Monthly Archives: November 2013

Adventures in Writing…the future is looking…?

Just returning from Facebook and watching Matt Damon talk about how we need to make changes to the way we run our world. Seems like many celebrities are beginning to enter into the debate for a sort of non-conformist, civil disobedience stance. Russell Brand did a similar thing not so long ago on Newsnight.

I’m an advocate of free-speech. It is immaterial if you agree or not, but the right to voice opinions is a major pillar of our democracy. So let the debate rage, and may it change people’s minds and force us all to look towards the future and do our damnedest to make it a good one!

Now, you may be wondering what on earth any of this has to do with writing.

Well…

The thing is, these questions have always been a rich vein for me to explore creatively.

I wrote a cross-over book entitled ‘The Sandman Cometh’ which explored ideas to do with control. What if we were all fitted with a chip in our heads, inserted at birth, which changed or even removed our memories? What if children no longer had parents, that their lives were manipulated by nameless, faceless governments and every facet of society kept under strict control by the hideous Sandmen of the title? When I was young I used go to sleep with the sound of my heart beating through the pillow, and I believed the noise was that of a drum, signalling the approach of the Sandman. Awful dreams of being ‘caught’ outside after dark, of these things coming through my backyard door to seize me and take me away. And then, the terrible night when my father did not come home, and my mother went out into the dark streets to find him…These incidents occur in my book, and the hero, or anti-hero in many ways, struggles to overthrow the imbalance because his chip has malfunctioned, and he remembers.

Kindle version of The Sandman Cometh

Kindle version of The Sandman Cometh

Well, such a story found inspiration, not only from my dreams, but also in the changes – or advances – brought in by scientific research. Perhaps, in the future, we will not require men and women to co-habit in order for the species to continue. Perhaps a ‘Brave New World’ really is not so very far away?

And then, I began to think of other, more pressing things. The environment, the dangers we face through climate change and over-population. What if governments were secretly conjuring up plans to ‘wipe-out’ huge swathes of the population? What if this ‘cull’ was followed by the rich and powerful being left in charge, with armies of simpletons, their brains made smooth, the drones of a new society? What if someone discovered this plan, a policeman, someone in authority, and tried to do something about it? Well, I plotted and wrote the first draft and then, just the other day, I came across an interview Bill Gates had done…and it is chilling. Yes, the man who promotes helping the Third world and donates millions to the impoverished, appears to be advocating population control…enforced population control. To say I was stunned is an understatement. Maybe my book isn’t so far from the mark…

This book ‘Minus Life’ is finished and is now in the re-editing stage. I am hoping to submit it sometime in the New Year. As with all my books, there is a lot of me in there, with characters and scenarios lifted from my own experiences. Despite books being set in the future, they still need a semblance of truth. This is what makes fiction so powerful. The best stories are not far-fetched, or so improbable that readers shake their heads and toss the book aside. If it is believable, even high-fantasy, then readers will become engaged and will want to finish.

Well, I’ve given a tiny insight into what I do, and how I do it. I hope you enjoy reading about my writing journey, and please comment whenever you can.

Thank you for all your support and please visit my website to catch up on my work and other news. Thanks for reading.

www.stuartgyates.com

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Adventures in Writing…my debt to the good Doctor

After watching the BRILLIANT 50th Anniversary Dr Who, I am reminded of the tremendous debt I owe this iconic show.
I was six years old and the weather outside was bleak. In our living room, the black and white television flickered away in the corner, Grandstand having finished, and ‘Tomahawk’ gracing the screen with yet another great episode. When it ended, I got up to get ready for my tea and a strange, unworldly sound invaded my senses. The TV screen blurred and changed, mystical white shapes ebbing to and fro as music the like of which I had never heard before drew me in. The opening credits of the very first Dr Who. From that moment I was gripped.
Some years later, with everyone at school still buzzing with the wonder of the time-traveller’s adventures, a competition was launched to write a storyline for the Doctor. At the core of this tale was to be a new monster, to test our hero to the upmost.
Well, I wrote a story and from that point, with my imagination soaring, I became a writer.
I was eight.
I can’t remember what happened, or even where the story is now. I think I have some drawings I made of the monster, in the bottom of a box somewhere, but I can’t be sure.
For me, writing enables me, like the Doctor, to travel to new worlds, to populate stories with characters and events that did not exist before I put down the words. Creating, utilising my imagination, this is what gives me purpose and direction. I’m bombarded as I look through all the various social network sites about how to do this, how to achieve that; advice, seminars, books all about ‘how to’ write, ‘how to’ achieve success. The keys to marketing, the secrets of becoming a best-selling author. I used to read some of these. Not any more. Now, I scan over them all, not taking a blind bit of notice. Why is that?
I don’t know.
I’m not convinced by all the hype. Never will be. The screams of the self-published, that traditional publishing is dead, that paperbacks are a thing of the past…Well, I don’t believe it. None of it. Sorry, maybe I too am a dinosaur. E-books are great fun, and it is so easy to browse through the pages of Amazon picking out something new. To then download it (often free!) and have it sitting there, ready to read in a matter of minutes. So convenient and, in many ways, exciting. The anticipation…something akin to wandering inside a sweetshop and choosing the most delicious confectionary to devour with glee.
Mmm…
I buy books, Of course I do. However, almost 90 percent of them are paperbacks, especially non-fiction which I buy regularly to aid in my research.
I do use social networks, I do TRY to promote, because to have strangers – even one – reading my books, the feelings generated by that knowledge is beyond words. I am honoured people enjoy my work and say such lovely things about my stories. It humbles me. But I’m not seduced; I do not make many sales and am nowhere near to becoming ‘known’ and won’t be until I manage to break through into the world of traditional publishing. Because it is only there that success (awful word) will be achieved. That’s my opinion, and I’ll stick with it.
E-books? Yes, they are wonderful, and they do wonders for the environment…I think. Most of my books are e-books, as well as being in paperback. Varangian is receiving good reviews, as indeed are my others.
The cover for my historical novel 'Varangian'. Roadkill_Cover

The problem is, unlike sweets, most of those ‘books’ we download stay in the e-reader unread. How many of us have dozens, perhaps hundreds of free books simply lying there unlooked at? I myself have a number, but I’ve stopped now. What is the point? I’d rather have a book I know I will read. I also like books on shelves. I have all of George Martin’s in paperback, and I wouldn’t swap them for anything. I think, in all honesty, once all the hullabaloo has settled, we will do what we have always done. We will buys books, and read them. Both as e-books and paperbacks. We are not about to witness the demise of traditional books. No way. What will happen is we will be presented with choice. And that has to be a good thing.
But writing itself, the constant striving to succeed? Well, I write because I love it, not to make millions. I won’t be a best-seller, I won’t ever walk into Waterstones and see my books gracing the shelves. There are millions of authors out there, hawking their wares. I am lost in the digital universe. Depressing? Perhaps. But the joy of creating keeps me going and every time I finish a book (and I have written well over thirty) my mind conjures up a new adventure. Because that is what it is – an adventure. My adventure. And, thanks to Dr Who, the journey has been one full of wonder.
Thanks for dropping by, and please go over to my website to check out some news, and read a few sample chapters of Varangian.
http://www.stuartgyates.com
Keep reading!

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Adventures in writing…thoughts about agents

I’ve just read yet another post on how to ‘get an agent’.
It was interesting and well written, as these things often are, and no doubt will help a lot of people who are still struggling with the mechanics of how to approach an agent.
All the usual stuff was there:
Once you’re got your list of agents, find out what their submission guidelines are, if they accept your genre, how you should lay out your query letter… all of it good, sound advice.
But there are two things missing, in my humble opinion.
One, your book has to have at its heart a damned good story. One that will keep readers turning the pages and, when they come to that final page, they sit back and think, ‘Wow, I never wanted that to end’.
And two, it should be well written.
No amount of trawling through websites and redrafting of letters is ever going to make you into a writer unless you have something to say, and you can say it well.

Most of the above, of course, is why a lot of people turn to self-publishing.
However, I’m not one of them. For reasons I’ve stated before, that is not the path for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I hate the entire process of submissions followed by the inevitability of being rejected. What I particularly hate is the use of the word ‘pitch’. It embraces everything I despise in our modern world. The corporate jargon that forces us – or, at least attempts to mould us into salespeople, hard-nosed, aware of the market place. God I hate all of that. However, I think it is misleading in some respects, to constantly hammer on about the importance of making a good first impression with this ‘pitch’. Surely, that comes from how you write? If we’re writers, can’t we produce a good, simple and to the point query letter? Isn’t the opening chapter so much more important? Any agent worth their salt should be able to see immediately if you can string your words together. The biggest hurdle I feel is whether or not your work fits in with their ‘current needs’ or ‘what the market is’. I’m not convinced that the ‘pitch’ has much to do with this. And besides, if you’re passionate about what you’ve written, why not simply say ‘why’. What inspired you to write it in the first place, and what inspires you to carry on an write another one?
Oh well. The only thing to do is to keep plugging on.
varangian and burnt
As for myself, at present I have a few projects in hand. I am writing the sequel to ‘VARANGIAN’, which will take Hardrada’s story up to when he returned to Norway. I’m 60,000 words in, so still have some way to go. Laced in-between are all sorts of sub-plots to do with Maniakes, Nikolias, Leoni and, a new ‘villain’, a chap called Sclerus who wishes to worm his way into power. I hope it’s all good stuff, and the research has so far thrown up all sorts of super interesting facts which I can utilise.

I’m also putting the finishing touches to my final draft before submission of my latest contemporary thriller, entitled ‘Whipped Up’, the follow-up to ‘Burned Offerings’. Then, I’ll be turning my hand to submitting ‘Don Luis and the Ogre’s Lament’ which I will be submitting to ‘Richard and Judy’s Book competition’. We’ll see. It may not be what they are looking for, but I think it’s a good story, re-worked with new scenes.
Reviews are slowly coming in for ‘Varangian’, and so far the feedback is very positive. But I need more! So, if you have read the book, or have bought it – for which I send my thanks – please write a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Smashwords. Reviews really do help an author.
Catch up with where to get my books from my website: http://www.stuartgyates.com
And, you can read some extended excerpts right here from the ‘Eat. Sleep, Write’ website of Adam Scull: http://eatsleepwrite.net/varangian5

Thank you for all your support and, please, whatever you do, keep reading!

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Adventures in Writing…thoughts and dreams about being a writer

The cover for my historical novel 'Varangian'.

The cover for my historical novel ‘Varangian’.


Making life as a writer.
Wow, wouldn’t that be something?
I’ve always dreamed of this. I remember watching a documentary about Val McDermid, and how she gets up in the morning to ‘go to work’, which is essentially a beautiful little annexe on the side of her house. She stays in there all day creating. Wow. The thought of that. To be ‘your own boss’, to have the time, the opportunity to devote oneself one hundred percent to writing…that would be something.
I’m not talking about best sellers, or busting your balls to make a sale, I’m talking about the sheer pleasure of being consumed by your own creations.
That for me is the goal.
I don’t suppose it is ever going to happen though. Everywhere you go, everything you read, it’s all about how the publishing world is changing, how the opportunities for being published have multiplied beyond imaging, how the big publishers only want you if you’re a celebrity, or Harlan Coben. And now, I feel, a lot of people are put off reading ‘new’ writers, from indie publishers, because of the amount of utter tripe there is out there. We really do need a form of quality control. But I have no chance of cutting through all of it, no chance at all. So, it is pretty gloomy and depressing.
I know some writers who work hard all day every day, and dream of having time to go and do normal things, like walking or shopping! They graft away at their ‘job’, but do you know what,. I’d do the swap. I’d work all day writing and give up my day job, and I’d do it in a flash.
Wishful thinking? Well yes, of course it is. I’m never going to be a bestselling writer. How can I be? Even if my books were as good as anything Joyce or Dickens or Hardy wrote. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s just not going to happen. There are simply too many people writing and publishing now, so the dream will have to stay as it is – a dream.
But it’s a lovely one nevertheless, and I’m not going to give up on it, no way!

Please visit my website for links to my books, and extracts from my latest book VARANGIAN, which I hope you enjoy.
http://www.stuartgyates.com
Or follow the link for Amazon.com…HERE

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