Where to Start?

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I shall start this post with a quote attributed to that most literary of bears, Winnie the Pooh.

“The beginning is a very good place to start.”

I cannot agree more.

BUT…

Knowing where the beginning is, is not always as clear cut as many may think.

You see, your story, any story, must start somewhere, but that start is often not at the beginning.

Take yourself. Take a tale you told about yourself the last day you did something… silly/forgetful/made a mistake… whatever it may be.

Now, consider how you began to tell your tale the first time you related it.

I bet it was not at the beginning, at least not the real, the true beginning of the string of events which led you to such an occurrence.

First, you would, by our very nature of communicating, have plugged it with a strong opening statement, or a soft lead-in, dependant on whom you were telling the tale, be it your Boss, you Mother, BFF or Lover.

You may have said something along the line of, “You know, Sally and I often go to the bar on Staithes Avenue? Well, we went this lunchtime and, you’ll never guess what happened….”

OR

“I’ve driven down that road for the over ten years and I have never before…”

MAYBE it was, “Oh, my goodness, you just have to listen to this…”

None of those are really the beginning of anything but are leads to an section which is part way through your story, one which, during its telling, you will flit back and forth in time, building your tale of joy or woe into as a believable an anecdote as you can manage/feel right in doing, according to the circumstance.

Therefore, the same story told in the office to your boss will differ slightly to the version you tell your colleagues, or your family in the comfort of your own home.

girls-talking-restaurant-windowIt will definitely not be as richly dressed as your recount of the occasion in the bar later that evening, or as detailed with the emotions you felt during its unfolding when you share it with your lover while lying in bed.

The same is true of our fictional novels and stories; because the way we perceive them as we write is only a version of the whole. What we feel today will alter by tomorrow. By the time we re-write ‘that’ section of the first chapter, our entire viewpoint has fluctuated.

Therefore, what we once perceived as the beginning was, in fact, only a starting point for us to begin writing. The true beginning has still to reveal itself to us.

The matter is, we should never believe our own opinion during one sitting, but allow ourselves the opportunity to alter and change the picture we carry within our mind. Each time we reconsider our work we must see it in differing light, simply because we are not writing to entertain ourselves, but others.Bloods-Veil-page-one.png

Consequently, by revisiting our works and by teaching ourselves not to become immovably fixated on any factor of it, such as the juncture where we originally started to tell our tale, we can then see our story from the viewpoint of others, those who will read our story.

Once again, Winnie the Pooh says it well, “When you are a Bear of Very Little brain, and you Think Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”

We want other people looking at our work, it is, after all, the whole point of writing; yet we want them to understand, to feel and to ‘live’ our story, empathise with our characters and lose themselves from the real world into our fantastical fictional world, we want and need them to believe.

To do so, we must see our books through their eyes, not our own. If that means starting the story from another place, be it a location, another moment in time, a different character’s perspective, then we must change the start of our story to this new beginning.

It may still not be the real beginning, you may alter it again before publication, write a prologue, an introduction, a prequel, or another book which leads on, even in an abstract fashion, to this one.

The point is, there is no true ‘right’ place to start your story, even the true beginning of your own life was far, far before any human existed, so where would you begin to start that story?

Now, while I much admire the genius of Winnie the Pooh and agree, “the beginning is a very good place to start,” I often wonder where the start actually is.


Looking for more literary insights, articles and short stories? Then look no further. The Electric Press magazine is available to read right HERE, for free.

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Why reviews don’t count for much… unless…

I am not above posting articles which could be classed as controversial, such as this one, because I think it is a writer’s duty to bring into the open topics which can be discussed and debated among one’s peers.

Therefore, your comments and viewpoints are most welcome, even if they are incorrect!

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Many indie authors tend to ‘chase’ reviews for their books.

Many more coerce family, friends, co-workers, fellow authors and the like to write a ‘good’ review, even a ‘five-star’ review for their newly released novel(la).

After which, the race is on, posting to social networks, giving away volumes of volumes, (pun intended), to gain several more one or two lines like:

I loved this book, you will too.”

Or

I spent all day reading this book as I was sick in bed. It is good as I spent all day reading it and have only just finished reading it after all day. I liked it alot.”

(YES, these are genuine ‘review’ quotes I stole from the internet.)

There are those which babble on about very little, and end up with lines such as:

“Five stars from me.”

While others focus on the ‘writers’ style and what they ‘got wrong’ and what they, [the reviewer] personally agreed with, so ‘sorry’…

I can only give this book three and a half stars.”

It all makes me chuckle, especially as many of the self-righteous sounding comments, I hate to term them as reviews, are written either by self-proclaimed literary reviewers or by a paid for review service.

Neither of the above being literary or journalistically trained, none can be classed as successful authors in the ‘household’ name sense, and none have any doctorate or master’s degree in the art of book reviewing.

All which is self-explanatory, when considered in the cold light of day.slepatdesk

 

Now, personally, I believe the time and investment an author puts into creating a book, the concept, planning, writing, re-writing, editing, cover design, re-writing, formatting, proofreading and so on, is enough money spent.

Once the book is published, the idea is it starts to return the investment made. (see The Frugal Author for details.) It is NOT the time to be paying someone, often with little talent, to scribble a few badly drafted, ill-advised comments and call it a review. It is NOT.

Neither will their comments give any true credence to your book’s status, even if they say a ‘seven-star’ review… or a ‘ten thousand star’ review… they mean absolutely next to nothing, if not less.

One reason is, ‘stars’ or even the concept of ‘stars’ hold no value. There is no academically, or commercial accepted value to these ‘stars’.

They hold NO value, because any Tom, Dick or Harry… or Sharon, Karen or Portia for that matter, can ‘award’ these ‘stars’ to anyone for any reason whatsoever.

Recently, there has been many a disgruntled an author complaining to Amazon because they removed several ‘reviews’, or disallowed others from appearing on the Amazon book pages.

imagesThis is a good thing.

 

I SHALL EXPLAIN WHY.

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned the coerced reviews, those from friends and family etc.

Now, consider the facts.

Anything any of these people write, as so-called reviews for your book is, by the very nature of its inception, biased.

Therefore untrustworthy.

Given these untrue reviews, any person buying the book ‘off spec’ and finding the reviews posted were false, will most often leave a scathing review of their own, which will often impact with a far greater force than a dozen fake reviews could ever deliver.

The author will then run the risk of being classed as fraudulent.

Which is one of the reasons why Amazon have, and are, clamping down on the reviews they allow to be presented to their potential customers.

This is something I fully support.

One more thing to seriously consider regarding friends, family and colleagues.

IF… and I mean IF your friends and family really want to help you succeed, if they really want to help with the sales of your book, the best and MOST effective way is the simplest… to buy a copy of your book.

This will increase your book’s exposure and move it higher up the rankings with almost immediate effect. This alone is worth more than a mass of fake reviews.

IF they don’t or won’t buy your book, you will know who your true friends are; or find your book is so bad even they don’t want to read it.

Either way, it will save you a ton of long-term heartache.

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The second point is, ‘paid reviews’.

To pay a person to review your book is worse than asking your Mum to write something nice about it.

As with the family and friends’ gig, paid reviews are fake.

They are false because the reviewer has a vested interest to keep you happy. After all, you are paying them and they want your money again in the future when you ask them to read your next book.

Also, they [the reviewer], will not want you posting remarks about their ability or aptitude regarding reviews. So, they will keep you, the author sweet by writing nice, or at least a less critical review of the book in question.

BUT… here are a few things to consider.

Amazon is cracking down on paid for reviews and will be doing so again, soon.

They know ‘who is who’. They do this by monitoring who, where from, when and how reviews are written and posted.

So, you could be risking your hard-earned cash on a review no one will see.

Secondly, many so-called ‘professional’ reviewers boast about the number of books they review in a year.

Many of these numbers would mean the books have to be speed read to manage those figures. So, the reviewer will never read your book in the same manner as a ‘normal/regular’ bookworm.

There are some who have a pool of readers, each of whom gives their comments to the principal reviewer, who then uses standardised templates, altering a few words here and there to ‘personalise’ the ‘review’ of your book.

Not that it matters to the reviewer, they don’t care about you or your book, they just want their fee.istockphoto-659202320-1024x1024

 

Genuine reviews are given by people who read your book without any other reason than something attracted them to it.

It could be the cover, the back-cover blurb, the ‘look inside’, a book trailer you have on YouTube or a post you made on social… it matters not.

What matters is their review will be honest and unbiased.

This is the ONLY form of review which has any genuine validity whatsoever, be it the one-liner which says,

“I liked this author & want to read more.”

Or the long form of essay, sometimes greater in length than the book reviewed which ends in,

“I give this book five stars.”

See, I told you anybody could do it.

That is why reviews don’t count for much… unless.


Do you, as an author, want to know and understand more about the ‘Stuff’ of being indie, about books, the publishing and printing processes?

Then you need to download ‘Lots of Author Stuff You Need to Know’ right now.

AuthiorStuff

Inspiration does not have to be Pretty.

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A good writer has no need to look for inspiration and ideas, they will come flooding unto them.

The fact is, each moment of every day we are surrounded by a million and one stimuli which only need us to recognise their being. We must feel, hear, sense what is around us, what is happening in front of our eyes.

We must allow our perception to absorb, to let our mind create fiction and fantasy from implied interpretation. We must permit our creative seed to run wild.

nathanblog4-700x375I have written on this subject before, albeit from another perspective, in a post called The Curse of the Muse

 

This post is a little different.

A short while ago, possibly a good few months past, I read a post on a social media site from one of my connections. I think ‘friends’ is the general term used.

I was touched by the raw honesty of the post; so much I saved their words so I might use them as a basis for my own writing, either in situation or character creation.

I feel a little guilty for ‘stealing’ these heartfelt outpourings, yet, I am acceptive to the reasoning of creativity and the understanding of where, how and by what means we writers find our inspiration.

You see, most of my works, regardless of genre or setting, focus on our humanity, on social and personal interactions and on life itself.

The following is an edited version of the social media post mentioned. I am sure you will understand the reason it resounded with me, especially if you are a reader of my books and other works.

***

This is it… 

“This isn’t poetry.

It’s not placed on a pretty post.

There are no pictures to pull you in.

This is just me needing to vent and I suppose those who want to know will read it through; there are a few thousand of you, maybe more and I’m just this sickly, tiny, thing who is easy to overlook.

My life isn’t an open a book, but should the play ever be released it will read like a tragedy of comedic design, one that tears the heart and rips the mind.

Irony, you’ll find, is the underlying theme.

I was everything I was told I would be; yet with time viewed through a rear-view mirror, I am nothing which holds value beyond the front door and those therein are on their way out.

I’d leave too, but domestic skills, they don’t count and writing words has yet to pay the bills; besides, without a degree to back up the lines, there are those who say I’ve spent the last three years wasting my time.

It’s pride, I know, but I’m pushing four decades old and I’m not sure I’m equipped to go back to the shit I did before I became a mom and wife.

I mean no offence, but I’m better than a burger to flip, or the next bag of groceries to sack, my mind knows too much to do that any longer.

I could go back to school, try and educate, but what do I do with the stack of debt that’s all late?

I have no resume. That’s the cost, the loss, of being nothing more than a stay at home mom.

What now?

Who am I without the domestic, the wife, the parental role to play, day to day?

So much needs to change and I’m scared to death I’ve waited too late.

Surely this cannot be my fate?

Even this, the sound of my self-pity makes me sick; but this decline of mine, it didn’t happen overnight.

It wasn’t quick.

My worth was stolen by minuscule measures, so slender the slices, I failed to feel the knife and yet looking at my life there’s nothing left but a bloodied mess.

I should find my way out of this.

I’m not as weak as I seem, but at this moment, I am on my knees.

This is not who I am, but damn, I don’t know what I’m supposed to be.

I’m a little lost and there’s no one looking for me.”

***

I titled this blog post, ‘Inspiration does not have to be Pretty’.

It does not.

Neither do the resultant writings. But I genuinely believe our words should be honest, open and emotional. After all, these are the driving factors of life, our lives. It is what we all have in common, it is what we all respond to… even in fictional stories.

Thank you for reading another of my Ramblings.


Please subscribe/follow this blog if you have not already done so. The button is on the top right of this page. I appreciate your support, Thank You.

Visit my website (HERE) to see my books, works in progress and other projects currently underway.

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Selfie!

Internet data breaches, Google+ and more…

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Yesterday, the news broke that Google is to kill off its social media platform Google+ because of a massive unreported data breach.

The official line is reported to be:

“The company discovered a bug in one of Google+’s People APIs that allowed apps access to data from Google+ profiles that weren’t marked as public. It included static data fields such as name, email, occupation, gender and age. It did not include information from Google+ posts. The bug was patched in March 2018, but Google didn’t inform users at that point. “We made Google+ with privacy in mind and therefore keep this API’s log data for only two weeks,” the company said in a blog post. “That means we cannot confirm which users were impacted by this bug.”

However, Google+ will continue as a product for Enterprise users. It’s by far the most popular use of the social network. Therefore, the company has made the decision that Google+ is better suited as an internal social network for companies, rather than a consumer product. Google will announce new Enterprise-focused products for Google+ soon”.

(engadget.com)

A ‘leaked’ memo included:

‘Disclosure will likely result “in us coming into the spotlight alongside or even instead of Facebook despite having stayed under the radar throughout the Cambridge Analytica scandal”, Google policy and legal officials wrote in a memo obtained by the Journal. It “almost guarantees Sundar will testify before Congress”, the memo said, referring to the company’s CEO, Sundar Pichai. The disclosure would also invite “immediate regulatory interest”.

(theguardian.com) 

 

My own view is:

As Google is re-developing a form of G+ for inter-corporate communications, yesterdays confirmation of data loss is timed to coincide with their new platform’s progress. Large-scale commercial internal networks are major revenue earners. They require far less maintenance and development than massive public platforms.

My conclusion is, the move by Google, seen by many as ‘dumping’ their dedicated public users, is one of pure commercial practice. We must wait and see if G+ simply fade away as Google hope, or if this decision will alienate users to the point they ditch Googles other products.

I know there are many other companies, both large and small, waiting to grab a slice of Googles internet cake who are ready to provide alternatives.

We shall have to wait and see. But looking at Google’s history, G+ will simply become history and Google will have made another profitable corporate decision.

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Now, I use Google+ along with Facebook and other (social) media platforms. I shop, online and on the ‘high street’, at major retailers. I bank, have a passport and a driving license. I am registered with the National Health Service and the Inland Revenue. I do the thousand and one things most of us do in our everyday lives.

Which means I am on one million and one billion various computer databases, from Government statistical through to tax, health, police, social and political. I am sure, somewhere, I am in MI5 and MI6’s database, most probably the CIA, Mossad, SVR, GRU, and MSS because I have a military background and a connection with the British Royal Family.

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I know, without any doubts whatsoever my information is on and shared by/with, thousands of commercial enterprises around the world. I have junk mail, email and phone call logs as proof.

I know this, yet I do let it worry me because there is nothing I can do about it unless I escape to the lost world of Neverlandislandjungleretreat and never raise my head above the totally off-grid parapet. Which sounds pretty good in some ways but is impractical for most of us.

So, I accept my details are not private and live accordingly.

Data breaches and hacking are as much part of this world’s current situation and social culture as is terrorism, gender disruption and socio-economic inflation.

Personally, I cannot understand what satisfaction someone could get from creating and spreading a computer virus, although I can see the intent with ransom-wear and state-sponsored cyber-attacks. (Practice for the cyberwars to come?)

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Sadly, I can also see where the criminal element of data theft fits into the larger information technological world we all now, by default, live in.

Greed, avarice and power have always been the prime motives behind most illegalities. Nothing has changed except the methods and opportunities presented.

Governments and the less informed members of society will jump up and down and stomp their feet each time a major breach of information protocol is reported.

The government ministers will shout, saying it is their job to do so on behalf of the electorate, while most will be doing so simply to be seen, for self-promotion, regardless to what ‘spin’ or ‘party line’ mantra they mutter.

The less informed members of our society because, they are influenced, even controlled, by fickle, shallow, manipulative journalistic propaganda and bullshite.

So, Google has issues with G+ and what else are they not revealing?

Facebook still has ongoing issues.

But so, do:

Yahoo, Reddit, Instagram, FedEx, Ticketmaster, Adidas, U.S. Air Force, The FriendFinder Network, eBay, UnityPoint Health, St. Peter’s Surgery & Endoscopy Center, TaskRabbit, Equifax, Ticketfly, Heartland Payment Systems, Air Canada, University at Buffalo, Target Stores, Partners HealthCare, TJX Companies, Inc., Uber, Facebook, Aultman Health Foundation, Orbitz, Aetna, JP Morgan Chase, Inogen, US Office of Personnel Management (OPM), British Airways, Sony’s PlayStation Network, BJC Healthcare, Anthem, Dignity Health, RSA Security, CarePlus, Stuxnet, VeriSign, Home Depot, Jason’s Deli, Click2Gov – Midwest City, Under Armour, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bithumb, Med Associates, Chili’s, Nuance Communications, Lord & Taylor, SunTrust Banks, Panera Bread, City of Goodyear, Rail Europe, LifeBridge Health, MyHeritage, Coinrail, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and Adobe?

ALL THE ABOVE SUFFERED MAJOR DATA AND SECURITY BREACHES IN THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS, MANY DURING 2018.

In 2017, the world saw more data breaches than any year prior. On December 20th, the downloadIdentity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) reported that there were 1,293 total data breaches, compromising more than 174 million records. That’s 45% more breaches than 2016.

 

In truth, what can ‘Little ‘ol you and me’ do when major multi conglomerates and the world governments agencies cannot protect their own systems.

The answer is “Not a lot”.

Like any other crime, do what you can to stay safe, hope you are not a target and carry on with your regular, normal life.

Data breaches and information theft is, sadly and ashamedly, something we must learn to live with. Fretting and worrying about cyber attacks and data loss will not change a single thing, but it will give your face wrinkles and make you look older sooner.

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©PaulWhite2018

Personally, I have better things to do with my life than sit here worrying.

Which is why I am such a handsome, young looking lad!

 

How to sell you book series by writing another book.

 

 

Does this title sound stupid? (Don’t answer that.)

I was trying to come up with a fancy, clever, literary genius of a title, one which would give an undeniable clue to the content of this post.

I got a few good ones lined up and then re-read them. Most were so oblique even I forgot the connection. Others read more like popular newspaper headings than a serious post about writing.

In the end, I settled for what you have above. Which cannot be too bad because here you are, reading me waffling on about something inane.

Okay, on with my post.

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Many of my indie author friends, especially those who tend to write in a specific genre, have one or more series of books.

I know writing a book series is no new thing, but it is one which has become resurgent in popularity over recent years. This is partly because of a shift in reading habits, which in turn is partly influenced by film and television ‘franchises’. (I shall not go into the reading trends and patterns regarding general social psychology of the masses here… albeit a subject I love.)

The ideal is to have someone buy a copy of one of your books and like it so much they rush out and by the whole series… or nowadays go to an online bookstore; not so much fun as browsing a ‘real’ shops shelves but quite practical, especially for social hermits.3D0BD1E700000578-4211670-image-a-35_1486740472482

Anyway… I seem to be digressing.

The problem, it seems, lays with having ‘that someone’ buy the first book of your series.

Herein lies a quandary.

Until such a person has a copy of your book in their sticky mittens, they shall never know how captivating the story is. They shall never know your carefully crafted characters, fall in love with your protagonist or hold disdain for your antagonist.

Neither will they learn how well you write, narrate or how charming a tale spinner you are. Which would all be a ‘bit of a shame’.

Oh, I hear so many of you thinking, “it’s all about promotion and marketing, that’s how you get readers.”

Well, yes and no.

Yes, it is about promoting your works, and NO… Allow me to enlighten you on my reasoning.

It is not all about promoting your books. (‘Promoting’ is a word I shall use as an ‘umbrella’ term to include marketing, advertising and such hoo-ha for the duration of this post.)

It is all about promoting you, your books, both individually and collectively, and your author brand, in a certain way.

If I were to cover all these topics, in one post, I would end up writing an entire thesis three thousand pages long, neither something I have time to write in one sitting, or, I am sure, you have time to read. So, I shall concentrate purely on one aspect and follow up, in future posts, on other relevant subjects.

As the amazingly conceived title of this post states, I shall continue discussing your book series.

It has become something of an urban legend, a myth which survives to the present day and one which far too many authors still fall prey to, that is the one which says: “if you give your first book of a series away as a freebie you will gain lots of new readers who will buy all your other books.”  

BULLSHUSH.  51ap3vRNKyL._SY300_

 

That is a lie, promoted by those who generate financial gain from (often desperate) indie authors. Free may have been a viable option in the early days of the internet when Amazon was just a simple bookstore when indie authors were referred to as desktop publishers and vanity press meant having a book for sale outside of a mainstream publishing house. (See: https://wp.me/p5nj7r-1fn )

There are ways forward, none are push and go or plug and play. Each takes time and consistent effort to achieve and not all will work equally for all authors, their books or series. Book promotion is not an exact science.

Thunderclaps, Daycause, Blog hops, Tweet chains can all form part of your overall promotional strategy… You know, the carefully planned and timed schedule you have designed. The one which ensures you maximise each promotional effort… Yeh, that’s the one, your synergetic multi-arena integrated sales stratagem for the 2018/19 marketing period.

However, few authors consider writing a further book, or two or three or more to help gain and build readership and, on the face of it, with good reason. After all, writing another book is only adding to the series and that takes us back to square one… doesn’t it?

Not necessarily.

You see, this is about taking a new approach to authors promotions, in this case, Prequels… now, I know prequels are not new; way back when, we had Charlotte Brontë’s ‘Jane Eyre’ (1874); but did you know that Jean Rhys wrote the ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ in 1966 as a prequel and response, describing the background to the marriage Jane learns about after going to work for Mr Rochester?

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How about a prequel with a difference?

Let me ask you some questions…

What if… you could write a shorter book, a book especially targeted at attracting readers to your current series?

What if…  a group of authors would help you promote that book?

What if…  a book brand would include your book in its promotions, making it constantly visible to a global audience, online, in magazines and via social media?

What if…

What if…  you became an Electric Eclectic author?

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Currently, Electric Eclectic are well known for their ebook Novelettes, their short stories books which help connect readers and authors.

But now, Electric Eclectic is launching a form of book they call a ‘Proquel’

These are Prequels, Character Backstories and Parallels designed specifically to introduce readers to your book series, in fact, the name Proquel is simply an amalgamation of the words promotion and prequel. (Pretty cool, yeah?)

Now… unlike many books, an Electric Eclectic proquel is unashamedly a promotional tool. While there is no compromise regarding the quality of content or storytelling, these books do not have to be full-length novels, but novella’s, with a suggested word count of between 17K and 40K words.

Once assessed and accepted by Electric Eclectic, your book(s) benefit from all the marketing and promotional activities of Electric Eclectic and your fellow EE authors.

You will have your books on the Electric Eclectic website along with a personal author page and much more. You can check out the Electric Eclectic website HERE.

And…this is the BEST BIT… you make money on your proquels too… yep, you still earn full royalties on your book sales. future

 

Electric Eclectic is NOT a publisher and does NOT take royalties.

You will get all the above for a minimal fee… and I mean a minimal fee.

You have nothing to lose.

So, why not find out more about becoming an Electric Eclectic author and, how writing just one other book, could help you sell your whole series?

With major ground shifts and changes occurring throughout the publishing and online worlds, becoming an Electric Eclectic author could be the best decision you make this year.

Simply Email EEbookbranding@mail.com for further information.

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Write a brand-new story, combining genres…

Before you ask, yes, this is about sci-fi and Robots… but it also about crime fiction, fantasy, steampunk and many other genres. It’s about understanding, imagination and the muse… so read on…

Like all fiction genres, Sci-fi and its many sub-genres must evolve with the times, writers must look to the future. (pun intended)

Czech writer Karel Čapek introduced the word “robot”. It is said his brother suggested using a derivative of the word robata, which means literally “serf labour” and figuratively “drudgery” or “hard work.

No wonder the robots usually want to revolt, to take over our world. To turn the tables on us!

But, long before the word “robot” was invented, the ideas of mechanical or artificial men was in our ancestors’ consciousness. Early ideas of robots or automata drew inspirations from early writings and figures in mythology, who were described as anthropomorphic and crafted from stone or metal.

talos
TALOS The Argonautica by Apollonius Rhodius, 3rd century BC. Photo credit: Sergio Santos, CG Society website

Described in the Argonautica as a giant man of bronze forged by the smith Hephaestus, Talos is tasked with patrolling the island of Crete and fending off pirates.

However, he is still partially organic, as is shown in the description of a single blood vessel that runs from his neck down to his ankle. Much like with Achilles and his heel, the vein of Talos is his weakness, and he dies in the story from exsanguination.

 

This developed into ‘other’ forms of automata,

OLYMPIA
The Sandman by E.T.A. Hoffman, 1816. Photo credit: The Sandmen blog

In ETA Hoffman’s short story, The Sandman, the main character Nathaniel falls in love with the daughter of one of his university professors.

While she is beautiful and elegant, Olympia speaks very little, only responding to conversations with “Ah”.

She is also often motionless for long periods of time.

The people around her find this disconcerting, and it is eventually revealed that she is a lifelike doll.

 

 

Enter the early days of Sci-fi as we recognise it now,

STEAM MAN
The Huge Hunter/Steam Man of the Prairies by Edward Ellis, 1868. Photo credit: World of Sideshow wiki.

 

Edward Ellis’s Steam Man is an early example of the Edisonade genre of science fiction.

Derived from Thomas Edison’s name, the genre describes stories that feature an ingenious young American inventor, who uses his inventions to go on adventures, solve problems, and defend himself against his enemies. The invention often has many purposes, such as weaponry and transportation.

In this case, the teenage hero is Johnny Brainerd, who creates the steam man and uses it to pull wagons that can carry passengers. Despite its large size, the steam man can run quite fast, and Johnny uses this to his advantage (such as, for hunting buffalo).

An imitation of this story was written by Harry Enton in 1876, called Frank Reade and His Steam Man of the Plains, which also features a young inventor and his robots. Frank Reade’s steam man improves upon the first, with a much more efficient engine due to improvements in hydraulics and use of lighter-weight alloys. Thus, it is faster and stronger. Frank Reade’s son, Frank Jr., would eventually go on to create Steam Man Mark III, and replaced the use of steam with the use of electricity.

This and Steam Man of the Prairies were dime novels, popular fiction that is much like the comic books of today.

 

Tik-Tok
Tik-Tok, Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum, 1907 Photo credit: John K. Neill, Wikipedia.

Dorothy finds the mechanical man, Tik-Tok, with a printed card suspended from the back of its neck.

The card provides directions for ‘using’ Tik-Tok, such as how to make him speak, think, and move by winding the clockwork in his body. Tik-Tok needs to be periodically wound like a toy to function, as he cannot wind himself up.

Tik-Tok has been referenced in other fiction, and his benign nature subverted into something more sinister, such as in Gregory Maguire’s Wicked and John Sladek’s Tik-Tok.

 

 

As I spoke of in the opening paragraphs of this post, the term Robot arose thus…

ROSSUM'S UNIVERSAL ROBOTS
Robots, by Karel Capek, 1920) Photo credit: Technet website.

 

This famous play, which was successful in its time, describes a factory that makes artificial people or roboti, from synthetic organic matter.

Less like robots and more like androids or cyborgs because of their biological nature, these synthetic people work for humans but eventually organize an uprising, causing the extinction of humans.

Karel Capek’s play is influential for being the first to use the word “robot”, replacing “automaton” or “android”. It is also worth noting thatrobota in Czech means forced labour, of which the robots in the play were made to do.

Robot: We wanted to be like people. We wanted to become people.

Radius: We wanted to live. We are more capable. We have learned everything. We can do everything.

Robot: You gave us weapons. We had to become the masters.

Robot: We have seen the mistakes made by the people, sir.”

Which basically, and with a giant leap of literary faith, brings us to the time when robots were simply robots, like Robby from ‘Lost in Space’. A time when Isaac Asimov penned ‘I Robot’ and hope for humankind lingered.

'ROBBY' THE ROBOT
‘ROBBY’ THE ROBOT Photo credit: Fred Mcleod Wilcox

We all knew where we stood.

Then along came James Camron who introduced us to Skynet, and all hell broke loose.

cyberdyne
CYBERDYNE Image: Geek.com

So, where does that leave us, how can we tell new, inventive and genuinely futuristic tales of machines, androids and automaton now?

Maybe, a little closer inspection of where we stand now will help us, if we stand on tiptoes and look far over the rising horizon…

Robots are all around us, toiling away in factories and warehouses, busting a gut in landfills and working in hospitals. The NAO model introduces school kids and students to programming and robotics and it also teaches children with autism. Another model, Pepper, was created to work in the service sector; its tasks include attracting potential customers and consulting with buyers.

As the IOActive team discovered, to seize control of NAO you only need to be on the same network as the robot. Experts found vulnerabilities allowing commands to be remotely executed, effectively giving over full control of its actions.

To demonstrate how these vulnerabilities can be exploited, the team forced NAO to demand bitcoins from its human interlocutor.

But real criminals would be limited only by their imagination and programming skills. What’s more, it’s not just NAO that can be infected with ransomware; the more business-oriented Pepper is just as vulnerable, and other models probably are as well.

Just imagine if one fine day a robot teacher or store clerk, in full view of John Q. Public, started swearing and insulting people before going on strike or picking a fight.angry_robot_character

You never know.

 

 

 

But why would anyone hack a robot?

What do criminals have to gain here? Won’t it just spoil someone’s day or their life? That might be enough incentive for some hackers, who often do such things just for fun.

But there’s another reason: money.

The profit motive is simple. Buying a robot costs about $10,000; and if it breaks, it must be repaired or replaced.

Both of those require a fair bit of cash, but factor in the downtime cost and reputational loss of having a robot threaten customers and the sum rises considerably.

If an industrial robot is hacked, it can pose an immediate threat to employee safety or production quality.

An attacker compromising a robot in one of those ways might offer a quick solution to the problem, (which they caused), pay a ransom and everything will be just fine.

But, as you might guess, cybercriminals don’t always keep their word. Of course, the vulnerable robot might be hacked again, requiring another payout.

And then, another,and another…

What can be done?

Robots are here to stay (and multiply), so avoiding contact with them is not the way to go. For that, you’d need to invent a time-machine and go back a long, long way as mentioned above.

Instead, users and manufacturers need to be sensitive to robots’ weaknesses to ensure these devices do not go from cutting-edge to catastrophic in the blink of an eye.

Robot creators need to think through security issues in advance before production starts. Today. Better still, yesterday.

Then, after product release, all ears must be kept firmly to the ground to respond promptly to reported vulnerabilities and get them fixed.

…Or some sort of mayhem, a type of life-shattering, civilisation ending apocalypse may just leap from the pages of a book and into reality…

Or maybe that is just my way of stimulating your muse… think on, but carefully and you could join the ranks of Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Isaac Asimov.

You see not all sci-fi which includes rouge robots must be apocalyptic, that idea has been done, and done, and done to death. Now it is time for a differing approach.

Take your favourite crime-based books or film, or a combination of both media. Choose a story without any robots and select a character or two.

Now, think of your chosen characters as automaton, combine those two or three films/books plots. (If they are Hollywood or from mainstream publishing, it will not be a difficult task because they use a five, or seven-point, plotline… its what makes mainstream boring and predictable.) and start writing. Don’t copy… No plagiarism allowed; simply let your muse write the story guided by the basic (combination) of the plot(s) outlines.

You will have a brand-new crime story, but one which includes robots. It does not even have to be set in the future or on another planet, it can be urban fiction, steampunk, fantasy… you decide.

What you will have is a cross-genre fictional work which can be promoted to a wider, but targeted audience. That means greater sales opportunities and a much larger readership potential.

robber0441Why not make your robot a stooge, a fall guy? Have the reader fall in love with it, empathize with it.

Alternatively, have your robot(s) as the victim, the missing link to solving a situation… not all robots are bad, not all are good, some simply have frailties, others damaged personalities, why, some are even human… aren’t they?

 

Whatever you do, have fun and visit my website HERE I have a load of crime fiction and other ‘stuff’ you will just love. But don’t just take my word, go and have a look now.

Distribution paradox & disparity of price of indie authors books.

Pub2

Yep, that’s a long(ish) title but it says what this post is about.

I have been asked on several occasions if my books are [officially] available from outlets other than CreateSpace/Amazon.

The answer is: I am slowly extending the platforms where my books can be obtained. Migrating some and simply offering others on multi-platforms.

The reasons for the disparity are many, I shall not delve into them all here.

Another issue on many sites is the price charged for my books. This is to some extent beyond my control, or at least I am bound by certain parameters which make it impossible for me to have a single fixed price across all outlets.

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While this is somewhat annoying, I can see the relation with other products, the ‘recommended retail price‘, or ‘manufacturers suggested selling price‘, which individual retailers try to ‘discount’ against as they compete for their percentage of the market share.

 

I have come to accept, as an author, I am at the behest of these marketing trends and the need for retailers and distributors to make a profit, both which influence the pricing of my books.

Whilst I am happy in most cases to allow market demands to guide basic pricing structures, (after all, no one will pay more than they are willing,) it can become an annoyance in certain situations.

Allow me to explain.

EEgrungeI am sure, or at least I hope, you are aware of Electric Eclectic books. These novelettes, branded by Electric Eclectic, are designed to introduce readers to great authors and amazing stories.

The plan for Electric Eclectic is to offer each novelette at a uniform single price of ‘ONE’.

That’s £1.00, $1.00, € 1.00 etc.

While the Pound (GBP) and the Euro worked, Amazon.com insists adding tax after a price is set. So, the $1.00 becomes $1.34. (With the Euro, Amazon.EU & The Pound, Amazon.UK, the selected price includes tax, so you can accurately select a specific number which will show as the price the store shows.)

While I prefer the sales and marketing aspect of 1.00, a neat, round, simple figure. The issue is further compounded when listing your books in ‘other’ bookstores as they each have their own pricing parameters.

This gives a wide disparity of prices for the same item.

Take my book ‘Three Floors Up’, an Electric Eclectic Novelette such as mentioned above. This is 1.00 on both the Amazon.UK and from Amazon.EU. It shows as 1.34 on Amazon.com, although the price of 1.00 was selected on the site.

Three Floors Up

This alters further, to 1.39 & 1.43 on a dozen more online bookstores, until you reach Apple iBooks where it retails at 1.99, double the price, all bar a single cent, to that which I initially set when publishing on Amazon Kindle. (KDP).

I am sure there are reasons for such a wide differential, none of which I care about to the degree of losing sleep. This is because those who are dedicated to Apple are clearly willing to pay slightly more for a book, as are those who dislike Amazon. I know some people who detest them with a passion verging on hatred.

If you are one of the above or have a direct link, an investment, or another affinity with a particular bookstore platform you will be happy to know all my Electric Eclectic books, and some other works are now online at a selection of alternative stores. (My other books will follow in due course).

These are the main online retails officially authorised to retail my books.

Amazon, CreateSpace, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple IBookstore (Tunes), Google Play, Baker & Taylor and Peecho, are the prime retailers and distributors.

These are my Authorised Booksites, ones with direct links to the retailers.

BookRix, GoodReads, Authorsdb, Authors Den,  and Electric Eclectic.

WARNING.

Bootlegging and unofficial distribution of books is a major internet concern.

Sites with unofficial listings of my books may deliver a poor-quality product. Downloads from these sites may infect your device with a Virus, deliver Trojans, Worms or Ransomware.

Such sites create opportunities for Phishing, Mining and Pwning of your Personal Data.

Only connect and use the Official bookstores I have listed above. If in doubt go to my author’s website or The Electric Eclectic website.


 

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