Category Archives: Books

Playstation Warning!

Well, I do like to keep myself busy …

It’s been quite a year, even by my reckoning: I’ve moved house, got engaged, changed jobs, fixed a fence, changed a roof, written a few thousand words, got a PS4, made L40 on Destiny and – to top it all – got married.

What I sadly haven’t done is blog, market, comment on friends sites (though I am still keeping an eye on you all!) or get quite as much of G’host written as I’d have liked.  Hopefully that will change in 2016 as my activities this year have actually simplified an otherwise very complex lifestyle.

G’host is coming along nicely, and the extra thinking time is helping to hone characters, develop plot lines and tune technical connections.  But writing full length novels is a mammoth task and, to stay true to my three main principles for writing, I need to make sure I’m enjoying what I do, when I’m doing it.  There’s no point otherwise.

As I love writing, there’s no doubt that G’host will creep closer to completion next year … the only risk is if the PS4 takes over!

Merry Christmas everyone …

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Fifty, not out…

It’s been a summer of semi-solid writing for me.  A little bit selfish on my part but worthwhile all the same and very enjoyable to boot.  So I’d like to offer a quick apology to my on-line friends for not seeming to be around much over the last couple of months.

I’d also like to say a big thank-you to the continuing trickle of new readers and especially those who’ve taken extra time to post reviews for Firebird and Thunder.  I’m really grateful for your encouragement.

So, how’s G’host coming along then?  Well, I’m satisfied with what I’ve managed over these last few weeks.  I’ve written around 15,000 words of draft which takes the base text to circa 45,000 words.  Allowing for edit, that’s about 40% of my target length.  Importantly, these 45,000 words are the opening and, for me, this always takes the longest.  Once the scenes are set, the key characters are in place and the main threads are initiated, the writing tends to feel like it’s all downhill from there.  That’s not to say the rest of the story will be easy.  Or that I won’t get bogged down or blocked from time to time.  It’s just that the start, for me, is always the longest part of the process.  Perhaps that’s because I’m a future-thinker and in my head I can always see where I’m going more clearly than where I am right now?  Perhaps this is just normal for writing?  Who knows?

And, on the subject of downhill from here, I suppose I should also mention that I’ve just turned fifty … Long pause … I’m not quite sure how this milestone crept up on me, or how I feel about it, but my friends and family have done a fabulous job of making sure I didn’t just ignore it! I’d like to thank them all for not allowing me to follow my normal routines and let it pass by unnoticed.

So this is where I am.  Fifty, not out … and still chipping happily away.

 

 

What’s in a Name?

Apologies for a lack of posts recently.  I’ve been concentrating on G’host for the last few weeks.

I find that summer is a productive time for my writing, especially during my holidays, so now is the time of year that I like to concentrate on getting as much as I can done, away from the normal distractions of work.

Anyone that’s written any lengthy piece will understand that keeping across the detail and content of a long document is a hard task on its own.  To help with this, especially when only being able to find time to write every few days, I use two separate supporting documents: a character biography and an executive summary.

The character bio is a spreadsheet with the character names across the columns and various facets of the character down the rows.  Facets include physical characteristics such as eye and hair colour but also include character, background, role and plot points.

The executive summary is a simple word table.  Each section of text is summarised into a few key bullet points and as I don’t generally try to write stories from front to back any more, the exec summary comes in very useful when I’m shuffling fragments into their final running order. It also enables me to more quickly get my mind back to where it was when I last finished tinkering.

Anyway, to the subject of this particular meandering post, I’ve just renamed one of the lead characters in G’host.  Bearing in mind that I’ve been contemplating this story for many years and actually chipping away at it for two, this is something of a big deal.  Well, for me at least!

It’s the right call though.  Both main body text and character bio did not “look” right.  I’d been searching and searching for an alternative and, to some extent, it had been stopping me from getting on with the writing.  But, I should have known better.  One moment, out of the blue, the answer just appeared in my head.  The new name works much better and, with a little bit of “find and replace” magic, the new name has now peppered itself across the manuscript.

The lesson: it’s amazing what the right name can do for a character.  So don’t be afraid to experiment with different ones if you need to!

Finally, thank-you to the readers who’ve recently posted reviews for Firebird and Thunder. Your kind words are, as always, greatly appreciated.

Three Years Later…

Firebird Front Cover (v5)And still learning.

When I published Firebird, in May 2011, I wasn’t sure what would happen. At the time I was simply bored of playing the traditional submissions-lottery with a book that was never intended to conform.

You see, there are no youthful wizards in Firebird.  Nor any tribal wars fought by teenagers.  There are no vampires, zombies or tortured Scandinavian policemen.  I deliberately set out to avoid convention and can imagine the reaction of the publishing houses when Firebird hit their desks: “Nope,” they would have been muttering, grimly shaking their heads, “this book’s not the same enough for us…”

Three amazing years later, I’m pleased I took the plunge.  I’m pleased that I released this tale of one extraordinary creature, and a handful of very ordinary humans, from its years of enforced incarceration on my hard disk drive.  Why?  Because there are clearly a great many readers who, like me, are on the lookout for something different.  Who enjoy change.  Who don’t mind if the next page is not as entirely predictable as the last.

So here I am: three years on, with two novels in circulation, both of which continue to be picked up by adventurous bookworms.  I always have and shall remain eternally grateful to everyone who dips into my writing.

Would Firebird look different if I wrote it again today?  The answer to that question is a resounding, yes.  There isn’t a single day that goes by when I don’t discover a new nuance of language, a new word, or a new technique I might be able to apply.  Would Firebird be any better if I rewrote it?  I doubt it.   There comes a time when too much tinkering destroys raw accessibility.  As far as I’m concerned, Firebird’s a done deal now.

Besides: I’ve got too many new stories to tell and, who knows, with the amount of spare time I have for writing, I might even finish one of them by the time Firebird is six…

‘Tis The Season…

To be … whatever you want to be!

Merry Christmas

❄❄❄ Merry Christmas! ❄❄❄

And on that basis, here’s a quick update on what’s been happening in my busy world over the last few weeks.

First off, I’ve managed to find a few fragments of time and done some more work on G’host.  Admittedly, not as much as I’d have liked, but some all the same.  I’m pleased about that, but also slightly disappointed that I’m not going to be able to post a scene from it, here, as a tribute for the holidays.

The scene I am working on suits the season very well and my idea to use it as a post is what inspired me to get back to the keyboard.  Unfortunately, inspiration can only get you so far, and tiredness from several months of long work days doesn’t facilitate good prose.  So the scene is coming along but is, sad to say, nowhere near ready enough for a public airing.

It is, however, nice to report that I’ve had some more, very nice, positive feedback from a number of readers over the last month.  This is always a real joy.  Thanks to anyone who’s ever offered encouragement to any writer: dark days haunt more than just winter months…

I could blather on about restarting my ski-fit regime in readiness for heading for the slopes next year, or about finally sorting my kitchen out after six years of putting up with randomly painted duck-egg blue walls but, as you can tell, it’s not exactly rock and roll news, and so I’m not going to waste any more of your precious seconds in the countdown to the big day…!

Rather, I’ll close by saying: to any stranger who happens past, and to all of my kind and wonderful friends, I wish you all a joyful Christmas and prosperous New Year.

See you in 2014…!

Chipping Away…

Summer holidays seem like a far distant memory already.  My day-job has been mad-crazy busy since the moment I returned to work and seems hell-bent on consuming every fragment of brain space I have available.  As a result, when I get home in the evenings, and even over the weekends, I’m exhausted.

Writing, for me at least, is not just about stringing together the first words that come into my head.  Nor just pumping out scene after scene on the basis they’re what I thought of next. For me, writing is something more like an enormously complex collage or jigsaw puzzle. Sections of text can be written, then carefully positioned, augmented, trimmed and shaped so that the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts.  Whether or not I’m any good at that is a matter of debate: most often between my various alter-egos and sometimes between my reviewers.  But the bottom line is that: I’m not going to rush my writing.

Anyway, despite my tiredness, I am still chipping away in the background on G’host.  I’ve added a few thousand words – mostly character and world introductions – and will keep at it through November whilst I try valiantly to ignore the annual roar of speed-written enthusiasm that NaNoWriMo will no doubt spawn across the on-line writing communities…

Back; Not Necessarily…

… in the land of the living.

Yes: I’m back from my holidays.  For the record, I only had a couple of cheap weeks on the beach and returned a while ago to the usual chaotic crash-dive of return-to-work-related issues.  To be honest, I feel like I need another break already!

But enough of that.  My holiday did exactly what I needed it to.  It cleared my head and, sitting on the beach, a little bit every day, I’ve somehow, amazingly, drafted over 25,000 words of my next story.

Being straight with you, I’m under no illusions that many of these draftings will end up in the recycle bin.  Equally, many sections will require considerable, relatively easy, expansions when I start pulling it all together into a comprehensive whole.

When I get some time, I’ll pull together a graphic like I did for Thunder, to illustrate progress. I have no idea whether any of my visitors find this useful but, hey ho, it does serve as a bit of self-stimulus to make sure I keep putting in the writing hours!

Anyway, I suppose I ought to get back to the somewhat abstract title of this post: it’s a veiled reference to the subject matter of the new novel.  I’m not going to reveal too much yet, but I can say that I’ve settled on the title…

The next book will be called G’host.

The Wild Blue, Yonder…

Time for me to vanish for a while.

For many months I’ve been wrestling with good and bad spirits, and now it’s time for me to put some dedicated effort into ensnaring them; in black and white.

I’m hopeful that a stretch of golden sand, some warm weather, blue skies and crashing surf will provide a suitably undisturbed backdrop for my notepads and meditations.

So wish me luck and see you soon…  :)  AB

The Numbers Game…

I’m not sure why, but there’s a seemingly endless fascination with rankings and chart numbers.  In certain circumstances, sports for instance, this all makes sense: it’s about competition and determining victory and there are a whole host of governing bodies to ensure fair play.  Charts are also considered helpful to indicate relative popularity but this kind of benchmarking is much less reliable and is liable to manipulation or abuse.  Of course, you might have guessed that the charts that I seem to be most fixated with are Amazon Sales Rankings.  I confess: I try not to look at them  but for some reason I can’t help it!  Anyway, I thought I’d share a little of what I’ve experienced about them over the last few years.

When I first published Firebird, back in 2011, the concept of ebooks was still very new.  Back then, Firebird would oscillate between the top 10,000 and top 100,000 books in both the UK and US Amazon charts.  At that time, the general author consensus was that if you were in the top 10,000 then that was a very good sign.

Nowadays, however, things have changed.  All of the major publishing houses have, to some extent, conceded to the ebook format and published their back catalogues.  Indie writers, good and bad, are pouring their wares into the e-marketplace and the trend of publishing shorter stories as “novellas” is not doing anything to reduce this literal tsunami.

So, two years on, Firebird is selling more strongly than ever – albeit that this means approximately two copies per week – but is now generally ranked as being between 100,000th and 200,000th.  A good day might see it spring up to a circa 30,000th slot but, within a day, it’ll drift back into its more normal resting place.

Thunder, despite having a lower overall circulation, is not too dissimilar.  It ranges between 200,000 and 500,000th.

Initially I was concerned about this.  Now I’m not.

I celebrate days when either book breaks the top 100,000 as this tells me that someone new has been kind – or perhaps crazy – enough to try out my efforts and I have settled into being satisfied that if my books are anywhere in the top million then that’s still pretty impressive considering the wealth of global competition they’re up against.

And who knows?  I may have to add even more zero’s to my benchmark in another couple of years!

That’s it, I’ve started…

Well my trip to Finland was, once again, extremely restful.  Except for the journey home where, somehow, I managed to damage my lower back on the way to the airport.  Eight hours of transit and tight connections later; I couldn’t even stand upright unassisted!  Ouch …

My doctor says, “Things like this happen, as you get older…”

Thanks, Doc.  That makes me feel much better…

Anyway, I’m pleased to report that I’ve made a start on the new novel and the opening pages – assuming I don’t shuffle things as I go – have been drafted.  Openings are vital for any piece of writing, particularly novels.  They need to drag readers in by the eyeballs and may, in the end, determine the entire success or otherwise of a story.  As a result, I try not to be too precious about the opening pages.  If I get a better idea later, I’ll swap stuff out.  Looking back, Firebird hasn’t got a ‘bad’ start but I think Thunder’s is better.  For me, I’m looking to stir up shock, confusion and to create intrigue from the get-go – although I don’t deliberately sit down and try to force this to happen – and recently I’ve been to paying more attention to missing things out, rather than putting them in…  In other words, I’ve noticed that a little deft cutting sometimes adds more value than a hundred extra words…

On another subject entirely, I noticed yesterday that Amazon have adjusted their pricing regimes again.  As a result, I’ve been able to reset Thunder’s pricing so that it’s a little bit lower than it’s been since publication.  Other authors might also want to check out the pricing policies in detail.  Certain country price points are lower than the US which, thanks to Amazon’s global price-matching rules, means that there’s a little bit of headroom to offer better deals for your readers (and for us to still get a few cents to contribute toward our next computer upgrades!).

Right, it’s time for me to go and enjoy the, highly unusual and probably short-lived, British sunshine…!

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