Tag Archives: K’Barth

Metal detecting, and its relation to my hopes as an #indie #writer

This week, I’m unsure how to go about my blog post. TI have several things to say so bear with me as I try to work out a way to jemmy them all in at once.

Ever in pursuit of the elusive hammered coin or interesting… thing, I went out metal detecting yesterday. I learned three things.

  • First that no matter how many smashing Saxon artifacts other people are digging up you have to walk over one to find it.
  • Second, I learned that my waterproofs are not waterproof any more. This lesson delivered as I was the wrong end of a field, about half a mile from the car, in a deluge. More waterproofs required, I think. The manner of my learning this rather sums up my day.
  • Third, on returning home, after steeping in a hot bath, I learned that basically, I’m doing setting the detector up right, choosing sensible places to detect and doing the right thing. I am finding tiny things as well as big things, I am finding things made out of metals and alloys that mirror the good stuff but unfortunately, they are bits of tractor and modern stuff rather than interesting finds. I’m finding miniscule things the size of a quartered silver coin, but they’re tiny pieces of metal. All are things which, in happier circumstances, could be good stuff. My point is that, for the most part, I’m doing it right, it’s just that the artifact gods are not smiling as benignly upon me as sometimes.

In a sop to my efforts, they (the Small Gods of Lost Things) did throw me this fantastic fossil of half a sea urchin. It holds a level of detail I’ve not seen outside the real thing so my day wasn’t wasted.

IMG_2015IMG_2011

That white discolouration on the flat side means it broke in half several million years ago.

Onwards and upwards. There’s another dig next week.

Which kind of brings me onto the second thing. As you know, I’ve been a bit worried about my book sales recently. This is because I’ve been doing that fatal thing, comparing myself to other people. Really I should know better.

In order to feel some semblance of control, and in pursuit of social media savviness, I bought and read two Rayne Hall books: Twitter for Authors, and Why Does My Book Not Sell? 20 Simple Fixes (Writer’s Craft).

OK, if I can go off at a bit of a tangent here… I cannot recommend these books highly enough. I’ve always wondered how to interact with people on Twitter, Rayne Hall gives the answer. If the worst comes to the worst just go to her feed, eavesdrop on some conversations and have a chat. Her advice has definitely worked really well for me. Even in a week I’m having conversations and enjoying Twitter the way I wanted to but hadn’t. She also has what I consider to be an excellent attitude to social media, ie that it is social and that the more social and less of a book seller you are, the more likely you are to achieve book sales. This advice has been borne out by my own experience.

Likewise, while I’d got more of my book production performance in line with Rayne Hall’s there are still plenty of things in Why Does My Book Not Sell? 20 Simple Fixes (Writer’s Craft) that I can apply to my own books.

However, what I have learned from these two books, above all, is that for the most part, and barring a few tweaks, I’m doing the right thing.

My book sales are not lighting up the sky, though. Perhaps, like my efforts at metal detecting, the small percentage of fairy dust required is just absent from that part of my life at present. Perhaps. But if I’ve learned anything from metal detecting, it’s that perseverance pays off. If you keep believing and keep digging you will find interesting things. The law of averages demands it. You can’t find nothing but crap. Sure a big part of your detector finds may be but they can’t all be. And they aren’t. Not even for me.

Which begs a question.

Am I simply lacking fairy dust. Or are my book sales better than I think?

Comparatively I mean.

You see, it may be that for someone who has written a book that is, as a friend who works in magazine publishing put it, “Absolutely wonderful, but a very hard sell. I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole if it was submitted to me,” I’m actually doing better than I think.

Usually, a handful of people download my free book each day. Since it went free, in February, I’ve seen a sudden increase in sales of the second book after which, in June and July, I definitely saw an increase in sales of books 3 and 4. From selling a couple of books a month if I’m lucky and shifting a couple of my, admittedly, dodgy free shorts a month, there are now only a couple of days each month when nobody downloads anything.

Don’t get too excited. I’m not ready to make one of those gushing, “I can’t believe that my book is number one on Amazon!” posts on Kindleboards. I’m not even ready to make one of those “my sales have plummeted! I’m only selling 500 books a month” posts either. Mwah hahahargh! I dream of selling 500 books a month.

However, it’s all relative. This time last year I’d failed to sell a single book in three months straight. This year, to my eternal delight, even Kobo users are buying them. The Amazon stats are showing international sales. For the first time, people in France, Italy, Canada and Australia are buying them. For the first time since 2010 I am achieving monthly book sales that go into double figures.

The free book, Few Are Chosen, K’Barthan Series: Part 1 is even being downloaded from Google books – although I’m not sure what’s happening there because nobody has bought the others, I’m not even sure if Google is selling them or just pointing people to the vendors links on my website, but it’s a start.

And it brings me back to a piece of advice that has probably kept me sane in periods of recovery from my various knee injuries. Nevertheless, despite the fact I’ve been happily doling it out left right and centre this month it’s one I’d forgotten to apply to myself until now. It’s this:

Forget about how far you have to go, instead see how far you’ve come. Trust me. The answer to that question is always going to be, a lot further than you think. Which is kind of where I am about now.

So, am I earning much? No. The people around me, the authors I chat to from day to day, are earning far more.

Am I successful? No. My literary mates are, for the most part, several orders of magnitude more successful then me.

Am I doing better than last year? You bet your arse I am!

See how it works?

Yes, sure, as flat figures, my book sales are risible. But as a percentage increase on previous efforts they are flying. It’s all a question of how you view it. Sure, in the order of publishing species I’m so low on the scale that I’m aspiring to be a molecule – BUT, and here’s the rub, things might be different next year.

Onwards and upwards.

Coming next week… news of my latest story, out November 1st.

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Secrets of the K’Barthan Series unlocked.

One of the great things about being an author is that you get to be a bit… hmm…. let’s call it, ‘eccentric’. It is one of the parts of the job I truly delight in – and probably the bit I am best at. Certainly I’m far better at being a bit weird than I am at writing books, but I digress. One of the things I get asked sometimes, apart from, ‘Are you mad?’ is where I get the names from.

Well, clearly we authors can make some of them up, like The Pan of Hamgee, while others are normal, like Ruth or Lucy or a bit comedically untrendy, names normally associated with the elderly, for example, like Gladys and Ada. Then again, judging by the amount of Masies, Ediths, Dots and Daisey’s under ten there are now, and the rate the real Gladys and Adas are dying off, there will probably be lots of toddlers and babies named Gladys and Ada before long. Christened by people too young to remember that no-one under 70 was called Gladys or Ada for many years.

In other instances, if you’re looking to name characters you can turn to the world around us… things like this:

philip softone2

Yes, Philip Softone got his name from some lightbulbs. Ever since I saw the first advert for these in about 1989 I have been giggling quietly to myself about who Philip Softone is and wondering what he is like.

Meanwhile his assistant…

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I know, I know… I really should grow up. 😉

There must be a way I can work Clancy Docwra in there somewhere – just because it’s such a jolly silly name (sorry Clancy, if you’re reading this). Indeed, I reckon I may have to write some wild west punk specifically for him, because with a name like Clancy, he can only be a sheriff or a sharp shooter right… or do you think he might be a card shark? Hmm not sure.

Another rich source is place names. When I’m driving along and I see signposts to places like Leighton Bromswold and Carlton Scrope I immediately start wondering who they are, what they do and what they’re like. It’s easy to pick and choose, too. You can go for something off a random signpost sighting, like Carlton Scrope, or you can choose something more simple like Alton, Ashington, Norton, Dacre, Derby or even Troon. You can put them together to make first names and surnames: Alton Troon, Norton Dacre etc. If you want to get seriously wacky you can go off piste and try another country.

So if you’re about to name your main character Kyle, hold up! Why not see if there’s an interestingly named town near you?

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What makes a good bad guy?

Recently, as my thoughts turn to planning a new book, I’ve been wondering what makes a good baddie? If you see what I mean.

In my current w.i.p. the baddie is a politician, and I suspect, he will be not so much evil as morally bankrupt. To make things right, our hero will have to manipulate things so that the politician, in getting what he wants, will unwittingly deliver justice for the goodies of the book. In so far as there are any. A bit more like real life then, even if it’s set in space.

But I do want my villain to be bad. And while you can fiddle with the circumstances and the dynamics; on their own, they don’t always make the actual being evil. So I’m trying to work out if I want my latest bad guy to be greedy and selfish and incidentally evil or whether I want to go for a full on supervillian: a being who is intelligent, pointy-brained, and who plans (and revels in) his malevolence. The first is more real, the second an absolute gas to write and great fun to hate.

To get my head around concepts and ideas of ‘evil’ versus ‘bad’ or just ‘greedy’ I have turned to current affairs. I find current affairs intensely distressing if I look them directly in the face. Even so, they seem to be even worse than usual right now. There’s nothing like a bit of economic trouble to bring out the hatred in all of us it seems.

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Here we are in a modern and supposedly enlightened world and the various peoples of The Book are still trying to kill one another with gusto – and anything else that comes to hand.

We have an organisation of people pretending to be Muslims who believe half the population is shameful and valueless. It’s better to be a goat than a woman under the Taliban. After all, even their livestock can roam freely to find food. But if the male folk in a woman’s family die, the honourable thing for her to do is stay at home and starve to death rather than go out into the world unchaperoned to buy supplies. Yes that’s how much a woman is worth to them. Nothing. Because having kids and periods makes us unclean – Lord above if ever there was a bit of biblical health and safety advice that went big time wrong it’s that bit – oh and we don’t have a cock to think with, which makes us bad. And heaven help us, the Taliban seem quite moderate compared to ISIL, the Islamic State.

And then you get Israel which has had it’s foot on Palestine’s neck for years and just. Won’t. Lift. Off.  I wouldn’t pretend to be able to fathom Middle Eastern politics, there is no knowing Who Started It because the fighting there began at the dawn of time. I’ve read enough of the The Book – Old Testament/Torah/Koran – to appreciate that. But historically, countries like Britain, America and Russia have exacerbated the problems in an already volatile area for their own gain; fanning the flames of enmity, promising everyone what they wanted and delivering it to no-one: for years. And in return we get ISIL, the Islamic State. I guess it kind of serves us right.

Then… enter the ‘Christian Right’ and holy smoke, there’s an oxymoron if ever there was one – who vilify women and single mothers, not to mention the poor. They justify the hatred-filled crap they spew as the word of God when all it’s about is power and more money for them. I thought god was supposed to be a loving father – you know, ‘love they neighbour as thyself’ and all that – not a psychopathic, vengeful shit-head. Maybe I’m wrong. It would be funny if there wasn’t an actual, realistic chance of these people gaining power in America, a country which looks, from the outside, as if the political choice is between rabidly conservative and a few steps to the right of Atilla the Hun.

And when I turn on the news and see the latest venom-filled cleric screaming spittle-flecked hatred in the name of whichever version of God they purport to believe in, I confess I feel contempt. Contempt for someone who uses their intelligence, or presence, or social standing to persuade others to maltreat people in the name of a supposedly loving god. And contempt for the brainwashed sheep who follow them.

Which is where it all starts, of course.

The minute we stop seeing extremists as human beings, we become like them. Because that’s what they’re doing to us. That’s how they can justify massacring whole towns, that’s how they can justify institutional peadophelia – selling 12 year old girls into sexual slavery because they dare to get an education: learn to read, learn to think, is peadophelia in my book. No wonder extremism is so attractive to every tinpot fuckwit with a Kalishnikov. What better excuse for violence, bullying and sexual depravity than ‘god told me to do it’? Even if it’s patently, bollocks. I really feel for the world’s quiet, moderate people of faith, who have to put up with people thinking that nutters like the Islamic State and the Christian ‘Right’ represent religion.

What the angry rationalists fail to realise is that using religion to manipulate people is a completely different from having an actual faith. I suppose that’s what a lot of the K’Barthan Series is about: that just because the extremists are in power, it doesn’t mean everyone is one. Even so, it seems that nothing is more guaranteed to make you despise and kill your neighbour than a jolly good argument as to whose philosophy you should employ to go about loving him. Weird isn’t it?

You know, I wanted to make my villain female in this next book – think Servalan out of Blake’s 7 – but, in light of the state of world affairs, I really don’t think I can. There’s enough hatred directed at us women without my making one of us a love-to-hate baddie. The saddest thing is that every time I make stuff up, on the grounds that it’s chillingly evil, I find someone, somewhere, is already doing it.

Servalan: Scary baddie from Blake’s 7 Image: from http://jasonnahrung.wordpress.com

Stepping off the soap box and dragging this back to the point, apart from depressing me profoundly what does the state of world affairs have to do with writing credible bad guys?

In a nutshell, because what current affairs show us is that contempt is the key. A good look at history is an excellent place to start if you want to analyse the subtleties of evil. All you need to do then is give your baddie a healthy dose of idealism at the expense of any practical consideration whatsoever. He doesn’t have to be all-other-beings-are-inferior-my-pawns-to-be-used-and-discarded, supervillain bad. All he has to do is believe, passionately that the ends justifies the means and forget that the populations of the nations he is playing with are actual real humans. There are many faces of evil and often one begets another. So you can have some seriously bad karma starting off with deeds done with good intent.

Hmm… for all his supercilious air I think I prefer the supervillain like Lord Vernon. At least he’s honest.

So, what are your thoughts folks? Who’s the baddest of the bad? Love-to-hate superbaddie or vainglorious politician. More to the point, which one do you most like to see in books?

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Oooo! Shiny thing!

Well here’s a bit of a turn up, Few Are Chosen is featured on the Indie Book of the Day site. You can see it here for the rest of today (Pacific time, which is probably until about this time tomorrow) and you can see the permanent entry here. And they’ve also given me a lovely badge which I will put on my sidebar tomorrow – unfortunately I’m out tonight.

So there we are, do go and check out Indie Book of the Day because they are clearly people of astonishingly fine taste and good discernment. Phnark… OK so I nominated myself but hey. I’m still excited and for those of you who are authors, too, I’ll let you know what the blip in downloads looked like!

See the lovely seal for my blog!

Indie Book of the Day Award

And the lovely certificate. Weeeee! Happy dance.

Royal Certificates

 

 

 

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Cover Reveal. K’Barthan Trilogy, Books 3 and 4. Yes, you read that correctly. ‘Trilogy’ and ‘Book 4’.

Yes…. I can reveal the cover of the third and fourth book in the K’Barthan Trilogy. Yes I’m a writer but I never said I could count. If you want the honest truth, book 3 was so huge that it was never going to approach commercial viability as a paperback, so as it has two distinct halves, I divided it.

So here we are. Artwork. Mmm Mmm. Am I chuffed with this? Oh yes I am.

One Man: No Plan, K’Barthan Trilogy: Part 3.CoverOneManNoPlan

And here’s the blurb….

Confused ex outlaw, pardoned for all misdemeanours, seeks answers… 

The Pan of Hamgee has a chance to go straight, but it’s been so long that he’s almost forgotten how. With a death warrant over his head he is released, given a State sponsored business, and a year’s amnesty for all misdemeanours while he adjusts.

He doesn’t have a year, though. In only five days Lord Vernon gains total power. Unless The Pan can stop him, K’Barth is doomed. The future hangs by a thread, and the only person who can fix it is The Pan: a man without a plan.

And here’s the back…

One Man: No Plan M T McGuire

The back cover of One Man: No Plan by M T McGuire

The snuff box posed a bit of a problem but the choice was pretty slim, not much call for pictures of snuff boxes. The back… well yes, I was extremely pleased with the back.

Looking For Trouble, K’Barthan Trilogy: Part 4

CoverLookingForTrouble

Cornered Hamgeean, with nowhere left to run, seeks time…

The time has finally come when The Pan must stand up and be counted. He must face his demons and rectify the chaos he has caused. He can stop Lord Vernon, and he’s going to, but with a three day wait, the timing is crucial.

To succeed he has to stay alive, a possibility if he keeps his head down and maintains a low profile. But that’s not an easy task for The Pan.

And here’s the back, which I’m insanely pleased with. Sans blurb at this stage.

Back cover, Looking for Trouble.

Back cover, Looking for Trouble.

So there you have it. Book 3 will be out in April and depending on how the editing and beta reading goes, book 4 will be out at the end of April or in May.

This completely excellent cover art has been done by A Trouble Halved, who are ace and can be found here.

As ever I am intrigued to know what you think…

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Happy Christmas

K’Barthan 3 and 4 are with the editor and McMini is running around the house with a gravy baster, pretending it’s a lightsaber. God is in his heaven and all is right with the world.

Merry Christmas everybody. The lego creature is made by McOther. With us as parents, McMini has little hope!

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Author Interiew

Bit of a re-blog this one. Joo’s Book Reviews (and interviews) blog has very kindly interviewed me and you can find out what we talked about, my feet get a mention… and the telly. If you want to have a look it’s here.

You can also find Joo’s review of Few Are Chosen, here.

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