Jumping the Shark!

A while ago, I wrote about surprises in fiction that weren’t surprising.

I’ve been pondering this dilemma again, though this time, it’s more about plot developments that are meant to be exciting, but which are so over the top and inconsistent with what’s gone before that they’re unbelievable and disappointing.

Some of you will be familiar with the expression Jumping the Shark, which came from a daft incident in the comedy series Happy Days, when Fonzie does just that, using water skis to jump over a shark.

This gimmick didn’t save the show from going downhill, though it lasted for another seven years

Recently, I’ve noticed several such desperate twists in novels and films that marred otherwise decent stories. John Colapinto’s novel About The Author is an engrossing thriller about a talentless writer who steals his dead flatmate’s manuscript, which becomes a bestseller. His success is haunted by a woman who stole the flatmate’s laptop, with a copy of the novel on the hard drive. It’s well-written, making me wonder how the situation would be resolved, but there came a point near the end when two unlikely incidents had me saying to myself “That simply wouldn’t have happened.” It felt a bit like John Colapinto had written himself into a corner and needed a way out.

Last night, I watched Greenland, a 2020 disaster movie.

Well-acted and the behaviour, selfish and generous, of people fleeing a comet rang true, but it didn’t take me long to realise that the whole story was a vast Jumping the Shark exercise. Key people have been chosen to be evacuated to Greenland. The hero is a structural engineer needed to rebuild cities. The premise of running to Greenland is so flawed, as if it’s the only country in the world with fallout shelters, that I wondered how the script had ever been accepted. Also, Greenland is treated as if it’s another state of the USA or at least an unincorporated territory, like Puerto Rico. I couldn’t help thinking about a certain President who wanted to buy Greenland, which made things even more absurd.

The movie soon became an excuse to admire Computer-Generated-Imagery, as the comet bombarded the world. Don’t think about it, enjoy your popcorn.

Are we so oversaturated with violent images and unrealistic sights, courtesy of the internet, that the only place to go next is even nastier and more stupid? Some folk state that “Too much ain’t enough,” but it all becomes boring after a while, devoid of meaning.

With my own writing, I like to surprise, even shock the reader, while staying believable. As thriller writer John Buchan advised:
‘A good story should have incidents, which defy possibilities, and march just inside the borders of the possible.’

What do you think?

Have things gone too far in the entertainment media?

When writing your stories, how much effort do you give to making what happens credible?


After reading that sales of audiobooks had risen by 34% during lockdown, I spent ten gruelling months in 2020 narrating and recording and editing and mastering my five Cornish Detective stories. Uploading them to, I was surprised at how well they sold without any promotion from me. To make them more discoverable, I used a British site called Free Audio Books (FAB) to hand out the so-called Promo Codes for me. Fifty codes are given to an author for each published audiobook, the idea being that you give them to critics, reviewers, friends and family – in the hope that they’ll leave a review and a star rating. Reviews drive sales! One of the people who runs FAB is Sally Roughton, who works as a narrator too and she also makes promotional video trailers for audiobooks. Feeling flush with my first audiobook royalty of £378, I commissioned Sally to make what she calls a Deep Dive Trailer (see her site), which is just less than the two minutes twenty seconds Twitter permits. I was very pleased with the result. I’m going to monitor what effect it has on sales, but I’ll likely get her to make more trailers for the other four titles. You’ve got to speculate to accumulate!

Paying for Audiobook Listeners

For any of you who followed my marathon through audiobook production, you may be interested in what happens when an audiobook is released into the wild to be hunted down by avid listeners! :rolleyes:

I published my five Cornish Detective titles on Audible, which is the audiobook division of Amazon’s KDP. Doing so involved passing the quality control checks by Audible’s vetting arm ACX. As described in previous posts, this is excruciating, mainly because of ACX’s woeful inefficiency; it takes four to six weeks for your sound files (one for each chapter) to be scrutinised. Once accepted, your audiobook appears on Audible’s shelves.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised to sell 173 units in two months without doing much promotion via social media. That’s considerably more sales than for the eBook and POD Paperback versions.

What a writer always needs is reviews, as reviews drive sales. If I buy a book or when I was able to borrow a library copy, 99% of my choices followed reading a review.

The history and practice of paying for reviews of digital and hard copy books is murky and can soon become expensive:

The Indie Author’s Guide to Paid Reviews

With audiobooks, for each title that passes ACX’s standards, a writer receives 50 Promo Codes (25 USA, 25 UK) which are intended to be judiciously handed out to readers who might well give a review. As you might expect, there are commercial ways of encouraging fans of audiobooks to give reviews, which is done by using companies that distribute the codes for you.

I spent days checking on various outfits that do this, including:

Audiobook Boom! – Free & Sale-Priced Audiobook Deals in your Inbox ….$12 per title…based in the USA, so likely more American reviewers.

Audio Freebies – Promo Codes for Free Audiobooks – Audiobook Giveaways / Audible Free Promo Codes / Audiobook Marketing / Author Narrator Audio Book Requests $10 – $35 (for multi-listing)

Home –£10 per title

From reading about using Promo Codes on Reddit and Quora, it seemed that authors got more requests for American codes than British, but I chose to go with Free Audio Books that’s located in the UK, mainly because most of my marketing will be based on Cornwall and its image. I liked the openness of their approach to doing business. Their service can be free, if you hand out the Promo Codes yourself, or for a tenner a title they’ll do that for you—with a limit of 20 codes for each title. I chose the paid option, looking at it as paying 50p for promoting a book. The name of the game is to get myself known as a crime author and my Cornish Detective series as entertaining listens!

I signed with them two weeks ago, and, up until noon today, 13 codes have been handed out by Free Audio Books. I hope that reviews will be left on their website, but there’s no way of forcing that to happen.

One aspect of the process that’s really puzzled me, is which titles have been requested. Maybe I’m a finicky reader, but if I luck onto a crime series that I enjoy, I like to read the early titles first, so I get a sense of the protagonist’s history or an ongoing story arc. Of course, ideally, a series book should be enjoyable as a stand-alone too. What’s surprised me, is that six people asked for the last book, but only four wanted the debut. So far, no one wants the second story!

Their choices might be down to the cover blurb. Book 5 is set in the art colony of Saint Ives, so perhaps those who chose it are interested in paintings.

Nine audiobook fans are from the UK, with only four from the USA, so my tentative marketing plans to concentrate on Cornwall’s reputation might be a wise move.

Have I finally done something right?!

I can’t help wondering what the listeners of my audiobooks are doing while they listen….





How has the Pandemic affected your Writing?

A recent article in the Guardian highlights how some writers have been negatively affected by lockdown:

My life has barely been altered by the pandemic and quarantine, as I’ve lived a reclusive and solitary life since returning to creative writing in 2013. What has affected my creating new stories in the last year was turning two series of stories into audiobooks, and beginning self-promotion this year. These are deeply boring activities—last night, I devoted three hours to making a spreadsheet listing 500 Promo Codes from ACX, which I intend to start distributing today.

I feel the lack of not writing new stories. Through my own fault, last March, I lost the manuscript of my sixth Cornish Detective novel which caused much anguish, until I realised that the plotline would have been impossible in 2020 with Covid-19 and lockdown. In this way, I agree with what William Sutcliffe says in the article:

It’s a massive problem for contemporary novelists, most of whose novels are set in a non-specific version of now,” says Sutcliffe. “You can write a novel set in 2013, 14, 15, but 2019, 20, 21, these are three completely different worlds. We can’t have every novel being about the pandemic, but [assessing] the degree to which you acknowledge it is really hard.”

I may be able to recover my manuscript, which is hiding somewhere on an SSD I’ve removed from the laptop, but I won’t be returning to it until life has normalised. This means that should there be any demand for more of my crime series, I’ll be forced into writing prequels.

I have two novellas on hold, which I will return to writing this spring, but they are set in pre-pandemic times so no face masks! 😀 

How have you been affected by lockdown?

Have you done more writing, or has your muse been silenced?


Brave Browser

I’ve recently been bothered by how slow Chrome has been to find results and open sites, so wasn’t surprised to see that writing guru Jane Friedman was similarly afflicted as shown in her Electric Speed newsletter:

I ditched Chrome for Brave

While I’ve been a devoted Chrome user for many years, I finally decided to try a different browser in the hopes it would speed up my machine. I chose Brave, a free, open-source solution that is based on the same framework as Chrome and can support Chrome extensions. It works perfectly and my computer no longer sounds like a jet engine waiting to take off as Chrome saps all of its resources.

Following her example, I’ve just installed the Brave browser, importing my Chrome extensions.

First impressions are that it’s much speedier than Chrome opening pages with alacrity.

More about it here:


Lights, camera, action!

In a recent newsletter from Writers Relief and Web Design Relief, there’s an article recommending that authors should have their own YouTube channel:

Over the years, I’ve watched videos posted by writers, some of which were kind of depressing from a home decorating viewpoint, as I found my attention wandering to gaudy wallpaper, discarded apple cores and badly shelved books! 🙄

Nevertheless, making my own YouTube videos is a possibility, as I have a smartphone, and last summer, I bought a DSLR camera. This afternoon, I’ve been watching numerous videos on TweetDeck and this one, in which Mark Warncken recommends YouTube as the way to go.

Do any of you have a video channel?

What do you think of it as a way of selling books?


Quoting Myself

2021 is the year in which I self-promote and schmooze on social media. I’ve been reading writing gurus’ advice online and in self-published books on how best to use Twitter, Facebook business pages, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Somewhere or other, I came across a suggestion that an author quote themselves, by producing posters with their own pithy words on—that could be uploaded to social media and even to sell as hard copies ordered online and at book signings and literary festivals.

I’ve been collecting quotes, aphorisms, poems, anecdotes and song lyrics for decades. Deciding on the attribution of a quote can be fraught sometimes, as people state that someone famous said something when really they were just repeating a wise observation originally recorded by someone else, maybe a hundred years before.

There are plenty of companies offering literary posters, such as these:

It shouldn’t be forgotten, that using quotes, poems and song lyrics could land a writer in hot water. 

Thus, coming up with one’s own quotes is free of the risk of being sued—and may provide inspiration or comfort for someone. It’s literally getting the word out about your writing! So, one should include details of where the quote came from—your name and which of your books + where it can be bought!

I’ve been pondering what quotes from my writing that I could turn into posters. I mocked up one that might appeal.

Do you have any phrases that would look good on a poster?

Man and woman hold each others hand