How I kept ‘The Pussers Cook Book’ high on Amazon rankings.

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Okay, so this is a post about marketing books, or rather it is a post about one of my books that sold particularly well. (At least in the first few weeks after publication).

I am NOT a marketing guru. I have no special formula and am not trying to sell you anything, get you to subscribe, donate, join a club or even buy the book in question… or any of my books… but you can if you wish!

I am uncertain if my book would not have performed as well if I had done absolutely nothing, if I published, sat back and waited. (Although I doubt it)

The reason I am writing this post is to share with you, (my Indie author friends and colleagues), the history of first few weeks of my books performance on the Amazon sales platform.

I hope you can take something, even one small factor from this and use it to enhance your own sales, or at least gain further insight into what makes books sell. Or not!

To understand and to place the following information into context I need to explain how the book came into being and the lead up to release. So, I’ll take the Advice of Winnie the Pooh and start at the beginning; as “That’s a very good place to start”.

The Book in question is The Pussers Cook Book.  The Amazon hyperlink is https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pussers-Cook-Book-Traditional-recipes/dp/1544690584 if you want to take a look, or get a copy (hint hint).

The Pussers Cook Book contains twenty-two recipes of traditional dishes served in the Royal Navy during the 1960’s to the 1980’s. Apart from the recipes, it contains a factual historical information and social comment, written in a witty and humorous style.

The book is listed under this Amazon category: Books > Food & Drink > Reference & Gastronomy > History of Food. (It is currently ranked No.3 as I write this).

The creation of this book came about after many conversations with other veterans. Most hold the food they ate during service in some esteem, some higher than others! What was clear among all personnel was the huge part food and dining played in keeping moral and spirits high during deployments.

With that in mind, I started to search for a cook book containing some ‘Good old British Naval recipes’ and came up with absolute zilch, zero, nada.

There are American forces cook books, Royal Australian Naval recipes, South African, Indian, but I could not find a single book which recorded any Royal Navy dish.

This is where it all starts!

So… I asked in several forces forums who would be interested in such a book, who would share stories and memories of food and dining from their time in the service. The response was substantial and led me to believe there was a market, an audience for such.

I had found a niche, a ‘gap in the market’ so to speak.

A few months later I had compiled and written The Pussers Cook Book.

Now for the nitty gritty about the promotion.


PLANNING.

As I have said above, I spoke to a quantity of people about creating a Naval recipes book and kept the contact details of those who expressed a solid interest in such a book.

Once I was ready to release The Pussers Cook Book, I posted a string of ‘Coming soon’ social media announcements to the groups I identified as being the books prime market, ie Royal Navy/ex royal navy/military/FAA/RFA/ex Forces/Veterans sites.

Many which I had joined since conception of the book in readiness for its launch. This gave me time to build a good, solid reputation and establish myself as a known, trusted and active member of these groups. You may consider this rather mercenary, but I see it as good business sense.

This type of planning and foresight takes a lot of time, work and effort. But once you are accepted, initiated and integrated, the fact that you an established part of a close, sometimes closed network, will pay dividends in many future endeavours.

It is a commitment I think is worth the time and energy needed to sustain the relationship.

The second part of my advanced planning was to design some posters and flyers, and the preparation of initial of blogs needed to spread my message, in a colourful and eye catching way, when posted on social media.

The next was ensuring that my book is listed with ‘book sites’ such as Goodreads, Authors Den, Authorsdb, Promocave etc. And, of course listed on my own website.

Added to this is obtaining listing on other sites servicing my targeted market. In this case, military historical sites and archives, military book, gift and paraphernalia stores, Naval museums. In fact, anywhere that has a library, store, shop, or service which does, or could list books or carry a link. Not forgetting any of their private forums, even those with fifty or sixty members…I would be happy with 1% sales from these.

Once again this is time consuming and often boring, but it is getting all your duck in order before taking the plunge.

Once all these items were in place, I was ready to promote the book.

Before the next step, the launch, I must explain that I made The Pussers Cook Book in two formats, a Hardcover version and a paperback.

This post is ONLY concerned with the PAPERBACK version as this is the only format available via CreateSpace/Amazon.

It may also help to know that it is a 6×9, full colour, fully illustrated book. (hence the price)


LAUNCH.

I decided that a ‘soft launch‘ of The Pussers Cook Book was most appropriate, as this book is targeted at a niche market, a major launch, such as a Thunderclap or Facebook party would have been irrelevant and had little effect on the initial ‘reveal‘.

The launch therefore consisted of a major blitz on as many social media groups as possible, over as many platforms as possible. In this case it was Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, twitter, Tumblr, Ello, Yeopen, StumbleUpon, Flipboard, Pinterest, WordPress, Blogger and so on.

Along with all those private sites and forums directed at Military and ex-military personnel I mentioned before.

The first day or two the book was only available from CreateSpace, as it takes a day or two to appear on Amazon sites.

If you look at the beginning of the sales chart, the launch date of the 17th of March, (it was late at night, so the figures show as/from the 18th), you will see that sales were instantly quite good. It looked like all that planning, all the time effort and the brainstorming had paid off.

Until… March the 21st when it all died off!

I still have no idea why this was, perhaps it was something to do with the listings on Amazon becoming live?


PROMOTION

Like everything concerned with being an Indie author it takes work, hard work and lots of it.

Pushing your sales is just one of the areas that you must concentrate your efforts. This is what I have done so far in relation to The Pussers Cook Book.

On the 26th of March I saw the sales figure slow for the first time.

I was ready for this. I had a plan, well it was more of an idea which I formulated after reading several various, (unrelated) articles about books, business, SEO, other authors, and a host of topics I cannot recall!

My plan was to try and push the name, the title of my book to the front of the search lists on the prime search engines algorithms.

Now, most probably you know little about how ‘SEO’ works. You are not alone, neither do I!

BUT I had gleaned a basic understanding, or at least an understanding of the logic behind the principle of how SEO functions. It was with that limited knowledge that I made my next move.

I sent a post asking people to ‘google’ my book by name on whatever search bar they were using, Google, Yahoo, Bing, Edge…whatever.

I did this with emails to other contacts around the world, and on all social platforms and forums. I asked my son, cousin and friends to do the same, to share and re-post the request, and to ask others to do the same.

I was trying to drive the search for ‘The Pussers Cook Book‘ or The Pussers cookbook’ etc. as viral as I could.

It worked.

Within 24hrs The Pussers Cook Book was showing as the top 6 to 8 listings on most searches, eventually making it to the top 10 lists on about every search engine.

The chart shows a boost of sale from that date. I like to consider this a direct consequence of that SEO attack…but again, I have no control specimen to compare effect.

It could simply be a coincidence?

On May the 30th I saw the trend of sales slipping, so I gave the book another boost by simple advertising, posting updated posters and status’s on social media.

April the 4th I noticed the figures dip once again. This time my marketing effort was aimed at the sites I term non-prime. These are the sites that are peripheral to major networks, or adjacent in content and demographics, to the mainstream platforms, but still play a key role in my marketing strategy.

Such sites, I am sure, will differ greatly from person to person and book to book. Much of regarding any site as such is whole subjective.

April the 8th I am have convinced myself, The Pussers Cook Book has run its natural course of being an Amazon bestseller for an Indie author. This is, no doubt the start of the natural decline in sales.

With a hurriedly conceiver promotion, using Easter as a gimmick, “Last chance to get/gift a copy before Easter…etc, blah, blah…” I hope to squeeze out a few more sales and try to keep The Pussers Cook Book as high in the charts for as long as possible.

The reason is, the higher a book’s ranking, the more visibility it is given by Amazon. The more it can be seen the higher the likelihood of getting an extra sale, or three.

If these sales keep the book up in the ranking, the more it will been seen…..& so on. As the sales decrease so does a books appearance. The alternative is to spend a fortune on paid advertising with amazon and Facebook etc.

So, as much self-promotion and marketing you can do without giving the ‘big boys’ a fortune the better it is.

Remember, whatever you spend on, say an Amazon advert, is the amount you must earn in royalties from Amazon, BEFORE you start making any money. All the while, on each sale you do make, Amazon will still be taking their cut. Think about it.

It is now, as I write the 13th of April, 27 days, a month – all bar the shouting – The Pussers Cook Book has been at the top, not bad for an unknown Indie author.

I shall do another marketing blitz over the next day or two. In fact, even this post is part of my overall marketing plan. It has raised awareness of the book, which you will notice I have repeatedly given its full title of ‘The Pussers Cook Book’ throughout this blog post. Hinted that you should at least Google it, if not get yourself a copy (another hint).

What I am trying to convey is, never miss an opportunity…you never know where it might lead.

I do hope that by sharing this with you, you can take something constructive or reassuring from it. Even something that makes it worth getting yourself a copy of this book, or any of my fictional works, as a thank you?

I know sales will now slow. It is inevitable. Yet, I do hope the book will ‘tick over’ for the foreseeable future.

For now, I have four ‘Works in progress’ I must complete; you never know one of these may be my next best seller?paul-white

Here’s hoping.

Paul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why the ‘The Pussers Cook Book’ is an Amazon bestseller.

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Just over a year ago I was having a conversation with some other veterans, ex-Royal Navy Sailors. The subject soon turned, as it so often does, to food.

All serving and ex-military personnel will tell you how important is a good, hearty meal. Food is the mainstay, a necessity in keeping the spirits up; especially when you are away from home for a length of time.

Food keeps one’s morale high and give the troops something to joke and joss about; however good or bad any meal may actually be.

Mealtimes are sociable occasion, a time to share stories and tales, to catch-up with mates and comrades, to bounce ideas, hopes, dreams and wishes for the future off old friends.

This is one reason why so many military personnel carry with them a like, a fondness of certain foods, of certain dishes, often giving them strange names which civilians find unfathomable.

I looked, searched the bookstores and internet, trying to find a book which contained those very dishes I loved, or loathed, during my own Naval career.

I could find recipes books from the American Navy, even one written by an Australian sailor. Yet I could not find a single book which housed the main, the regular, the most popular and well-known dishes from the Royal Navy.

I decided it was about time such a book existed. So, I wrote one!


Hence ‘The Pussers Cook Book’

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Luckily, I was a Naval Cook during the 1970’s. This enabled me to compile a book which not only gives recipes for food, but also explains many of the Naval terms, the slang, the colloquial language given to foodstuffs, kitchen equipment and canteen etiquette.

Along with Twenty-two traditional recipes for food from the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s, are a few insights into things such as Limers, Grog and Khai.

This book confirms historical facts and dispels some myths that ‘Jack & Jenny’ believed true.

The Pussers Cook Book finishes with a round of observations from ‘Jolly Jack Tar’ himself, on memories of the places he could once find ‘Big eats’ after a ‘run ashore’.

If you are a serving member of the armed forces, particularly Royal Navy, Royal Marines, WRNS, Fleet Air Arm or Royal Fleet Auxiliary, or if a family member once served and is now a veteran, then The Pussers Cook Book is a must to own yourself, or as a gift to someone you love.

The Pussers Cook Book is more than a simple book, it is a book of memories, a historical record of military social life and it is a legacy. One which can be cooked, smelt and savoured, bringing those loved and missed dishes, along with those fond memories, back to life once again in a way no other book could possibly manage to do.


The Pussers Cook Book is full colour, fully illustrated and available in both Hardcover and Paperback.

To order the Hardcover version go to: www.peecho.com/print/en/282666

To get the Paperback from Amazon:  goo.gl/eTwfWN

Pussercook book REAR FV cover

Distracted.

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I sit back, sighing heavily. The writing is going well, but I need to take a break from this particular work. So I fill a large mug full of hot black coffee...the preferred drug of most writers…and sit back down, allowing my thoughts to scramble over the untidy mound of scrappy ideas which need to be sorted into some cohesive order.

Problem is, as I sip the scalding liquid, my thoughts leave the junkyard of unformulated notes and come here, the rambling parkland of gibberish and spill over this page in an uncontrollable splash of ink. Rather like the drips from the base of my coffee cup.

I know I should be focusing all my attention towards the new novel ‘Floyd’, because you cannot leave a psychopathic murderer running loose, which is precisely what Floyd is doing as you read this. Or maybe I should be writing some more short stories, or editing some old blogs ready to create another book. After all it is what I set aside these current hours to do. It was my sole intent today. So, in some respect I feel guilty I am not writing content for any of those projects.

However, I am also aware that in the shadowy recesses, in those dark corners of my mind where I have little, if any control, the cogs of intuition, of creativity, of inventiveness and imagination are whirling away without any conscious effort on my part.

I know they will, or at least I hope they will, rearrange the untidy pile of random thoughts, those initial ideas and concepts, into an organised and comprehensive inventory of clarified sketches which will then be ready for me to utilise.

This is one of the reasons I write such as this, (and drink copious amounts of coffee late into the night and often into the early hours of the following day)!

A few years ago, I was given a very good piece of advice by a successful writer; “Whatever you do,” he said, “just write. Write anything that comes into your head. Do not think about it too much. You can always re-write it, change it, even scrap it another time. But when you sit down to write do exactly that, write, write anything because what matters is not the first few words you put down, but the creative juices they cause to dribble down your thighs of inventiveness”.

I have followed his advice ever since, which is why I have very wet inventive thighs and write these ramblings. Hence I have found the cure for the condition that afflicts many, the so-called writers block.

Have a good, creative and productive day.

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© Paul White 2014

To read more of my work, or find out more about me, why not visit my website?

http://paulznewpostbox.wixsite.com/paul-white

OUT NOW

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Annual Awards Edition

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CQ Magazine features and showcases the amazing talents of writers, poets, painters, photographers, jewellery designers, graphic artists, sculptors, artisans and all manner of creativity.

Almost anything which has an artistic and creative edge is welcome within the pages of CQ.

CQ is a quarterly online publication  Read more HERE

 

 

Why do I write in the way I do? (An answer.)

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I am often asked, as I am sure many authors are, “Why do I write?”.

This is not a straightforward or easy question to answer comprehensively. In fact, if I were to answer that question in full, it would be an extremely long essay.

Which is the answer I gave a few days ago.

However, that question was followed by one which made me think, a question I was, at the time, unprepared to answer constructively.

“Why do you write in the way you do?”

This question made me think, beyond the basics of ‘style’ and further than ‘narration’ alone.

So, in the regular and rambling way I use in my blog posts, I shall attempt to convey to you my thoughts on this question.

They are as follow……

I do not write a particular genre of fiction.

Romance stories generally demand detailed character descriptions, a slow build-up of intensity to climax. (Excuse the pun).

On the other hand, Horror readers want faster paced, less detailed, more action books which cut right to the core. (Sorry, I can’t help myself).

By not being a genre writer, I have not developed a style limited by the parameters of reasonable expectation of those readers.

Neither do I write for a syndicate publisher, such as Mills & Boon, who have strict plot and style guidelines and can drop any contributor in an instant, should their suggestions not be strictly adhered too.

I am a truly free, independent author.

I have written an offbeat tale of abduction and intrigue, which is also a romantic story, a AofRDVtale of finding oneself and humorous yarn all rolled into one. It is ‘The Abduction of Rupert DeVille’. Available on Amazon, just click the link!

This book alone breaks all the genre specific boundaries it touches upon.

I did not set out to intentionally break any rules, I simply ignored them all and wrote the story I wanted to write.

I have also published two collections of poetry.

The basic premise of each is human emotion. Fear, love, hate, anger, regret and so on. I like the challenges of poetry. The differing forms, such as haiku, present wonderful opportunities to develop wordsmithing skills that can be adapted to storytelling.

That is how I like to think of myself, as a storyteller, a mythmaker; weaving tales into people’s consciousness, making them re-think and to consider life and the world around them in a way they may never have done before.

My book collection, three volumes of short stories called ‘Tales of Crime & Violence’ are designed to do just that, to make the reader reconsider their point of view, to side-swipe their general conceptions, to come at them from left field and leave their minds floundering with a myriad of questions, questions they now find they are asking themselves. (Click the link, or image)

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That is what a great story should do. It should stay with you, lingering within your mind a long time after you have closed the final pages of the book, maybe even forever?

I have also written a children’s book and non-fiction stuff. Very different disciplines than writing standard adult fiction of any sort.

I am, at the time of writing this, working on a novel about an escaped psychopath. ‘Floyd’ is out on a bloody revenge spree against those who had him committed. This book must be considered a ‘Slasher’ type of story. It is a crime thriller certainly, a horror…in parts possibly, but not really.

Once again, I am writing what I want to write, in a way I want to write it. The style and narration I am using is unique to this book. It is not one I have adopted previously.

Which, in a long winded and round-about way, brings me back to the original question of “Why do I write in the way I do?”

Taking note of the above (and remembering my independence), has allowed me to indulge in many experimentations with style, narration, pace, plot, POV’s and all the other ‘literary technical stuff’ writers put far too much emphasis on when discussing writing.

Each of my novels are written from a totally different personal perspective. Making each quite distinctive from the last. Even so, my personal mark is to keep an element of humanity, of emotion, of people’s dreams, hopes and fears running through all my fictional stories, even those involved with psychotic killers!

My short stories reflect those same values, the human passion for life, the experience of relationships, of desire and love, of living, of loss and of death.

I like to explore these areas of the human psyche, areas often forgotten or neglected by other writers and authors. I like to reveal them at a certain pace, a pace which suites the individual story being told.

In some I might come at you from the shadows, smashing into your mind like a train wreck. In another it may be an insidious creep, slowly weaving itself between your receptive neurons, until that is the only thing your mind can focus upon.

This is where the poetry and experiments with lexicon come to the fore; they allow me to use words as a basic material, melding and moulding them, twisting and forming them, until they convey to the reader, not only the description and facts, but the feeling of being there, of being within, of being part of the nether world where my story lives and, without doubt, to see, hear and feel the trauma, the worries, the excitement and passions of my characters as they stagger from one conflict to another.

You can read several my short works at https://alittlemorefiction.wordpress.com/ I always have a few stories on this blog, although I do delete and change them at random intervals.

So, in brief, that is my answer to the question – ‘Why do I write the way I do.’

I hope you can pick something useful out of this.

Thank you for reading, Paul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mixed Media Inspiration: Lack of Inspiration — writings by Ender

It is not often I repost blogs/links here.

I do have invited guest bloggers, but rarely do this. The reason I have is it is an honest, origanal post which I think is worth sharing…it is that simple

I’ve found I’ve been lacking inspiration the last few days. It’s common writing practice to linger around until inspiration hits you, but that’s not what I do. It’s not what working writers do; we don’t have the time. In times of an inspiration deficiency I seek three simple pleasures: reading, music, and social interaction. Reading […]

via Mixed Media Inspiration: Lack of Inspiration — Writings By Ender

A bit about differing narration in your stories.

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I have recently been asked if I can help another writer with regards to narration.

(Narration is sometimes referred to as the ‘stories voice’, at term which is frequently used in the USA and is essentially descriptive of its nature.)

The writer in question is not a ‘new’ writer, in fact she has authored several books over as many years.

She has asked for my assistance now, because her works to date have been of the same genre, they have required the same form of narration; one she has developed and honed, one which has also become her ‘style’.

Perfect for what she has accomplished, but a difficult task to abruptly alter, as it brings much self-doubt and worry with it.

Luckily, I am not one who writes in one genre, or in one style. Much of my work ventures into realms unknown and unexplored (from a personal perspective.) I push my wordsmithing skills every opportunity I have.

Whilst helping my author friend, I found having her read a sample of my own work, one with a certain narrative style, helped me explain how I achieved to create that chosen narration.

In this post, I shall try and do the same.

I have three examples to share with you; the first is taken from a humourus tale, the second from somewhere much darker and the third is told by a character where English is not their first language.

Each of the above forms of narration hold certain challenges for the author if they are to allow the story to flow smoothly, while still making each word believable.

Without further ado, here is the first sample, an excerpt for my short story ‘Fixing the thingamabob.’ (It is an exercise of using metasyntactic terminology.)

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I had a job to do which needed more than a screwdriver and a pair of pliers.

So, I wandered down the garden to my shed to find the whatchamacallit, which I knew was in the wooden box under the shelf between the screw box and the other thing.

My wife had been nagging me for eons regarding fixing the thingamabob, which had started to rattle and shake several months ago.

As it happened today was sunny, bright and warm. Just the type of day I liked to attend to the pesky little jobs that stack up over time. Plus…I was in the mood for tinkering, which was actually a big plus!

Once I had the whatchamacallit in my hand I wandered back to the house, placed the thingamabob on the kitchen table and started to dismantle it.

Personally, I would have ditched this one years ago and replaced it with a new, up-to-date, all singing, all dancing, micro chipped, high tech whatchamacallit. But because this old rusting one had some sort of sentimental attachment my wife was certain I could fix it and all would be well for another thirty years.

I was not so sure; especially now that I had umpteen bits and bobs scattered on sheets of newspaper spread over the table top.

I was not even sure if they all belonged to the whatchamacallit, or if some pieces had tumbled from the small jars of screws, washers and odd bits I had kept for repairing such items.

Besides the springs there were a few plastic doodahs of indiscriminate origin, a strange angular thingummy with various sized holes and a host of………bits…..loose sort-of-screw(ish) pieces.

I was still quietly confident that I would not have to fork out a fistful of klebies to purchase a new whatchamacallit, because despite the number of random odd and sods before me, I had all the key parts in separate saucers. The rest I could figure out during re-assembly.

Having got thus far, I decided a fresh brew was in order and proceeded to stand from the kitchen stool. That was when my knee came in painful contact with the underside of the table top, sending all the random and the carefully separated odds and ends flying into the air, most of which came crashing down onto the stone tiled floor.

As I have said, being an organised sort of bloke I was using several saucers to keep the whatsits from rolling all over the place, thus avoiding the chance of mixing them up with other doodahs or losing them altogether.

Now, not only were all these jumbled-up with the rest of the bits and bobs which I had previously spread out ready for use, but my wife’s best saucers were in splintered shards on the kitchen floor, mixed among the plastic and metal thingamajigs…..

End of Sample

In this excerpt the reader automatically senses the light-hearted pace of the story. The ‘nonsense’ words liberally sprinkled through the character’s speech seems to confirm the cheerful tones of, if we could hear it, the character’s voice; and that is the clue here, the character’s voice…his narration…his is telling this story and you, the reader, are sitting comfortably and listening with a half-grin already plastered on your face.

To achieve such a form for this stories voice I found myself ‘playing’ the character. During the moments of writing I was that ‘doddery, old, half- henpecked, half-happy-go-lucky, uncaring/caring, semi-foolish husband’!

I became that ‘chap’ and wrote this in a manner I felt was akin to which I would have done if I were sitting in a bar and relating the tale to half a dozen of my cronies.

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Now read this next example of my narrative form. This is from the story called ‘Deep Waters’.

When they came to remove the last of the medical equipment from the house they found me laying on the kitchen floor in a pool of my own vomit.

The nurse said it was ‘lucky’.

Lucky I was found when I was, or I would have certainly died.

I did not consider myself lucky.

After that incident?

Two years of psychiatric help is enough to send any man insane, which is why I have come to the island. To get away from the hospitals, the clinics, the doctors and shrinks.

To get away from that house.

A house which held too many precious memories; cupboards in which her scent still lingered, rooms where her voice echoed at night and doorways where I always caught a glimpse of her figure.

I needed to clear my mind, to find out what I was supposed to do now.

To do that I did not need white coated, bearded psychoanalyst prying into my life, or friends constantly nattering in my ear, however good their intentions. I did not need a shoulder to cry on, or soft breasts on which to rest my head. I did not need friends with benefits.

Although I appreciated their efforts and the offers, all I needed was some peace and quiet. I needed isolation and tranquillity.

I needed time.

My time.

That is why I came here, why I came to the island.

Now I am here I realise how integral to life boats are. As I have said, I am no master of the sea, but I do fancy a small pleasure boat in which I can sail out to the centre of the lake. Maybe even take up fishing, something else I have never had the opportunity to try before.

But I think I shall deal with the boat first.

Small steps.

One thing at a time.

I think I know what I am to do.

But I am not in any rush.

 

The small craft I eventually chose was a twenty-five-foot cabin cruiser. Cabin cruiser sounds a grand title for a small fiberglass and wood boat with a slightly extended wheelhouse. I think the wheelhouse was considered the cabin, or was that the tiny compartment just below?

This compartment housed a toilet, which was half the size of a broom cupboard and a ‘main galley’. The main galley was a miniature sink & a two ring gas burner, opposite was a seat large enough for two people to sit on, providing they were in an intimate relationship.

The seat lifted and pulled-out to become a three-quarter size bed. I am not certain to what the ‘three quarter’ referred too?

However, the boat suited me perfectly, because I had no intentions of sharing it with anyone. This was the perfect vessel in which I could detach myself from the rest of humanity. Floating out there in silence in the centre of the lake sipping a hot coffee, or maybe a hot whiskey, would be absolutely perfect while I looked introspectively at my life.

While I considered my options.

End of Sample

This is an emotionally haunting tale, one which guarantees to bring a tear to the eyes of everyone who reads it. The reason is the soulful nature of the stories telling. It is spoken with an intimacy.

This is not like the first example, you could not relay this in a crowded bar. The narration is designed to ‘almost’ be a secret; a secret solely shared between the character and the reader. It is the reader finding a personal diary, reading that person’s own thoughts and secrets and fears and doubts.

Once again, the writer, the author must have their mindset ‘set’ into that mode and write as they would themselves, should they ever find themselves in such a position.

As the writer sits at their desk or in the café they should feel everything the character would feel if this were true. The author must become the moment, feel the air temperature, hear the ripples lapping the shore, smell the ozone and the scent of pine trees on the breeze.

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My third and (for now) final excerpt is from ‘Estell’s Tattoo’ (A story which raises awareness of the rape of women in Africa.)

When I wrote this, I wanted (and still do) to show that fiction can also be used to spread the word about important social issues.

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      Grace and Estelle and I once more walked along the dusty path that wound its way from our village, down the steep hill and on towards the river. The river was wide and twisted, like a glistening giant brown snake that wound its way through the lush green vegetation of the forests.

     As we became closer to this river the path changed from dust to crushed grasses. Many feet had trodden this path and in their passing had squashed the plants along the way, so that now only the toughest grass and the most persistent of weeds grew along the narrow footpath.

   Grace, Estelle and I spoke of many things during our journey to the river this day and when we were not talking of our village or family matters we sang our songs. I am sure that on this morning many birds came close to us to hear our sweet tunes, or at least that is how I remember it.

    I do not remember before that day seeing so many birds along the edges of this footpath. On any other day to see such colourful birds you would have to stray deep into the forest and sit very still for a long time. But that morning they came to us.

    It took us about one and a half hours before we reached the river. On arriving we put down the large bundles of clothing we had brought to the river to wash. All through our journey along the footpath we had balanced these bundles upon our heads. It is the way we women carry heavy loads over such long distances.

    Once we placed the laundry on the bankside we sat and drank water and rested our legs for a short while. In fact, it was a long short while because today was also a very hot day. The winds were not blowing at all and the sun shone fiercely down upon the earth, baking the soil into a hard crust which began to crack open and crumble.

    But here, in the shade by the river it was much cooler. So, we sat and spoke between ourselves for a long time during our short rest.

    Finally, we began to wash the clothing we had carried all this way, which was after all the reason for our journey to this place today. Using stones and a lot of effort we washed the dirt and grime from the materials. After which we hung the garments upon the branches of the nearby bushes to dry in the sun. The sun would soon dry the clothes today as it was a very hot sun, much hotter than on most days, something I have told to you already.

    We had also brought with us a little food. So as the sun beat down from the sky we sat near our drying clothes and ate. After that we decided to go into the river to cool our bodies and to cleanse our own skins from the dirt and the dust….

End of Sample

Before I wrote this story I read several books and listened to audio readings of books, written by people whose first language was not English, but of African origin.

I wanted to create an authenticity of ‘voice’ in this story. By using long descriptions, yet using simple words and repeating some of them far more than one would ‘normally’ do, I found I could capture ‘Estell’s’ voice.

Once I was happy with some short draft pieces, I became Estell and, looking through her eyes, began to write this story in earnest.

I have received many compliments for this story because of its narration.

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Please note: as a way of comparing the three examples above, you will note I have chosen stories which are all written in first person singular.

I shall leave you to consider the above and how one can alter each story’s narrative by some simple, and some not so simple, adjustments!

The prime factor is to try. Write some shorter pieces, use them as a literary exercise to flex your wordsmithing muscles. If you are uncertain, try poetry or prose to create those first few lines of text which take you away from your standard form.

I for one love to try something new whenever I get a chance.

I love to flex my literary fingers and fumble about in places I have never been before. It is often surprising, frequently exciting and, more often than not, extremely rewarding.

Paul.

Read more of my short stories: A Little more Fiction