A bit more Rambling…

As always, my intention of posting regularly is not happening; as they say, (whoever ‘they’ are), the highway to hell is paved with good intentions!

Even now, in lockdown or self-isolation or whatever you may be calling it, my life is far too hectic to guarantee I post in any other way than at random intervals.

Generally, my posts tend to be informative, either about publishing or to give insights into writing or ‘being indie’ while trying not to get too technical and academic… hence boring.

This post is not focused on any of the above, it is simply me ‘Rambling away’ about what has taken my time over the past… however long it has been.

So, without further ado this is it.


If you are a follower or regular reader of my ramblings, you will know I run Electric Eclectic, in its most simple form it is an alliance of indie writers from around the world who, besides promoting their books, are ready to help and aid other writers with their personal and technical dilemmas regarding all things indie publishing.

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Several things are happening with Electric Eclectic, the first we are encouraging more authors to join our ranks.

Secondly, we are accepting entries to the Electric Eclectic Novella Fiction Prize 2020. The ‘Prize’ is the winning stories having their books published as paperback and eBooks along with marketing packages.

We are also at the formatting stage of Electric Eclectics latest anthology, one especially written to celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE-Day. It is simply called VE75.

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The Government brought forward the May bank holiday to May the 8th is to coincide with the VE-day anniversary. Sadly, due to the outbreak of coronavirus, the planned public events are most likely to be cancelled.

However, Bruno Peek, VE Day 75 pageant-master, told me,

“Even if I must ring around every organisation and individual involved and tell them we’re cancelling, there is something everyone can still take part in regardless. At 3 pm on Bank Holiday Friday, the nation will be asked to raise a glass to toast the heroes of World War II – men, women, children wherever they are. We’re not asking people to raise a glass of alcohol so everyone, all people, faiths and creeds, can join in. It can be done anywhere: in the supermarket, at home. The Prime Minister can even raise a glass from Number 10 if he’s not able to leave Downing Street by then.”

Electric Eclectic is producing VE75 as an eBook, so people can simply download it to whichever device they wish. The book is part of the VE-Day celebrations, so I hope you will buy a copy and help support our military veterans and military families in need.

Apart from my Electric Eclectic commitments, I am working on several ‘Works in Progress’, two books in particular are;

FLOYD, a bloody psychological revenge thriller, while On the Highway of Irreverent Rumination & Delusion contains my personal views on life, living, the state of society and the world in general. I shall let you know when they are due for publication.

Meanwhile, you can read about my Works in Progress and find my published books, including some special editions which are not available from Amazon, here.

Apart from writing, I am a digital artist and photographer, feel free to browse my art website.

Of course, I still have all the ‘normal’ regular home and household chores to attend to. Add to the above, my position as editor of Electric Press Literary Insights magazine and you will see, even shut in my home, I am far too busy to be able to commit to a set programme of posting to this blog.

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I started this post with the intention of thanking all my followers and subscribers and regular readers… you know who you are, and to say keep safe, keep well and keep happy.

Please, if you are an author, consider joining us at Electric Eclectic. Email us for more information, EEbookbranding@mail.com

If you are a novice writer or even an established author, think about entering the Novella Fiction Prize.

If you are a booklover, a bookworm, a bibliophile then subscribe to the Electric Press magazine, it’s FREE and it is simple, just go to the Electric Press blog, where you can also read the current edition

Well, that’s enough of me for today.

See you on the other side.

Paul.

The Devil is in the Detail

After the powerful lavishness of my Ford Granada Scorpio I could not simply give up on luxury, so the next vehicle I chose was for the qualities I had become used to, extravagance, indulgence, comfort and opulence, along with power and speed.

Did I mention I was a petrolhead!

I would have purchased another Scorpio, but somewhere in the corporate world of Ford, they threw out everything which made my old car magnificent, replacing it with some freakish, pathetic, strange and ugly looking piece of sh*ty tin. The only connection between my old car and the new model Ford offered was the name badge.

So, I elected to buy a Jaguar… Deal done; I drove away in a dark blue Daimler Sovereign.

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Now, before you get confused, let me explain Jaguar owned the Daimler brand for several years, during which time they used the name to distinguish their most prestigious vehicles, (which were, in all reality, simply top-of-the-range Jaguars.)

Even after selling Daimler, Jaguar continued to use the ‘Sovereign’ designation for their highest-grade vehicles. So, during these periods, you will find cars bearing the Jaguar, Sovereign and Daimler names in a variety and combination of ways, such as Jaguar Daimler, Jaguar Sovereign, Daimler Sovereign and so forth.

To clarify, my car was a Daimler Sovereign Vanden Plas, 4.2. One of only 883 manufactured by Jaguar. Make no mistake, this was a luxury vehicle, the build quality, the ride, the interior switchgear, the leather upholstery, deep pile carpets and the wonderful wood veneers and so on… and so on.

This is how I presume a good book should be.

A good book should have a good cover; not one thrown together with a ‘that’ll do’ mentality but one which shows care has been taken to design something which stands out from the mundane plethora of ‘other books’. Something designed by the likes of PeeJay designs… if you can convince them to accept you as a client. (You can try by emailing them, PeeJaydesigns@mail.com)

The interior format should show individuality too.

As in my wonderful Daimler, it is the attention to detail which made all the difference. Spend some time designing those things that are frequently overlooked, like chapter headings. Carefully select the typestyle you use for them, if you centre the text, or set it to the left or right.

Do you use text-only or incorporate a numerical element? Maybe just number the chapters, keep it fresh, simple. Large numbers or small? left, right, top of the page? In the margin, halfway down? Which typography?

You may even wish to add an Epigraph at the head of each chapter, or maybe a small sketch or image. Possibly an artistic divider or corner art?

It all makes a vast difference a reader holds in their perception of your book; as the adage says, “The Devil is in the Detail.”

That is not all you can do to make a book truly special. Consider the main font, the point size, margins, the depth of headers and footers, the design of the page numbers and their placement.

It all counts. If you read, ‘The Frugal Author’ and ‘Lots of Author Stuff you really Need to Know’, all will be revealed within the pages of these informative eBooks… you can download them right now.

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Spending time working on the presentation of your book will build uniqueness into its very fabric, one which will exude exceptional individuality and distinctiveness, a very attractive fact for those buying your books just as it is when driving a wonderful Daimler Sovereign.

I hope I have given you some food for thought.

I will tell you about other cars I have owned in my next post.

Keep Happy, Paul


Would you like your book published?

Enter the Electric Eclectic Novella Fiction Prize 2020

http://bit.ly/NovFicPrize

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A big chunk of (fast) luxury

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My next significant car was one I regard as my first ‘sensible/adult’ car. The first of only a few which could be classed thus.

When I say ‘sensible and adult’ I mean a four-door saloon. A large family car with plenty of boot space. (That’s the trunk to my American friends.)

That this model boasted a 2.9ltr, 24valve, V6 Cosworth engine was just a simple little bonus.

I loved my Maroon coloured Ford Granada Scorpio Cosworth. It possessed all the best luxury mod cons of the time; quick clear windscreen, electric controlled seats – heated front & rear, electric reclining rear seats, heated wing mirrors, a trip computer, abs and so on. In fact, Ford threw every luxury they had into this big beast of a car, which could accelerate to 60Mph from standstill in around 8 seconds, (quite a feat for a car of that era) and keep going to 140 MPH. I can vouch it could easily do that figure without panting… not on a public road, of course.

I could often be found relaxing in the deep leather armchair style seats, moseying along comfortably at 100MPH while steering with one little pinkie finger. It really was like the lounge of a ‘gentleman’s club’, but on wheels.

What was there not to love?

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Now, this is where I associate this car to that of being an author.

You see, it is all to do with speed and luxury combined.

When I purchased my Granada Scorpio, I did so as a part exchange using the vehicle I was driving at the time… one which was so clearly insignificant to me I forget it entirely, except it was blue… possibly a Vauxhall or another Ford?… as part payment. The rest of the cost was handed over in a single cash payment.

As you can tell from the above, this was not a main-dealer purchase, but a small car dealer who specialised in Ford motor vehicles, particularly the performance models.

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The Scorpio was not new, not even one which could be considered low-mileage. The rear wheel arches were showing the firsts specks of rust. (It was the poor quality of the bodywork which was the eventual demise of this range of Fords.) But it was what I could afford at the time. The few pounds I paid gave me comfort, luxury and satisfied my need for speed.

I think this is the same for us authors.

We may not be able to invest in the newest, latest, all singing all dancing computer, whether from a fruit company or a replacement glazing manufacturer, but we all should have the most powerful, fastest machine we can lay our hands-on.

The reason is, no one wants to wait too long for the processes to take place, the loading, downloading, deleting, moving, sharing of files. Neither do we want to be left hanging while surfing and researching, selecting and storing images, research papers or historical records.

We also need space for our cover images, marketing and promotional material, let alone sales records and accounts.

So, all in all, the computers we need… and I say NEED… must do far more, far more efficiently and comfortably than many are truly able, especially those which come weighed down with Bloat Wear, regardless of what the spotty youth on the shop floor may try and fob you off with, particularly when he finds out you have no idea what TWAIN, Crapplet, Thunking or Blob means when speaking tech-geek.

My advice, if you can upgrade, do.

As when I purchased my Scorpio, you do not need to buy brand new from a main dealer, from a bright and shiny store in a plaza, or an out-of-town shopping complex.

You could do what I do and have someone build you a bespoke system.

I use a local, well respected, tried and tested, computer repair and solutions company which has been serving the local community for many years, at least twenty to my knowledge… when I say ‘company’, I mean son, father and aunty, along with an odd friend, (who may have popped in for a cup of tea several years ago and never left,) who inhabit a small hovel, one which is almost underground, in a side street in my town.

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Bloat Wear

They rid my machines of all the unwanted ‘bloat-wear’ freeing up many gigs of space, add or alter all those PC boards and ‘silly-cone’ bits n bobs, (upgrading maths coprocessors… I overheard that one once… maybe in 1992?), to create a fast machine with an amazing capacity for storage and memory.

My ‘big machine’ (one of those the above people worked their magic on) has such processing power, that for five years we ran the entire UK’s outsourced agency for a major insurance company from home. The system ran a triple screen set up, national communications and real-time monitoring, along with the daily business.

Now, I don’t expect you to need or want such a server in your home, but it does give an indication of how far you could go if specify bespoke.

2017-09-25-productThis laptop, the one I am writing this very post on, says it is a ‘Compaq’, a brand which was absorbed by Hewlett Packard some time back. About the only original thing left is the casing itself. (No one wants to steal an ‘ancient’, well-worn looking laptop).

In it, I now run an Intel Core i9 with associated upgrades. All engineered for a fraction of the cost of going to PC World and buying a slower, less luxurious laptop.

Have a think when you’re ready to move on or renew your hardware. Can you get the performance of a luxury brand for the fraction of the cost?

Unless, of course, you prefer style over substance, why not check out your own ‘local’ computer man. Just make sure they have a good (& long) reputation and proven experience.

Okay, time to stop writing this post and get back to writing my books.

Catch you next time…


 

Just before you go, pop over to my author website and have a mosey around. I am sure you’ll find a book or two to tempt you.

Keep Happy, Paul 🙂

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Mexico, shopping and a passion for words

 

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This is the fifth post in this series, where I feature a car from my past and link it with something to do with being an author.

Today’s post features a British Classic, the ubiquitous Ford Escort Mexico Mark1. Mine was bright yellow. I think it is called Daytona Yellow, but I’ll stand corrected if you know better.

The Mexico was a product of Fords famous Advanced Vehicle Operations (AVO), built to capitalise on their success in the 1970 London-Mexico Rally. It used the same strengthened bodyshell as the RS models but was powered by a 1599cc pushrod engine, developing 86bhp and 92lb ft of torque.

Top speed? 99mph all-out (although ford said it could do 124mph.) That may seem pathetic now but still, the driving experience remains genuinely special.

Don’t just believe me, during the Silverstone Auctions in 2018 a 1973 Ford Escort Mk1 Mexico sold for a new world record auction price of £50,625.

The accompanying photo bears a close resemblance to my 1970s production car.

I was and still am a bit of a ‘Petrolhead’. I love fast cars and been fortunate enough to own several excellent machines and driven some other amazing examples.

It is a passion which I first recall having as a child of four or five years old.

I was born into a working-class family, living in the south of England, a country which was still smarting from the second world war. As with most families back then, it was a matter of make and mend.

Luxuries were simple treats like tinned fruit served with jelly and not as a separate dish on another day. We walked for miles to get to the shops, the market or visit relatives. Not many people owned cars and bus fares were deemed an unnecessary extravagance.

I recall many shopping trips when we wheeled a pram, a large ‘carriage’ type pram with a basket tray underneath and hooks on the handle. In the pram would be an array of bags. Sturdy leather ones for potatoes, vegetables and fresh fruit. Baskets for loaves and eggs, woven hemp or seagrass for the general shopping.

The shopping trip took in the butchers, I would watch as they cut the meats to order and 5fce18b692fa117009b2a6a5682aa3fccounted the number of sausages strung together.

“How thick would you like your bacon?” he asked,

“Number four, please,” my mother would reply.

A weeks’ worth of freshly butchered meats, all wrapped in white ‘butchers’ paper’, would go into one of those bags we brought with us, a particular bag reserved for meat.

This story was repeated at the fishmongers. A piece of rockfish for my father, a small portion of cod for mother and a bag of sprats for us children. Each item wrapped in white paper by the fishmonger who served us. We would have the sprats ‘on toast’ with tomato ketchup or with a slice of bread spread with margarine for our dinner that night.

These purchases again had a dedicated bag. Fish needs to be kept apart from the other foods.

The shopping trip continued. At the bakery, if I were lucky, I would be treated to an iced finger roll. Basically, a plain bread finger roll with a smidgen of pink icing on top. Often, even mostly, this was given to my mother by the baker. A gift for me in recognition of her continued patronage.

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The main grocery store, ours was the co-operative (CWS), was something to behold. I loved this place. For a young child, it was magical. Men in brown coats, with the help of ‘shop boys’, scurried around fulfilling the customers’ orders, mostly women with hats or hairnets who stood gossiping while the storemen collected and packed each order.

Our shopping was piled into a big box, often a long box which originally contained a gross of hens’ eggs. Once the order was complete, the payment was taken, cash, of course, and put with the bill in a large wooden ball.

The ball was then hoisted upwards on a contraption until, near the high ceiling, the ball fell onto a narrow metal track. I watched in wonderment as the ball rolled along this circuitous track above my head and disappear through a hole in the wall.

A few minutes later the ball would return, clunking and rattling along with the same overhead rail system, passing over and under several other wooden balls making their own way back and forth.

Eventually, the ball would drop onto a cage and the shopkeeper who collected our order would deftly twist the ball to open it, revealing the receipt and the change. He would then pass the receipt to mother and judiciously count the change into her palm.

It was some years before I understood the balls were sent to the cashier’s office, where the payment is taken and change made, so those working on the shop floor did not have to (or be trusted with) handling cash transactions.

There is an open-air museum in County Durham, called Beamish. (If you have the opportunity, please go. I know you will love it.) In the reconstructed town, this museum rebuilt an original co-operative store where the payment/cashier system of sending wooden balls along suspended tracks is still operational. One of my delights, to this day, is watching the balls run along those rails, the entire system operated solely by gravity.

It never fails to bring back memories of my childhood.05-The-Co-op-hardware-shop-at-Beamish-1024x768

 

One of our final stops, when shopping, was a second hand (used goods) store called ‘Bluebird’. This is where my mother would buy clothes and household equipment. Many of the clothes were unpicked and made into entirely different attire. The odd bits and pieces of scrap material too small to be useful became dolls clothes for my sisters, other remnants rags for cleaning.

However, while my mother was looking around the shop and gossiping, I would go to the corner of the ‘Bluebirds’ where the toys were, especially the matchbox cars.

Here is where I found a Jaguar XK120 and a 150, both in ‘old English white’, a bright red e-type, a blue Bugatti racing car and so on. Sometime mother would let me keep one and I would carry it, clenched in my small fist, all the way home without letting it go.

I would not let my grip release the car, even when I needed to help push the pram or help mother to steady it up and down the kerbs, the large box on the wire tray beneath, bags sitting in the pram and those with the ‘delicate’ items swinging from the handle. Whatever occurred, I would keep my new car clasped tightly in my palm.

I did not know at the time, but this was, I am sure the beginning of becoming a petrolhead.

My dear little Mexico stayed with me for a well over a year. Only the water pump failed. I must admit I was a little sad to see it go, as I have been with most of the cars I owned.

(My next car, another Ford, soon helped me forget the Mexico… but that’s a story is for another time.)

Anyway… this post is leading me to say a person’s interest, their passion starts somewhere, usually in a small way when a certain event triggers their inquisitiveness, stimulates their curiosity.

matchbox_1120_15For me, it was my child-being falling in love with small model cars which led to me having so many marvellous wheels once I became an adult.

Later, in my teens, I found books created those same heart-fluttering moments of marvel and wonder as I became totally lost in their pages, carried off to fictional worlds which made themselves real within my mind, so real they distracted me at school as I wondered what was happening if I would miss anything, anticipating what the character would do next.

Both reading and driving are passions conceived in childhood and now, in my dotage, they both still excite and comfort me in equal quantity.

I say to you, write if it is your passion to do so. Write in a way and a style which is all yours. Let it be fired by your love and lust for wordsmithing. Look to no one for permission or approval.

Buy the car you want to drive. Write the book you want to read.


You can check out the books I wanted to read because I followed my own advice and wrote them.

They are all on my website, right HERE

Feel free to browse around.

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CB 200 for 300, bargain.

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I struggled to come to a decision about which car to include next in this series of posts.

I wanted to mention one which played a significant part in my life and that was proving difficult because, as I have said, I spent many years at sea and moving from one shore base to another when at home, so there was little point in owning a vehicle to leave it sitting idle for several months on end.

Which means I skip several years or so, until 1975/78 (ish), to continue these blog posts. Also, I am not writing about a car, but a Motorcycle.

You see, with me being away so often and for so long, I deemed it easier for storage and running costs, to buy an easily maintainable and reliable motorbike. Nothing fast or fancy, simply a small bike I could run errands with, pop down to the beach or for a run into the countryside, do a little shopping, commute and so forth.

£300 bought me a one-year-old Honda CB 200. A bargain.

For those who don’t know this model, it is a four-stroke, twin-cylinder, OHC, 2 valves per cylinder. 196cc, air-cooled, coil ignition, 5 speed, chain-driven, electric start, 124 mph high revving but very reliable roadster.

Now, back in the day, it was legal to ride up to a 250cc motorcycle without passing a motorcycle driving test. All you needed was to have ‘L’ plates displayed and off you went. That is precisely what I did.

After a few ‘test drives’, over the weekend; when I took the bike to the garages situated at the rear of my house, where I self-taught myself starting and stopping, getting used to the throttle, gears and breaks, I took the bike out onto the local roads in the part of the city I was living in. All was well and went without incident.

My next journey was one of around thirty-five miles. This involved driving out of the city, along a major route, skirting two towns and two villages before heading out into the countryside, along some narrow and twisty country lanes to a military installation, which never officially existed, at least not until it was decommissioned and sold off to a housing development company.

Anyway, this became the regular journey I made for several months, most times twice a day – there and back. I only had two incidents, both minor.

I only mention the first of these so you can laugh at me.

It was during a very cold and icy spell in December. I rode the bike that morning very cautiously, with due consideration for the weather conditions. It snowed during the night, a layer of fresh powder laying atop yesterdays melt, which was now a hidden sheet of ice.

As I approached the last couple of miles I needed to decide which of the possible two roads to take. Neither were main routes.

The first choice was to stay on the larger road and hope I could climb the steep hill and negotiate the final part, which was little more than a rough track.

My second choice was to use the smaller, twisting lanes. The advantage was, although longer in distance, this route skirted the hill, which I was concerned about due to the ice and only having two wheels.

I went with my gut instinct and took the back roads. I made the right choice, as I later learnt the hill route was closed due to the ice making it impassable. However, this also meant all the traffic heading west was diverted along the narrow lanes in the direction I was heading.

While I intended, when taking this route, to creep along at my own steady pace, I now had vans, cars and trucks moving far too slowly as they jostled to pass one another. I was managing fine, keeping a measured distance from the vehicle in front, until the whole line of traffic came to a halt.

Now, the bikers among you will know, once you come to a complete stop the rider must also contend with the weight of the bike along with its balance. To do this generally means taking the machine’s weight by bracing it with a leg. On ice, on a cambered road, this means the bikes centre of gravity alters, the tyres no longer have any grip and, on this occasion, neither did my well-placed boot.

The outcome is the bike slid out from under me and I hopped a couple of times before slipping and falling flat on my arse.

Righting a fallen machine on sheet ice is no easy task either.

Thankfully, the driver following me was patient. He smiled and nodded, letting me know he would wait for me to pick the bike up and get moving again and not mow me down. Although he declined to get out from the heated comfort of his car and help.

Personally, I think he found it the whole episode amusing and would, once at work, tell the tale of the biker taking several attempts to pick his bike up and then mount it and ride on. For myself, I felt I was auditioning for the Keystone Cops, stand up, grip the handlebars, pull, fall over. Do the same and with the bike halfway upright, the back wheel decides to slither off in another direction… and so on. All in the middle of a road with halted traffic, the drivers watching in amusement tinged with some annoyance of being delayed further. I admit it was one of the few time I have ever felt embarrassed.

Eventually, I managed to get back on the bike and complete my journey… but only in 1st gear. When the bike toppled the gear lever was bent upwards. meaning I could not select any other gear. Later that day, armed with a house brick and a hammer, I managed to straighten the lever, the intention to replace it once home.

I never did… because it worked better than before. The gear changes were easier, sweeter and more precise. This Luddite type repair proved effective enough to last the entire next few years I owned the motorcycle and, possibly many years after.

That’s the end of this week’s story.

So, I hear you asking, what has all that to do with writing?

Well, quite a lot really. I believe this tale proves at least two points.

The first is, many, probably most of us, are not trained writers. We have not a master’s degree in English literature, nor do we hold any journalistic diplomas. But we are writers and authors, professional ones at that and some of us hold a wealth of knowledge which simply cannot be taught in a classroom.

Just ‘doing it’ is very much how I first learnt to ride my motorcycle and then the following experience I gained from riding in snow and ice. I am now, by the way, an ‘A’ class driver (I have the certificates to prove it!)

So, achieving a high, professional standard of authorship is, I believe, within almost anyone’s grasp so long as they are willing to take the opportunity. Accepting they will fall off now and again but will get back on and complete the journey.

No one said it would be easy, comfortable, or without incident, but by golly, it is an awful lot of fun.

My second point is this; not everything in this world needs to be brand new and shiny. Often imperfect is as good, if not better. As was my Luddite repair to the gear lever.

Too often authors strive for literary perfection. While I’ll not say this is wrong, I do think the telling of a wonderful and captivating tale, one which connects to the reader drawing them deep into the (un)reality of your fantasy world, is far, far more important than having every genitive case or article in a perfect place.

“Jeffery Archer’s agent once told him, (in reference to Kane & Able);  you will never be a great literary writer, but you can tell a damned good tale.”

For those of you who may not know of Jeffery Archer, he was a British Conservative politician, who fell from grace and was sentenced to four years in jail for Perjury. He is a survivor of prostate cancer.

Archer was almost bankrupt when he wrote his first book, Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less, in the autumn of 1974. This was followed by Kane and Abel in 1979, his best-selling work to date. Many of Archer’s works were adapted to radio, television and films.

To date, Archer has written 36 books; his international sales are estimated to exceed 330 million and have generated him more than £250 million GBP.

So, I guess writing a damned good tale is where my focus is, maybe yours should be too?


You can find some of my ‘damned good tales’ in my latest book, a collection of short, and not so short, stories, Within the Invisible Pentacle

These stories explore the depths of human character, the quintessence disposition of living and of life itself. Questions we shy from, the ones we are afraid to ask ourselves are unearthed, revealed, brought screaming into the daylight of recognition.

The prevailing factor is, they are written with consideration for our fragile human propensity; the fears, the dreams and wishes, the uncertainties and self-doubts we all carry inside ourselves, the human elements of love, of life and of survival.

This is a collection of poignant, emotive, yet entertaining stories everyone should read, at least once.

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After Caroline came the Hunter…

After Caroline,  (read ‘Meet Caroline’ here)

… it was a long time until I owned another vehicle. You see, I was back at sea, often for long periods and there is not much of a requirement for cars aboard a ship.

However, when I was home from leave I did have the opportunity to drive whichever car my father had at the time. It seemed each time I returned home a different car was in our garage. I cannot remember them all, but I do recall one I enjoyed driving, the Hillman Hunter.

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The photograph shown above is about the closest example I can find to my fathers’ car, a gold-coloured Hillman Hunter with a vinyl (leather look) roof, (all the rage at the time), The car was an automatic, making it a very easy vehicle to drive.

The Hillman Hunter was probably one of the best vehicles being built at the time in the UK, whose motor industry was in total meltdown, from which it never recovered.

Today Morgan is about the only manufacturer still British owned.

Other famous marques, often still perceived as British, are all foreign-owned.

Aston Martin belongs to Ford, Rolls Royce to Volkswagen, Bentley is part of Tata as is Land Rover, Lotus is a division of Proton, MG is a Chinese brand, Mini is BMW, and Vauxhall is part of General Motors (GM).

This, the Hillman Hunter, is one of the cars I recall in which we, the family, travelled to the beach and countryside for ‘days out’ and picnics, something I have blogged about before.

Many of these trips, or instances from those journeys, are part of the various recollections I write about in one of my ‘works in progress’ On the Highway of Irreverent Rumination & Delusion, which takes the form of a fictitious road trip, allowing me to share my thoughts and perceptions with you, “strung together as a collage of momentary instances, loosely stitched together by wisps of fleeting reflection.”

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In a way, I feel I am cheating a bit by writing this book. You see, I am blending reality and fact, suspect and distorted, even selected memory, along with fiction and fantasy to create a platform in which I can share my personal observations and sideways views on life, society, culture, civilisation and humanity by way of a series of connected monologues.

The result, when completed, will be a book which is neither a factual piece nor a work of fiction but rather one of reflective opinion and personal contemplations. One which is far from accurate or objective, although it is both genuine and honest.

I find On the Highway of Irreverent Rumination & Delusion difficult to classify or, as is the want with everything nowadays, to give a label. I wonder who may read it once completed? Is this book pure indulgence on my part, a form of catharsis so I can justify my own assessments and evaluations of life?

I am hoping people find the cover and blurb intriguing enough to buy it, so I can take them on a voyage where we can rattle along the twisted neural carriageways of my psyche and see where it leads.

We can but wait and see.

I shall have this book ready at some point during 2020… hopefully.


In the meantime, I have some news, there is a NEW blog, Electric Eclectic’s blog. Please, please, head over there and follow the blog today. You will love it… that’s a promise, not an order!

Catch you next week, Paul.EEBlogBlkSqr

Meet Caroline

Last week I based my post around the car I learnt to drive in, way back in1973.

This is the link if you want to read the post:  https://wp.me/p5nj7r-1nM

This week I continue with the ‘cars I have owned’ themed series of posts.

(Okay, I did not own the Vauxhall Viva in the first post, but that’s just a little technicality we can dismiss for the sake of this blog.)

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This Cresta is very much like ‘Caroline’

So, where was I… oh, yes.

I was back from sea.

My trip from Portsmouth took me over to Lisbon, on to Keel, then up to Copenhagen and onwards to Oslo before heading back to England, via Scapa Flow and Inverness. After which my sailing schedule was halted for a short period and I found myself based in the small village of East Meon, Nr Petersfield in Hampshire.

Now, East Meon is not a well-known place by any stretch of the imagination. It is one of those villages that, should you blink while driving through it, you would miss it completely.

I think the village was served by two busses a week. One on a Tuesday morning and another late on a Thursday afternoon, which meant, apart from the old ‘Shanksy’s Pony’ I would be pretty well isolated from humanity.

Not an attractive prospect for a young man of almost seventeen years of age.

Thus, four of my friends and I rummaged around in our pockets and collected the sum total of £39.86 (GBP) pence. This is, at today’s exchange, worth around $52.45 (USD).

Now, back in late 1974 early 1975, this sum was worth a little more than it is today and, I think, the Pound to Dollar rate was about two US Dollars for each British Pound. Anyway, whichever way you slice the cake, it was not a vast sum of money.

But it was more than enough for the five of us to find ourselves the proud owners of a 1961 Vauxhall Cresta, with two new tyres, which were in the boot, (that’s the trunk in Americanese) awaiting to be fitted.

Our bargain car cost us the princely sum of £25.00, cash, from our pooled funds. That left us with £14.85 pence to buy some petrol, (that’s gas to you Americans), and beer at the local village pub; which is located at the foot of the hill, about three miles away, along a very twisty and dark tree-lined country road.

Now, before you think this tale is about some disaster concerning five young men, a vehicle without any documentation or roadworthiness inspection, two bald tyres, a very dark, twisty, rain-soaked road and the fact that not one of those young men, (except my few lessons which got me passed my test almost eighteen months ago, lessons and procedures now totally forgotten), had ever driven a vehicle of any description on any sort of road before, you are wrong… sort of.

Brian, (I’ll call him Brian because, after forty-six years, I have forgotten his actual name), got to drive Caroline first. Why we decided to call the Cresta ‘Caroline’ escapes me but I should think there was no good reason, at least not one which would make any sense today.

The trip was a simple one. We would leave the base and, once we were off the track and onto the road, we would allow the car to freewheel down the hill for the three-mile trip to the village. Once in the village, we would be able to coast to the filling station, which in fact was just a single pump garage, put a small amount of fuel into the car and then go to the pub for a few beers.

We reached the tarmac road at the top of the hill and began our descent, killed the engine and allowed the car to coast downhill, picking up speed as it went. In those days’ cars did not have power steering and the breaking was a matter of pressing hard, feeling the breaks fade, letting them off and jumping on them again, as sort of camber breaking to help the breaks bite.

However, as none of us were experienced drivers; we knew nothing of this technique and, as the car began to accelerate to breakneck speed, the four of us pressed ourselves further and further back into the leather seats with wide grimaces plastered across our fear frozen faces as we watch, unable to move as Brian, now a paler shade of white than an albino turd, stood upright planting his entire 7 and a half stone, that’s around 105 pounds, weight on the brake pedal and wrenched the steering wheel right and left as the sharp, blind bends rushed at us at warp speed.

Rounding the final bend, the road levelled out as it approached and entered the village of East Meon. By the time we were nearing the garage, the car had slowed to around thirty miles an hour and Brian realised he had been standing on the accelerator (gas pedal) and not the break. He now pressed the correct pedal and the car jerked to a halt, throwing the four of us forward.

I hit my head on the dash. Dave slid off the bench seat and disappeared under the consul. Jack became wedged in the passenger footwell and Mark landed on top of him, breaking Jack’s nose in the process.

Dave said, “What the fuck” as he extricated himself from wherever he had disappeared, climbed over me to get out of the car, ran around to the driver’s door and pulled Brian from the vehicle, throwing him unceremoniously into the middle of the road. He then jumped in, started the car and drove the remaining ten yards to the pump.

We fuelled the car with enough fuel to get us back up the hill and, we hoped, back down again but in a much more controlled manner. Then Dave drove to the pub, but not allowing Brian back in the car, so he had to walk. (It was a quarter of a mile at most.)

After a beer or three each. It is amazing to recall how far a few pounds would go back in those days. It was time to leave and make our way up the hill and back to base. I am unsure of how it happened, but I was the one nominated to drive back. I was both terrified and excited at the same time.

Now, as I said before, this car did not come with any warranties with regards to its roadworthiness or any guarantees as to what parts worked and what was defunct. We soon found out only one headlight worked, as did one windscreen (windshield) wiper and, guess what, it was not the one on the driver’s side.

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Inside Caroline

The heaters power however compensated for both of these malfunctions. Whenever the headlights or the windscreen wipers were switched on the heater blasted out a stream of red-hot air akin to the afterburner of an F15 fighter aircraft. The heater was also automatically activated when the left turn indicator was used, as it was when reverse gear was selected.

If on occasion, the glove box was opened while the car was moving at over thirty miles an hour, the radio would come on at speaker shaking, window-rattling volume; tuned into some random station, never once the same as the time before. Other than that, the radio would not work at all.

So, I got to drive the three miles back up the hill in the pouring rain with illegal tyres, no clear vision, jets of hot air bonding my polyester trousers to my legs, all the windows wide open, to compensate for the lack of oxygen available to our lungs because of the same furnace, the persisting rain blowing painfully into my face by the gale-force winds and the radio ear-splittingly blasting the drumming jazz hit, Skin Deep‘. 

I must say though, this journey back was surprisingly uneventful if you disregard my searching for and getting the wrong gear on the column change as I struggled to understand the mechanics of controlling a motor vehicle whose controls were alien to anything… that one vehicle I took lessons in… oh, and the swerving, harsh breaking and full 180 degrees spin, on tyres so worn they were all but slick, I managed as I swerved to avoid the deer, which ran out from the almost pitch black shadows of the trees in the pouring rain.

How I did not hit the deer, the embankments or end up shitting my pants, I am unsure but I got us all back alive if a little shaken.

Over the next few weeks, we did get the headlight fixed and replaced all four tyres. No one knew what to do with the heater, so we simply put up with its furnace temperatures by driving most of the time with the windows wide open. As for the radio, we decided it was haunted and the soul of the car, so we left that well alone, just in case ‘Caroline’ was a relative of ‘Christine’.

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Still haunted?

A few months later it was time to move on, so we sold ‘Caroline’ to a group of ‘newbies’ for the heavenly sum of £50.00. That was a one hundred per-cent profit on our original investment.

I often wonder what became of Caroline. Maybe she continued to service the base’s personnel until they closed it down in 1993.

Who knows?

***

What, you may ask, has this post got to do with writing or being indie?

I like to think it shows one can create a story from even the most basic of events from our everyday lives.

The next time you feel stuck for something to write about, scribble a short article about what happened to you today, yesterday or twenty years ago. I am certain you will find you have an audience eager to read about those events in your life.

Try it. You have nothing to lose.

Keep Happy, Paul


 

If you liked this short story why not download one of my Electric Eclectic Novelettes, they are longer short stories I am sure you will enjoy.

Find my books, paperbacks and ebooks, including my Electric Eclectic books HERE

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Want a bit more? Then check out ‘Within the Invisible Pentacle’ a collection of short stories all with feminine titles.

You can find Within the Invisible Pentacle  HERE in the UK and HERE in the USA

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1973, a Vauxhall Viva and no excuses.

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I thought I would start this year’s posts based on a theme of the various motor vehicles I have driven over the years.

Doing such links with other projects I am working on, such as my new artwork collection ‘8mm’ and one of my current works-in-progress ‘On the Highway of Irrelevant Rumination and Delusion’.

8mm is where I take a still from an amateur home movie and combine it with a short excerpt from one of my books. You can view the 8mm collection on this link. https://paulznewpostbox.wixsite.com/artworks/8mm

On the Highway of Irrelevant Rumination and Delusion is my musings on life and living, taken from my old blog series of the same name and explored during a fictitious road trip, itself an amalgam of many, to create a captivating, informative and entertaining monologue. https://paulznewpostbox.wixsite.com/paul-white/works-in-progress

I am beginning this series of posts with a car from 1973 in which I first learned to drive, the ubiquitous Vauxhall Viva.

In its time, the Vauxhall Viva was the most popular car to come from Vauxhall’s Luton works. Once seen on every street corner The Viva was the first Vauxhall to achieve a six-figure production run and, by the early 1970s, was Vauxhall’s best-selling model.

None of that mattered to me as I struggled to master the necessary synchronicity between clutch, steering, mirrors, gearshift and acceleration while simultaneously looking ahead and in my mirrors. No mean feat for someone who never road a bicycle until they were eight years old!

However, the point of this series of post is far from riding bicycles or driving cars, its about life, the world, being an indie author and, at least for the first few posts, a little bit of nostalgia. A mix I hope you will find informative as well as entertaining.


So, without further ado, let me get started ‘proper’.

At the end of 1973, I was a young sailor in the Royal Navy. I had around six weeks left before I was to join my first ship and sail away to some far-flung shores. I was, to all intents and purpose a ‘whippersnapper‘. I suppose it was the start of me becoming me, becoming who I am now.

Did you know the word Whippersnapper was originally a “diminutive, insignificant, or presumptuous person?”

It was a term of reproach, here is the word used in a lengthy harangue by Edgar Allan Poe, from his story “Loss of Breath”:

“Thou wretch! – thou vixen! – thou shrew!” said I to my wife on the morning after our wedding, “thou witch! – thou hag! – thou whipper-snapper! – thou sink of iniquity! – thou fiery-faced quintessence of all that is abominable! – thou – thou –”

(The speaker in the story is then, gratifyingly, bereft of breath and stops speaking.)

 

Some may have preferred to call me a ‘Whiffet’ which has similar connotations and also means “a small, young, or unimportant person.”

But the cuteness of the word kept it becoming a term of reproach. Whiffet was used in the 19th century in relaxed and informal writing, such as this breezy passage from an early magazine movie review:

Particularly is this true in the case of William Haines. This cinema actor invariably plays the obnoxious, precocious whiffet who upsets plans, causes heartaches by his wilfulness.

—“The New Pictures,” Time Magazine, 10 October 1928

Now, back to my tale…

With little to do with my ‘off-duty’ time, I decided to learn to drive. (Not that I was going to get much chance to practise the skill once at sea!) Anyway, I engaged the services of a driving instructor and jumped into the driving seat of a shiny red car. The picture on this blog is exactly as I recall the vehicle.

Three lessons a week taught me the skills necessary for basic car control, well, enough to pass my test and gain a licence just in time to board my ship and sail away on the high seas.

My first ‘foreign’ port of call was Lisbon, Portugal; which is just across the English Channel and a little south. The fine city that it is, it was not the exotic tropical port of my boyhood dreams. (Thankfully I did get to visit those too.)

But tales of sailing the high seas and exploring foreign lands is not my premise of this post. It is about me taking those driving lessons although I knew it would be many months before I could use to use my newly acquired skills. Besides which, I still needed to purchase a vehicle.

You see, far too often we stop ourselves from undertaking certain tasks because of… well, whatever excuse we can find to convince ourselves. I could have so easily not taken those driving lessons because I was going to sea, because I did not have a car, because I… whatever. The point is it would have simply been an excuse with no real foundation of any matter.

It is making these excuses to ourselves so many of us authors and writers do far too frequently when what we should be doing is finding reasons to do something, making time to do something.  

We must say to ourselves, “Yes, I can write another chapter today despite having to work late.” Or “I can watch the TV later, or tomorrow, but I must write this down now.” No matter your book may not be ready until next year; no matter your laptop is broken, you have paper and pen.

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I got to drive later that year when I returned from my first sea draft. Since then I gained an advanced drivers’ licence. I have driven racing cars on various tracks around the world, from Brands Hatch in the UK to Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi. I have personally owned some amazingly powerful machines like a Nissan Skyline GTR, a Toyota GT4 and an Aston Martin BD9.

I don’t think I would have done so had made an excuse to myself not to take those driving lessons. I am a firm believer that each decision we make forges our life path ahead for a length of time until our next pivotal decision must be made. Once each choice is selected there is no going back, no return, just differing routes to choose.

I think this is why I have several books and various art projects on the go at any one time, I don’t like saying no to myself; I don’t like making excuses to myself about why I can’t, or shouldn’t do something, anything.

I like to encourage myself to forge ahead, to do it, to say yes.

I encourage you to support and believe in yourself. I bet you will find you are a far more capable person than you give yourself credit for.

Keep Happy, Paul 😊

Bait your books to catch more readers.

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Okay, so the title of this post is probably not the best metaphor ever written. Maybe, I was just fishing for compliments, or reeling you in… okay, okay. Enough.

But relating your books sales, or rather your book marketing, to fishing is not so far off the mark as you may think.

I am sure you would have heard the term ‘hook’ used many times when referring to writing, particularly fiction

Most authors know and recognise the importance of having a ‘narrative hook’ in their book’s opening lines and at the end of each chapter, even in the closing paragraphs of books in a series.

The idea, of course, is to leave your reading wanting more, wanting to know what happens next or indeed, on ‘tenterhooks’.

Which, by the way, is an old English word deriving from the 14th-century wool making industry. A ‘Tenter’ was a frame used to stop cleaned woollen fabric shrinking, (from the Latin ‘tendere’, meaning ‘to stretch’). Hooks are placed around the edge of a frame, to which the fabric was attached, so it streached it enough to stop it shrinking whilst drying.

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Hanging fabric onto a Tenter

By the mid-18th century, the phrase ‘on tenterhooks’ came to mean being in a state of tension, uneasiness, anxiety, or suspense, i.e. figuratively stretched like the cloth on the tenter.

However interesting all that may be, these facts have nothing to do with fishing and by association, sadly nothing to do with my terrible metaphor.

 

So, let me get to the nitty-gritty of this post, which is about your book’s description.

For this blog post, I am including your back-cover blurb and the description you use on your sales page of online sites, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble etc. as the ‘description’ discussed.

It seems, by the requests for answers I receive and the social comments I read, the writing of your book’s description is an area many authors struggle with, which is, on consideration rather strange as, after completing an entire novel, pages upon pages of creative writing, authors should then struggle to write a dozen or so lines describing the very premise of the book.

Which is, in all honesty, probably one of, if not the most important few paragraphs of the entire work.

What I find is, as the creator of the story, authors tend to want to put every element into their book description. (Much the same is true in amateur cover design.)

The thing is, the description is not supposed to be a summary, or a report, or a review. It is simply an advert. The intent of which is to ‘reel’ in book browsers and have them buy your book.

Allow me to elucidate.

Someone will buy your book if…

Firstly, the little thumbnail image of your front cover catches their eye.

Then, when they enlarge, click, expand or whatever they might need to do to see your book as a larger image if they like what they see at the smaller resolution. (The reason you need a great cover artist. One like PeeJay Designs. PeeJaydesigns@mail.com)

This is the online equivalent of having a potential buyer physically pick up your book from a bookstore shelf and hold it in their hands. If they never pick it up they will never buy it.

The next step is, your potential purchaser will now read the carefully crafted and captivating description of your book. This could be the ‘blurb’ on the back cover or the description given on an online bookstore.

Reaching this point means the cover has done its most important job.

Of course, your book’s description will stop the reader in their tracks, intriguing them enough to want to…

One, buy your book immediately or…

Two, read some of the ‘Look Inside’. (If in a physical bookstore, flick through and read a few random samples.) and then they will, of course, buy your book, won’t they?

Sarah Gribble of The Write Practice, says. “I recently picked up a nonfiction book, which I don’t read many of, and almost put it right back down. But the description intrigued me. It got me to read the first couple pages, standing right there in the store. Then it got me to buy the book.”

However, if you have a lazy, badly worded and therefore an unsuccessful book description, they will simply move on to the next book, regardless of how wonderful your actual story may be, a story they, along with thousands of others, will never get to read.

This means you will have blown your chance, your opportunity to get the sale, all for a few lacklustre lines.

Okay, I hear you saying, “How do I make my book’s descriptions work for me?”

I’m glad you asked because it’s a little like fishing; you must bait your hook with the right lure, the right bait, for the fish you want to catch. (Yep, back to my metaphor.)

Perhaps, one of the best ways is knowing what to do and what not to do when writing your description.

The (basic) do’s:

Always write in Third Person

Use keywords, emotional words, like chilling or passion; they work well for both nonfiction and fiction book descriptions. You can Google power words to find some good ones. But do not overdo it.

Also, consider what people might be Googling that would take them to your book. This is especially true for nonfiction works. Think about employing those in your description.

Be succinct and to the point, no purple prose or verbose writing.

Be clear about the genre, the main genre, do not focus on sub-plots. i.e. if you have a thriller, say so, do not harp on about the romantic story which runs as a sub-plot.

Employ the proper utilization of grammar

Use eye-catching, powerful language. Just like your book needs a hook at the beginning, so does your book description. No one’s going to continue reading the description, let alone the whole book if the first line is as boring as dry toast. Plus, this is often the only thing an online shopper will see before they are prompted to click to see more, and you want them to click, don’t you?

Hint at the climax, never reveal it.

Tell your potential readers how perfect your book is for fans of… genre/style etc.

Mention any awards, high-class reviews, or serious ratings – (see notes below in ‘don’ts’)

Add any audience and age-appropriate.

Give trigger warning when it’s necessary. (These can have a positive effect on sales.)

The (basic) don’ts:

Never use shouty capitals.

Give too short a description.

Cut off words

Make false or misleading claims

Double/triple edit. Do not allow any misspellings or typos to get through. If you cannot write a short description without any errors, there is little hope your book will be error-free.

Do not employ ‘date language’ like ‘just released’ or ‘new novel’, in a week it won’t be and you will need to re-word your description.

Stay away from aggressive calls to action. Such as “You MUST buy this book”. Using such language lends a note of desperation and drives potential buyers away.

Do bear in mind retailers accept differing lengths of descriptions, so you may need to tailor it to each site’s requirements.

Surprisingly, some things you might think influence, do not, according to recent Bookbub research;

It seems it is irrelevant to include details of which type of bestseller you may have, i.e. New York Times Vs USA Today. Simply saying ‘Bestseller’ has far more significance.

Adding a question at the end of your description has no effect on your potential purchaser’s decision making. Which makes doing so a total waste of time.

Neither does saying the book is your debut novel, or your tenth novella, or your seven hundredth and fiftieth for that matter. It has no significant impact on the choice to purchase.

Therefore, use your description to tell people about your story, get them intrigued, wanting to know more.

Avoid telling them about ‘the book’. You may be proud of all those things, but readers don’t give a flying ***, they simply want to know if they will enjoy the story.

Including the series name in the description did not affect readers positively or negatively. Therefore, adding such information (in the description) is pretty much a waste of time and effort. It seems the cover, and the titles on online pages, already show that information; so potential buyers do not want the same information repeated over and again… they know, they get it already.

I now hear you asking how you get to a good description.

The easiest way is to create two versions of similar text, like this:

hook1

hook2

Both versions have the same information. They both start by listing the accolades which represent the renown of the book.

However, from there, description A focuses more on Nick Dunne’s perspective, while B hones in on Amy.

So, go ahead, create two versions of your book’s description, test them against each other and determine which works best for your book.

Use friends to help you decide. After all, their point of view will be far more accurate than your own; you will not be buying your book, they will and they know what attracts them better than you ever will.

Try using the following suggestions as an outline guide.

Start your description by using a bold opening sentence, possibly a statement to grab the reader’s attention.

Use at least one hook to grab readers’ attention.

Ensure the description does not contain any spelling or grammatical errors.

Make certain to ‘inspire’ your potential reader to ‘buy’.

While I do not suggest using direct comparisons to ‘famous’ or ‘renowned’ authors, (such as “…is the new Stephen King” or “Better than Sophie Kinsella…”) which is considered cheesy, desperate, egotistical and opens all sorts of avenues for negative feedback and bad reviews, it may be worthwhile making a statement your book would be “Perfect for fans of Lee Child” or “Martina Cole fans will love this gritty and convincing thriller

Note, the words, ‘Gritty & Convincing’ are taken directly from the cover of Martina Cole’s book. Never be afraid of copying the methods and styles used by major publishing houses.

Once you have found a style and method which suits you, why not create your own template and use that for your future books?

After all, great fishermen have their own way of baiting their rod for the type of fish they want to catch. You can do the same, go get the readers you need, lure them in, hook, line and sinker.

See, fishing is not such a bad metaphor after all.

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I have compiled a wealth of information to help authors of all capabilities and experience to know more about the publishing world, books and being indie.

To share this information I created two books, The Frugal Author, which is all about publishing at the lowest costs for the maximum return, and ‘Lots of Author Stuff You Need to Know’, which contains, funny enough, lots of author stuff you NEED to know.

These books are full of useful and enlightening information, are designed to help you avoid making costly mistakes and to help you generate profit as early as possible.

Both books are published as low-cost eBooks, waiting for you to download right now.

mybook.to/Authorstuff         mybook.to/FrugalAuthor

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Authors, are you sitting on a fortune without realising it?

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A short while ago I wrote a post about the different ways and reasons authors might sign their books. Why you should take signing and inscribing your books very seriously…

This post follows on from that one, but not along the route you might think.

Once again, this is an in-depth and informative article, from which I think you will take far more than just the main points I make.

At least, I hope so.


The idea for this post came about while I was chatting away with a friend, discussing how easy it is to recycle print books nowadays, especially since the introduction of environmentally friendly inks, papers, films, card and such.

However, as with most conversations, our chat wandered across many subjects, soon I found myself explaining how I sold several uncorrected proof copies of my books, ones which included errors, misprints, formatting issues and so forth to either fans or collectors.

My friend, who happens to be an avid collector of rare books, said this is not such an unusual occurrence, many book collections would not be complete without an uncorrected proof copy or two.

He said, some of these proofs are produced without cover illustrations, so the books are, in his words ‘raw’, just containing the writer’s words and little else. The resulting post is formed both from the information my friend shared and from research I undertook following our meeting.


I do understand why people collect first editions.

I the early days of printing presses the plates were made of lead, the sharpness of the edges on these plates would, after a number of impressions, wear. Thus, the earlier impressions would be far sharper and clearer than those printed later.

This was most important where the printed work contained illustrations or maps, which were generally finely penned pen & ink drawings or engravings, so clarity of reproduction was all-important.

In modern times, first with off-set printing and now with digital technology, this is no longer a factor and collecting ‘first’ or ‘early’ editions is now more of an act of faith than a practical necessity.

If one was to take the ‘early’ edition to its most, but logical, extreme, then it is the authors manuscript would be the rarest and most valuable version of ‘the book’… which it is.

Most collectors, including institutions, cannot collect authors manuscripts as widely, or as thoroughly, as they may wish.

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There is, however, a preliminary state of a book, prior to the first published edition and therefore closer to the authors manuscript so it still holds a high rarity value yet is more readily available.

These fall into two categories.

The first is the authors proof copy(s). Dependent on how many ‘proof’ editions are required.

The second is the ARC’s or ‘galley’ proofs, which often need final-final proofreading before publication and printing start in earnest.

These copies of your own books can also hold a higher intrinsic value than those of your production run, including POD’s.

The reason is twofold; the first is they are early examples, so they are rare, most being produced in low quantities of a dozen or so.

Secondly, most books will undergo their final revisions, by the author and editors, after the printing of the proof copies; meaning these books often show a state of the authors work otherwise unpublished. This is enormously interesting and informative for scholars and students of literature and language studies.

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The history of producing proof copies for distribution dates to the partly printed ‘salesmen’s dummies’ of the 19th century.

But ‘proofs,’ as part of the publication process, has a shorter history.

Advance copies of books for in-house use by the publisher are customary,  either as long galley proofs or in other formats. Printed and bound advance copies for distribution were rare in the 1930s and 40s, only becoming regular practice in the 1950s and 60s.

This was mostly due to Crane Duplicating Service, a Cape Cod printer, who promoted the idea to the publishing industry. Those who had a ‘Crane’ could print inexpensive prepublication editions which they could send out for early reviews, thus tempting the major wholesalers and retail buyers to place larger orders. Another development to assist with this was also devised by Crane, this was the placing of promotional ‘blurb’ on the rear covers or dust jackets of these promotional books.

This practice gained such wide acceptance proofs became known as ‘cranes’ by the print industry for many years, a practice which has only recently fallen from fashion.

You can see the natural, almost organic progress of how this influenced the concept and design of the modern book, which still sports the back cover and dust jacket ‘blurb’ first fashioned by those early publishing houses.

The number of proof copies is a secret kept by each publisher, but some figures have escaped, such as the 57 copies of Robert Stone’s first novel, The Hall of Mirrors, or the 39 proofs of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five.

One of Phillip K Dick’s novels contained ‘potentially libellous’ text. It is said that 19 proof copies of this book still exist… somewhere.

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Not satisfied with these simple proof copies, many publishers (since the 1930s) issue elaborately produced prepublication volumes in hope of generating further interest in forthcoming releases.

Raymond Chandler’s first novel, The Big Sleep, was issued in such a prepublication form, as were Dashiell Hammett, and James M, Cain and, in 1961, an ‘advance reading copy special edition’ of a forthcoming first novel called Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, was created.

Since then, ARC’s have become commonplace, they are now par-for-the-course for most releases, such is the case for ‘The World According to Garp‘, John Irving’s breakthrough novel, which used 1500 advance copies printed for promotional purposes. Martin Cruz Smith’s Gorky Park had two printings of ARC’s totalling 2500 copies; it was his first bestseller. Since which he has become one of the most popular and successful thriller writers of all time.

Examples of textual changes in proofs abound.  Most are never discovered until someone does a line by line comparison with the final book.

Tim O’Brien revised his National Book award-winning novel, ‘Going After Cacciato‘, after the proof was printed, and O’Brien’s own copy has whole paragraphs marked out and rewritten. His second novel, Northern Lights, has a two-page section in the proof that does not appear in the finished book.

Peter Matthiessen’s National Book Award-winning ‘The Snow Leopard‘ has major changes made after the proof was printed, after he sent it to a friend, and Buddhist scholar, for comments on his references to Buddhism.

Kent Anderson’s powerful Vietnam war novel ‘Sympathy for the Devil‘ has the most stunning passages excised after the proof was printed, perhaps because they were deemed by editors to be too harsh for publication.

Oh, and no one would have known just how bad Ernest Hemingway’s Spanish was in the late 1930s if the proofs of ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls‘ was not found.

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So, even if you change, finalise, re-edit sections or whole parts of your book after feedback from your ARC’s, this may not be a bad thing.

There is a case made because proofs are printed first and are distributed outside of the publishing house, they comprise the ‘true first edition’ of a book, as such distribution constitutes the ‘publishing’ of said work. i.e., making a book available to the public, however limited the availability may be.

Combining their historical scarcity, and likely future scarcity, with the textual variations which are often found and which, by definition, represent a state of the text closer to the author’s original manuscript, the value in collecting proof copies is self-evident.

Which brings me, albeit by such a circuitous route, to where this post links back to my previous one about book signings.

http://www.peecho.com/checkout/14716200169619823/234509/doveshardv3I have sold all the copies of my own proof books and intend to do so in the future as I release new works.

I combined the rarity of such with the opportunity to sign and/or inscribe each copy as described in the previous post on this blog.

Of course, the cost of these rare editions is a little higher than the general releases and, as I have the physical copies, shipping charges are also paid by the buyer.

Some may think this would dissuade the regular purchaser, but I have found otherwise and, on two occasions, had people bidding against each other.

I no longer allow people to get embroiled in this way and set what I consider to be a fair and reasonable price for each book.

Taking this one step further, I would also welcome the sale of my original manuscript, should I have handwritten, typewritten or even made handwritten alterations on hard copy, which I have, sadly, not.

Personally, I do not work that way. I do know some authors who prefer to do so and maybe this is an option they may like to consider?


To cap this post off, here are some points you may like to consider in your future marketing plans. Please note, these are ideas for Paperbacks and Hardcover books, they are not ideal or workable for eBooks.

The following notes are based on the premise from which I started this post… “are you sitting on a fortune without knowing it?”

1, Create a ‘first edition’ short run of your next book.

You could do this as a time-limited promotion or for a set number of books. Of course, you may find some little niggly alterations you need to make, which would only better the rarity of this first edition run.

2, Use any ARC copies (which could simply be a small number of the above or a set number of pre-proofread editions) to your benefit.

Don’t just send them to ‘reviewers’ or ‘friends’ seeking Amazon/Goodreads reviews. Such reviews now lack credibility as their authenticity is under challenge, which is why Amazon deletes so many ‘reviews’.

Instead, give them to your local radio and TV stations; in the UK seek out the local BBC stations as well as the independent ones. Do the same with your local newspapers. Give one to the manager of your local Waterstones bookshop, (these managers have a say in selecting the books their stores stock.)

The main reasons I suggest ‘local media’ is they are constantly hungry for ‘local’ news, so an author from the area who has or shall soon, be releasing a book is exactly the type of story they need. You may well get an interview or be asked to appear as a guest.

Try and milk the airtime. Do a pre-book release show with the ARC & get invited back, in say, two weeks, once your book has been released and is ‘live’ online. (Get two bites of the cherry & create a relationship with the host(s))

I have appeared on two of the three local radio stations in my hometown. Including several guest appearances on the primetime breakfast show.

Note: Do think outside the box, which is especially relevant for certain genres and non-fiction. I have some of my own books in maritime museums, seafarers, and naval heritage centre gift shops and online websites.

You can try your local tourist information centres if your book is about, or set in, the locality. Check out your local museums, galleries and tourist hot spots. Your book may just be welcome on their shelves.

3, If you want to try to attack the regional market, which will encompass your ‘State’ in the USA, then why not produce your own ‘special prepublication edition’ to send to the key organisations? (This would work for National campaigns too, but they are far more difficult to organise and manage.)

As with #2 above, only offer to sign or inscribe these ARC’s for the host when you are interviewed or appear on their show, or when your recorded slot has been aired. Try not to do it pre-show or during recording sessions.

After which, it is always worth turning up ‘out-of-the-blue’ on another day to sign the book when the show is on-air. (It is to the hosts benefit… they will almost certainly ‘fit-you-in’. Trust me, I have done this.)

Even if you do not get lucky with more airtime immediately, you can arrange a time to go back for the signing, even offer to give a signed book or two to the listeners, suggest holding a little quiz or competition. Anything that engages the station’s listeners will make them jump all over you for the privilege.

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4, Manuscripts.

A, If you handwrite and are willing to sell your manuscript, either your first draft of your final draft, then please offer it for sale at a price that reflects your love for your story, (i.e. not cheaply). You could fashion a loose cover or folder to keep the whole thing neat, or at least together for presentation purposes. If this has your signature or additional notes written on it, it will add to the overall provenance.

B, If you use a computer to write, as I do, why not consider printing out your draft, at least the ‘final/final first draft’ and making your own handwritten editorial notes on the physical copy, along with and as, you edit the on-screen copy.

This could then be treated as the manuscript above.

Please, however, only have one copy of your first draft and one of your final draft, (although other working copies are acceptable, such as the ARC draft, bot ONLY as long as each is a sole copy and unique), any other/repeat copies will only devalue your manuscripts and will be considered fraudulent, which is not, I am sure, a label you want to associate with your good name.

The more handwritten crossings out, margin notes, additions and so forth the better. These are the things collectors, libraries, scholastic establishments and museums adore. Such items tend to lend people a sense of ‘knowing’ the author as they work, an insight into their mindset if you will.

Well, that’s it from me for this post.

I do hope you can use some of these ideas or, indeed, find fresh ones which suit your own unique situation.

Finally, I can’t help think of eBooks as being ephemeral, subject to being lost in a power outage or, as Amazon.com did with a number of George Orwell books, when it found it sold them without having rights to them, simply erased them from the face of the earth. Something which is far harder to achieve with printed books…. note Fanrenhight 451.


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