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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… 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 – a personal journey by Stuart G Yates

I’m always thinking of things to write. Novels, I mean.

I’ve never really been a great one for short stories. The writing, or indeed the reading. Saying that, I have written some, and the very first thing I ever had published was a short story. That was because all the so-called ‘experts’ advised in order to get yourself known, get a short story published in a magazine. Well, I did. But I don’t write them anymore. I write novels, and get totally immersed in them. Character and plot development. I love that.

Often, what I do, I put personal interests in my books. That way I keep myself awake!

My latest Glenn Stuart novel ‘Interlopers from Hell’  involved the protagonist (I hate that word, don’t you? Why not use hero, heroine, victim, main character…how I hate rules!) entering an old house and coming across a huge table laden down with model soldiers.

big cover

I’m a great wargamer you see – well, I was, before writing took over my life. Every Friday, down to Bodmin with the best bunch of guys in Cornwall, staying up until two or three in the morning refighting battles. Anyway, the thing is, I put that into this book. A few scenes. Not an obsession. I’m not obsessive. I promise.

Okay, I am. Just a little.

The thing is, I met a guy in Suffolk. John. He had a collection of model soldiers and he invited me to go and see them. His house was large, but not a mansion. Nice, set back from the road. A cheerful guy, he invited me inside. We’d already corresponded a few times as, both being ardent wargamers, we were members of an online-community. Well, he asked me to his house, and I went.

I stepped into his games room and just froze. Speechless. I had stepped into a kind of heaven.

There they were, shelf upon shelf of the most exquisite models I have ever seen. Eight thousand of them. Yes, let me repeat that – just so I can believe it too. EIGHT THOUSAND!

All of them stood in serried ranks, immaculately painted, some on foot, lots on horseback. From the eighteenth century, Austrians, Saxons, British, Americans, and any number of other nationalities. John wargamed the American War of Independence. He’d set up the table to game The Battle of Cowpens, complete with hills, woods, buildings. And the soldiers, of course. Lots of them.

It was this scene that formed part of the finale to ‘Fallen Past’, my unpublished novel that I am serialising here (we’re up to Chapter Five, so you had better catch up). I won’t give too much away about that, but here is the point. Using what you know. That’s what I do in a lot in my books. You have to be faithful and true, especially when writing fiction. Honesty. Yes, you can use Wikipedia, but it never rings true unless you have had experience of it yourself. Naturally there are limitations. When writing ‘Burnt Offerings’ I wanted the car to be rigged with a bomb. So I researched it. I’m lots of things, but not a bomber! So research can help, of course it can. But, when you are writing about reactions, feelings, you have to know.

I haven’t been shot. But I’ve seen someone who has. That knowledge…it stays with you. I’ve seen people being hurt. Badly. I use that too. Pain. Sadness. Emotional torment.

Sometimes happiness too.

Don’t want you to think I am one hundred percent bleak.

However, if I have an interest, I love involving it in my books. That makes it personal, and I do love my stories to be personal.

So, the moral of this story…You must write from a sound basis in truth. Fiction is fantasy, but your readers need to believe in your story. And they will know if it’s false, believe you me; if you begin to wax lyrical about something you know nothing about, they turn off and put your book at the bottom of the pile. If you don’t know, talk to people who do. I’ve interviewed soldiers, guys who have fought, who have experienced battle. I listen, log it all away, and use it. That’s what you should do, if you write. Always. Memories, research, personal experiences, everything helps to create a believable world.

Thanks for reading. My books are all available on the various Amazon sites, as well as Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. Take a look. Visit my website www.stuartgyates.com or, to find out where to buy ‘Interlopers from Hell’, www.glennstuart.co.uk.  I’m sure you’ll find something there that you like.

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