testament, my latest work. It was designed to be sold in the Skellig Experience Visitors Centre on Valencia Island.

Yesterday Brigitte and I had a wonderful drive round the ring of Kerry in beautiful sunshine to deliver the first books to the centre.

The Skellig Experience.
The Skellig Experience.
John O'Sullivan
John O’Sullivan

John O’Sullivan the manager there, made us most welcome and will be offering the book exclusively in his bookshop.

The centre is well worth a visit if you are ever on the ring of Kerry or are planning the sea trip out to the island of Skellig Michael. The ancient monastic settlement is a world heritage site and is jaw-droppingly deserving of the distinction.

The original post:

It was a steamy tropical land south of the equator; swamps, mountains, high rainfall, a primal jungle teaming with the land-pioneers – insects. Amphibians came ashore to harvest the vegetation and insects and some evolved to stay on land. They were the very first vertebrates to colonise the land; lizard-like Tetrapods crawling and slithering through the mud. The high rain fall brought floods of silt from the mountains, quickly filling and burying the tracks of the Tetrapod.

Grandads foot prints.
Grandads foot prints.

Over the millennia those tracks became encased in sedimentary rocks and those rocks moved. The great planetary upheavals that saw tectonic plates pull  the land apart causing it to drift across the mantle north and east and west until the earth-shapes we know now, were created. Erosion and more upheaval revealed the place where the Tetrapod roamed. His tracks exposed to the curious eye of one of his distant evolutionary off -spring. Another vertebrate, very recently evolved upon the earth, stood and gazed in wonder at the track in the rock and saw that this was special. Experts descended and applied their science and with awe they proclaimed: These are the oldest known in-situ footprints on this earth.

Tetrapod sign
Tetrapod sign

Now on the most westerly tip of the old-world, the edge of Europe, Valencia Island, County Kerry, Ireland – I stand and gaze at these tracks and am awestruck by their significance and puzzled by the fact that on a busy holiday weekend in August, in glorious sunshine, B and I are alone. There is no line of people waiting to see this wonder. There are no others here to see the marks of our ancestor and wonder at the passage of such a vast amount of time – 385 million years!  We are always alone when we come here.

Skelligs
Skelligs

The island crawls with visitors and tourists but they are here to see much more recent marvels; the monastic building on the remote Skellig isles; the site where Saint Brendan the navigator baptised islanders; the place where the Great Eastern set sail to lay the second attempt at a transatlantic telegraph cable; the radio and metrological site where Marconi’s work bore fruit.

Blooming hedgerows.
Blooming hedgerows.

Valencia and the Skellig coast are truly beautiful and full of history. We come here to recharge out batteries every few years. It’s an easy two and half hour drive from home but we usually stay over in some friendly B&B.

View from guest house.
View from guest house.

This time it was the Calafont with it’s wonderful views over the sound from Portmagee to Valencia.

The chrdh
The Fitzgerald chuch. Knights of Kerry.
Lived and died for empire.
Lived and died for empire.

As we wandered in the old church yard, where so many who served the British Empire on the remote Valencia radio and cable station worked and died, I was struck by the thought that this island should be world famous for the awesome Tetrapod tracks. The evidence in rock of the miracle of evolution that lead to the birth of creatures that could span the earth with first their cables, then radio and now the instant medium carrying these words – is that not truly awe inspiring?  Where are the queues of keen young minds wanting to see the wonder of their distant ancestor’s tracks? They are instead marvelling at the work of monks who built a doomed edifice on a sharp rock in a hostile sea to escape earthly things and there to worship myths and legends that violently divided people then and still do.  Those monks didn’t look far enough back in time to find the majesty and awe inspiring works of creation in this place.  They couldn’t see. We can, so why do we not see? Why do we stand on the edge of the old world and gaze with wonder at the great ocean and the new world beyond and prefer myths and legends, man-made from ignorance, to the wonder and majesty of life here at our feet?

Look again at the 385 million year old foot prints.
Look again at the 385 million year old foot prints.

Continue reading