The bright side.

So it's not a Range Rover but I wouldn't say no to one.

So it’s not a Range Rover but I wouldn’t say no to one.

This week I had a great example of how one’s perspective can influence one’s frame of mind. It was after work. I was waiting for the ride home with a colleague. A parent turned up to collect their child. The parent was driving a brand new BMW 4×4. I remarked to my colleague on the good fortune of the parent to have such a wonderful vehicle. (That’s the polite version.) I said that one day I’d like to come to work in a big German motor. He told me I already did. And I had a chauffeur. I gave him a funny look. He reminded me that the school bus is a Mercedes and that we have a driver. He was looking on the bright side. And then so was I. I felt better already.

The next day I was in class and I accidentally broke a child’s purple colouring pencil. When she’d stopped crying I tried to lift her mood by encouraging her to look on the bright side: now she didn’t have one purple pencil, she had two! OK. So you can’t encourage everyone to see the best in things. That’s her problem. After what she called me, I had a good mind to see how she liked having four purple colouring pencils.

I’m a Goodreads author. I have a profile and everything. Goodreads readers tend to be less generous than Amazon readers with their starred ratings. That’s fine. Same for everyone. I think it’s become something of an expectation over there. For instance, I’ve had a reader leave a four star comment on Amazon and then a three star comment for the same book on Goodreads. No problem. The way that it is.

A couple of days ago I noticed that two 2* ratings had appeared for He Made Me B&C#2. I was a bit gutted as, with those included, I only had eight ratings anyway. It dragged the average down considerably. And of course I was a bit sad that two readers didn’t like what could be my best book to date.

With Goodreads it can take anything up to seventy-two hours for the reader details that go with a rating to appear on the book’s page. (I know because they told me.) The reader details for these two 2* comments didn’t materialise on the book’s page in three days. I messaged Goodreads to ask about this. (I had my hate mail already drafted for when the readers’ identities were revealed.) Within ten minutes the two 2* reviews had been removed. I was shocked. There was no accompanying explanation, so I requested one. I got this:

Authors can refresh their own book ratings (right next to where you set primary/default/featured edition). Or if look really wonky, contact staff.

Mostly I’ve been told changes take 10 minutes to 72 hours to populate throughout all areas of goodreads (stats and thumbnail heavy pages seem slowest).

Readers might also just be adding, changing or deleting ratings/reviews faster than reflecting in displayed stats currently being looked at. Or goodreads could be cleaning up the Sockpuppet and spam accounts …

I’m inclined to look for the answer to my Goodreads episode in that last sentence. It makes the most sense. And, frankly, I’m quite disturbed to think that if I hadn’t just asked the question, if I’d just accepted that a couple of readers thought the book was shite then my book’s rating would be unfairly reduced by either spam or sockpuppet accounts. Needless to say my confidence in Goodreads feedback has taken a bit of a knock.

I’ve managed to contribute another sixteen thousand words to R&M#5 since the last blog-post. It now teeters on the cusp of 97000 words and there is still a little way to go. The writing is going well. I’ll have a lot of work to do when I reach the end of the story but I don’t mind that. The satisfaction/relief nay euphoria of getting to the end of a story can often support my fragile mental state for a couple of weeks.

Talking about R&M#5 – I have mentioned before my intention to call it Particular Stupidities. There are a couple of very good reasons for this, which will become evident from the reading of it. I will be most reluctant to change the title. But I’ve got a bit of a problem: with my R&M covers I like to include an effect in the title – replace a letter with an artefact relevant to the story. With the last one, A Dog’s Life, that artefact was obvious to me from quite early on. But with this one…I just can’t see it. I wonder if any of my readers might have a good idea. Not an artefact from the story in this case, but something that resonates with stupidity. Any suggestions will be gratefully received. And if I nothing crops up I suppose I’ll have to leave it to the cover design guy. It’s what I pay him for after all.

Have a great weekend everyone.

The other noble art?

It's never looked particularly noble to me. Or arty. Just brutal and painful.

It’s never looked particularly noble to me. Or arty. Just brutal and painful.

Is there any occupation more noble, more admirable, more worthy than being an author of novels?

This is the question I asked myself as I hoofed it home after being dropped off the school bus this evening at the (not) end of the working week. (We’re in on SUNDAY!!! For an open day. Hells bells!)

Within five paces I’d reconsidered to include anyone who is artistically creative: songwriters, artists, poets and the like. People who bring untold pleasure to others through the arts.

Another couple of steps and I was thinking that doctors and people who put out fires and people who care for the sick and dying and those who strive to save species from extinction might be considered more worthy individuals than writers of fiction. Still, it was nice few yards while it lasted.

Where did this indulgent feeling about my adopted semi-profession come from? Owing to a bit of heavy traffic I was able to finish Lamentation, the sixth book in the Matthew Shardlake series of historical mystery novels by CJ Sansom, just before I got dropped off. What a book. What a series. What a writer. If you haven’t given the Shardlake books a try, do it now and start at the beginning. A master story teller.

I’ve been looking forward to reading this one from before it was published. Noticing its reduced price of only £1.99 on Amazon last weekend, I couldn’t resist. (In the UK I have three pristine signed first editions of this title to go with my others in the series but I can’t read them.) I’ve been devouring this one on the daily commute. As soon as I opened my Kindle I was transported into the period and the story. I become totally oblivious to everything. Sansom has been one of my favourite authors for a while. He has only increased his stock with me for this addition to the Shardlake canon.

Surely one of the most wonderful compliments that can be paid to an author is when a reader is moved to cry, or laugh out loud or, as in my case today, literally audibly gasp at a turn of events. I hardly believe I did but it’s true – the person sitting next to me asked if I was all right. I don’t think I’ve ever gasped while reading before. (I don’t include that letter from my ex-wife’s solicitors asking for a lump sum settlement.) It’s wonderful to be moved like that by a writer.

*

Enough of blowing smoke up Mr Sansom’s backside. This blog is supposed to be about my writing.

Romney and Marsh #5, Particular Stupidities, is going well. I careered through the 80,000 word barrier last night and there’s still a way to go. This, then, looks like being the longest R&M I’ve written.

It’s snow time!

The patron saint of teachers.

The patron saint of teachers.

As Bob Dylan famously crooned: How many roads must a man walk down before he says: this compass is broken?

My compass has been giving me some questionable readings for a while now. It’s high time I had a good look at where I am, take some bearings, consider some important questions.

Last week saw another couple of snow days come Istanbul’s way. They are a bonus from on high, from the patron saint of teachers (yes there is one apparently and the clue to her identity is the opening image) working a little magic to reward her faithful disciples. My domestic arrangement for snow days is that I get a good chunk of the day to myself, as long as I make myself scarce i.e. go out. No problem there.

Snow days' work station.

Snow days’ work station.

The number of snow days we’ve enjoyed this winter has led to me becoming quite familiar with this table in this coffee shop that overlooks the Sea of Marmara. It’s not the best coffee in town but it has a good ambiance and Wi-Fi and it’s warm and it’s within a fifteen minute walk of home.

I find this time productive – I usually add a couple of thousand words each day to my latest writing project – and enjoyable – there’s coffee, it’s quiet and no one bothers me. It’s also given me time to think on a few of those burning questions: Where am I? Where do I want to be? How long have I got to get there? Can it be done? What am I prepared to risk/sacrifice on the way?

I know the answers to these questions, I really do, and I know what needs to be done in order to get to where I want to be. But I also know that if I follow my dreams, as the lyrics go…there may be trouble ahead.

Couple of photos I’ll include because I took them.

Istanbul in the snow.

Istanbul in the snow.

There are quite a few fir trees dotted around the streets where I live. I had no idea that snowfall could have such an effect on them. Lots of limbs off and several big trees toppled over under the strain. Probably something to do with stunted root systems.

I wonder is he was insured for trees falling on his car.

I wonder is he was insured for trees falling on his car.

(According to the fount of all knowledge, the patron saint of teachers is Saint Catherine. This painting done by Caravaggio. I do wonder at the significance of the broken wheel. Perhaps she also doubled up as the patron saint of wheelwrights in the school holidays.)

A lesson in humiliation.

mickey mouse

I’m burning the candle at both ends to crack on with Particular Stupidities R&M #5. I’m sixty-five thousand words into it. I desperately want to crack on with it but I can’t.

I can’t get on with the book because I have to do an online course of study  just so that I can continue to teach in this country.

I have a BA Hons in Primary Education (First Class) from a respected British university. I have a Diploma in Specialist Teaching Studies. I have Qualified Teacher Status in the UK. I have several years teaching experience in the UK and several more teaching English as a foreign language abroad. But that all counts for nothing because the Ministry of Education here have moved the employment goalposts in the last year. And the only way I can continue to teach here is if I get this certificate that I just know I’m going to end up printing off myself. It costs money (mine) and it costs time – about sixty hours of my life. SIXTY HOURS OF MY LIFE! I’m so pissed off.

I’ve just reached the first ‘test’. It’s multiple choice. Here’s an example:

How many people are estimated to be learning English worldwide?

  1. a) 10 million
  2. b) 100 million
  3. c) 1 billion
  4. d) 2 billion
  5. e) who cares and how does knowing the answer to that make me better qualified to teach English as a foreign language?

Answer: e

Seriously, as a professional it is humiliating.

*

I’ve given up on so many books this week. Mostly free downloads that ALL started so promisingly and then just became…broken promises. I have also thrown in the towel on a physical book that I gave valuable luggage space to on my return from my homeland. Should I name it? OK, I will. I Am Pilgrim. The Guardian makes the claim on the front cover that it’s the only thriller you need to read this year. It’s nearly nine hundred pages. (Yeah, I know, most unlike me, but it had such great reviews everywhere and I got it cheap in a charity shop.) I enjoyed the first four hundred. But at five hundred I’d had enough. I just can’t pretend that I still want to pick it up.

To fill the void and hopefully rev me back up I moved straight on to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I blogged about it a little while ago. Or rather I blogged about the number of 1* reviews the book has. It’s started well. She writes well for this genre. Lots of readers, including my daughter, have loved the book but been scathing about the ending. I’m looking forward to seeing what all the fuss is about. Providing I can finish the thing.

Back to my ‘studies’.

I just had a thought: what if I fail? That would be a lesson in humiliation, especially if I do have to print off my own certificate.

DI Romney to have sex…again.

Dutch courage.

Dutch courage.

I bet I’m not the only one. You’ve known a word for longer than you can remember. You’ve not taken that much notice of it. It’s always been just a word to you. And then one day you come across it and you have to stop to think about it. For whatever reason. It has a quirky quality, a hitherto unrealised appeal, that makes it stand out. Tomorrow it’ll probably seem like just another word. That new found novelty will have expired, like a New Year’s resolution gym membership. Bosom. It just sounds so…odd to me tonight.

Why am I thinking about bosoms? Because I’m back in the bosom of my Turkish family after a break back in the UK. Romney Marsh to be precise.

I had a very enjoyable, if cold, stay. Thanks to all involved in that. (The stay not the temperature.) I got my bike ride out to St Rumwold’s church in glorious winter sunshine. That south-facing bench I was looking forward to occupying? There was only another cyclist sitting on it with a thermos of coffee when I arrived. Pissed me off a bit. By the time I’d had a tour of the graveyard and the inside of the church they’d gone. But the graveyard tour while I was waiting turned up a couple of interesting discoveries that I had no idea about. I think they call it serendipity.

That's my bike.

That’s my bike.

Speaks for itself.

Speaks for itself.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Vaizey,_Baron_Vaizey

Look him up on Wikipedia.

Look him up on Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Hughes_(novelist)

Fame by association.

Fame by association.

And some views from that bench. (Sort of.)

st r view 1

st r view 2

st r view 3

st r view 4

I signed the visitors’ book. And then I signed it as David Booker. And then I signed it as Jo cash. (Anyone else remember the anxiety I was feeling a few weeks ago over a schizophrenic episode on the way to work?) Was that wrong? It didn’t feel wrong. (It could be argued that they are me and I am them. [That kind of logic should have gone down well with Him].) Anyway, I wasn’t hit by lightning. Maybe He just wasn’t looking.

st R visitors book

A few hundred yards up the road and I was at The White Horse in Bilsington for a couple of pints of real ale and a very nice meal in front of an open fire. It was worth the trip for that. I’m talking about the four hour flight back to blighty.

pub lunch

Then I went back outside into a blast of freezing fresh air for the bike ride home. That felt like being hit by lightning. Actually it felt worse. He works in mysterious ways.

There are a few things that I go back to the UK for in particular. One of them is the opportunity to add to my TBR pile with cheap books ferreted out from the local charity shops. Plenty to be getting on with. And because I was travelling alone my suitcase space on this occasion wasn’t commandeered by a higher authority to be filled with…crap.

tbr pile

And they’re just the paperbacks. There were just as many hardbacks but I can’t read those. They go into special boxes for when I have a home library or a book-themed coffee shop with lockable glass fronts on the bookshelves.

I was so glad that I took my laptop. I couldn’t seem to shake off Istanbul time in my body clock and I was regularly wide-awake by five in the morning. So I was able to chip away at Particular Stupidities (R&M#5). I think I’ve broken the back of it. I think I know how it’s going to end. And I think I know how I’m going to get there. That is a great feeling when you write a police procedural book like what I do – no plan, no idea, no experience of police procedure.

So, about DI Romney getting his leg over, again. In Rope Enough (R&M #1) I wrote the only sex scene I’ve ever written in nine books. It wasn’t exactly Fifty Shades of Grey. But it was still sex. Those that mentioned it wished that it hadn’t been included. I think they found it gratuitous. I wrote it because it seemed the right thing to do at the time. I think that I’ve made it more right over time by pointedly not allowing Romney to have sex since. I’m not in the mood to explain that. And now he’s going to have sex again.

I got to that point in the story at about two o’clock in the afternoon one rainy Dymchurch day. And I realised that I needed a drink before I could even think about it. That bottle of plonk was the only booze in the house. It certainly did the trick. By three o’clock Romney was lying back on his sweat soaked sheets staring at the cracks in his ceiling. And I was pissed.

Dutch courage.

Dutch courage.

I’ve had a few comments on He Made Me (B&C#2) and they’re all positive. That’s great news. Obviously.

Particular Stupidities.

rumwolds

St Rumwold’s Church, Bonnington. (View from Romney Marsh.)

We’re on a two week break now. I’m heading home to the UK tomorrow morning with Turdish Airlines. People to see, things to do, places to visit. Beer to drink, food to eat, books to buy. And so on.

Once again, I’m going to be Internetless on Romney Marsh for a while. It’s never easy. And I’ll be on my own. Always easy.

I’ve put two books out recently – Smoke and Mirrors and He Made Me. I’m glad to get them off my hands before the break. I’m now free to concentrate fully on the project in hand. For a change, I will be taking my laptop with me because I’m half-way into R&M #5 and I don’t want to leave it. If I can keep it ticking over with an hour or two a night I’ll be happy.

Working title and almost certainly the one I’m going to end up with is Particular Stupidities. I know it doesn’t sound very ‘crimey’ but that’s not my biggest concern for this title, which is actually perfect for the book. My biggest concern is how a two word title – one of ten letters and one of eleven letters – is going to look as a thumbnail image. And I’ve got to find room for an ‘effect’ in there somewhere to ‘sex it up’.

Unless I can stumble across some free WiFi on my travels I won’t be able to respond to any emails or comments either here on the blog or on Amazon. Sorry for that, but I’m sure they’ll all keep.

Having been quite immersed in the second Booker & Cash lately I have a desire to visit some of the places what I wrote about. Particularly I want to visit St Rumwold’s church. I’m going to ride my bike the couple of miles out there and sit on the bench in the graveyard that overlooks Romney Marsh just like David and Jo. I might even pretend that I have a book-themed coffee shop in my life, a Range Rover and a Jo.  (Trust me, if ever I strike it lucky two of those three will be high on my shopping list.) Maybe I’ll take some pictures.

And finally, at the time of writing I have one comment on He Made Me at Amazon UK. It’s a good one, which is always nice for the first. I want to share part of the reader’s feedback because it means a great deal to me.

I have never been to Romney Marsh but I must admit these books have made me really want to see the place, it sounds very special.

I was born and bred on Romney Marsh. I lived there for over forty years. It will always be a special place for me. It’s not perfect but it’s home and it does have a lot going for it. I would be thrilled to think that the books I have written and will write about the place could help to raise an awareness of it, to encourage people to think about paying it a visit. I’d like to give something back to it.

Like David Booker, I left Romney Marsh swearing I’d never go back to live there and like David Booker I’m now contemplating reversing that decision. There are a lot of worse places to live, especially with a young boy to raise.

Come in number 9 – your time is up.

He Made Me (Large)

Last night I finished the final read-through of He Made Me (Booker & Cash #2). I changed one word. (It was an important one, so I was glad I went the extra mile.) Only yesterday I said I’d be releasing it at the weekend but as everything else was ready I thought that I might as well induce the birth. Why wait?

So it’s now available from Amazon UK and Amazon.com at the links below.

Now, instead of spending all week spamming people with news of the forthcoming release of this title I can spam them and tell them it’s available for downloading.

(In case anyone is wondering about that number 9 shizzle, that’s my ninth book.)