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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 … thoughts on those how-to guides

Coming to the end of what has been a great summer holiday, writing is proving somewhat difficult. It’s too hot, my head is still firmly stuck in Cumbria, and I have so much to do I don’t know where to begin.

I’m waiting on a book to be finalised, cover chosen, printed, etc. I sent it out to some beta-readers (whatever that means) and they picked up a few tiny problems. The editor said this would happen, that the more people who read it the better. Anyway, all being well, it should be out by the end of September 2014.

Two different publishers have accepted two other books of mine for publication. So, I’m happy. Of course I am. It doesn’t mean I’m Lee Child, but at least I’m getting out there. All being well, another three books published by the end of this year will see my tally growing to 18 published works.

Then I receive an email and all of this euphoria is dashed.

It was one of those junk-mail things; you know the ones I mean, the same sort that used to come through your door in the days before the Internet, or which were stuffed inside the Radio Times. Well, it’s the same thing. A host of stuff you simply have no interest in whatsoever. This one was a little more interesting, but extremely annoying.

It was from Kindle. You may have heard of them. They ambushed me with a long list of books and every single one of them offered me the chance to ‘Write a mystery book that sells’, or discover ‘The Easy Way to Write Fantasy’, and even, ‘Make money through writing fiction!’.

Okay, I know there is a whole army of people out there now who want to write a book. So they do. And Kindle gives them all the tools. And now, here we have every guide known to man, written by established authors, all of whom want you to achieve great success and earn heaps of money.


Mm…Okay, let’s just backtrack a little here.

First, there is nothing wrong with wanting to write a book. In fact, it’s great. I am forever encouraging people to write. The mechanics of writing means, simply put, hard work. To write 100,000 words takes a lot of graft. BUT, if you want to do it, you can. However, you need to know one or two painful truths. One, I do not believe story telling can be taught. WRITING can, but not story telling. Anyone can write. Anyone can learn grammar, syntax and all the rest. Cool. But is that creating stories which make your jaw drop to the floor, which have you crying like a baby into your pillow, or laughing aloud like a hyena on crystal-meth? No. I do not believe anybody can be taught how to tell a good story. It’s not just about structure, the snowflake, starting from the middle or the end, or from wherever you want to start from. It’s something, which lives inside you, something which will not let go, which dominates every waking moment of every single day. If you can’t tell a story, there is no point in picking up a how-to book. So, if you do have the knack, if you can hold people’s attention with tales of daring-do, why not pick up one of these guides?

Because they don’t work.

Because they all say the same things.

And it makes my blood boil, because there are probably thousands of people out there buying these things. And they are selling more than I am, and that hacks me off too.

No, I believe the only way to learn how to write is…to write. Write and read. Then read some more. Get a publisher who believes in you, and an editor who can fix the stupid grammar bits you missed. I’m forever getting mixed up with past and passed. And I’ve been told off more than once for using ‘started to’ or ‘beginning with’. So, I’m not going to use those again. But my editor doesn’t tell me how to plot. She doesn’t order me to change scenes and characters, etc. The reason they accepted my book in the first place was because the story was damned good. The grammar was okay, but that is easily fixed. A bad story can never be fixed.

I looked up some of the authors of these guides, see how they were doing with their own books. Well, one or two were doing fine, but most were not. And the reviews they were receiving left a lot to be desired. So, have they written these guides to make money, to prey on the dreams of aspiring novelists, by offering them the ‘Teach yourself How To Be An Author’ way to fame and fortune?

Of course they have. And people buy these things! Why not join a writing club, get down to your library, read your stories to kids, or even adults, sign up to Authonomy or YouWriteOn? Get some feedback, do the leg-work, learn the craft.  And when you’ve written one book and you’ve submitted it, write another. And keep writing! That’s the key, not a secret to be found in the pages of a 75 cent guide that is shooting up the charts all because so many have swallowed the bait.

I keep saying it; writing is not a get-rich-quick scheme. But it seems as if not many prospective wannabe Harlan Cobens out there have quite come to terms with this fact yet.

For news of my latest books and when they are available, keep checking out my website. www.stuartygyates.com

Thanks for dropping by, and don’t worry, I won’t be writing any guides to getting published…not now, not ever.

Keep reading!



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Adventures in Writing…oh so many ‘authors’…

I sometimes feel like one of those ‘grumpy old men’, which was such a wonderful series on BBC. It may have been politically incorrect, but it was spot on.
Why do I feel this way?
Well, okay, here goes.
I, along with many of you probably, join a group online. It is supposed to be a support group, a place where you can go to share stories, seek advice, listen to those who have been through it all and come out the other end smelling of roses.
Well … how many times to you open an email from one of these groups and are presented by such declarations as, ‘So-and-so’s new thriller is the best thing I’ve ever read, buy it now!’ Or (even more sickening ) ‘I’ve just discovered my latest thriller ‘The Private Dick is not as Big as you Thought’ has got to number 10 in the Amazon’s ‘low-life thriller’ chart!’
Why is it that every single group I’m a member of, no matter where: Facebook, Linked-In, Goodreads, is hi-jacked by these people. And, even WORSE, is when I try to do something similar, my post is suspended and I receive a really snotty letter from the administrator (not Facebook, I’m relieved to say!). I can’t fathom it. It must be me.
And then, today, I received an email inviting me to join Amazon’s ‘FAST TRACK’ . For a small ‘donation’ I can get five reviews. I’m relieved to read it does not say ‘Five 5-star reviews’ because that would be so wrong I’d be forced to post a blog about it.
Sounds great, doesn’t it. But imagine, all those countless thousands of ‘authors’ out there, desperate to sell their books and make a million. They’ll be pushing and shoving to get those reviews. Because it is easy, right?
Are you, like me, one of those authors who post their books on any number of Facebook groups and then, perhaps once a week, perhaps once upon a rainbow weekend, you go onto said site and simply scroll down, and down, and down, and… And you never once stop because you are sick to the back teeth of seeing these awful self-effacing adverts? Well, I’m sick of it. So what is the point? Nobody stops to read what these adverts have to say. There are perhaps fifty million authors out there (okay, okay, I exaggerate, but it feels that way sometimes) and most of them are simply awful. And, swimming around the edges of this pond of sickening banality, are the sharks and the crocs. The countless ‘experts’ who offer every trick in the book to make you a best-selling author.
I wonder when it will end?
I wonder when it will get back to readers buying good books, and authors writing good books.
Do you think it will happen? And how are we to know the good from the dreadful? The Kindle explosion has done no end of harm to those writers who are good. Readers are a discerning bunch. They pick up a piece of pap and will never, ever pick up anything that is offered free or cut-price again. They don’t want to take the chance. So, they buy their 12.50 edition of a Kindle by an author whom they know and trust. We’re doomed. You and me, the good ones.
Well, I’m going to watch some re-runs of ‘Grumpy old Men’, sit back, and wallow in the knowledge that I’m not the only one, that I may be a grump, but actually, every now and then, I do actually speak some sense!
My follow-up to Burnt Offering has now been accepted for publication.


Burnt Offerings is now available at a new, reduced price for the Kindle. Visit any Amazon site to take advantage.

Burnt Offerings is now available at a new, reduced price for the Kindle. Visit any Amazon site to take advantage.

I can’t say when it will be out yet, so watch this space. In the meantime, pick up the first in the series and enjoy!
Thanks for passing by.

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Adventures in writing…what happens when social media doesn’t work?

It’s almost March already. I can’t believe it, can you?

Where did February go?

Do you often find yourself asking these questions? I do, all the time. And it happens with books too. I had an arrangement with a local market-holder to stock some of my books, so I ordered a few. When they arrived I half-heartedly picked one up and leafed through. I began to read, and was hooked! Had I actually written this? I couldn’t remember. Eighty thousand words, where did I find the time?


Well, as for February, it was pretty crud. Things got the better of me. I’m in a job I no longer love and I’m stuck in a country I want to get out of. To do that I need a job, and I can’t get one. I’m too old. I posted some of my feelings on FaceBook (which is not to be recommended, and in the cold light of day I was an idiot to do so) and fairly soon people were telling me I am depressed and should go to the doctor’s for some medication.

Dear God.

Me, on medication…FOR DEPRESSION.

No thanks.

The whole point is, I am fairly hacked off with all this publishing business. Note publishing NOT writing. I’m not self-published, by the way. I don’t ever want to be. I have nothing against self-published authors, but the sudden explosion of such authors has had a negative impact. Some are good, I concede that. BUT, there are hundreds of thousands of folk out there who believe all they have to do is sit in front of a keyboard and bash out any old gloop in order to earn a million. This has done irreparable damage to all of us. Readers, a discerning bunch, are now wary of ‘new’ writers. Too many badly written, and dreadfully edited, self-published books are out there. So, trying to break through is virtually impossible. All you can really do is write GOOD books, a lot of books. Keep going and try…

I write and submit to agents and independents. Some of them have seen something in what I do to offer me a contract. And here comes the reason for my current low, which I touched on last time but want to go into further detail here – one of my publishers has refused to publish the sequel to another work because the sales have not been so good.

I was crushed by this. He even said I was ‘a terrific writer’. My books receive 4 and 5-star reviews, so it’s not like I’m crap. BUT…it’s all about money, isn’t it. Sales.

Sales. Jeez, I hate selling. I hate all this marketing and promotional stuff. I can’t do it; it simply doesn’t fit well with the sort of person I am. I have little self-belief, lack self-confidence, am the sort of guy who sits in the corner at parties and nobody notices. There is no way I can suddenly leap up and start sounding off about how great I am. Because I’m not. I’m just a grunt, down in the trenches, working every day to put together stories that people might enjoy.

The problem is, not enough of them are buying to discover this for themselves.

So, I’ve tried. I offered free books. Imagine, a free book and in return all the reader had to do was post a review. Because reviews help. Well, I posted and posted, and I’ve submitted my books to review sites, promotional sites, endless, endless posts on FB and Twitter…over 9,000 people saw one of my posts. NINE THOUSAND! How many people actually responded? Two.

So, I’m close to giving up. Not writing, I’ll always do that, but I’m just about rock bottom…and then, oh glorious, wondrous day…something GOOD came out of all of this. One of the few people who responded asked me a simple question, ‘Have you got an agent, because if you haven’t I can introduce you to mine’.

A good friend told me something good always comes out of something bad. And it looks as though it might. I wrote to the agent, sent them one of my books and…she says she is interested! Now, I’m not jumping up and down because she is still reading it, but… So, I’m now gnawing my fingers to the bone, waiting, waiting, waiting.

So, I could turn it around. I could break through. I could.

February? It disappeared in a blur of mixed emotions.

Perhaps March might prove to be filled with sunshine!

Why not visit my websites and find out what I do. And don’t forget, by dropping me an email (at sg.yates@yahoo.co.uk) you can receive a free copy of any one of my books!




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Adventures in writing…why I can’t promote.

As with most mornings I’ve been checking my emails. A few listings from job agencies – yes, I’m desperate to get another job – and one or two announcements from Amazon trying to get me to part with the little money I have (sorry guys, but I’ve just about done with shopping online for this year!), but amongst it all are one or two mails informing me some people are following this blog. That’s so great, it really is. But, when I go to their blogs and see them being so successful, with so many admirers, with links to books published and a trillion and one reviews, all so positive, I feel so depressed. How do they do it? Why are they so successful, and I’m not?

I can’t market.

That’s the bottom line. Self-promotion is alien to me. I can’t. It’s the same when I’m in a social gathering; I’d rather sit quietly and not speak, listening to others ranting on with their opinions about life, all of them the great philosophers of the modern world. That’s not for me. I’ll keep my opinions to myself for the most part. I’ll only be shot down in flames any way. So, no. I can’t do it. I write my books, I get them published, I post them on the social sites, put in the occasional ad in the local press, do an interview, appear on radio, go to book signings in bookshops…but I hate it. I’m not comfortable with it, and I don’t know what I’m doing. The idea of standing up and saying, ‘Hey, my book is so great, you’ll love it. Just buy it, read it, and you’ll see,’ is impossible for me. I should be more positive, of course I should. Confidant. Yes. Everybody loves confident people. I can’t. I’m none of those things. I let my words speak. They are all I have. But I guess I’d better try harder…so, here goes:

The cover for my historical novel 'Varangian'.

The cover for my historical novel ‘Varangian’ which is receiving some wonderful reviews, on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Yes, of course I’ll continue to post pictures of my books on here, and on Facebook, but nobody takes a blind bit of notice. I did a talk the other day in my school library. About thirty kids turned up (I’m repeating it next week for another thirty!) and as I went into the library a colleague stopped me and asked me what was going on. I said, ‘I’m doing a talk about my books.’ He looked at me, pulled a face. ‘Your books? You mean, books you’ve ordered for the library?” Now, given I have been at this school for 7 years, and have been writing for much longer, isn’t it simply amazing he doesn’t know I have published 16 books? So I simply shrugged, ‘No, books I have written,’ I said. And his reply? ‘Oh.’ Then he walked away with not even a flicker of interest.

Says it all really.

I’m depressed by it. I don’t know what to do. Yes, I could sign up for all sorts of wonderful agencies. Pay the money, listen to the crap. Sign up for one of those ‘boot camps’ ( God, I SO HATE that phrase. Boot camp? What the hell have boots got to do with writing?). As soon as I see those words, I scroll on by. You know what I really want to do?  I want to grab hold of my old Olivetti, run away and live in a cave somewhere and simply write. Maybe I should do a George Orwell and find a Jura of my own. But seriously, I have a simple choice. I can either join the merry throng and take on board the pontifications of the noble and the just as they tell me with so much arrogance what I really need to do (because they know it all, of course) or I can continue being me.

I think I’ve already made the choice.

I’m not a sheep. And with that acceptance I also have to accept that my approach is going to take a long, long time. But that’s ok, because in the meantime I can continue to write stories, stories which entertain me and which I love to write. One day people will begin to pick them up in bigger numbers. Until that day comes, writing is what spurs me on, not any polishing or marching of boots in a camp!

Visit my website for links to my books. I write as Glenn Stuart for Young Adults, and as Stuart G Yates for adult thrillers, both contemporary and historical.



A personal PS on this sad day…Nelson Mandela inspired a generation with his love and capacity to forgive. May his memory inspire us all to seek tolerance and understanding and over-turn the hard and the un-caring thoughts and actions of so many. Our world is losing its way; let us try to bring it back on course through his example. Rest easy, the world will never forget you.




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