Tag Archives: author blogs

Evolved or spun? Meet my shorts. Born Free: news, views and free books … #giveaway #sffbooks

First of all, thanks to everyone who responded – in the comments or by email – to my rant last week. My folks are a lot better, which is heartening, and their new boiler is fitted. Things are calm for the moment, although I’ll probably have to try and get them to a funeral some time in the next couple of weeks. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I also did reasonably well at the Bury Christmas Fayre this year, in fact I ran out of copies of Few Are Chosen, which was a good predicament to be in but also a bit annoying. I did £470 over three days, £12 more than I did on my best year, in two, but a full £170 more than last year – although they hadn’t put me next to a stall selling brand new, best selling kids and teen books for £1 a pop this year, which was a relief.

There has been more time to reflect over my life and career this week, to, and I am feeling on a slightly more even keel. I have stepped down as editor of the parish mag, freeing up a minimum of seven hours a month and after Roughseas’ question in response to my last post, I started a short story to explain exactly how Betsy Coed did end up running the Bordello on Turnadot Street. Amazingly, it’s moving along nicely and I now have a princely 4009 words in the bag – only 16,000 to go then. Not so bad; if I keep up progress at this rate, it’ll be done in 4 weeks. It won’t, of course, but I will be done a lot quicker than I usually am and might even manage to squidge a second in before the summer holidays begin.

At the same time, the longer stuff has started moving again, so I’ve written a couple of thousand words of the work in progress, too – which is the first in a series and not set in K’Barth. However, I have made the usual discovery, a third in, that what I’m really writing is book two. So I’ve had to take stock a bit, go back and start book 1.

Isn’t it bizarre? Nothing has changed, I’m still trying to write a mix of full length novels and, in an ideal world, some shorter stories to go with. However, instead of seeing it like that, I’ve simply switched priorities, put the short stories as the priority and the novels on the ‘in an ideal world’ back burner, swapped a difficult goal for an easy one. The result? Suddenly I’ve made more progress on both in a week than I have in the preceding two months! So it just goes to show how important it is to look at things in the right way – or perhaps, that I’m so credulous that I can even do spin and puff on myself! Or possibly CBT.

Anyway, a propos of the shorts, I’d really appreciate your help with something. If you have a burning question about K’Barth, the back story to the series, the back story to the characters, anything characters do ‘off stage’ over the story line of the series, can you let me know what it is in the comments? I will then answer it, using the medium of the short story, because a few questions will really help to get this kickstarted.

Second thing, I am taking part in a giveaway this month. A group of science fiction and fantasy authors have got together and we are all giving our books away for free. You don’t have to sign up to anyone’s mailing list or jump through any hoops, AND you don’t have to be tied to one particular book retailer. You can go to the page for your favourite retailer and download the books that interest you.

To find out more, just click on this smashing graphic, here.

pattyjansenpromodec16

 

 

 

 

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Filed under About My Writing, Author Updates, General Wittering

#ComedyBookWeek starts today!

ComedyBookWeekWide

Oh yes it is. And naturally, as a writer of funny books, I am taking part. I’ll be reviewing a couple of the books involved on Wednesday and doing doing an interview over at the lovely Matt Drzymala’s blog here I’ll also be reviewing his book here on my blog on Wednesday, along with Missing Improbable by J J Green.

Folks with rather more drive and dynamism than me are doing a lot more. There are over 80 books involved now from a varied bunch of genres, from Chicklit to Sci fi. If you’re wondering where to find out more here’s how:

If you enter the hashtag #comedybookweek into the social media platform of your choice you will find all sorts of interesting information about the event; posts from authors involved, book reviews, giveaways and other joyous gubbins. You can also visit the comedybookweek website, here.

Many of these fine and dandy books are reduced in price, including Escape From B-Movie Hell, which is reduced to a gob smackingly competitive price of 99c/99pence. OK I won’t do the Cut My Own Throat Dibbler joke but I’ll give you a few seconds to imagine it in.

Did I mention that other authors are celebrating with giveaways, exciting competitions and other lovely swag? Oh yes, I see I did.

However, even I have dusted the moths out of my wallet and stumped up to send two of my books in signed paperback to the lucky Goodreads members who win them. You can enter those, from the 17th – 24th July, because, er hem, I got the date wrong, here:

Enjoy yourselves, and #comedybookweek, and most importantly, I hope you have a good laugh.

 

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Filed under Interesting, General Wittering, Free Stuff, Author Updates

My Permafree Experience … #bookmarketing #nicholasrossis

This week, I have mostly been doing a guest appearance on Nicholas Rossis’ excellent blog. He invited me to write about why I made Few Are Chosen free and why, for me, that has been a good move. If you’re into that sort of thing and want to know more, you can find the post here:

http://nicholasrossis.me/2016/05/17/my-permafree-experience-guest-post-by-m-t-mcguire/

 

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Filed under General Wittering

Sci-fi and fantasy authors cut their own throats to bring readers a #99c book #bargain. Like Mr Dibbler.

Patty Jensen Promo May16I just wanted to give you the heads up about this because… if you’re thinking of downloading Escape From B-Movie Hell and waiting for me to run a promotion, well … now’s your time. It’s down to 99p or possibly 99c but a lot less than it was, anyway.

Ooo why now MT? I hear you ask. Well, actually because it’s part of a giveaway this month. The giveaway is featuring a whopping 150 other science fiction and fantasy books which are all down to $99c on Amazon over the weekend of 7/8 May. So here’s the link to the promo:

http://pattyjansen.com/promo

Should you prefer to buy your books from sites other than Amazon, I’m really sorry, I buy most of my stuff from Kobo, myself, so I appreciate the frustration you must feel. Therefore, to make up for this giveaway being a bit Amazoncentric I also include links to Escape From B-Movie Hell on the other sites, where it is discounted also. So at least if you want to, you can pick that up for 99c between 4th May – 8th May.

Apple UK
Apple US

Apple AU
Kobo
Nook/Barnes & Noble
Google Play

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Filed under General Wittering, Interesting

Careful with that axe Eugine! Drama at the garage: how MTM learns there are two sides to every argument.

Yesterday, I went to see the Old Dears. As you know Mum has had a stroke and Dad has a kind of dementia. These last few weeks he has had very limited mobility and been close to incontinent. We have newly brought in 24 hour live in care.

It’s hard.

As you can imagine my parents’ situation takes a lot of my mental air time right now … it seems I’m a long way into innerspace. What is interesting is how that has changed my perception of the world around me or perhaps, my ability to read it.

Check this, this is my Fitbit readout from yesterday.

FitbitBollocks

As you can see, my Fitbit is ADAMANT that I went up 157 floors. What I actually did was walk the usual 5 miles or thereabouts, probably, go up the stairs maybe 10 or 12 times? And do a 280 mile round trip in my car. For some reason, the way the steering feeds back to my hands convinces my Fitbit that I am walking. On the way home I put it on the seat beside me, at least then it only thought I’d walked half a mile (rather than the 3 miles it thought I’d done on the way down).

While I think I was a bit lardy yesterday, sitting around in a bucket seat listening to music for most of the time. My Fitbit thinks I was a physical dynamo doing 107 minutes of elevated heart rate activity. That figure was more like er hem … zero.

So, it just goes to show that two separate views of the same series of events can throw up completely different results depending on the presence, or absence, of one or two vital pieces of knowledge. You know I wasn’t an exercise dynamo yesterday because I’ve told you my Fitbit measures the bumps in the road as steps. Someone else without this critical piece of information might look at those stats and wonder, from all the stairs, whether I climbed the Empire State Building, or if I’m a triathlete.

Yesterday, this lesson was highlighted to me through the familiar medium of my making a complete tit of myself: I failed to understand the differences between the way someone else was seeing my actions and the spirit in which I knew they were made. In all things, it seems, communication and sensible clarity of thought are key. Pity I’m so crap at them, as this massive, completely unnecessary row I’m about to relate will demonstrate …

It’s a bright sunny Wednesday morning and after dropping McMini at school I walk back home via the market, pick up the car and set out for Sussex. I have about a quarter of a tank of petrol so I need to fill up.

Because it’s on the way and one of the three cheapest, I go to Tesco’s.  Now, Sainsburys, you have to pay at the Kiosk, Asda, you can only pay at the pump and Tesco’s you have a choice of both. Tesco’s has 3 or four rows of two pumps just far enough apart for you to get through and park if the two first ones are in use but one of the far ones is free. Unsurprisingly, with petrol prices rising by approximately one pence every day, it’s rammed. I pick my side and wait. Next to me are two builders’ lorries with a white Honda civic at the first pump and very quickly there is nothing at the second. The other side of me was a big lorry, blocking the way through. No-one was queuing there and a woman parked at the pump in front of the lorry was filling her car.

As you know, my Mum has had a stroke, so I am kind of feeling that I want to get to her and Dad quickly. I am therefore delighted when the woman parked at the pump in front of the lorry holsters the petrol nozzle.

Brilliant. I’ll nip through and reverse into her spot when she’s gone.

Except, Unfortunately, like most Tesco’s customers, she clearly finds it more convenient to fill up her car and queue for 5 minutes to pay in the kiosk rather than using the very much swifter pay at the pump option. I, on the other hand, prefer to wait 10 seconds for my credit card to be authorised at the pump, spend two minutes filling up my tank and then go. So I watch her go in to pay, note the queue is 7 or 8 deep so she’ll be some time, and wait.

We all sit there and I listen to the song, ‘Help’ by the Beatles in its entirety. Neither builder’s lorry drives through to the empty pump at the front of their line. Neither of the cars in front of me move – they are still filling up – and the lady whose car is still parked in front of the lorry is still queuing in the kiosk. Some time during the next song on my stereo, Mr White Honda finishes filling his car and sticks the nozzle back in the holster.

I feel pity for the builders when, like the lady in front of the lorry, Mr White Honda turns out to be a true Tesco’s petrol customer who, like the lady, spurns the faster, easier pay at pump option. Into the kiosk he goes to queue.

As I sit looking at the empty pump, with nobody using it, it occurs to me that I could have filled my car to the brim and departed a couple of times over. Tine is ticking on and I’m getting twitchy. I wonder, if I go to the empty pump, swipe my credit card, fill up and go before the driver of the white Honda returns to his vehicle, would that be queue barging? Surely if I am not holding anyone up or inconveniencing anyone it isn’t? I’m not pushing in, or holding anyone up, I’m just using something no-one is using while it’s free. Even better the folks behind me don’t have to wait for me. Yes, win-win. My brain, filled with, 24 hour care requirements, sick parents, etc agrees. The builders are clearly waiting for the white car so if I’m quick it’ll be fine. So I drive through and park up. As I get out of my car a man runs up to me shouting,

‘Excuse me! Excuse me!’ he yells, managing to imbue words ‘excuse me’ with an aggression and menace I never knew they held (I doubt he did either) ‘Can’t you see there’s a queue?’
His shouty vehemence puts my back up at once.
‘Yes I can but it’s not moving.’
He gets up to me a bit and raises his voice louder.
‘You’re jumping the queue.’
‘No I’m not, nobody’s using this pump.’
Two can do shouty, my friend. I am surprised at the volume of my voice as I bellow my answer back at him.
‘That’s because he’s bigger than I am,’ he makes a sweeping gesture at one of the lorries, ‘and he can’t get through, we’re waiting until this car goes and then we can both drive up together.’
This, delivered as if I’m a complete idiot for not knowing the bleedin’ obvious.
Ah note to self, there’s a hidden builder’s lorry etiquette to the art of buying petrol which must not be interfered with by mere mortals at any cost. I didn’t know that.
‘So? I’ll be gone before that happens.’
He looks more annoyed, indeed, as he reiterates that I’m jumping the queue and … yada … the blue touch paper catches and off he goes into space. I’m fully expecting him to start poking me in the chest with one finger such are his levels of vehemence. I feel bullied and at that mere thought, something in me unravels, the red mist descends. I tell him my mother is ill and I am in a hurry. He tells me that he’s sorry about my mother but that’s not his problem.
Obviously the precious 90 seconds I will delay him are far more important than the well-being of a vulnerable, ill old lady
(yes, I actually think this madness as he rants at me)  and so it is, that I, too, completely blow my top, for only the fifth time in my entire life, and join him in orbit.

More arguing ensues. I would write it down if I could, but to be honest I haven’t a fucking clue what I said, although I’m pretty sure I managed not to swear, which was a minor personal victory and probably the only positive I have to take away from this experience.

All the while as we harangue one another I am aware of three things:

  1. He doesn’t seem to be understanding anything I’m telling him.
  2. But this is unsurprising because my arguments are getting less and less cogent.
  3. There is something important I have missed that would defuse this.

I know that this whole situation is based on false impressions and wrong information. I know that I can stop his aggression in its tracks, stop him shouting at me and make him leave me alone. His angry bullying is totally unreasonable and inexplicable and this simple thing will allow him to understand that, but I am too angry and hurt to remember what the thing I need to remember is. I can’t speak or think coherently, I can only shout back at him. I want to step away from him. I want to ignore him. I want to take the fuel cap off, stick my credit card into the slot in the pump and fill up. I want to prove that I’ll be gone well before Mr White Honda gets back, well beyond the point when either lorry can can move, anyway. But I am afraid he will snatch the fuel cap from me and throw it into the hedge or try to physically restrain me. And then the police will be called, and I will never get to my parents.

Then I see that the woman who was filling her car at the far pump, in the row the other side of me, the one which is blocked by the lorry, has gone. The driver of the lorry is still filling it up, still blocking her pump from anyone else. ‘Alright, I’ll go over there, and I’ll still be gone before you get to fill up.’ I shout storming into my car and making a massive hash of parking it over by said pump.

And I would have been, of course, had I not been so apoplectic with rage by that time that I had to go and have another go. First I accosted the wrong bloke by mistake,

‘Oh bless you, sorry love,’ I tell him with a pat on the arm and then go to deliver a bitterly sarcastic apology to Mr Shouty for his totally unreasonable anger at me for not understanding builder’s etiquette, which, obviously, was very criminal of a non-builder and obviously I should have understood. But it’s his friend filling up the tank – who is clearly a decent bloke and gives me a genuine smile. Except I am too angry at being subjected to such a stream of unreasonable ire that I am unable to say the word etiquette and we both laugh as I stutteringly explain the cause. Obviously Mr Shouty has to come back then and protect his friend from what he probably sees as Angry Entiled Woman and has another go at me. I am still fully lit and so, channelling my inner fishwife I give just as good as I get. Telling him that I hope he’ll be treated with equal sympathy one day if his mother gets ill and he is trying to get to her – which is true but totally pointless,not a reasoned or rational argument and therefore pretty much redundant.

And all the while, Sensible M T is standing beside me, in a slightly out-of-body-tastic kind of way, watching in horror as I Basil Fawlty my way around the forecourt saying,

‘What are you doing?’

At last I listen to it. I have to, because I am, literally, spluttering with rage. Can’t get any coherent words out. Not at all. I go back to my car. Angry with myself for giving in to what I interpret as bullying from an aggressive male playing dog in a manger.

It takes approximately 90 seconds to authorise my card and top up the tank with 24 litres of petrol – oooooh and another 4 or 5 seconds to get a receipt. One of the cars I’d been queuing behind slows down, opens his window and calls out to me,

‘He was wrong and you were in the right,’ he said. I thank him. Perhaps he’d paid at the pump too.

It was only about 10 hours later that I realised what went wrong. I never told Mr Shouty I was paying at the pump. He and the other builder in front of him were in commercials. They probably use fuel cards or cash or some other means which entails dooming them to pay at the Kiosk forever, whether they want to or not. Pay at the pump was probably as dead a concept to Mr Shouty as it is to nearly every other Tesco’s petrol customer. It would never have crossed his mind that I was going to pay at the pump, bypass the kiosk completely, and be gone in under three minutes any more than it crossed my mind that I was not. He must have thought I was going to cut in and then stand in the kiosk waiting to pay for ages after Mr White Honda had gone. So then he’d have to wait for the other builder bloke to fill up and stand in the kiosk for ages, too, before he could get near a pump. And a commercial takes a lot longer to fill – he was probably putting a hundred odd litres in, not 24. In addition, we judge things by the parameters we’re used to, so he may well be thinking of my fill up would take about the same amount of time: ie much longer than it does.

Yeh, Mr Shouty probably believed he was looking at a delay of at least 20 minutes. No wonder he got in a strop. I think I might have been just as shouty, myself, if I was in his position and and I was reading what I saw that way.

So what can I learn from this? Apart from the fact that I get even more like Basil Fawlty when I get angry than I thought and must, therefore, keep my cool at absolutely all costs.

If I wasn’t already aware that stress and worry switch some important parts of my brain off, then, after trying to have that argument, I am now. Presumably that’s also why I drove up to the school in a thunder stom just now to collect my boy, only to remember that a friend’s mum is picking him up from school tonight, taking him round theirs for tea and dropping him off here! Bonus points there M T.

Communication and calmness are essential. Perhaps, this is the most important lesson; that communication is the name of the game, that calmness, even calm rage, is a better bet if you need to have a reasoned discussion but most of all that two different people can read polar opposites from the same information.

If I’d managed to stay calm and explained what I was doing properly, I doubt the slanging match would have happened. But if he hadn’t come up to me all shouty aggression, I might have managed that.

Assumptions … in any situation we and the other people round us make snap judgements and assumptions based on what we see. Sometimes they’re shite.

Would Mr Shouty have listened to my explanation? I don’t know. I do know that if it happens again, I’ll bet the angry person a tenner that I can fill my tank and be gone – without the kiosk and without any inconvenience to them – in under 3 minutes. I won’t collect though, because the odds are stacked against them to the point where it’s almost a scam.

Sigh. I’m such a plank. Never mind. At least I can laugh at myself.

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Filed under Blimey!, General Wittering

Detail: What Noticing Stuff means to a writer.

Some random true life stories this week, as inspired by Mr Chuck Wendig’s blog, even if I’ve missed the deadline and my very tenuous efforts to link them to my ‘job’ – which is really just an incredibly expensive hobby.

Story 1. Years ago, in the mid 1990s, I was driving to my job one summer morning. My journey to work used to take about an hour, 20 minutes to the outskirts of Cambridge and 40 minutes queuing. I drove an elderly Triumph Spitfire so the morning queue had a worrying tendency to turn into a game of temperature gauge chicken. On the up side, even if I had to sit there with the heater on to stop the engine boiling, at least I could take the lid off.

So there I sat, at the end of the queue, in my car. I leaned back looking up at the blue sky I saw, where other’s saw the deadness of their car’s upholstered roof. An aeroplane flew across and directly above me. As I watched, it began to blow out smoke – not yeek-my-engine’s-failing-and-I’m-about-to-plummet-out-of-the-sky-type smoke you understand – stunt plane smoke like the Red Arrows (or les Bleu, I don’t have a picture of the red arrows) blow out in red white and blue. Anyway, I watched and as it flew, smoke in full er… puff? It drew a circle. Then after a bit of flying back and forth, it put two eyes inside the circle and a smily mouth. Then it flew away. What I liked about that was the fact that the pilot must have known that hardly anyone would see what s/he did but they went and did it anyway.

Thank you Kate Jackson, over at Roughseas for having a picture of the Red Arrows blowing out volumes of exactly the kind of smoke I’m talking about.

How does that pertain to writing? Well, to me it says that sometimes, even if you think only one person in a thousand will ‘get’ something, it’s worth putting it in if you believe in it. Why? Because chances are, they’ll be aware that this is a very obscure joke and putting it in will make them feel like you’re sharing secret code with them.

Onto the second story. A week or so ago, at the school picking up my son. I was just having a quick chat to his teacher about his maths when a helicopter came over.

“How very odd coming up out of the sun like that and flying so low,” said McMini’s teacher.

“Yeh, and they’ve got the door open,” I said, as we both looked up. “Perhaps we should give them a wave.”

We duly both did, along with McMini, who didn’t need much encouragement. The wave spread – or several other folks had the same idea – and then to our amazement the helicopter did an circuit of the playground, the folks in the open doorway leaning out and waving like looners. Then everyone waved back at them: the kids and some of the parents were even jumping up and down and cheering. The helicopter then headed off. None of us know where it came from, where it was going, or why it flew over us. But we do know that pretty much everyone felt good after it had gone, including, perhaps, the folks in its open doorway.

Relevance to writing is a bit thin here, I’ll give you, but perhaps it shows the value of a wave and a smile, the power of simple things, or of small acts of friendship. I’m a great believer in approaching the internet like that. It’s full of people who’ve had a bad day and are ready to rip your head off, but sometimes, all it takes to break the ice is a kind word, a smile or, yes, a cheery wave.

Which brings me to the last story.

As most of you know, my Dad suffers from memory loss. Before all that hit him, he was a life long lover of wine and spent many hours poring over lists from the Wine Society, and other esteemed wine sellers, selecting and buying wines. Many of these were bought to drink with Sunday lunch, which was a bit of an event in our house, or at the riotous dinner parties my Mum and Dad used to have. One of his favourites was a claret called Leoville Barton. For some years, he bought cases of it to drink on special occasions – although my Dad being my Dad, quite a lot of quite mundane occasions were ‘special’.

The other night, a friend came round to dinner and we had a wine tasting. We put the bottles in socks and juggled them about a bit and then tried to guess what they were and who’d brought what. One of the wines felt familiar and I realised that it reminded me of the Chateau Leoville Barton my Dad used to love and which, I admit, I rather like, too. And as I said this to McOther and our friend, I suddenly felt incredibly affected. I was amazed how a single flavour could bring back such vivid memories of the happy times I’ve had drinking a glass of that wine. And as I remembered my Dad as he was then, it hit me, anew, how much of him has gone forever.

So what do these things mean for writing? Well, maybe that small things, tiny details inserted in the right place, can show the reader volumes about your characters without you having to tell them. I guess it also means that a deftly added detail can be incredibly poignant or can make the difference between a boring scene and diverting one. Perhaps it also means that as writers, we should train ourselves to notice all this stuff – or perhaps the fact we do is what sets us apart and makes us writers. Perhaps some of the battle we face, when trying to turn our writing from good to amazing, is working out which details to add, and when; and even more importantly, which ones to leave out.

 

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Filed under General Wittering

A question of perception

It’s another ‘I’m an idiot, learn from me’ post today. It’s also long. Apologies for that but there’s rather a lot to say.

Recently I’ve been trying to get the initial ideas and machinery in place to launch a new book. There are several places where I’m stuck, mostly the same, old same old: you know, stuff like actually managing to write a blurb that makes it sound appealing or coming up with a viable title. There is also the aspect of things I might unknowingly stuff up.

OK, so I try to act with professional integrity. This is the internet. Whatever I do I will offend someone but I try avoid any dishonourable, shabby, dishonest or generally reprehensible behaviour if at all possible. I try to love my internetty neighbour the way I’d like to be loved myself.

However, I’m a writer and a flawed human being. I frequently offend people without even realising. Indeed, if life was a game I suspect unwitting offence would be my Special Attribute. A couple of things have happened, recently, that have made me very aware of this and concentrated my attention on the matter of how hard it is to achieve a good reputation on the internet, how difficult it is not to cause offence, however well meaning your actions may actually be. And how difficult it can be to gauge how others will react to your actions when the only guide you have is to imagine how it would feel to be on the receiving end.

It’s not just about trying to act with decency and integrity at all times. It’s about whether people think think you are. A lot of that is about what folks believe your intentions are. I think that no matter how genuine you wish to be, how honest you think you are being, or how principled you aim to make your approach, if you are selling anything, however obliquely, there are certain quarters of the internet where any attempt to connect on your part will be considered a hypocritical attempt to befriend people in order to sell them something. So far with me, it’s kind of been the other way round. But a couple of things have really surprised me, recently. Stupid things I’ve done without realising they were stupid.

On the up side, since I’ve made these monumental fuck ups, it means that by describing them to you at length I can ensure that you don’t have to. Here’s what I’ve learned from this series of unfortunate events…

The dreadful truth about titles.

I’ll fess up. I got in a bit of a muddle publishing my last two books. The main problem was that when I finished the third book in the K’Barthan Trilogy (as it was then called) I discovered it was a snadge over 300,000 words long. What to do? If I produced a paperback then, by the time I’d factored in the kind of discount that would pay the middle men (60%) I would have a book that cost about £25. So there’s book 1 at £9.99, book 2 at £11.99 and book 3 at £24.99. With books 1 and 2 ending on cliff hangers it does rather look as if I’m holding readers to ransom to find out what happens. Luckily there was a point where I could split it. So I did. But that cost more. Another £800 or so to be precise and another £90 plus 20% sales tax to upload it to the print on demand distributor I use.

With money tight, the question raised it’s head of spending a further £90 plus tax per book to change the word ‘Trilogy’ on the cover and front pages of the first two, to ‘Series’ in print. Also, what little traction the series had was as the K’Barthan Trilogy. I asked folks, took advice and tried to imagine how I would feel if a trilogy I was following had four books. The folks I asked reckoned a 4 book trilogy was not unusual and that no-one would mind. Since I’ve read the Hitch Hiker’s ‘trilogy’ and was delighted when it kept growing, rather than upset, I saved the £180 and went for the 4 book trilogy.

How wrong I was.

A couple of months ago the third book got a blistering one star review, slamming me for writing a fourth instalment. I paraphrase but the gist was like this:

“I know your game,” it basically said. “You’re just going to write book after book and never end the story, because you’re just a bastard writer! And all you bastard writers ever want to do is rip readers off and make us pay and pay so you can buy another set of gold plated wheels for your Mercedes Benz. Well I’m not reading any more of your crap you… charlatan!”

Fair enough, this case, someone has clearly watched too many episodes of ‘Lost’, and that £50 a month I earn from my writing may well look like the gold-plated-alloy-purchasing big time to some folks, but I was completely thrown. First that they were upset, second by the enormous gap between their perception of my personality and the real one.

OK, we all know the golden rule is DO NOT ENGAGE. NEVER reply to things like that.

I broke it.

I commented on the review apologising for causing offence, explaining that it wasn’t intended, that the story ends at the conclusion of the fourth book (in case anyone else reading that review wondered) and then I offered to send it to them for free so they could find out what happened. They never replied. I went and changed the title from ‘trilogy’ to ‘series’ in all the ebook files and on all the listings on every retail site I sell through – it already said it in the product desription. Naturally the retailers all accepted my chages except for Amazon who asserted that if it said ‘trilogy’ on the book cover (even if it’s too small to read) it will be called ‘trilogy’ until I pay the designers to change the j-peg and upload the new one.

I chalked it up as something to watch and a change to do when I brief the designers about my next book.

During last year, I entered both books for the excellent Wishing Shelf Book Awards. When the feedback came through I was very surprised to discover that readers there, too, had commented negatively about my writing a ‘trilogy’ of four books.

Clearly, something that hadn’t registered with me was really pissing other people off. So what have I learned from this litany of amateurism?

  1. Give yourself options.
    My four book ‘trilogy’ has royally ticked off a whole bunch of people. Folks I will never get back. Folks who will consider me a wanker forever and spread their opinions near and far. But the problem would never have existed if I’d had the wit to call it the K’Barthan Series from the get go. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, so learn from mine: if you’re writing a trilogy then, in the name of the almighty don’t call it that. Call it a series unless it’s actually finished, has three books the same length, and you are about to publish the first one.
  2. Give yourself some slack.
    Accept there are some things you can cover with research and some things that only experience will show you but.
  3. When experience does kick you in the teeth, learn from it.
  4. If you can repair the damage, do it as soon as you can but think it through, don’t hurry it or you may just make things worse.
    OK, so I can’t afford to get rid of the bloody ‘trilogy’ moniker until the entire series is edited at the end of November. The covers, I can, and will, change sooner. For now I just have to accept that I’ve fucked up, chalk it up to experience and learn from what I have done.

The grim truth about interacting on the internet.

The second smack in the face from reality came this week.

Recently, I’ve had a facebook ad running which offers the first two books in the K’Barthan Series to anyone who joins my mailing list. I’d heard that a good way to identify a market of people to show your ad to is to choose an audience who like books by an author similar to you. It then suggests you make reference to the author you, and they, know and love and suggest that if they like that stuff they might like yours. I’m always a bit leery about this, I mean, all those reviews saying I write like Adams are just setting folks up for disappointment because I don’t. But I thought it might work with a humorous bent if I aimed it at Pratchett readers.

After a bit of tweaking and watching and tweaking I ended up with an audience who liked Terry Pratchett books and an ad which referenced CMOT Dibbler.

OK, in my defence here, I wrote the copy while Sir Terry was still around but this is what it said:

“If you like funny British science fiction and fantasy why not check out this freebie: The K’Barthan Series stands complete at four books and I’d like to give you two of them. Yes, this all sounds a bit CMOT Dibbler school of marketing but I’m hoping you’ll find a lot more quality literary meat in these books than there is REAL meat in CMOT Dibbler’s sausages.

All you have to do is tell me where to send them – the books, obviously, real sausages will not be involved.”

Then there was this picture and the title and caption below.

FACTWSfacebookAd

“I’M LITERALLY cutting my own throat here.

If you love a bargain, help yourself to two award winning funny sci-fi fantasy books, Few Are Chosen and The Wrong stuff, parts 1 and 2 of the best selling K’Barthan Series are usually £4 but they’re free for a limited time. To grab yours click here.”

To start with, I got sign ups, shares and a couple of joky quotes about the quality of the meat – is it named? Yes it’s called Bob. In other words, exactly what I expected. Then a few days ago, from New Zealand, this:

Pep A: Ripping off a Terry Pratchett character to sell your book? Poor form?
Pep B: Poor form? Fucking shameful.

And I looked at it and I thought… what happened there? And then the ad got this comment:

Pep C: Well. He’s dead now.

And the penny dropped.

Yes M T you daft, fucking moron! He died. And so suddenly this ad is not joking about characters we know and love from a favourite author. It’s trampling over people’s memories of a great man and maligning the dead. Events can cause changes in perception. And I completely missed that. So I’ve removed the ad. Because although it was working really well I didn’t think of that, and while, personally, I think it’s a bit weird to be offended, I do absolutely get why someone might be.

Have I replied or apologised? Well… no, because of another particularly important thing that I’ve learned about the internet, so that you don’t have to is that it’s bat shit crazy, and also:

  1. The international nature of the internet is a two edged sword…
    Yes, you can talk to the entire globe. Unfortunately, not all of it thinks the way you do. That means you can and will offend thousands of people effortlessly and unwittingly at the touch of a button: not just people in Britain but folks all over the world.Seriously though, I’m not American, from the RSA, Kenya or Zimbabwe. I’m not Australian, or a Kiwi, or Tasmanian or from India, Pakistan or South East Asia. I’m not from Holland, Germany, France, Russia or any of the myriad other places where people speak English and read my books, in English. I lack the instinctive grasp of other cultures that will enable me to see the point when funny becomes offensive to them if it doesn’t to someone British. But because I’m speaking English and they speak English too, THEY EXPECT ME TO.
  2. The internet contains a huge gap in perception.
    The aforementioned gulf between the spirit in which I act and interact on line, who I think I am, and what others perceive me to be. Frankly, it’s enormous. 90% of communication is non verbal and boy does it show on t’interweb – mainly through the medium of folks becoming very suspicious of one another. And what that equates to, if you’re selling anything, anywhere on line, is an assumption that nothing you do is genuine. That everything is crafted, honed and perfected with your eye on the next sale.So while you’re trying to just be, write a blog, do stuff, keep people informed, have a presence that’s just yourself: a benign and friendly presence, there are folks out there who will dismiss it as the work of a rapacious scammer who sees everyone as a potential victim (including them, unless they’re ‘careful’ a.k.a. prickly, aggressive and ready to take offence at the drop of a hat).
  3. 3. People are going to drop their weird shit onto you.
    There’s a saying, ‘you can please some of the people some of the time but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.’ I understand this but it seems that in today’s world, if you do anything that might put your name into the public domain, like paint, write, make music, act etc you are expected to please everyone, all of the time. Worse, if you don’t, no quarter will be given.Genuine mistakes, or simple errors of of judgement, far from being forgiven, are seen as an act of cynical aggression towards your innocent audience. A lot of people out there don’t really like themselves. They think they’re cynical, cold hearted conniving little shits, and guess what? Because they believe that about themselves they’re going to believe it about you too.
  4. Give them some slack. Try to stay positive and accept that sometimes you will offend others and it can’t always be helped.
    Long ago, I decided not to worry about the nature of the net. I am who I am and it’s hard to be anyone else. I know I will make mistakes and all I can do is try not to. It’s worth making peace with yourself and accepting that sometimes, no matter how benign you want to be and how hard you try to avoid hurting people, you will cause offence. Sometimes all you can do is apologise, chalk it up to experience, learn from it and move on. Sometimes our attempts to interact with people we don’t actually know personally, can be interpreted, by some as evidence that we’re out to get them in some way. It doesn’t matter how much cobblers that is, they’ve been burned by others and but there’s no way we will ever convince folks like that of our good intentions. There’s no point even trying. Indeed, the only thing you can do about them is hope to heaven that they never, ever find you.

So what can we do? How can writers or artists or anyone creative who interacts regularly on the internet behave ‘well’ without becoming too slick, too spun and anodyne?

Perhaps we can’t. Or perhaps all we can do is our level, genuine best to avoid saying anything that would offend us if you were on the receiving end. Do unto others and all that.

If you’re laid back and you write humour which, by its nature, is subversive you will undoubtedly prick the bubble of the pompous at some stage. But you may also stuff up and the way I have though sheer naivety, lack of foresight or plain ignorance and unwittingly offend many, many folks – good decent people who you don’t want to upset. When you do, I guess the only course is to chalk it up to experience – apologise if appropriate/possible and move on.

Few people do things deliberately to offend, whatever many internet users think. Most of us offend because we’re human, and flawed; and that’s natural. If we never cocked it up we’d be actual God. Because perfect is impossible unless you’re Allah, right?

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