Bad Sons: free for all…Sunday.

Booker and Cash #1

Booker and Cash #1

Writer’s diary: stardate: 24.01.2014

After a year and a bit of weekly blog posts I sometimes struggle to find things to write about. (My mum thinks that’s been evident for a good while.) So it is a relief to have something special to blog about this week. Special to me, anyway. I’m releasing my sixth novel. It’s called Bad Sons and it is the first of my Booker & Cash stories.

I finished the first draft a year ago. Something I find quite incredible. The fact that it’s taken this long for me to get around to getting it out there bears testimony to how busy I’ve been with my author-publishing in the last twelve months. Still, I always think that newborn stories and authors should spend time apart – a bit like authors and newborn babies, although for different reasons.

I was inspired to write Bad Sons after reading a Raymond Chandler, which I was pretty smitten with. I remember being bowled over by his style and turn of phrase. I remember thinking, I can do that. I’ll have a go. Actually, I can’t do it. Not yet. About the closest I’ve come to any of Chandler’s books with Bad Sons is that the chapters are short. It’s a start. (Look at me being all positive for a second.) Regardless of me failing to emulate Chandler’s style, wit, turn of phrase, characterisation, plotting and sense of drama, I honestly think that Bad Sons isn’t a bad read.

When I self-published my Acer Sansoms, I blogged about whether I should have written them under a pseudonym. I’m glad I didn’t. Now, I’m wondering/worrying whether I should publish Bad Sons under a pseudonym. (Raymond Chandelier sounds good to me.) But for different reasons. Maybe I’ll be sorry that I didn’t this time. And here’s why.

The book is based in my ‘home’ village: Dymchurch – a small seaside settlement on Romney Marsh, Kent. That’s in England. (I just can’t stop writing about Romney Marsh, Romney & Marsh. Next book is an alien invasion novel called Romney Martians.) In fact the ‘bookshop’ that is the main location in the story is a property I own. (I’m taking write-about-what-you-know to the limit with this one.) It’s not a bookshop at the moment, but I can dream.

The reason I’m slightly anxious about putting out Bad Sons under my own name is that I have not been gushingly complimentary about the area in which I spent over forty years of my life ­– and still visit a couple of times a year. In places I may come across as a tad…unenthusiastic. Some local people might take offence. Some might take the gate, if it’s still there. Some people might take it upon themselves to put the odd brick through my front window. (That wouldn’t hurt me, by the way. I don’t run the business that operates out of the ground floor and you’d have to have a bloody good arm to reach up to my bedroom window with a house-brick.) I feel some of what I’ve written about the area, but I’ve also exaggerated a bit. It’s a work of fiction. Every location I’ve referred to, bar one, exists and I have described them as I see them, as I know them. Every character in the book is made up. (Should I put that bit in block caps?)

For the record, my personal feelings for Romney Marsh, as I get older and wiser and more appreciative, are overwhelmingly positive. More on that in book two. But you’ve got to start somewhere.

Bad Sons should be on Amazon tomorrow, Saturday, all things being equal. It will be £1.99. (This week I aligned all my books’ prices at £1.99. More on that in another post.) But I don’t want any of the followers of my blog, you good people who have been so supportive of my writing, to pay for the book. I’m enrolling it in Amazon’s KDP Select programme so that I can give it away for free on Sunday. This will probably be the only day I do give it away, so get it while it’s hot. It’s something of a thank you, a token of my sincere gratitude for your continued support.

I sincerely hope you enjoy it.

Bad Sons

Booker and Cash #1

Booker and Cash #1

Writer’s diary: stardate: 20.01.2014

David Booker returns home to Dymchurch on the Kent coast for a holiday. He’s looking forward to a break. He’s looking forward to helping out. On arrival, he finds his family missing. Now, all he’s looking for are answers.

Bad Sons will be available through Amazon UK and US from Sunday 26th January 2014.

My apologies to anyone who has been waiting for this title that I had hoped to get out by Christmas. Thanks for your patience.

When the book is live, I’m planning to join up to the Amazon KDP Select program so that, among other things, I can organise to give the book away for free for one day. I hope that those of you who have supported my writing will grab a copy and let me know what you think.

Please, do keep in touch for news.

Tweedledum and that…

Writer’s diary: stardate:16.01.2014

You’d need to be of a certain age to know what this is a still image from. It obviously made a deep impression upon me. It’s from episode ten of Colditz and it dates from December 1972. That’s forty-one years ago. I would have been nine and sitting in our lounge probably on a Sunday night glued to the TV. I don’t remember any other episode or incident from the series. What was it about this that made it stick in my memory? Maybe it was portentous.

Wing Commander Marsh (Michael Bryant), an assistant to the British Medical Officer, decides to use his extensive knowledge of mental illness for an escape. (Mmm, this might be worth looking into.) He proposes to “go insane” and be repatriated. Colonel Preston agrees to let him, so long as he follows through with it to the bitter end. Marsh does a very thorough job: his bizarre, disruptive behaviour continually annoys the other allied officers, who remain unaware of the scheme. (I’m already half-way there – none of my colleagues can stand to be in the same room as me.) However, the Germans are not convinced, and Ulmann asks a Corporal to observe Marsh closely. The Corporal has a brother who is insane, so Ulmann believes he is a better judge of Marsh’s condition than any doctor. The Kommandant initially refuses to allow the Swiss authority to examine Marsh, but relents when Marsh’s evident madness embarrasses him in front of an important visitor. (I can do that.) By the time the Germans are willing to consider repatriation, Marsh has done such a convincing job that even the Doctor is uncertain whether or not Marsh is simply pretending to be insane. After Marsh has been successfully repatriated to the UK, it is revealed that his feigned psychosis has become genuine and irreversible, and that he has been committed to a mental hospital for long-term care. (Oh. Not a happy ending. Back to making the glider in the roof space for me.) Colonel Preston immediately forbids any further escape attempts along the same lines. (Of course he does. Historically, the British military needed all the insane for officer material.)

The method of escape is based on that used by Ion Ferguson, a Royal Army Medical Corps doctor imprisoned in Colditz, who certified a number of prisoners as insane in Stalag IV-D, who were then repatriated to Britain. Ferguson then feigned his own insanity to gain repatriation in 1945. Ferguson detailed his escape in his account of his wartime experiences, Doctor at War, and the episode, Tweedledum, is a fictionalised account of his means of escape retold as tragedy.

(Thanks to Wikipedia for that. I do donate.)

What’s it got to do with me and my writing? Not too hard to guess, I would have thought, when one understands that I’m still reading through my Romney and Marsh (what a coincidence!) Files for the second time in a month. I feel like I’m going effing mad. My head is full of R&M Files bits and pieces. Yesterday, I read something and thought, ‘Oh crap! I wrote that exact same line in one of the other books.’ It took me nearly an hour to realise that I hadn’t. I’d just remembered it vividly from a previous reading. The plots of the three books are blending into one great lump of story.

In last week’s blog-post I touched on my apparent affection for the word ‘that‘, which I seemed to pepper my early writing with like a drunk absently salts his chips. I’ve lost count of the number of ‘thats‘ I’ve chopped from Making a Killing this week. But it’s worse than that. I fear that in my quest and gusto to cut them all out – like a surgeon digs out cancerous tumours – I might have removed some ‘thats’ that maybe should have stayed. Christ on a crutch!

I still read other people’s books at night in bed. Just for a break from my own stuff. And now every time I come across the word that I find myself pausing to wonder whether the text could have done without it. More often than not I think it could.

On to Joint Enterprise now. I have to hope I don’t end up like my abiding memory of Wing Commander Marsh – standing to attention at role-call in the yard and pissing himself just at the camp Kommandant wanders up to him. (It’s @ 9mins 20 secs if any one’s interested in a trip down memory lane.)

It would not do my career prospects much good to suffer such an embarrassing episode at the Friday afternoon playing of the Turkish national anthem in the school playground with Herr Headteacher standing next to me. Actually, now I come to think of it, there are a number of other striking similarities between the school and that infamous old castle.

Disclaimer: It is certainly not my intention to suggest that work is like being in a WW2 prisoner of war camp in Nazi Germany. I would not like any one who dropped by here to think that. For a start, I understand that the meals served in Colditz were usually hot…

Cold Turkey.

Writers’ diary: stardate: 10.01.2014

My author-publisher start to the New Year feels similar in mood and results to how the kinder  (that’s kinder as in more charitable not as in egg) broadsheets have been moved to remark regarding David Moyes’ first season in charge at Man Utd – it’s not been the best of starts. And after all that positive looking back last week on such fond memories of 2013. That’ll teach me. If I haven’t made it plain thus far, I’m feeling a bit miserable. (Pity-post alert – DEFCON 5: that’s blue).

What is the source of my wretchedness? Apart from my weakly (?) blog-posts, I haven’t written anything new since…Twas the week before Christmas…(No, I’m not claiming to have written that poem. That was Clement Clarke Moore, of course.)

For as long as I can remember since this writing life got going, I get crotchety if I don’t write regularly. At times it feels like my authorial urges border on, if not an addiction (that’s a bit melodramatic but  arguably in keeping with this post), then obsessive – a compulsive habit – which I find easier to give into than to ignore. A bit like an open bottle of wine.

Like doing a line of the white stuff, writing takes me into a fantasy world; it gives me a high and makes me feel good about my day. But the more I do the more I want to do. (It is sounding a bit like an addiction, now.) However, unlike the white stuff, it costs nothing more than time and effort and the price of a happy marriage and I don’t sniff as much as I used to (unless I’m crying because I’m not writing as much as I want to.) (Pity-post alert – DEFCON 4: that’s green.)

I haven’t written anything because I’ve been doing those pesky edits of the R&M books. I finished my corrections of all three books last week. I had to read them each again on my laptop to do it. It was the best way. I remember writing on this blog something about not wanting to go too much to town on them because of what they represented regarding my authorial journey. (Why didn’t anyone tell me how stupid that viewpoint is?)

Anyway, all done and it was a great relief to have them out of the way (for about fifteen minutes). (Pity-post alert – DEFCON 3: that’s yellow.)

I thought I’d better check them before I uploaded them to Amazon – make sure the formatting was still good. So, I pinged them to Kindle, got them back and opened Rope Enough to skim read. What a mistake? Within two pages (that’s Kindle pages not A4 pages, so about twenty four words in total) I’d spotted four things I wanted to change – again. I kept going and there were more…and more…and more. In the end I threw in the towel, got the laptop fired up, opened the file and started reading Rope Enough again. I’ve nearly finished it. I’ve changed a lot this time. I had to. It’s still called Rope Enough, but only because I can’t afford a new cover.

Martin (he of the proofreading variety) will tell you of my love affair with the word ‘that’, which I seemed to insert into my early texts like a fruit machine addict inserts pound coins into…fruit machines. I’ve lost count of the number I have culled in this second run through. And I haven’t stopped there. Vocabulary that didn’t quite hit the spot or was just plain wrong, dialogue a bit wooden, punctuation, punctuation, punctuation!!! (as Tony Blair might say if he were my editor). I’m still never going to spot everything, but I’ve got to make it the best I can before I can be happy. (Epiphany alert: Maybe that’s my problem – I simply can’t be happy. Shit that explains a lot. It’s like someone’s just given me a pair of spectacles to correct my hindsight. I am able to view my past with a stark clarity. It makes me uncomfortable. Puts glasses back in case and throws case into a drawer.) (Pity-post alert – DEFCON 2: that’s red.)

It’s taking a long time because I’m trying to do it properly. (Like I never have before!) And because I haven’t got any bloody free time for anything at the moment! Almost one book down. Two books to go. I’ve got at least another month on this with the way the rest of my life is at present. (I’ve got two job interviews next week, and not only did I discover last night that my ‘interview suit’ no longer fits me, but also something has been nesting in my ‘interview shoes’. I have no idea how to get across Istanbul to these schools.  I’ve got a trip back home at the end of January and my sister tells me the winter weather has taken its toll on the roof ie it’s leaking like a sieve. I can’t afford roofers, so I’ll be up there in the pissing rain and wind, no doubt, with numbed fingers and a frozen back trying to patch it up. I don’t have a supportive spouse – not like all these other authors I read about who make me want to puke with their good fortune at marrying someone who gladly reads their books and offers suggestions; is happy to discuss plot issues over coffee and toast in the mornings; look after the kids, maybe, to give their writing partner time and peace to sit down and fucking write.) (Pity-post alert – DEFCON 1: that’s white, and goodbye cruel world.)

I got an email from a teacher recruitment agency this week advertising jobs in Hong Kong with an annual salary of £55,000 plus benefits. I mentioned this to my Turkish wife. She said if I go, I go alone. What did I say about temptation? I don’t want to end up like Gene in a couple of months. (What a great actor BTW – Hackman not me.)

A brief encounter with my annus mirabilis.

Writer’s diary: stardate: 03.01.2014

It seems like only last week was last year.

It appears to be something of a custom in the blogosphere at this time of year for bloggers to look back on their previous annus (sorry to disappoint my legions of mucky-thoughted followers – no more bum jokes): reflect, sum things up and make lists. I have decided not to subject anyone to that other than to say…

What an amazing year it’s been for me as an author-publisher! I’ve had a positively annus mirabilis. (Sounds uncomfortable, I know, but I’m assured it means something good.) It was December 2012 – just twelve short months ago – that I uploaded my first book to Amazon. I now have five on there and two finished and in the editing pipeline.

Like the famous Mrs Pig of traditional story fame I sent my three little pigs (my three R&M Files) out into the big wide world to fend for themselves. They have managed to support themselves, garner some appreciation and even send a little cash back home to papa like all dutiful absent children should. (The fruit of my loins could do with reading that. In my opinion they have completely the wrong idea about which way money should be travelling in the parent/offspring relationship.)

Generally, the five books (three R&Ms and two Acer Sansoms) have been well received. Comments are overwhelmingly (in both senses of the word) positive and encouraging. I’ve had a few duffers, of course, but you can’t please all the people all the time.  (That’s one of the top five things I’ve learned to accept this year.)

In the books, on the blog and on my Amazon author page I asked readers, who wouldn’t mind doing so, to point out any errors that they came across. (Another thing in my top five of things learned the hard way: the services of a proofreader are essential to any aspiring author.) Readers have been wonderfully helpful and constructive. A huge thank you to all of you who participated and helped me. For the record I am now ‘fixing’ all the errors highlighted. Rope Enough is done. Making a Killing is halfway there. I want to put all the new versions on together before I submit another book.

I’ve been an active social networker. I’ve blogged once a week. I find Twitter and the rest of it a bit dull in comparison. One thing I do have to work on is some proper and effective self-promotion. (Another of this year’s critical lessons. See below.)

I’ve worked bloody hard. I’m always working at something to do with the books. It’s like a second job in nature, only more enjoyable. You’ve got to love it or you’re screwed as an author-publisher.

I started out craving a traditional publishing deal, like a fat person craves cake. I wanted to be ‘discovered’, coaxed, fed from the palm of a kindly literary agent and tamed as a raw talent. Nurtured, pandered to and cultivated. It would still be nice but I’m more realistic about things these days. I’m also more appreciative of the whole self-publishing deal. Self-publishing is not the sad and desperate last throw of the dice by sad and desperate writers. It’s liberating and empowering and it’s also quite groovy.

I’m looking forward to 2014.

So, because I’m in danger of boring myself, on to the top five things learned this year in no particular order:

1) The services of a decent proofreader are essential.

2) You can’t please all the people all the time, so stop worrying about duff reviews. (unless you are getting loads, of course, and then there is probably something wrong with your work).

3) Writing something half-decent is only half of it. In order to maximise success an author-publisher must wear many hats and often. One has to get stuck into self-promotion in a big way if one wants to be big. You don’t even have to be a great writer, it appears. If you are the type of person who can sell snow to Eskimos, write a turd of a book, sprinkle some glitter on it (ie splash out on a great cover) and get promoting.

4) It’s all about commitment. One must have a driving passion for being an author-publisher. Being an author-publisher is like having a second full-time job. Because one must write, correspond, write, promote, write, network often – daily ideally. I know I’m cut out for this life because I enjoy all aspects of the ‘job’.

5) Don’t stop dreaming about success and believing in your ability to experience it. But keep a lid on it. I am reminded of a line in an oft misquoted poem…If you can dream – and not make dreams your master…

Oh, look, I had a summing up and made a list after all.

Finally, two really good blog-posts I would like to share. If you are in involved in writing and self-publishing in any way, shape or form they are worth looking at. One from the legendary Joe Konrath is the practical one and one from a guy who I envy, admire and hate in equal measure, James Oswald, is there to feed the dreams. He is living the dream – my dream. I shouldn’t resent him for it and I don’t, really. Much. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: bloody good luck to the man.

This time last year I was a self-publishing nobody. And now I’m a couple of rungs up the ladder. It looks like a big ladder. I can’t see the top. There are people climbing over me in a frantic rush. There are people above me losing their grip to plummet to Earth. My knuckles are white and my knees are strong. I’m pacing myself. Upward and onward. I’d like to lead everyone in a couple of verses of that traditional yuletide ditty, What the Fuck by the seasonally appropriately named Sak Noel.  (Does anyone know if that translates to Santa’s scotum?) The title, at least, totally sums up my surprise at the way things went for me in 2013.

­Talking of poetry, here is a less well known verse than last week’s but no less meaningful for all that. It’s certainly appropriate.

Annus Mirabilis not by Philip Larkin

Self-publishing began
In twenty, nine plus three
(which was rather late for me) –
Between the end of middle age
And my impending RIP.

Up to then there’d only been
A sort of wistful scribbling,
A writing for the fun of it,
A shame that started at fifty
And not before.

Then all at once the penny dropped:
Everyone felt the same,
We sold our souls to Amazon
A brilliant breaking of the bank,
A quite unlosable game.

I dream life will be better than
In twenty, ten plus three
(And not too late for me) –
Between the end of middle age
And my impending obituary.

You can see the original here

Happy New Year and sincere thanks to everyone who has supported me.