A Bookish Valentine’s Day…blog-post.

 

 

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Say it with simit.

When I went to pick up the morning simit bread today the woman behind the counter popped this little gift into my bag. (I know it looks like a heart-shaped turd, but it’s bread.)

After I stopped panicking that I’d forgotten it was Valentine’s Day, it got me thinking about the occasion (and about how I could rescue myself from the promise of a bad day at home because of my forgetfulness). I could have presented my wife with the heart-shaped simit and pretended that I’d paid for it, but by the time the idea occurred to me on the walk home from the shop I’d already eaten it.

 

A flower in bloom, like first love, is beautiful to behold: fresh, fragrant, perfect. It is no surprise that they are chosen by many a romantic to give to the apple of their eye on Valentine’s Day. But… they wilt. They become ugly and smelly and depressing to look at. A metaphor for our chosen loved one, perhaps? Eventually, we can bear to put up with them no more and they are discarded, thrown away on life’s rubbish heap. It’s one of the reasons I don’t give flowers. (The other reason is, I’m tight.)

 

Chocolates! Mmmm… another safe staple for many a Romeo to fall back on and many a Juliet to get fat on. Remove the cellophane of the packet, lift the lid, inhale the trapped scents of long-sealed  c h o c o l a t e… it’s almost sexual, isn’t it? The box is full, virgin, unspoilt, unmolested, a treasure of tastes and torment, treats and truffles. But wait… chocolates get eaten, they disappear, soon they are all gone, there is nothing left… a bit like love, perhaps? And then, like love, it all turns to shit. Literally. That box of chocolate, that token of love is turned by your insides into poo. You squeeze it out and flush it away. A stinking mass of waste, again, literally. Gone. Forgotten. It’s one of the reasons I don’t give chocloates. (The other reason is, I’m tight.)

Flowers and chocolates: landfill and shit. What a waste in every sense of the word.

This is the speech I made to my wife this morning before she stopped speaking to me and threw something heavy in my direction. It was only half of my intended speech. She didn’t want to hear anymore. I don’t think that she could have over her sobbing behind the locked bathroom door.

Three Short Blasts  (Medium)The rest of it went like this. A book. Is there a more complete, more personal, longer lasting, more multi-sensory pleasure, more multi-layered gift that one civilised person can give to another with whom they experience feelings of deep and enduring love for than a book – new or old? I don’t think so. As well as all of the above a book is a present that can be opened again and again. That’s why I pre-ordered you, my sweet, a copy of my latest book Three Short Blasts.

Her response probably would have gone something like: It’s not even a real book. It’s a crappy electronic file. You only pre-ordered it to get your sales figures and your Amazon chart position up.

Despite marrying me, she’s not completely stupid.

For anyone out there looking for a late Valentine’s Day gift for the love of your life, here are pre-order links. Amazon UK Amazon US

And at £0.99 and $0.99 a copy you won’t find many cheaper presents out there. Say it with an electronic file.

Here’s the Amazon sales page blurb in case you need a little more convincing.

Three Short Blasts is a collection of three original stories that are not to be found anywhere else. There is one story in each of the three series that I write: The Romney and Marsh Files, Acer Sansom and Booker & Cash.

Going on industry standard word count, the three stories range from forty to sixty pages of a paperback novel in length – significantly longer than short stories but not quite novellas.

There’s also an introduction in the book where I explain the motivation behind it. You can skip that bit if you like and get straight into the reads, which I hope you will enjoy.

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As regular followers of this blog will know, last Sunday Rope Enough (R&M File #1) was the subject of a book promotion excercise that saw it go to #1 in the Amazon free charts. That’s the chart for every single free book on Amazon. Quite amazing. I’m still trying to get my head around that. There must be thousands of free books on Amazon. Maybe tens of thousands. In its first twelve hours it was downloaded nearly 6000 times. I thought it would quickly drop back down the charts but it stayed at #1 for 24 hours (awesome) and then hung around in the top 10 for most of the week. A few thousand more downloads later and today it’s at #20. Still good and a great boost to the book and the R&M Files’ profile for a mere $50.

There have been some good knock-on sales for the other R&M Files. That’s what it was all about.

Hits on my blog were also up. Before the promotion I was averaging about 30 or 40 hits a day. All this week I’ve been averaging over 100 hits a day, presumably from downloaders of Rope Enough checking out my links. Great stuff! Lots of exposure.

Talking of the blog: a small milestone this week: I posted my 200th blog-post. By my calculations that’s quite a lot of CWAP.

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Going back to my (R&M) roots.

 

Three Short Blasts  (Medium)

Just sharing the cover for the forthcoming short story collection. Another cover I really like. I’m excited about this project.

I dithered about writing a blog-post this week. Because time is really stacked against me for reaching my targets before my Turkey time is up. And I didn’t help myself this week by adding significantly to my workload. But the blog is important and it’s my writer’s diary. So here goes with a brief entry.

In no particular order:

This week I read a non-fiction book that I would recommend to anyone who is writing or thinking of writing. It’s called On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. Great read. Entertaining, too. We think so much alike on so many aspects of writing, Steve and I. I now want to meet this guy and shake his hand. Awesome. (One thing we don’t agree on is listening to music while writing. SK says he listens to it; I can’t listen to music when I’m thinking and trying to write, not even classical. I can’t work with the distraction.)

Unhappy Families is still doing well. And it’s had over fifty reviews/comments on Amazon UK already. It’s not been out a month yet. Thanks to all involved anywhere with making this book a success.

Last Monday I started a writing job I’ve been putting off and putting off for over a year. And now I’m on it. Feelings-wise it’s been a mixed bag for me. Some good, some bad. I’m performing edits and overhauls of the first three R&M Files. It’s needed doing. And I’m doing it. But it’s going to take going on a month out of the time I’ve got left here.

I’ve been through Rope Enough twice, already. I’ve changed some stuff in line with general reader feeling for aspects of that read. There were two things in particular that I’ve had more negative feedback concerning than anything else: Romney’s apparent misogyny and the sex. I’ve addressed both. Toned one down and been less explicit on the other. Why? Because I’ve come to realise that these aspects of the book did not appeal to a certain reader demographic and the last thing I should be doing is putting people off my writing when what’s putting them off isn’t essential to the book or my writing or how I feel about my writing. I’ve written before that Rope Enough has always felt like a bit of a cuckoo in the Romney and Marsh Files’ nest. I feel less so about it now. That makes me happy. (Don’t worry: Romney is still Romney.) (On Romney – this week a reader got in touch and mentioned that Martin Shaw the actor would have made a good Romney. In his day I think he could have been perfect. Too old now. He’s seventy!!!!!!)

Romney remains stiff towards Marsh in book one but from book two he is now calling her Joy and not Sergeant Marsh all the time, which has been embarrassing to read. In fact first names are being used a lot more now (but not Romney’s. He remains ‘sir’ to his subordinates or ‘guv’. That’s the way that it is.) And in books one and two I kept referring to Romney as ‘the DI’ (it seems so… TV show cop-drama). Dumb and cringeworthy. He’s now just Romney. Romney, Romney, Romney. And why, oh, why, in Rope Enough did I keep referring to CID as ‘the squad room’? (Hot flush creeps up neck.)

I’ve been embarrassed by other things in these read-throughs. (A reason I’ve been putting it off. I knew I would.) To cut a long, self-critical story short, let’s just say that I feel I’ve improved quite a bit as a writer over the few years I’ve been at it. I needed to. Looking back at these early texts I’ve been spotting all sorts of mistakes: grammar, language, sense, punctuation, structure, tense… get the picture? (Not spelling because readers helped me a lot with those errors and I fixed those a while back.)

I gave myself a crash course in the use of commas before I got going. (Better late than never.) I’ve got the six main rules on Post-its above my desk. Applying those rules as best as I can over these three books is proving quite an intense, concentrated and educational exercise. But I’ll tell you what: knowing something about commas makes you look at your writing differently. Understanding a comma rule can unlock vision in sentence structure, for example. I’ve changed a number of sentences about to make them better in several regards, simply because I understood them better because of my new knowledge and insight. (I know what I’m talking about and that’s what matters.)

I’ve also increased the number of chapters in each of the books and cut down on the word count. Example: Rope Enough was 80,000 words. It’s now just under 77,000 words. (That wasn’t all Romney being horrible about women and having sex.) It was 16 chapters. It’s now 46! (Shorter chapter length, like shorter senence length, gives an idea of increased pace. It works.)

I’m still working on the other two books Making a Killing and Joint Enterprise but they are following similar patterns.

The positives? Despite doing a lot of cringing and tutting and punching myself in the face from time to time, I get one thing about these books that has pleased me. They are each good stories. I’m basically enjoying reading them again – getting back to my Romney and Marsh roots. I think that a yardstick of my reflected feelings is that even with all the English errors, and misogyny and objectionable explicit sex and overlong chapters and wooly sentences in Rope Enough it’s still had a lot of good reviews and ratings.

I strongly believe I’m making these books better reads.

One of the two reasons that I’ve never commissioned print on demand books for the R&M Files is because I’ve always known that the early ones needed work. Probably still do. I’m so glad I hung on. I’d feel particularly bad if I thought that there were physical copies of these books out there with all these errors in that could never be changed. I’d be hunting them down and burning them. The beauty of epublishing is that you can change your work every day if you want to and then readers can simply upload the updated version if they choose to. (I think.)

I haven’t uploaded any revised versions yet. I’m going to finish doing all three books and then read them all again back-to-back. Then I’ll upload. I’ve also got to update front and back matter and blurbs for all of my books with links and stuff. I want them all to be as good (make that correct) as I can make them before I push off ‘cos when I get back to the UK I don’t know where I’m going to find the time to write and do all of this shizzle.

Oh yeah, something that is really cheesing me off at the moment is my aging laptop. I think it’s ill. When I’m halfway through typing a sentence it keeps changing lines so that half the sentence is on the right line and half of it is in the middle of a line up the page. Lots of messing around and frustration with that. I’m saving for a new one.

Finally, apologies for all the spelling, punctuation and other errors in this post. I’m in a rush.

Eleven weeks and counting! Holy crap.!

A milestone to celebrate.

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I think that milestones should be celebrated. Today, Rope Enough (Romney and Marsh File #1) received its 900th comment/review on Amazon UK. I have no idea how many times it’s been downloaded but it must be in the tens of thousands. (Don’t forget it’s free.)

(I’m both pleased and relieved that the 900th comment was a positive one. A 1* full of loathing for my alter ego could have spoiled things.)

A good week.

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This blog is essentially my writer’s diary. As such I like to record noteworthy events, like the above. Amazon’s British Detective chart is just a sub-genre of a sub-genre… but, as Maureen Lipman might be moved to say, it’s a sub-genre! (I wonder if anyone will actually get that reference or is it just too obscure? [Reading through this prior to clicking publish I thought I’d relive my youth by looking up the Lipman reference I’ve just mentioned. And I had to include a link here. It is very, very funny. Hang on for the last thing she says. Priceless. An ology! The Internet truly is wonderful sometimes. And credit to whoever was behind that ad – decades later I still remember it.]) and for a brief spell this week Unhappy Families (R&M File#6) edged its way up to #3! Many thanks to all involved. You know who you are.

On the subject of Unhappy Families I’ve had lots of positive feedback, which I am very grateful for. I’m not in the habit of quoting feedback on my social-media sites but this week I was tagged in two Tweets that just about summed up what I hoped to encourage readers to feel when they read this book.

The first said: Started reading the latest yesterday couldn’t stop laughing. Should I find it funny??

Definitely, yes.

The second said: I’ve just finished the latest . It had me in floods in places. His best yet.

I’m thrilled to hear it.

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With Acer #4 Deep State with my gentleman friend for proofreading etc I have been free this week to continue working on my latest project.

Last week I reported that I was currently engaged in writing a Booker & Cash short story to go into a compilation of three short stories (one in each of my series) I was intending to put together.

It was going well. In fact it went a little too well. I got to ten thousand words and realised that actually there could be a full-length story in it. That was both good and bad news. Good because I’ve got ten thousand words of another story – a good start. Bad because then I had to start again with another Booker & Cash short story.

So I did. And Thursday evening I finished the first draft. Its eleven thousand words – about forty pages of a paperback. I’m happy with it. Very happy.

So that’s my three short stories written in their first drafts. And I have a title for the book, Three Short Blasts, and I’ve ordered the cover and I’ve written a rationale for the compilation – something to go in the front of the book to, hopefully, engage readers.

I feel that it’s been a very productive writing week. I am feeling good about this project.

What goes up…

Unhappy Families (Large)

(Unhappy Families is available for immediate download now here Amazon UK and here Amazon US )

Four days now since Unhappy Families (Romney and Marsh Files #6) hit the virtual shelves.

Like anyone responsible for creating something for others to hopefully enjoy I was on tenterhooks waiting for the first reader feedback. What a relief and pleasure it was to be humbled with a wonderfully encouraging review on Amazon UK the same day. In fact on the day the book became available for reading it received four glowing reviews on Amazon UK. I was fairly bowled over by the positive response and have been further by other Amazon reviews, emails and social-media comments that I’ve received since. Sincere thanks to all for your encouraging messages.

This morning I logged onto the Internet to discover that Unhappy Families was at #822 in the overall Amazon charts and still receiving positive feedback. I was so chuffed that I posted the details of my happiness on my social-media sites. I was riding high on an emotional wave.

What goes up must come down.

To remind me of that central tenet of life, particularly a writing life – you can’t please all the people all the time – within an hour I noticed that another review had been posted on Amazon.com and Goodreads. A two star comment for Unhappy Families.

What goes up must come down. Thanks to Betsy for bringing me firmly back down to Earth… with a bump. Ouch!

Let’s get one thing straight folks: everyone is entitled to their opinion. Betsy didn’t like it. She paid for it and she has the right to air her views. DOUBLE PLEASE don’t anyone think about going over to comment. That’s not what this is about. By all means look but PLEASE DON’T COMMENT AND DON’T LOOK IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK BECAUSE THE REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!

So why am I blogging about this?

This is my online diary about being a self-published author. I try to make it a warts an’ all record. Being a self-published author is not all sunshine and lollipops. Naturally, I’m disappointed that a reader really didn’t like the story I’d written. Fiction writers write to entertain not make people wish they’d saved their time and money. But Betsy gave me something I think I probably needed – a dose of reality. And that’s never a bad thing for anyone. Other readers aren’t going to like this book, too, in the same way that all of my books, in fact just about every book on Amazon, has got both glowing and scathing reviews. Everyone’s different. Everyone brings something different to the reading experience. Everyone has to accept this. Especially the writer.

Right, it’s lunchtime here. I’m on this diet that’s working well for me. Every lunch time, a time that I usually start to feel peckish, I head off to the gym for some exercise. That way I miss a meal and burn calories. A double-whammy. Besides there’s a punch bag down there with someone’s name on it…

One down, two to go.

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Unhappy Families (Romney and Marsh File #6) is now off my hands. I uploaded the final version to Amazon on Tuesday. For the time being I have to forget it and move on. What better way to do that than by focussing on another writing project?

(Unhappy Families is available for pre-order now here Amazon UK and here Amazon US Release date is 27th December.)

I’m too late to get A White-Knuckle Christmas (Romney and Marsh File #7) out for Christmas. It would have been nice and seasonal but in any case I think it might be wise to have an interval between books #6 & #7.

That means I’m now working on Acer #4 Deep State. I’ve completed one read-through and I still like it. I haven’t felt the need to change anything of the structure.

I do the first read-through on a hard copy with a highlighter pen. Then I update the Word document with the changes. After that I send the new Word document to my Kindle and read the book again on that device. I have the hard copy and a different coloured highlighter pen close by. Anything I want to alter I note it on the hard-copy in the new colour as I go. Then I’ll ping the updated copy to my Kindle and read it again. I’ll usually do this a few times before I’m happy with things and can’t find anything else to change/correct.

Reading the book through using a different means – ie Kindle rather than paper copy – gives me the opportunity to spot things that I seem to not be able to spot otherwise. It always surprises me the number of things I miss on the first read-through. After the initial read of Deep State there wasn’t that much red ink on the manuscript. I’m now half-way through the second using the Kindle and there is more ink on the pages already than there was after the whole of the first read.

When I’m done with these stages I send it off to my gentleman friend for a second opinion.

(When the books come back I get further examples of the limits of my understanding of spelling, punctuation, grammar and making sense. I’m not terrible at these things – no one proofreads my blog-posts and they’re not littered with mistakes of English (?!) – but a full-length novel is something else. Sometimes it’s hard to see the wood for the trees, especially when you are so close to them.)

Anyway, second read-through going well. Still liking it.

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Some of you may know that I run another site at southcoastcrimewriters.co.uk It was conceived as a bit of fun. A couple of weeks ago I had the idea to contact all the authors included on the site who I could find online contact details for and ask them to answer just a couple of questions about their motivations for writing crime fiction set on the south coast. I’m very happy to report that a few did respond and I think that their answers are great. Please go over and have a look.

Thanks to:

Valerie Keogh

Pauline Rowson

Elly Griffiths

Peter Guttridge

Sara Sheridon

If any readers have an author or book to suggest, please take a look at the criteria I’ve devised for inclusion (it’s on the ‘About’ page) and if your suggestion matches do let me know. I want the site to be comprehensive.

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It’s unlikely that I’ll blog again before the 25th and so I would like to take this opportunity to wish each and every reader of my books a very happy Christmas.

 

‘Tis Done…

Unhappy Families (Large)

Remember, Remember the 27th of December

If I should get hit by a bus,

Arrested, deported,

Don’t make a fuss.

You’ll get your copy on time because

Now I’ve ironed out all the flaws,

Pulled out the stops

Against the clocks

And pressed submit

Washed my hands of it.

R&M 6 is ready and waiting

In Amazon’s system

Quietly stating

Its place in the series

Of south-coast crime books

Here’s hoping the tale is a match for its looks.

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In case that’s a bit confusing for anyone, what I’m trying to say is that today I uploaded the final version of Unhappy Families (Romney and Marsh File #6) to Amazon. So if I drop dead tomorrow it will still get published.

I won’t look at it again. Amazon won’t let me interfere with it now until after publication date. (Can you imagine if I took a peek and saw a mistake?)

I will now spend the next two weeks living on my nerves, medically prescribed drugs and the toilet as I worry about the same things I worry about every time I self-publish a book.

The buck stops here.