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.

ello-xhdpi-6f8bfbc7

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.

Redbooks2

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

EECompBlackSq

CB 200 for 300, bargain.

Honda-CB200

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.

WtIPV1small

1973, a Vauxhall Viva and no excuses.

Viva

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.

download

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 😊

Why you should take signing and inscribing your books very seriously…

event_image_2073

But first, here are a few bits of book lore authors may not know.

By tradition and convention, authors should always sign their books on the title page, the page which has the author’s name printed on it, generally under the printed title of the book or nearer the foot of the same page.

If the author wishes to add an inscription, a message along with their signature, it should also go on the title page if it is very short, about a word or four in length. Longer inscriptions should be written on the half-title page, the page preceding the title page, or on the front endpaper, sometimes referred to as the flyleaf, if of a serious length.

An old tradition has the author put a line through their own printed name when they sign their name on the title page.

There are, by historical anecdote, two views of why this practice is undertaken.

The first, is a book only needs a single validation attributing its author, the authors own handwritten signature makes the printed attribution unnecessary, hence it is crossed out.

The second accepted reason goes back to the earliest days of printing when it was the practice for authors to sign each copy of the printed material by hand as proof of their authorship, a kind of early copyrights protection if you will.

My own view is, the tradition of crossing out one’s name arises from a combination of both, developing over the years as the printing revolution gained credence.

signed vs inscribed

I do like the thought, even nowadays, these hundreds of years later, there is some conservative part of us writers who continue this practise as a nod to our literary forebears. That we authors like to keep a connection with our history and heritage.

Another tradition for book signing is when someone asks you to sign or personalise their copy. (This is inclusive of book signings, or under any other circumstance.) Say the person is ‘George’, then the author should write the words ‘For George’. ONLY if the author is giving the book as a gift should they write the words ‘To George’. (Note Stephen King’s inscription in the above photograph).

Of course, these are only conventions, accepted literary etiquette and in no way are enforced rules or regulations. Authors can sign any way they wish.

I do hope, however, you are one who embraces historical values, discernment and class.

Here is what some established authors say on the matter;

malcolm_gladwell_signed_title_page-e1381421633946Tom C. Hunley says. “I asked Rodney Jones, American poet and retired professor of English at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, why he crossed his name out in a book he signed for me. He told me it makes it more valuable for collectors. Also, if it has a date and location, it makes it even more valuable. So, I’ve been crossing out my name and writing in a date and location at every book signing since.”

(Tom is the director of Steel Toe Books and a prolific writer and Professor of English at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, KY.)

Nicholas Belardes, a Chicano writer of speculative, literary, YA and MG fiction said, “Sometimes I cross my name out and sign. I do it out of respect for myself, for the idea of accomplishment, for the idea that writers are real people, that we can touch our manuscripts in ways that transcend the printed objects they’ve become. Our works become even more personal this way because our signatures are more physically attributed to us in the world than even fingerprints.”

“I do it. My understanding is it dates to the historical tradition of small press runs, where the author would hand-sign each copy as an authentication of the text.Sandra Beasley, American poet and non-fiction writer from Virginia.

Note: Sometimes authors sign additional copies, ones intended for future sale by the store or organisation where the signing is taking place. This is encouraging for people to purchase the book from and even attract custom to, that retailer.

However, there is also an ulterior motive; once a book has been signed, it is no longer classed as a ‘new’ book according to many publishers’ rules. Therefore, it cannot be returned to the publisher for a refund by the retail vendor. (Neat trick or not. I guess it depends on your viewpoint?)

Okay, now we have those tidbits of information, let’s get on with the reason why you might take signing your book as a very serious matter…

 When you buy a signed book, you are purchasing a signature, but when you buy an inscribed book you are getting a story.

One of the questions I’ve been asked often is “Which is better, having a book signed by the author or having them inscribed it?”

Without any hesitation, my answer is the more writing by the author in a book, the better. I even encourage collectors to have their own copies personally inscribed by the author whenever they can.

For a long time, generations, literally, there was a clearly established hierarchy of values pertaining to books signed by their authors.

I shall clarify…

The best copy is the dedication copy, most usually there is only one of these. The one gifted to the person for whom the dedication was written.

Next best are the association copies, books inscribed by the author to someone notable or important in the author’s life, a relative, a friend, a mentor or possibly another writer.

After that were ‘presentation copies,’ which means the books inscribed by the author to someone who was not (as) important to the author, or whose importance was unknown.

And finally, at the bottom of the hierarchy, are books that are just signed, with no further inscription, no other writing, etc.

The logic of such a hierarchy is more or less self-evident.

The dedication copy is usually unique or, at most, limited to a couple of copies, inscribed by the author to the person he or she thought important enough to dedicate the book to, in print.

Association copies involved significant figures in the author’s life (or in the general cultural life of which the author was a part) also have a self-evident value, although not one as unique or specific as the dedication copy.

Presentation copies are more ambiguous, the mere fact a presentation copy could sometimes, with a little bit of research, luck, or specialised knowledge ‘become’ an association copy argued for their importance, and the closeness of the two in the hierarchy.

Signed books are last, and there is the suggestion of a ‘taint’ to them, as though the only justification for a book having an autograph is celebrity worship which is inappropriate to the book (literary) world.

Because this preference is clear and longstanding in the book collecting world, dealers prefer to have presentation copies over plain signed copies, collectors prefer them and there is a premium placed on their price in the collector’s marketplace.

Now, a true story of how this hierarchy was thrown into turmoil…

An enterprising bookselling from the New York area, recognising this preference, decided to exploit it, relentlessly.

Somewhere in New York, even before the days of routine author tours on the publication of a new book, there were author readings every day. The same with lectures, talks, and seminars, most open to the public.

scape.450.1

Frequently one could visit several in a single day.

The bookseller in reference was a family business. They attended many readings and talks, en masse; often five or more family members at each, all carrying a bag full of the author’s first editions. Each asking the author to inscribe the books to them personally.

Then, when they issued catalogues, nearly every book was listed as a ‘signed presentation copy, inscribed by the author’, a most desirable designation, especially for modern first editions, many of which are not inherently rare unless there is something special about a particular copy.

This exploitation continued for several years. As it did the family grew bolder, branching out its operation to reach more authors, those beyond the boundaries of New York.

Stories began to circulate among writers as they began to receive identically worded, ingratiating letters from a correspondent claiming to be the author’s greatest fan and sending a box of books to be inscribed personally before being returned.

Some writers began noticing the ‘fan’ would then write a follow-up letter some months later, sending another batch of books to be inscribed,  often including copies of titles the author remembered signing previously.

Authors began to dislike it, feel manipulated, deceived and exploited. Several undertook to go along to bookshops and signing all their books in each store.

Booksellers eventually recognised the fraud of these ‘signed presentation’ copies. Whereas a plain signed book carried no such taint.

Collectors began to absorb the preference for plain signed books the booksellers now favoured, although they did not realise it was only the books inscribed to this family’s members which were ‘tainted.’

The public’s perception (wrongly) grew that all inscribed books were now less desirable than those which were simply just signed by the author.

The whole episode created a self-fulfilling prophecy: if collectors’ value inscribed books less than books which just have the authors signature, for whatever reason, it becomes far more difficult to sell inscribed books than those which are signed…. The perception of which is, it ‘proves’ inscribed books are less valuable…. and so, the merry goes around.

Such a view not only defies long-established historical precedent it also diminishes and demeans collecting.

Not only can a presentation copy, to an unknown third party ‘turn into’ an association copy (after a little research), but a collector’s own copy can become an association copy if the collector stays with it long enough and seriously enough for the collection to become recognisably important.

Hemingway’s first bibliographer was Louis Cohen, a fan and book collector.

A Hemingway book inscribed to Cohen would, at the time, be a simple presentation copy to a person of no particular consequence.

images

 

Today, it would be viewed as a highly desirable association copy.

 

Similarly, if Carl Peterson managed to get Faulkner to inscribe a book to him, it would now be viewed as a major association copy.

The time-honoured practise of identifying books from an important collection, ‘the Doheny copy‘ or ‘the Bradley Martin copy,‘ for example, underscores collectors themselves can become significant figures.

Perhaps, most telling in terms of underlying values is the cases of long-dead authors like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Steinbeck, Joyce, it is true a presentation copy has a higher value in the marketplace than one which is just signed.

They are more interesting, they can provoke interesting questions leading to discovery, which is one of the pleasures of collecting and ‘the more writing by the author in the book, the better’ is still generally the accepted truth in this market.

Now, this is where it matters to you most…

Since we do not know, cannot predict or even guess who will be part of the next generation of Faulkners, Hemingway’s, James Joyce’s or even Stephen Kings, is there any reason different criteria should apply to the inscriptions of we contemporary authors than to those we now deem as ‘classic’?

I don’t think so.

Therefore, I suggest you take your book signings very seriously indeed, because one of those people may well be you, or me, or… maybe it will be the author who just inscribed your copy of their new book.

Keep Happy, Paul.


If you want to know more about creating books, your covers, being indie, the publishing or printing world, editing, Copyright, ISBN’s, or what each part of a book is called and what it does, then you are in the right place.

I have two books especially written to give authors and writers a ton of useful information. These are NOT ‘how-to’ books or ‘step-by-step’ guides but a distillation of my time and experience as an indie.

These books chapters are rammed full of helpful and useful information about everything concerned with indie authoring your books. These books will save you time, effort and money along with saving you making a ton of mistakes and suffering the anguish which goes along with it… because I have already been there, done that & got the Tee-shirt on your behalf.

Redbooks2

Lots of Author Stuff You Need to Know <<< >>> The Frugal Author

Finding the Holy Grail of writing

41530671_446651229159319_7854224569849085952_n - Copy

Many, if not all authors know writing is never straight forward; I am not talking about the technical aspects or grammar, but about finding the time to write when your mind is focused, when it is in the ‘zone’ for ‘that part’ of your story.

The Holy Grail of writing is when your thought processes are at a peak and you have the time, the undisturbed, uninterrupted time, to transcribe your contemplations cohesively into your manuscript.

Finding this Holy Grail has been an elusive search for me over the last year or so, regarding the novel I am currently working on.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not speaking of writer’s block, that is something I do not suffer. It is also nothing to do with finding the time; I have written and published three books in the past year and I am working on three more as I write this.

I am speaking purely of the mental alignment of skills, mindset and time when in search of perfection. (Although we shall never attain such it is always good to have it as a goal.)

I should have published my story, FLOYD several months ago but I am still working on it in short dribs and drabs. I never seem to have the right mental disposition and the amount of time I need together; hence the book is half drafted and half a jumble of odd notes, part paragraphs/chapters and such.

By the way, I am not downhearted and this is not me moaning, although it may sound that way! It is just me clearing my head by sharing my frustration with you.

It is, however, a frustration I bought upon myself by having several projects on the go at once… and then tasking myself with more. Which makes it even more frustrating.

I doubt if I shall find much time to continue writing FLOYD before December… oh wait, then there is Christmas and family, followed by New Year and Friends… so, maybe I can continue in earnest come mid-January, or maybe February or…

In the meantime, I would love to know your views on this (first draft) excerpt from FLOYD. It is (at the moment) the start of the opening chapter, or at least somewhere very early in the story, as it sets the scene, a sort of preamble to introduce Floyd himself and the background of his, let’s say, delusions and future actions.

Oh, FLOYD is a revenge story, in the blood-bath slasher genre. It is not for the queasy… although this section does not contain any of the gore… that comes a little later, but it comes in big bucketfuls. 😊

FLOYD6finalfrntjpg

FLOYDan excerpt.

Floyd jumped out of bed with a start, uncontrollably staggering two steps backwards. In that half-awaking instant, Floyd saw his wife, Molly, lying with her hands above her head, wrists bound and fastened. Pools of blood soaking into pristine white bedsheets. The fear in her eyes sent shivers running down his spine and a cold sweat to form over his skin.

This dream happened every night for the past four weeks. But tonight, was the first time he saw anything in full colour. The other times it was blurry monochrome, or just a voice, a sweet, lilting voice whispering to him. Tonight, was different, it did not simply wake him but startled him into jumping from the bed. He could feel his heart pounding.

At first, Floyd thought the voice echoing in his head was nothing more than a remanence of a dream as he woke. He let it go. Tried to forget it. But the whispering came back night after night. First a giggle, then a sigh, which faintly smelt of spearmint, before turning into those softly spoken words. A voice so close he could feel lips brushing his ears as she spoke.

“Kill the bitch.”

“That’s the way.”

“Did you see the surprise on her face?”

Tonight, Floyd did not hear her voice; but he knew she was there, watching him. Smiling.

He blinked twice, shaking his head to clear the image from his mind.

Molly pushed the quilt away from her face exposing a tousled mess of blond hair. She half-opened one eye and, disgruntled, wearily mumbled, “What are you doing? It’s the middle of the night.”

Floyd slid back under the cover and snuggled close to Molly. It was a dream. It was just a dream he told himself as he shut his eyes. Her body was warm and comforting, but it could not dispel the dark foreboding lingering within his mind.

She groaned, slurred something unintelligible, turned, moving away from him. Floyd lay quietly on his back, willing sleep. Each time he began to drift off he was jerked awake by the vision of blood and the scent of spearmint. Sleep was fugitive.

At three-fifteen he carefully slid from under the covers, trying not to disturb Molly and crept downstairs. By six-thirty Floyd had drunk two pots of tea and re-read yesterday’s newspaper, twice.

When Molly eventually arose, he was grilling bacon for breakfast.

“I couldn’t sleep, so…” Floyd gesticulated towards the grill with the tongs in his hand.

Molly tore off some kitchen roll. “Put mine in here. I must dash, busy, busy day ahead. I’m not sure when I’ll be home.”

Floyd gave her a quick peck on the cheek as she headed for the door. With a half-hearted wave, she left, hooking the door closed with her foot. He watched from the window as she drove her Range Rover off the drive and along the street until she was out of sight. He felt a certain disappointment wash over him. He was hoping to talk to Molly at breakfast this morning about his recent feelings, his nagging doubts which were growing daily.

Floyd looked at the clock, six fifty-five. The house seemed exceedingly quiet; which, on consideration, was rather strange, because from three-fifteen this morning he sat alone, the only sound the rustling pages of the newspaper. The house was no quieter now than then but somehow the silence was louder.

Being alone in the house was something Floyd was becoming accustomed to. Since Molly moved companies she had become…become…now, what was the word…fixated? obsessed? with her job. When he commented on the amount of time she was spending working, Molly said it was a thing called ‘commitment’.

Whatever it was Floyd felt it was pushing them apart, an inexorable drifting kind of parting. One which was almost imperceptible day by day. But when he looked back over the months, the changes were there, noticeable, obvious, definite.

Molly generally ignored him now; she was always on the phone or laptop when she was not working late, or early, or both, or at the gym or the hair salon, or having her nails painted or legs waxed.

The main thing which irked Floyd most was none of this, not one little iota was for his benefit. It was all for her work. All those new suits, the blouses, the stockings and shoes.

Once, not so long ago, when Molly slid into a pair of stockings it was to tease him, to excite him. It was a signal sex was unquestionably on the agenda. Not any longer. It seems stockings were de rigueur in Molly’s new corporate world.

Several weeks back Floyd began wondering if she was having an affair. Maybe a seedy sexual liaison with someone from her company. He followed her one morning; sat the whole day outside her office building.

Nothing.

When she left the office in the evening, he followed her. She did not do anything other than visit the hair salon.

Which was a problem for Floyd.

Not that he wished for his wife to be having an affair, but because it left him with a dilemma. What changed between them? Why was Molly so distant? What, if anything had he done…or not done? These were unanswered questions; questions he wanted to broach this morning over those freshly grilled bacon sandwiches.

Floyd glanced at the clock again. Five minutes past seven. His first appointment was at nine-thirty, so he needed to leave the house around eight o’clock. As he threw his bathrobe onto the bed Floyd flashbacked to his dream: Molly spread-eagled, bound on the bed. Eyes staring in terror. He looked down at her.

He shivered. It was all too real, unlike any dream he experienced before.


While you wait for me to finish writing FLOYD I have many more books I am certain you will enjoy. Have a browse around my WEBSITE  or check out my Electric Eclectic novelettes HERE.

Pub2

Where to Start?

pooh_bear_and_friends_by_karesilver-d4quhfq

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

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

I cannot agree more.

BUT…

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

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

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

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

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

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

You may have said something along the line of…

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

OR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once again, Winnie the Pooh says it well…

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Electric PressMay2019pub (2019_01_08 20_58_35 UTC)

Seeing beyond…

 

30715627_10155977475936084_6834913978787823616_n

You will know, or most of you will know, I am an author.

It is not a secret.

What many of you may not know is how I get the ideas, not only for storylines but situations, characters, actions, sub-plots and such.

The answer is the stimulus comes from the everyday.

There is no magic.

A short while ago I posted a heartfelt outpouring written by someone going through a low patch in their life. You can read it here.

That post, or rather the content, the spirit in which the content was written will, no doubt, lend itself to a character, or reveal the personality of a character going through a situation, in one of my stories.

Along with the above I often hear or read a certain line which is so special it deserves, nay, demands to be included verbatim. Referring to the same post, one such line is…

“My worth was stolen by minuscule measures, so slender the slices, I failed to feel the knife…”

Okay, it may not be the most beautiful line ever written, but pretty is not what good writing is all about. What it is about is touching another’s mind, sharing feelings, understanding and stimulating thought, which these words do perfectly.

It is the normal, the every-day, the simple events, basic routines, the regular, the nondescript which gives rise to great storytelling. (Not the artificial sensationalism favoured by the modern media).

Yet, it is only those with certain minds, with a sight which sees far more than what is visible, who understand the depths of these moments. Often these are people like me, writers, authors, artists, creatives, but sometimes they are greater minds, scientists, engineers, inventors and geniuses.

Yesterday, I read of such a man, a chap called Abraham Wald. (No, I had not heard of him either.)

Abraham was a person who had the type of mind I refer to.

Allow me to elucidate…

During WWII, the Navy looked at where they needed to armour their aircraft to ensure more returned home.

The Naval intelligence collected data and ran analysis of where their planes sustained the most damage.

The resultant conclusion was the planes needed to be armoured on the wingtips, the central body, and the elevators flaps because this was where they were being hit by enemy fire.

See diagram 1.

52813291_10216165376620940_505941138809552896_n
Diagram 1

However, the chap I mentioned earlier, Abraham Wald, (Who, by the way, was a statistician), disagreed with the top brass.

Abraham Wald suggested the planes would be better with armoured noses, engines and mid-body sections.

Wald was called crazy by those undertaking and running the study because, as they told Wald, those areas were not where the planes were getting shot.

Which brings me back to the point I made above, about it taking a special mind to see beyond that which is right in front of you.

What Abraham realised, which the others did not, was the aircraft were getting shot in the locations he suggested to armour.

Wald
Abraham Wald

But those planes were not making it home.

Without realising it, the Navy had analysed where the aircraft could be hit the most without the planes suffering catastrophic failure.

The planes the Navy studied had not been hit in the areas which caused their loss, the ones which had been hit where Wald highlighted were the ones which had crashed and burned.

Therefore, Wald saw the Navy was not looking at the whole sample, but only those planes which survived battle.

Now, I don’t claim to be an Abraham Wald or that any of my insights may change the world or save countless lives, but I do claim to see deeper into the simple things than many.

However, I would like to share some of my insights into life with you. On that basis, may I suggest reading ‘Within the Invisible Pentacle’, it’s a good place to begin. You can find it on Amazon UK here or on Amazon anywhere else in the world here

 

WtIPV1small

Before I finish I would like to give you the ‘Heads-up’ about a new literary magazine due out this May, called the Electric Press – literary insights. Click on this link and head over to the Electric Press website for more information. It will be well worth your while.

Thanks for reading Ramblings from a Writers Mind.

Until next time, Keep Happy, Paul.