Musings from the mind

Requiem for a shining star

paul-walker

 

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

torchwood

 

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..!

Summer Drought Sales-Wise?

It’s that time of year.  The time when our book sales traditionally slump.  I guess people are too busy sunning themselves on some chav infested beach to worry about buying books, so we must expect a dry spell during the summer.  That’s okay if your normal sales are healthy, but for those of us stragglers who delight in every single occasional sale, this time of year can make you wonder whether you’re in the wrong trade.

I’m trying to push my lack of sales to the back of my mind.  I’m editing my next release, I have just finished a new novel for Camp Nano, and with just four more stories to write to finish my horror story anthology, I’ve plenty to do.  I’ve also started a new health regime, and am trying to eat less, and more healthily, and now work out every day.  So far I’ve lost five pounds and can almost see my own pubic hair again for the first time in years.

Roll on Autumn, when folks are back from their hols and ready to start reading again.

Why guns should remain illegal in England

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Thankfully, England still doesn’t allow it’s residents to possess firearms, unless you’re a member of a gun club and even then there are loads of rules and regulations and checks and wotnot.  Of course a determined criminal will find a way to obtain a firearm if he/she really wants one, but the ordinary Joe’s like me aren’t allowed.  That’s a good thing, for me at least.

If I was allowed to go into a gun shop and buy a pistol as if I were purchasing a pack of sausages, it would signal the start of something so catastrophic that it hardly bears thinking about.  If I had a gun, I’d undoubtedly use it.

Somehow I just know I could pull that trigger without a moment’s hesitation.  Whether it be because of a mad rapist, burglar or just me wanting to end it all, a gun would feel too natural in my hands.  Like an extension of my own arm and so easy to squeeze that trigger, then afterwards the ‘oh shit.’

I’m spontaneous you see and don’t feel the need to plan things.  I can act on a whim at a moment’s notice and with a gun in my hand, that would probably end in tears.  I know my limitations.

The new ad-free me

I’ve come to a momentous decision today.  Thanks to the general public’s total lack of interest in my work, I shall no longer be doing any advertising of my books.

I’m not the world’s greatest saleswoman, I’m the first to admit that, and I don’t have a rich husband/parents/boyfriend/wife;/girlfriend/son/daughter etc to pay for one of the many over priced ‘advertise your book here’ websites or a publicist to do the work for me.  All I have is me.

I’ve said many times that authors are a selfish and competitive breed of creature.  They don’t give real help without a fight and they happily use bribery and outright fraud to jemmy their book’s way up the ladder of apparent success.  From getting other writer chums to write glowing reviews, to giving away kindles and amazon gift cards in return for reviews, anything and everything is fair in the book game.

You can’t just do a giveaway anymore, that doesn’t work.  Without the promise of a brand new kindle or $50 in amazon money, no one is interested in actually reading a good book these days.  It doesn’t matter how badly written the book is, how atrocious the spelling or how lackluster the grammar, so long as that kindle or gift card is in the post, they’ll give a glowing 5 star review.

I’ve just run a giveaway event for my latest novel and I’m not offering kindles or money.  I don’t need to bribe anyone, the book is good enough on its own to more than compensate for the time involved in reading.  The trouble is that people don’t actually read books anymore, even their buddies’ ones that they review.  They just skim without taking anything in.

I set an easy and fun competition and was offering ten free e-copies of my latest novel as the prize.  All I was asking was that people write a little story of 300 words about a celebrity and I would read and pick ten winners.  Guess how many signed up for the event.  Go on, guess.  Thirty eight.  Now guess how many actually did a story.  Two.

Officially the event runs until Friday but I’m confident no one else will bother to enter and, as per the rules set by me, if less than twenty enter, the whole shebang will be cancelled.

One thing that people really should try to get into their brains is that all those who are offering kindles and money as bribes to you for reading and reviewing their books, are doing it because they need to.  Think about it for a second; why would someone who has written a brilliant book need to give expensive gifts away to people to tempt them to read it?  Answer – because they probably wouldn’t go within a mile of it if they didn’t.

I recently watched a hilarious conversation on facebook where an female author was moaning loudly to her chums about someone who had given her latest tome a bad review.  Her little buddies jumped in and commiserated with her, called the reviewer all sorts of a obscene names and some even threatened violence if they ever met the person.  I went to Amazon and read the free preview and was appalled at the spelling and grammar, the punctuation mistakes and continuity errors I saw in the just the few pages the preview offered.

The standard of writing has fallen through the floor since the advent of self publishing and most people now have so little real knowledge of how to use their own language correctly, that their work often isn’t fit to read.

I’m not going to start offering kindles and amazon gift cards to bribe folks to read my books.  In fact I’m not going to actively advertise them at all anymore.  I shall do my usual post when I publish a new novel and continue with my weekly tweet/excerpt group as that helps out others, a couple of whom are very nice people.  I write because my soul aches to write.  I write because the universe demands I write.  I write because it’s the only thing I can do well.  I shall continue to write books of quality and publish them.  Whether you read them is up to you, but I won’t be offering you anything for doing it.

We’re exploring the final frontier.

I’ve been catching up on the first couple of seasons of Through the Wormhole.  We’ve not had this show in the UK, at least I’ve never seen it here and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.  My parents always loved science type shows and I grew up having to watch them and now I love them too.  I can’t imagine anyone not being interested in how the universe works.

I saw one episode earlier this evening about what first contact would be like, and the bottom line was that as all the substances essential to life seem to be uniformly spread throughout the whole universe, any life is likely to be very similar to us.  This pleased me for one important reason; in all of my books, my aliens are very much like us.  As I said before in this post,  I have a real problem with sentient life forms that resemble a puddle of blue gloop or tentacled beings who eat nothing but living human flesh flying sophisticated space ships across the galaxy.  So, my aliens are recognisably humanoid.

The other thing this show brings home to me is how soon it is likely to be that those things I write about in my novels will be commonplace, and that is awesome.  It means that, in a way, I’m predicting the future.  There are so many wonderful and varied theories about how this or that aspect of life, the universe and everything works and it’s so damn exciting.  From a infinite universe, to multiple universes, string theory, mulitiple dimensions and all manner of other mind bogglingly complicated shit, people are really starting to think outside the box and reach out with their minds.  We are living in a time of real exploration, not just physical but mental and it’s amazing.

Personally, I tend to agree with Stephen Hawking on the point of first contact.  He said that any race capable of crossing the vast expanse of space just to come here, aren’t going to go to all that trouble just to say “Hi there y’all, how ya doin?”  If they make all that effort to come here, then the likelihood is that they want something we’ve got and they probably won’t be too keen to take no for an answer.  As Professor Hawking said, in the case of meeting alien life, we’d be wise to keep our heads down.

By the way; a nod to the title of this post.  That is probably the only thing about Star Trek that I hate.  When they say “space, the final frontier,” I get so annoyed because it isn’t the final frontier at all.  There can only be one final frontier and that one is about as final as it gets.  Death, the final frontier.

The Point of Giving Up

Today I realised something painful and distressing, something I don’t want to admit to but something I have to face sooner or later.  People don’t like my writing and they just aren’t interested in even taking a look.

This hurts me in many ways, which I won’t go into to save you thinking (as you naturally would) that this is a sob story.  Suffice to say that I feel deflated and disheartened to the point that I’m thinking of giving up writing altogether.

People just refuse to buy my books and they won’t even come here to the blog and read the free excerpts and free short stories I have here.  I check the stats and can see how many visit and click so I know what I’m saying is true.

What I don’t know is whether this is because the market is so over saturated with indie published books that there’s too much choice, or whether it just because my work is shit.  And, it’s no use asking you because you never read my stuff so how would you know if it’s shit or not?

The only thing I can say is that deep in my heart I didn’t start writing to make money.  I started writing in June 2011 because one night, as I sat at the computer, something overwhelmed me and I began to write.  8 hours later, at 4am I dragged myself away from the computer to bed and knew I had the beginnings of a whole book at last.  Having wanted to write a book since I was a kid, here I was approaching 50 and finally I was writing a book.  I write because my soul demands that I write.  I write because there is something or someone standing beside me, telling me their story and telling me that I’m the one they’ve chosen to tell it to the world.  I write because it’s the only way to get my voice heard and yes, I do have a voice that has been screaming to get out for fifty years.

So should I give up or continue?  I don’t know.  Maybe I should just write and save everything to a disc or a memory stick and ask for it to be buried with me when I die, or kill myself, whichever is sooner.  Maybe I should stop.  One thing is for sure, I’m not giving everything away for free.  If I’m not worthy of a few pennies of your money, you’re not worthy of weeks of my time and energy.  If I write and no one sees what I write, the universal consciousness will know I’ve written and my words will be a part of the flow of the universe, whether heard or unheard by these creatures who were, so recently, grunting apes.

I read someone the other week who was also contemplating giving up, for similar reasons, and one thing they said stuck in my mind.  They said “you disappoint me greatly, all of you.  You stand with hands open when in need but turn your backs when in plenty.  You are so consumed by greed that you cannot even open your mouth and offer genuine encouragement to someone who is doing something that you cannot.”  I don’t know whether I’d go quite that far, but he’s got a point..!

The book market is over saturated with books, thanks to the indie publishing revolution, and much of it is tripe.  Those works that are good get lost amongst the trash, not because they are not worthy but because they are buried in rubbish and people are tired of wading through the excrement of uneducated minds to find those words that inspire and set their imaginations aflame.

I’m hoping the market crashes, and soon.  Maybe then a few brave souls will find my work and read it.