Category Archives: fiction writing

Adventures in Writing … things which were dragged across the floor at night!

Thought I’d put this down, seeing as it’s Halloween … And it’s true, every word.

Many years ago, when the days were so much longer and the grass greener, I used to go and visit my then girlfriend over in Kirkdale, Liverpool. She lived with her parents, brothers and sister in a new build. We’d been going out for quite some time when I finally got the invite to ‘stay over’. This didn’t mean my sleeping on the couch, oh no. I would have a bed – one of her brother’s, who was away for that particular weekend.

How excited was I!

I was young, full of wide-eyed innocence. We sat together on the sofa, watched a film on TV, said goodnight to her mum and dad, and continued to sit, talk, do a little bit of mooching … Innocent.

You get the picture?

I hope so.

Well, as the night continued and the silence grew, we sat in the dark, savouring the moment, happy to be alone.

And then it began.

At first, I thought it was her brothers playing tricks. Their bedroom was directly above us and it seemed they were dragging their beds across the floor, the sound coming through the ceiling. We laughed at first, but when it continued, we became a little peeved. Through the crack around the living room door, the light from the hallway filtered through. I said I would go up and ask them, politely, to stop. But when I stood up and pulled open the door, the light went off.

Now, at this point, I have to confess, no thoughts of the supernatural entered my mind. What did was a developing anger. Her brothers were taking this too far now, no doubt wanting to disrupt our time together, having great fun at our expense.

The light to the kitchen was on. This was their mistake, I knew it for sure. I would rush in, confront them, beat them at their own game. So I did, and what I saw caused me to revaluate all my former ideas.

The kettle was boiling.

Now, this in itself is not so very disturbing, but when you consider the plug was out of its socket, then you can begin to understand the rising sense of fear which brewed up from inside me.

Shaking, I returned to the living room. My girlfriend, herself annoyed at her brothers’ antics, said it was time to go to bed. She’d have ‘words’ with the pair of them in the morning, make their ears ring!

But after we said goodnight and went to our respective rooms, the mysteries of the night were not yet finished. I snuggled down under the duvet and closed my eyes. The brothers were asleep in their own beds, for they all shared the same room. Peace at last, I said to myself, pushing aside the curious happenings of the kitchen, the lights, the strange noises … until they started again.

Somewhere from across the room it came, a slow, relentless sound of something, not unlike a brush or coarse cloth being rubbed across the wall. I listened, hardly daring to breathe, wondering what this sound was, my imagination going into overdrive. Perhaps it was my imagination. But to conjure up something so real, so close? No, this wasn’t me, this was really happening.

I sat up, peering through the darkness, my eyes by now well accustomed to the gloom. And as I looked to where the sound emanated, it moved. Slowly at first, but gathering speed, it travelled across the far wall and made its way relentlessly around the room towards where I sat. As it drew closer, so the noise increased, until it seemed as if it filled the entire room.

In classic, horror-film style, I threw myself under the covers and lay there, quivering, the noise growing louder, ever louder.

And then it stopped.

Right next to me.

Silence.

I waited, with my heart pounding even louder than the recent noise, and as the minutes crawled by, I gradually relaxed. At some point I drifted off into sleep.

In the morning, I told my story to my girlfriend and she listened, her face pale. She told me she too had heard the noise and both of us were gripped by a confused dread. What could it be?

It didn’t take us so very long to find out.

I visited Liverpool City library. The simple fact was, the housing estate where my girlfriend lived was behind Kirkdale hospital, a huge, sprawling and vacant monstrosity of a building. Walking beside it was enough to give anybody the willies, so, acting on a hunch, I went to the reference section and discovered something, which seemed to explain everything.

The housing estate was built on the site of the hospital morgue.

Yes, that’s right. The place where they stored the bodies.

And porters moved trolleys.

The noise we heard, of beds being dragged across the floor, was this. A memory, forever imbedded in the fabric of time and space. What other explanation could there be?

And the rubbing?

Well, that is still a mystery, perhaps never to be solved.

big cover

This happened almost forty years ago and I have never experienced anything else quite like it. What the noises really were, I cannot honestly say. Subsequent sleep-overs at my girlfriend’s house saw no repeat of what happened that night, so the mystery remains.  But the memory lingers and has helped me craft more than one horror story. Writing as Glenn Stuart, I have penned nine paranormal mysteries, amongst them my personal favourite, ‘Interlopers from Hell’, set in my home town and not so very far away from that spooky, grim edifice of a hospital, which is no longer there, but continues to conjure up the terror of that night.

So enjoy your Halloween, my friends, and always keep an open mind concerning things which go bump, or are dragged, in the night!

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Adventures in Writing – another summer over

This will be the first month since I started writing this blog that I have got nothing to say.

There are a number of reasons for this.

One, I feel very strongly that anything I say doesn’t really matter (refugees, climate change, they are a LOT more important).

Two, the woes of the world make ANYTHING I say totally irrelevant

Three, writing books is not such a big deal – we authors are not the font of all knowledge

So, to bring things into perspective, I’m going to write about what happened to me this month…a personal overview of four weeks or so of my ever-changing life.

I decided to enrol my youngest daughter in my school. Her mother was not impressed. I tried to convince her that having a choice, having options, is a good thing. Imagine having the option at 18 of either going to a Spanish University or a British one. Or, even at 16, having the option of trying to find a job in Spain, or a having the chance to go to a British FE college and leaning, training for a career that she will love. I wish I had those sorts of options. I left school with not very much. A grade ‘C’ in English and Art. Yeah, well with that I’m not even going to get into the Civil Service. So…my choices were limited, hers will not be.

I wrote a book over the summer. That’s quite an achievement, even if I say so myself. 65,000 words. A Western. I’ve always wanted to write a Western and it simply flowed out of me. I had to change the title a few times, but in the end, I went with ‘Unflinching’, a little like ‘Unforgiven’, but nothing like the same story. Set BEFORE the American Civil War, in 1857 this book tells the story of a Pinkerton Detective who sets out to find the kidnapped daughter of a general he served under. In the Mexican War. It is gutsy and full of violence. Which is how Westerns should be. I loved writing it, I hope you love reading it.

cover draft

The very wonderful cover of my soon-to-be-released novel ‘Unflinching’, a Western set in 1857 America.

Publishing a book is always fraught with problems. Small independant publishers do go out of business. They cannot survive in this cutthroat world, so where does that leave us poor authors? Do I self-publish, or find another publisher? I think my publishers are very good, although I was let down recently by some mistakes in the editing process, mistakes which were panned by a reviewer! Rightly so. Anyway, I got in touch with the publisher and we have worked together to iron out all the errors, of which there were not many, to be fair. I suspected there might have been a faulty with the reviewer’s E-reader. It does happen, because some of the things she said simply didn’t add up when I went through the manuscript. Anyway, it’s done… Another book of mine had a tiny mistake. The name of one of the characters changed towards the end, This was another publisher and their response was very different. They won’t make the changes! So, I am going to withdraw my book from them, close the contract, go with someone else. There a lot of good publishers out there…but there are plenty that aren’t. It is so difficult to find the right one, isn’t it. To self-publish sometimes seems like the easy option, but I’m still convinced to try and get picked up by one of the big publishers is what it is all about. So, that’s what I’ll do.

Did I tell you I completed the first parto f a TV adaptation of one of my books? It was such hard work, but I’m hopeful I’ll be rewards when it is put out on our TV screens!!!

Summer is over and it has been busy. Western, TV episode, and another book also completed. I’ve struck a deal with a publisher to publish 4 of my books. Sounds good. Well…we’ll see. I’m very pragmatic about the whole industry now. Like I say … We’ll see. I think that is the best policy.

Wait. Keep an open mind. And, as it turns out … Nothing to say this month? Well…quite a lot in the end!

Keep reading people.

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Adventures in Writing – my Western, part one.

Writing during the summer months usually finds me accelerating my output, embarking on new projects, finishing off old ones.

This year is no different, despite soaring temperatures causing the entire process to be an arduous one!

With July barely half way through, I’ve completed the final edits of my novella ‘Fallen Past’, and the first adaptation for a television serial of my book ‘Roadkill’. With both of these out of the way, I can put my energy into writing biographies for famous Vikings, which I’ve been invited to do for an artist friend of mine (more news of that when it is done) and starting a new novel, in a genre I have always wanted to try.

The Western!

I reckon (notice the easy way in which I slip into Western-like parlance!) I should keep a log of my progress, so here it is.

DAY ONE

Writing first few chapters. In a deadbeat town in the Utah of the 1850s, a retired army general is embroiled in a bank robbery and is shot. As he lies bleeding, his daughter is abducted. US Marshalls, summoned to find the daughter as our good general is a hero of the Mexican War, are waylaid and killed, possibly by Indians. The Pinkerton Detective Agency over in Illinois, charged with finding the missing girl, send Officer Simms  out across the Territory to find her. Simms knows the general, served with him in the War. He’s the perfect choice. He’s also a killer, which might help.

But he’s travelling to a violent, unpredictable land. An added terror is the land is gripped by the worst drought in living memory. This does nothing to lighten Simms’s mood. Soon, starving Indians, merciless bounty-hunters and other, even more despicable individuals punctuate his progress. But he can handle it. Simms is tough. The toughest there is. Utah may be about to find itself pitched into all-out war, but none of this matters one jot to Simms. All he cares about is the girl.

But will he find her alive?

Well, okay, I’ve put down 8,000 words so far, which is about a tenth of the way through, which isn’t bad for my first outing. I might have it done in less than two weeks at this rate! More of the same tomorrow, because when a story takes hold, there’s no way I can shrug it off.

I’m not sure if it will be successful. I don’t even know if a publisher will accept it. Westerns aren’t the most popular of genres, but I don’t care. I’m past all that now. I write for myself, what I enjoy. This used to be my benchmark, and so it is again. I’ve discovered in this business, publishers don’t really give a damn. Not many others do either, and I can’t blame them. It is impossible to make yourself known in this business nowadays, so what is the point in killing yourself in trying. That’s my motto now. I write, for me. If someone else likes it, that’s a bonus. The world is awash with books, a lot of them are pure bilge, and authors battle like demented insects around a light bulb, all of them jostling for the best position. I see it and read it all the time; Twitter and Facebook alive with adverts and posts screaming out why you should read such-and-such book. I steer clear of them all. I suspect people do the same with mine, because yes, I do indulge. One of my publishers tells me to, even though it’s all a bunch of crap. Anyway, I digress. This book is going to be great fun. Great fun to write, hopefully to read.

Next time, I’ll detail subsequent chapters.

Stay tuned and thanks for dropping by.

If you are in the least bit curious as to what I do, please visit my website where you can find out a lot more about me, my work and where to buy copies of my book! If you like spies, adventure and Vikings, you’ll like my books. I write thrillers, historical and contemporary ones, and now Westerns! Yeeha!!!

www.stuartgyates.com

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Adventures in Writing – virtual book tour for Whipped Up lost amongst the sadness…

I’ve been reading up on this creating an e-mailing list stuff which is clogging the airwaves (is it airwaves when you’re using the internet? Mm…). Anyway, it’s like every other piece of ‘advise’ you get out there. It’s naff.

Marketing guys – and gals – are sure great at telling everyone how easy it is. So-much-so that Amazon is now completely full up with 99 percent crap. So, I’m beginning to seriously ask myself, what is the point.

And I have the answer.

There isn’t one.

There is no point beating yourself, or myself, up over this. If none of this marketing works, what’s a poor, struggling writer to do? Well, this is what I do. It doesn’t make me any money, but it keeps me writing, which is the main part as far as I’m concerned.  I received an email from Amazon, nudging me towards one or two books on ‘writing a Kindle a week’, that sort of BS.  So let us have a look at the writing process from the eyes of someone who writes. And it’s free!

Step one. You have an idea. It may not be much of an idea. It may be a sentence, maybe even a word. But, whatever it is, you see it in your head. It’s like a picture, or a scene from a movie. You write it down. Doesn’t matter where. The important thing is to write it because, if you don’t, you’ll forget. Trust me. I know.

Step two, without really thinking too much (deep thinking is very bad for fiction writers; it clogs the imagination, interrupts the flow), you develop this germ of an idea. You might write a paragraph, perhaps even an entire chapter. It doesn’t matter which. The key is, to write. As above. Write.

Step 3. You never stop thinking. You run through scenarios and dialogue in your head. You can see your characters walking, breathing, talking. It’s real. It truly is. And the more you think, the more you take notes, or even (like me) you write down whole chapters of stuff which just burst out of you like an over-flowing drain pipe during a rain storm. And you can’t stop it because there is no tap, but you don’t care because it feels great. Writing is great, especially when it totally consumes you.

Step 4.

That’s it. Step 4 is it. You’re writing your book and you can’t stop now. You are so engrossed in your story, it becomes an urgent need to get it down, to create. Nothing else matters. Dinner times come and go, episodes of your favourite TV series are missed and, before you know it …

Step 5. It is finished. You’ve re-drafted it, maybe 3 or 4 times. Your publisher has assigned you an editor. The clock ticks. The days become weeks, weeks become months. To get yourself through the empty days of waiting and hoping, I write another book. It’s the only way. But it is so frustrating. You’ve given everything but does it actually mean anything? Not a jot.  Publishing is long. So long it is painful. The emails dry up. When once your publisher was so thrilled, there is now silence.  Nobody loves you, nobody cares. You are a man alone (or woman, but maybe it’s not the same for you, I don’t know. I’m a man, you see. Write about what you know!) and sometimes it can become so horrible you want to run off the edge of a cliff. I’d do that if there were any cliffs around here. But there aren’t. Maybe that’s a good thing…maybe not.

Because I received news there is ONE remaining north African white rhino left in the wild. One. And suddenly, nothing else matters. So, I’m not going to worry about any of this any more. Publishers, they can do what they want. I’m not going to go on Facebook every day, I’m not going to tweet on Twitter every week. Maybe once in a blue-moon, when it’s something important. To me anyway. I’m not going to check my emails every few seconds, hoping a publisher has contacted me. I don’t care. That rhino (his name is Sudan by the way) has made me think how trivial our lives are. He matters, not me. And I’ve failed him. He’s going to die and the world will have no more north African white rhinos and nobody cares. At least, it seems that way. And if nobody cares about him, why should they care about me and my pathetic books?

But I’ll continue to write. Even if it is to an audience of one. ‘Whipped Up’ (at its budget price, as are Varangian and Varangian 2) is on tour, starting 19th May, so, you see, this is not about giving up. It’s about continuing to do the best you can, even when no one is listening. Success is a relative thing. The act of writing a book is success. When one person  you do not know buys your book, that’s  success. There will be lots of set-backs, lots of BS thrown at you from so-called experts who haven’t got a single clue about what it is like to write, lots of dishonesty and indifference (which is perhaps the hardest thing to swallow) but when the thrill buzzes through your guts at the thought of writing a new chapter, put all of that aside. Even if I did not sell another single copy, I would not stop writing.

But I can’t put Sudan aside. No matter how I try. His plight has changed me and plunged me into a very dark place.

You can catch up on my book tour here…even though it may be lost amongst the sadness.

May 19 – Reading Addiction Virtual Book Tours – Kick Off

May 20 – Texas Book Nook

May 21 – A Life Through Books

May 22 – Coffee Book Mom

May 25 – My Reading Addiction

May 26 – The Indie Express

May 27 – Steamy Side

June 2 – RABT Reviews – Wrap Up

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Adventures in Writing… hitting the wall

Strange life, isn’t it. What it throws at you, how it tests your resolve.

Now, to start off, I’m not trying to sound pessimistic or defeatist here … I love writing, I really do, but I am quite a sensitive guy. I take things to heart and life can be so hard. For me, it seems, the fates are always against me. I know, i know. I can hear people saying now, ‘you make your own fate, your own luck!’ Well, I’ve tried that too. But I digress …

You´ve heard the expression, a picture is worth a thousand words. As a writer, the task is to try and paint the images in our head using words in such a way to make them accessible and understandable to our readers.

It is not easy, as you all know.

I sometimes find myself reading a good book by an established author and missing out entire chunks of narrative because I find them simply uninteresting. I feel terribly guilty about this, then I stop and wonder how many of my words are being skipped and skimmed. A lot, I think.

Often, as a writer and as a person, life throws up its challenges. Those challenges can be daunting, sometimes unassailable. And very often it is easy to give up.

I remember a couple of years ago, I contacted my publisher and requested my book be made ‘free’ for a short time, as I’d heard this was a sure-fire way to gain interest. Well, it worked. In a way. The book, which had perhaps sold maybe half a dozen copies, was downloaded 784 times! And how many reviews did I get? One. How many follow-up sales? None.

Depressing, isn’t it.

Recently, I followed other advice about book promotions. Certain companies would promote your book on their site, which has X-thousand followers. Sounded worthy of a shot. So, I did it. Contacted my publisher (not the same one as my first attempt to conjure up interest), and decided to offer one of my books at a considerable discount. Less than a pint of beer in the UK. I thought it was a pretty good offer.

Result? No sales.

So, you can understand why I’m depressed.

Most of us have the same problem, I guess. It doesn’t really matter how good we are at writing, we’re never going to reach readers, not in any great volume. There are simply too many books out there, too many writers. And most of them seem to have hit on the magic ingredient of getting known. Well, I don’t know what the ingredient is, and it’s causing me huge concern. I have always wanted to write. Not to make millions, not to be famous, but to simply make enough money to live a life which allows me to create, pay the bills and put some food on the table. Well, it’s not going to happen.

I´ve gone on about Twitter and people having hundreds of thousands of followers, so imagine my delight when I joined a webinar to be told this is meaningless. What one has to do, in order to reach readers, is to get people to join your email list. Well, sounds great, except I don’t know how to do this. And, right now, I’m becoming more and more cynical. I don’t think anything will work.

Pessimistic, depressive, cynical…yes, I’m all of those things now. I’ve had the optimism beaten out of me. I met a good friend of mine the other day, whom I haven’t seen for almost 20 years, and she told me, ‘I’ve looked at your books and I was going to buy one, but they’re not really my sort of thing’. At my work, I have well over 70 colleagues and not one of them has ever bought any of my books. It’s not that they are bad. They are published works, well-edited, and are good stories, but people simply do not want to part with their money, or simply can’t accept, or a flair to do something which most only ever dream of. ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’. Perhaps it is that. Who knows? To write a book is no easy matter, but writers are rarely celebrated for the simple act of writing. People do not give it any credit. Run a Marathon and people worship you like a god; drive a Porsche and people stop and gasp in the streets; sing and you’re considered the have achieved the highest calling in life; write a book, nobody bats an eyelid.

Well, I’m not going to worry about this now. I’ve decided. I’m simply going to continue to write. To hell with the marketing, it doesn’t work. If I can write and get published, that’s all I really care about. To get the food on the table, I’ll continue to teach for as long as I can and in my spare moments, I’ll put down the words and try my best not to worry. It’s going to be hard though, don’t you think?

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Adventures in Writing – tweet, tweet ter-woo!

You know, I’ve just posted something on Twitter. I go to look, and it’s not there. Well, it is, but it is already superseded by about forty or more tweets from others. This got me thinking. In order to READ all of these Tweets, you’d have to be on the internet 24/7. For most of us, this simply isn’t feasible.

So…I tried to work it out. All my efforts to post earth-shattering, informative, philosophical, newsworthy Tweets…

Is it really worth it?

I began to think about myself. I’m not unique, different, in any way out of the ordinary. How much of my day do I spend on Twitter? It didn’t take me long to find the answer.

About ten minutes.

In that time, am I likely to take notice, spot, discern, know about the world’s next great book?

Answer…

No.

We are all programmed to believe that having a ‘presence’ is absolutely essential in this hyper-spaced-out-world in which we live.

Is it?

What does it mean if we have 108k followers? I’ve talked about this before, but sometimes I think it is worth revisiting. I use the above figure as an example. Here’s why.

Today I received an email telling me I have another new follower on Twitter. Not a company giving me access to thousands of e-books, or a travel firm, or fashion house, but a real person. Youpie. I investigated. This person follows some 23k people. That, in itself, is something of an achievement. Where does he find the time? Then, his followers…108k. I had to look again, One hundred and eight thousand followers! My God, who is this guy? Some sort of Mahatma Ghandi, a man of world-renown, the next President?

No. He’s just a guy. From Merseyside. And he’s written a book. And he has 108,000 followers.

What the hell is happening? Am I the only one who thinks all of this as simply some massive con? I think I am. People bombard me with all sorts of put-me-downs after I post such ideas. They lambast me, insult me, tell me I need to wake up, get real, join the real world. Really?

Sometimes, being a lone voice, is kind of deflating, but it can also do wonders for the spirit. Think of how many great men and women have been ridiculed for their views, only to be revered later when people realise the truth of what they said. Crying in the wilderness is actually a good thing. Just because a thousand people tell me I’m wrong doesn’t actually mean I’m wrong.

And then…joy of joys … as if to confirm thing, I receive an email from someone inviting me to be their follower on Twitter. Someone … or something. They ‘sell’ reviews. For a small payment I can purchase ‘good’ reviews.

Now this really got my blood boiling.

I do not want to buy ‘good’ reviews. If I’m going to buy reviews, I want them to be ‘honest’. And I receive an email from Amazon telling me that only when you have received 50 reviews are you going to be taken seriously. Fifty? So, the pressure is on. We have to have that magical number, we have to break through the barrier, get ourselves noticed, win the accolades, the sales, the acceptance. Fifty. And, guess what, Amazon can help. Yes, they really can. You can get onboard and ‘buy’ the required number of sales to be regarded as a best-seller! Just imagine, having that accolade on your book cover. ‘Best-selling author bla-de-bla’ comes to a village hall near you to talk about how wonderful it is to be a star. Famous. Rich. Mm.

I’m being cynical? You think? I know James Joyce did it. He bought 200 copies of Ulysses I think it was, to give away to his friends. That gave him something of a kick-start, but what is being proposed today is very different. As long as you keep spending your money, you can buy your way to success. Well, I’m of the school which believes talent, creativity and the ability to craft a damn good story is of far greater importance. We all need to promote ourselves in the best ways we can, but this buying your way above the masses … Well …

I’m simply and honestly disgusted. This is all a sham. We are living in the era of the biggest publishing con there has ever been, and we all contribute, we all buy into it, even me. Because the pressure is on to sell, sell, sell. Honesty and talent no longer have a place. We must sell, by hook or by crook, and to hell with everything else. Listen to Amazon, if you don’t believe me. Or Bookbaby. It’s easy. Anyone can do it … just keep reaching inside your pockets.

Beam me up. I’ve had enough.

I’m going back to my keyboard, find happiness in the worlds I create, and keep submitting. I believe, in my simple innocence, that good writing will forces its way to the top. People like good stories. They simply need to know I write them, that I exist. But I’m not going to buy my way into the consciousness of prospective readers. Besides, I can’t afford it. So, there has to be another way. Surely.

Thanks for dropping by. You can find out about my books on my website: www.stuartgyates.com. Come along and visit me, pick up a book, enjoy. But whatever you do, keep reading.

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Adventures in writing…advance paying indies?

I’ve become aware recently of a new phenomenon in publishing. If, like me, you are published, you will know how difficult this is. I understand why so many would-be writers become frustrated by endless rejections, but I’m of the belief such things indicate two things … 1, perhaps your work isn’t quite good enough, and 2, you need to try, try, try again. One of the developments in publishing has been the explosion of independent publishers, ones who offer editorial support, marketing advice (many even assist in this), production of e-books and paperbacks, and all the other things the big traditional publishers offer. And all for free. Most, but not all of course, offer very fair royalty rates. Like with everything, it’s best to shop around, visit Predators and Editors, Ralan, and other advisory web-sites. You don’t want to get burned, although even the most careful of us still do! But, what I have discovered lately is the rise of advance paying publishers. This is quite a juicy prospect! Imagine, a publisher having so much faith in your words, they are willing to put their support into pounds, shillings and pence! Okay, some may not be offering the world, but one or two are offering advances against sales in many thousands of dollars. And I say ‘dollars’ because a great many of these publishers are American. I feel this is a tremendous step forward for Indie book publishers. To be given an advance is, in my mind, an affirmation. I think, being honest, I’d consider myself a real writer if I were given an advance. Why not put yourself on the mailing list of ´My Perfect Pitch’, a wonderful site which produces a monthly list of royalty paying publishers from a number of genres. You never know, it could be the start of something big. Good luck.

http://www.myperfectpitch.com gives you lots of advice

www.stuartgyates.com is my website where you can found out all about my published works and where to buy my books. Many thanks for dropping by.

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