Website

Working on it . . . My dear brother came to stay and spent about 80% of his break making me a site. Now I have to work through the very long list he’s left me, and that’s fine. It’s making me step back and look at all the stuff, not just the books but the paintings and photographs that are part of what makes up my fairly visual way of writing.

I would never have thought of including the art but he just went ahead and put it up there and I’m now very glad he did. It’s part of who I am, how I record the everyday and the unusual – sketches, snaps, thoughts scribbled down.

So, website to appear in the near future featuring my books, my scribbles, paintings and photographs. Back to the things to do . . .

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Corner of my writing room (bedroom) and a painting from my ‘Train Window’ series

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Website

I think I do need one – mainly to grab together all the loose bits of ‘me’ information out there. My brother has promised to help ‘build me’ one but in the meantime here’s a mock up of the opening page I would imagine to exist out there in web-land – sort of.

If he’s really clever, and I think he is, You, the public, will be able to click on a photo of me and find a short biography; click on various books – Hoxton, Dog, and other tales, Going out in the midday sun, The hundred and fifty-eighth book . . . and a notebook perhaps which will then reveal a page of my sketches and musings over characters/places/overheard conversations, etc. Oh, and a few links to this blog and the another one, Goodreads reviews, and so on. Simple.

He said it’s a bit like writing a book only easier . . . for someone who has just about mastered turning the computer on and off, the idea of ‘building’ something like his own wonderful website is utterly beyond me. Watch this space, as they say . . .

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Getting the balance

Tricky. We’re all busy – busier all the time, it seems.

I write early in the morning, usually around 6.00 – assisted by the fact that we have to get up to get the son to Lycee (college). If I get anything from 20 mins to an hour and a half done, the day feels . . . established – moving the right way. If I don’t – like this morning . . .well, it’s not a good start.

So, the balance: ‘media visibility’ or whatever it might be termed: Facebook, blogs, Linkedin and the rest of it, against getting any actual work done.

I can’t keep up with it all, even though I know it’s probably essential in this screen-driven era, and what an incredible thing it is too – to be able to access information about anything from sock-darning to nuclear fission.

Even now as I write I am aware of all the other stuff building up . . . I have too many blogs (must delete some) too many emails to deal with, there are pages to be liked, connections to be confirmed. I locked my self out of internet banking (again) this morning. There is another writer called Kate Hardy (very successful one with mega sales in romance) I keep meaning to write to her and ask if she could prod anyone looking for me (the other K.H with an A) in my direction. Linkedin needs updating. Facebook needs updating. The photo folders need editing. I must back everything up. I should be sending chapters to agents.

I’m going into the garden to dig. Apparently this produces the same endorphins as running (something to do with inhaling earth-bound bacteria). Then I’ll write what I should have written this morning.

IMG_5810.jpgMore walking and thinking, a little less computer.

Mad Dog café

Finally after months of editing and faffing I again pressed the Lulu – ‘go ahead’ button and the third in my trilogy was formed and pressed into book shape. Behold, said Lulu, now you can really get down to some serious faffing . . . four edit copies later I couldn’t stand it anymore and signaled ‘that’ll do’ to myself and anyone listening in the house — dogs, I expect. So it arrived, copy five and despite spotting a missing ‘to’ somewhere, so far it seems . . . alright. Well, people have read it and said it’s more than alright, so calmness pervades until the next editing task: Hoxton.IMG_3990 

Mad Dog Café is out on Amazon along with the other two books. No 1 available on kindle and other readers, 2 and 3 to follow shortly.

An extract from The Mad Dog Café. 

Jasper wandered back outside and looked at the swaying palm trees.

    He must have appeared close to breaking point as someone standing next to him chose to ask him as much.

    “Hey, dude . . . where you goin’? You don’t look like you know.”

    Jasper turned to see a young dreadlocked man, gazing at him with large brown eyes, almost black; the dilated pupils telling of a happy drug- induced state.

    “I’ve really no idea,” replied Jasper, truthfully.

    “D’you want to share a ride to a cheap place to crash?”

    Christ, no, but . . . “Yes, sure . . . but will there be a room?” Jasper waved a hand at the hapless crowds.

    “Yeah . . . no problem — he’s always got rooms.”

 Heaving an ex-army knapsack onto his back, the guy swayed off to the taxi rank.

    The third taxi reluctantly stopped in front of them. The owner pinged the boot lid and gestured for them to put their luggage in it, staying firmly put in his seat.

    “Watch the upholstery,” he growled, as they got in the car.

    “Relax, I’m house-trained, man,” grinned Jasper’s new friend, “Silver Palace Motel, downtown.” The taxi driver nodded knowingly and they sped away.

    In a perfect world, Jasper would have been brought a ladder and some paint. He would have rested the ladder against the Motel’s sign, climbed up and re-written it for them: ‘Fetid Hole Motel’, or something similar, but then in a perfect world he would be at home in bed with Darren.

    Sighing, he contributed to the taxi fare and contemplated the exterior of the building under the dim light of the one street lamp.

    It was possibly the most vile place he had ever stayed in, or was about to stay in. Sandwiched between a fruit wholesalers and a place strewn with parts of trucks, the building seemed to be in a state of collapse at one end.

    The dreadlocked-guy smiled manically: “Hey, it’s real cheap.”

    Jasper followed him into the dark reception area and they waited. After a couple of minutes a wheezing hulk of a man appeared from a back room and nodded:  “Williams, right? And you — you sharing? Don’t care, don’t mind fags.”

    “Well, I was hoping you might have a spare room?” Jasper asked, suddenly feeling terribly English, square and law-abiding.

    The guy looked at a dog-eared book: “I got one, in the condemned end, but it’s OK, we got scaffold poles up — it’s not going nowhere.”

    “Great,” said Jasper with mild sarcasm, “I’ll take it.”

    “Meet you for a beer in the courtyard, ten minutes?” called Jasper’s friend as he disappeared down an unlit corridor.

     Jasper headed off in the direction indicated and thought about the word courtyard: a small marble square, the peaceful sound of water from a fountain, doves, climbing plants? Probably not.

    The word sleazy suddenly had a whole new list of meanings attached to it as Jasper opened the door to his room. A million cigarettes must have been sucked into lungs; a thousand desperate fucks against the worn headboard, extra-marital, illicit, illegal and far, far worse. He put his case down and sat on the bed, which sagged alarmingly. Yes a beer was imperative — many and sod the consequences. 

    The courtyard might have once been quite attractive in the early 70s; now it was a dusty concrete space filled with scabby tables and chairs. The pool was empty with a sign chain-linked across the metal handrail of the steps: closed for refurbishment. A few semi-dead plants pleaded for water.

    Jasper sat down and waited for his companion.

    He arrived, now dressed in shorts and a T-shirt with the letters: Don’t piss with me. Death is only a bullet away, emblazoned in friendly orange letters on the front.

    “Nice T-shirt,” remarked Jasper.

    “Yeah — the Grimmer Reapers, saw them in concert here last year. They’re supposed to be on again at the festival, but dunno, with all the power cuts . . . might be axed.”

    Jasper nodded and thought of sitting with Peter at a nice, calm piano concert in Perpignan. God he was so homesick.

    The sweating owner appeared: “Beer?” and disappeared again at the nod of the dreadlocked head.

    “Bird,” said Jasper’s friend and held out a hand.

    “Sorry?”

    “My name.”

    “Oh . . . I see. Jasper, hi. And thanks for helping me.”

    “No problem, man. Room alright?”

    “Yeah . . . fantastic. Great view.”

    “You like fruit, then?”

     What the fuck? “Er . . . ” It crossed Jasper’s mind that Bird had a sense of humour. “Oh, yeah, ha-ha, and dismembered trucks.”

    “Cheap though, uh?”

    “Yes, very.”

    The beers arrived.

    Jasper up-ended the bottle and two thirds went: “Ahh.”

    Bird was busy rolling an impossibly large joint. He finished it triumphantly with a twist of the white, fragile paper; applied a lighter to the end and drew hard, eyes closed, brow furrowed.

    “That’s real great.” He passed it to Jasper, his voice gruff with the smoke. “Here . . . the best, grown by my little brother in New Mexico.”

    It was a long time since Jasper had smoked anything, but as his brain was crying out for temporary oblivion, this appeared to be the perfect answer. He sucked in the pungent smoke and spluttered — vile, but then again, maybe not. A couple of drags later and the rest of the beer gone, his knees felt soft, all tense muscles relaxed and mind empty except for the image of a huge gull grinning. White teeth: teeth? “Ha-ha-ha.”

    “What’s funny, man?” smiled Bird, sleepily.

    “Grinning bird, teeth . . . shit . . . was is that stuff?”

    “Told you — it’s the best.”

 

 

Staying out of the midday sun

Finally. I pressed the ‘yes please send the book out for general release’. This takes you out from under the wing of Lulu self pub into Amazon and the like. No more revisions: if you do it’s complicated, possibly costs and you lose any reviews that you get on Amazon.

With ‘self pub’ I think there has to be a point of NO MORE FAFFING. I’m sure there will still be the odd typo, and I really hope, no more than that. It’s been edited and proof read by several people, and by myself countless times. At the last check I still found some good ones: He should should . . . etc. But In order to get on with the next book and project I felt a natural point had been reached.

IF it ever got picked up by a publishing house, no doubt there would be more than just a few typos to sort . . . but for the non-pub author struggling along,

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it is rewarding to have an actual real paper and glue book in your hands rather than a ever-changing dog-eared manuscript/computer folder.

So, button pressed. On to book three of this trilogy: The Mad Dog Café — written and in need of urgent pruning/editing/proof reading etc etc etc..

Peer reviewing sites

My last post here was about Youwriteon, and this one is about Youwriteon.

I suppose most of us writers have gone through this route; or if we haven’t, we should.

When I had finished ‘Going out in the midday sun’ I was happily sending out the first three chapters to agents, vaguely keeping an eye on the rejections and wondering what to do next. Then I discovered a whole other world out there, totally by chance. The peer reviewing sites. Youwriteon looked quite friendly with its pink and beige site, so I duly loaded up the first seven thousand words, not really knowing what the site was about. Amazing . . . people read the words and sent back reviews: some pathetic, some enlightening.

A couple of weeks later I logged on and found I was in the Top Ten; I hadn’t even noticed there was one. Then I was hooked. It became a sort of neurotic game: logging on rather too often to see if someone had ‘booked out’ my chapters, and doing rather too many reviews in an addicted fashion. The book hovered around in the top ten for a couple of weeks and then someone ‘sunk it’ with a very good, probably accurate in many places, review, and I was mortified. Then comes the point where you have a lot of reviews and the annoying pointless sniper attack ones start to weigh against the good ones, moving the book down the charts.

This is probably the time to re-load the book with its alterations and get new reviews, or forget it and take the advice and suggestions that were valuable. Easy to say . . . just another — shit, a stupid write up where someone has filled their statuary hundred words and given you two’s out of five’s.

What the site, and presumably others are good for:

Totally and unbelievably useful as a sounding board and general leveler: is your stuff as good as you think? How can it be improved? People out there don’t know you — EXPOSED, you are; how does the work stand up to public scrutiny?

I found it to be an inspiration to write more, push myself, experiment. Also, critiquing other people’s work is useful: annoying sometimes, but on the whole, rewarding, inspiring and a great learning curve. Without the site I probably never would have found the enjoyment in writing short stories which are to my mind such a brilliant tool for playing, trying ideas and prodding the grey matter.

I’ve learned SO much about grammar — a weak point for me having fallen into the 1970’s comprehensive system. Still learning!

My short story that was at number one, did make it through into the ‘best seller’chart and at that point I did breath a small sigh of relief, so perhaps the competitive thing would still be there if it hadn’t have gone through — difficult to say.

What they are not so good for:

Well nothing really; it’s just how YOU use them. Load up the stuff, take the useful crits (sometimes fantastically detailed, thoughtful and SO valuable) ignore the stupid ones (I just had one that praised me very highly, then said at the end, ‘I wish I had given you higher marks as you are obviously a very good writer’ then proceeded to award me dismal marks — useless on all counts.) celebrate if you get high up in the charts, but remember it’s not the reason you have put the stuff up there.