Archive | January 2014

Revised, Extended & Set Free

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.

Waking smIn that story, Danny Harper doesn’t understand what’s going on but is determined to win back the woman he loves.

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.

Dilemmas, Dilemmas

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?

The Mystery of NASA

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.

For example:

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…