Tag Archives: being an author

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…westerns at 84

Okay, so this month, I’m off to the UK for a well-deserved holiday. Well, that’s how I see it. I’m worried about the heat. It is 40 degrees here in Spain (that’s about 110 degrees Fahrenheit), but I see on the news temperatures are hitting 35 over in Blighty! Maybe it will be like the time I went to Berlin, thinking it would be so much cooler. So much so, I didn’t pack any shorts. And boy did I regret it! I’ve known such heat. Anyway, this time I will pack some, as I will be visiting Parkgate and, as you all know, that is an infamous place for getting burnt, so I’ll pack the sun cream too.

Well, here I am getting all excited and just before I go, I have read an interesting post from Simon Kernick about his struggles with his latest book. Simon is a great writer, with a list of truly fantastic thrillers, so the thought of him battling over a book, reaching 20 pages and abandoning it, kind of gives me some hope.

Well, I say that, but having just entered a writing competition, I’m not so sure.

This competition was supposed to be therapy for the state of the publishing industry at the moment. I am becoming increasingly frustrated at the speed with which they work. I want my books out there, but no…I have to wait. And I’m very impatient. I’m old. I am running out of time and I’m trying to make up for all those years I’ve lost being a pratt. I write like a lunatic, but the publishers don’t care. They go along at their sweet merry rate. Snail-s pace that means. No wonder so many opt for self-publishing. Anyway, that’s beside the point. I entered this competition to prove I have lots of other books waiting, waiting, forever waiting. But I was hoodwinked into believing this had something to do with writing. It hadn’t. It was a popularity competition and, as I know full well, I’m not very popular. I didn’t realise this until my good friends began to vote. Five votes. The leader had 50. I had no chance, so I withdrew.

So now, I’m totally pissed off.

I had thought about giving it all up. I still might. Maybe when I’ve completed my Hardrada series. I’m going to write the fifth volume, then perhaps jack it all in. When I’m…around 85 maybe. That seems like a good time.

We’ll see.

Until then, I have tons of books to write. I believe my best one hasn’t been written yet.

But I’m not going to be put off because people don’t buy my books, or support me, or anything else. Well, I say no ne. That’s not quite true. A lovely, lovely friend at work bought my first Varangian book and she was so amazed I almost burst into tears. Sometimes, people say and do the most amazing things.

I’m going to keep going, keep writing. I have the sequel to my don Luis book to complete AND, as a little tonic, I have decided to write a Western. And, do you know what, I love it. You never know, this just might be the one.

But it won’t be until I’m 84 before I know it.

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Adventures in writing…a month of commemorations!

This has been an interesting, and moving year, so far.

Interesting because it has been a steep learning curve for me with regard to publishers. I knew they worked slowly, but never quite how slowly. Of course, this is because they have lots of work with mountains of authors in the queue before me, I understand that, but nevertheless it is frustrating.

But I’m philosophical. I have now reached the stage where I don’t care.

If it takes them three years to get round to me, then so be it. I’m not going to worry. What will be will be. When they ask me to promote, get in touch with the press, libraries, Twitter and Facebook…I might just wait myself. Wait and wait.

Let me reiterate. I DO NOT CARE. I forked out a lot of money for a virtual book tour, a Twitter campaign, etc., etc., Result? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. So, no more of that thank you very much. I’m not wasting another penny on any of these awful campaigns. They don’t work. End of.

Now, the moving bit, for which I DO care. Quite a lot.

2015 has been an extraordinary year for commemorating some of the most important dates in our calendar.

April was a time to remember the horrors of Gallipoli, Churchill’s dream of knocking Turkey out of the Great War and putting immense pressure on the Germans. It was a disaster. battle_of_gallipoliToo many died in what was to become a nightmare campaign. But we need to remember; for the men who gave their lives and to instruct our youth about the utter futility of war.

June. What a month (as I’m writing this, it is not yet over!). The fifteenth saw my school joining in with many others in the commemorations going on all around Runnymede for the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. Actually, that is wrong. King John didn’t sign it, he couldn’t read or write. He put his seal on it. Anyway, my school asked the question and were given the answer, and named, by Dan Snow, who is a cool guy.

Then, the 18th June. Waterloo. waterlooThere is not much more to be said about this battle, one of the most important ever fought. A terrible day, but even so I would have loved to have gone to Belgium to watch the re-enactment, but of course I couldn’t. I have bought all the stamps and the coins…and a French army in 10mm however, so that is something!

In October, it is the 600th anniversary of Agincourt…

What a year…and next year…2016, is the Somme, and the Norman invasion (950 years since Duke William came a-calling!).

Mm…I might have to buy some more figures!

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Adventures in writing – sick of scams

Oh Goddddddddddddddddddddd!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I sometimes truly believe I am a lone voice in the wilderness.

Okay, here we go.

I came across a ‘free’ course on how to promote books, as I am pants at promoting. I don’t have it in me. I may not be alone in this. I’m not a salesman. I write, I create, and I know there are a hundred and fifty thousand people out there right this minute screaming at me (hah! ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY THOUSAND? What am I, nuts?) telling me that in this modern world, you have to be a salesperson, you have to get out there, promote yourself, give your all. Find your platform, your voice, and shout it out…Jeez, I’m even beginning to sound like all of these people!

Look, I can’t do it, ok. I’ve acted on stage. Biggest audience? Three thousand people, baying for blood. Live. I did it. Smallest audience? One old lady, seeking warmth from the cold, and I put in a performance that would have you eating your own heart! I can act, but I can’t be myself. I’m no good at that. Here’s an example…I had a colleague come up to me who had just requested me as a friend on FaceBook. ‘I never knew you were an author!’She’s been in school for FIVE YEARS. I’ve been writing since…well…since. I am NO GOOD at this sort of stuff…So, I downloaded this ‘course’.

It was pants.

I remember when I was selling magazines in John Menzies and this guy, who always came in and bought his newspaper from us, suddenly said to me, ‘What are you going to do when you retire?’ I looked, blinked, didn’t know what to say, couldn’t find the words, so I shrugged. He laughed and said, ‘When do you want to retire?’ Again, I sort of danced around the question…’Er, when I’m old and I can’t go to the toilet any longer without help.’

This was not the answer he was looking for. So, he invited me back to his home for a ‘seminar’. And there I sat, listening to the BS. How to earn fifty thousand in your first year, a hundred thousand in your second…and so on and so on.

This is the same.

And after this wonderful course that taught me absolutely sweet Fanny Adams…I get an e-mail inviting me to purchase the all new, all dancing super-dooper course on ‘How to be a best-selling author’ and if I did it NOW, I could save, save, save. Yey!!!

At the amazing bumper price of only $99 dollars a month (reduced from $127…wow, really? SUCH a saving!!!) I could learn how to be a best-selling author.

Oh Goddddddddddddddddddddddd!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am reminded of those scams from Nigeria, where they drop you an e-mail to ask you to send them all your personal details (including the location of birthmarks on your children) and all you have to do is say yes, and they will deposit 10 million dollars into your account. Keep it there for a week, keep half of it, and sit back and count all those lovely greenbacks!

It’s all BALLS!!!! And the sooner we wake up to it the better. There is no easy way of creating a best-seller, people. Unless, of course, you can write a book telling everyone how to write!  Wouldn’t that be cool. I’ve looked up these ‘experts’ and they have written lots of books. All around 20 pages long and all to do with how to write a best seller. And the mad thing is, people are buying this BS!!!

Look, it’s not rocket science. The first part is the hardest, no matter what all these idiots say –  you have to be able to write and then YOU HAVE TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD BOOK. And after that, you write another, then another, and you don’t stop. That’s my credo. Don’t stop. To hell with them all. Just keep writing!

Oh…just to prove any form of marketing doesn’t work at all, my book ‘Whipped Up’ is on special offer and on virtual tour. You can read the reviews, but nobody is buying it, not now, not ever, so…nuff said.

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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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