My ‘author year’.

Write that month off then.

Write that month off then.

Writer’s diary: stardate: 26.06.2014

Less than two years into my self-publishing adventure, and already I have established my ‘author year’. And why not? Other walks of life have the calendar year, the financial year, the fiscal year, the budget year, the sporting year and the academic year, for examples.

My ‘author year’ runs from September 1st to June 31st. Because I said so. And I’m in charge. Decisions have to be made and the buck stops with me.

First week of July we are heading back to the UK for the summer for the holidays. And if the weather can manage what we had last summer it will be another wonderful break, I’m sure. If you have never been to Dymchurch beach on a fine summer’s day you’ve missed something special.

In the UK my home is a two minute walk from the beach. Perfect for my three year old boy to commute to and play safely on.

Here is a snap from last year if you don’t believe me. (It’s worth clicking on it for the full-screen effect.)

Halcyon days in The Children's Paradise.

Halcyon days in The Children’s Paradise.

I won’t be hauling my laptop with me because that might tempt me to try to find time and space to write. I want to write. I love writing. I will miss writing. But I also want to enjoy my holiday with my family. If I take my laptop there will be a temptation and I don’t want the conflict to threaten my family holiday. Don’t forget I also have a day job; I need a break from everything, too. (There is no regular Internet connection for me back home, but I’ll try to keep up with correspondence on my trips with the ipad to Wi-Fi zones.)

I anticipate doing a lot of reading. There is a charity bookshop in Dymchurch which always has shelves of good and reasonably priced paperbacks for sale. How I’ve missed browsing bookshops. I anticipate long mornings reclining on the golden sands in The Children’s Paradise under the sea wall enjoying the sun and a good ‘real’ book while my son amuses himself on the beach.

This last ‘author year’ I self-published two books. Bad Sons and A Dog’s Life. I’ve also written the third in my Acer Sansom series, Smoke & Mirrors. I won’t get that out now until I return to Istanbul. It would have been good to, but it’s not ready, it needed extra work and still needs more. One of the great things about being a self-publisher is that there are no deadlines. When it’s ready and I’m happy, I’ll click publish. My apologies to any who were perhaps looking forward to this title for a summer read, but I’m sure you understand.

I’ve made a good start on the second B&C but I’m going to have to shelve it until I return. I had hopes of at least finishing the first draft before we head home but I forgot to factor in the World Cup to my ‘author year’. Watching three matches a night in my time zone is taking its toll on my creativity and energy. Again, it’s a choice and one I’m happy to make.

My realistic predictions for the next ‘author year’ are not particularly encouraging, but it’s best to face up to them and get used to them rather than live in denial. That won’t be helpful, and life can be tough enough without creating additional pressures for oneself.

I start at a new school in September. I’ve walked to work for the last five years and that’s been worth its weight in gold to me as an author and a human being. The new job is an hour’s commute away…by bus. The fact that I’ve done that to my working day is a reflection of how bitterly disappointed I have been with the new administration at my ‘old’ school this year. I’m leaving behind some wonderful colleagues and brilliant students. I’m also leaving behind a position and routine that provided me the opportunity to find time to write. I don’t anticipate that at my new school I’ll find half the time I had here.

Those familiar with this blog will know that I started writing when I came to Turkey five years ago. I’ve written eight books while I’ve been working at this school. (Not during lessons, of course, I mean in my time here.) I can still remember banging away on the first Acer Sansom – the first book I wrote – on the school computer, which kept crashing, in the old staffroom in my free periods. Before I started carrying my laptop to school every day I was always trying to find a computer that worked to practice my hobby. There probably isn’t a computer here that doesn’t have a chapter or two of something I’ve written on its hard-drive. I feel quite nostalgic about the technology here, which is quite appropriate seeing as most of it is from another age.

On top of my new working life, my son is growing up – he was three this week – and becoming  more demanding. Like Elton sang about Mars, Istanbul is not a place to raise your kids. We live in an apartment, which, like most apartment blocks in Istanbul has no play area or garden to speak of. The nearest park to us is a twenty minute speed-walk away. My usual routine is to come in from work, put his reins on him and go there for an hour or two each evening after school. (Coming from a rural area, I can’t bear to think of him not having the space and opportunity for outside play in his day.) This coupled with my new commute, I can see myself getting less time to write at home in the evenings and weekends. I won’t ignore my parental responsibilities with him just so that I can write. I wouldn’t want to. It’s a choice I’m happy to make.

This will be my last blog-post for the ‘year’. That’s something else I won’t be killing myself over while on holiday.

I’d like to take this seasonal opportunity to offer my sincere and heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all my readers for their interest, downloads and support of my writing. It’s worth repeating: writers are nothing without readers. I’d also like to say a public and huge thank you to Martin, my gentleman friend, who has worked with me on the Acer books, the fourth R&M and the B&C. Through his diligent proofreading and editorial suggestions my writing has achieved a much more polished and professional finish – absolutely necessary as a self-publisher if one is to continue to attract readers and maintain their interest.

Have a great summer everyone and I look forward to further communication with you all next ‘year.’

Sexy Beast.

voice

‘Hello, mate. Long time, no see.’

‘Geezer. You all right?’

‘Yeah, good. You?’

‘What’s wrong with your voice?’

‘Nothing.’

‘Got a cold?’

‘No. D’you like it?’’

‘What? Your voice?’

‘Yeah.’

‘What happened?’

‘Operation.’

‘Shit.’

‘On me vocal chords.’

‘Cancer?’

‘No. We fancied a change is all.’

‘Eh?’

‘We decided to try me sounding different.’

‘We?’

‘Me and the Mrs.’

‘Sorry, mate, I still don’t get it.’

‘I’ve had a Vocal Enhancement Procedure.’

‘Cosmetic surgery? On your vocal chords?’

‘If you like. Go on, who do I sound like?’

‘Familiar. Is it a celebrity?’

‘Sort of. Actor.’

‘Fuck! Yeah. That bloke does the no win, no fee ads on the telly. What’s his name?’

‘Winstone. And it’s gambling.’

‘I’ll bet. Surgery’s always a risk. Don’t it confuse people? Your mum and that?’

‘They got used to it. Perked up our sex life.’

‘How d’you mean?’

‘It was her what gave me the push to have it done. She’s got a thing about him.’

‘Yeah? Not exactly what you’d call a sexy beast is he?’

‘Not my type. She wants me every night, now.’

‘What? Sex?’

‘Sort of. She makes me talk to her.’

‘About what?’

‘Lines from his films mostly.’

‘Lines from his films?’

‘Yeah. News of my day at the recycling centre don’t do it for her.’

‘You’re joking?’

Beautiful, and full of fine promises. I was weak. I am sorry. So, so sorry. I have always loved you my queen.’

‘What’s that from?’

Beowulf.’

‘Got anything from The Departed?’

‘Well make more fucking’ money. This is America. You don’t make more money, then you’re a fuckin’ douchebag.’

‘That’s brilliant. Amazing.’

‘Cheers.’

‘Let me get this straight: you read lines from his films to your Mrs for sex? Are you OK with that?’

‘It’s easier in the dark.’

‘The dark?’

‘She don’t want to see me. Says it spoils things.’

‘How do you read with the lights out?’

‘I have to memorise them, don’t I?’

‘Shit. But the sex is worth it, right?’

‘It’s a bit one sided, if I’m honest.’

‘Go on.’

‘She’s become a bit…selfish.’

‘Oh. How much did it cost?’

‘Cashed in the ISA.’

‘I thought you was saving for an holiday?’

‘Me too.’

‘Still, if the wife’s happy. What it’s all about, in it? Marriage. Keeping her indoors sweet. ‘Take one more step, traitor, and I’ll chew you to pieces.’

She didn’t like that one. I’m not to do it.

The End.

(You know you want to read it again.)

The joy of books.

'Real' books.

‘Real’ books.

Writer’s diary: 12.06.2014

Life can throw up some surprises. Last Saturday I commented on Facebook that I’d just read The Old Man and the Sea again. (I read it on my kindle.) It’s one of my favourite books by an author who I enjoy reading.

Later that afternoon I went into Kadikoy, the big town down the road from me. I felt like a change of scene and a beer and something to eat out. Oh, and I needed a haircut.

So I had the haircut (no dog story this time) and thought I’d mooch about the back streets a bit. There are a few second hand bookshops round there. I found one I hadn’t been in before and asked in my broken Turkish if he had any English books – ‘Ingilizce kitap, varma?’

The man was very friendly and led me over to a bookcase of moth eaten paperbacks. I had a look anyway. I was there and I’ve learnt never to judge a bookcase full of second hand books by the first spine you see.

I found two great books. One was a superb copy of The Old Man and the Sea. Really. Hardback, dust-jacket, fine condition, not price clipped, tight copy.

Now, I’m a book collector. I collect first editions. And when I saw the unfaded spine of this book sticking out from the dross my heart missed a beat. Was it a first edition, first impression? No. It’s actually a much later edition. But I don’t care because it’s beautiful. And when I fan the pages under my nose I get a whiff of old musty paper. It’s a delight to hold and see and smell. I haven’t licked it yet, but I might.

I also picked up a copy of a Ross MacDonald, Lew Archer book, The Underground Man, see photo. Not read any Ross MacDonald before but I’ve heard great things about him. And this was a fortuitous acquisition for another reason.

I’m writing B&C#2. I wrote B&C#1 after a brief but intense fling with a Raymond Chandler book. Reading Chandler inspired me to have a go at first-person hard-boiled detective fiction. With Bad Sons I reckon I pulled off first-person soft-boiled detective fiction. No problem. It works for me. I’m going to read this Lew Acher and hope it will inspire me similarly with my prose for this second in the B&C series.

Actually, I already started it. The flat was empty on Sunday afternoon. I got a cold beer and flopped on the sofa for an hour with it. You cannot beat a ‘real’ book for the multi-sensory pleasure that reading can be.

Update: I finished it today. Brilliant. I have a new author to look out for.

It might be remembered that Rope Enough had a very nice review from a ‘real’ author recently. (I linked to it here a couple of weeks ago.) The lady in question asked if I’d like to do an interview for her website and, of course, I was thrilled to accept. It went live today and here is the link.

http://francesdiplinoreviews.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/ten-facts-about-oliver-tidy.html?spref=tw

Smoke and Mirrors – Acer Sansom #3

Smoke and Mirrors 0602 (Medium)

Yeah, OK, I know it’s a bit ‘in your face’ size-wise, but for its first showing I think that’s allowable.

I really like the covers for all of my books. I have no regrets or what ifs regarding any aspect of any of them. I think the fellow who does my cover design does a great job. While we’re at it, he’s very easy to work with, very reasonably priced, happy to listen to suggestions and make any number of revisions to pander to the ‘creative’ input of me. He is Kit Foster you can find him here: http://www.kitfosterdesign.com 

I think that professional cover art is one of the most important aspects of ebook publishing. As Kit says on his website…because we all judge a book by its cover. I think he’s right. I’d also add that you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

In his best-selling book Blink Malcolm Gladwell looks at the power of spontaneous responses – judging from first impressions. He coins the phrase ‘thin-slicing’ to describe one’s ability to make a rapid judgement based on a small amount of data.

Data doesn’t come much smaller than a thumbnail image. It’s the bait, the lure, the enticement. When they’re all lined up together you’ve got to encourage the reader to click on you out of dozens of possibilities. And if your cover screams professionally produced, among other things, then probably readers will feel some assurance that the rest of the book will meet a production expectation. (I wouldn’t be surprised if the inverse was true.) At least they might be encouraged to read the blurb, or try the ‘Look Inside’ feature, maybe look at other readers’ comments.

I feel like showing all three of my Acer covers. So I will.

Dirty Business Final (Large)    Loose Ends Final (Large)    Smoke and Mirrors 0602 (Medium)

This week, writing wise, I’ve been  working on Smoke and Mirrors. I had some editorial suggestions to respond to. It’s the most work I’ve had to do on a book I’ve written. I agree that the book needed the work. I’ve since read it again and I’m sure it is better for it. And I wasn’t chopping passages out, I was shoring them up. I added another couple of thousand words.

Amazon: love me, love me not.

amazon love

Writer’s diary: 29.05.2015

I tried something a couple of weeks ago to boost flagging download figures for my free book, Rope Enough. It didn’t work and it added further weight to my already strong feeling that the only way for an author like me to increase download figures is if Amazon loves me. And there’s not really a lot I can do about that. (Other than continue to send them flowers, chocolates and pictures of me in the shower…maybe that’s where I’m going wrong.) So unless you’re with Amazon’s own publishing company, Thomas & Mercer – where you are guaranteed an unfair advantage in the publicity stakes (allegedly) or you’re already a household name as opposed to something to be whispered in the garden shed – it’s all down to luck regarding whether you get on the kinds of lists that can lead to an increase in numbers of downloads. Or maybe it’s not. I’m open to argument/enlightenment on that.

After not bothering too much with Twitter other than to tweet announcements of my weekly blog-posts and retweet the odd thing, I thought I’d try tweeting loads of Twitter outlets that exist to promote free-giveaways with news of my…er… free-giveaway. Several of them were decent enough to retweet to their, literally, tens of thousands of followers my message and the .com or .co.uk link to the book, and I didn’t see any difference in download figures. I know that the reliability and validity of this ‘experiment’ is questionable. I was after a snap-shot indication. I think I got one, but I’m open to argument/enlightenment on that.

Probably you’ve got to do that sort of thing over and over again, week after week. But who really reads all those tweets and retweets for authors’ books? I don’t. Do you? And even if I do, I don’t go and download them. It’s verging on policy to ignore them out of spite for the brazen self-promotion. Does anyone other than Katie Price enjoy having things rammed down their throat?

OK, sure you have to let readers know. I’m talking about overkill. Perhaps, I’m missing the point. Perhaps, my download figures are the embodiment of my lack of engagement with that sort of thing. (Hey! maybe that’s why no one downloaded my book after my twitter ‘storm’ – too many people think like I do.) Does that make me a self-fulfilling prophecy, or simply a moaning old git? I’m open to argument/enlightenment on that. (But not from my children or ex-spouses. It gets boring after a while, guys.)

I don’t know. I’m just guessing. I think the list you really want to be on is Amazon’s recommendation list. The one where Amazon recommends your book/s to prospective readers who’ve enjoyed others in the genre you write in. It strikes me as a Catch-22 situation: you can’t get really decent download figures if you’re not on that list and you can’t get on that list if you’re not getting really great download figures. Or unless Amazon wants a fling with you. I’m open to argument/enlightenment on that.

Amazon had the self-publisher’s equivalent of a brief encounter with me, I think. (Of course, I don’t know, but it felt like that – a bit superficial, a bit meaningless. Like I’d been chatted up at the bar, been used, abused and cast aside like a soiled conquest.) Why am I even talking like that? I had a great time, too. But Amazon seems to have lost interest in me these days. Amazon won’t make eye contact with me anymore at work. Amazon avoids me in the dinner hall. Amazon turns around and walks the other way when it sees me in the corridors.

Since being reborn as a self-publisher, I’ve been weaned on the idea that social networking is the way to promote yourself and to turn yourself into an C-list author in terms of download figures. There must be something in it. But I haven’t got the time or energy to divert to it and, as I said up there, I honestly believe that the whim of Amazon, like the grace and favour of a powerful monarch, is what counts. The age old story of who you know. I’m open to argument/enlightenment on that.

After all that navel-gazing, I’d like to sign off this week with a funny story, to share one thing on my own writing front. It gave me, and probably my friend, a good laugh. I sent Acer #3 to my ‘gentleman friend’ for a perusal before I get too busy with it. Just looking for some feedback from a trusted, objective source. One thing he highlighted for attention was this sentence: Then he went back to his seat at the window and watched the dessert go by as the sun went down. That was two days ago and I’m still chuckling.

I’m finished with Acer!!!!!!

Let battle commence!

Let battle commence!

Writer’s diary: 23.05.2014

Chapter 1

When I say I’m finished with Acer, what I mean is I’m finished with the first draft of the third novel. We haven’t broken up. Acer and I will likely endure for a while yet, I hope.

It all started coming together quite quickly in the end and I had a good gallop – a few late nights and early mornings – to the finish line. But I don’t think the ending is rushed. I think the book has a good pace all through.

And then a man came through the door with a gun in his hand.

Chapter 2

I’ve moaned a bit about this book and how challenging it was to write for reasons that I won’t rehash here. I know that I’ve spent much longer on the Internet looking up this and that for this book than I have for any other I’ve written.

For my own amusement I had a look at when I started writing it thinking that it must have been a loooonnnng time ago. I found a blog-post I wrote in February of this year where I said that I had the idea for books three and four in this series on my way to the airport. I did some maths and was amazed to calculate that this book has only taken me fourteen days to write to this stage. Then I double checked my figures and realised it was actually three months. (I’m an English teacher not a maths teacher.) That’s no longer than any of my other books time-wise.

Books one and two in the series were both 100,000 words. This one is 91,000.

And then a man came through the door with a gun in his hand.

Chapter 3

The gentleman who helps me out with my writing ‘issues’ suggested a while back that I consider chapter length when writing. He probably said why, but I forget. I’m not a very good listener. It’s not easy to tell me something.

Books one and two were both twenty-six chapters long. Book three is currently ninety-two chapters plus a prologue and an epilogue. That’s different. And here’s why.

When I’d finished and was going through the file on the computer I thought that some of the chapters were a bit too long. And then I got to thinking how that seemed to make things drag in places when what I was looking for was a sense of pace. I cut those chapters in half. And it dawned on me that utilising something that has to go into a book anyway – chapter breaks – in the right way can be a convenient and legitimate tool for creating pace and tension. If I’d ever done a creative writing course, they probably would have taught that in the first week. And I realise that loads of others do it/did it: Chandler, Lee Child etc.

And then a man came through the door with a gun in his hand.

Chapter 4

I’m temporarily happy with the overall effect.

I have it printed off and I’m now on stage two – going to town on it with various coloured highlighter pens. I don’t mind this part. I like getting surgical with it.

And then a man came through the door with a gun in his hand.

Chapter 5

If anyone ever asks me what’s the best thing about writing a book, I’ll answer: finishing it.

If anyone ever asks me what’s the worst thing about writing a book, I’ll answer: finishing it.

And then a man came through the door with a gun in his hand.

Chapter 6

As a writer, the worst thing about finishing a book for me is that I have to start another one from scratch. The blank page/screen is waiting and it’s daunting. So here is a tip for myself that’s worked for me this time. Start another book before you finish the one you’re on.

I started Booker & Cash#2 a while back with a good idea. I got to 20,000 words and had to put it to one side for R&M#4 and then Acer#3. Now I don’t have to start a new book from scratch. I’m already a quarter of the way in! Kerching!

And then a man came through the door with a gun in his hand.

The End

Part 2:

I had a nice surprise via Twitter this week that is worth recording for posterity here. I won’t go on about it. I’ll just paste the link.

http://francesdiplinoreviews.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/review-of-rope-enough.html?spref=tw

Part 3:

The link below provides some great ideas for those looking to get their Christmas shopping all finished early this year.

http://www.sadanduseless.com/2014/05/weird-amazon-books/

Fantastic Fiction?

Rubbish? Or how exploitation of Amazon category choice made me a best seller.

Rubbish? Or how exploitation of Amazon category choice made me a best seller.

Writer’s diary: 16.05.2014

The tag line for my wordpress site has always been ‘on trying to make it as an author of note.’ I have often wondered what the hell I meant by that, and how I would know if it ever happened. I sometimes wish I had chosen something more clearly definable, more transparently achievable.

I’ve had two things happen since last week’s blog-post that make me feel I might be a bit closer to whatever it is I’m after that I don’t understand and wouldn’t know if I fell over it.

1) Amazon chart positions: Last Saturday books two, three and four in the R&M Files were all in the Amazon top 20 for the paid chart British Detectives. It was only for about half a day but it was special enough for me to give myself the afternoon off and buy the family an ice-cream at the park. (It wasn’t my fault that they weren’t there and I had to eat three.) Little successes must be celebrated, I think, as much as the big successes.

No one outside of Amazon knows how chart rankings are calculated (I wonder if Amazon do) but I’m pretty sure that while one could get one book in the top 20 of a chart by some random algorithm there is a bit more than luck and randomness involved to get three books in it. People must be downloading them and they wouldn’t be downloading them if they weren’t enjoying the series after and including book one which is my free try-before-you-by initiative. (For the record it should be noted that the British Detective category is an Amazon category and not one of those obscure ones I made up in order to get Amazon to list me in it so that I could manipulate chart positions and look like a best seller. See below.)

(As I was writing this post on Monday morning Dirty Business made it to #1 spot in Amazon.co.uk Best Seller list: Kindle Store > Books > Crime, Thriller & Mystery > Suspense > Political (see above) and Loose Ends was there in silver medal position. By Monday evening they’d swapped places (see below). OK, so that’s a bit of a remote category but it’s a chart with a top 100 and you have to pay for them. So I think I can rightly refer to myself as a double best seller. (Three more ice-creams later.)

Acerrrrr2

[Acer’s rubbish is he? Grrrrr.....]

Before we all get carried away with my roaring success and start ordering Rolex watches let’s give that some perspective. Up until lunch time 12.05.2014 the books had had the following numbers of downloads on Amazon.co.uk. Dirty Business: 68 sales and 3 borrows. Loose Ends: 58 sales and 3 borrows.(That’s twelve days remember. Best seller in name only, I’d say.)

2) Recognition: I now have an entry on the Fantastic Fiction database, which I consider to be the fiction reference equivalent of ‘Who’s Who’. I did not pay for it. I did not write begging for it. It just happened and I couldn’t have been made happier if all my books were in the Amazon top 10 Kindle books best sellers list.

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/t/oliver-tidy/

I have used Fantastic Fiction as a reference point for years as a reader. When I started my self-publishing journey I dreamed about getting on it. And now I am. I have no idea how one gets on there and I don’t care. I’m just thrilled to be there. But I do wish I’d used a better profile picture for all my social media outlets. Me in a bow tie just looks so… For anyone who ever wonders, it’s from my last wedding. (When I say last I mean the one before the next.) To be honest I think I look more like one of the waiters than a groom.

This week it really feels like I have edged towards becoming an author of note as opposed to an author of ‘rubbish’. (Is he still banging on about that? Get over it, will you?) There, I said it so my daughter doesn’t have to.