Is this folly?

I am in a quandary. Do I finish what I’ve started or do I just chuck the lot in the metaphorical fire? I have five novels that I really ought to get on and finish, but for the last few months I have only been writing short stories and poetry. It isn’t exactly procrastination, it’s more a question of not wanting to add to the pile of unpublished novels waiting for someone (other than me) to love them enough to give them a home.

Yesterday, after Thursday’s tweet fest of novel pitching, I scrolled, bemused, through the tweets that had garnered dozens of likes from literary agents. If that is what gets them going, then I’m living on the wrong planet. And I don’t think it’s because I’m getting old that they all seem to be aimed at the 10-12 year-old demographic. Not surprising really agents are not beating a path to my door.

I did briefly pick up one of my quarter-finished stories, revised what I’d written and added a bit to it, but it’s YA and I’m more in the mood for something grown up. Today, I opened a very small file, a page with a brief story outline of a dozen lines. It was an idea I had on the train journey on our first visit to view this house. I noted it down when I got home before I forgot it, thinking it would make a good short story. Looking at it again at a distance of two years (!) I thought, wow! That would make a tremendous novel!

My gut tells me to dump the hundreds of thousands of words waiting in the wings, and resign myself to them never finding a publisher. I have exhausted almost all the possibilities anyway. I should get on and write yet another epic and hope that this will be the one that cracks it. So, I’m sitting here, trying to steel myself to jumping into another world with a whole bunch of characters I don’t know yet, in a story full of violence, passion, war and peace-making, clash of cultures and battle of the sexes.

My gut is winning…

 

 

Big deal

Tomorrow the third and final book in The Pathfinders series is released. It should be a big day, but I can’t honestly say it thrills me to the core. In two and a half years I’ve had six novels and several short stories published. I believe I write well, and a handful of people have told me so. Maybe it’s true. Whatever, the bottom line is that I haven’t got what it takes to flog books. Because it isn’t enough to write the bloody things, you have to work like a door to door double glazing salesman to con people into buying them. I’m tired. I’d like to write and earn a bit of money from it, but it’s not happening. I have loads of WIP and the motivation to finish any of them just isn’t there.

This summer we are trying to get our very basic, if not primitive, new house into a fit state to live in, patch up and sell the house in town, sort out the five children who are being turfed out of the nest and make sure they all have roofs over their heads. We are battling at a 100 kilometres distance with horny handed peasants with harvesters, the water board, the neighbours who want to build a lake next door, the removal man who’s playing hard to get, and worrying about not having the money to do what needs doing. These are important things, not blathering on about imaginary friends.

I don’t have the time or the energy to promote my books in a low key way, it’s not in my nature to push them in an in your face kind of way, and I don’t have the means to buy advertising to do it for me. I’m not a ‘street team’ person, I’m not going to chat about my characters and pretend they’re real, I’m not going to do blog tours and rafflecopter stuff, or pay for reviews or giveaways. Even giving away review copies has been a waste of time. I know other authors manage to sell their books. Either they are doing a better job of selling themselves, or they have a more dynamic publisher, or they write better books than I do. I know, you can’t have more than two items in an either…or phrase in English, but you can have as many as you like in French, so…

Whatever the reason, I’m backing off. My self-published books are going into an induced coma, and if my publisher doesn’t get into the swing of promotion, The Pathfinders is going to die the death too. I’ll still write poetry and short pieces, and I might even potter along with a WIP, but until the miracle happens and the books already available start to sell, it’s not worth the hassle of even attempting to find a publisher. What about agents? Don’t make me laugh. Just don’t.

Sorry to sound so miserable, but I’m very tired and broke. Tomorrow is release day, again, and unfortunately that means absolutely nothing. I’ve said it before, and I’m saying it again, there are just too many books available, too many readers expect to read for free, and too many ‘novels’ are utter shit. We are adrift is a sea of merde. I give up.

 

Does your writing need the bonkers factor?

The other day I wrote a piece of microfiction in response to the prompt ‘A spring memory.’ It was a nice enough bit of writing, answered the prompt and reproduced a real childhood memory. One reader was kind enough to say that she liked it as far as it went, but in her opinion it would be better if it started with the end.
I thought about it, took the end and made it the beginning, and let the story develop from there. It turned into a much more satisfying piece, a combination of two memories, still real enough, but artistically better.
This experience typifies the frustration I currently feel with the publishing industry. All it needed to change a bit of solid, workman-like writing into a piece of good writing was a suggestion. How many manuscripts are turned down by publishers and agents on the grounds that they ‘aren’t quite ready for publication’ when just a suggestion, a nudge to the imagination, could turn them into exciting novels?
When I submit a manuscript that is as polished as I can make it, working alone in my little corner and completely blinkered as to the possibility of it taking off in a new direction, I am quite aware that it is ‘not quite ready for publication.” For feck’s sake, if it was ready for publication it wouldn’t need an editor, would it? In fact, isn’t that the big deal offered by publishers, that they edit your ms to get it ‘ready for publication’? What do they do to earn their generous cut of the royalties if the author is the one supposed to ‘get it ready for publication’?
Okay, there are a hell of a lot of manuscripts that never will be ready for publication. That doesn’t stop 90% of them getting published anyway one way or another. But I’m talking about the novels that could be very good, profitable novels with just a bit of inspired editing. A good author can take a hint, a suggestion, a new idea and run with it. Why won’t agents and publishers trust the author to produce the goods?
I would love to discover that I am wrong, and that said agents and publishers really can see the statue in the marble and it’s simply that the statue they see in my writing is more like something out of Madame Tussauds than Michelangelo’s David. But I get a horrible feeling from reading some of their wish lists, that they are more concerned with chasing fads than discovering good writing, and nobody has told them that every story has already been written—by Homer. We are all writing variations on the same theme, and adding a fad element to the script doesn’t automatically make it original and interesting.
There might be nothing ‘new’ under the sun, but there is a substitute—novelty. I see that ‘diversity’ is the new watchword, which means apparently cross-dressing, cross-gender, LGBTQ, disabled, and ethnically different (I’ve seen one agent asking for mss from ‘one of the Polish cultures’—how many are there?). The new novelty, we get it. But woe betide you if you slip in a little ‘profanity’ or sexual hanky-panky with the under 18s. Or is it 21s? That’s not diverse, that’s beyond the pale.
I think I’m living on the wrong planet. I can’t write this quirky stuff to order. I won’t give my heroine a wooden leg and dreams of being a ballet dancer just because it’s ‘diverse’. But I will let a seventeen-year-old have sex because, well, in the real world that’s what seventeen-year-olds do.
What’s wrong with writing about the plain and the ordinary, what most of us know best? It’s what Homer did, after all. And Shakespeare and Tolstoy and Austen. There is enough oddity in the majority of the people you pass in the street without having to invent wacky scenarios. While I’m willing to admit that my writing is not ‘quite ready for publication’, I don’t accept that it would be closer to being ready if I tossed in a disabled Polish cross-dresser who dreams of crossing the Atlantic in a washing up bowl…

The Author Hot Seat with David Higgins: We didn’t have genre when I was young

David Higgins is my guest today, a short story writer who has found that the problem of fitting into the category straight-jacket is amplified when your short stories aren’t all in the same style. Here’s how Dave copes with the conundrum and gives us his take on the genre monster.

Dave - Mugshot

Genre didn’t exist when I was young.

While I became aware of genre later (and that other people might be more guided by it) I never let it constrain my reading choices. So it came as a surprise to me when I planned my first release, quite how obsessed the publishing and distribution industry was with genre. And that, for every issue novels faced due to genre, there were twice as many for short story collections.

When I say genre didn’t exist when I was young, I mean of course that I had no reason to care about it when I was a child. The Children’s section of the library in my home town was divided into picture books and other books: the Hungry Caterpillar was separate from Anne of Green Gables; but Enid Blyton was on the same shelves as Andre Norton. I have a vague recollection of a Young Adult classification, but as a sticker on the spine not a defined set of shelves.

My first encounter with genre was when I moved into the Adult shelves: some of the authors who wrote books on both sides of the quasi-arbitrary Adult/Child line were shelved in a special area; others weren’t; and some were shelved in more than one place.

In the decades between moving into the Adult shelves and preparing to publish, my sense of genre as a limitation had almost entirely died. Therefore, it came as a surprise that the most common advice I received when I mentioned publishing to other authors was,“get the genre classification right: books listed in the wrong genre or without a strong genre don’t sell at all.”

As my first publication was Fauxpocalypse, an anthology of short works set after a predicted global disaster didn’t happen, this proved to be quite a puzzler: some of the contributors had written thrillers; some had written horror; some had focused on the external effects of the oncoming threat; some had focused only tangentially referred to social upheaval.

Fauxpocalypse - Front Cover 72dpi

With some retailers giving me only one space for category, I felt real pressure to pick the best fit. But going through the classic genre and sub-genre options, I almost immediately realised it didn’t quite fit most of the options: it wasn’t all horror, or all sci-fi, or all mystery, or all anything.

The options that did fit the entire collection didn’t really seem utterly helpful. It was a fiction anthology, but what did that actually tell the reader about it? Was there any purpose in using up my one chance at finding readers who did confine themselves to a few shelves by defining it as a ‘short-story collection’?

In the end, the best fit was Post-Apocalyptic fiction: in the hope that readers would find similar interest in a world that didn’t end.

The overall experience of publishing Fauxpocalypse having not put me off writing all together, I went through my list of work to decide on a new project. I had a number of short stories that had been published in obscure places where I had the anthology rights. Having read many collections of authors’ republished works over the decades, I decided to release An Unquiet Calm, a collection of my own work.
UnquietCover72

I assumed it would be easier to publish a collection entirely of my own short stories. Ironically, listing it was much harder, for more than one reason.

Where Fauxpocalypse was defined by a common world that would – potentially imperfectly – fit a genre, An Unquiet Calm was defined by all being written by me. There were themes that were common to my writing, and personality types I favoured slightly for characters, but the tropes and settings were varied.

The high church of Literature aside, there are no categories for an author’s specific perspectives on life redrawn as fiction.

And many people who divide fiction into Literature and not, use the division to mean ‘proper fiction’ and ‘speculative fiction’. Thus, as I do write in worlds of science-fiction, fantasy, or horror, Literature didn’t seem ideal either.

Even splitting my collection into science-fiction and not, or any other genre and not, I couldn’t build a collection long enough to be more than a pamphlet.

I was rescued from this metaphysical headache by the discovery of an unspoken rule about genre: “if it sort of fits it might be fine”; my collection would not fail utterly if it was in a genre that didn’t fit one of the stories.

With two collections fitted into the boxes of genre, I thought I had a handle on the issues. So I expanded my reach from the established distributors to more innovative start-ups: lenders of eBooks, and crowd-pricing sites.

With the issue of a physical book having to be in a single place at any one time not present, and the massive power of search engines to leverage, I expected these online models to offer both readers and publishers a new flexibility, and some did.

However, I also found a new set of mandatory boxes: What is the romance level of the book? What is the profanity level of the book? What race is the protagonist? What religion is the protagonist? Where is the book set?

Some apply as easily to a collection as a novel: the profanity, gore, and sex filters are much more likely to be activated by people who wish to avoid them, so can be set to the worst case of all the stories.

But the religion or setting of the book? One of my stories deals with a man wrestling with God’s goodness in an imperfect world, so might be of interest to people who include Christianity in their search; but the remainder of the collection isn’t Christian, so isn’t necessarily what people who exclude Christian protagonists are seeking to avoid. And the locations and time periods are even more diverse: modern day Yorkshire, 1950’s West Country, fantasy Northern Europe, &c.

When I first mentioned I was writing short stories, several people commented it would never produce a career because people don’t read collections of short stories. Having published two collections, I am lead to wonder whether it is not a dislike of short stories but an inability to find them that is stopping the collections being read.

As long as libraries and book shops have a physical presence (and I hope it this will be a long time), there will be a need for a label to physically sort books, but by taking the genre model into the realm of detailed searches and extending the constraints rather than the options, distributors make it harder for authors and for readers.

So I hope the vast potential of online distribution will allow a return to that innocence of childhood: when we can find adult stories about a princess who is both a ninja and an elephant as easily as stories about a space captain who is different but not too different from the space captains of other books.
* * * *

Thank you, Dave for adding another point to the growing list of problems writers have with the publishing industry’s mania for classification and sub-classification. Short story collections start off with the handicap that everybody *knows* nobody reads them. Tell people that often enough and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’d be interested to hear how you get on with promoting your work. Thanks again for an entertaining and instructive article.

Dave Higgins has worked in law and IT for both public and private sector organisations. When not pursuing these hobbies, he writes poetry and (mostly) speculative fiction.

He was born in Wiltshire, England. Raised by a librarian, he started reading shortly after birth and has not stopped since. He currently lives in Bristol with his wife, Nicola, his cats, Jasper and Una, and many shelves of books.

More details on Fauxpocalypse, An Unquiet Calm, other publications, and free samples of his work can be found here.

He can also be found on various social media:
Twitter: @David_J_Higgins
Google+: +DaveHiggins
Pinterest: davidjhiggins

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The Author Hot Seat: with Christopher Jackson-Ash

Nobody but Chris and myself knew that this article was due to be posted at the end of June, but I still feel as though I owe everybody an apology for making you wait. I finally tracked Chris down hacking his way through the Malaysian jungle and got the editing problem sorted out, so here it is. Epic, heroic fantasy readers are in for a treat with this series, I can see.

Christopher Jackson-Ash Talking to Himself (As Usual)

Christopher Jackson-Ash is in his late fifties and lives in Melbourne Australia. He has had a varied career in chemical engineering and risk management. Now that his children are grown up, he has returned to bohemia and is concentrating on his first love, writing. His main focus is on his FirstWorld multiverse inspired by Michael Moorcock and J.R.R. Tolkien. His work extends through flash fiction and short stories to novels in other genres, including children’s stories.
He works with his alter-ego, Kris the Bard. Kris writes …
I was born in Karo on FirstWorld and grew up to be a cook before I was kidnapped by pirates and unwillingly forced into the service of the evil wizard Weylyn the Wolf. After many adventures I saved the Everlasting Hero’s life, became Bard of Elannort, and eventually ended up in this dimension of the multiverse.
They live at http://firstworld.info/ where they share a blog. The web site also showcases the art work of Nat Turner. Nat runs a tattoo parlour in the English West Midlands.

Two-headed lemur creature
Two-headed lemur creature
The Battle of Elannort
The Battle of Elannort
Tamarlan
Tamarlan

CJA writes …

I feel like I’m living in a time warp. After a lifetime of doing everything else, and ultimately achieving very little, I have returned to what I wanted to do in the first place – telling stories. The FirstWorld multiverse has been in my head for forty years, but I’m only now starting to get it into a permanent record. I’m 58 but I feel like I’m 18 again, writing the stories that Tolkien and Moorcock inspired in me.
Everyone knows Tolkien, of course. Lord of the Rings is a classic and my favourite book ever. Moorcock is pretty widely known, perhaps less so now than when he was at his prolific best (in my opinion) in the 60s and 70s.
So, I’m writing about a multiverse where Law and Chaos battle for supremacy and the Balance tries to, well, keep a balance. There’s a Hero and a Sword, but there are also elves and dwarves. It’s Moorcock meets Tolkien. Of course there’s a hidden metaphor for something too.
I have no idea what Tolkien thought about Moorcock, but the great irony is that Moorcock has been very critical of Tolkien’s work, once describing it as Winnie the Pooh for grown-ups. What would he think of mine?
I’m stuck in my teenage years and writing what I would have enjoyed reading then. Does it have a meaning or a market today? Will I sell any books?
In the end, it doesn’t really matter, because the story has to be told. It would be nice, though if a few people get to read it and enjoy it.
I describe my work as ‘high fantasy without the verbosity’ and ‘a fast moving story’. I don’t know who my target audience is, after all everyone loves fantasy, don’t they? Well, anyone of any background and any age can love fantasy, or hate it. People say my target audience is young adult males, but I reckon middle-aged women are just as much a target demographic.
I struggled for years, collecting rejection slips from agents and publishers, before embarking on self-publication. I even succumbed to paying one agent to read my work, based on a recommendation from a writing friend who the agent represented. The resulting report would have made hilarious reading, had I not paid for it. My Hero has a distinguishing mark, and it’s on a very private part of his anatomy. When people travel through time, they arrive at the other end naked and without any belongings. This is a well-known SF technique to prevent the time line being contaminated with technology from the future. The agent said that this had never been done before and for very good reason. She also said that a focus on the Hero’s penis made the book homoerotic. There is barely anything erotic in the book, let alone homoerotic. I guess the lesson is to try to pick an agent that understands your genre.
Writers, in general, are not well rewarded financially. And yet, there’s a huge industry trying to fleece us of what few dollars we have. Many providers are genuine, offering good products, but many are scam artists. You should never pay to have an agent or publisher read your work.
One thing that has changed in the multiverse and in the genre since I grew up is the status of women, for the better. My Hero is traditionally male and overcomes adversity to find and save his soul mate. He travels with male companions and while there are strong female characters in my first books, they are rather few and far between. Am I stuck in a time warp, writing a cliché? I worried that I would be seen as a dinosaur and an anti-feminist. I still do. I intend to address the situation in the second series of books; working title FirstWorld Revisited. My Hero will be female – she’s the daughter of the Hero in the first series and has his genetic inheritance. I have made a rod for my own back though: where will the distinguishing mark be found?
Although it’s fantasy, there are serious messages in my work. I try to write at several levels. If all you want is a fast-paced (hopefully) entertaining story then you can skip through it and get that. If you want to be made to think, then you can read it at a much deeper level. There’s lots of hidden stuff there from history, myth, and the genre. Some are subtle, some less so. My special place at the centre of the multiverse is Elannort and at its centre is the Wizards’ Keep, Melasurej. Those names are fairly obvious references to both Moorcock and our dimension.*
There are four novels in the FirstWorld Saga, available as eBooks. The first volume, Quest for Knowledge can be downloaded free (or a small donation) at http://books.noisetrade.com/christopherjacksonash/quest-for-knowledge
The third volume, A View of the Past, has just been self-published. The final volume has just returned from beta reading and will be undergoing a final rewrite before heading to editing. It should be published before the end of 2014.

CJA
CJA

*Elannort is an anagram of Moorcock’s fabled city of Tanelorn. Melasurej is Jerusalem backwards.

KtB
KtB
Melasurej in Elannort
Melasurej in Elannort
Kris the Bard always has to get a few words in, and generally has the last word.
Kris the Bard always has to get a few words in, and generally has the last word.

While CJA may delude himself that makes up these fantastical stories, and he has never been outside of this dimension, I know better. I am his muse. I am the channel for the stories, which are all true because I have lived them. How I came to be in this dimension will be revealed at the end of volume four, A Vision of the Future. In the multiverse, that may not be infinite but is very large, there is room and possibility for almost everything. In some reality you, dear reader, are a highly successful writer. You have the talent. You have the capacity for the hard work. Find yourself a good editor and a great artist. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be in this dimension and now. That means you too, CJA!
KtB

Thank you for writing this post, Chris. It certainly gives me hope for the future of my writing in a world where you first have to find an agent/publisher who actually understands what you’ve written. I wish you the best of luck with the next series. No doubt you already have an audience waiting with bated breath to find out exactly where you are going to stick that distinguishing mark…

How to get a literary agent…or not

I’ve just been reading a blog post about what agents and publishers want to see when they Google your name. You know what’s funny about the answer? They don’t seem to be looking at what you’ve written.

They want to see that you’re active, that you’re blowing your own trumpet on all the social media. They check that you’ve got a this account and a that account. They check that you haven’t been criticising publishers or agents (they really don’t like that). They want to see whether your writing has been well-received by other people who’ve seen it. So much for them using their own judgement.

I have no idea whether agents or publishers have ever Googled me—apart from my former unregretted publisher who probably wanted to check up on what I was saying about them. If they have, they have obviously decided to pass on the other side of the street. Whatever they discovered about my public persona was not liked. I’m assuming they didn’t pay much attention to what I write. Because the BOOK, the quality of the writing doesn’t seem to cut much ice.

Once again I get a faint whiff of something going off. Is it so unreasonable to expect that agents would be acting like old-fashioned talent scouts and looking out for a great BOOK? Doesn’t that happen anymore? Is it only author brands that are picked out of the pile? What’s going off seems to be any kind of literary criticism. What’s of interest is what’s already selling.

I don’t expect agents to be risk-takers. I don’t expect them to bet their shirts on some way-out wacky concept that only about 0.5% of the population would even understand. But I do expect them to be able to judge the literary merits of a book and be able to sell it. The exasperating thing is, the impression I’m getting is that they are just looking for trends, author brands that follow the trend, and authors who are already well on the way to making a name for themselves. They don’t even seem interested in setting trends, because that implies bringing to bear a certain amount of critical literary judgement and not just a talent for accounting.

Am I not looking at this the right way? Is it just sour grapes because I’ve never been able to get a literary agent to give me the time of day? Maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about—I only have my own experience to go by and what I see on agents’ wish lists. YooHoo! Passing literary agents! Look at me! I can write. Does that matter any more?

The Author Hot Seat

Today in the Author Hot Seat my guest is Lockard Young and the first MG author to volunteer to reveal all. Lockie’s article is the story of his journey as a writer, intimately woven into his life as a family man. It’s an inspiring story. I found it touching that his experiences mirror very closely those of many women writers. So, ladies, we too can be at the giving out end when it comes to criticising writing spouses. Lockie though is blessed with an understanding partner who forgives him his little foibles.
I’m handing over to him now, to tell you about his writing and why he does it.

DSCN2473

I started writing nearly 20 years ago as an experiment to try and learn to type on our then brand new computer. I was out of work with 2 small boys at home, so while my wife worked I would play Mr. Mom, at least for the day. While the children were down for naps, I would clickity clack away in an awkward hunt and peck method. I got bored with typing “The quick brown fox” sentence, so I started to make up my own sentences. Now I had no idea about hand placement so my awkward wooden fingers just plodded on, and the ancient word program I had that came with the PC was so very cool, it was like magic. Gone were the messy inked ribbons, carbon paper, and ‘white out’. A simple click on the backspace button and the mistake was gone. What I didn’t expect was this story pouring out of my head and onto the monitor screen. Born out of my imagination a character was taking shape, and he was telling an amazing story.
One day my wife came home from a tiring day at work to find the living room a mess with toys, our two toddlers busy with blocks and toy cars, and supper not even started, never mind cooked. I had made sure I kept an ear out for trouble in the living room (our oldest boy could somehow escape from the playpen) but they were safe and sound, and I had simply lost track of time. And so after discussing my lack of help, loudly discussing my lack of help, I admitted my addiction. That’s right, this story was now an addiction. When I didn’t have distractions like children or upset wives, like on weekends and evenings, I would climb into my story and feel it envelope me, and I would not even stop for a cigarette, my other addiction at the time. Eventually my wife’s curiosity got the best of her and so one evening I read everyone my story. It was about a young boy who discovered a real live creature beneath the ground in his back yard. This creature is known to humans only as a legend, a mythical beast, but the main character is able to communicate with this Legend through telepathy, and he learns why this species has hidden from Mankind for so many centuries. The characters in my book were named after my children, and they both listened intently as the story unfolded.
I wrote Ryan’s Legend because my boys wanted to know “What happens next Daddy?” and with nothing written I had to write more, and because the book has short chapters and is meant for young children to read,with simple sentences and cliff hanger chapter endings, I was told it was a Middle Grade Fantasy. I find it hard to nail it down to just one genre, because it also appeals to adults, as I discovered when I test drove it for a group of senior citizens, and they wouldn’t let me leave until I had read the entire book. Today, there are things called tags. Apparently this amazing entity we call the internet (it really is alive you know) knows how to search out these tags, so I would tag Ryan’s Legend with names like Fantasy, educational (because the MC learns about nature) and Nature, secrets, Legends. All of these words describe this very short story which fits somewhere between a short story and a novella. At roughly 12,000 words, I stopped because I was told it was getting to be too long for middle graders, and I continued to add to the sequel many years later, when I was offered publication of the first book. At present my publisher has shown an interest in the sequel, but we haven’t reached the contract stage as yet.

RyansLegend_cover2 1200X1800

While I was and am still discovering my passion for writing I continue to try different styles and themes. After all, what is an addiction if we don’t experiment along the way? I have a detective novel that I add to now and then when I get stuck for words on something else, I have a Science fiction short story I wrote years ago called Techno Man (surprisingly some of the things I wrote in that piece have come true), and I have a few short stories, all under 5000 words, which includes a Fairy Tale. Oh, and I am also working on an auto biography, which is so much different then Fiction, about my experience with arterial disease, and living life as an amputee as a result of a clogged artery, and an operation that went sideways. As a result of my new journey on a different road, I have also written a speech, which I will give someday to inspire others, called Depression and the 80% solution. You can view that on my blog, with the link below.And Just the other day I wrote a humorous piece about the trials of coping with an artificial leg and the pitfalls of life in a wheelchair, called “My Sweaty Old Stump” (yeah…it’s a working title). I also have written numerous poems, some of which I don’t like, but I found out long ago not to trash those poems and stories you don’t like. They say the harshest critic is oneself, and I’ve discovered that some of my poems and stories that I absolutely hated, other’s like, and so I rarely trash any completed piece anymore. One of those poems I nearly threw out was my attempt at an Edgar Allen Poe type poem called Beneath my Bed. I had a lot of positive feedback on that poem, but poetry for me has always been more of a nuisance to me than anything else. Rhyming words that strike me, sometimes in the middle of the night, that I just have to write down or they haunt me. I’ve been told my poetry, at least some of it, is very good, but it is something I’ve never had much confidence in.
You asked me Which Author influenced my writing. I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t read much as a very young boy, other than the Archie comics and “the Hardy Boys” mystery series. Richard Adams wrote an amazing tale called Watership Down, where animals are Characters, and since I was thinking of that book when I animated Ryan’s Legend, and brought that creature alive and able to ‘talk’ to Ryan, I suppose you could say I was influenced by that book to a certain extent. One of my favorite authors is Stephen King, but I have yet to write in his Genre, but those are impossibly big shoes to fill, so I just try to be L.F.Young, and write first for me, because if I’m not having fun writing, then it becomes work, and I already worked for 35 years as a Plumber. Once I have had my fun writing, it is then I will give it to my readers, and that is really the hardest part for me. The letting go of something that you live and breath and become for a while. I give my stories to my readers reluctantly, because I have nurtured those tales like children, and no parent likes to let go of their children.
You also asked about Amazon, Jane. You may not like what I have to say about Amazon. Is it a necessary evil? Perhaps so, but I would tell anyone reading this, not to get discouraged by the numbers on amazon. They are terribly skewed in a way, to sales. If you got 150 of your friends to all go on Amazon at the same time and buy your book you would climb in the ratings. Now there is your sign. I suppose that is the most important thing in the whole world for a new writer. To be famous and fabulously rich, but the truth is, that is just not how it is. A writer, especially a published writer, has to work hard to promote themselves, and that is especially true if you self publish. That is the part I have trouble with. Tooting my own horn. A writer can’t depend on the publisher alone to do the promoting of your book, and of you. That’s right, you are now a commodity. Nothing more than a bag of sugar in a warehouse full of bags of sugar. You have to convince the consumer (the reader) that this bag of sugar is the absolute best one in the whole building, and that is easier said then done.
One way to get your name out there is to actually promote someone else. I had no idea who Jane Dougherty was, or who Chris the story reading ape was (if you put all those words together you will find his Blog) but Chris featured me one time on his Blog, and I found Jane through Chris, and so the networking will begin. The worse thing for a writer is no self confidence. And it doesn’t take much to knock a person down. A few rejection letters will do that in no time, but remember who you ultimately write for, your audience.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope you will read my book Ryan’s Legend, perhaps to your children, or with them. It’s so very important to keep our species reading, because without imagination, we are just machines.

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Let me leave you with these words I wrote…
How many great Gems
Were lost to thought
And not put down to pen
We can but think of just a few
And then they’re lost again.
Lockie Young AKA L.F. Young

Thank you for your optimism, Lockie. It’s easy to let lack of sales get us down, but you remind us all that sales aren’t the be all and end all of success.
If you would like to find out more about L.F.Young you can find him here
http://morningrainpublishing.com/project/ryans-legend/ The book

http://poems-and-other-ramblings.webnode.com/ My website

http://lockardyoung.wordpress.com/ Blog

https://www.facebook.com/ryanslegend Facebook Author Page

The author hot seat

To kick off my foray into the world of the author interview, I’m pleased to invite an old friend and fellow sufferer of Authonomy, Kate Jack. We swapped notes about fantasy writing before we ever tried to get published. Then we swapped rejection letters. Now we swap notes about promotion.
kj
J: Kate, we know you write fantasy, and very good fantasy too. Could you tell us a bit about your work, its setting, and what provides your inspiration.
K: The first book in The Silver Flute Trilogy is called Land of Midnight Days. It’s a dystopian urban fantasy, set in a city not unlike my home town of Liverpool. The main protagonist is called Jeremiah Tully, who is a half Elwyn, half human musician, and to top it all, mute. The story takes the reader on a whirlwind journey, as Jeremiah tries to find out who he really is, and what purpose his musical gift holds.
The inspiration for the book came from staring out the window at work, at the famous art deco Littlewoods building. I remember thinking it would make a good scene for a story. I mulled the idea over for a while, gathering together other locations, such as Allerton Hall, a local mansion house, now converted into a pub/restaurant, and bombed out church, St Luke’s, in Liverpool city centre.

J: I was always struck by the originality of Jeremiah, your main character.
K: When I first thought up the character of Jeremiah, I wanted to make him a musician, but wasn’t sure what instrument he would play. Then one day I was listening to 70’s rock band Jethro Tull – and wham! That, and the Littlewoods building, gave me the impetuous to write the book.

J: Did you try to get agents/publishers interested? I’m told they can be very useful when it comes to marketing and promotion.
K: I did the usual rounds of agents and publishers, and came close to a publisher wanting to take the book on, but they pulled out. As for agents, it’s easier to get an interview with God than it is to interest them in your work. Regarding marketing, well unless you’re a best seller, publishers don’t really get involved. However, they’re quite a few eBook sites that will promote your book free of charge, or for a small fee.

J: Have you found any consumer resistance to your chosen genre?
K: Not really. Urban fantasy is now becoming a recognised genre.

J: I’m glad to hear you’re not tearing your hair out and asking: what am I? like some of us. You say that the burden of promotion almost always falls on the author. How do you get the word out?
K: I follow any links I find on Facebook for promotional sites such as: eBook soda, Awesome Gang, and so on

J: If you were to direct the public towards your novels, whose fans would you solicit?
K: Probably Jim Butcher, author of The Dresden Files. He also writes urban fantasy, with a touch of mythology thrown in for good measure.

J: Finally, is there any advice or experiences you’d like to pass on?
K: Don’t give up. It’s very easy to become disheartened, because writing is so competitive. Also, don’t rush your work, polish it until it shines. Nothing irritates me more than misspelling, bad grammar, and most of all the incorrect use of the words, “your” and “you’re. “ My experience as a writer has ranged from extreme highs, to the utter depths of despair. That said, if you’re not prepared to weather these storms, don’t become a writer.

I think we’d all agree with those words of common sense. Thank you, Kate for introducing us to your writing. You can find Kate’s books here:
http://goo.gl/M1w6M6 (Land of Midnight Days)

gloaming cover
http://goo.gl/jxGS4Z (Through the Gloaming)

read my review of Land of Midnight Days here

and catch up with Kate here:
http://kateannejack.wordpress.com/
https://www.facebook.com/KatrinaAnneJack (Facebook page)
http://katrinajack.weebly.com/ (Website)
https://twitter.com/kateannejack

Have faith

We all know the feeling only too well, the sinking, desolate sensation when yet another rejection pings into the inbox. That was the one you were pinning your hopes on, that was the agent who would really love the book, the publisher who would be so thrilled to be offered it. It was exactly the kind of thing they said they were looking for. Except that they didn’t want the version of the next big thing you were proposing.

After a number of rejections, how many or how few depends very much on the thickness of your skin, the doubt sets in, the fear that maybe what you have written isn’t such a wow of a story after all. You slow down on the queries and the submissions, take another look at that all so important opening, get out the check list of what not to put into it.

Sometimes you will be able to step back far enough from your ‘baby’ and judge it critically. Sometimes you will be lucky enough to have a critique partner who will have the talent to see the errors and the courage to tell you about them. Sometimes though, there just isn’t anything wrong with the book at all. Sometimes it is a perfectly crafted gem of a book and not a single word needs changing in it. But it just isn’t commercial.

That is what happened to a very good writer friend of mine. Her book was perfect. There was no point fiddling with it, tweaking openings and adding hooks. It was perfect the way it was. And no agent would touch it with a barge pole because it requires a little audience participation, because it isn’t the kind of book you can read with one eye on the dinner cooking on the stove. It looked as though this was going to be one of those books that sits in a drawer for decades gathering dust, or is self-published and sinks straight into oblivion.
Yesterday though, I received the great news that a wonderfully open-minded publisher has decided to take a chance with the non-commercial aspect. She is prepared to brave the Philistines who will doubtless say the book is too difficult, that you can’t read it while you are doing the ironing, the language isn’t modern, the heroine isn’t kick-ass enough. She has made an offer for it just because the book is so good.

This book, after so many rejections, has found a home. I am thrilled on behalf of my friend, but also thrilled to find that not every publisher thinks like an accountant. Of course they all want to make a living, but there’s a difference between making a living and making a fortune. Very few books do make a lot of money for their publishers, but that doesn’t mean publishers aren’t looking at every submission like gold prospectors, hoping that this one will turn out to be a little gold mine. The chances of a beautifully written, completely unclassifiably original book being that lucky vein are slim. The next fad is more likely to be the vegan vampire, or the zombie with a heart, the shape-shifting hamster, the tailless mermaid etc.

Tonight I am celebrating not only my friend’s good fortune in finally matching up with her publisher, but also the publisher who sees further than the bundles of dollars in the offing. There’s a message here for all of us: have faith in what you write, don’t let the bastards get you down, stick with it, and good will out. You’ll see.

Writing

After the bitter disappointment of last week when the release of my first book was postponed yet again, I have had time to take stock. For a writer, the ultimate goal is understood to be publication, and the recognition even if only by a small number of readers, that the work that went into producing that book was worth it. But when there’s a glitch in the publication process, when something happens that pushes the finishing line further into the future, the question arises: is publication really what it’s all about?

I have one book that is caught up in the tangled web of editing to a publisher’s satisfaction. But I have others, other worlds, other stories that I have written and revised, more that are waiting to be set down and brought to light. I started a new story today and I realise that the satisfaction to be had from creating not the story, because there is nothing new under the sun, but the way of telling it is enough in itself. The satisfaction of writing that final line, when the words come just right, and the story is told, is not like the excitement of knowing that a story is available to be read by millions of people. It is a deeper, more personal contentment, and I am happy with that. Publishers publish. Writers write.