Tuesday, 31 December 2013

New Year's Revolution

No, that was not a typo. I really do need to shake things up this year. 2013 was all about beginnings; getting married, buying my first car and publishing my debut novel. 2014 needs to be when I take the latter to a level more aligned with my ambitions.

I spent the best part of two years submitting to agents before deciding to self publish, and until I become successful there will always be times when I may regret that decision. I will always wonder if I should have waited and had one more shot at the big leagues. Except of course, the big leagues are not what they once were.

Sure, self publishing comes with a fair amount of stigma (there is a lot of crap out there), but whilst the standards continue to improve, traditional publishing is also on the decline and the two will eventually meet in some happy medium. I must point out that when I refer to decline of traditional publishing, it is from a quality standpoint rather than that of profitability. Agents are no longer looking for gifted writers, but for 'easily marketable ideas.' Many of these ideas will be ill conceived and poorly executed, but because they so closely resemble a Dan Brown or a Stephanie Meyer, they will sell.

So whilst the book trade is not going anywhere, it is changing rapidly. The challenge for me is to make sure that I am not swept into obscurity by this massive tidal wave of easily accessible and often under priced work available to readers. I currently have two books published and once the third hits Amazon, I will be starting with my free promotions via Kindle Select. Many authors talk of the rapidly decreasing benefits of the Select program, but I believe that if I can only get my books into the hands of enough readers, I may be able to generate some buzz. The books are good enough to sell themselves, but only if they have the visibility to make that happen.

Therefore, my resolution for 2014 is to get noticed. Social media will not do this for me. The only way to show people how good my books are is for them to read them. If that means that I have to give my books away, then so be it. I know that the best advert that a writer has for his or her new book is the one that he or she wrote before it.

Happy New Year.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Midas Touch

Everybody is familiar with King Midas, the much fabled monarch of Greek mythology. According to the legend, King Midas was granted the power whereby everything that he touched would turn instantly to gold. This has led to people applying the expression, 'the Midas Touch' to anybody who makes a success of every venture that person undertakes. 

These people did obviously not read the story, because this week I have had the metaphorical Midas Touch and it brings about anything but success.

When Midas first received the power to turn all that he touched to gold, he tested it on a rock. As expected, the rock was instantly transformed from something worthless into an object of great value. All good so far. However, when Midas returned home and ordered his servants to prepare a feast, he encountered his first problem. Upon picking up an apple to eat, it turned instantly gold, rendering it completely inedible. Even the water and the wine turned to liquid gold once it touched the King's lips. To cut a long story short - The Midas Touch was not a gift; it was a curse.

Turning worthless objects such as rocks into a valuable metal is one thing, but turning everything into gold is nothing less than a nightmare. Essentially, everything that Midas touched was instantly destroyed. Even his daughter was turned into a golden statue. Not even James Bond can save a girl from that fate. Therefore, when I say that this week I have had the Midas Touch, it has been really bad.

It all started when I decided to recharge my phone on Sunday. I have a brand new Samsung Galaxy III Mini that is worth more than the laptop I am using to write this blog post and perhaps rather stupidly, not insured. After plugging in the phone, I noticed something was lodged behind the back of the cabinet I was resting it on. I bent down to retrieve the object (it was the dongle for the wi-fi) and inadvertently got my leg entangled with the cord from the phone. As soon as I walked away, the phone went flying from the cabinet and crashed screen down onto the hard wooden floor of our living room. I now have a used, badly scratched Samsung Galaxy III Mini with a crack in the screen, which is worth considerably less than the laptop I am using to write this blog post.

The next occurrence of My Midas Touch came about when my wife, Katie, asked me to help her in making some chocolate truffles to take up to my family for Christmas. The recipe called for some double cream to be brought to a light simmer and then mixed with melted chocolate. Simmer, boil - it is all the same thing. Apparently not. The components of the chocolate separated and we ended up with ugly brown sludge sitting on a think layer of pure fat.

Not learning from the previous outcome of placing her trust in my ability to help with her baking, Katie enlisted me in the preparation of some gingerbread biscuits. Again, these were intended for my family at Christmas. It started well, as I up-scaled the gingerbread man cookie cutter to the size of a human child, but then things went downhill fast once we removed the life-sized gingerbread baby from the oven. The biscuit had expanded whilst baking at heat, making it an overweight baby. I took it upon myself to rework some definition into our creation and began carving at the body with a knife. We now have a freaky, headless life-sized gingerbread baby.

The list goes on. A kettle with a blown fuse and a car running low on engine coolant that turned into a car with perhaps a little too much engine coolant, to name just two. For fear of wrecking a thus far pleasing first draft, I have not done any work on my latest novel recently. I had also planned on sorting out my tax enrolment this week, but have now decided to wait until after Christmas when, hopefully, my luck will have changed somewhat and I will no longer be cursed with 'The Midas Touch'.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Writer vs Storyteller

This post comes two weeks after my last, which is the longest gap I have left since starting this blog back in April. My original plan had been to post three times a week. This soon dropped to twice a week. Not long after that it reduced again to just one post a week. So what now - fortnightly updates?

First and foremost, I am a novelist. The blog is only an extension of my chosen career path. It has been due to a hectic period of writing the first draft of a new novel that has recently slowed my blog output. You see, writing a novel requires a full time commitment and something, somewhere has to give eventually. I have had to scale back the blog and other social media activities to ensure that my books get as much of my time as possible. The question that I have to ask myself is - how much time is enough?

One or two hours per night is about the most that I can devote to writing at the moment. At that rate the novel will take years to complete, which is significantly more than the 6 months that I was hoping for the first draft. If I am going to reach my target, I cannot afford to spend time sitting at a blank screen waiting for the words to come. I need to be productive.

The reason that I am hopeful of reaching my target is that although I have extremely limited time for writing, writing is only a very minor part of creating a book. In fact, writing is not important at all. Novelists are not writers. We are storytellers and there is a difference. The plot of a book is not created by putting pen to paper or tapping away at a keyboard. Stories are created in the imagination.

I may only have those two hours to write, but I have every other hour that is available to come up with my story. I think about it over breakfast. I think about it on the journey to work. The mundane nature of my job means that I spend a large portion of the day thinking about my stories too. And then for those two hours each night I get to transcribe those thoughts from the day.

A writer has tight deadlines and so little time, but a storyteller has all of the time in the world. Even in our dreams, we can find inspiration. Take this blog post. It was not created at a keyboard. That was merely the means by which I was able to share it with an audience. The words and the thoughts that make this post were actually created an hour ago when I was in the shower.

You don't need a pen and paper to create stories. You need only your imagination and that is something that you can take with you anywhere.