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.
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….”
“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.
It 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.
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.
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.
I have written on this subject before, albeit from another perspective, in a post calledThe 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.
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.
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How often do you struggle for something to ‘write about’? or face the so-called writer’s block because you cannot find a topic for your next piece?
I know many writers frequently struggle with finding subject matter. It is something I hear often via author groups and writing associations.
I am a prolific writer, yet have never suffered from either of the above.
Most often, I can be found tapping away on my keyboard as I continue my ‘works in progress’.
I usually have a few of these on the go at once; non-fiction, a novel, some short stories, a compilation, it is pretty much par for the course.
I have files called ‘stuff & stories to read’; ‘story Ideas & notes’; ‘more writing notes’; ‘other stuff’, and so forth. Each file has sub-files, documents, snipped pages, images, sticky notes and a plethora of summaries, transcripts, annotations, memoranda, footnotes and odd bits I am unsure what to call.
The overriding connection is, they are all my Aide-mémoires to moments.
Some of these notes were transferred from my notebooks. I tend to carry at least one notebook with me at any time, generally, a small flip-type book. If I am leaving the house for any length of time. On long journeys and holidays, I take several, so I always have one to hand.
The jottings in these books can be about a place, a view, something said to me, part of an overheard conversation, or an observation. I even have notes about signposts I find amusing or incoherent.
Other items have been stored from browsing the net, finding ‘stuff’ while researching something entirely different. Some are from messages, spam, sales emails and so forth.
Occasionally reading another’s story sets my mind racing along parallel paths, so I need to scribble down my thoughts of the moment. The result of the stories which develop from these are a far cry to the original stimulus, but sometimes one needs the initial jolt to send the imaginings down a certain pathway.
These files also include part stories of various lengths. They are from a single sentence or paragraph through to several thousands of words… unfinished works if you wish.
Some are my deletions and edits of other work. The bits I cut out. The parts which did not make the final manuscript or published book. Waste not, want not. They can all be used again in one form or another.
But, the point of this post, each and every one of the notes in those files have come from a ‘moment’, a single moment I have experienced during my life.
After all, life is simply a matter of moments, one after another, after another, like the single frames of a cinematic film they whirr past us in a seemingly continues unbroken stream.
I believe great writing is having the ability to capture any one, or more, of those given moments and revealing its secrets, sharing them with all who will read your words.
Even the longest of novels is created by producing a string of ‘scenes’. Each scene depicting a moment.
Personally, I have a fondness for creating shorter stories, anywhere from about 250 words to, say, twenty or thirty thousand. My favourite though is around 2,500 to 6,000.
This proposes the challenge of making a captivating tale, one with a ‘proper’ beginning, middle and end, with so few words.
I feel the main test of writing such a short story is to examine the writer’s skill, in not only having a complete story but one which burns its presence, its being, into the mind of those reading it. A great story should ask questions, probe the beliefs, principles and convictions of the reader.
Which leads me back to the start of this post where I asked,
“How often do you struggle for something to ‘write about’? or face the so-called writer’s block because you cannot settle on a topic for your next story?”
My belief is you may be overthinking the issue.
Do not try and think of an entire story, of a whole scenario, before you put pen to paper. Just take one moment, one seemingly insignificant moment of your life and write about that.
Think about today. What has happened to you, with you, so far today?
It does not have to be anything exciting.
Not all stories need to have a romantic outcome or bloodshed, murder and mayhem splattered across their pages. The characters do not have to be heroes or superhuman, to have suffered or survived.
Ordinary people, people like you and I have stories to tell too. Try telling one or two of those. Stories and tales regular, normal people can relate to and understand.
What did you think of the moment you awoke today… write about that?
Expand on that.
Why were you thinking it, what does it relate to, who was involved, what will be the outcome, can you change it? Do you want to change it? Can you stop it changing? and so forth.
Become your character. Believe you are they. Wholly, totally convince your muse you are.
Open your heart, let your soul pour forth. Be honest with yourself. Don’t force it.
Your story will come and it just may be the best thing you have ever written.
Grab the moment, grab the moment of the muse.
I’ll leave you with an instant.
A while ago, I read a social status in which a young lady was distressed regarding her writing.
It seems her family, particularly her father, not taking her wish to write seriously, held little interest in what she was writing about, suggesting it would be better if she wrote about him.
Of course, this is not what this young lady wanted to write about. She did not want to write about her father. She wanted to write about something she knew, something she understood.
But everything she had written so far was slighted by her own father. Not very supportive, encouraging or helpful.
This made it extremely problematic for her to choose a topic or subject which would not amplify the situation further.
I shall not repeat the derogatory remarks made or the well-meaning, but pathetic and ultimately unhelpful, words of comfort offered on social. But all the responses took this young ladies post on its surface merits.
The deeper conflict was her relationship with her family, particularly her father and the anxiety it created within her.
This stress was heightened by her desire to write something meaningful while not adding to the household turmoil. Yes, she could have written in secret, but it was obvious she wanted, even desperately needed the encouragement and backing of her family.
All this young girl was looking for was some reassurance. She needed positive reinforcement from her family.
I suggested she write exactly what she posted about. The conflict with her father, why she wished to write and why she wanted to write the things she did. How hurtful her fathers’ remarks were and how the lack of support was so dispiriting.
I proposed she then gave her family the manuscript to read and await a response.
She now has a new laptop her father bought for her writing and a small desk in the corner of the room where she can work uninterrupted.
This is a true story.
As I said above, my advice is;
Open your heart, let your soul pour forth. Be honest with yourself. Don’t force it.
Your story will come and it just may be the best thing you have ever written.
Grab the moment, grab the moment of the muse.
If you want to see my books, find out what I am working on or contact me, then visit my website, HERE
It is a while since I have written a post focusing on the process of creative writing.
The reason being, I have said much about other ‘stuff’ associated with authoring and publishing. Stuff I felt important enough to warrant writing about.
However, doing so led me away from the core value of this blog, which is to give, in my usual rambling and rather haphazard way, tips, advice and suggestions on improving one’s writing skills and understanding of authorship.
Those of you who follow me will know I do not write in a scholarly constructive fashion, because I do not consider myself a teacher or an authority of literary genius.
I prefer to allow indefinite abstract descriptions to suggest and evoke one’s own perceptions and introspection to convey the messages in each of these Ramblings.
In my heart of hearts, I believe the soul of the writer, the artist that lays within, is the greatest asset of all. No one can learn to write unwillingly; the writer must have love and passion above teaching and education.
A writer must want to write, above all else.
So, with those matters cleared away, I guess it is time to reveal what this article is about.
As a mass noun, the definition of this word, according to the Oxford English dictionary is, ‘The action of making a mental connection’.
Regarding fiction writing, I would take this two steps further and say it is, ‘The action of making a mental, sensory and emotional connection within one’s imagination’.
However, to create such a powerful, multi-sensory consanguinity within a reader’s mind, requires the writer’s understanding and needs them to be adept at wordsmithing.
To me, the word ‘wordsmith’ is a wondrous, self-describing noun.
Imagine standing before a blazing forge, gauntlet covered hands, leather apron, large metal tongs holding a glowing red-hot bar of iron. The other hand wielding a heavy hammer.
Smell the fire, the heat, hearing the Smithy as he pounds the almost molten metal into the shape of his choosing. Not an easy task, one which takes many re-heatings and coolings of the metal. One which takes countless strikes with the hammer against the solid block of the anvil before anything recognisable is formed from the raw metal.
This is what I envisage when thinking of the word ‘wordsmith’.
My ‘association’ is with the hours of sweat and toil it takes to form a loose jumble of letters and scattered words into a coherent and meaningful sentence. To mould and form each word so it fits seamlessly with the next, so they all flow in a smooth, well-paced fashion to complete the paragraph.
The result of a Blacksmiths work is more than just flattened and twisted metal, it is a product purposely shaped into a functional object, decorated to enhance its appearance, creating an article of both beauty and reason.
Such should be our undertaking as writers. Our words should not only serve the functionality of revelation but create a pathway of beauty and intrigue for our readers to follow. Our tales should hold within their very form the pure essence of captivation, of fantastical fiction.
To do this we must weave that very essence, the distillate tincture of association within our words.
“That’s fine for you to say,” I hear you mutter.“But how do we do that?”
My answer is to consider the word this post is about, consider ‘association’. The association of words.
Now, many of you will be thinking ‘thesaurus’ because that is what a thesaurus is all about, isn’t it?
Well, yes and no.
You see, when I talk of word association I am not merely speaking of functional words you may find within dictionaries and thesaurus. Neither am I considering which words may be grammatically correct. I am talking about creativity, of creative writing. Of breaking the rules when it lends to better or even great storytelling.
Those among you who write poetry may, or at least should, have a greater understanding of the flexibility of words, how they can be moulded to convey more than their basic meanings. Particularly when two or more are used in conjunction, oblique, ambiguous or both.
Wordsmithing in fiction writing utilises what is learnt through the poetic principle, includes and encompasses it within the whole wordsmithing process.
As a way of explanation, I’ll take an excerpt from one of my short stories, ‘The Bridge‘, taken from volume three of my short stories collection, ‘Tales of Crime & Violence’.
Out of context, I think this is a rather unremarkable excerpt. Even so, once studied while holding the concept of association in mind, its secrets are revealed.
The Humber Bridge is monumental. It is suspended by a mass of giant pythons, twisted metal cables one hundred feet above the sludge brown of the river. From tower to tower it is one mile and the road continues to reach out from there, grabbing the riverbanks with blackened tarmac and concrete fingers.
Yet, for all the earth destroying steel and concrete construction, the bridge has an illusion of beauty that is enhanced by nature itself. Somehow the two blend, even complement each other, an amalgamation of converse contraries.
Firstly, the suggested size of the bridge is stated, in an emotional way, by using the word monumental.
It is then revealed to the reader this is a suspension bridge.
Using the term ‘mass of giant pythons’ is suggestive of and leads into the next sentence ‘twisted metal cables…’
Here are the first wordsmithing associations.
Most people know what a suspension bridge looks like. The story could be told by simply stating this bridge is a vast suspension bridge.
The following words about metal cables could have been just that ‘metal cables’. But the addition of ‘twisted’ is used specifically because of its association with the commonly held image of snakes.
We have now created an image in the reader’s mind of ‘giant twisted pythons holding up a bridge’. Which is a far better read than say, “a large bridge held up by steel suspension cables”.
To continue, the height of the roadway on the bridge is given, one hundred feet, so is the fact the bridge is above a river.
So, once more, the story could read “… a large bridge held up by steel suspension cables one hundred feet above a river…’ Which factually would be correct, although it does not make a very captivating or entertaining read.
Moving on, the incorporation of the words ‘sludge brown’ is purposeful. Not only to transfer the perceived visual perception of a dark river but to almost subliminally link back to the snake imagery by suggesting colour association while taking into consideration most people visualise a river as ‘winding’ or ‘twisting’. Another correlation.
While this imagery of bridges and pythons is building in the forefront of the reader’s comprehension, there is also the fact the author is creating an atmosphere of dark foreboding; or at least the idea of something ominous germinating.
Sludge brown, twisting, python, mass, all have links with the nefarious.
The next ‘s sentences structure reinforces this unease.
The factual description of the bridge is given, but this is enhanced by a form of predicate which strengthens the sinister. “… the road continues to reach out from there, grabbing the riverbanks with blackened tarmac and concrete fingers.”
Reaching out, grabbing, blackened, fingers; all strong adjectives which focus on creating a sensory awareness of the underlying drama.
While a person may not be fully aware why, or what effect these words are having as they read, you can bet your bottom dollar their subconscious will. Personal and social belief, acquired by myth, legend and the silver screens of Hollywood has conditioned us to be susceptible to even the slightest of suggestive input.
It is also a long-proven fact when one reads, they absorb far more, far quicker than by any other method of communication.
The above example is a rather direct and implicit one. But there are stronger yet more oblique instances.
Like these, from my poem ‘Doorway’
This side or that.
In or out.
With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck? Fertilised or barren.
Life or death.
Simple. A wooden frame. Harsh nails, forged from iron, blood and sweat in the furnace of forgotten hopes. Spikes driven deep, driven through, splintering the flesh of being, binding into cold stone of indifference. Hanging forever, bearing the pain for an eternity.
But not so simple. A sign, a warning, a barrier. Invisible in its presence of possibilities lost, scorned, unfound, unbelieved. Open but empty, a nothingness that stops you dead in your tracks.
This side or that.
In or out.
With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck? Fertilised or barren.
Life or death.
Lost or gained or never had. Can you lose what was not? Can dreams die or do they fade away; decompose as out our living bodies rot with age upon our bones.
What is there, beyond the gaping opening of the way?
Future, or past repeated. Mirrored fears steeped in time, awaiting our return from where we have never been. A destination desired by myth, by greed of those who will not step this way, cowering in the shadows of mediocrity, of sallow existence, of being too far from any door to be truly known, except by repeated words, all meanings lost in the whisper of time, misinterpretations and vague comprehension.
What ifs lay as a carpet of likelihoods, a vastness of possibilities, probabilities, stretching away to the rims of risk and horizons of chance; choices to be made, taken, grasped or passed up.
Prospects scorned or lies waiting to trip the unwary traveller, to crush your skull, your hopes, your faiths until they crumble into a dust of inferiority until your knees bleed on the cold stone floor of humbleness and subservience.
Know your place.
With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck. Fertilised or barren.
Life or death.
How long the openness. How soon the slam of too late shall shut out the light from the other side, of this side or that, or the other, and so vice-versa. Versa-vice.
Sounds vanished, diminished. New hope runs down our legs, incontinent imaginings puddling beneath our feet, wasted.
There is no return. Time flows by, constant. There is only now, just then, what was. Already you are too late, it has gone. Stealing away those possibility’s which once were yours and now belong to another. Maybe not yet born. A foetus of stardust, a twinkle of forlorn wishes.
Maybe they will be the ones who shall hesitate at the gates of option and chance. Maybe they will settle for comfort and the familiar and choose not to stumble blindly into the realm of the unknown?
Or maybe they shall pass this way, step through the door and into the future of destiny without looking backwards?
This side or that.
In or out.
With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck? Fertilised or barren.
Life or death.
Without getting too bogged down in technicalities, (not my thing), I will just highlight a few instances from the above, and then leave you to read and re-read the above poem and find the associated words which link together to create the stories own vibrancy.
First, ‘cowering in the shadows of mediocrity’.
One may expect to read ‘Cowering in the shadows,’ I am far from the first to write those words in that order. But then consider the use of ‘mediocrity’, it is not generally expected in this framework.
What are the shadows in your story associated with? Think of an indirect but implicit word and use that or another to suggest the ‘feeling’ you wish to create. Pair words which are oblique or ambiguous to create new meaning, to create the atmosphere you intend.
Forget about those ‘rules’. Ignore the grammar check in word or Grammarly or whatever. There is no substitution for the mind.
Secondly, take ‘your knees bleed on the cold stone floor of humbleness and subservience’.
This conveys a strong message from the initial simplicity of what may be expected until the string ‘humbleness and subservience’ appear in conjunction with the rest of the sentence. Those reading are expecting something far simpler, say ‘the castle, or maybe ‘the house’. But inserting ‘humbleness and subservience’, leads the mind to immediately think of servants kneeling on the cold stone floor.
Linked with the previous segment of the paragraph that mentions prospect, lies and faith the ambiguity is one of suggested religion and loss of belief or at least a trial of personal conviction.
Often when using oblique association, or creating one in such a way, it strengthens the powerfulness of the imagery formed.
If this includes creating your own metaphors or making new words do so. Shakespeare did not suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune by only using the accepted words of his time.
Using this ‘sideways’ form of association, not only in poetic context but in storytelling, can produce a weighty and influential transcript that will hook the reader both openly and subliminally.
Good storytelling is not just about style and content; it is not all about narration, it is not simply getting all your words in order, it is all of this melded cohesively and working in harmony throughout the entire structure of your manuscript.
It is about modelling the words you use, moulding and melding them to conceive something new, something uniquely yours, it is about practised and proficient wordsmithing.
When editing, read, re-write and work each individual sentence. Hone it, sharpen it, until it has its own perfect edge and then move onto the next.
Never skip a word, examine each one; examine its place in the sentence and change it, one word by one word, sentence by sentence, polishing and shaping and forming each little detail until every sentence is a magical story in itself.
Do the same time again and again, until every detail shines clearly.
Only then will your tale truly deserve to be called your ‘finished’ work.
Anything less is less.
The first excerpt in this post was taken from ‘Tales of Crime & Violence, a three-book collection.
This is a question I asked myself while pottering about in the garden.
It may seem like a simple question, one which has a very simple answer; the likes and the things we do listed, almost ‘bullet-pointed’ as a reply.
That’s fine, for most people.
But I am an author, a writer. To me, even those simple answers have hidden depths, more meaning and a thousand stories each to be told.
Here is where my writer’s mind went after I asked myself that question…
I know what I do, but I wondered if that was ‘just me’?
You see, I love travelling. I love to explore other countries, sampling their food, their culture, being amazed at wonderful vistas, cascading waterfalls, crazy cities, wild traffic and such.
I also like to travel around Britain, the place I live. So far, my favourite areas are the Highlands & Western Isles of Scotland.
The Llyn peninsular in Wales gets better and better the further west you travel. The very best being Aberdaron and Bardsey Island.
I reside in Yorkshire, the county known as ‘Gods Country’ for its stunning landscapes.
I originate from the south and was lucky enough to have lived in Kent, called the ‘Garden of England’, which kind of speaks for itself.
All in all, I love nature; landscapes, coastal areas, animals, plants, and grand views. I like red wine, cold beer, fine whiskey, food and some good company.
To my mind this is what home is all about, making a comfortable place with hints, reminders and touches of all the things you love. Pictures and photographs of loved ones, trinkets and ‘tat’ from all those places you have visited; be it a foreign country or the local park, it’s those little inconsequential, yet sentimental items, like a shell collected from a beach, a pebble from a mountain path or a serviette from ‘that’ café.
In a way that is what our homes are for, storing and sharing all those little things which bring back the memories from a life well lived.
We can also make our homes reflect the things which make us… us. Especially, at least for me, in the garden, the garden in which I was pottering when I first asked myself the question I am writing about now.
In this instance, I have ninety per cent completed a project I started about three weeks ago.
In one corner of my garden was a derelict, rotted and neglected raised ‘deck’. I built the deck about ten years or so ago from reclaimed scaffolders boards and, I must admit, was proud of the outcome.
The said deck, (holding tables, chairs, potted plants and lighting), hosted many ‘al fresco’ lunches and dinners, served as a ‘buffet’ table during garden parties and barbecues it even became an improvised office for my writing on the days the sun shone and the rains held off.
But, as many structures constantly exposed to all weathers, it slowly degenerated, until it was little more than a rickety load of planks balancing precariously on a few rotten cross-members.
After laying unused and unloved for so long I decided to rip it up, replacing it with raised-bed vegetable plots and a small seating area.
Partly this decision was to do with the ‘stuff’ I wrote about earlier, the travelling to places, the sampling of food and wine and such like.
You will see in the following photographs I have placed my potted vines along the wall. These have never produced any edible grapes or enough to make even a single glass of wine, not here in England, not with our weather. But they do grow some large and tender leaves which are perfect for making dolmades, one of those foods I first ‘found’ on my travels many years ago.
I have made one deep growing bed and two shallow beds. The idea is to grow ‘root’ vegetables, such as carrots, parsnip, onion and sweeds in the deep one, leaving the shallow beds for the vegetables that grow ‘upwards’; beans, peas, sprouts, lettuce and so forth… once the soil has been delivered, which is about all I need now to complete my task, hence it is only ninety per cent complete.
I already have an area for soft fruits and yesterday harvested a bumper crop of particularly sweet and sticky Gooseberries, the ‘Brambles’ (Blackberries) are beginning to set fruits and so still have many flowers.
This then, is my answer to my own question, “what do writers do when they are not writing?”
For me it is often gardening, but not simply for gardening’s sake.
Its for relaxation, creativity, frugality, satisfaction and for good food, healthy unadulterated food which I and or my wife will turn into some amazing dishes or preserves; some that will bring memories of a time, a trip or a place, flooding back, or maybe excite us, as we look forward to the next travel experience we have planned.
These are the sort of things I do when not sitting alone, isolated, eyes glued to the screen and scribbling away like a manic… I’ll let you finish that line!
However, I am curious to know what you do when you are not writing, please, let me know so I can be sure it is not ‘Just me’.
Keep Happy, Paul.
Don’t forget to visit my website,http://bit.ly/paulswebsitewhere you can find my latest books, including my Electric Eclectic Novelettes.
So much to do, so little time. (I think I have heard that said somewhere before.)
At least I have found a few moments to share another post about being an indie author.
I do not normally write a ‘list’ style post as they generally tend to be little more than ‘clickbait’.
However, on this occasion, I have made an exception to the rule and produced a sort of list post myself. But one I hope is better and far more informative than those ‘clickbait’ I mentioned above.
I hope these tips will help you create a book which will sell in (vast) volume.
“On with the post”
I hear time after time and frequently read, on social media, authors asking why no one is buying their book(s).
It could be down to many things, even the lack of serious or targeted promotion.
Novice writers often spending too much time and effort in posting their book(s) on author group pages… HINT… authors are more interested in writing their own books and most already have a vast TBR library they will get around to reading, soon(ish), one day, maybe later, or never.
You need to put your energy and effort into targeting those people who are more likely to want to read your work than another author. (Coals to Newcastle, busman’s holiday… ring a bell?)
However, before you get anywhere near that stage, here are a few basic questions, self-check questions, you should ask yourself and, this is most important, answer honestly.
You will only be letting yourself down if you lie to yourself.
In a nutshell, you must ask yourself, (way before you publish) if your book looks professional and is your blurb up to scratch?
These are the questions you need to use to clarify each point of consideration.
Regarding your books cover:
1, Does it look professional.
No, truly; do your book cover(s) look like they could be displayed alongside the best sellers on show in your city’s premier bookstore?
If you cannot say it does with absolute certainty, take a mock-up, even a full-colour print of your cover and visit some bookshops. Hold your image up, place it on the shelf next to the big named author’s books.
Now, give it ten coats of looking at. Ask those who are browsing what they think of your intended cover.
This is a form of market research. It can save you a ton of heartache let alone money. But you must be honest and you must listen to what others say, after all, it is they who will be buying your book, not you.
2, Does your book cover clearly demonstrate the genre of your book?
Your potential readers will, most often, have one or two genres they prefer. Like many people, once we find something we enjoy it takes a giant leap to change.
Therefore, if your book does not accurately reflect the genre of its content, you WILL be losing any potential readers initial interest.
3, Does your cover immediately garner attention?
Is it sufficiently attractive to stand out among other books on the shelf or on Amazon?
Does your cover artwork stand out amongst the other books around it? How well does your book ‘stand-out’ as a ‘thumbnail’ image on an Amazon page full of other books?
Are your friends or the bookshop browsers immediately drawn to your cover? If not, you need to make changes.
Note: Too many authors make the mistake of trying to tell the entire books story on their covers. This is not what the cover is intended to do. In simple terms, the cover is like a candle flame to a moth. It is there to attract a person browsing to take a closer look at your book. Once the browser has the book in their hands or has ‘clicked’ for more details, the cover has done its main job.
After which the points below come into play.
4, Does your book title grab attention?
Pretty much like the cover image ‘as a whole’, the title of your book must do several things. It must accurately reflect the genre of your book while defining its own individuality.
Along with this, it must show who the book is intended to be read by. Not an easy task to succeed at, especially when regarding fiction, which is far more subjective than non-fiction.
Regarding non-fiction, your title must indicate the benefit and what makes your book different to other covering the same or similar subject matter.
5, Does your book’s subtitle and/or description clarify who the ideal reader is?
Does your description work as a prime first hook on the general browser?
The description (subtitle) should convey the emotional (or practical) payoff to the reader when reading your book. (The ‘what’s in it for me’ factor)
To communicate this your description needs to capture the curiosity of the browser, it must take them on a clear, cohesive, emotional journey and leave them wanting to know more. You must engage their curiosity?
Is your books description length similar to the prime authors/major publishers books of the same genre?
Note:Nothing on the cover of a major publisher’s book is thereby happenchance, everything is carefully calculated and designed based on a vast database of market research and marketing sciences.You should not go far wrong by following their designs and formatting.
6, Pricing your book
Have you priced your book to match that of similar titles of the same genre by other indie authors?
Here price point could be a major influencing factor. Price your book too high and few will buy it. Too low and many will perceive it as a low-value item and pass it by.
The trick is to get this balancing act weighed off. Not an easy task.
7, Are your books first pages intriguing enough?
Many online bookstores offer a ‘look inside/sample read’ function. This is akin to flicking through a few pages of a physical book in a bookstore.
When considering this fact, it becomes clear you need to ensure an early hook is built into the first pages, say the first 10% of your book.
This will create an intrigue, a wanting to know ‘What happens next’ question into your potential reader’s mind, encouraging them to buy your book.
I hope these pointers will help you with the designing your books cover and when writing your ‘blurb’.
You will find many more ways to reduce your publishing costs and loads of money-saving methods by reading ‘The Frugal Author’, immediately download-able HERE.
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.
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.
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.”
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?
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?
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… you became an Electric Eclectic author?
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.
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.
Once we have learnt about something, once we consider we understand it, think we have mastered it, we like to run with it, to keep it.
We are often loath to stop, to give it up… to alter anything.
Many of us are resistant to change, of losing the little comfort zone we made for ourselves. One can liken such to the reluctance of a child giving up a blanket, or a soother.
If we do make the move, we find it easier to be weaned, to slightly adjust, little by little, so we don’t notice the change, or at least that is how we convince ourselves.
The problem is, by the time our situation has evolved in a way which assuages our reluctance, we find we are far behind the madding crowd, so far behind we have little chance of catching up.
In these days of high tech communications and internet connectivity, it is now more obvious than ever before.
Only the fearful and desperate cling to what once was,.
Only the backward and slow reminisce and wish for those ‘good old days‘ when a Facebook post actually reached ALL your ‘friends’ and not just the 3 to 10% they do with today’s algorithms.
The same is true of your book promotions. This is why your sales do not exceed the minimal expectations you tell yourself are reasonable goals, let alone your wishes and dreams to become a consistent bestselling author.
To give away a book for free is an archaic, outdated and outmoded marketing model. One which no longer holds any credence, but one which so many still cling to with dying hope, like a gambler sliding deeper into depressive debt.
Paying another organisation to give your books away is a sign of utter desperation. A despondent cry for help, for someone, anyone to read your story.
In reality, it is authorship suicide; one you may never recover from financially and one which could leave your reputation in raggedy tatters, before you even start.
Book launches and parties no longer pull the crowds. They are a nice way to spend a few extra hours chatting with those you regularly talk to every day; to hear them say nice things about you, your book and “what a marvellous cover” you have.
But such events no longer attract readers. They have been overdone and done over, like an ancient, wrinkled whore, they no longer hold any attraction whatsoever.
Thunderclaps, Headtalkers, Daycause are little more than a (mostly) unseen flash-in-the-pan. A quick blast of tweets and public post which disappear down the scrolling stream faster than Usain Bolt running a hundred meters.
Authors, you NEED to find new ways to promote your works, ways which offer longevity rather than the promise of making a ‘quick buck’ or selling a few more copies of your latest tome overnight… for one night only.
You need to find a simple, ongoing promotional aid which is always working for you, even when you’re not working.
A low-cost way that won’t break the bank, or better still, a way which will pay you a return, a royalty, on your promotional material.
Now wouldn’t that be wonderful…
If only such a thing existed…
Well, such a thing does exist, but only for those who are prepared to move forward, to see the changing lights (mostly red ones) as social media platforms are brought to task and the hyper highway of freedom and unlimited possibility become more crowded, slower and, well… limited.
Even more so now Google plus is/has shut its doors. MeWe and Pluspora just don’t have the numbers or, as yet, the financial backing to grow fast enough or fight hard enough to take on the big boys… at least for now.
A small, but growing group of indie authors, are moving forward into the new dawn of altered perception, of interweb reconstruction and publishing future.
It is a group which, (at present), still has its doors open to welcome a few more indie authors inside. Authors with great tales to share, who are well crafted in penning a wonderful story. Authors who are serious about writing, about selling their books, about being authors.
So, what is this group and who are these indie authors?
Simple, we are Electric Eclectic. The book brand which is sweeping the internet.
This year 2017 has seen some seismic shifts in the publishing and advertising industries as major issues such as transparency (Note Facebook revealing their loss of Data a short while ago. This note added April 2018) and brand safety have taken centre stage. Next year is shaping up to be no different, as the industry looks ahead to key issues which will dominate the news agenda over the next 12 months and beyond.
“GDPR will hit in May 2018 and with just seven months left to be ready, many within the industry are only just learning about the implications. People are spending more time online across a wider array of devices and are becoming smarter at consuming online content. Consumers are hungry for real content and will be looking for ways to cut out fake news and time-wasting content by seeking out better quality content providers and starting to pay to access the best content.
2018 will continue to deliver opportunity; we all need to think about building interactive audio relationships via Amazon Echo, Google Home and other voice controlled devices, and how virtual reality devices like Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR and augmented reality via the latest generation of iPhones will affect the way we communicate brand messaging to our audiences in new and innovative ways.”
“Native advertising has rapidly gained momentum this year and will continue to do so in 2018. With native ad spend expected to reach more than €13 billion across Europe by 2020, it is safe to say it is no longer just a buzzword, but an essential part of the marketing mix that is finally getting the recognition it deserves from the industry.
“As publishers look to focus on brand safety, transparency, and the user experience, I expect we will see more of a migration to native as developments in creative technology bring more flexibility. By harnessing the capabilities of programmatic, the scale and efficiency of this flourishing format will be a force to be reckoned with.”
Electric Eclectic books incorporate aspects of Native Advertising in their marketing strategy assisting indie authors book sales. The amazing thing regarding Native Advertising is most people will not recognise or notice it occurring because it is an almost subliminal method of carrying your brand message.
THE CONTINUED RISE OF INDIE AND HYBRID PUBLISHING
Traditional publishers may offer prestige, but also limited creative control and royalties. In recent years, independent publishers have accounted for an ever-larger share of the market, with the help of high-quality cover designs, writing, and marketing plans.
Last year, data showed for the first time the share of self-published books and books published by small publishers, at 42 per cent, was larger than the market share of big-publishers, at 34 per cent.
Ascendant is the phenomenon of hybrid publishing, which includes a variety of publishing models which straddle a middle ground between traditional publishing and self-publishing. Veterans of traditional publishing have left behind their larger companies to bring top skills and experience to the world of independent publishing.
More and more authors are opting for hybrid publishing, which allows them to hold on to creative control and royalties while benefiting from the best of the traditional publishing world.
LONGER SHELF LIFE WITH EBOOKS WILL MEAN INCREASED COMPETITION
With the rise of digital book listings, we are seeing a change in the lifecycle of books. When keeping books available depended on a limited quantity of physical shelf space, it meant books that no longer sold well were removed from shelves as soon as possible.
With digital retailers, there is no such premium on shelf space. With books remaining discoverable indefinitely, authors and publishers may want to take a fresh look at “legacy titles” – books published in the past that are no longer a focus for your attention.
Consider reinvesting in a new cover, book description, and marketing resources to revitalise these titles.
Remember, in this age of digital ebooks and kindle, the more books you have available, the better chance you have to grab your share of the crowded eBook market.
This is one reason you should have a minimum of three marketing branded books working for you and all your prime titles. Electric Eclectic (part of CQ International) is the fastest growing and most inventive brand. Take a peek at their Website.
MORE BOOKS, STAGNATING READERSHIP
According to Pew Research Center, about 73 per cent of Americans read at least a book a year.
This is a figure which has remained stagnant since 2012. Meanwhile, the number of books published in the US has grown exponentially since 2010. Self-published titles have grown from 133,036 in 2010 to 727,125 in 2015, an increase of 446.5 per cent. (latest full figures available.)
Getting your books to readers has, therefore, become an increasing challenging.
Authors need to work towards “discoverability”, working to develop their own audience as an author and creating strong brand marketing for their books.
Many self-publishing authors also face criticism for poor editing and packaging – with more books on the market, the pressure to create and maintain high-quality presentation is becoming paramount. Pay special attention to your design choices; editing and marketing can help self-published books rise above the rest. But a great cover is your first opportunity to attract readers to your book. A professional cover will help you gain sales. Check out PeeJay Designs by Paul White. They offer a professional, but friendly and communicative service HERE
AUDIOBOOKS ARE GROWING
Audiobooks are the fastest growing sector of the publishing world.
In 2015, the audiobook industry was valued at 2.8 billion dollars. 43,000 books were released that year alone, compared to 36,000 in 2014 and just 20,000 in 2013. (Latest full figures available.)
Since audiobooks do not follow the same agency model as eBooks, publishers have been more willing to experiment with distribution models for audiobooks. In particular, subscription models, such as that of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited platform, are on the rise. In a similar approach to Netflix or Spotify, the service offers unlimited access to 2,500 audiobooks.
While the cost of creating an Audiobooks is higher than most forms of book creation, including many hardcover formats, it is one of the publishing trends to seriously consider.
As with all relatively new markets, audiobooks platforms, production and distribution methods are only in their infancy, so invention and initiative are prime.
PUBLISHING TRENDS 2018 – SUMMARY
The publishing trends of 2018 are likely to follow the broader patterns seen throughout the decade; the rise of small publishers, digital platforms and new formats.
In other ways, the publishing world will continue to see a backlash to traditional, restrictive and controlled marketplaces during in 2018.
Keeping an eye on such trends can help publishers and authors get a sense of where things are headed in the years to come. The future will be about development, choice and ‘canny’ marketing.
The data reveal what some might consider a surprising generational pattern in book reading.
Young adults, those aged eighteen to twenty-nine, are more likely than their elders to have read a book in the past twelve months.
In 2014, there were more hugely successful movies based on young adult books than ever before. Divergent, The Maze Runner, The Fault in Our Stars, If I Stay, and The Book Thief all appealed to a younger audience and may be causing this surge of interest.
We’ll have to wait to see if this is a passing phase or a longer-term trend.
The survey also noted women are more likely to be the book readers in a household. The average woman reader read fourteen books in the past year, compared with nine books for men.
In 2014, Pew reported that 50 per cent of Americans have a dedicated handheld device, either a tablet computer like an iPad or Kindle Fire, or an e-reader such as a Kindle or Nook, for reading digital content. This is up from 43 per cent in September 2013.
While tablets are still the most popular electronic way to read digital books… at present, last month The Wall Street Journalpredicted they may be pushed aside by smartphones in the coming years.
In the first three months of 2015, 41 per cent of ebook buyers read digital books primarily on their tablets, according to the newspaper (citing Nielsen data), and 32 per cent read ebooks primarily on their e-readers. However, the publication also reported on a Nielsen survey from this past December that found 54 per cent of ebook buyers read on their smartphones at least some of the time. In 2012, that number was just 24 per cent.
Fortune cites reasons for the adoption of reading via smartphone:
“Convenience, of course, as well as ramped-up technology that makes reading on mobile phones a more pleasant experience. Smartphone screen sizes, too, are getting larger.”
Okay, that will do for today.
There is a mass of indicators which will need your careful consideration when deciding which tactics to adopt in your overall marketing strategy.
Chose carefully and wisely, invest well and reap the rewards.
Thanks for reading another of my rather out-of-character serious postings… my normal, regular Ramblings shall resume shortly.
In the meantime, take a look at the latest Electric Eclectic Novelettes HERE
I have been working on an awful lot of ‘Stuff’ these past few weeks.
I am always busy, it keeps me from hanging about on those street corners. But these past weeks I have been busier than most.
Let me give you a clue….
Over the last two weeks, I wrote approximately 630,000 words, 350,000 last week and 280,000 the week before.
I have promoted the November edition of CQI magazine, the Sci-Fi season special. Click on the cover image to read.
I am in the midst of compiling two annual catalogues for CQI, ‘The Collection – a guide to year-round giving’ and ‘The LIST 2018′ a catalogue of commended and acclaimed books.
During which time, I have beavered away at marketing to keep my two latest books high on the Amazon sales lists. Successfully.
I finalised and formatted a further two books, including designing the covers. They are:
Dark Words – dark tales & darker poetry is scheduled for release on the 1st of February 2018.
Within the Invisible Pentacle, a collection of intriguing feminine titles is due out on the 1st of June 2018.
That done, I can concentrate my efforts on completing two other WiP:
Floyd a Novel about an escaped psychopath on a bloody rampage of revenge and…
On the Highway of Irreverent Rumination & Delusion, which is a rendering of my past blog of the same name, about musings of life, living and our society, with many additional perceptions, formed into a book.
I am hoping to have both completed by the end of 2018… but who knows?
Included in this time, right up until yesterday morning, I have published three new eBooks, Kindle ‘novelettes‘ under the collective brand of Electric Eclectic.
Electric Eclectic books are absolutely fantastic, they enable readers to ‘taste‘ a previously unread or unknown author at the extremely low price of just 1.00 (Dollar/Pound/Euro). HOWEVER… unlike many low-cost books all EE novelettes are vetted to ensure they meet exacting standards, so readers can buy Electric Eclectic branded books with confidence.
EE is a Franchise, where the individual authors benefit from the marketing and promotion of being associated with the prime EE brand itself. Enquiries about becoming an EE author to EEbookbranding@mail.com
My current EE novelettes are:
North to Maynard, a tale of Gremlins in our modern world of high tech.
Three Floors Up, where a psychotic man watches those below until…?
Mechanical Mike, a tongue-in-cheek sci-fi robot story, set in Paris during WW2.
Oh, I have also helped a fellow author to create a fully illustrated children’s book, written by an eight-year-old girl. A project not without its problems, but one where I have enjoyed overcoming the challenges.
I took three days out to travel to Belguim during this time period too.