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.

*

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.

 

The dark side.

 

I was pecked (!) on twitter last week by a book promotion outfit. They offered help with promoting my book, obviously. It’s the first time I’ve been approached. They said to get in touch if I was interested. I emailed for details because I’m interested in the world of self-publishing and self-promotion. It’s good to know what goes on.

They offered the following:

Amazon, Goodreads or Barnes & Noble Review – £20 / $30 (Verified if the ebook purchase price is included for Amazon reviews) 

Like / Click up to 5 positive Amazon / Goodreads / B&N Reviews as Helpful, and up to 5 Negative Reviews as Unhelpful – £5 / $7.50

Vote your book onto and up on 10 Goodreads Lists – £10 / $15

Vote your book onto and up on 10 Goodreads Shelves – £10 / $15

Get your book rated by 100 separate Goodreads Accounts adding huge credibility to comments of reviewers and your own success as an upcoming Author to look out for – £100 / $150

Have a book review of your choice shared with over 12000 Facebook Followers and over 11000 Twitter Followers – £10 / $15

Multiples of all options are available. It depends only on how far you want your book to go.

There was a good deal of spiel with it. Like I say, it’s nice to know what goes on. And a bit saddening to know that you can quite easily buy yourself some credit, buy your way up the charts. I don’t know why I’m surprised, the principle is nothing new in business – you know: cheating. Maybe because it’s my chosen career path and I’ve just walked round a corner to find it’s strewn with litter.

*

I’ve learned something new about myself as a writer this week. When I finish the first draft of a book I suddenly become quite exhausted. I hadn’t understood that till this week. I’m the same with teaching. When I get to the first week of the summer holiday I invariably suffer with extreme tiredness. I think it must be to with the handbrake going on on the struggle: the struggle to spoon a story out of my brain on the one hand and the struggle to spoon-feed learning into the brains of young learners on the other. Draining. Yes. Drained is the word I’m looking for. I finish a first draft, I finish a school year and I’m drained. That’s what I learned about me the writer this week.

I finished the first draft of R&M#5 last weekend. Naturally, I’ve felt pretty drained all week. I started back at the beginning almost immediately. But because of my state of drainedness it’s been a tough few days on the grey matter. It’s really not easy to keep a whole book in your mind at once. Jumping backwards and forwards; did İ remember this; did I mention that; x has happened but is the build up there? How can that guy be dead in chapter three and having a phone conversation in chapter six?

But I quite enjoy this phase of writing a story. Things start feeling like they’re coming together. Reading back through I often come up with little asides and comments to drop in – a bit of embroidery. I’m not focussing on where the story is going because I’m already over the line. My mind is free to revel in the detail, to explore the cul-de-sacs of the narrative.

At present the book, Particular Stupidities, is 100,000 words. As I said before, it’s the longest R&M File so far. I’ve read it through once already. I like it. It’s made me laugh a few times, which I always take as a good sign.

I ordered the cover yesterday. Another step along the way.

*

Last week I mentioned making an enquiry on Goodreads. It evolved into something of a thread as it went off at a tangent with other posters’ thoughts and questions. A few people have weighed in on the direction it’s taken. And then they’ve started weighing in on each other. I nearly got involved (it’s my thread after all) but I’m glad I didn’t. Jeez! These people end up at each other’s throats. I have opinions and experiences to share, I really wanted to, but I’ll be keeping them to myself. I have enough angst in my life.

https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/2241246-star-ratings?page=1

Work smarter not harder.

There goes another week of my lives – my real life and my second, authorial life. Even though I’ve extended my ‘waking’ week by ten hours compared to last year, my lives seem to be flying by quicker than ever.

I remember being concerned that the new job would take its toll on my second life, my writing life. It’s not turned out that way, yet. I’m still managing to get a couple of hours a day in front of the computer. Something I hadn’t factored into this year is my son starting Kindergarten full time. He’s not getting the lunch sleep he was and his new routines are obviously taking it out of him. Consequently, he’s usually sparko by eight instead of last year’s half-nine, which means I get to slump at the writing table that much earlier.

This week, I’ve been working on Booker and Cash #2. I’ve read the ‘finished’ first draft through twice making alterations as I go. All I ever want from the books I write in each of my three series is that each subsequent title is considered a worthy addition to that series by readers who’ve enjoyed them. I think that B&C #2 meets that success criterion.

Started and quit three more ebooks this week on the commute and was reminded of last week’s reading lesson for me as a writer. Each was a freebie for a few days as the author or his/her agents did some promotional work. Each is by an author with either their own tame agent/publisher, a load of great reviews on Amazon and high chart places for other books of theirs, or both.

I’ve only read two authors lately who’ve sucked me into their stories from the first pages. Neither author would claim to write erudite prose, I’m guessing, but both of them have a writing style that is so easy to read. And they write engaging stories, of course, which is surely what it’s all about.

Work threw up something this week that has me a little excited. We had four brand new table-tennis tables delivered. I last seriously picked up a bat over twenty five years ago. I used to play a lot. When I was a junior I represented Kent. (Only once and I lost both my games, but I literally got the T-shirt). So I toured the academic departments today looking for anyone who reckoned they could play a bit. I want to get back into it. And it turns out that one of the men in the PE department was representing Turkey internationally only five years ago. He’s promised to take it easy on me.

Now, I’m going to try something. I wonder how it will turn out. It’s really only for my own amusement, so you might as well go and get on with something important, if you haven’t already done so.

Today is a pivotal day in the history of the UK. I’m going to make it a significant date for me too. I’ve mentioned before that I’m going to try writing in another direction – something that is not a crime novel. I haven’t written a word of it yet, but I’ve been giving it some thought and I’ve done some research. I’m going to start it this evening because the date has a special significance. What will tickle me greatly is that if I manage to finish the project I will be able to say quite truthfully that I wrote the first sentence, thereby getting the project under way, on the 18th Septemeber, 2014.

And here it is, provisionally and for posterity.

‘Will someone please tell me exactly how the fuck that happened?’

(It amuses me that I’m killing two birds with one stone here: I’m writing my next book and I’m churning out another blog post. Work smarter not harder.)

A slow news week.

 Get it?


Get it?

This is my writer’s diary. Because it’s a diary I have to make weekly entries. It’s that kind of diary. The entries must have something to do with my second life as a writer. Sometimes there is not much to report to myself.

I have been working on the first draft of Booker & Cash #2. I reported last week that I’d ‘finished’ the story and now I’ve gone back to the beginning. Reading and pruning.

I’ve blogged about my new commute ad nauseum. It’s funny what you get used to. I suppose that’s one of the things that makes the human race so successful. We can get used to pretty much anything and life goes on; we adapt and get on with it. I’ve been using the hour and a bit each way to do some reading on my Kindle. Naturally, being a tight git, I downloaded as many free titles as I thought would appeal to me. Verdict? A mixed bag. I’ve had some good reads but several of them I’ve only given about 10%, and that includes all the necessary guff before the opening chapter. It’s given me a lesson though. In the ebook era when 1000s of titles can be stored on a device it is crucial to hook the reader early. It’s just too easy for people with short attention spans, like me, or too little reading time in their lives, like me, or a virtual mountain of ebooks waiting to be read, like me, to tap a button and move on the next freebie in search of something… sufficiently engaging. I wonder if I would be so intolerant if I only had physical books to read. Probably not. Probably I’d give the books more of a chance.

I did read one brilliant book this last week: 1984 by George Orwell. I’ve been meaning to read it for years and found it online as a PDF document being offered for free. The guy was a prophet. But more than that (and the man’s creative genius of aside), based on the evidence of this book, he was, in my humble opinion, simply a brilliant writer. Full stop. Loved it.

Something else I’ve been doing over the last few weeks is some research for a new series of books I think I might move on to next. I brought half a dozen reference books back from the UK after the holiday and I’ve been working my way through them. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, although I often enjoy it when I do. To be reading books in the name of research for a fiction book I want to write has brought an extra tickle to the reading experience. I think that as soon as I have He Made Me how how I want it, I might make a start. I have the opening scene in my head.

Oh, and this week I got in touch with the nice man who does my covers asking for one for He Made Me. Looking forward to seeing how he realises the fairly scant information I provided for this one.

Interesting statistic for the week: as I write, Rope Enough has 666 reviews on Amazon.co.uk. Ominous?

Best wishes to all.

 

 

Fame at last…

 

Amazing what they sell in Mothercare these days. Cross my heart. I took this pic on my phone at my local branch. (Of course they have Mothercareless in Istanbul.)

Amazing what they sell in Mothercare these days. Cross my heart. I took this pic on my phone at my local branch. (Of course they have Mothercareless in Istanbul.)

Part 1:

This week I found myself in the same room as David Hewson, (Mark?) Billingham, (Val?) McDermid and (Steve?) Mosby, among others, all traditionally published writers of fiction who’ve done quite well for themselves. And I wasn’t dreaming. It’s probably the only time I’ll be rubbing shoulders with such company. And who do I have to thank for this? Stephen Leather, another big name and hugely successful writer of fiction. What am I going on about?

I was recently alerted by a cyber chum that she’d come across my name in a short story by Stephen Leather in his book of short stories: More Short Fuses. (I’m assuming it’s me. If my name were John Smith I probably wouldn’t leap to such conclusions, but, as far as I’m aware, I’m the only Oliver Tidy on the planet – I’ve looked – and Stephen Leather has dropped by and commented on my blog before so he’s come across the combination of my first and surname.)

What chuffed me as much as anything was that I’m an SPN (self-published nobody) and all the others are ‘names’. Yeah, I know, he’s just come across a name on the Internet and used it because he’s written so many books with so many characters and, like me (even though I haven’t written so many books with so many characters) he probably struggles for new names from time to time. But still.

It’s pretty surreal to read your name in a story that’s been written by a somebody in the industry. The story was an enjoyable read with a good twist and he didn’t cast me as a paedophile (which I was worried about when the role call of authors (allegedly) was unveiled because if memory serves there might have been some online argy-bargy with at least a couple of them and Mr Leather). All in all a positive experience. Maybe one day I can return the favour.

Part 2:

I have good news for myself this week: I’m pretty staggered to report to myself that I have finished the first draft of my second Booker & Cash story. It seems like only last week I was worrying about reading through the half of it what I wrote before the summer holidays and not really remembering much of what I was reading.

Things came back to me, I had a few sessions of staring at the monitor wondering how the hell I was going to straighten things out but ideas occurred and I’m really quite happy with how it feels.

At just under seventy thousand words, it’s a little shorter than the first one, which was eight-five thousand words, but if the story has run its course I don’t believe in padding it out just for padding it out’s sake.

I remember I had a bit of a struggle finding a title for the first B&C. Not so with this one. I’ve had it, I think, from the beginning and I’m still happy with it, especially its ambiguity. It shall be called He Made Me.

In the spirit of generating some reader interest for the forthcoming release of this title I have decided to release the first word of the first sentence of the first chapter. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Chapter 1

Of…

(I know. It’s exciting, isn’t it? Next week: word two. Oooh, I’ve just had an idea for anyone that wants to play: guess the sentence. Each week I can release another word in the first sentence and if a reader wants to have a stab at guessing the sentence, and gets it right, I can provide a prize. I still have lots of signed photographs left. Lots and lots, actually. Not the demand for those that I anticipated. No limit to the number of guesses and entry is free! What an innovative and simple way to get folks in a tizz of anticipation.)

My ‘author year’.

Writer’s diary: stardate: 26.06.2014

Less than two years into my self-publishing adventure, and already I have established my ‘author year’. And why not? Other walks of life have the calendar year, the financial year, the fiscal year, the budget year, the sporting year and the academic year, for examples.

My ‘author year’ runs from September 1st to June 31st. Because I said so. And I’m in charge. Decisions have to be made and the buck stops with me.

First week of July we are heading back to the UK for the summer for the holidays. And if the weather can manage what we had last summer it will be another wonderful break, I’m sure. If you have never been to Dymchurch beach on a fine summer’s day you’ve missed something special.

In the UK my home is a two minute walk from the beach. Perfect for my three year old boy to commute to and play safely on.

Here is a snap from last year if you don’t believe me. (It’s worth clicking on it for the full-screen effect.)

Halcyon days in The Children's Paradise.

Halcyon days in The Children’s Paradise.

I won’t be hauling my laptop with me because that might tempt me to try to find time and space to write. I want to write. I love writing. I will miss writing. But I also want to enjoy my holiday with my family. If I take my laptop there will be a temptation and I don’t want the conflict to threaten my family holiday. Don’t forget I also have a day job; I need a break from everything, too. (There is no regular Internet connection for me back home, but I’ll try to keep up with correspondence on my trips with the ipad to Wi-Fi zones.)

I anticipate doing a lot of reading. There is a charity bookshop in Dymchurch which always has shelves of good and reasonably priced paperbacks for sale. How I’ve missed browsing bookshops. I anticipate long mornings reclining on the golden sands in The Children’s Paradise under the sea wall enjoying the sun and a good ‘real’ book while my son amuses himself on the beach.

This last ‘author year’ I self-published two books. Bad Sons and A Dog’s Life. I’ve also written the third in my Acer Sansom series, Smoke & Mirrors. I won’t get that out now until I return to Istanbul. It would have been good to, but it’s not ready, it needed extra work and still needs more. One of the great things about being a self-publisher is that there are no deadlines. When it’s ready and I’m happy, I’ll click publish. My apologies to any who were perhaps looking forward to this title for a summer read, but I’m sure you understand.

I’ve made a good start on the second B&C but I’m going to have to shelve it until I return. I had hopes of at least finishing the first draft before we head home but I forgot to factor in the World Cup to my ‘author year’. Watching three matches a night in my time zone is taking its toll on my creativity and energy. Again, it’s a choice and one I’m happy to make.

My realistic predictions for the next ‘author year’ are not particularly encouraging, but it’s best to face up to them and get used to them rather than live in denial. That won’t be helpful, and life can be tough enough without creating additional pressures for oneself.

I start at a new school in September. I’ve walked to work for the last five years and that’s been worth its weight in gold to me as an author and a human being. The new job is an hour’s commute away…by bus. The fact that I’ve done that to my working day is a reflection of how bitterly disappointed I have been with the new administration at my ‘old’ school this year. I’m leaving behind some wonderful colleagues and brilliant students. I’m also leaving behind a position and routine that provided me the opportunity to find time to write. I don’t anticipate that at my new school I’ll find half the time I had here.

Those familiar with this blog will know that I started writing when I came to Turkey five years ago. I’ve written eight books while I’ve been working at this school. (Not during lessons, of course, I mean in my time here.) I can still remember banging away on the first Acer Sansom – the first book I wrote – on the school computer, which kept crashing, in the old staffroom in my free periods. Before I started carrying my laptop to school every day I was always trying to find a computer that worked to practice my hobby. There probably isn’t a computer here that doesn’t have a chapter or two of something I’ve written on its hard-drive. I feel quite nostalgic about the technology here, which is quite appropriate seeing as most of it is from another age.

On top of my new working life, my son is growing up – he was three this week – and becoming  more demanding. Like Elton sang about Mars, Istanbul is not a place to raise your kids. We live in an apartment, which, like most apartment blocks in Istanbul has no play area or garden to speak of. The nearest park to us is a twenty minute speed-walk away. My usual routine is to come in from work, put his reins on him and go there for an hour or two each evening after school. (Coming from a rural area, I can’t bear to think of him not having the space and opportunity for outside play in his day.) This coupled with my new commute, I can see myself getting less time to write at home in the evenings and weekends. I won’t ignore my parental responsibilities with him just so that I can write. I wouldn’t want to. It’s a choice I’m happy to make.

This will be my last blog-post for the ‘year’. That’s something else I won’t be killing myself over while on holiday.

I’d like to take this seasonal opportunity to offer my sincere and heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all my readers for their interest, downloads and support of my writing. It’s worth repeating: writers are nothing without readers. I’d also like to say a public and huge thank you to Martin, my gentleman friend, who has worked with me on the Acer books, the fourth R&M and the B&C. Through his diligent proofreading and editorial suggestions my writing has achieved a much more polished and professional finish – absolutely necessary as a self-publisher if one is to continue to attract readers and maintain their interest.

Have a great summer everyone and I look forward to further communication with you all next ‘year.’

Smoke and Mirrors – Acer Sansom #3

Smoke and Mirrors 0602 (Medium)

Yeah, OK, I know it’s a bit ‘in your face’ size-wise, but for its first showing I think that’s allowable.

I really like the covers for all of my books. I have no regrets or what ifs regarding any aspect of any of them. I think the fellow who does my cover design does a great job. While we’re at it, he’s very easy to work with, very reasonably priced, happy to listen to suggestions and make any number of revisions to pander to the ‘creative’ input of me. He is Kit Foster you can find him here: http://www.kitfosterdesign.com 

I think that professional cover art is one of the most important aspects of ebook publishing. As Kit says on his website…because we all judge a book by its cover. I think he’s right. I’d also add that you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

In his best-selling book Blink Malcolm Gladwell looks at the power of spontaneous responses – judging from first impressions. He coins the phrase ‘thin-slicing’ to describe one’s ability to make a rapid judgement based on a small amount of data.

Data doesn’t come much smaller than a thumbnail image. It’s the bait, the lure, the enticement. When they’re all lined up together you’ve got to encourage the reader to click on you out of dozens of possibilities. And if your cover screams professionally produced, among other things, then probably readers will feel some assurance that the rest of the book will meet a production expectation. (I wouldn’t be surprised if the inverse was true.) At least they might be encouraged to read the blurb, or try the ‘Look Inside’ feature, maybe look at other readers’ comments.

I feel like showing all three of my Acer covers. So I will.

Dirty Business Final (Large)    Loose Ends Final (Large)    Smoke and Mirrors 0602 (Medium)

This week, writing wise, I’ve been  working on Smoke and Mirrors. I had some editorial suggestions to respond to. It’s the most work I’ve had to do on a book I’ve written. I agree that the book needed the work. I’ve since read it again and I’m sure it is better for it. And I wasn’t chopping passages out, I was shoring them up. I added another couple of thousand words.