Musings from the mind

Cyber Abuse – why does it happen and what do we do about it?

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The internet is a wonderful tool in so many ways, and there is no doubt that it largely enhances our lives.  From online shopping which makes daily life for the disabled or isolated, much easier, to educational information available to everyone, to online business opportunities, it opens life up to us in ways we never realised were closed before.

As with most things in life however, there is a darker side to the internet, and it seems to be gaining in strength.  There have been several high profile instances of cyber bullying and general aggressiveness, the latest of which is the abuse suffered by Stan Collymore, the retired English football player.  He has been on the receiving end of racial abuse, mainly via twitter, which has escalated into death threats and all sorts of other horrors.

There are two questions that spring to mind immediately.  Why do people do this and what can we do about it?

The first of these questions is multi-faceted, but simple to answer – because it’s anonymous.  You don’t have to identify yourself truthfully anywhere on the internet, and this allows you the safety to behave in ways you would never dream of otherwise.  You can call yourself any name you can think of, you can put any random photo on your profile, and no one need know who you really are.  This is extremely empowering, especially for those people who are socially introverted, and/or too afraid to take part in what used to be called ‘normal social situations.’

Suddenly, we can now spit forth all of the darkest horrors that dwell deep within the most animalistic region of our minds, and which we tend to keep locked away when we have to physically interact with people.  No one in their right mind would walk down the street, see a black skinned ex footballer, and yell the N word at the top of their voice.  The chances are that the aforementioned would come over and nut you one if you did.  We all know this, and, not wishing to invite fisticuffs with another person who might hurt us far more than we are able to hurt him/her, we keep our mouths shut and our kneecaps intact.

Get on the internet however, and suddenly those risks are not there anymore.  We no longer have to risk getting a black eye or broken nose, we can be as horrible as we like and be totally confident that we will always get away with it.  That gives us all a lot of power, but it is a power that causes nothing but pain.

I think there are several underlying causes of this upswing in anonymous aggression.  Firstly, our societies are terribly over populated and our territorial boundaries are being invaded every day as more and more housing goes up, gardens get smaller and more people are being housed in apartments without even a balcony, let alone a garden.  We now have more neighbours, far more closer to us than ever before and we are forced to live in far too close a proximity to everyone else.  Everyone likes their own space, but when your own space is not much bigger than your own footprint, it has a detrimental psychological effect, so much so that there is now a new educational discipline called Environmental Psychology.  People can now study the effects of overcrowding and the way it affects us.

This enforced crowding, leads me to the second reason.  The closer we are forced to live with our neighbours, and the less personal space we are allowed, makes us withdraw from social interaction more than we would have done fifty years ago, in order to try to get some time away from all these people so close around.  This withdrawal does nothing to enhance or develop our social or interpersonal skills, and subsequent generations are much less effective at what I call, compassionate social interaction than people of my parents’ generation was.

Given our dwindling ability to interact in a compassionate way, the dwindling of our personal space, and the enforced ‘close proximity living’ we are all experiencing, the type of interaction offered us by the internet, with it’s anonymity, makes cyber abuse bound to happen.  We now have a platform on which to vent all of the pent up feelings our lives cause us, and knowing that we can say whatever we want without anyone having to know who we are, the temptation to vent forth with our most vicious feelings is too strong for many to resist.

So what can we do about it?

This is a hard one, and one that does not have a simple answer.  We should encourage our younger generation to interact physically more than they do, limit their time on the internet so that real interaction becomes the norm for them, and give them other opportunities to vent their feelings in a way that does not involve hurting anyone else.  Ideally we would all have the opportunity to live in slightly larger personal spaces than we now do, but unless there happens to be a sudden pandemic anytime soon, we are doomed to live shoulder to shoulder with our neighbours.  Education is very important and often overlooked in this particular arena.  Those who have spent many years being educated to a high standard, have not only showed that they have high self discipline, necessary for study, but they often have life goals that involve getting out into the world and doing something with their time and skills.  Under educated inner city no-go area housing estates are often filled with people who have not had such a good education and who have practically no job prospects.  They have more free time in which to sit around and get bored, due to not having a high standard of living, and the temptation to spend hours daily on the internet, and using it as an outlet for all of their woes, is very high.

We need to be teaching the younger generation how to be a compassionate social person in a high density society.  This is where we can blame the parents – us, for not having done our job properly.  Human nature is naturally compassionate, to a degree, but we are also naturally competitive and want to be better than the next guy.  We are capable of great violence and as kids, we need to be taught how to control our selfish urges and live in harmony with others.  With all the educational, racial, cultural and religious differences between us and our neighbours in our new borderless societies, we need to learn how to live and let live.  It doesn’t come naturally, it needs to be learned and we haven’t taught this to our kids.

When it comes to social media, those in charge of these sites need to jump on any wrong doing quickly and deal with it, and this is where they are falling behind.  In all of the recent high profile cases, the social media site(s) involved have done nothing about the abuse.  This needs to change, especially as there have been several suicides resulting from cyber abuse.  The problem for us as users is that we are almost totally powerless to force their hands.  We can email, tweet, post etc demanding they toughen up, but 99% of people, while agreeing, won’t bother to get involved, (another demonstration of today’s lack of compassion for others).

I’ve had a few nasty comments on facebook over the years I’ve been involved with it, and my response is always to go public with it.  I copy and paste the comment, with the person’s name, and let all my followers see it.  I respond not with aggression, but with honesty and openness and show the world who this person is.  Hopefully the ensuing embarrassment will help them to decide not to do it again.  If I get a reputation for always showing the world what you’ve said to me, the chances are you will try to make sure what you say to me is not abusive.  That’s my opinion anyway, and however flawed it may be, it works for me.

I hope Stan Collymore gets the result he deserves, and I hope the twitter bigwigs get off their fat asses and tighten up their response to such crap.  In an ideal world this shit would not happen, but this is not an ideal world, because people live on it.

4 Simple truths to keep you on track

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Being an author is, in many ways, strange.  You’d think it would simple; you write down what’s in your head, and after tidying it up and obeying all the normal ‘rules of good writing’ you publish it.  Physically that’s all you have to do and it’s easy, but there are all sorts of emotions that go with being a writer, and they often seem to be at opposite ends of the extreme.

On the one hand, you are happy and fulfilled that you have managed to create something tangible from something so abstract.  Thoughts, feelings and ideas have become a physical thing you can hold in your hands, and that’s amazing.  Then you have disappointment that people aren’t falling over themselves to read it, that people aren’t as amazed by it as you are, and that they don’t gush over it all the time.

Sometimes, other emotions come in and mix everything up and you have turmoil for a while.  Sometimes you feel like giving up and never writing again, other times you wonder what planet everyone else is on because they can’t see what a magnificent and world changing creation you’ve just brought into being.  As an author, you will experience them all, you will swing through the whole arc of these emotions, and many others.  The trick is to keep a few basic truths at the forefront of your mind.

Motive Why do you write?  There is only one right answer to this question, and unless you give the right answer, you will never be at peace with your life as an author.  The right answer is, “because I have to.”  If you answer that you want to make money or get famous, impress your friends, or because it’s therapy for you, then my advice is simple; stop writing.  Writing to get rich just will not work.  Yes you may make a little but you won’t make a long lasting income from this type of writing.  There are many of this type of writer out there; just think of those times when famous books have come out, such as 50 shades, Harry Potter etc.  The moment these came out, there were suddenly thousands of people out there suddenly writing erotica or young adult fantasy.  This is bandwagon writing, and any success will be short, sharp and temporary.  Flashes in the pan go out of fashion even quicker than they come into fashion, and when they drop off the radar, you will go with it and believe me, readers have very short memories.  You will be forgotten very quickly when everyone  has jumped  onto the new bandwagon, whatever that may be, and any income will dry up.  Bandwagon writing doesn’t have the staying power necessary to ensure you slowly but surely gain a steady and loyal following for your work, which is solid, dependably good quality, and true  to the genre you were meant to write in, which tends not to be the one that is the latest fad.  If you know in your bones that you need to write historical drama, then don’t write erotica, fantasy or any other of the latest fashion, (unless of course the latest fashion happens to be historical drama).  If you write true to way your brain and soul are wired, your work will have that spark of authenticity that will be missing from anything you churn out just because it’s fashionable at the moment and you want to make a few quid.

Perspective It really doesn’t matter if you don’t get rich or famous.  If you write with the proper motive, then your goal will be to produce an excellent quality work that anyone who reads will enjoy.  Making money or becoming well known, should not be part of your goals, as they detract from producing top quality work.  Those goals produce lower quality work that is churned out quickly, is often much shorter in length, (many bandwagon authors typically write books less than 40k words), their covers are the same as all the others and badly produced, and the work itself is just dead boring and badly edited to boot.  Of course there are good quality books and stories of less than 40k words, in case anyone is thinking of sending me dog turds through the mail, but many of the bandwagon authors write short stuff.  This is because they aren’t writing true to the write genre for them, and therefore they can’t find adequate creativity to make it longer.  Another reason is so they can churn out more stuff, more quickly and keep their name out there.  Once you let go of the desire to get rich and famous, and concentrate all of your focus on just writing top quality stuff in the right genre for you, the quality of your ideas will go up tremendously.  If you want to be sure of making money writing, join a newspaper.

Originality This is really joined at the hip with motive.  Jumping on any bandwagon will not allow you to be original in your creativity, because the need to churn out the same stuff all the time prevents you from being able to let your mind wander where it really wants to.  There are only so many ways to write about vampires, zombies, dragon riding knights of old and cheap sex, and it all  becomes old very quickly.  Be original, write something new that no one has yet thought of and you can be the trendsetter rather than a wagon rider.  It’s much more fun writing something totally new, than churning out the same boring shit everyone else is churning out just because you all want to make some money.  Forget the money and write something that’s in your soul, no matter if it’s fashionable or not.

The Tough Question This one is simple; do you actually have the talent to write?  If the only way you can produce anything at all, is if you follow the crowd and produce the same 20k erotica that everyone else is producing, but the thought of writing a 100k science fiction or historical drama, crime drama, epic fantasy etc horrifies you and makes your mind go blank and flaccid, then you’re probably not cut out to be a writer.  Be truthful when answering the tough question, and if you discover you’ll not likely to make a writer as long as your asshole points downwards, take a deep breath and find something else to do that you are capable of doing well, do it to the best of your ability, and be better than anyone else at it.  There are far too many people trying to be writers, who aren’t writers of quality and who really shouldn’t be doing it.  Don’t be a mediocre flash in the pan who is quickly forgotten when the fashion changes, do what you are good at and excel at it.

These four simple truths, if answered correctly, will help keep you focussed during the down times when your emotions are taking a dip.  When you haven’t made a sale in a few weeks and feel worthless, remember these truths, answer them again and get your focus back on track.  Treat them like a self inflicted kick up the backside when you need it most and they will help you move away from all the wrong mindsets that try to misdirect you on your path, whether that path be as a writer or not.

A few personal updates

Mother has now gone back home to Cornwall after her three week visit, and it’s nice to have a tidy flat once again.  Much as I love her, she’s a messy cow and my home quickly becomes a pigsty with her around.  She’s always been an untidy person, and now she’s getting on in years, she employs a cleaner, so she never has to suffer the consequences of her slovenliness.  She says I’m obsessive but I’m so totally not, I’m  just  much cleaner than she is.  They say two can live as cheaply as one, and that may be true but the rubbish I accumulate when she’s around is way more than twice what I produce alone.  Weird.

My mother has psychopathic personality disorder, which means she feels no emotional bond with anyone and never shows affection.  As a child growing up, I couldn’t understand why she didn’t seem to love me or take pride in me, and although I do understand now, I can’t go back and have happier childhood memories, I’m stuck with them.  She has never fought my corner or stood up for me in any way, and it was only a couple of years ago when she told me about her personality problem, that I was able to realise why.  I have many memories of her not being there when I needed her, and they won’t go away no matter how much I understand why she has always failed to be there emotionally.

What my mother does instead of show love and affection, is help financially.  It’s something she can do without having to open up emotionally, so I allow her to help me out whenever she wants to and I no longer feel guilty at her bailing me out.  I did very well out of her over Christmas, and it’s nice to be able to take her financial help without feeling a failure.  Now I can let her pay out and know it’s her way of being affectionate and the more she does it, the more affectionate she’s being.

Her lack of empathy makes her seem very judgemental sometimes, and she shocks me with her attitudes sometimes.  She can’t understand why people don’t behave like unemotional robots, and although I try to tell her that she’s the one who is different, not them, she just shrugs and changes the subject.  She can be maddeningly irritating and I’m often to be found biting my tongue when she’s around, but she is also funny and down to earth.

They say we’re a product of our upbringing, and I now understand more about why I find it so hard to interact with people.  Being autistic doesn’t help but having my mother as role model, made it even harder to grow up balanced.  I guess I should have become a crazed serial killer or something, I have many of the so-called ‘pointers’ according to all the tv shows.  Maybe we’re not totally a product of nurture after all.  Maybe there’s more to destiny than people like to believe.

Well, I am still battling with Talk Talk over my proposed broadband supplier swap.  The latest is that the problem with the exchange has now been sorted, and some guy is coming over on 16th to get me switched over.  We’ll see how that goes.

I’m still waiting for the new saucepans I bought on 29th Dec.  Having phoned Argos expecting a row, he told me I should receive them within the next 3 working days.  We’ll see about that too.  It’s been a right nuisance having to do all my cooking in the microwave due to no saucepans suitable for my new cooker.

Another funny thing – I was cyber bullied on twitter yesterday by a couple of assholes who did not like my blog about UK gun laws.  Funny how it’s always the aggressive bully types who wants guns to be freely available isn’t it?  Precisely the reason it’s good they’re not.

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As a self published author, one has to constantly run the gauntlet of snobbish opinion as to traditional vs self publishing.  This is a tiresome task and one that never goes away no matter what we do.  No matter how carefully we proof read and edit, no matter how much money we spend on cover art, no matter how many beta readers we send our manuscripts to and no matter how many re-writes we do, our work will always be regarded as shit because it’s not been traditionally published.

This subject came up again on facebook just now, when some knob-head made the following comment,

“Self-published authors are exactly that, self-published.  This is almost like arguing what the difference is between art and garbage.”

We all know there is a glut of badly edited trash out there from self published authors who should never have thought about putting their shit out there, let alone actually doing it, and we all know that the good stuff is buried under this mountain of trash, making it very difficult for our work to be found by readers.  We also know that these trash writers give us good writers a bad name and are responsible for this stigma that plagues us.

The sticking point for me, and the one thing I cannot get past without getting angry, is that my work is judged by those who have never read it.  No one has the ability to know whether my work is shit or solid gold without reading it first, and my opinion is that until they do, they should shut up and keep their asinine opinions to themselves.  When I commented to this effect, on the same thread as the comment above, I was then told, “I’m not risking money and time on something I don’t trust. You have to earn that chance, you aren’t entitled to it. You do this via marketing yourself. (Of note, angry rants do not help your case.)” To anyone who believes that since I self publish my own work, I do not have the right to express my exasperation, I say this,

“Fuck you.”

My ability to express my feelings has no effect whatsoever, either detrimental or otherwise, to my written work and if you think it does, then you’re probably not the kind of person I would wish for as a reader.  You had probably better stay inside and carry on with your knitting and siamese cats, I’ve got gritty novels to write for readers with an educated and open mind.

In my humble opinion, it is people such as those I mentioned above, that are killing writing and not authors self publishing their own work.  Whilst badly edited work does annoy readers, opinions such as those outlined above do much damage to talented authors trying to get their work out there to those minds waiting to receive it and enjoy it.  It is these talentless and blinkered troglodytes who are hindering the evolution of writing/publishing, not authors missing the odd comma or misspelling there/their/they’re.

As those of us with a few brain cells know, there is no benefit to being traditionally published these days.  They may (may) give you a small advance, but they keep 80% of your royalties, they do no marketing for you and you get no say about the cover art.  A traditional publishing house will demand you present them with a fully outlined marketing plan before they consider offering you a contract and you will be expected to do all the leg work in getting your work out there.  Self published authors keep up to 70% of their own royalties and have total control over cover art, and still do their own marketing/promotion etc.  There are many editors out there advertising their services if you don’t have the knowledge or confidence to do it yourself, so self publication need never be the poor relation of the writing family.

Times without number I find spelling errors and other simple mistakes in traditionally published works by well known authors, but never have I seen comments about how bad this is, nor how this should not be tolerated etc.  No, the opinions are always about how self published authors are the street urchins amongst the traditionally published earls and duchesses.  Until this changes, the writing/publishing world will never evolve as we know it is currently trying to do.

Turning the page of another year

It’s that time of year again.  The commercial explosion is over, the unwanted gifts are already on Ebay, and the turkey is a shadow of its former self.  It’s the time when we make resolutions and see how quickly we can break them, the time when we hope next year will be better than this one has been, and the time when reflect on how quickly this last year has flown by.

I don’t know whether it’s a symptom of advancing age, but time is definitely going quicker for me these last few years, and this past year has been the quickest yet.  Many people have commented on it, and I find it hard to believe that a whole year has passed.  This time last year, I left the company I worked for and started out on my own, scared but knowing I couldn’t take it anymore.  I earn more, even though I lost some of my housing benefit, but I get to choose which customers I take, and I take all the money they pay, home with me instead of just a fraction of it.  I clean houses for a living, and although it’s not work I would choose if there were other options, I’m happier in work now than ever before.  This was one risk I took that has really paid off.

I brought out four books during 2013.  Floxham Island, Acts of Life, Bygora Vandos, and Delectus Morbidium.  My writing is improving all the time, and each book is better than the last one.  I am more comfortable as a writer, and I’m more confident that I know what I’m doing.  I haven’t sold many, but as I’ve had to admit that I suck at marketing/promotion, I’m not surprised.  This was also the year I made the decision to stop trying to market my books so much.  Not only do I suck at it, but it makes me depressed and then I start to doubt myself, so I decided to stop doing it.  Maybe one day I’ll win the lotto and be able to pay a top company to do it for me.  Until then I shall just keep writing and extending my back list.  I don’t write to make money anyway, I write because I have let the creative flow out of my head or I’ll explode.

This past year saw my horrible neighbour in the flat below, move away and a nice couple with a quiet(ish) baby move in.  Such a relief to not be woken up at five every morning.  Although not that sociable, they are friendly when spoken to, and I feel happier with them here instead of the intellectually challenged man who was here before.

I have been on a mission this year to lose weight and get into shape, and I’ve lost a stone and a half so far.  Although I’ve probably put a pound or two on over the Christmas indulgence, this process shall continue into 2014 until I real my goal weight of nine stone.  Once the fat has gone, I shall be embarking upon a get fit campaign, and have been accumulating gym equipment ready for that moment.  My spare bedroom is now a craft room cum gym cum spare bedroom.

Mother is still here on her Christmas visit, and bought me a new washing machine, cooker and gym bench, all of which I need and am delighted with.  A visit to the sales brought a new kettle (my old one dripped and spilled terribly) and floor steamer (always wanted one), so my home is now more up to date.  As someone with zero social life, I spend every moment when I’m not working in here, so I need it to be easy to run and pleasant to be in.

So what of 2014?  As I said above, my health drive will continue, and I have promised the universe that when I reach ten stone, I will give up smoking.  I will aim to bring another three books out, at least one more in my Sinclair V-Logs series, and at least one stand alone novel.  I shall be treating myself to a new tattoo in the early new year, of the symbol for Earth from the series Stargate.  I am still single, but I am not going to wish for a new man in the coming year, if it happens, then it happens.  I no longer look for love, having long ago accepted that is was never to be a part of my destiny, but I am prepared to be proved wrong.  I am also in the process of growing my hair a little, so that I can have it cut into a bob (one that’s higher at the back and lower at the front) and then I shall dye it white.  I’ve always wanted white/platinum coloured hair but never had the nerve.

As far as outlandish wishes are concerned, I would wish for huge wealth to fall upon me this coming year.  This would quickly answer every other wish I could ever think of, and solve all my problems.  There’s no harm in wishing, so long as you never lose sight of the fact that they are just that, wishes that might not come true.

I hope everyone had a good Christmas, and wish you a happy and safe New Year celebration.  May 2014 bring you everything you need, even though it may not be what you want or desire.  I look forward to (and hope for) increasing sales and productive interactions with each and every one of you.

Requiem for a shining star

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By now, everyone will know that Paul Walker died last Saturday in an horrific car crash.  At first, when I saw someone post about it, I assumed it was another of those ‘celeb dies’ hoaxes that we are all familiar with.  It was a shock to discover it was genuine.  I was surprised how shocked I was, as I’ve never really regarded myself particularly as a Walker fan, but it really knocked me sideways.

As usual, there is a mixture of emotions.  First there is sadness, but also anger and compassion for his soul.  I am angry for two main reasons.  Firstly, because someone who was so vibrantly alive and healthy was taken.  He had a good career and had none of the usual celebrity scandals that most others have.  He worked tirelessly for his charity Reach Out Worldwide and seemed like a genuinely nice guy.  I’m angry that someone like that should be taken when there are so many celebrities who lie, cheat, break the law and generally waste their lives away who are still here and being a complete nuisance.  I was also angry that Paul should die while being a passenger in the car.  Anyone with him as a passenger should realise the care that needs to be taken with such a valuable life?  The road was almost deserted, the weather was good, and Paul was not driving – you do the maths.  I was angry that someone killed Paul.  I was relieved to hear that there is a possibility that some kind of fluid leak just before the crash may have caused some kind of dangerous fault, and I hope this proves correct as I know myself well enough to know that I would find it hard not to apportion blame.  I now find out that he died from burning to death and not the impact, and that makes my heart cry for him.  Of all the possible ways to die, that has to be the worst and I hope with all of my heart that his soul recovers from that trauma.

There has been a huge outpouring of shock and grief at his passing, one of the biggest I’ve seen for any celebrity and that shows how far reaching Paul’s energy is.  Being a nice guy whilst also a celebrity really does make a difference.  It shows just how easy it is to touch someone’s life, even when you’ve never met them.  As a celebrity, you have immense power over people and it is so easy to abuse or ignore that power.  If someone is your fan, every word you say, everything you do and every opinion you express will be adopted as their own.  I’ve seen this hundreds of times.  From changing your fb handle to a name similar to your chosen celebrity, to choosing a boy/girl friend because they look like the person, it happens all over.  There are so many women on facebook who, coincidentally, are called Diesel and who happen also to be Vin Diesel fans, that it must be a very common name in every country and every culture on the planet.  Of course this seems silly, but it illustrates just how much power celebrities have.  I won’t go into how so many of them abuse that power, I’ve blogged on that very subject before, but this is another reason I still can’t get my head around Paul having died.

This also brings up the whole subject of relationships and how we communicate within them.  Paul’s death is a good example of why you should make an effort to let go of grudges, forgive your loved ones their flaws and show them you love them, every day.  You just don’t know how much longer you have with them, and it is so much easier to grieve when you know you showed them you loved them, than cope with the guilt at your angry words.

I hope the Walker family find strength and peace to move forward from their grief, and I send Paul love and healing to leave the trauma of his passing behind.

Review of Torchwood – and other similar TV series

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This started out as a review of Torchwood, but has evolved into a review of all TV series that share the genre.  The reason for this is simple – they always make the same mistake.

Now, I loved Torchwood, just as I loved X files, Haven, Stargate SG1, Primeval and all the others like them, (apart from Dr Who, I hate that one.)  The first couple of seasons are fantastic; the team consists of likeable, real characters with enough charisma to look good on TV, without being too ‘made up,’ and the storyline consists of interesting adventures, with a new and exciting episode each week.  There is enough danger to keep you on the edge of your seat, fantastic effects, and no bothersome sub plots to get in the way.

And that’s the problem, that last one in the list – the sub plots.  It’s always the same with every series.  The first two seasons are great, but then they can’t help themselves, they have to make it all political (in the case of the American ones) or introduce complicated and unnecessary intrigue between the characters.  Why do the programme makers always do this?  No one likes it when this happens, and in my opinion, this is why series’ tend to fall apart after the first couple of seasons.

The only series I’ve seen that hasn’t yet made this mistake, is Supernatural.  They almost did, almost.  The first couple of seasons that Crowley was part of, became laborious and boring with his constant fucking things up.  It was predictable and I worried that I might go off the series.  Thankfully though, the programme makers must have had a moment of enlightenment, because they quickly got over that and the series is still wonderful.

I loved the first season of Torchwood, I loved the first two seasons of X files, the first two or three of SG1, the first season of Primeval and the first of Haven, and I look back on them with a mixture of fondness and disappointment.  They could have been fantastic, they could still be popular now if they had just kept it the way we like it.  Simple and enjoyable.  Science fiction is about escapism and I don’t want government cover ups in every single series, or double agents within the team, or bosses with different agendas.  I want to be entertained.

Please, programme makers, give us a series we can enjoy without all that crap.

Why I feel like I’m split in two

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I’ve recently released my seventh novel, Bygora Vandos ~ Sinclair V-Log LB734/A which you can investigate here, and as is the norm on such occasions, I’ve been trying to promote it.  I’ve done all the things a destitute author does at such times; constant updates on my facebook author page, regular tweeting, blogging here etc and, as usual, the ripples I’ve managed to create have been underwhelmingly, laughingly small.

This time however, I decided to try something I’ve never done before and see if it makes a difference.  Over the past few months, I’ve welcomed authors here on my blog to spotlight their new releases, but I’ve never done a blog tour myself.  So I thought I’d have a go this time, after all, it doesn’t cost me any money, right?

I decided to try a modest run with this, so I opted for a fourteen day tour, starting on October 29th.  I’ve been advertising for hosts several times a day on facebook and twitter and I blogged about it here, even asking people to reblog my post here if they couldn’t be bothered to actually host me properly.

So far, I’ve had five people offer to host me.  Yes, just five (5).  Out of the thousands of authors I am connected to via facebook, twitter, google+, linkedIn and everywhere else on the internet, only five people could be bothered to offer to host me?  Seriously?  Are indie authors so up their own asses that they think they can afford to be so arrogant and selfish?

Yes, they are.

The more I connect with indie authors, the less proud I am to be one.  In fact, the others make me ashamed to be one of them.  When I think of all the flack we have to put up with from trad published authors, the stigma of self publishing, attacks from those who think their opinions matter, I am saddened to find out that my greatest enemy comes from within the indie community,  not without.

Not content with producing badly written trash and openly plagiarised content/titles/characters, they then feel justified in using any and every tactic they can think of, to bring down the competition and prevent other indie authors reaching an audience desperate for something readable at last.  The lack of quality of their work stands for itself.  Today I saw one author on facebook proudly displaying the new cover for their latest release (which they laughingly call a ‘book’ but which is really only 20k words long.  More of a pamphlet my dear!)  I don’t think I’ve seen a book cover so amateurish.  It’s almost embarrassing to look at it and I pray that person never asks me what I think of it, because I hate to lie, I really do.

I’m at the stage now where I don’t lack confidence in the quality of my writing, but I’ve also come to the conclusion that I am ashamed to be an indie author, simply because it means I’m lumped in with ‘them.’  I now wish I was trad published, and I’ve even considered forming my own publishing company, just to produce my own books.  This will enable me to take a step away from ‘them’ and their culture of sabotage, lies and fraud.  From purchasing reviews, offering ‘prizes’ in return for sales/reviews, deliberately refusing to help other authors get the word out, posting bad reviews of other authors’ books, and all the other dubious practices they indulge in, I want no part of it.

I may only have five souls with vision and discernment enough to host me, but those five are worth ten thousand of the rest of ‘them.’  They know there is room on the shelf for everyone’s book, that this business is about producing work of quality that can not only entertain people, but can change lives.  My work will be doing that long after I’m dead and gone, it will be doing that long after the rest of the trash has fallen to the bottom of the charity shop bargain bin, and long after the flames that consume its pages warms the hands of street bums down under the freeway.

That’s the thing ‘they’ never quite get.  It’s not about making money or being famous, it’s about creating something magnificent and life changing, that is worthy of its place in the universal consciousness forever. I’m doing that, with or without a blog tour.

Internet marketing – I need a plan that works

I’m the first to admit that when it comes to internet promotion/marketing, I suck cock.  I’m a good writer but I’m terrible at selling my stuff.  I wish I was better at it, and I’ve tried but got almost nowhere.  This has to change, it’s the only aspect of being an author that I not only hate, but I’m very bad at.

I’ve been listening to other authors on facebook, talking about this very subject.  I’ve come to realise that using social media for promotion is a skill; one has to learn how to do it artistically and creatively, rather than being a bull in a china shop.  The authors I’ve connected with, all seem to agree that the best social media for promotion, are twitter, facebook and pinterest, with stumbleupon coming up at the rear.  Now I know this, I have a starting point.

I’ve been fine tuning my use of twitter for a while now and it’s running quite well, to a point.  I use Feed 140 to drip feed tweets throughout the day, and I’ve compiled a playlist of almost 300 ‘content’ tweets that drip through to my twitter at 3 per hour.  I sort this playlist into groups of 5, like this -

1 – a quote

2 – a link to an interesting article

3 – a promo for one of my books

4 – another quote

5 – a link to one of my blogs

By doing it this way, my followers don’t get snowed under by my promos, and they get to know that I offer stuff that interests them away from writing.  By interesting them in other ways, they might then take a moment to check out my books or my blog.  They might not, but there’s a better chance than just throwing “buy my books” tweets at them incessantly.  I add to this playlist from time to time, so there’s fresh content coming through and I have found that since I’ve been using twitter in this way, I get a lot of followers, and a lot of my tweets are favourited and retweeted, although those are never my book promo tweets.  I don’t know if this is ever going to help me sell books, but at least I’m trying.

I’ve decided to try to use pinterest in a similar way.  Up until now, I’ve kept pinterest to my books and blogs and I’ve never had any traffic to my blog from there and comments from other authors have convinced me to try something similar to my twitter use.  I am in the process of building ‘content boards’ that have nothing to do with my books or blog.  Recipes, gardening, decorating, craft ideas etc will form the bulk of this content, and hopefully I will get more traffic there which may migrate to my blog and books.

I already have a facebook author page, separate from my personal page and I use that for my blog posts and all book related stuff.  I also make posts that are not just book related, so people can see I’m a person with ideas and imagination, a sense of humour and not just someone trying to sell their shit.  I post funny photos and humorous quotes as well as book stuff, and I get a few ‘likes’ to such posts from time to time.  The problem with facebook fan pages, is that facebook don’t let your posts be seen by everyone who subscribes, unless you pay, so you know that your post isn’t going to be seen by everyone.  I’m trying to engage people more, with my fan page, but it’s a slow and thankless task.  There are so many author pages, all vying for everyone’s attention, and this oversaturation makes readers eyes glass over.

I have this blog linked automatically to my facebook fan page, my twitter feed, my linkedIn page, my google+ page and my goodreads blog, so I am trying to keep up a presence in as many places as possible.  Beyond paying for promotion space, which is out of the question because I’m broke, I don’t know what else I can do.  I take every opportunity to be interviewed, and I accept guest posts on this blog from others.

I’d be interested to hear about any other ideas or opportunities, especially those that cost nothing.

 

Negative Reviews – the worst way to handle them

I normally pay no more than a moment’s attention to most of the posts by other authors on facebook.  Ninety nine percent of the time they’re just trying to sell me their shit, which I have no intention of buying anyway, so I glance and jog on to the pics of half naked men with washboard abs and funny animal videos.  Now and again though, I see something that so enrages me, that I have to respond, even though I know my response will not only fall on deaf ears, but will probably lose me my kneecaps.  No matter, I prefer to speak up with universal wisdom and risk losing them, than keep silent and condone such behaviour.

In one of the writer’s groups I belong too (although maybe not for much longer) I saw this post.

“Hey all ***(name)*** just got this stupid one star review can we get some vote downs.”  A link to an Amazon review was attached.

The review is this.

“The story was a good one, kept you reading. However, to me it was poorly written. It was hard to keep up with the characters at times because of the way the story jumped from one scene to another before you realize it. I especially disliked the way the little boy, Joel, was written as to his baby talk.

I have never read a book that described a dog’s bark as “Bufgr”. This was just comical to me. Not a major problem with the book.”

Now, this review is not disrespectful in any way, it does not include name calling or swear words and never encourages other potential readers not to buy the book.  It is honest, well written and candid.  This person obviously spent money buying the book (the ebook version of which is nearly $4) and has exercised his/her right to give their honest opinion on it.  After all, we do live in a society that claims to encourage freedom of speech.  Indeed, the reviewer even compliments the book as being a good story.

Asking your author buddies to immediately go and vote down a review, simply because you don’t like it is not only unprofessional, but it also says a lot about your moral standards as both a person and an author.  That worries me and makes me determined never to buy any of your books.  I not only have to enjoy the book I’m reading, but I also have to respect you as a person.  I’m funny like that, I have standards.

The world of book reviews has become so sullied in recent times, with sock puppets, paid reviews and now this type of ‘vote rigging’ by authors and it makes me less desirous of getting reviews for my own work, or at least makes me care a little less about whether I get them or not.

When people pay money for our product, they have  a right to voice their opinion of said product, and whether we like what they have to say or not, is beside the point and of no consequence.  That is the joy of living in a society where freedom of speech is encouraged.  I applaud this reviewer for voicing their opinion in such an honest but unemotional way, and for avoiding name calling and other such undignified behaviour so often seen these days.

The more I associate with other authors, the less I respect them.

When you get a low star review, as we all do from time to time, simply ignore it.  Do not respond and certainly do not resort to this kind of ‘vote rigging’ as it only makes the paying public all too well aware of the depths to which you will happily sink, in order to fool them into thinking your product is worth their money.  What makes it worse is that the person who made the request, claims to be a religious man.

You, Sir, are an ass..!