I’m fond of the little fellow, but its place in writing is more restricted than I realised. I haven’t done much creative writing this year while slogging away at building this WordPress blog and a website.
From time to time, to keep my sanity, I’ve returned to a short story I started in January. Featuring my Cornish Detective, I intend to give it away to anyone who subscribes to my crime novel website. I started writing with no preconceptions, other than to explore the notion that locations can be cursed. My protagonist is several years younger than in the first novel and having just taken command of the Major Crimes Team, he’s still learning the ropes from his deputy officer, a veteran of 40 years.
They visit a place called The Sad House, an abandoned farm labourer’s cottage where a runaway teenager was found hiding. It’s been a place of murder and suicide for 200 years. Talking about the tragedies, the deputy falters telling a tale of murder-suicide. He half-finishes saying something, so I used a semicolon to mark how he completed his thoughts. It looked wrong! I changed it.
Then, that night, I was visited by the punctuation gods, for while reading a crime novel by Finnish author Antti Tuomainen the main character’s internal dialogue I saw it featured a couple of semicolons—and they looked clunky. It may have been a result of the original work being translated.
This morning, in one of the newsletters I subscribe to, there was an article about a newly published book all about the semicolon:
It’s not an issue that I’m agonising over, but it’s strange how a semicolon or a colon in dialogue becomes intrusive. It takes away from a guideline I cleave to, that punctuation should be correct for the situation, so correct that it becomes invisible.
As a safety valve to blow off pressure caused by designing a blog and website, using WordPress, I’ve been writing a couple of short stories.
Only visiting them once every few weeks has made the characters militant, and they’ve hijacked the plot, taking it in directions I hadn’t anticipated. One story is about a hedge witch intrigued by a newcomer to her village who appears to have arcane knowledge. I intended it to be an unusual love story with spells, curses, blessings and bindings mild enough to be printed by a women’s magazine, but it’s strayed into malevolent voodoo territory.
The other story is intended as a giveaway for subscribers to my Cornish Detective website. Featuring an early investigation by my protagonist, I planned for it to be an introduction to his characteristics and how crimes committed on the spur of the moment have consequences through the ages. Instead, a ghost of one of the victims hijacked the narrative adding spookiness.
At least these tales only wandered into a similar sub-genre, but it set me to thinking about how I could introduce bizarre elements into Detective Chief Inspector Neil Kettle’s investigations. He’s already tapped into lessons his farming ancestors taught him, so I could take things further. Crime writers James Oswald, James Lee Burke and John Connolly use supernatural forces to assist their main character.
I like the idea of writing a stand-alone novel based on a mashup of eras and genres:
Various famous people and characters have offered their voices to GPS providers, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Darth Vader, Yoda, Homer & Marge Simpson and Mister Burns, Mr. T, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, K.I.T.T. (the car in Knight Rider), Wallace and Gromit, Snoop Dogg, Brian Blessed, John Cleese, Dennis Hopper, Kim Cattrall, Eddie Izzard, Billy Connolly, Burt Reynolds and Stephen Fry.
There aren’t many female celebrity GPS voices available, which has led to accusations of sexism:
The PDF download is larger and easier to read with a magnifying glass feature.
One of the biggest changes I’ve noticed in the last six years is the attitude of big publishers towards eBooks. In 2013, those companies that issued a digital version of a print book, priced it the same or even more expensive, even though it cost them virtually nothing to store and distribute—unlike hard copies, which need warehouses, lorries and staff to handle. It almost felt like the Big 5 still secretly harboured a hatred of eBooks and were trying to kill them off by making them unaffordable.
More recently, several long-established publishers have opened imprints to promote digital sales, staffed by experienced and enthusiastic marketers. They often publish genre fiction by debut authors, which looks commercial but is still too risky to send to the printers. I think they’re still charging too much, which is why staying Indie is attractive to me, as I can ask as little as £1.99 on KDP Select to lure readers. Changing the price is as easy as a few mouse clicks. I can give my eBooks away for free for five days of every 90-day contract, to help promote sales. I haven’t heard of any mainstream digital publishers who’ll allow this.
My entire life has been dominated by books—reading them, writing them and teaching others how to read them, including adults with literacy problems.
Reading is a joy for life. I feel sorry for anyone who misses the pleasure. You need look no further than the incumbent of the American presidency to see what it does a person’s character if you don’t read.
Whatever your opinions on the pros and cons of reading from a printed book or its digital version, I’d hazard a guess, that these days, even people who proclaim that they don’t read books actually read more words daily than people did 25 years ago—thanks to computers and smartphones.
I’m currently on a cusp between going back into self-publishing and being traditionally published, should Hachette’s The Future Bookshelf deem my Cornish Detective as being sales worthy. I entered their open submission process on the spur of the moment, surprised to be asked for my full manuscript.
Maybe I should be feeling more uptight about the possibilities than I do, but my pragmatism and work ethic (where did that come from?) means that I’m keeping my head down, nose to the grindstone and not worrying about success and failure.
Overall, I’m happy that people are still reading books, and it doesn’t matter to me how they do so. It would be great if some readers were enjoying my books—as much as I do! In a way, looking at publishing, I’m surprised by the persistence of the traditional way of doing things, particularly from the stance of being a writer. Self-publishing an eBook takes minutes on KDP, with your first earnings paid two months later. Traditional publishing takes two years to accomplish the same thing.
In the 21st-century, people expect instant access to many things. Just look at the success of fast food, comparing the similarities to downloading eBooks or music files. Now think of traditional sit-down dining in a restaurant, a leisurely activity comparable to the way that publishers produce their books to be consumed. On that basis, it’s amazing that books are still printed, that it hasn’t become an activity for the elite.
But, there’s a cyber hawk on the horizon, which may do away with the effort of reading eBooks and hard copies. A while ago, I made a facetious comment on the Colony, about books being injectable.
It turns out, I may have been prescient, for Elon Musk proposes that people have an artificial intelligence chip implanted in their brains
Like any form of technology, it will be advertised as being of benefit to one’s life, making things easier and simpler—essentially appealing to the laziness within us—and, you’ll be superior to those who don’t have it.
Would you put your brain under the control of a megalomaniac?
I’m sure some people will be willing to so, ignoring the potential dangers.
It all makes me wonder what skills people will have in 50 years, as everything will be done for them, including thinking! They will be Borg.
Staying on relatively safe advantages of having a chip in your grey cells, it would mean that a ‘reader’ could have books downloaded into their noddle, allowing them to spout forth quotes and information with as much understanding of the meaning as a computer or smartphone.
Picasso put things well:
If you had a library of digital books stored in your brain, able to access the information within them, would you be deemed to be intelligent?
I previously posted in praise of Rich Reading which takes an effort to savour: if books are going to be downloaded into our brains, how are we to appreciate them?
We’re already in a situation where people don’t grow their food, don’t cook it any way but in a microwave and we don’t make our own clothing, throwing it away when it needs repairing. Driving a car will no longer be a skill, as the car does it for us. Few know how to build their own home or how to make a repair. How many of us can do mental arithmetic these days?
I can do all of these things, partly because of growing up poor, but also because I wanted to know how things work to satisfy my curiosity.
The way the future looks with Elon Musk’s proposal is that curiosity will be redundant….don’t think for yourself, we’ll do that for you.
I’ve just finished reading TheCold Dish, the first story in Craig Johnson‘s Longmire series.
I haven’t seen the television adaptation, so don’t know how closely it mirrors the pacing and depth of the books. I was surprised at how intimate the internal dialogue of the protagonist Sheriff was, with Walt Longmire revealing his doubts and insecurities. Baring his throat made me bond with him as a character.
It’s vital to let the reader in—if you don’t share, why should they care? (That sounds like an advertising slogan!) A friendship grows not because someone is always strong, but because we love them despite their weaknesses. The same should be true of your fictional characters.
Happy to bare her throat
Infallibility might be attractive in superheroes, but in portraying the humanity of ordinary folk their missteps are more endearing than if they’re constantly triumphant.
But, what of giving the reader a peek at your character? When writing what you know, it’s likely that personal emotions will seep into the page. Fans of your writing will smile knowingly, attributing a scene featuring a quarrelling couple to your own marital breakdown. Such things are inevitable, especially if you write about sex.
In my own stories, poems and song lyrics I’ve tackled bereavement, divorce, loneliness, depression, suicide attempts, poverty, near-death experiences and acts of violence, all of which I’ve known. The reactions of my characters to these events isn’t the same as mine, but certainly informs them. Does it make my writing realistic and engrossing because it feels true? I don’t know, but I believe powers of imagination can only take a writer so far.
I’m currently reading two well-reviewed books about alternative ways of living. Being autobiographical, they offer close insights into the thinking of a disenfranchised woman living in a shed and a disillusioned man who decides to exist without technology.
Catrina Davies and Mark Boyle’s honesty is refreshing. They have no front about who they are, no deception about their circumstances. They bare their throats, say what’s in their hearts and get on with surviving by stumbling through different options. Their candour and vulnerability will affect how I portray my characters.
Being a know-it-all is a good way of losing friends and influence. I once met a young man, a computer whizz who had several IT patents to his name. At 17-years-old, he had more arrogance than discretion when boasting about computers. But, growing up in a moorland village, he wasn’t socially confident, and was nervous about going away to a city university. I advised him to occasionally admit to confusion about things, requesting help to encourage bonds with fellow students. I saw him a couple of years later, and he thanked me, for my tactic had worked!
The title character of my Cornish Detective series is going to be forced into showing his frailty in the next story, no longer able to rely on the support offered by his status as a copper, because he’s fallen in love with a woman who may have a criminal past.
How do your characters bare their throats?
Do you have any favourite fictional protagonists whose vulnerability created empathy?
As part of adjusting settings on this WordPress blog, I backed up what I’d already done with a plug-in widget. Hackers love attacking WordPress, so this was a wise move.
Feeling virtuous, I decided to check when I’d last saved my precious
crime novel series to the cloud. I thought it was late last year,
which is too long ago, considering the amount of work I’ve put in
recently editing, formatting and designing book covers in preparation
for self-publishing on KDP. I almost fell off my chair, when I saw
that the last time I’d visited Microsoft’s OneDrive was in 2015! That
meant I didn’t have copies of my last two novels.
Feeling like an idiot, I checked two memory sticks, finding early
drafts of those books, but not any completed versions.
I should know better, for in 2006 my old laptop had its hard drive shattered into a hundred fragments when a lightning bolt hit the farm where I was living. It loosened huge stones in a barn wall before travelling 20 yards through the ground to my cottage. It blew two lightbulbs into pieces, as well as frying the surge protector extension lead powering my computer. I was lucky not to be electrocuted for I had the laptop on my lap at the time—my goolies could have been flash-fried—great balls of fire!
lost 18 months of writing,
of my cat Pushkin,
had recently died,
it was quite upsetting.
one of the problems with digital records,
but stuff like music,
transfer everything to our
or iPod. If
you don’t keep hard copies, you’ve lost everything.
I use OneDrive and Dropbox, but need to be conscientious about backing up my work. It only takes seconds to do and provides peace of mind.
While preparing to self-publish on KDP Select, I came across several articles about Amazon UK’s Kindle Storyteller Award, which has been running since 2017.
The details are:
Closing date: 31st August 2019
Entry: Writers of 18 or over publishing in English in any genre, who publish their work through Kindle Direct Publishing between 1st May and 31 August 2019. No entry fee.
Prize: Grand Prize £20,000 cash, publishing agreement with Amazon Publishing and Amazon launch.
The Kindle Storyteller Award 2019 is a £20,000 literary prize recognising outstanding writing. It is open to writers publishing in English in any genre, who publish their work through Kindle Direct Publishing between 1st May and 31 August 2019. There are some specific exclusions in the Terms and Conditions, which need careful reading.
Readers play a significant role in selecting the winner, helped by a panel of judges including various book industry experts. One judge is Mariella Frostrup.
The Kindle Storyteller 2019 writing contest is open for entries between 1st May 2019 and 31st August 2019. Books must be written in English, previously unpublished and be available as an eBook and in print via Kindle Direct Publishing. The winning author will receive a £20,000 cash prize and be recognised at a central London award ceremony. Finalists will receive a Kindle Oasis Reader.
It’s an exciting opportunity, but one that will favour writers of commercial fiction, rather than literature. Potentially, Amazon could film your story, turning it into a movie or a series:
Still, with my nose to the grindstone, I should be ready to self-publish on KDP Select next week. I rather regret that I won’t be on Amazon in time for their Prime days tomorrow and Tuesday, but, as I feared, it’s taking a while to get my eBooks removed from sales vendors that D2D distributed them to…KDP Select demands exclusivity.
Although my manuscripts, cover designs, synopses and blurb are all ready, I’ve been bogged down in expanding my online author platform, something I wish I’d worked steadily on over the last few years, rather than being faced with a colossal amount of work now. For instance, I’ve spent the last week sharing posts from my writing blog Paul Pens and The Cornish Detective website to theirequivalent Facebook pages. That’s 420 posts that needed to be mouse-clicked one by one, each transfer taking about 2-3 minutes. It’s as boring as it sounds, feeling like nothing to do with writing.
I’ve said it before on this blog, but most of what we do as authors is speculative. Nothing feels more based on conjecture and potentially a waste of timethan designing a blog and website that no one may look at.
I’ve learned all sorts of things about SEO to make my posts appear in search results more often. I was happily ignorant of most of these techniques at the beginning of the year. While working on my sites, I put them in maintenance mode, so they weren’t showing as searchable. I finished Paul Pens first, making it live three weeks ago. Determined not to become neurotic about receiving likes and comments for my articles, I was still a little puzzled that no one appeared to be looking at my blog.
Randomly clicking on site icons one night—what’s that one do?—I finally rang the notifications bell I should have been dinging all along, to find that 100 people had left feedback. Proof that I miss the obvious.
Although bored witless recently, I remain optimistic about signing to KDP Select, which I’ve been wary of for the last six years. It could be that my lament about Where Is My Competition, Where Is My Prize? has finally been answered with Amazon UK’s Literary KDP Storyteller Award. I’m not so arrogant that I think I might win, but it’s a chance at fame and fortune that makes me feel upbeat.
Self-publishing is evergreen. Your book can always be in print via POD or available as an eBook. You can edit it, alter the cover or reissue it under a pen name.
The goal of many authors, to be accepted by a literary agent who touts your book around publishers has drawbacks you may not have thought of. A publisher can change your characters’ names, alter the plot and saddle it with a book cover design that’s ugly and irrelevant. Your newly published book has a shelf life of six weeks in a bookshop. If it doesn’t sell, it’s in the cut-price bin or remaindered, meaning it’s sent back to the publisher to be pulped.
If you self-publish, your earnings are higher than for comparable sales from a traditional publishing contract. I’m about to sign up to Amazon’s KDP Select programme, which offers 70% royalties + whatever I make from page reads as part of their Unlimited option. Even with their ordinary KDP authors are paid 35% of retail. Select means giving Amazon exclusivity for 90 days, meaning I can’t sell my books directly from my website, but I’m free to take a break from Select once the three-month period is over to go fully Indie—meaning I’d earn 100% of whatever sales I make.
Compare that to traditional publishing, which might pay an author $1-$2 for each book sold, those payments coming twice a year in arrears:
It’s odd how we admire musicians who release their records on their own labels, and we praise Indie filmmakers who get interesting projects financed and made, yet many people still look down their noses at writers who self-publish. It’s damned hard work to get everything together in a way that looks professional, as I can attest.
These days, it’s not the case that your publisher will do the bulk of the work in promoting their author clients—you’ll be expected to do all the things a self-publishing author does—establishing an online author platform, including blogging, running a website with a newsletter and posting on social media.
You don’t have a job for life with a book company. If your books don’t sell, you’ll be dropped. It’s better to be an unpublished writer, who might be the next big thing than to be shuffled aside as a failed author with a poor track record. Self-publishing is an attractive alternative. You can do so swiftly, not waiting up to two years before your book appears on a shelf. Most of the earnings are yours, not your publishers. If one book doesn’t sell well, there’s no stigma attached to you. Publish another one! You rule.
There are drawbacks. It’s difficult to get physical copies of your masterpiece into bookshops, though the way that independent stores are reinventing themselves, including focusing on local writers, that situation is changing. Bear in mind, though, that should you manage to distribute your titles, it will be on a sales or return basis, with you paying shipping expenses. Another potential expense is paying for your book to be displayed prominently with the store. Few readers realise that the reason James Patterson novels are all over the shop, including at the till, is that his publisher has bought those spaces.
Your local library system will stock digital and POD versions of your work—a great way of getting your name known.
I’m not expecting miracles from self-publishing my Cornish Detective series with Amazon. I have six years of experience publishing on Smashwords and Draft2Digital, so I know how many authors are doing the same thing as me. Amazon does more to promote sales, but it’s still a steep learning curve.
What do you think of self-publishing?
Do you buy eBooks to read?
With your own books, is it traditional publishing only or the bottom drawer forever?
It sometimes seems to me that book companies detest their clients, failing to promote their books on the basis that they haven’t made enough money—and why should they do anything to rectify the situation?
Shane Salerno, the agent who turned McKinty’s life around, is a real powerhouse: