Why I can’t live in the UK.

Sometimes in order to fully appreciate something one needs to go without it for a while. That’s how it is with me and my home. I’m talking about Romney Marsh. Six years I’ve lived abroad and I’m finally coming round to the idea that the place I left has a lot going for it. (That’s probably just as much a reflection of Istanbul as it is anything.) Regarding home, I think that familiarity bred, not contempt, but something approaching it. Shame on me. And so it is with no small amount of sadness and irony that I say, even though I quite like it here these days I don’t think I can live here again.

My ‘About Me’ page on this blog says: When I lived in the UK, I tried a couple of times to write, but with the responsibility of property and family and work and the distractions of television and radio and newspapers and people I never got anywhere with it. Nothing’s changed, I’ve found. I’m here on holiday at the moment. Been here just over two weeks. A couple to go. And I haven’t stopped. Mostly, I haven’t stopped enjoying myself. Having a four year old who loves the outdoors helps. If we’re not enjoying the miles of Dymchurch’s golden sands we’re down the local park or on the RHDR or in a rowing boat on the Royal Military Canal or in the garden playing a ball game. We spent a fantastic today at Port Lympne wildlife reserve. Tomorrow he’s having a party.

I’m playing tennis. (I got to go to Wimbledon this year – as a spectator.) I play football once a week and then we hit the pub afterwards. Tomorrow I’m digging out the push-bike for a cycle. I run on the beach. Too many evenings I’m spending working my way through five seasons of Breaking Bad and bottled ale.

I’m cooking because I want to. I’m eating for pleasure. I’m enjoying some decent booze. I can’t remember the last time I shaved or wore a pair of long trousers. As a retirement present I bought myself that watch I was looking at a few months ago. (No one else was going to buy it for me and I reckoned that the time I put in at the chalk face deserved something special by way of commemoration.) I’ve stopped wearing it. Who cares what the time is when you’re on holiday and enjoying life?

I’m also gutting a flat in preparation for refurbishment. I’m enjoying that physical graft too.

About the only thing I don’t have time for is writing. And these days, after jacking in the day job, I’m supposed to be writing for a living. I repeat: I don’t think I can live back home again – too many distractions.

I have read two books since I’ve been back. To be precise, I’ve read the same book twice. It’s called Particular Stupidities. It’s my next release in the Romney and Marsh Files, just in case you’re new to this blog. Each read-through led to a number of revisions – mostly just ‘better’ ways to put things. I’ve also lost a few hundred words more. Two days ago, after having done the formatting and got it Kindle-ready, I decided that two read-throughs was enough and I uploaded it to Amazon. (In all honesty I believe that if I read it another ten times I’d find things to change every time.)

It was quite a relief to get it off my hands, especially with Amazon’s deadline for the submission fast approaching. (The book is out on the 30th July but Amazon wanted the final copy ten days before that date: no later than the 20th July. If you miss their deadline you forfeit the right to make use of the pre-order facility for a year. Yikes! I quite understand why Amazon can’t afford to be buggered about by publishers, self or traditional, but they sure made me anxious as the date approached – they were emailing reminders more frequently and the language was becoming a little more… insistent with each email. Or that may have been my imagination.)

This is the first title of mine that I have made available for pre-order. Until publication day a copy can be snapped up for 99p. Then it’ll go up to £1.99 like the others. I think that the current price has been a major factor that has kept the book hovering around the top twenty of the British Detective chart. Whatever, it’s had plenty of visibility, which has to be a good thing. I don’t know how many copies have been pre-ordered because Amazon doesn’t seem to make that information available on my sales account page until the day of release. I’m guessing that on release day, when everyone who has pre-ordered gets their copy the grand total will be revealed to me.

I like to catch up on some reading during the summer. I made a start on that resolution today by opening up a copy of A Touch of Frost by RF Wingfield. (A few readers of my books have mentioned the Frosts as good reads with some laughs.) I’m a hundred pages in and it’s OK. Of its time (1990) I think it would be fair to say. (Some of my more critical readers have expressed disapproval for aspects of DI Romney’s character and behaviour, especially  towards women. If you haven’t read any Frost books, take my word for it – Frost makes Romney look like a feminist. Even I’m cringing at some of the things he says and ‘thinks’. [I do understand that twenty-five years ago things would have been a lot different and that Frost is probably representative of the policing and cultural times.])

It’s twelve days until release day of Particular Stupidities. Like each of the other books I’ve put out, as publication day looms I’m experiencing a creeping nervousness over whether the book will please readers of the R&M Files. Reflecting on the book led me to consider what I hope to deliver to my readers with this one. My answer is this: a murder mystery, a few laughs, a worthy addition to the Romney and Marsh Files and maybe a bit of food for thought. Ambitious? We’ll see.

I hope that everyone is having a great summer.

Self-promotion: like most things, it’s who you know that counts.

A week ago I listed Particular Stupidities (R&M File #5) as available for pre-order from Amazon. For the first time in my self-publishing career (better late than never) I then went on to make a bit of a nuisance of myself on social-media. My aim was to raise awareness in the hope that readers would pre-order the book and in turn get it up the Amazon charts and noticed, maybe even attract the interest of Amazon’s recommended reading list that it emails out to readers. When one is releasing a new book, it’s definitely a list you want to get on.

As well as putting out a blog-post and linking it to my Facebook and Twitter accounts I sent a lot of tweets to a lot of Twitter accounts that I’d chosen because I hoped they might be suggestible. (For fun, I even tweeted a couple of best-selling authors whose names popped up on the screen as I was networking away.) I learned something from the exercise that is worth sharing with others who might be seeking self-promotion ideas.

The response from readers who follow the blog and are Facebook and Twitter friends of mine was very encouraging. Once again, a massive and heartfelt thank you to everyone who not only pre-ordered a copy of the book but who then went on to share my links with their own lists of friends on social media sites. As I’ve already blogged since listing the book it briefly broke into Amazon’s top 1000 list (I’m pretty sure that was a first for one of my books.) It’s drifted out now, currently @ #1825, which is still good. I’m certainly not complaining.

The dozens and dozens of hopeful tweets to unknowns (ebook promoters, readers I don’t know, the famous authors and just about every news media outlet involved in the south-east where the R&M Files are set) only achieved one retweet (thanks to Whitstable Live), which makes the effort seem generally wasted. I tweeted all the newspapers local to the R&M Files and didn’t get one retweet or reply. Total waste of time #justsaying. 

I admit to having been a poor self-promoter. I still am – it’s an energy thing. Going on the evidence, such as it is, I would have done well to have taken a leaf out of the books of other successful self-promoting authors and organised a mailing list that readers could subscribe to. I could then have emailed directly all those readers who would have signed up to being notified of my forthcoming releases. I’m sure it would have been a smart move for me the self-publishing author. Will I do it now?

All that said, it’s my understanding that there is no greater boost for an author’s chance of downloads than to get onto Amazon’s radar. If a title comes to Amazon’s notice as something people are downloading in significant numbers then Amazon get behind you and make you more visible – the more you sell the more they make. Why am I now thinking about Joseph Heller?

Writers are nothing without readers.

Just a quick post tonight.

I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to all those who have downloaded, supported and shared R&M File #5. Tonight is the first time one of my books has broken into the top 1000 on Amazon sales chart. Currently it is @ #989 and I’m chuffed to bits.

Sincere thanks to all.

Writers are nothing without readers.

Particular Stupidities (R&M#5) available for discounted pre-order.

    TAKING A LIFE IS EASY. GETTING AWAY WITH IT CAN BE MURDER.

TAKING A LIFE IS EASY. GETTING AWAY WITH IT CAN BE MURDER.

Particular Stupidities (Romney and Marsh File #5) is back from my gentleman friend. Thanks to him for a quick turn around of the book. Now I need to get cracking on reading it through again (probably a couple of times), formatting, and the myriad other tasks that go along with self-publishing a book. Good job I’ve got a week of doing nothing before we quit Istanbul.

I mentioned here recently that I would try the Amazon pre-order option with this title. See links for UK and US at the bottom of the page. Release date will be Thursday 30th July. I know that seems a long way off when I already have the book back but I have my reasons (good or otherwise).

One of my better reasons is that Thursday, 30th of July is the date I’ll be hosting my author chat with Crime Book Club (See previous post). I thought I’d combine the two dates. You might also notice that the pre-order price for this one is a mere £0.99 in the UK and $1.57 in the US. I will be changing that to the usual £1.99/$3.01. on Friday 31st July so grab a bargain while you can. I’m just trying something different.

One area of my self-publishing that I’ve been found wanting is self-promotion. I intend to devote more time and energy to that now that I have the time to. I need to. So expect to see more of that kind of thing here and elsewhere. (Apologies in advance.)

If you buy a copy and have Twitter or something like it, I’d really appreciate you spreading the word. Readers’ word of mouth is vitally important to self-published authors.

And here’s the revised blurb:

A rotting corpse is discovered in one of Kent’s old coal mining communities. In their search to uncover the identities of the victim and those responsible for the death and concealment of the body DI Romney and his team must confront and deal with issues of prejudice, bias, loyalty and betrayal (and that’s just amongst themselves). 

The fifth Romney and Marsh File sees Dover CID taken to the outskirts of their jurisdiction, the edge of reason and the brink of self-destruction.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Particular-Stupidities-Romney-Marsh-Files-ebook/dp/B0105YO1F0/ref=sr_1_14?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1434977432&sr=1-14&keywords=oliver+tidy

http://www.amazon.com/Particular-Stupidities-Romney-Marsh-Files-ebook/dp/B0105YO1F0/ref=sr_1_9?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1434977659&sr=1-9&keywords=oliver+tidy

Particular Stupidities (R&M File #5)

    TAKING A LIFE IS EASY. GETTING AWAY WITH IT CAN BE MURDER.

TAKING A LIFE IS EASY. GETTING AWAY WITH IT CAN BE MURDER.

At last! Some proper writing news to report.

This week I have sent Particular Stupidities (R&M File #5) off to the gentleman who proofreads my books. I wasn’t sorry to see it go. It’s been hanging around at home for a few weeks – or is it months? – while I’ve dithered over things, left it, gone back to it, read it again, left it, gone back to it, read it again ad nauseum. But I am happy with it. That’s the main thing. I really am happy with it.

This is my tenth book. With the other nine I have just released them with a bit of blogging and tweetiing and posting on Facebook – wiped their bums and hoped for the best. I’m determined to make more of an effort shouting about this one prior to its release. I need to DO something by way of promotion over and above the usual. Every week – make that every day – there are dozens of new books being released as well as back catalogues of older books that have been brought out as ebooks from the original print version. The competition to be noticed has never been fiercer.

I have not tried the pre-order option with Amazon, but this time I think I might. As I understand it, the advantage for authors with this scheme is that an interested reader can click on a button – job done – and then get the ebook automatically delivered on the day of release as opposed to trying to remember the publication date and forgetting all about it. This way authors don’t lose readers and downloads. When I tweet and blog and post on Facebook readers who notice and are interested will be able to click that pre-order button and forget about it until the day the book shows up on their Kindle. Everyone’s happy.

Something else that occurs to me – why didn’t I consider using the pre-order function before? Dunce.

*

I was contacted by a very nice lady last week to see if I would be interested in completing an online interview for a magazine that has an interest in writers living and working outside their home nations.

http://thedisplacednation.com/

Naturally, I agreed. I spent much of the weekend staring at the blank screen trying to answer the questions. It was the closest I’ve come to experiencing writer’s block. I had no idea that I knew so little about my writing process. It was a bit of an eye-opener.

Here are the questions. I have a couple of writing buddies. I wonder how they would have tackled these.

Which came first, story or location? 

What’s your technique for evoking the atmosphere of a place? 

Which particular features create a sense of location? Landscape, culture, food? 

Can you give a brief example of your work which illustrates place? 

How well do you need to know the place before using it as a setting? 

Which writers do you admire for the way they use location?

*

So… what now? I remember reporting here recently that I was twenty-five thousand words into R&M#6 before I broke off for something I’ve forgotten. And then I started B&C #3 with an idea for an opening chapter. (I since took that up to ten-thousand words with a bit of a spurt. Another good start in the bank, I feel.) For now back to Romney and Marsh.

*

In B&C #3 David Booker laments the anti-social nature of jet-skis, which are permitted by local bylaws to spoil everything for everyone who wants to sit in peace and quiet and enjoy the view from Dymchurch seawall. As luck would have it, I was out with my son walking by the seaside in Istanbul last weekend when a couple of jet-skis came skimming noisily over the water in our general direction. They are an uncommon sight here. My son and I had been throwing stones at a football that was floating in the sea about twenty yards out. No one seemed to be claiming it. One of the jet-ski pilots saw the ball, diverted to it, stopped, fished it out of the sea, motored over to us and threw the ball to us with a smile. He thought we’d lost it. It was a good ball. And new. How kind that was.

Life is a bit strange sometimes.

Vanuatu, Vanuatu, wherefore art thou Vanuatu?

Sunday evening it was with a start that I realised I hadn’t written a blog post last week. I’m still not sure why. (It might have something to do with getting steamed on Friday night and consequently misplacing Saturday.) OK nothing happened in my writer’s life but that’s never stopped me from turning out a thousand words of forgettable ramblings. So that I don’t miss this week’s deadline I’m writing this one early.

Summer seems to have arrived in Istanbul. It’s hot. I’m in T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops when I’m not working. (I could happily live my life in T-shirts, shorts and flip flops.) The Ministry for Education have issued their yearly decree excusing gentleman teachers from wearing neckties. (That’s not something I can subscribe to. Don’t get me wrong I LOATHE NECKTIES but to go into a classroom without one… well I’d feel almost naked. It’s a professional thing. Yawn.)

I have been busy. I’m still wondering (and worrying) why I can’t find anything to change in Particular Stupidities R&M#5. There are only two possible answers to that: 1) It’s as good as it can be. 2) It’s not but I can’t see why. Maybe just one more look.

I blogged a little while ago about writing a ‘thin’ R&M File. (That’s a short story.) Over the last week I’ve made significant changes to it in line with some comments I got from a reader’s feedback. (I know one person who’s going to groan when they read that. No names – M.) But it’s better for the changes. I think. Something else that needs a fortnight in the ‘manuscript drawer’ and then another look. (It’s getting pretty crowded in there.)

Yesterday, Monday, I was struck with an idea for the opening of Booker & Cash #3. And with the idea came a good title: Waifs and Strays. Despite other pressing writing commitments, I couldn’t resist running off three thousand words for the first chapter and I like it. It’s nice to have a start under the belt, something to pick up when the opportunity presents itself. It was also great to get in touch with Jo and David again. I miss them. I miss Acer too. But I have R&M#6 that I must get back to.

Bottom line: it’s R&M that sell. (Hardly anyone seems interested in Booker & Cash or Acer Sansom these days. [Oh God, that seems like such a melodramatic ejaculation of self-pity. It’s honestly not. I’m trying to be objective. And when I say hardly anyone seems interested what I’m referring to is numbers of monthly downloads. It’s a fact that those two series of mine do not currently warrant the investment of my valuable and limited writing time when one considers the potential returns. {Oh double-God, now listen to me! I’m planning my writing according to statistics and financial returns. Aaaaargh!!!!! I’m just off to punch myself in the face of few times and try to remember why I started writing in the first place.}])

But there is a good reason that I now have to consider these evils. Pretty soon I’m going to be writing for more than just because I enjoy it. More on that in a future post.

Now and again my WordPress stats throw up an interesting gobbet of information. Today my blog has been viewed from Vanuatu – another of those far flung territories that I’ve never heard of. And I bet that 99% of people who hear the name will have the same reaction as me.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanuatu

The ground floor of the apartment building next door is occupied by a hairdressers. They have an African Grey parrot. Because the weather is fine the bird is outside in its cage during the day. I feel very sad when I see a caged bird. But there is nothing I can do about it. The bird in question makes a lot of noise. The noise is not unpleasant. It doesn’t screech. It continually mimics the calls of other exotic birds it must have had some significant contact with. (The noises don’t resemble anything I’ve heard in Istanbul.) It’s nice to have the window open behind me as I write. I hope the bird is not terribly unhappy.

On reflection, that final paragraph seems a bit allegorical. Am I a caged bird? Aren’t we all?

Caw caw…

R&M File #5 – A criminal study in aromatherapy.

PARTICULAR STUPIDITIES (Large)

My Vancouver jaunt is but a distant happy memory. My sleep patterns have returned to normal. My taste buds are in hibernation. I’m regular again. And my respiratory condition (known locally as Istanbul lung) is back.

This week I’ve knuckled down to some serious and intense work on Particular Stupidities R&M#5. I’m feeling confident that it hangs together well and that it is a worthy addition to the R&M Files. That’s really as much as I can ever hope for from new books in the series. I’ve been through it a couple of times and other than tightening up a sentence here and a paragraph there and fixing those English errors that I can see I don’t honestly know what else I can do with it. I’m a little concerned to be so… satisfied with it so quickly because usually I feel the need to go through my books at least five times before I’m approaching happy with them. It’s strangely worrisome that I feel good about it with so few run throughs.

Maybe I’ll leave it a week and read it again. Just to be sure.

I’ve been working on the blurb too:

The Particular Stupidities that blight Mankind litter this fifth Romney and Marsh File, which sees Dover CID taken to the outskirts of their jurisdiction, the edge of reason and the verge of self-destruction.

The sea and country air of the district has competition in this criminal study in aromatherapy. The pong of putrefied remains, the distillation of duplicity, the odour of opposition and the infusion of inanity combine to produce a pungent bouquet to clear the most congested of blocked nasal passages.

A rotting corpse is discovered in one of Kent’s old coal mining communities. In their search to uncover the identities of the victim and those responsible for the death and concealment of the body DI Romney and his team must confront and deal with issues of prejudice, bias, loyalty and betrayal (and that’s just amongst themselves).