The year past and ahead.

It is almost a requirement of this time of year to reflect on the year past and the year to come – so – uncharacteristically I am going to follow convention and do that. This was my writer’s year:

The big interest in the past year centered on an experiment on the value of social media for book sales. I have long been skeptical about the value of social media to an author in generating sales. Facebook and Twitter in particular, are awash with posts that essentially say: “LOOK AT ME and BUY MY BOOK.” I have never bought a book as result of such posts and I know of no other person who does. In the main such posts get ignored, blocked or sent straight to the trash bin. Advice books for writers are full of how to use social media and how essential it is to any Indi author. You see this advice mostly in books being sold on-line about how to sell on-line. It’s very incestuous and mostly absolute bullshit! Indi authors rarely sell serious numbers of books and are an easy target for people telling them how to get thousands of sales.

Books sell the same way they always have – by word of mouth recommendation reader to reader. That is especially true for writers like me who are not writing about shades of grey, vampires or what ever the current hot formula or genre is. If one writes literary fiction and presents ones work with good covers, properly edited and designed; then reader’s recommendation is the only thing that sells that work.

I decided to put this idea to the test last year. I withdrew from almost all social media activity. No tweets, only a simple announcement of a new book on FB, my website and blog and that is all. I stopped blogging every month and did not participate on Goodreads or any other forum.

Result? My sales are better for 2015 than 2014 when I was doing the social media thang.

The lesson for writers is this: Don’t buy into all the hype. Make the best book you can and keep writing. You must keep new titles coming and they must all be to the highest standard possible. Then hope readers like your efforts enough to buy the next and tell their friends. Unless you are Random House and can throw huge sums at a launch, then huge sales are not going to come your way. Accept that and your life, as a writer, will be better, more satisfying, and more productive. If you are hoping for fame and huge sales as an Indi you are playing a lottery with very unfavorable odds of winning. Write because you must.

A slowly growing base of readers who appreciate my efforts; the smile I get every time I get a sale announcement from Amazon or Smashwords, and the steady trickle of money into my account is my reward. A good and genuine review is sure to generate a broad smile.

Last year I published the first two novels of the Butterfly Effect Trilogy. Bonny The Butterfly Effect and Lauren The Butterfly Effect. I also wrote the next novella in the Rachel series: Rachel’s War. I refined and republished The Prairie Companions and tidied up all my other titles. It was a very productive year thanks to the time freed up by my largely abandoning social media activity.

 

The next novel.
The next novel.

What of 2016?  I have begun the next in the trilogy called: Chepi The Butterfly Effect. The cover of this is used here. The photo on which my cover artwork is based has been a puzzle.

It is well known image but I cannot find the person who might own the copyright to this photo. If you know please let me know. I may not be able to use this for the cover if I can’t find the copyright status of the image it’s based on. I have changed the image a good deal in this cover artwork but still I am reluctant to use images in this way with out the owner’s permission.

Apart from Chepi, I plan one other novella and perhaps I will finish: Beloved Warrior. This is about my family during the first war. It has been set aside three times and is proving to be a difficult subject, too personal perhaps?

More likely I will rewrite the novella called: Leotie Flower of the Prairie and turn it into the full sized experimental novel it was always intended to be.

Have a happy and productive new year.

(All three of you who read this?)

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

Word Delight.

awordsearch

Certain words and phrases have the capacity to give delight. For each of us there is variation based on dialect and familiarity. What will bring a smile to me, may bring puzzlement to a US friend or even a near neighbour in England. Most of us share a delight in unusual expressions so I’d like to share a few that are personal to me and which come mostly from Ireland, North and South (Yes there are big differences even on this small island.) There is a whole dialect in the North, Ulster, which is labeled Scots-Irish. This is very distinct and almost unique to just those six counties. Lowland Scots in Dumfries and Galloway will share and understand much of this dialect that is close to a language on its own.

I’ll give you an example here. It’s mind bogglingly hard to translate: “Ear boyo fatch thon ween oh pags fernenst the shuck” = Here boy, fetch those few pigs near the ditch.

Closer to where I now live.  I heard this today in Tipptown (Tipperary town centre.) A mother to her two small children: “Com-ear-tee-me. Wod yee ever stop actin de maggot, yees are gettin fur too giddy now.” = Come here to me. Would you cease acting likes wriggling fly larva. You two are getting too dizzy and busy. Continue reading

What if ?

I had a kind of brain storm a few days ago begining with the words: What if.

Bonny-Ann voluptuous woman.
Bonny-Ann voluptuous woman.

I was looking at the image of the character Bonny that I’d created on Photoshop some time ago for a possible cover. It was never used. The Daniel series, in which she was a main player, is finished. I thought I’d said farewell to her.   But what if? What if Bonny had never met Daniel and Lauren? What if she’d taken a very different path? What would her story be then?

Bang! Bonny’s back. The plot was suddenly there almost complete. The idea excited me and it did the same for B when I told her so… I’m now writing two novels at the same time. Continue reading

Why can’t I read?

When I am writing, which has been constantly for this past six years, I find it near impossible to read as I once did. I used to read three or four books a week at my peak and dip into non-fiction and magazines every day. Every night I would struggle to find sleep as a novel demanded I finish it.  It has to be said that problem ceased when I met my beloved ‘B’. Then other things kept us from sleep. My reading fell off a bit then and oh how wonderful that was and is!  Continue reading

What’s in a character name?

Leotie, Aaron, Bonny, Lauren, Daniel, Kathy, Dee, Christine, David, Dave, Jan, Marty, Mark, Dan, Bonnie, Raymond, Don, Jake, Kris and Ria. Pat, Clara or Alsoomse and Hurit, Sam, Chepi, Kanti, Regan, Mary, Jim, Biddy, Emma, Peter, Julie. Yes this is a list but all these are names of friends, close personal friends and they’d be offended if I left any out. I’m sure they would since they are all my creations: all are characters from my novels. Three are names taken from actual flesh and blood people in my life.  Continue reading

Now for action.

I will, I will.
I will, I will.

My last post was about thinking and doubts… well now it’s time for the action.

Like many writers my focus is on the words, the plot, the characters and the dialogue. With my editor I’ve done well with all of that. I made a big mistake however and I now intend to correct that. I badly underestimated the importance of covers and design.

I knew I was doing as well as I could with limited resources but that was not good enough. Only the best professional design can do justice to the work Miriam and I have done on the novels so… that’s what’s going to happen. All the novels, begining with the trilogy and Companions will get a full make over. The Daniel series will follow.  Continue reading

What does it take to find success as a novelist?

First we need define what is meant by ‘success’. I think we can say there are two measures. One do with the quality of the work and the other more quantitative measure – sales.

I have been reasonably satisfied with the quality of my work. They have been well received by readers and well reviewed.  I have an editor I trust and who has improved my early work hugely. She says I am a ‘consummate storyteller’ and I’d agree, I am. That aspect of my work is easy. I do struggle with the pull to conform to genre limitations and commercial viability. I have leaned towards keeping my original voice, which is not mainstream as it does challenge and take readers on journeys into exotic worlds. Most have said they enjoyed the trip and they come back for more – so the quality is there.  Continue reading

To Amazon or not to Amazon?

 

To be read, or not to be read, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous obscurity,
Or to take arms against a sea of gatekeepers
And by opposing end them. To dream—to hope,
No more; and by a rejection slip to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That writers are heir to: ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To self publish, to print;
To be in print, perchance to be read—ay, there’s the rub:
For in that print of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this old publishers way,
Must give us pause—there’s the respect
That makes calamity for those who wait acceptance.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of agents,
Th’oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of dispriz’d rejection, the publishers delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a Kindle Fire? Who would rejection slips hundreds bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary keyboard,
But that the dread of something after failure,
The undiscovere’d country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather print our self and sell
Than fly to booksellers that we know not of?
Thus rejection does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of endless waiting
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of Random House for the devil that is Amazon.

This was done for a friend who was worrying about publising wars that so many are fretting about now.

With only mild appologies to Will.

The creative engine-room.

I got the idea for this post from a UK TV short arts show that features writers and their workplaces. The get to speak of what inspires and why the stuff they surround themselves with is there. I found it interesting to compare, noting which writers I related to and which I didn’t. Eclectic and a bit arty – I’m there. Too disorganised I’m not. Too neat and I’m not there. Too methodical and office nine to five – no.

The images here show my work place. Please forgive me if this seems self -interested or egotistical. It could be those things and perhaps there are elements so it would be disingenuous to insist otherwise. We authors and I mean all published authors, Indie or otherwise, are in the business of selling, be it an idea, an image, an escape, a history, our stories, our celebrity – God forbid. We sell our work and therefore bits of ourselves.

So here is my version of that show – my creative engine room. Sorry, our creative room. My beloved ‘B’ shares it. We have a room across the hall from the study which is floor to ceiling books, we call it … the library. We do pass each other on the way in and out of there. Not all research is done on-line! Let’s start with the most pragmatic:

Wall 3.

Wall 3.

Storage, see it, yes, enough said.

Maps. Oh I do need maps, big see-it-all-at-once maps. Google earth has it’s place but I need the big picture. I need the scale that only big wall maps like these can give. One’s world view is given proper perspective when one can see it all and see what a tiny bit of it we each inhabit.

Cute cats are B’s thing. The big shelves in the corner, also seen in wall 1, is standard reference books, yea books again. Word’s spell checker and thesaurus are quick but limited. So dictionaries in several languages. The Oxford and Collins dictionaries are the most thumbed. I go for the OED while ‘B’ goes for the Collins. Also here, but not obvious, is my remote headphone station. I can plug this into the Macs and listen to iTunes or radio streams. Or more often when working, my iPod Nano and the play lists there. I listen mostly to classical when working. Lyrics get in my head and in the way. The beauty of the big remote headphones is: I can walk away and the music follows. Even up the drive to the post box or to the pond to peer at the fish. The range is about one hundred and fifty yards.

Wall 2.

Wall 2.

This is B’s work station. The big iMac suits her and she does a lot of printing and copying. There is a laser printer one side and inkjet/copy/scanner the other. The pin board is – a pin board. Stuff to remember and stuff to make us smile and feel the warmth of places and times important in our past.

The fishing boat model is there because I like it and I’m reminded of the heroics of those who go to sea to bring me the thing I love to cook and eat above all else – fish. Your are never far from the sea and a fishing boat anywhere in Ireland. Less than one hours drive in any direction.

To the right of the board on wall 1 – the big knives and the picture with medals are a sort of homage to my father. The picture is him just before the second world war, taken in East Africa.  He was under twenty and already a sergeant.  The big hooked knife is from Nepal. A Gurkha weapon called a Kukri. He fought against the Japanese and was sometimes attached to the Gurkha Rifles in northern India and Burma. The medals date from that time. That war was called the ‘forgotten war’ by those who fought it. It was overshadowed by events in Europe and later in the Pacific. It was a bloody viscous slog in unbearable heat in fearsome jungles. The Brits and Indians won. They beat the Japanese back the length of Burma – back down the road to Mandalay and Rangoon. The story of that war and my father’s role in it will be told in the last of history trilogy: ‘The Forgotten War.’

Wall 1.

Wall 1.

My bit. Such a lot here but let’s start at the window. The feathers and stuff is called a dream catcher and is a slightly tacky reproduction of the real First-Nation thing.  I had the real thing once.  I was given it when I was seventeen. It didn’t survive all the moving around I’ve done.

The art on the walls is by my daughter, Ria. They date from her student days.

My back catalogue is there on the table for two reasons: I refer to them sometimes to keep continuity on the last of the Daniel series I’m writing now: ‘Trial’. The other reason is … well, as I said we are all in the business of selling. You might like them and buy them?

‘Trial’ is also on screen on my Apple Powerbook. I’ve got it set up on a stand here with a keyboard and mouse but it does travel up-stairs to my bedroom.  The big Mac and screen is an elderly PowerMac G3. Huge capacity and used for storage, back up and visuals.  On top is model of an Italian icon called and Apé. A three wheeled utility of great charm. It features in a chapter of Pyramid. The globes on the window are actually jigsaws. A present to B who loved making them. Well that’s it, a tour of the engine room.

I hope you enjoyed nebbing and nosing in my workplace as much as I enjoyed the TV gawping version.