Years ago, I had a peculiar dream in which I was with my wife and while I knew we should be married she didn’t know who I was.
That dream became the inspiration for a short story – called Fractured Lives – about a man who wakes up in the ‘wrong life’ following an accident.
At first, the object of his affections is as wary as anyone would be when a complete stranger announces they’re the love of your life. The problem is, Danny knows secrets about Rebecca Shah she’s never told anyone else in her life.
After writing the short story, I later started wondering about other possible implications: what other knowledge might Danny Harper bring from one life to another?
In the novel that followed, Danny has woken in a parallel world that’s similar but with some fundamental changes. Things also haven’t happened at the same times. In Danny’s original life, the police have just caught a serial killer who was targeting women – in his alternative world the killer’s still operating freely.
Thin Ice was published in 2012 – and got some 5* reviews. However, a number of readers contacted me saying they had enjoyed my paranormal thriller but were confused by the ending.
Last autumn, I took another look at the book — and decided some changes were in order.
I haven’t changed the ending but it’s been extended with a new chapter that removes any ambiguity and explains exactly what happened to all involved. I’ve also given the book an extensive re-edit, trimming out some superfluous words and phrases to keep it all nice and taut.
As it’s no longer quite the same book, it’s also got a new title – Waking Broken.
And — thanks to the wonderful Teija Härmäaho of Moodphoto — I’ve got a striking new cover to go with the new title and ending.
Waking Broken is free on Kindle for the next five days. Get your copy here.
It seems to me that a writer’s life is full of dilemmas. At the moment, my main one is whether to try going back to the traditional publishing route.
Apart from winning a £10,000 publishing prize some years ago, this is not an area where I’ve had a huge amount of success.
That prize came after years of trying – and failing – to get myself published, mostly back in the day when ebooks were still the realm of sci-fi imaginings.
I’d collected quite a number of the standard rejection letters. Many along the lines of: “Dear (insert name here), Your submission (insert title here) was read with interest but we do not feel we are the right agent/publisher for you.”
Then – in 2005 – I entered and won a national UK contest for new authors with The Tale of Findo Gask. As well as getting that very substantial prize, even more marvellous was the publishing contract that came with it.
Sadly, the company involved did next to nothing to promote my book and went out of business within a year or so. I never did understand their thinking. I was very glad to have the money but would have been equally delighted with a £100 prize and a few national newspaper ads to promote my book. That way we might both have ended up better off.
Findo made it onto Amazon but I’m not sure many copies were ever printed. I only ever got one royalty cheque and that certainly wasn’t huge.
So it was back to trying – and failing – to find a new publisher/agent. Over the following years my enthusiasm waxed and waned. Other things distracted me, like moving to Portugal to teach, setting off on a 10,000-mile tandem ride… but that’s another story.
In 2011, my wife bought me a Kindle for my birthday. I wasn’t sure I wanted one but we were still living in Portugal at the time and it was really hard getting English language books to keep up with my reading rate.
Later that year, having got used to my Kindle, I discovered Amazon’s self-publishing arm KDP. A revelation!
I must admit: I rather rushed in at the beginning, publishing a collection of my short stories and re-issuing Findo on Kindle. I didn’t take as much care as I should have done over anything: covers or content. I was just so happy to have people choosing to read my stories.
Since then, I’ve tried to get more professional about the whole process: proper editing, proofreading, decent covers etc. I’m selling books – and gathering some decent reviews – but sales are low. I’m a very long way off my ultimate ambition of becoming a fulltime writer.
The trouble is that so many other people have discovered self-publishing. Amazon is full of independent authors. Some of their books are superb, some are terrible. Many would be good if they were properly edited.
When I first turned to KDP, their five-day free book promotions were quite effective. Even without doing anything to promote your book, you could give away thousands of copies and then see actual sales in the following weeks as other readers clicked on those “people who bought this have also bought this” links.
Now, though, there are just so many free books out there – and so many websites vying for your money as they offer to promote your free days. When I put my novels on a promotion, they’re not just one among hundreds, they’re one among tens of thousands.
The reason for my current dilemma is that I don’t have the clout/know-how/money to effectively market my books on my own as an independent author.
Which is why, having just completed my latest novel, I’m seriously thinking of going back to the search for an agent/traditional publisher. (I’ll try not to get too depressed when my unsolicited manuscript disappears off into that horrible black hole!)
Any advice or comments on the whole indy versus traditional dilemma are very welcome.
By the way. If anyone’s noticed that I haven’t been posting regularly on this site for a while, that’s because other things have taken over my life. Partly completing my latest book. Also a major revision for the novel now known as Waking Broken - more about this next Friday. Plus I’ve been spending a lot of time on my website on cycling in Portugal.
That’s the trouble with being an author. There are so many possible projects out there. Which one to choose?
Here’s a New Year puzzler. Nothing to do with space exploration but on the vagaries of the English language.
I’ve been teaching a Polish student recently and was doing some work on the use of articles – a, an and the - when talking about ‘things’.
Some rules are easy to explain – we put a or an in front of singular nouns when talking about something that we’re introducing for the first time, when the thing is one of many etc. The goes in front of plural nouns or when the individual thing is unique or we know specifically what we’re talking about.
We also don’t use an article (often confusing referred to as the zero article) when referring to certain things, including countries, people, concepts, types of things and some geographical features.
Agreen-skinned man from _ Mars was discussing _ politics as he had _ lunch with thePope on _ Thursday, while sailing a boat across _ Lake Chad in preparation for his crossing of theAtlantic Ocean.
It seems obvious when it’s your own language but believe me it’s not that simple for people learning English for the first time. A lot of my students would probably put the in front of Mars, politics, lunch and Thursday.
(I got confused when trying to learn Portuguese as they put the in front of proper names!)
But what’s got me really puzzled is NASA (and FIFA). Normally, with acronyms for organisations we follow the same pattern as if we spelt the name out in full, e.g. the BBC and the FBI but _ IBM.
So far so good. But can anyone explain why we talk about the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association) but not the NASA? I thought for a while it was to do with collective nouns but how does that work with the CIA and the RAF.
Answers on a postcard please…
The old man pauses at the window. The girl sits on the pavement opposite. No expression: just a pair of dark glasses and the handwritten sign beside her.
The maitre d’ hovers. It’s lunchtime. The restaurant’s full and he’s juggling diners and tables. He needs to keep the customers flowing, which means no time for indecision.
‘Do you need to see a menu, sir?’
It looks as if the girl is staring back. Not that she could be. The windows are tinted and it’s too dark inside anyway. It’s just what she does. Sits on the pavement with her sign and stares into space.
The maitre d’ blinks. It’s the only sign of his impatience. Some people he can bully along; a gentle cough and a supercilious expression all that’s needed to remind them who’s in control here. This man, though, needs treating with much more care. Partly due to his age but mostly because of the influence he wields.
The old man frowns. ‘Strange message, eh?’
‘Yes, sir.’ The maitre d’ bobs his head in agreement. ‘She’s an odd girl.’
‘Know her, do you?’
‘I wouldn’t say that, sir, but she’s become a bit of a fixture.’
‘Often there is she?’
‘Come rain or shine, sir. Always there, same coat, same sign. I think she’s been sitting there since last autumn.’
‘All through the winter?’
‘Every day, sir. Not really normal behaviour.’
The old man looks thoughtful. ‘And always the same sign?’
‘Hmm.’ The old man nods. ‘Call my driver, will you. Tell him to come back and pick me up.’
The maitre d’ blinks. ‘But… your table?’
‘I’m not hungry any more.’
She’s watched for several days. On Friday morning, the Rolls pulls up beside her while she’s still a couple of streets away from her usual spot. She looks at the car: wary but unsurprised. The grip on her piece of cardboard is light and she’s already half on the balls of her feet, poised to sprint.
When the window rolls down and she sees the patrician features inside, the girl relaxes. A fraction.
‘Good morning.’ The old man nods. ‘I think you’ve been looking for me.’
Her head tilts to one side. ‘Really? How do you work that out?’
He waves a hand at the sign. It’s a different piece of cardboard but the message is the same: My father was killed by ninjas. Need money for karate lessons.
‘This?’ She laughs. ‘It’s just a joke. Get a smile out of people and they’re more likely to give money.’
‘Hmm. Is that really why you sit at that same spot every day?’
‘I’m a creature of habit.’
‘But why there?’
‘Rich people go to the restaurant across the road.’
‘But rich people aren’t generous to beggars. That’s how they get to be rich.’
‘Only takes one rich person to change your life.’
He smiles. He appreciates the verbal sparring but that’s not why he’s here. ‘It’s not because you’re just around the corner from the stock exchange? You’re not looking for anyone in particular?’
‘If they give me money, I don’t care who they are.’
‘Who were the ninjas?’
She shakes her head. ‘I told you it was just a joke.’
‘Fine.’ He sighs. ‘What if I told you that I knew your father?’
The dark glasses hide her eyes but a subtle change in her posture tells him he’s got her attention.
‘Do you want to get in the car. We can talk somewhere comfortable.’
She recoils slightly.
‘It’s also probably safer than out on the pavement. There could be people watching. You probably don’t want to be seen talking to me.’
The girl looks hesitant. ‘Why would anyone be watching me?’
The old man smiles. ‘They probably aren’t. But it’s best to be safe. The ninjas wouldn’t want anyone coming looking for revenge. If you’re looking for them, they might hear about it.’
She shakes her head. ‘But if they don’t even know there was a daughter then they’re not going to be worried.’
She’s already on the run before he can complete the sentence. The old man curses once. He thinks about ordering his driver to set off in pursuit but she’s already ducked into an alley. There’s little chance of catching her now.
Her heart rate is still slowing as she walks out of the alleyway and stroll back up the street towards the Rolls. The cardboard, sunglasses and the old coat are gone. As is the wig. Dressed in a flouncy skirt and designer jacket, she swings a Gucci handbag from one shoulder.
Getting closer to the old man’s car, she pulls out her mobile and pretends to answer a call. She pouts at the phone, twists a piece of hair and gives a twirl: preening herself for the unseen imaginary caller.
As she does so, she takes several photos of the luxury car and its licence plate. The window of the Rolls is still lowered, the old man looking straight at her. She snaps his picture too. He’s too busy looking at her legs; it’s not her face he will remember.
She waltzes on up the street. It’s taken almost six months but she’s finally smoked out one of them. They called themselves the ninjas. A group of sharks who destroy other people’s businesses for the sake of a quick profit. What they do in public is legal but that’s only a fraction of it. The other side of their business is much, much darker. Which is why they live in the shadows.
To them, her father was nothing. She doubted if they even remember taking his business away. Or what they did afterwards. Getting him so into debt he had no choice but to obey; getting victims to help with the dirty work was just how they keep in control.
They probably never predicted that he wouldn’t be able to live with some of the things they had him do. Or cared about the fact he couldn’t handle the loss of everything he’d ever worked towards: business and reputation. Guilt was an emotion they wouldn’t understand.
But she’s determined. One day she’s going to make them face the consequences of their actions. The ninjas had killed her father. Their end will be even messier and equally brutal.
I saw the picture above on The Mirror Obscura and felt it needed a story to go with it. Hope you like it.
There have been so many tributes to Nelson Mandela but this has got to be one of the most touching.
The Soweto Gospel Choir teamed up with the Woolworths supermarket in Johannesburg for a flash mob-style performance of Asimbonga - a song written while Mandela was in prison.
Asimbonanga [we have not seen him]
Asimbonang’ uMandela thina [we have not seen Mandela]
Laph’ekhona [in the place where he is]
Laph’ehleli khona [in the place where he is kept]
Asimbonang ‘umfowethu thina [we have not seen our brother]
Laph’ekhona [in the place where he is]
Laph’wafela khona [in the place where he died]
Sithi: Hey, wena [We say: hey, you]
Hey, wena nawe [Hey, you and you]
Siyofika nini la’ siyakhona [when will we arrive at our destination]
Just listen… and remember what the man achieved and stood for:
Want to support a great charity AND win Amazon gift cards, books and other prizes? If so, you’ve got five days left!
My ‘Unlock The Vault’ competition has been running for several months now but I’m declaring a deadline of Friday 13th December for final entries.
To enter, all you need to do is donate a minimum of £1/$1 etc to the disaster relief charity ShelterBox and answer three easy questions – I’ve been put clues on the competition page to make life easier for you!
I’ve actually had an embarrassingly low level of entries so far so anyone who enters over the next five days probably stands a very good chance of winning a prize!
ShelterBox is aiming to rehouse 4,000 families left homeless by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines – as well as continuing to help victims of the ongoing conflict in Syria, people made homeless by flooding in the Sudan etc, etc.
Go on enter the competition… it’s the season of goodwill and giving. You know you want to.
You’ve missed the chance to snap up my award-winning debut novel for £0.99/$0.99 but The Tale of Findo Gask is available on Kindle for $1.99 or £1.99 up until Thursday. (Normal price $4.90 or £3.99.)
This is the book that won the UK’s 2005 Undiscovered Authors contest and is – basically – a book about whether we should expect people to obey our rules if they don’t have a stake in society.
It’s also a roller coaster adventure, a book about young love and the story of a boy who becomes a thief because he doesn’t have many other options.
It’s got 4.2* on Amazon.com and 4.5* on Amazon.co.uk – if it sounds like your kind of thing, please click here.
Life certainly moves on. I was recently admiring some images on someone else’s blog – and now it looks like I might be working with the photographer on a couple of book covers!
Bizarre thing is that Teija lives in Finland. Makes you wonder how we ever lived before the internet. I’ve pinched one of her pictures (above) – if you want to see more of her work, take a look at Moodphoto.
Hmm. Now, I just need to come up with a title and finish editing the novel…
In the meantime, I’ve also got another Kindle Countdown Deal for you:
The Tale of Findo Gask is available on Kindle for $0.99 or £0.99 for the next three days, after which the price goes up to 1.99. (Normal price is $4.90 or £3.99.)
This is the book that won the UK’s 2005 Undiscovered Authors contest, got me a publishing contract and made me think that maybe one day I would be a real writer not just a dreamer sitting in an attic.
It’s a book about whether we should expect people to obey our rules if they don’t have a stake in society.
It’s also a roller coaster adventure that goes from pinching cigarettes at the corner shop to saving drowning dogs and from an armed heist at a security firm to snatching the diamonds from an opera diva’s head.
It’s also a book about young love and a boy who doesn’t want to be ignored.
It’s got 4.2* on Amazon.com and 4.5* on Amazon.co.uk – if it sounds like your kind of thing, please click here.
Ahh. You can’t beat a good insult. Shakespeare was definitely the master.
Others more of a rant: A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a lily-livered, action-taking knave, a whoreson, glass-gazing, super-serviceable finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd, in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pandar, and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch: one whom I will beat into clamorous whining, if thou deniest the least syllable of thy addition. (King Lear)
Even when we don’t understand the exact meaning, we get the message from the general tone.
Of course, there have been other famous ‘insulters’ over the years. Winston Churchill was famous for his acid comebacks, as was Groucho Marx with lines like: “She got her good looks from her father. He’s a plastic surgeon.”
But while some insults depend on wit, others are to do with the words used. And, like other parts of the language, insults go out of fashion.
There was a feature on the BBC website a couple of days ago after former international footballer turned TV presenter Gary Lineker referred to a thief who stole his mum’s car as a ‘rotter’.
The word is a bit of a throwback to the earlier part of the previous century and the BBC feature looked at some other insults that have fallen out of fashion.
Some insults also depend on where you come from. I was re-watching series two of The Wire recently and had to blink when drug gang hard man Cheese yelled out at a rival: “You cottage cheese chest ass motherf***er!”
I’m sorry? What! I mean, ‘Cheese’ is a bit of an odd name for a hard man but surely he could have said something a bit less… bizarre?
Anyone got any explanations? Or examples of other inspiring or weird insults?
As an aside, for anyone else who believes The Wire to be the best TV drama ever made – they could run degree courses based on the writing in this series – here’s a treat. A 10-minute compilation of some of its (many) best lines. Enjoy: