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.
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…
… You can’t touch.
Over the last couple of years I think I’ve slowly started coming to terms with some of the unexpected side-effects which emerge when you put out a book. I’ll be honest, it’s taken me a while and, lowly part-known that I am, I can understand why those who are more famous often have a love:hate relationship with the internet and social networking sites.
This blog is probably the only part of my on-line portfolio that I have any real control over. By this I mean, in terms of content. Everywhere else is subject to random coincidence, semi-intelligent web-crawling programmes, industrial-scale marketing, the good side of humanity and sadly, on occasion, the worst side too.
This site is therefore the only place I feel confident enough to respond publicly to anything I see or read elsewhere. Yes: I’ll reply to Twitter direct messages, or to emails, but these are by nature quite private exchanges. Most importantly though: I have a policy of absolutely not responding to any book reviews I receive for Firebird or Thunder.
As far as I can tell – at least so far – this is turning into a good strategy…
Recently I’ve been lucky enough to spend a little time talking with some communications professionals. The context of these conversations was business-oriented but also interesting from a writer’s perspective. You see, business – as much as anyone else on-line – suffers from Trolls and the professionals’ consensus for dealing with these sorry souls was simply: ignore them.
Of course, downright illegal, threatening or abusive messages can and should be acted on – usually by a request for deletion of the offensive matter to the relevant web-site service provider. As for the rest of the sad-garbage, it’s most often an attempt to stimulate a reaction and, hence, gain a platform – i.e. to be noticed – and the recommended means to deal with this is to do nothing. With no fuel, the experts advise that the fire-starter will head off and try to make misery elsewhere.
Of course, on the rare times when I need to do this, I come away with my sense of justice feeling bruised and I have to work hard not to react and try to fight my own corner. This is tough but one thing helps me to get through it and stops me from posting something I know I’ll regret. And it’s one thing not even the smartest troll can feed off, something no one single individual could ever trace backwards. It’s one thing that adds value to me and yet vilifys the worst of them.
My one thing? Simple: I take any form of inflammatory or abusive feedback as a free insight into areas of human-nature which would normally be alien to me. A free insight which I can adapt, amplify and feed into my next bad-guy.
And anyone who’s read any of my work will know that the bad guys in my novels rarely enjoy much in the way of a happily-ever-after…!
[p.s. I’m off travelling for a while during March, so I apologise in advance if I seem slow in responding to comments or questions…! Cheers, AB]
To be … whatever you want to be!
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…!
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…
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
Apologies for a distinct lack of posts recently. I’ve been kept rather busy by the boring and mundane necessities of living a normal life and only being a part-time writer!
Nonetheless, I am cracking on in the background on the storyboard, character biographies and research for my next novel. Things are progressing nicely although, for the first time, I’ve realised that the scope of the tale is now definitely far beyond a single work. This is kind of tricky, and new ground for me. Whilst Firebird and Thunder are both written with open hooks for pre or sequels, the storyline I sat down with for each of them had a contained beginning, middle, and end. It was clear how much ground they’d cover. This is not the case with the new one. In fact, I’m scoping and storyboarding across what will likely be several manuscripts.
There is the option to write one, massive, blockbuster – but I’m not sure that the few fans I’ve got – or even I – have got enough patience to wait till I’ve finished it! So, as it is, I’m just marking up thoughts and ideas for later works and concentrating on honing the important components for at least a “Book One”.
It’ll be another sci-fi/fantasy/action and adventure mashup with possibly a tiny dash of UF just for the hell of it… Crazy? Maybe, but my objectives have and always will be to try to create stories that are a little bit off the beaten track!
Anyway, I also promised an update on how my pricing programme was progressing. Well at the moment, my jury is still out. Firebird does seem to be ticking over slightly more regularly at its price of 99c and Thunder is also selling the odd copy at my old base price. Recent weeks have seen a very slight upturn, but that might just be a seasonal effect. I’ll keep you posted as the months roll by.
To be honest, I’m way past thinking my books will ever earn me more than the odd pound or two and I’m genuinely excited and honoured whenever I see that someone has taken a punt to give one of them a go. And at least with slow sales I’m not under any pressure to pump out the next one!
And anyone daft, or masochistic, enough to want to publish a novel will no doubt have spotted it. However, just in case any budding book-reviewers are busy sharpening their critical pencils, the one in the title of this post is deliberate…
Anyway, what’s prompted this blog is a fascinating email I received about Firebird from Amazon last week which advised me, most helpfully:
There are typos in your book. You can see this error at the following Kindle location(s): 6548 … “An unusual number compared to the surrounding arid countryside.”
i.e. the sentence in quotations contains a typo…
Well, I looked and I looked…
And I looked some more…
‘This must be a real cracker of a typo,’ I thought to myself. ‘Not like that blistering, bold typeface, spelling mistake I just saw in the middle of XYZ [yep: my self-preservation instincts force me to refrain from naming of oft-offending but otherwise entertaining novel, and its perhaps-responsible professional publishing house]…’
So I tried reading each word out loud. First forwards, then backwards…
Nope. Still nothing…
Then I noticed that Amazon had kindly offered their erudite wisdom to aid me: poor illiterate that I am.
Anyone want to hazard a guess as to what I’d apparently got wrong?
Well, according to Amazon, my sentence should read:
“An unusual number compared to the surrounding and countryside.”
You may need to look carefully… I had to; before I laughed out loud…
I have, of course, not inserted the above, grammatically-incorrect and ill-advised text into my book… The word arid is welcome in my vocabulary, and it can stay just exactly where I’d carefully placed it in Firebird.
So, has this experience diminished my paranoia of all things typographical? Not a chance. My passion to eradicate any real mistakes I might find lurking somewhere on my pages remains indefatigable… Or as an Amazon proofreader would perhaps have it: in the fat gable…?
Typos, eh? I think they’re just the fingers’ way of keeping authors’ minds humble…