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Sunday 15 December 2013

Why do I do it?

One day I'm going to... Then November comes around and the challenge hits you between the eyes. OK, so one day... today is that day. The First of November starts National Novel Writing Month; a day of hope and trepidation for anyone who has ever thought of writing a novel. A whole month of creatively splurging words across whatever typeface you are working at; paper, screen, Ipad, Android and  all wrapped in a tidy package. Thirty days to reach the target.
Why? What is it that encourages myself and thousands of others to sign up and squirrel another workload into already busy schedules at the time of year when the decorations are starting to appear for Christmas; as carols and Christmas songs begin to drift through the speakers in the shopping malls and supermarkets like an aerosol drug designed to loosen the bonds on wallets and purses.
It's the challenge, the taunt of come on then, come and have a go if you think...you have it in you. The pressure  of the words and the daily tally, 50,000 in 30 days is the sort of pressure that crushes doubt in a mad frenzy of scribbling, typing or both. Can you hold the mental,  creative and imaginative threads together long enough. Can you mix the stamina and bloody minded determination to see it through, cross the 50,000 word line within the 30 days and watch the validation screen flag up a winner; or still be in there when the clock ticks 11.59.59 on the 30th and see the figures change to 00.00 Dec 1, battling onwards.
Does anyone really lose with NaNoWriMo, or is it the real win-win scenario.  The challenge pits you against your strongest and meanest opponent, who knows all your temptations, weakness, and strengths and exactly how to undermine you; and you have your greatest ally with the same information, and the twist? They are the same; you!
That's the winner; you arrive at the end of the month having learnt something about yourself, and you have tasted what it must be like to write professionally, a daily workload, a climbing word count drawing towards a fateful The End where the story pauses, most of the loose ends tied up, but with an opening perhaps to lead the story arc into a sequel and beyond.
I was asked what NaNoWriMo means to me, and I chewed over the answer for a couple of weeks. It was a release, a confirmation of a way of doing things. There are two main personalities in National Novel Writing Month, plotters and pantsters, the question is where are you when the clock strikes midnight and the writing begins. Are you surrounded by plots and plans or unfettered by detailed preparation and plunge in, writing by the seat of your pants, winging it through the days towards the December deadline.
I go for writing by the seat of my pants,  I tried the planning and plotting but it felt like I was puling in two directions; bashing myself over the head with plot it, plan it and then write it only to find that when the characters found their own voice I was completely stuffed, they had read the notes and were determined to do anything except what the plot-line demanded. 
I wanted to go straight in and tell the story, see it unfold before my own eyes so the words dancing across the page were new and fresh to me. 
NaNoWriMo's uncluttered approach felt right, here was a bunch of people fired by enthusiasm and, apparently, caffeine with the nerve to go for it. Careering along a storyline waiting to see what the characters would do next is invigorating and scary! 
Make your characters believable and believe what they are telling you, it's their story, they live in the world of your imagination, but you are not in control of them,. Respect and they will respect you, and hopefully give you a story worth telling learn to trust what they are saying. Storytelling is a natural part of being human, so why make it unnecessarily difficult. If the Novel is intimidating, look at yourself as a  storyteller and be part of that great and ancient tradition, there have been storytellers, sat around  wood fires in ancient camps and propping up the woodwork in hostels and public houses for centuries, millennia, or multiples of both.,.
Writing is part of day to day life, too long without scribbling and I start to feel edgy and uncomfortable, and I go back to the typeface. The deadline of NaNoWriMo gives me a much needed boost, naturally it kicks the word count into orbit, but the confidence that I can meet the pressure and have the commitment to see it through without sweating about the details; just getting the story down in any shape ready be knocked about and rebuilt where necessary is welcome.
Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo and author of "No Plot, No Problem" cites the deadline as the writer's most powerful tool, the Damocles' sword hanging over the keyboard. It works for me, focusing the mind and boosting concentration, and NaNoWriMo? 
Ancient cave paintings were the visual aids to storytelling and the themes are eternal, and for me National Novel Writing Month is a reminder that however solitary writing can be,, I am not alone, there are literally hundreds of thousands of people with something to say through the medium of the story. Whether plotting the minutest detail, winging it with half a wing missing and an engine shot away, literally on a wing and a prayer. Whatever your first line, Once Upon A time, in the beginning, it was a dark and stormy night, the scream shattered the night and his blood ran like ice through his veins. Be the storyteller and leave the day to day, step into the eternal and explore; travel in time and space, past, present and future - not necessarily in that order - or look at your own backyard through another pair of eyes.

NaNoWriMo is over for this year, but I'll be there next October waiting for the clock to strike the hour and shift the calendar from October the 31st to the 1st of November. I won't be alone, and if you chose to make the journey for yourself for the first time or for a return visit; travel well my friend. 

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Been there, done it.. tee shirt thingy

With three and a bit days left the word count tumbled over the 50,000 mark and the validation screen verified the total (50188).
Result: The Obedience of Fools is a NaNoWriMo winner, 2013. (See picture thingy below)

The story isn't finished, obviously, the tale will continue to unfold over the next few weeks, perhaps a month or two, and then the polishing starts. Check it out at smashwords and keep up with the action, the text will be updated in the next couple of days. 

Sunday 10 November 2013

Fresh in today...

New material for the Obedience of Fools, this year's NaNoWriMo entry, updated and free to download. Very much a work in progress and a happening event, I think the plot took a twist I wasn't expecting, now we'll have to see what happens next...

Check out the links and the stats via cheekyseagull,co,uk, on the page for The Obedience of Fools.

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Obedience of Fools - NaNoWriMo 2013

Alfred Burke was part of an Urban legend, engines retired from service and put into cold war storage, back up for when the worst case scenario became a reality. Others had their own agenda and the legacy of their work creates a threat as real today as when the Black Fives disappeared. A mystery that has lingered like the last wisps of the steam engines he worked with, and just as difficult to grasp, but he knows what happened and that makes him useful and valuable.

He has hidden the secret where it may be found if you know what you are looking for, to see it you must believe, and if you believe you will see it.

Less scrupulous parties want the information and don't care how they get it. Steel and Josie in the thick of it again iAlfred Burke was part of an Urban legend, engines retired from service and put into cold war storage, back up for when the worst case scenario became a reality. Others had their own agenda and the legacy of their work creates a threat as real today as when the Black Fives disappeared. A mystery that has lingered like the last wisps of the steam engines he worked with, and just as difficult to grasp, but he knows what happened and that makes him useful and valuable.

He has hidden the secret where it may be found if you know what you are looking for, to see it you must believe, and if you believe you will see it.

Less scrupulous parties want the information and don't care how they get it. Steel and Josie in the thick of it again in a race to uncover the secret.n a race to uncover the secret.

Click on the link and keep up with the action

Just published - Obedience of Fools

This years NaNoWriMo entrant, The Obedience of Fools has just been published at smashwords.com here, a work in progress and free to download during November. Follow the link and grab yourself a piece of the action

Thursday 31 October 2013

Ten minutes to start...

The Obedience Of Fools...and the guidance of wise men, taken from a quote attributed to the fighter ace Douglas Bader, and this years entrant in National Novel Writing Month.

With what appears to be the right paperwork, what could you get away with?

Let's find out...

Follow the story as it unfolds via Smashwords and keep up with the latest word count here and at Nanowrimo.

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Kobo - back on its feet

The lost links between my website at cheekyseagull.co.uk and Kobo appear to have been reinstated, the books are once more available for your Kobo device. Iceline is here and here is Control: Escape.

Pop along and have a look, grab yourself a slice of the action!

Sunday 27 October 2013

Imagination to the power of...

Do you think NaNoWriMo is craziness squared, 50,000 words in 30 days, OK, shift the perspective and walk another path. Imagine this; you are the guide at a historic building somewhere. A place where history and the personal stories of people ooze from the walls.
The mission, should you accept it, is to tell those stories and unfold that history in a lively entertaining way, to draw the visitors in and hold their imagination with your words. There is no rehearsal, you go live with one chance, this will be your first and only draft. It is a different group of people every time you open the door.
Your talk will last at least an hour, perhaps an hour and a half, at between ninety and a hundred and ten words a minute.
No notes, just the prompts from the things around you. You are passionate about it and once you start the words flow freely. Work an average, 100 words a minute for 75 minutes, 7500 words. That's a little less than one seventh of NaNoWriMo in an hour and fifteen minutes.
The challenge is fifty thousand words in thirty days.
Now tell me that my first draft should be anything less than my best.
Write your first draft as though it was your last.

Friday 25 October 2013

Caught on the horns

Definitely didn't expect this. A month ago I was struggling to pull together an idea for NaNoWriMo, then The Duck Test began to formulate and for want of any other choices I decided to go with it,  until yesterday morning when a story I had been thinking about over a year ago suddenly clicked and The Obedience of Fools took over from the Duck Test. I'm not giving up on the Duck Test, but at the moment Obedience of Fools has the edge.
The title is a quote attributed to the British WW2 fighter ace, Douglas Bader, commander of the Duxford wing in the Battle Of Britain. A double amputee who challenged authority to get back in the air when war broke out in 1939 and said that  "rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men."
Come 0001 on the 1st of November, I may just toss a coin in the air and see how it lands. Heads for foolishness and tails for ducks should settle the question.
A ridiculous way to start a novel or in the spirit of NaNoWriMo? Instead of No Plot, No Problem, two to choose from, disobeying the rules of novelliing - they're really guidelines - and flying by the seat my pants, Nano style.
Follow the story as it unfolds through the month at Smashwords NaNoWriMo page, keep up with stats at NaNoWriMo
Stick around and be part of the action.

Sunday 20 October 2013

Still counted out, and counting down

Kobo is still listing Iceline and Control Escape as unavailable, W H Smith links are broken and will be fixed when the chaos is sorted out. The  W H Smith website is back on-line but without self-published titles.

However, Iceline can be accessed on other links and is available at smashwords for $0.99 with the code KF94R and likewise for Control Escape   at $0.99 with code SG33N, the codes are valid until the 1st of November, when this years Nanowrimo kicks off and I plunge into The Duck Test and thirty days of creative spontaneity.

Check out the Nanowrimo page at smashwords when it goes live and follow the word count on Nanowrimo and at cheekyseagull.co.uk.

The story goes on, grab a piece of the action.

Thursday 17 October 2013

K.O. bo

David Gaughran has a considered response to the events involving WH Smith and Kobo in the UK and Victoria Strauss at Writer's Beware has a good resume with links to various articles including The Kernel. Both are worth reading.

If the newspapers in question could find the offensive title with such apparent relative ease it does beg the question why the sites involved failed to monitor their content. As David Gaughran reports in his piece, most of the titles involved have no erotic content whatsoever, and I agree with his sentiments.

Kobo hopes that the majority of it's catalogue will be back on-line - minus any offending titles - by Saturday the 19th of October. Kobo's and WH Smith's reaction was the most extreme, Barnes & Noble have removed similar titles from their stores. A follow up in the Telegraph has more detail and comments from Mike Serbinis, Kobo's chief executive.

On my bookshelf I have a copy of Iceline under its original title of Bark At Thunder. A Christmas present from a very good friend who read the first draft of the story and unbeknown to me and in collusion with others found a way of having it printed and bound. He handed it over with the hope it would encourage me to go further with it. I have no idea how closely the contents of the book were checked, you paid your money, picked the stock cover depending on the genre and the finished volumes were then posted out.

Following the story in the Daily Mail and others two of my own novels distributed to Kobo through smashwords have been culled and can no longer be found on the sites in question,  however, Iceline (previously Bark At Thunder) and Control Escape are available directly  through Smashwords.

Add the code KF94R for Control Escape and SG33W for Iceline and pick them up for 99c each.

Sunday 13 October 2013

Remember, Remember

Remember, Remember, the first of November;
complete loss of reason and plot
No characters or story,  a vain lust for glory,
its Nano time, give it a shot!

Tuesday 1 October 2013

All in one basket!

Not eggs, books!

Smashwords created the series page a couple of weeks ago, announcing its arrival via the smashwords blog. A convenient spot where books belonging together can be found together, brilliantly simple.

Iceline and Control Escape are now tucked together as the first two novels of The Grange series. What You Ask For will join them in due course, along with subsequent books in the series.
For the next month, from now until Hallowe'en. The night before Nanowrimo 2013 kicks off on November 1st, Iceline is free with the code XX74J and Control Escape has code QS72V to make it free.

Sunday 15 September 2013

That time of year again!

It has to be true, halfway through September and the Halloween goblins are locked in a bitter struggle for shelf space with the Christmas fairy and the oddly leering Santa who looks like a resprayed Leprechaun left over from a drunken St Pat`s Day where the black stuff flowed like the Liffey through Dublin.

The headlong crash through the Autumn months towards the Christmas season has begun, the slippery slope is oiled and the ball is rolling. Right now, who cares, Grange Four (Work in Progress, tagged not titled) has made a faltering start and will probably be dumped  on the 1st of November when Nanowrimo comes a-calling once more and with it the tense countdown to the witching hour. At midnight on Halloween when the clock strikes and the keyboards start to clatter with the rattling dance of fingers whatever skeletal dance macabre is going on outside will be pushed aside as imaginations the world over leap into their own frenzied state. Woe betide any supernatural beastie that tries to interrupt that moment; it will be death by flash-drive at fifty paces.

Nanowrimo again, 50,000 words in thirty days and at the moment I have either too many ideas or my head is empty. That's what it is all about, if you think about the core of Nanowrimo it makes no sense, everything is wrong, completely and utterly wrong, and that is exactly what makes it right. So absolutely beautifully wonderfully right.

Am I going to do it again, yes, YES, YES!

 So you have a shortage of ideas, spend an hour or two in the pub and listen to the conversations around you. Don't read a book, read two books, maybe three and stare at the ceiling for hours, do whatever it takes to get the imagination working again.

Challenge yourself, if you`re still waiting for that "One day I'm going to write a novel" then make a date. Wine it. dine it, romance it and lavish your time and attention on it.  It will be beautiful and by the end of the month you will ant to spend more time with and see the work done. 50,000 words maybe more, thousands more, a story told and a story to tell of how you rose to the challenge and wrote your novel.

When the dust settles into December and the frost leaves its fingerprints on the windows, the rings on the coffee mug can be counted to track your progress through Nanowrimo you can tell the story of how you went there, did it and got the winner's tee shirt. The one that says it all; 50,000 Words 30 Days and 0 Excuses.

Last year's effort; What You Ask For, is available as a free download. Still undergoing the proof reading and editing. The cover art needs a good look at too, but help yourself, follow the link and if you have any feedback use the contact box on this site or via website at www.cheekyseagull.co.uk.

So I've just shot my mouth off about Nanowrimo 2013, opened it wide and inserted one or both feet? The bottom line is the same.

50,000 words, 30 Days, 0 Excuses.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Who's the hero?

The scene is familiar, shelf after shelf of books, brand spanking new books, never opened and straight out of the box. Slowly working your way through the rank and file of literature laid out for your inspection and every one you pick up, you put it back; why?

The Blurb, I can't help it, as soon as I read the words ex-whatever, and it is usually one of the elite special forces familiar to us all I lose interest. Don't get me wrong, I have enormous respect for the standards and achievements of special forces, especially those serving with HM forces at home and overseas. I know they are special, very special.

When the manuscript of Iceline was handed back after the first reader had finished with it he said it read like a combination of Jack Higgins and John Buchan. I took that as a compliment, they are writers I have admired and enjoyed for many years. Buchan's "The Thirty Nine Steps" was on the edge of my mind while I was writing Iceline. I'm not sure how many times I have read it, it isn't a long book, but the action never stops from the moment Richard Hannay hears the tale of his unknown visitor.

Hannay is the key, both to the Thirty Nine Steps and to the way the Grange works, he is you and me! A mining engineer, bored out of his skull with the social whirl and on the brink of chucking the whole lot and heading off in search of another adventure, then adventure kicks open the door and crashes in - come and have a go!

He isn't a trained agent, anything but, but he's quick, intelligent, he has life experience and can handle himself. Richard Hannay is a sort of Everyman hero, you or I could reasonably slip into his shoes and take the journey he does.

That's where the idea of The Grange starts, any one of the team could be you or me, we all have our talents and given the chance to rise to the occasion would probably give it a go and discover something about ourselves we didn't know...

Steel, Langhers, Josie, even Hannah with her finger on the Morse key, none of them have a military background, but they all have that something Jardine spotted and brought out. He created the Grange to develop teamwork and individual thinking. Initiative or whatever you want to call it - he wouldn't call it blue-sky thinking;to him that's a vast blue emptiness with nothing going on. Bill Jardine would consider membership of the Cloud Appreciation Society, clouds are a sign of activity on a grand scale. Just what he's looking for, along with the necessity of paying his way.

A group of ordinary people working in an unusual situation, all it needs to bring out that something extra, and the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

Teamwork, flexibility and initiative, looking for that edge to keep the show on the road. Check out the team at the Grange in the first three Grange Novels, Iceline, Control:Escape and What You Ask For ( WYAF is still in the raw draft stage, free to download.)

Friday 16 August 2013

You couldn't make it up

Pretty much an ordinary day really, plodding through the routine of the day job and fell into conversation, and a story unfolded. Ten minutes later after listening to the twist and turns, the scheming and shenanigans I'm shaking my head and wondering about the impossibility of writing fiction, searching for that elusive story that will grab the reader's attention from the first line and hold them the last full stop and The End.

How many times have I considered a plot line and decided that it was just too fanciful, lobbed the idea in the mental dustbin and then been handed a slice of reality that makes the fiction sound solid and mundane, boring even?

I really should take the words of Sherlock Holmes to heart, that life is infinitely stranger than anything the mind of man can invent. He pushed the idea further, strip away everything, peel back all the layers and what you have left, however strange it might seem will probably be the truth.

Coming up against that, should I worry that I might write a tale so strange it would be unbelievable?
That's definitely a NO, so let's bring Lewis Carroll into the picture as well, and start off with half a dozen impossible things before breakfast.

Kick off the day with that, check the batteries in my tape recorder, (I have a Pearlcorder stuffed in my bag, with the little micro-cassettes) and see where it goes.

Expect weirdness, was the excellent advice I had the other day, I'm going to take it; the material should be useful for any number of stories.

Friday 26 July 2013

Another week and another freebie Friday

The last Friday of the month, and that means Freebie Friday at Indies Unlimited and the last few days of the smashwords summer/winter promotion, free ebooks and discounts until the 31st July. Check out great writing by first time and seasoned authors.

The Grange Novels are included in the promotion, grab yourself a copy of Iceline, normally $2.99, free with code SW100. Control Escape, normally $2.99, also free with SW100 .

The latest in the series, still undergoing final checks and editing, remains a free download, What You Ask For, Nanowrimo entry and winner 2012. It crossed the 50000 word target in twenty nine days, and set the bench mark for this years personal Nanowrimo challenge.  In the meantime, I've proofreading to do, obvious bloopers to spot and change -if you find any in the raw draft of What You Ask For, drop me a line  here or at cheekyseagull.co.uk .

Ideas drift through the grey matter all the time, and some of them make it on to a scrap of paper, but that jotting may bear no relationship to the work in progress advancing across the page, that's the fun of it, never sure what twist of the imagination will throw the story off in a completely new direction. Don't miss the next exciting episode.... I'd better get on with writing it?

Friday 19 July 2013

Still giving it away!

Freebie Friday and the Smashwords summer/winter promotion, have a look at great new writing through Indies Unlimited and free ebooks by the bucketload at  smashwords.com and the Grange novels, Iceline Control Escape are available free with the discount code SW100 and What You Ask For, the Nanowrimo 2012 winner,  remains free to download here.  Help yourself, have a good read and chill out this summer with some great new writing.

Saturday 13 July 2013

Summer goodies

Summer Kobo-fest | Indies Unlimited, check out what's on offer today, there is a link in the article to a conversation between Laura Boris to be found here,

Control Escape at Kobo here; Iceline at Kobo here

Shameless book plug encouraged by high temperatures in England, slowly grilling with the offer of plenty of page turning before you need to turn over and do the other side.
Will it be possible to work out who read this years blockbuster on the beach by the  uneven fore and aft tanning and the size of the pale square on the face  matching the size of the tablet or e-reader?

Smashwords' Summer/Winter promotion still rattling through July with all the Grange Novels available for free; download code SW100 for Iceline and Control Escape (enter the code at the checkout when you click to buy).

What You Ask For is available as a completed draft in a free download here at smashwords.com.

What are you waiting for, it's the weekend, the sun is shining (well, it is here in Yorkshire) and there are books to read!

Friday 12 July 2013

Freeby Friday

Free eBooks | Freebie Friday | Indies Unlimited | Indies Unlimited  The weekly free ebook fest at Indies Unlimited is here again, stock up on your holiday reading, get something for the daily commute or vegging out for the week-end.

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Starting Over, again…

Half way through July and the Grange Novels are signed up for the Smashwords Summer/Winter promotion, an annual feast of discounted and free ebooks available through smashwords.com and the happy campers at Camp Nanowrimo are wrestling with their word counts in the jungles of their imagination. For myself, the next Grange novel is starting to ferment somewhere in the edge of my mind although at the moment there is little more than a scribbled collection of random words, some of which were scrawled across the page in the with eyes and brain barely open.
The point of this, just to let you know, there are more stories on the way and if you haven’t met Bill Jardine, Josie Burke, Steel, Langhers and the rest of the team from the Grange catch up with them at smashwords.com in Iceline, Control Escape, and What You Ask For.
What You Ask For is recently completed as a draft and is currently undergoing editing and proofreading and is free to download, Iceline and Control Escape are free until the end of July with the code SW100 at Smashwords, formatted for most ereaders.
Bag some good reading and be part of the action,

Monday 1 July 2013

Sun, Sand and an ebook

Long. lazy days, sunshine, time and space in the garden or on the beach, or simply time to catch up on your reading, you can't do it without the right material. Smashwords summer/winter promotion has started here. An incredible choice of books by Independent authors many of them available discounted or free throughout July. The Grange novels Iceline and Control Escape are available free with code SW100 at smashwords.com. The third novel in the series What You Ask For is free to download. Check them out now!

Sunday 30 June 2013

Summertime, and the reading is easy

And so it should be, with that in mind The Grange novels, Iceline and Control Escape have been listed in the Summer"Winter promotion at smashwords.com kicking off at 0001 Pacific Time and running through the entire month, take the opportunity, if you have been hanging about waiting to take the plunge, jump in. Stick the code SW100 in the appropriate box when you click to buy. Load up the ereader in time for the holidays.

My personal choice is a Kobo mini, compact - literally pocket size - with a couple of gig of memory and a battery that lasts for weeks. Check out the spec, doesn't work too good in the dark. I'm having a ball with mine proofreading What You Ask For, my 2012 Nanowrimo entry (and winner). Still a freebie at Smashwords, and when the proofreading, editing and all the other post-scribbling gubbins has been dealt with it'll go through the channels.

A whole month to explore some of the most original imaginations around, I can't wait  for midnight pacific time (it's about 8 am on a Monday morning locally).

Saturday 29 June 2013

Summer/Winter Promo at Smashwords.

Less than a day away; more ebooks than you can shake a stick at Smashwords summer/winter promotion begins at 00:01 Pacific Time. Discount codes available for ebooks on the Smashwords' site.
The Grange Novels, either free or discounted to free when the promotion starts.

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Letters from the Wilderness

The Office of Letters and Light Blog .Just had a few minutes reading the post from Camp Nanowrimo, the first challenge went off in April and the second thirty day blast of creativity starts in a couple of weeks on the 1st of July. I had my first Nanowrimo last November, and finished the draft of the novel late last Sunday night. What You Ask for is now preparing for the not so much fun bits of being a writer - proofreading and editing. The first fifty thousand had the thirty day deadline to keep the pace, after that I slowed down. It is finished now, and the draft text is available at Smashwords.com.
Check out the link above, if Nanowrimo is a challenge you have taken, and completed, I am sure you will sympathise with Mike Adamson and congratulate him and everyone else who took up the challenge to venture into the uncharted territory of the imagination and reaped a harvest of fifty thousand words in thirty days. I shall be heading that way myself in November once again - (You've done it now, you fool, there's no chance of backing out now!)
I am undecided about the July Camp Nanowrimo, That may be a last minute plunge into the wilds. 

Skulduggery and Scuba, smuggled in

Smuggling, skulduggery and scuba diving and he was in the right place at the wrong time. A late evening encounter outside the compressor shed and a moment of panic. A tourist joins the list of missing persons, literally whisked away one night and missing for weeks. 
Don Steel wasn't any tourist, his new enemies may have been unknown but their ignorance of who they had snatched would prove costly. Battered, bruised and bloody he turns up in a ditch high in the mountains above Glencoe; airlifted to hospital for treatment his recuperation is disrupted by an attempt to silence him. Steel would be neither silent nor compliantly lie down. Leaving his attacker in the care of and needing the attention of the ward sister he takes to the road and begins a cat and mouse chase across the highlands and islands of Scotland to a final showdown in Tobermory Bay backed up by allies colleagues and friends, and one friend discovers just how far he will go. 

Tuesday 11 June 2013

There for the asking!

No need for caution, What You Ask For 2012 Nanowrimo winner published via Smashwords is now a completed draft; straight from the typeface and worth the read. Free to a good ereader, and a good home, while I sort out the proofreading and editing, and cover design for the final version.
Feedback is welcome, let me know your thoughts, suggestions and comments are via the link.

Thursday 6 June 2013

Get your discounts here.

Iceline and Control Escape have discount codes at Smashwords. Check in KG94R for Control Escape and SG33N for Iceline. Less than a dollar apiece with the codes.

Saturday 1 June 2013

A bloke in the pub said...

It could have been the bloke down the Pub, the idea behind Control Escape grew out of what could be a modern urban legend. There is a reality behind it, somewhere. The occasional news story of the bright kid who hacks the system of the government or the military, pokes around inside and gets caught on the way out.

It usually happens because of a slip on the way out. Hacking in is less complicated, looking around and leaving no trace of the visit is tough. That's what marks out the best, that you are not certain the hack ever took place until the information obtained pops up where it shouldn't.

Steve Arkwright was good,but left a trace, his concentration slipped and the marker was enough to set the hounds in pursuit. The handler was clever, with his own ideas and a persuasive tongue, his own handlers loosened his leash and let him run a little.

There was a trade off, the handler (Arkwright's Control) had the freedom he wanted but that needed results: no such leeway came to Arkwright. He was kept on a short leash and faced with the added burden of changing his identity, by the time he jumped again, he had a  handful of identities from his handler, and final name of his own choice. Known only to himself but as secure as any he had been given. Arkwright used the system against itself.

He finds himself with new allies when he staggers into Steel and Langhers from the Grange nosing around by the old gravels pits on the other side of the wire.

Find out more in Control Escape, with a discount code at smashwords.com go to https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/216761 and enter KG94R at the checkout. A thriller for less than a dollar. Can't say better than that!

Friday 31 May 2013

Imagine that

The Angst of Acceptance, a recent post by Chris James at Indies unlimited taps into the discussion about who is worthy to sit at the literary table and pick over the spoils, he begins with a humorous story about a "Traditional" published writer being embarrassed to admit his status in the company of self-published authors.

A scenario that is pretty unlikely to happen today. The long road to acceptance for many self-published writers has been dogged by the stigma which has attached itself to the title for so many years but strip away the pretentious snobbery, and let's be honest isn't that where some of this comes from; didn't it all start with independent writers publishing their own works who gradually grew into the publishing companies of the past and then conglomerated into the bigger companies dominating the present day market?

I posted a comment at the foot of Chris's post and part of it reads

 Indies have always been part of the literary scene, but regarded as the eccentric relatives which maintained their status as curios and their output as a trickle. Today the trickle is a flood and the criticism of the Indie almost always falls against a technical criteria – proofreading, editing, or whatever, elements the traditionally published writer hands over to someone else to do!
Nobody ever said we are bad at storytelling,

I am an Indie Author, I have never made any secret of the fact, nip across to the writing page at www.cheekyseagull.co.uk  and there's a little note about my feelings on the matter. Chris has an excellent piece and links in the article itself and the comments provided by readers below expand on the discussion, including how a number of well established and respected literary groups are discussing their future relationships with the constantly growing self-publishing community and people firmly embedded in the "Traditional" publishing world are effectively being forced to shift their views on the new generation of self-publishing.

My comment touched on something that has niggled at me for a long time, the sub text that when it comes to checking the details of the finished work (proofreading, editing) somehow I can't do it! I wrote the book, and I can't spot my own mistakes? Paying someone to do the donkey work is fine, employing a professional is good, but being professional is not just about being paid. Being truly professional has nothing to do with being paid and everything to do with your state of mind.

Self-publishing is not the road of the damned and the desperate, not any more, and the names of established writers who are stepping out on to the road with the myriad of unknowns, hopefuls, dreamers and professionals are saying it loudly with each step they take along that road. People attack what they fear, they run down the things they feel threatened by, it's natural, but the writer, you, whoever you are out there, you are extraordinary. You have an independent mind, an independent spirit, enjoy them.

Whatever form of publishing route you take remember this, without the writer there would be nothing to publish. Our words, thoughts, ideas, the stories that catch the quintessence of humanity are served up for the reader to enjoy. We have a feast in our hands so bring what you have and share it.

Monday 27 May 2013

So who tells the Wookie he can't park it there

Lego gave me hours and hours of pleasure as a kid, stretching the imagination inside my head to a physical reality through the box of bricks and the models I built.

E-junkie.info - Small Business, Self Publishing, E-Commerce Blog: World Largest LEGO Model - ‘Star Wars’ X-Wing Fighter Unveiled In New York

So how cool is that, to park an x-wing fighter in Times Square. Who wouldn't want to be the one to say I did that! Brilliant, well done to everyone involved at Lego.

Saturday 18 May 2013

How Much!

The big question when you put anything out into the open market, and probably the biggest conundrum facing any author, self-published or otherwise, how much will the book sell for. Being an Indie I can't hand it over to marketing to do the calculations for me, but I know that Mark Coker at Smashwords has given the subject considerable time and thought. He's posted on the Smashwords blog and at Slideshare a couple of presentations (here and here) based on his research into the dynamics of ebooks sales.

Both presentations are worth a look at, and provide considerable food for thought. There is no magic bullet that I can see but more helpfully a solid appraisal of the situation facing any writer in the market place today.

There are likely to be as many ways of selecting the price for a book as their are writers, but one or two common factors seem to pop out. Obviously free shifts more dowlnoads than anything else, about 92 times more than, and ebooks come in a variety of prices but there is a correlation of approximately 30000 words per dollar, putting a full length novel edging towards epic length, (70000 to 1000000 words) around the $2.99 tag.

Have a look at the presentations, and see what you think.

Sunday 12 May 2013

Admissions and submissions

Iceline, the first of The Grange novels took a long time to get where it is today, and the delay was not down to the amount of rewriting it required. The manuscript sat on the bookshelf for ten years. A sealed copy with a Post Office date stamp on the seal is still there, and whatever the merits of proving copyright,  the interaction with Post office staff when you explain why you are sending a parcel to yourself is worth it.

It was down to confidence, in myself and my abilities as a writer, I needed that encouragement, and the kick up the backside to get the thing off the ground, and like many writers I was looking for that way forward, the road to find an audience.

Reading through Mark Coker's blog at Smashwords and listening to an interview with him on Late Night Library from Portland  Oregon, via a link in his blog and hearing him recall his own experiences and the journey that brought him to establish Smashwords, and then how the company has developed and contributed to the revolution in publishing over the last few years. He refers to the time just over five years ago as the dark ages of publishing.

I can procrastinate when it suits me, and when I shouldn't but isn't that a common situation. Hanging fire and waiting for the right moment, but that moment has a nasty habit of never actually coming, so the kick in the pants becomes a useful tool. Perhaps that's a bit harsh, let's agree a healthy shove in the right direction is more diplomatic, but it amounts to about the same thing really.

Tradition is a great thing if you know why you are doing it, and for so many years the respectable way to publish has been "Traditional" publishers, with the Vanity and self-publishing apparently lumped together as more or less the same thing, (I'll leave that discussion for another time maybe), with each one looking up or down at the other depending on where they saw their niche in publishing society.

Whatever the merits or otherwise of the various strands of publishing they had their way of doing things, their own traditions and amongst writers there are tradition and mythology. I picked up a tweet a day or so ago, retweeted across the system and it irritated me; the gist of it was that "The first draft is supposed to suck" reposted with a twitter link to the The Indie View photo and taken with the context of the picture the advice is sound, but I have never set out to write anything that sucks, my aim is and always has been to be the best from the first word. the reason is simple, I really don't like proofreading, editing, etc, and yes I know everybody says you should get somebody else to do it, but there are perfect worlds and there is reality.

Reality, the stark reality portrayed to the aspiring author, the barely hidden subtext I found in so many books on how to get published always pointed to how difficult, nay, near impossible it could be to get into print.

They make it sound like rules and stuff, you do this or don't do that, and I find myself drifting back to Kenneth More's portrayal of Douglas Bader, in Reach For The Sky and two particular scenes. the first he turns up to rejoin as a pilot, already due to a flying accident a double amputee and is told that there is nothing in the regulations that says he can fly. His response; there is nothing there that says I can't. The second clip is when the much needed spares he requires to get his squadron operational arrive and he admits to having by-passed all the proper channels declaring that "rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men."

There had to be another way, and most of my life I have been an admirer of Bader, I wouldn't nominate him for sainthood. He was no plaster saint, to borrow from Rudyard Kipling and like many of his compatriots who were single men in barracks they had a job to do, and Churchill's rubber stamp  of "Action This Day" gave them the motivation. I needed a way and the motivation, and eventually found both.

I found Smashwords by accident, researching something else and looking for a book by the American Criminal Profiler, Pat Brown, and was wary of anything that said it was free, but the claim held good, and I found my way. Publishing on Smashwords was my Bader moment, I bypassed all the traditionally accepted channels, and took Mark Coker at his word, that every writer has the right to be published. That was motivation.

When Bader wanted his spares he went straight to Fighter Command, and I'm doing the same. You, reader, are the one I want to send my book out to you and they won't cost you an arm or a leg, maybe the price of a cup of coffee, Iceline (use the Smashwords discount code SG33N) and Control Escape (Smashwords Discount Code VK56T) are out already and What You Ask For, the third novel in the series is nearing completion, and while it is still a work in progress is a freebie from Smashwords. The other two are already out through the major ebook channels, nip across to www.cheekyseagull.co.uk/iceline  or /control_escape  and follow the links or use the links on this blog to reach my website. Have a look around while your there.

Saturday 4 May 2013

Registration Call

Names, our own personal keywords, the labels that pick us out from the crowd and are almost never chosen by ourselves, even the characters in books are chosen by me, and getting it right can be difficult. Tagging a first name on to a surname sounds easy but when you say it for the first time it can feel strange, artificial even. It doesn't ring true. (If you're really stuck, wander around an old graveyard or church and read the monuments).

I haven't done that yet, but I do find myself reading names on memorials and monuments. My characters draw their names from a variety of sources, even down to snippets of conversation. Take the feisty auburn haired female in the Grange stories, Josie Burke, her first name is diminutive, shortened from Josephine (she would call that her best name, a Sunday name, only used formally) Josie is the name she lives and works with and Burke, that came from a number of suggestions. Burke and Hare were the infamous body-snatchers supplying the Edinburgh medical schools with cadavers, James Burke was a presenter of science and technology programmes in the Seventies (Do you remember Connections?) and someone is a Berk when they do something daft. Josie refers to Burke and Hare in Control Escape, and she expresses something about how names influence our character and development. Names can become nicknames, and a source of humour for other people, and discomfort for the carrier.

Steel carries that baggage, Don Steel, what on earth was I thinking about, a character who reportedly grew up in Sheffield called Don Steel. Sheffield steel has been known about since the days of Geoffrey Chaucer. In the Canterbury Tales he mentions a simple working blade called the thwitel, made in Sheffield, and the earliest literary reference in fiction to knife making in the area.

The River that Sheffield straddles is the Don, can you see where this is going, his name caused trouble for him, and if you call him by his full name, Donald, it doesn't seem to be getting any better does it, but that was part of the selection process, the thinking behind his insistence that people use his surname, an expression of character. The inner circle who know his full name are people he can trust, and because of the trust he can accept the banter, but the banter is absent because of the trust. The logic is circular, but it works.

His first name is used, usually by Josie and only in specific circumstances, whereas Kurt Langhers uses and is referred to by both names on an almos casual basis. Kurt's name originated with the Commando comics I read as a young boy, given to a German officer in one of the stories, I liked the name and remembered it, and the character grew out of that. A German name, but with a Yorkshire accent? Unlikely, but not impossible perhaps a German grandfather, POW, who stayed behind after the war because the part of Germany he grew up in was on the other side of the wire. Did it happen, could it happen, turn the parts around, a National Serviceman from England posted to Germany after the war returns with a German bride, and they ran a local shop for years just down the road from where I grew up.

Fiction, isn't part of that taking what is real and making something novel out of it, recreating it with the imagination as another reality? Then we come to Bill Jardine; Jardine is a Scottish town, in one part of Sheffield it's one of a cluster of street names with a Scottish connection. Bill, is a name with many connotations, Dicken's Bill Sykes the thuggish criminal, Bruce Bairnsfather's World War One cartoon character Old Bill,  a world weary soldier with his distinctive walrus moustache (the cadet pub "Bill and Alphie's" at the Royal Military College of Canada is named after him) and the Metropolitan Police are  "The Bill"  Richmal Cromptom created Just William, mischief incarnate, but William grows up and somewhere along the line becomes Bill, and that was the transition I saw as Bill Jardine developed, a poacher turned gamekeeper, his wilder younger days a precursor to the activities and operations he would oversee at The Grange, and the place itself, a grange, historically a farm, a working place with an air of its own identity planted by time in the ground on which it stands. Not pretending to be something it isn't. Grand enough, but not too much. It's about playing with words, turning them around and seeing what happens and I'll leave the last word to Wally Barnes. Here again Wally can mean someone a bit daft or stupid, but he used his own name and the way the school register was called, especially when answering the phone. He wrong-footed people, and catches Steel in What You Ask For (currently a work in progress at smashwords.com), with "Barnes, Wally speaking."

Formally he is Wallace Barnes, a bit of a mouthful, the school register called him out as Barnes, Wallace. Now there's a name to play with, and if you think fiction is strange, imagine trying to sell the idea that a 500lb bomb will bounce along the water like a skimming stone. We can look back and see how it works, Wallace couldn't,  I could not resist that homage in one of the technical crew of the Grange.

Some names work well, others are more difficult to find a character for, and the most challenging one, Azubah, I found it on a gravestone, it means Desolation, Biblically, she was the wife of Caleb.
But then, hmm, maybe there is something...I am going to think about that one!

Tuesday 23 April 2013

World Book To-Night

Tonight is the night and the offer is still open, looking for a book for tonight. Iceline for free with the code NL36S here and Control: Escape with 50% discount code VK56T here.

Monday 22 April 2013

Not Without My Cat (when fish is not enough)

Science fiction adventure. When is a crime scene not a crime scene? When it hasn't happened yet, or has it or will it? Time travel and intrigue in equal measure. An entertaining read, good outlines, realistic characters, a brilliant techie-medical partnership. Read it once and then it again to savour the flavour. I keep picking it up, drawn into the world inhabited by the characters, even the thumbnail sketch of a minor player reminds you of someone. Available at Feedbooks.com here for free
The book went up a week ago and notched a hundred and fifty downloads in seven days. Readers spread across the globe, taking an adventure with an unknown writer with a fantastic imagination. Adventurous independent minded readers for an independent author, is that what you see in the mirror? Prepared to venture into unknown territory. A M Russell is the writer and Not Without My Cat is the book.
So what are you going to do? Play it safe and go with a big name, or step into the unknown, download it for free or if you believe in  independent authors you can buy a copy at smashwords.com here.
The biggest name was an unknown once, I know where my money is, and Not Without My Cat is where I put it!

Sunday 21 April 2013

Two days to World Book Night.

The offer still stands, Iceline for free to a good home with the code NL36S here and Control Escape for half price here with the VK56T. Available until Tuesday, World Book Night.

Tuesday 16 April 2013

World Book Night - an army marches forward!

Look at someone's bookshelf and it it will tell you a lot about the person, what they like, dislike and occasionally what they would like to have more time to explore. The titles, genres and the authors give away so much of what we put inside our hearts and minds.

Books are precious, they absorb time; to plot, to write, to re-write, and work out the subtle twists and turns. The minutiae of structure ,plot and sub-plot that must hang together like the threads of a tapestry. Later when they reach out to the reader, the individual for whom all books are written, there is more time spent on deciding, is the cover enticing enough, does the first page grab you and drag you through the portal into a world you don't want to escape and your feet drift inexorably towards the bookseller and the cash till to make the purchase.

Next Tuesday World Book Night night books will be moving by the case, box upon box, stacked and packed with crisp fresh pages and newly printed ink. Thousands of people will savour that moment when you open the covers for the first time and the smell of the book reaches your nostrils. A perfume, and a promise, the scent of imagination and an invitation to intrigue, adventure and romance, brought by an army of volunteers

Will you have a date with the Girl with a Pearl Earring, play the high stakes at Casino Royale, be entertained by The Reader, or be summoned to an audience with The White Queen.

Are you to be investigated by the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency, or will the encroaching night bring the sober news that Last Night, Another Soldier...

A selection of some of the books available on World Book Night,
Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracey Chevalier
Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
The Reader by Bernard Schlink
The White Queen by Philippa Gregory
The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Last Night, Another Soldier by Andy McNab,

See what's available here and what's happening near you on the events page

Whichever one is given to you on World Book Night, I hope you enjoy it, savour it and add your time to that spent writing, producing and delivering it.

The Big One - World Book Night

One week to go, seven nights from tonight World Book Night will be with us! 
Have you anything lined up yet?
To celebrate;  Iceline, the first Grange novel is free to anyone who wants to offer it a good home here with NL36S for a 100% discount. Bag Control Escape for half price with VK56T here and take both home. Two thrillers for a dollar and a half, Have a good read.

Saturday 13 April 2013

Coincidence and Chain Reaction?

A few days ago I wrote a review for a terrific thriller, Coincidence Theory by Steven Allinson, a fresh look at the stories of the Biblical story of the Exodus, jammed with detail and edge of the seat tension. The chain reaction was a tumbling effect through the old grey matter to some stuff I read years ago.
Erich Von Daniken made a name with his ideas regarding the origin of some of the more elaborate and puzzling structures and artefacts strewn across our planet, Mayan, Aztec, Egyptian, Minoan, and the most exotic of all; the Atlantean elements, sunken buildings and a myriad of other things. The theory and the subject of his  books; Chariots of the Gods, Gold of the Gods, was that earth had been visited in the distant past by space travellers who brought knowledge and technology to the primitive population, and thereby lifted us out of the mud and pointed us towards the stars.
That had my thoughts trailing along the line, did the astronauts who inspired our ancestors, for the sake of the discussion, get their knowledge from an earlier race of travellers and they in turn get it from someone else, you get the drift? So on and so forth back to the beginning of time and the first space faring population. in a universe with a known starting point there has to be a first, right at the beginning of the line.
What if we are the first and not the latest in a line of hand-me-down technologies, then the story of the ancient astronauts is not a memory but a briefing of the task we have yet to fulfil. We may not be alone in the universe  but we might the top of the heap regarding technology and invention, and the others out there are waiting for us to boldly go.
I know there is a school of thought that suggests all the space stuff of the sixties was done in the dry and dusty bits of  the US, but I can't subscribe to that. Why would anyone want to pretend when we have the imagination and the incentive to do it for real?
The imagination has been there for years, decades, by now centuries, writers,  artists and film-makers have explored the idea of travelling off planet, to the moon and beyond as much as they have ventured to the bottom of the sea with their imaginary explorations, and so many of those have become reality. Jules Verne and HG Wells stared at the Moon, Edgar Rice Burroughs went further and went to Mars, Arthur C Clarke wrote his Space Odyssey, where the monolith drew us out from our moon towards Jupiter and engineered the Jovian moon Europa into an evolving planet. He took humanity across the stars to a new home with The Songs Of Distant Earth and leaving this blue jewel behind was part of life, of growing and exploring.
The incentive is because we can, we can imagine it, and by that do it!
 Where will yours take you tonight?

Sunday 7 April 2013

Edge of your seat stuff - Coincidence Theory

Coincidence Theory by Steven Allinson, $1,99 at Smashwords.com.
I gave it four stars and said this at Smashwords.com.
"Fast, tightly paced and intricately plotted, packed with historic detail and descriptions that put you in the thick of the action as the plot drags you by the scruff of the neck. Dazzling, I couldn't put it down. A real page turner. Read it, you will not be disappointed.

I picked it up during Read An Ebook Week, along with a few others and tucked them away to read later, but curiosity crooked its finger and hooked me.
This is one of the best thrillers I've read in a long time written by anyone, published anywhere, and this one's at Smashwords.com

Two linked stories, thousands of years apart, unfolded in parallel.

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Update - What You Ask For

Just posted the latest version of the Nanowrimo 2012 winner, 
What You Ask For, still free and still available at Smashwords.com. The story continues, and Jessica makes her move. follow this as it progresses and pick up the first two Grange novels at 50% discount through Smashwords Iceline (code SG33N) and Control Escape (code VK65T). 

Is there anybody there?

Blogging can feel like shouting in the dark, hurling your words into the void and wondering if anyone is listening, or reading. The page view stats; are they real people or search engine bots crawling through the pathways of the Internet, devouring fragments of code as they go?
I suppose they must be a combination of both, and what and who am I?
We all carry tags and labels, a name for this and a description for that, simpler than lumping everything as a thingummy or a whatsit.
My tag cloud, the labels attached to this blog, the metadata for my website, all say something about the medium being used and reasonably would say it about me, so who, what am I.
I write, therefore I am a writer - there, I said it, wrote it;  I AM A WRITER! (Are capitals loud enough or is that the internet equivalent of screaming?)
I tell stories, so I am a storyteller, I like the sound of that too, and I live in Yorkshire, which is in England and part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, so I am also English, and British. That gives a choice of options for the tag cloud, my writing is fiction, but not entirely, I enjoy a good bit of factual research but the freedom of fiction is more immediate and fun. Novelist, my books are novels, or at least variations on a theme (Source Material, posted 23.03.13)
I self publish, via Smashwords, who are my distributors, which makes me an independent author, or an Indie Author to see the tag on Diesel ebooks, and the constant chatter about traditional, hybrid, legacy,vanity, indie, self published, privately published or whatever I personally find quite fascinating, confusing and irritating.
I like being independent, I gives me the freedom to explore what works, and what doesn't; that's where the exploration begins the personal trek to boldly go, or tentatively dip a toe to check the temperature.
Seriously, it is an adventure in whatever guise you step out on to the road, and it may be long and arduous, but it will be worth it.
So who am I, what's my tag cloud today?
Martyn Taylor, Writer, Indie Author, British Writer, Yorkshire, England, Self-published, distributed by Smashwords, storyteller, independent, novelist

Monday 1 April 2013

Something for the week-end, Sir?

The old style Barbers with the traditional red and white pole outside the door, dark wood panelling stained with age and Brylcreem, and the smell of oil, shampoo and the other unctions and ointments, the alchemy of hair dressing There was a padded plank that rested on the chair arms to lift you to  the right level, because you were small and the seats were made for grown men,  where you went with your Dad or Grandad, and the question was an overheard fragment of a conversation from another customer, in a language you didn't quite understand.
Something for the weekend Sir? What's on offer? Tickets to the match on Saturday, the winning numbers for the lottery (don't you wish), or that something with a bit of a nudge nudge wink wink say no  more, by the way how is your good lady? Most of it floats straight over your head. You're thoughts of the week end are about plunging through the comics and magazines at WHSmith while trying to ignore the itchy bits of hair that sneaked past your collar, or maybe even a book, something for the weekend and into the week beyond.
Something for the weekend, Sir, or Madam, What's on offer, a discount code for Iceline (SG33N) and Control Escape (VK56T), 50℅ off using the codes, until the end of May, pick them up now and hang on to them for Summer reading.

Monday 25 March 2013

Iceline - $2.99 - BookBarista

 Iceline - $2.99 - BookBarista. listed on the site as Fiction, thriller, ebooks on line with links to major retailers; Apple iTunes, Kobo, WHSmith, Sony, B&N for Nook, and the home base link at Smashwords.com.
While you're there have a look ay what else is available, a wide selection in all genres.

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Source material - looking for something original?

Slow word day today, What You Ask For is having one of those days and the word count is apparently going nowhere, a day when staring at the screen seems to be the highest ranking activity, until now that is. The current reading list on the blog needs updating, the listed titles are still being read but I have been distracted. I Recently sat down to watch Disney's John Carter, based on the novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs about the Virginia gentleman soldier whisked away to Mars and his amazing adventures  The byline for the DVD describes it as Star Wars for a new generation;  an interesting viewpoint considering the stories were written decades before Star Wars.

They are very much of their time, and Burroughs makes no apology in his work for that, like all of us who work with words our cultural background and social niceties exert a greater or lesser influence on what and how we write. I downloaded the books from Project Gutenberg, as free ebooks and can currently be found at most opportunities with my nose pressed into my e-reader following the latest tale. 

One description of a particularly loathsome character in the Carter stories flashed a very strong image of Jabba the Hutt, and I started chewing over sources and inspiration, how these two seem to constantly cross fertilise each other. I've used it myself, tucked oblique references into stories, and had readers comment about it.

The mental ramble through this landscape brought me back to my bookshelf and Christopher Booker's "Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories", a weighty chunk even in paperback but the results of years of consideration and an excellent read. The book explores the history of storytelling and compares some of the great and significant stories of the past with their modern siblings.  The premise is that there are seven basic plots, or story-lines and every story is one or a combination of the seven: Overcoming The Monster; Voyage and Return; Comedy; Tragedy; Rebirth; Rags to Riches; The Quest.

The comparison that caught my attention linked an old flood legend and James Bond; in the Seven Basic Plots; the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, among the earliest known stories was aligned with Doctor No, Ian Fleming's James Bond adventure, both are examples of Overcoming the Monster, and similarly the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf stands up with Jaws; Grendel's mother and the shark being the monster. The exploration continues and it is easy to wonder why a work of fiction could ever be called a novel if we, the writer's amongst us are retelling the same story-ies. Novel, something new, and each one searching for that original spark. 

Perhaps we are the spark, the original is the writer and the personal perspective. As witnesses to an event, no two people will tell exactly the same story, some details may match and the general plot will be recognisable but the intimate details of how the tale unfolds will be inspired by our personal story. 

On the slow word days like today, (after this you may wonder what a fast word day looks like) the idea of something to prompt the stream and get things moving becomes attractive. A recent acquisition is a set of story cubes, nine dice with a pictogram on each face, giving fifty four prompts. You roll the dice and use the nine images face up to create a story. An idea of such delicious simplicity it's child's play, and it works, just writing this and thinking about the seven basic plots, nine cubes and the mind-bogglingly huge variables possible kick-started something. Cubes, Borg, Star Trek, Seven, Nine, cybernetic implants, (six things already - and you know where this is going, unfortunately this has been done)
The storyline (of Seven) from the cubes ( Of Nine) is already familiar.

I can always roll the cubes again, and see what they come up with!

Thursday 14 March 2013

Play the game, where's Iceline?

Click the link, type in the URL, the simple way to find anything on the Internet, but what about doing it in a slightly more traditional way. Picture the website in your mind as a bookstore; can you find your novel and how close to the store front is it. The pages become shelves and as in the trad store, the shelves are arranged in sections, labelled with the genre and sub-genre of the books on offer.

Most of the time I have to know exactly where I'm going before I start to find anything on the Internet and the strange hieroglyphic string of a URL can be baffling, take the one for Iceline, my novel at Smashwords.com as an example; https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/216309 (I've typed it at various locations for over six months and I still have to check the details to make sure it's right,). Without knowing it belongs to Iceline there's no clue in the URL as to the book title.

Now let's try the traditional way, sort of, we know the store is Smashwords.com, so that's straightforward enough to find; and the first page is the store front and the key to the store is on the top of the page and the left hand skyscraper, that should narrow down the shelves we have  to search. Iceline is tagged as Thriller and Suspense, so click the listing on the left, go to the top of the page and click Epic (0ver 100k words), $2.99 and units sold, and scroll down the page to find Iceline

So, without the URL we're looking for an epic thriller and suspense novel for $2.99 on sale at Smashwords.com on a shelf close to the store front.

Until the end of March there's a discount code  for Iceline (TA34B) valid at Smashwords for 100% off, and to bag the pair of them and come home with a handsome brace of novels the code for Control Escape is BU95A. play the same game with Control Escape, Thriller and Suspense, $2.99, full length (50K words), and run your eye along the listing.
I've just had a good response back from someone who read Control Escape and wanted to know when they next one will be ready.

Take a look for yourself.

Sunday 10 March 2013

Keep it rolling

There are still Smashwords discount codes available for Iceline and Control Escape, 100% off until the 31st March.
The code for Iceline is TA34B and for Control Escape is BU95A, get hold of one, or bag the brace, spread the word, be part of the action. 

Saturday 9 March 2013

Almost there!

The last few hours of Read An Ebook Week 2013, and the search through the catalogue at Smashwords brings one or two things to notice, Iceline and Control Escape have a good showing in the Fiction - Thriller and Suspense categories; Iceline is hanging around at the bottom of page 1 in the units sold, epic (>100,000 words), RW100 100% off listing; page 2 in the full length (>50,000 words) RW100 100% off and Control Escape is over the page at 3 on page 3 in the full length listings. Like the listing says, Thriller and Suspense, Intrigue and conspiracy.  Not long left for this annual extravaganza, don't be the pumpkin, the codes run out  at midnight Pacific Time tonight, March 9th.
Thanks for your interest, grab one or both, bag the brace, enjoy them!

Friday 8 March 2013

Nano, under a new canvas

I shall slow the posting down next week, less blog and more novel, you might say. Camp Nanowrimo has been announced for April - that's close- and July, which leaves a bit more breathing space.
Camp Nano is the summer outbreak of creative abandon from the people at Nanowrimo, and the itch to get in there and go for another word count challenge is starting to get into my fingers, but I have to finish the Nanowrimo winner from 2012 first, What You Ask for, is still under construction, definitely work in progress and you can help yourself to the story so far over at Smashwords.com. That makes any thoughts of Camp Nanowrimo more likely to be July; it does mean I can start a slow heat on the back burner and see what comes out of the smoke and maybe I'll try something different, have a change from the team at the Grange.
Camp Nano looks more relaxed than the November charge through the novel-ling world, with the choice of word counts, obviously set before you start, and by telling you all this I've just started the process explored by Chris Baty in his book that accompanies Nanowrimo; No Plot No Problem. He tells the story of the first Novel Writing Month and the abandon with which they launched themselves into the adventure totally unprepared (certainly by the usual standards) and went for it, and uses the experience to advise on how to do it and finish the challenge. A prominent piece of advice is tell your friends, garner their support, gather their encouragement and by doing so encourage yourself to stick to it, otherwise you have to explain why it all fell apart.
Their first venture was a few years before I started writing Iceline, under a different title but the method is one which appealed to me, for years I tried the traditional method of plotting and character outlines, spending time working out the storyline and the frustration drove me mad. It all changed with a chance conversation in the local Indie bookstore (Philip Howard Books) about an interview with Philip Pullman. He described how he wrote; working from a start point to a finish, both of which were known but letting the story unfold along the way.
I liked the idea; and applied it to Iceline and for me it works, get the story down on paper and sort out the details afterwards (What to do you mean it shows?). A similar thinking applies at Nanowrimo, the target of 50,000 words in 30 days is an incentive backed by a deadline. The latter in Chris Baty's book is explained as a vital tool, perhaps even the most important one. I certainly noticed the difference when the November ended and the rate of words per day fell through the floor in a pretty spectacular way.
Pre-planning is allowed, but the actual writing kicks off at midnight plus one minute on the first day of the month, and the frenzy follows naturally. The conversations about writing at home tend to be brief, and from my point of view, Nano month or not are usually restricted to the current word count, and the widgets and other devices that can be attached to your blog or website add to the tension.
I thoroughly enjoyed Nanowrimo last year and intend to go for it again this November, the July camp is an added bonus, and will be approached with the abandon required to put the word count down on paper.
Surprise yourself, how you approach either of these challenges, Camp Nano or the full blown November Fest is up to you, but if you have that urge to write a novel and it has been hanging around gathering dust in a cobwebbed corner of life, pick it up and dust it down. Sign up and give it a go. If 50,000 seems to big to start with, have a look at Camp Nanowrimo and choose a word count you think you can achieve (you will be surprised, once the words start flowing how quickly they pour out) and this time next year I may be reading your blog about your novel published at Smashwords, or wherever.
There should be an update on What You Ask For in the next few days, maybe early next week and we'll see where the story has got to, shall we?
The idea of writing a novel, without preparing for it properly, charging in, going live without any rehearsal.
Sounds like being alive to me!
Meanwhile, back at the typeface...

Wednesday 6 March 2013

Area 51?

Area 51 - that got your attention; no, not the place that officially unofficially exists or doesn't somewhere in Nevada, although Google Earth seems convinced it knows where it is, but the 51st area for Apple's iBookstore - Japan. Now open for business
I admit there are certain oriental mysteries about the culture and people of the Japanese islands that have always intrigued me, and a favourite James Bond novel, You Only Live Twice, is set there. The book has a much more exotic element regarding poisons and volcanic vents than the film, but it catches something of the strangeness of the culture.
The news yesterday morning carried a link to the press release announcing the opening and tucked away inside it was a fascinating factoid, a conversational elephant stopper, 130 million iBook apps have been downloaded to iPads, iPhones etc.; now wind it back and run it again. That is a staggering figure, and imagine all that space waiting to be filled with books, 130 million iBook apps, we're already half way through Read an Ebook Week and time to go bobbing in Apple's barrel.
If you haven't had your fill yet, help yourself, my two books Iceline and Control Escape are part of the action this week and the notification emails have never been busier. The discount code until Saturday is RW100, don't keep it to yourself.
A week is said to be a long time in politics, not so when your working through the pages of a book, a week may put ten or fifteen thousand words on the story, more if you're working at it full time - a delightful luxury I'm not in a position to enjoy at the moment, but hey, I can dream.
Be part of it, spread the word.
130 million opportunities for an Indie Author like myself to connect with the reading public: you,  to entertain you, to share the adventures of my characters and hang in there with them through thrills, mystery and danger until  way off in the distance there is a hint of a large lady singing.
Whatever and wherever you're reading, enjoy.

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Breakout the Books.

Spot of early morning reading, checking the emails and this blog and the Smashwords blog trumpeted the news, Apple iBookstore in the UK and Ireland (my local iBookstore) is pushing the Breakout Books, 39 of the top 50 Breakout titles are from Smashwords and  the titles are listed in the post.

Hang on a minute here, what are you doing plugging someone else's book? Well, yes, why not. Putting a book together and getting it out there takes a lot of effort and determination, and not everyone who starts the journey finishes. Making that step from "One day I'm going to," to sitting down and mining the typeface, then cutting and polishing the jewels hidden within the prose is a huge one. Being able to pick a book with your name on it, whether off the shelf in a bricks and mortar bookshop or the electronic shelves of an ebookstore is a fantastic feeling. I understand the drive that keeps you working and appreciate when it doesn't, the words dry up and stuff gets in the way.

So what if your storyline is faltering, make tea, coffee, have a beer, walk the dog, have an hour or two in the garden, take a week off, a month, and come back to it. The characters may tell you a different story when you sit down with them again, but go with it and stay the course. When that stack of paper, the manuscript; lies on the desk with an unmistakable, "and now what are you going to do?" air about it, leave it for a few weeks again.

What you do next is an interesting question, the landscape is changing almost daily, Apple are pushing the Breakout Books and other sites are working to promote their writers. the old idea that only one way was the right way is crumbling and the Indie Author is making a mark. Traditional is fine, but true tradition is never static, it changes, because to work it has to mean something; it  has to convey a significant message, and if the message is unintelligible it must change or be left behind. Tradition and storytelling go hand in hand, changing constantly; centuries ago troubadours and balladeers wandered the countryside telling their tales. Now we stay in one place post our comments and stories on the net and they do the travelling, - I like the shaded map of the world in the Stats for this blog that shows where the page views came from, for its journey through the internet and I wonder if there will be anywhere new, a different place where it breaks out on to a new screen for the first time. (Hi there, nice to meet you.).

Yes, I'm giving the other chap a pat on the back, blame it on the rugby football and it's traditions. After ninety minutes of scrummage, ruck and maul, tackles, mud and blood; the defeated side form a tunnel for the victors to walk through and are applauded for the way they played the game, and the victors would return the compliment. Then it is time to get cleaned up and go for a drink together. So here I am, a  Newbie Indie Author applauding the writers who have made it to the Breakout Books, and one day...

Monday 4 March 2013

Don't keep this under your hat!

Spotted this poster on the www.ebookweek.com site, the whole thing is news to me but it's sort of the parent site for all this fun, and I'm having a good time. I loved the atmosphere of this poster and have adopted it; my books are thrillers and this is the archetypal image. Running the whole gamut from The Third Man; the Maltese Falcon etc., all the way down ghetto line. The Give-Aways are going well and the "sales" are encouraging - OK, I've shifted more books in the last twenty four hours than the previous six months, but I'm fine with that. The word from the start was this was a long journey and I'm definitely up for it. I'm enjoying it, and the suspense is there right at the heart of it, wondering when the next ping on the email will log another book on the sales chart.

To all you lovely people who already have Iceline and Control Escape on your e-shelves, thanks for the thumbs up, have a good time with them, I had fun writing them.  Bag the brace if you haven't done so already; I should be cracking on with the third novel, What You Ask For. I'm already being asked when it will be available. It started with the gallop through November and Nanowrimo ( I logged 50,000 plus within the thirty days and the book became a winner) and then it lost impetus and the writing schedule has already been stretched, twisted beyond recognition and lobbed in a corner where it missed the wastebin. What You Ask For is published at Smashwords as a work in progress and free to download; stay with the story if you're following it, and if your new to Steel, Jardine and the people at The Grange, this week is an opportunity to say hello, and have them on me.

There is another story somewhere down the tracks, but that is still working its way out of the back of my mind and the problem with the brilliant idea and the notebook in last night's, or was that this morning's post, is all too familiar; maybe I'll go back to the old style tape recorder and try to look good talking to myself. Generally a fail, even with the ubiquitous bluetooth stuck in your ear. 

As the man in the poster says, this is read an ebook week, don;t keep it under your hat, spread the word and be part of the action; and I'm going to stir up the action in the next book,
 See you soon, I'm off to the typeface.