Welcome pain.

Ria's work. See Creativeflux media.

The pain of editing is to be welcomed and recently I’ve been in a lot of pain. All my work is being re-edited, often more than two years after it was supposedly completed. That has been a fascinating process. It is astonishing how ones view of ones cherished words change when viewed through so distant a lens.  I find I am able to be much more ruthless in killing the babies now. My angel proofer/editor, Miriam has helped that process with her fresh eyes. I cannot over stress how valuable such eyes are. The work has improved hugely . The changes are each small but the difference overall is enormous.

Any Indi author who does not go through this process is doing themselves and Indi publishing a great disservice . When I put my first novel out six years ago, I made all the rookie impatient mistakes and the result was a worthy story let down by poor implementation.  I’m now thoroughly ashamed of that and wish I could withdraw it. I have done so as much as possible but there are copies floating about second-hand and in a few shops.  So speaks the bitter voice of experience.  Please authors, pay for professional editing/proofing and learn to kill your babies.  The result is always worth the short term pain.

My new Facebook pages are another new learning experience that is producing some birth pain. It’s so very easy to be discouraged and feel down about the slow start. But I’ve learned my lessons well and now know that patience and diligence is needed. I must not get discouraged and so I will plod on and hope my mistakes are not great. I’m trying to watch how the more experienced do it and will read good advice .

One thing I’ve learned about self-publicity – it is too easy to be drawn into threads on forums that are dominated by other writers keen to give voice. I withdraw from such places as soon as I see readers are absent or are leaving. Other writers are not who I want to reach, but even as I say that, I can hear the hollow laughter. For who, other than other writers, is this blog post addressed to?

It’s too easy to lose track of what ones social media efforts are meant to do.

Sell more books, right?

That and learn how to do it better. The later is what this post is about.

I am open to advice from those who have trod this path before me. So any Bakebook veterans out there with words of wisdom to offer, let me hear from you.

Beware the keystrokes!

Pyramid

Here is the penultimate cover design for this series. It is a little bit obvious in terms of the symbolism but I like that. Simplicity has a lot to commend it.

A lesson for those doing their own formatting for eBooks.

I’ve been tearing my hair out with the eBook conversions because a bit of HTML slipped through unseen. When I first wrote the books, I had checked a few facts, addresses, and the like on Wiki and other sources. I copied and pasted a few words and terms into the Word document. Just a street name or similar.  So what do I find when I look at the sample on Amazon.com?  A live link lurking!  Click and I’m on Wikipedia!

It didn’t show on Word and I didn’t spot it on Calibre while formatting. Upon checking I found three other examples in other books. The result- I pulled an all nighter, checking all, correcting, and reformatting then uploading to KDP.

I can see how these Wiki links might be actually useful in some circumstances but not in a novel.

Beware of the seemingly quick and easy keystrokes to copy and paste, HTML lurks unseen.

Hard won wisdom for writers

Hard won wisdom for writers.

A wry smile perhaps?

Self-belief and affirmation from objective readers is a necessary first step. There are, I’m sad to report, too many writers who have pushed their work into the new world of self-publishing too soon or without the much needed  step of affirmation from objective readers. Self-belief alone is a dangerous thing for it can too easily combine with impatience to produce arrogance and self-delusion. I know, I’ve been there.

My first published effort is now a thing of shame to me. Not that it was a bad novel. It had great potential but it was forced into the world scarce half made up. Impatience and self-delusion led me astray. Ever since I have been struggling to learn and get over my shame. My salvation came in the form of my editorial angel, Miriam. Her diligence, generosity and commitment have made it possible for me to become truly independent. I withdrew all my work and it’s all being re-edited with her help.

Here is the first lesson. Please do not imagine you can do it alone. Seek out an editor/proofer you can trust and value them. Reward them as well as you can manage financially and know that no matter how good you are as proofer or editor you really do need that objective eye. One can self-publish at no cost so there is no excuse for not investing a little up front for an editor. It’s simply not worth putting out work that has skipped this step. I thank my lucky stars I learned this before I ruined my reputation pushing novels that were not properly complete. Impatience was what led me astray and now my mantra is – get it right. Then get a proof copy and check it again and again and only then send it into the world of Amazon KDP and Createspace. Only then start the push and the publicity.

I’ve recently had the experience of trying to review a couple of fellow writers work. These were well proofed and had slick social media publicity pushing like mad, but the work was lacking in one fundamental respect. Not proofing errors but something much more intangible and hard to self-judge.  These writers had no talent! One created a list of events that was turgid and impossible to read. Another a beautifully crafted compilation of  fashionable cliché. No content, no style, no story telling ability. Just wanting to write is not enough. One needs to have a good story to tell. One needs to have rich believable characters and one needs to set them in a location that is real and involving. The writer needs to know the what and where of their work intimately. Write where and what you know.

One can learn the rules of creative writing and there is a whole industry devoted to making money from our urge to express ourselves through the medium of the novel. However, if after all that, you skip the affirmation from objective readers through fear or excessive self-belief, then you run the risk of joining the ever growing pile of 99cent or free novels out there that are just clutter and income for those willing to make money from the creative impulse of wana-be writers.

This is the most difficult question of all for any writer to face: Can I really write a novel worth reading?

By all means try. But don’t be impatient and don’t give up and please don’t publish it until you and a few others are sure it will have worth, real worth. Not just your own desire to be seen in print. I learned this lesson the hard way. I’m fortunate. My work was just badly proofed and needed editing better.

I know absolutely it has worth and my self-delusion has been stripped away. Now I am trying to be patient and will not push the work until there is more out there and then?

Well we shall see.

The censorship on the home page here today is a shock but the message is important. Let’s act.

davidrory.

Non-conformity and rebellion vs. literary conservatism and establishment values.

A call to arms.

A call to arms.

There is a tradition in literature that has been deeply under threat until the advent of Indi publishing.  The tradition of novels that question the wisdom and normality of the day. Examples of these being: Steinbeck’s, Grapes of Wrath or any Joyce or Pushkin or Dostoevsky. That tradition of the subversion and undermining of the tribal, religious, political or social establishment in the novel; was deeply undermined by the contraction of the publishing industry in the past twenty or so years. The grip of a few international publishing and sales conglomerates was becoming overwhelmingly conservative and restrictive. Celebrity worship, meaningless pap, magic and fantasy dominated their output.

Non-mainstream or non-conformist work had little chance of making it past the all powerful gatekeepers. There were exceptions and those tokens are held to be examples of freedom but that was an illusion. Truly radical or overtly critical work was always marginalised at best and buried in the slush pile at worst. We writers conspired in this movement towards conformity by submitting to the idea that rejection by the gatekeepers was our shame. “Not good enough to be published by the establishment means not good enough.”

‘Conform, don’t speak unpalatable truths, don’t bite the hand that feeds you, don’t upset the apple-cart.’

Suddenly we are free of the gatekeepers, we can publish our work and bite as hard as we wish, well with certain reservations. We must still not upset the giant that facilitates this apparent freedom. And that freedom is still more apparent than real.

Having a radical non-conformist novel published means little if it is buried unseen and unread at the bottom of a pile of a million others. Struggling out from under that pile still remains a daunting prospect and one must still confront the powers of conservatism that seeks to keep us buried, marginalized and dismissed as: ‘Indi – worthless – self published – vanity – non-approved pap.’

It is time for we who choose this freedom to properly utilise that opportunity by losing our tendency to feel inadequate and apologetic. Above all we must stop using the derogatory and divisive language of the establishment. We need to do as the gay lib movement did with words like ‘fag’ and ‘queer’. We must take words like ‘self-published’ or ‘Indi’ or even ‘vanity’ and inject them with pride and remove all stigma from the idea of independence in publishing.

I call for an ‘Indi pride’ parade here on the world wide web.

Let’s not fall into the trap of petty tribal squabbles and arguments about which form of self publishing is worthy and which not. Yes some of this new found freedom will be abused by trash and ill conceived and poorly executed rubbish but that is the price we must pay for this freedom. We must rejoice in the opportunity, feed the giant and support each other in our efforts to surface in the fast and vast pool of detritus it produces.

Celebrate the possibilities and offer a helping hand to others who swim in this new sea.

A revolution is here if only we can make it.

Learning curve and fleeing.

Surviving Beauty

Beloved B and I are off to the isle of Madeira for a seven day break so I’ll be away from here. I’ve a few books to read and review so there will be work but I’ve promised to stay off the net and stop writing. After five years of constant writing that will be difficult. I don’t think I’ve gone than long with out writing since… since a Christmas holiday in Rome three years ago.

Beauty's-Price new cover

I’ve been busy clambering up a steep learning curve. I’m going to put out all my novels as paperbacks with Createspace. I will also issue my next novel myself on Amazon Kindle. I’m learning how to do conversions and prepare the work for those format’s . I must take this opportunity to thank Edward C Patterson for his help and encouragement in this enterprise. He is a great beacon in the Indi world.

I’ve also got to offer thanks to my editorial angel Miriam for her forbearance and understanding following some financial aggravation at my end.

I’ve had to work on some new cover designs for the paperbacks. This is my effort for the upcoming Beauty’s Price, the next in the West Cork trilogy.

I’ve also revised the cover for the print version of Surviving Beauty. I would really appreciate some feed back on this design. (Or indeed any of the others.) Covers are such a challenge when one does one’s own art work. I’d love to be able to have a pro do this but that’s just not financially viable yet. I do enjoy the process and it’s nice to get into Photoshop and QuarkXPress as change from Word.  They say covers are vital to sales success but they are such a subjective thing it is very difficult to judge one’s own work. I really have no idea how others feel about my efforts so please, if anyone reading this has any constructive criticism  to offer I’d welcome it. Anything but “hire a pro!”

Following a useful comment Here is another attempt at Survivng Beauty:

Beauty, cover two

Butterfly wings, ripples and connections.

Ripples

Just like in the real world, my fictional world is interconnected. Ripples started in one pond spread into another, through characters or locations or time. There are a few readers and fans who have read all my published work and even a few who’ve test read those waiting final proofing. They have all expressed delight in this effect. They pick up on threads of story from one novel that connects to one they’ve previously read and it adds colour and richness to the experience. Things hinted at or passed over lightly can be examined again and revelations occur. It is very subtle and there is no hint of the serial with teasers and unresolved endings.

This has been one of the challenges I, as the creator of these worlds, have enjoyed and been stretched by. Managing all the diverse threads that spread through time from 1900 to date. In locations from the Canadian prairies to Ireland, England, France, Italy, the Lebanon, Australia, Greece, USA, Italy. Or moving in ships at sea and planes in the air.

I have tried to ensure that each novel stands alone and can be enjoyed as a complete experience without any reference to others. However the reader can enrich their experience by radiating backwards or forwards in time to visit other stories that will be made more satisfying than if they remained isolated and unconnected.

I know I risked losing readers by presenting some of the work as a series. The Daniel series has not sold so well as the other work and I think that is because people are wary of series, thinking they must read them all in sequence to feel satisfied. Telling them this is not the case often goes unheeded for many do not read or take seriously introductory notes. It is my experience that readers who come to the series having read say, Prairie Companions, are delighted by the experience and do read more and enjoy the butterfly wing effect of connections and the richness of the tapestry.

Connections

My characters tend to be unconventional and non-conformist and their stories are unexpected and sometimes challenging. Thrills, intrigue, political corruption and collusions are exposed and establishment values questioned but all that is done as background to the main themes of my work. The human experience of life, love, sex, birth, and death. The universal stories that transcend time and place and that all literary fiction has at its core. Above all, the world I create is meant to provide escape and pleasure to anyone who peers at it and follows the ripples, and the breeze of my butterfly’s wings.

Do join me. It is a stimulating world in here.

Blocked or just wrong?

Beloved Warrior.

I’ve been engaged in struggle with my current work, ‘Beloved Warrior’, the second in the Historical Trilogy. The first chapter came as easily as is usual for me but the second abruptly blocked. That was six weeks ago. It was a novel experience for this prolific novel writer. I didn’t panic and tried all the worthy advice seen on other writers blogs. Nothing worked. I decided the problem was lack of free flowing fuel. My research had gaps I thought. So I got stuck into more reading. Tried again, still nothing. I spent four weeks intensively blogging and one result of that was this much improved blog. The blogging grew ever more intense. I spent time on my Goodreads authors page. In the dark wakeful hours, I tried to guide my mind on to the book but it kept worrying at the blogging stuff. I simply could not get my mind on to the block. I tried a bit of writing but it was like pulling teeth. The sentences just would not flow. I considered scrapping it all and starting again with a new structure. There are three main and several peripheral characters. I’d intended each chapter to follow one character within the same time line. Later in the book the three main charter’s time lines cross and they interact. The second chapter introduces the main female protagonist. A nurse called Winny, the sister of Pat from the first of the trilogy: “‘The Prairie Companions.’ I’d started with a letter from Winny to her sister Pat in Canada and the reply. It seemed like a nice device to give back story and establish secondary characters.

Yesterday I saw this was what was blocking me. The device was interrupting my normal story telling voice. I needed to loose this and just plunge into Winny’s story as I had with Dan’s in the first chapter. It worked, I’m flowing, the block is gone. Loud cheers from the beloved B, who was getting sick of my morose mumblings and cussing under my breath as I sat at the Mac. I have uploaded the first chapter on a page here as a taster. I’d really welcome feedback about it from followers and visitors. (It’s a rough first draft, unproofed. So please be kind about typos and goofs.)

Now that I’m unblocked I will be blogging less but will try to post once a week at least and keep an eye on friends.

Giving thanks to Steinbeck.

John Steinbeck.

My seminal literary influence was not a native Irish writer but he was of my heritage. Scots-Irish on his mother’s side, the Hamilton’s. John Steinbeck used them as prototypes in one of his most ambitious novels, East of Eden. I had cause to think about Steinbeck’s influence on me recently for two reasons. One was an appreciation of him by Melvin Bragg shown on BBC 4 two nights ago. The other was a radio interview I recorded, which may or may not be aired in the new year. I was asked which writer I most admired and which had influenced me most. I unhesitatingly named Steinbeck. He was the first serious author I read as a fourteen year old. Not because he was on the school reading list, he wasn’t. But because I picked up one of his first editions in a favoured haunt, the second-hand book shop in Belfast’s Smithfield market. The book was The Pastures of Heaven and it is still a cherished part of my library along with every other book he published. I also have his biography and other appreciations of the man and his work.

I was trying to distil what it is that attracted me to Steinbeck’s writing and really struggled to do that concisely. There is so much. The big books like Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden do not really feature in my thoughts. Cannery Row, Sweet Thursday, Tortilla Flat, Travels with Charlie, Sea of Cortez, were all much more influential for me. When forced to speak briefly during the interview, I found I was making a list: Warmth, humanity, colour, sense of place, reality, humor, poetry, ecology, humanism, compassion and bravery. This last being hugely important. Steinbeck displayed enormous courage in describing things in thirties America that brought him the outrage of the right, communist labels, and actual death threats. He was no communist but he did take a stand for the rights of the working man and the downtrodden. He gave Monterey bums humanity and the bottom layer of society dignity. He spoke unpalatable truths and still he is reviled by certain folks in the US.

All these things appeal to the rebel in me. I have emulated Steinbeck in my own writing. Not consciously – I was unaware of the similarities until a reviewer pointed them out to me. I now see that I do champion unpopular causes and have a certain indignation against injustice, lies and establishment cover ups. I also write characters who are not mainstream, who live by their own rules and who are bawdy, raw and real. When this was pointed out to me I was surprised but delighted. So I gave thanks to the man I consider Americas greatest writer, John Steinbeck.

The Cats Tail.

Charlie hunting fish.

There is something fundamental and raw about cats. They are well-known to be less amenable than dogs. Feline is almost a synonym for independence, thus the oft used term in these parts: “Getting them to do as they’re told is like trying to herd cats.” That independence is what attracts and repels in equal measure. Thus the world is divided into cat people and non-cat people. I and my beloved B are cat people. We have in the past, in our younger years, been dog folks too. But dogs are for the very young and the very old. In the busy years of ones life, a cat fits better. A cat demands less from one: food and a place to sleep. A place to drop prize dead, wounded or soon to be ex, mice and voles. This is all a cat really requires of its person. Some cats seek a warm lap or better, a roaring open fire with an errant snack of coal to chew as a mineral supplement. A sunning window ledge, free of impediments is desirable. Vets are needed but not welcome and most felines have a special aria reserved for the car trip to the vets. What they will or will not eat is not a given. This changes with whim and weather. Bathing is not required and if attempted, can be bloody and dangerous for the cats’ person. That person needs to know that the cats armoury can and will be used with surprising and shocking speed if boundaries, know only to the cat, are crossed.

Charlie was a rescue cat, as most of the cats that have owned us have been. He came from the Cork city rescue and was the only cat they had when we went to fetch him. He chose us and let it be known we would be acceptable to him. He was kept indoors at our home on the sea at Sandy Cove. This was meant to be for ten days to ensure non-wandering. He decided after four days that he’d seen all the inside he needed and left by a carelessly opened high window. This was only discovered when he returned three hours later and sat by the door waiting to be admitted. He brought a prize as compensation. A fine head of Mackerel stolen or borrowed from a fisher person down at the slip. One imagines the body of the fish was consumed prior to return, just in case we assumed the fish was ours to use as we saw fit. Over the next few days Charlie established clearly that he was a little known sub-species: the aquatic white fishing feline. His diet was catholic but he had marked preference for fresh fish and prawn, fresh wriggling being best.

Waiting for the catch.

 

Any person seen fishing at the slip soon had the fishing feline for company. Any fish caught was marked as potential food. Nothing was too small to be considered. In this way Charlie lightened the financial burden on his persons and made the purchase of cat food largely unnecessary. He did make it clear early on, that fish cooked was food ruined. Live hopping prawns fished from the sand with net were consumed with noisy relish, while the cooked version of the same thing produced a sniff and look of disdain and disgust over the bowl.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moths are crisp delights.

Moths were an acceptable substitute for the crunch of the prawn. The conservatory was his moth larder. The poor deluded moths thought themselves safe, tucked away in the beams but as can be seen from the picture, Charlie had that sussed and knew exactly where to go if he fancied a crisp snack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robbing fish.

The stain seen here on Charlie’s back, results from his part-time occupation as a vehicle inspector. When we moved away from the sea, he became a farm cat. Haunting the barns, circus acting in the beams and watching the milking with curiosity. He tasked the farm dogs with his fearless insolence and scrappy defiance. He like to inspect the tractors and would examine any visiting vehicle intimately. This was unfortunate, for oil and grease are very notable on a white cat. This was when his persons’ learned that Charlie and showers are a painful combination. Hence forth his stains remained until self-cleaning removed them. One such stain caused him distress. His acrobatic hunting of pigeon in the barn went wrong and he plunged into a deep morass of cow slurry. Licking this off caused intestinal distress that might have made the shower seem less fearful.

This cat’s tail has an unhappy end. We came home one evening to be greeted by sad crying from beneath a large garden shrub. The bold Charlie was laid low by a thrombosis on his spine that paralyzed his rear end. Inoperable and a common ailment among the feline race. B fled the vets in tears and I held Charlie, while the final sleep came. Tears wet his face as life left his eyes. He had a great and happy life and is fondly immortalised in several of my novels.

 

The food of love.

For one of B’s special birthdays recently, I prepared a special meal as celebration and consolation. You can see part of the menu in the first pic but it’s unreadable, so here it is:

Risotto of escargot

 Cep in pastry nests with red pepper sauce.

 Consommé

 Langoustine and salmon fumé in creamed scrambled eggs

 Pineapple sorbet

 Boned quails stuffed with chanterelle and foie gras served with vegetable aspic

 Venison sirloin – slow-gin flambé with braised potato

 Rum soufflé

 Cheese board.

 Special meals have been a feature of our lives together, both home cooked and in restaurants. We often have bed time memory trips to such times and places to ease us into sleep when the stress of life intrudes and brings on what we call ‘the dark puther’. Some of these meals have been reproduced in my novels too. They are a useful vehicle for establishing characters and relationships. Many a seduction in life and literature has begun over a table of fine food and wine.

Not all our memorable food experiences have involved fine-dinning.  In Rome at Christmas: A tiny place near the Pantheon.

Pantheon

They served take-away roast suckling pork in a crisp pizza style bread. The pork was infused with exactly the right amount of sage and included soft moist meat and crisp crackle skin. It was perfect. We went back for seconds then sat on a wall in the shadow of the Pantheon and enjoyed a sublime food experience.

piggy – heaven

Another great memory is B’s first taste of the underrated flat fish – Brill. When I first took B to  Northern Ireland, we spent some time in around the Mourne mountains. There I showed her the places of my youthful escape. (I used to rent a semi-derelict old farm-house in the heart of the mountains. It had one tap bringing water from a spring, which often spewed out live wriggling leaches! Heating and cooking was be means of an ancient wood or coal-fired range.) We found the old house again, now completely derelict. We peered in at the old rusting range. My big old coffee pot still stood upon it. I recounted how I used to leave this big enamel coffee pot simmering on the range and would top it up constantly and empty it only when the grounds filled it. I would throw old eggshells in to give the thick black coffee a wonderful sheen.

Mournes Silent Valley

After we drove through the Silent Valley and down to the fishing village of Kilkeel.

Kilkeel

On the harbour we found a shop selling fish fresh from the boats. I spotted a lovely big Brill and bought it. Later we set up a the picnic-table and gas single ring cooker. The big fish only just fitted in my fry-pan. It was stiff fresh and was, with doubt, the best fish meal we’ve ever had. Crisped butter fried skin, milky white flesh, firm and sweet. Finished with a splash of Sancerre, it was utterly fantastic. B’s still raves about it and when I cook Brill now she invariably says: “It’s good but not at good as the great Kilkeel picnic.”

 Memories like these, fuel for the body, feed the imagination and provide rich material for a writers creative efforts. Yes food and romance go hand in soft stroking hand.