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Monday, 21 December 2015

Paying for all this

I don't blog here to make money. I do it to raise awareness of my own work and the work of others and to share thoughts and interests with the world a little.
Occasionally I try to be insightful, but mostly stay off politics despite it being a personal passion of mine. there are political blogs everywhere, I try and stick mostly to the arts and entertainment, therefore.
This is why my blog does not swim with ad's like some I could mention.
I took the choice when I set it up to limit ads to a sidebar and between individual posts, Never between the text of a post as is so common these days. Trying to read some sites is like negotiating a minefield of advertisements, particularity on the phone or a tablet. They slow down the loading speed and detract from the blog itself as a rule. And every now and again you can click on an ad just trying to scroll to the next interesting bit of the accrual blog your reading.
I know why people set up their sites like this. Indeed, from one perspective it makes perfect sense. Sit authors get a cut  of advertising clicks, if you set up your blog to be swamped with ads, all the more chance people will click on things, half the time without realising they are doing so. And that is  without the auto ad's that you get on some sites.
It detracts from the internet experience, and as the experience I am trying to give is 'listen to this, read this, enjoy this.' it seems counterproductive, and so I keep the ads as discreet and none invasive as I possibly can.
So why have ads at all? you are probably asking. Well firstly I don't really have a choice, Google runs the blog and they will post ad's regardless, and sites without ad's count lower on their algorithms, as the point is to reach people blocking all ad's is, therefore, counterproductive.
Also, it is a revenue stream, all be it a very small one, which all helps add to my chances of making a living with my writing. Slim though they may be.
When I say a small one I mean just that. in the last year, I have made about £8.50 on ads. Even with my growing readership the ad revenue is very small. Not that I care a great deal, as I don't blog to make money, but it all helps.
Anyway, basically this is a small request, if you like my blog, enjoy the reviews, find some of the waffle interesting. Then please, every now and again, click on an ad. you don;t have to read it , or pay it any mind , but it will contribute in a small way to the time I spend on the blog being profitable. Which in turn would allow me to invest more time in the blog.
So click on an ad when you're feeling generous :)

Friday, 18 December 2015

When we were seventeen by Waiting for Wednesday Album review

Having subjected everyone to my 'music journalism' in my last post. I had no real intention of ever doing so again as I don't claim to know much about music beyond what I like. I will admit what I like is a very long eclectic list, but I can't play, can't sing and would not know how to write a lyric if I tried. This may not matter a great deal to music industry journalists whom the same description may fit. but it matters to me if I am going to offer my opinion on my blog about someone's hard work and talent.
I can talk about writers, I am one.
It doesn't mean my opinion is of particular worth but at least, I have a leg to stand on, even if its a wooden leg carved from a broom handle, but people who read my work, at least, may have an opinion of my work on which to ascribe a value to my opinion.
When it comes to music I can only talk about what I like. Beyond that, it's all conjecture as to the worth of anything I say.

Anyway all that on one side, and the reasons I will not be venturing into music journalism here very often. I do however get to see a lot of the west Yorkshire music scene, and get to see a few bands live on a regular basis, normally because I am in Bradford or the surrounding area to see friends and catch Nervous 'Orse play, a band who's members are all friends of mine, somewhere on the spectrum between nodding acquaintances and lifelong friends depending on which member we are talking of. the bonus of these friendships is I get to meet and listen to other musicians , those wonderful people of strange talents which were probably gains at the crossroads at midnight in negotiations with the devil. (I speak as one of the musically talentless who would therefore rather believe in some nefarious deals with Lucifer over hard work, practise and passion be getting music wonder.)

One of the bands I have caught the most is Waiting for Wednesday. A wonderfully talented duo of Laura Shackleton and Anna Watkins. Playing as support for, and on numerous occasion been supported by Nervous Orse., or just generally on the same bill ( Often higher up the bill than the 'Orse) I think the first time was at a small pub music festival a couple of summers ago.

They both sing while Laura plays guitar, their vocals complimenting each other with the kind of harmony's that seem effortlessly entwined. Anna's deeper huskier voice melodiously mixed with Laura's lighter but equally powerful voice.

They remind me of First Aid Kit both lyrically and with those harmonies. The same  haunting twilight to their lyrics that draws you in to listen .

their new album gifted me something else on top of the live experience in the way of drums and other instruments on the backing track to and new depth to their recordings.

anyway, enough waffling on, follow the link and listen for yourself. Go on give it a good listen before you read any further. turn the volume up and take a seat for a moment. Give your ears a treat and your soul a moment of humanity

https://waitingforwednesday.bandcamp.com/album/when-we-were-seventeen

so anyway. In a review, I should really tell you what I think. That is sort of the point of a review after all.
It is, to use a vernacular I seldom write in, but as I come from the same part of the world I shall for once . Blooming marvellous.

the ladies are taking a break from playing live for a while, which I would say is sad if it was not because they are expecting the patter of the next generations feet in a few months. So it's going to be a while before I get to listen to them live. However, this album ( and the previous one ) will fill the void I am sure. I suspect it will play at lot in the background as I write . Much like the might 'Orse.

So there you go , go buy the album , and indeed their other ones . Invest in some glorious west Yorkshire musical muses work , your ears and your soul will love you for it.




Monday, 7 December 2015

Where This Now Finds Us , by Nervous 'Orse album review



Normally, in between random musings, occasional fiction and whatever else occurs to me, I review books on here by Indie authors. This being because as an Indie author myself I know how hard it can be to get reviews, and I like to think I know a modicum about good literature when I read it, what makes a good novel and  what I can worthily recommend to other. That and to be frank it gives me something to write about apart from the random musings, short fiction and 'begging letters' trying to encourage people to read my own work :).
I also occasionally review other things but generally shy away from reviewing music for two reasons.
Firstly, because music taste is a very ecliptic thing and I am particularity ecliptic when it comes to my own. I have broad and occasionally odd tastes in music.
Secondly, because while I have talents in other areas I have the musical ability of a  misshapen carrot after it's been attacked by a rabid rabbit.
This is a sad thing in my opinion because I love music and musicians. It is not for want of trying either, I have two guitars in the house and occasionally twang away at them. I even took lessons way back in middle school, but like many things to become proficient at an instrument, let alone vaguely talented takes a lot of commitment, practise and work. Also importantly  a basic degree of natural talent, the latter of which I lack.
As I said, however, I love and respect musicians both as people and for the talents they have.
I am also somewhat blessed to have known a few over the years.
Among them, a couple of friends that I have known for more than half my life are Dave and Jon, two of the founding members of a group of Bradford musicians going under the name of Nervous 'Orse.
As find a pair of individuals as you are ever likely to meet, and through them, I have been equally blessed to meet Danny and Jake the two other members of the mighty 'Orse. And finally I have been blessed to witness their group grow collectively over the last year or so, from playing small gigs at local Bradford watering holes to opening the Indie stage at the Bingley festival this summer, (sadly I missed the festival gig, but I hope to catch the next one.)
Living in Middlesbrough means a 140-mile round trip to see the band at local gigs, so I don';t get to see them as often as I would like, but every time is a pleasure, and the band group tighter and just plain better every time I see them play.
As well as been blessed to know these musicians I am blessed to know Emily, the wife of Dave and quite possibly the 'fifth Orseman', or the gaffer as they call her. Because Emily is known to work hard to get them gig's radio exposure and everything else that comes from been manager of the band, right down to working the concession stand and been chief cheerleader on the dance floor. She also encouraged me to write a review of the bands début Album.
She can be very forceful when it comes to asking fro reviews, for a start she smiles at you, in a way that suggests that not writing a review will cause that smile to go away. This would be a bad thing obviously. I am not sure why but I get the impression the band would agree that Emily not smiling is a bad thing .....   they fear her , I can see it in their eyes. She drives them to rehearse because to not do so would incur a frown ....
So anyway with the mild and utterly undeserved character assassination of 'the gaffer' out of the way and because I would have review it anyway, there follows the review of Where This Now Finds Us, the debut Album of Nervous 'Orse. on +Widemouth records But first , listen to them yourself ... ( go on take 3 minutes and twenty-four seconds out of your life to experience a little pleasure )

Dead is the new alive by Nervous 'Orse


Back ?  good , did you enjoy it , of course, you did.
That is the first single from the album, wasn't its good :)

Okay, serious review time.


Nervous 'Orse are collectively Dave McKinley on acoustic guitar, Jon Smith on electric , Danny Sapko on bass and Jacob Riley on drums. A familiar set up for a band. Two guitars, bass and drums is not an original set up let's face it. It's as tried and trusted as a formula as you can get in music. But the band are more than four instrument players, the band actually has eight instruments in use on ever track, the other four been the vocal cords of the band members,
While Dave may be lead vocalist on most tracks he is not alone on any of them, it is the collective harmonies of the four voices that really sets them apart as a band. Each of them not only can sing but does sing, and any of them could take the lead vocal on a track, and indeed do.
The harmonies of the voices are reminiscent of something you rarely get in modern bands, the kind of harmonies you got from the beach boys, but that doesn't make them sound less fresh and new.
indeed, that's the secret of the band , they are both fresh and new, and yet achingly familiar at the same time. Even if you have never heard them before you'll find yourself drawn in as to an old friend in a new guise.
This is music at its best, tunes that stay in the mind, lyrics that catch you singing along as they hook you in. Simple songs that have depth, all the same, that ache with emotion and wisdom the way the best songs do.
You'll print your own memories on them because that's what we all do with good music. But that's just it, this is an album on which you will imprint memories because that's the kind of music the might 'Orse make. Music for memories
Good memories that will be all the better for the music
Memories of smiles and laughter and the joy of life.
Another friend of mine said of them recently ( and I paraphrase only slightly )
"You and your kind are what makes life worth living for us all"
A sentiment that I find hard to decry.

So there you are.
A fine début album that you should listen to, buy , play and most importantly make memories with, and find yourself humming to when one of the songs gets stuck in your head first thing in a morning, Which will make your day a day of smiles and joy. Because that what good music does and this is damn fine music.

A final note, I shall never make a music journalist, any more than a musician. So I shall leave that to the professionals in future. Just as I do the music .

Buy it here , your inner self will love you for doing so...
Wide mouth records

+nervousorse.co.uk


 

Monday, 30 November 2015

Stories within stories within stories


Perhaps one of the oldest story forms is the story within a story. It's one that always appeals to both writers and reads for many reasons.  It's a way to set a scene, or build a certain tension. In its simplest form, it is a way to have an introduction and a conclusion surrounding a tale. Adding a layer to the story and allowing the writer to trail his story to a degree.
To use an example from a classic author , in the Time Machine +H.G. Wells  introduces his story with a dinner party hosted by the protagonist who turns up in an odd state. The start and end of the novel are told by one of the guests at the dinner party. While the middle it told as a tale told by the protagonist.
It's a simple form, but one that allows complexity to be built on to it.
In the wind through the keyhole , the last (or latest) dark tower novel to be written by +Stephen King  ( though not chronologically) king tells a story wrapped around a tale told by Roland to his K'tet.  But in Rolands story, there is a third story wrapped inside. A story told to Roland in the middle of the story he is telling. A story within a story , within a story.
King is if course something of a master teller of tales. And like all good stories within stories  each layer is both relevant to the layers above it and influences the greater tale.
My forthcoming novel 'Location relative' : Esqeiths piano bar and grill. Which I have mentioned on occasion, is one which uses the stories within stories as a structure. The structure is closer to the likes of Worlds End by Neil Gaiman, the seventh of the sandman graphic novels. In which travelers swap stories in a magical tavern on the edge of reality.
While the central tale is of the experiences of a man called Richard within a strange shifting reality of the passing place, it is also built around other tales told by those who inhabit the passing place and those who pass through its doors.
As I built the novel, and built is the right word in many ways, as it is composed of tales which form the bricks around which Richards tale is the mortar, I made a point of making the stories all relevant in one way or another to the main tale. Though while some may have obvious connections or lessons for the main protagonist to learn from others are more oblique in nature, telling the reader something about the characters within the passing place and their relationships with one another.
It's taken almost five years in total to string this all together, I started this novel before cider lane which took over from it as a point of focus for a long while.
Authors are story tellers. This is true no matter what the genre, or if the book is a novel or none fiction. Stories remain the stock in trade. Readers take from the stories different things from the writers intention sometimes. Often in fact. The passing place is a novel about stories and full of stories, some only a few paragraphs or less within a larger tale, itself within a greater tale.
Location relative is the first of three planned novels based in the passing place. Together they will form a greater tale of which those are just parts, stories , within stories with stories.

When it's finished I hope may enjoy them all.   

Sunday, 22 November 2015

"So Whats your book about ?"


I keep being asked this question and it’s a fair question to ask. The problem is I still don't really have an answer to it. At least not a short concise answer that sums up the novel. 
I wrote it, published it, sold it, people, who have read it seem on the whole to like it. To paraphrase +Douglas Adams It’s about 300 pages. And Erm… Nope , I still don't have a witty, concise , or considered answer
I think it’s about loss, falling off the edge, coming back from the brink. Love, truth, pain, suffering, emotion, Erm ... stuff..........
See neither witty nor concise 
In part, this is I think because a novel is deeply personal to its creator. I did my own book cover because it’s my book. I did my own typesetting, because it’s my book, wrote the blurb for the back because it’s my book. And then people ask me to sum up what my novel is about. 90000 words I slaved over for three years. Wrote, re-wrote, edited and wrote again.  Six or more drafts worth depending how you count so 90000 words were actually the work of 540000 words all told.   
On top of this every reader of the novel probably has a different view of what’s it’s about reading is a personal experience after all. Just as writing is. I could tell you what some of my favourite books are about but I am almost positive the authors would disagree with my summaries of them. In some cases might not recognise their own books straight away.  
Something I have discovered from reviews.  
So anyway, the thing is it’s like been asked what your child is like, for me it’s a deeply personal book, it is hard to actually put a finger on what it’s about because I am too close to it. 
However every now and again I get a review in that simply leaves me astound. 
From the book of the month review by the Publishers Book Club  which blew me away (as did winning the award but I have mentioned that before.) to this recent review, publish on +Amazon.com  by reviewer Katie Salvo 

Review of "Cider Lane" by Mark Hayes“ 5 stars!
"All these anxieties are in your subconscious only. You must reconcile yourself with the environment around you. Come to comprehend you are under no threat. Aspect your milieu and scrutinise it in immeasurable facet. You will conclude you have naught to endure with apprehensive quintessence.” (Quote from book.)
"You must, you must, you must. You will, you will, you will.” It is the dictate of Society, the so-called “social norm,” which we all find ourselves conforming to. These are the instructions given Susanna by the psychiatrist her parents have hired to render her “normal.” A bullied, anxious teen, Susanna has developed a coping mechanism of withdrawal deep into her own mind and soul, so effective that she is able to block out the horror of seeing her family perish in a burning car. The only survivor of the accident, she internalises feelings of anger and guilt, while simultaneously reinforcing the mental process that separates her from her fears, via a deeply ingrained numb existence. In a state of shock after the car accident, her numbed state-of-mind leads her to an empty cabin on Cider Lane where she will meet Colin, a drifter who, from personal experience, has learned that Society’s dictates of “must” and “will” serve only to define—and confine—the human spirit in a power-hungry world, filled with selfish ambition, where those who refuse to conform find themselves on the fringes of humanity. 
“Cider Lane” by author Mark Hayes is steeped in existential questions of “being.” What is our purpose? How does one define Right and Wrong? And who exactly is it that deems himself/herself worthy of standing in decree of Right and Wrong? And why do we listen when those who pass such judgements are as human as the rest of us? In this book, Mr. Hayes has given us much to think about as Susanna and Colin come to know one another and discover that transcendence of soul and mind can be dangerous in an automated atmosphere of “musts” and “wills.”

I have to admit I had to look up the quote she started with because I could not remember the context of it, but a finer review I could not ask for. 
I would point I out I never ask for reviews, but that would be a lie, I do. I don’t, however, use any pay for a review websites, or solicit reviews from anyone. I did give copies to a couple of people on good reads specifically for reviews but they were not paid for and they are all honest reviews. Katie was not even a review copy. Just a reader who read and loved the book. 

So what’s my book about?. What Katie said … and anyone else who reviews my novel. Readers are far better at knowing what a book is about than authors any day. 

Thursday, 12 November 2015

the art of the self publicist



I am not by nature a graphic artist , my medium is words, as your probably aware. However, some of the Microsoft suite tools are useful for making fairly quick promo's for even the list visually artistic of us. the one's below took all of about ten minutes each and are basic power point slides dressed up and turned into jpegs. Not sure if they are particularly visually stunning :) , or attention grabbing but they do seem to be more effective than written adds with lots of text    
There are lots of people offering to do this as a service for which they charge anything from a fiver (on ffiver.com funnily enough)  to lots and indeed many. Being as I am far from wealthy at the moment and thrifty in general I have put together a couple of my own (see below ) 



The second is a clone in many ways with just the background changed and the words slide about a little. The book cover does look more book covery size wise


I am going to experiment further when I have time. Playing with fonts and pictures more to make something more visually stunning if I can . But thought I would share these here for any budding self-publicist to have a glance at and see what can be achieved with a little effort.

It is interested just how many more likes etc you get on Facebook groups for readers / writers  when you publish a picture like the above over a small wall of text. So it seems to be worth the effort of doing so .

Saturday, 7 November 2015

2015 the year of the Renaissance men



Way back in the dim dark distant past. In an age when Mobil phones were for making phone calls but only a few of us had them. When the internet did not seem like something that would catch on as a single picture took twenty seconds to download  down a 56k line. When there were only four TV channels and they mostly closed at midnight. When you could smoke in a pub and MEGA drives were the cutting edge of the console-verse. There used to be a pub called the travellers rest, sat at the top of a hill in a less than fashionable part of Leeds, on the borderland between Armley and Bramley which few chose to cross and next door to the mental hospital.
In that pub, there used to gather a crowd of young 20 somethings which were sometimes closer to their mid-teens than they admitted. Among them were three or more wise men, whom we shall call, the hippy ex-singer, the really tall hippy, and the one who professed not to be a hippy because he loved violence (who was also a hippy).
In between getting drunk, hogging the jukebox, and putting the world to rights this crowd of strangely epileptic individuals played host to the artistic dreams of three young men among them. The writer, the singer and the actor. Of them , I should add, the writer was most certainly the most pretentious, unwittingly arrogant and occasionally irritating.
Such are the dreams of young men in the dark days of the late eighties and early nineties in the Britain Thatcher built on the bones of broken dreams.
They dream dreams of artistic endeavour, the writer wrote, the singer sang and learned guitar, and the actor acted up.... And the world went by and paid them no heed.
Fast forward a small collection of years in the grander scheme of things. To the year 2015 , where the internet holds the world in its grasp and a Mobile phone is a computer which could land the space shuttle and has accesses to the total sum of human knowledge ( okay we use it to play candy crush, and look at pictures of cats but the potential is there all the same.)
And in these strange days of the future that the three young men could barely of dreams back then suddenly something rather wonderful happens. The wrong side of forty they manage their dreams.

The Singer ,(Dave is the one with the beard )  and his new band , get a record deal and their new single from the forthcoming album is out this week

   
The Actor (Rik is the tall one in the foreground) , is staring in the forthcoming Short film The Goodbye Girl


And as for the write, well his is still a tad pretentious if truth be told, but you may have heard of his first novel




And the three wise hippy's, there still wiser than we or so they tell us, and gentlemen to boot.

Anyway, 2015 , year of the Horse, year of Goodbye Girl , Year of Cider lane . and year of the renaissance for the dreams of young men , who may be the other side of 40, but are still young enough to dream.



edit .

More of the actor 'acting up '

https://vimeo.com/136201095



Sunday, 1 November 2015

The knitting circle of the devil

A little tale for all hallows 


“Lust, linger over the word itself. Sound it slowly, feel the weight of it, the torrents barely held awaiting release. Curl your tongue around the L, in a long languid movement. Linger upon it, and then let the U begin deep down in the back of your throat, a primal thing straining to escape. Purse your lips as the S rolls out of your mouth like a breath held for a long moment. Finally, let the S become a T, venomous, angry, a petulant tut at the end of the word.
Lust, it is in us all, it drives us all to one degree or another. Some strive against it; while it eats away at them from within, like a serpent's kiss within them, coiling around their heart, striving for release. They deny themselves, their nature, and the nature of humanity. For want is more human than lust. To want, to need, to feel the urge to possess all that you desire.”
“Others revel within it, welcome it, and feed their lust, never satisfied, always wanting more. Understanding their nature, they seek to indulge it in all things. Till they become driven by nothing but lust. Be it for wealth, for processions, for power, for sex, for everything and anything.”
“Such is its nature; the serpent of lust grows with every feeding. Every satisfaction pales against it, feed one urge and the next awaits you. What was an extreme once becomes bland and tasteless, a gray shade of had been when unattained? Another desire, another lust has replaced the former. A new extreme, a new need to chase, to want, to desire. The serpent coils tighter within you , driving you on.”
“Till the truth of lust, the great secret of it is revealed. It is the serpent that grown upon feeding itself. And nothing is ever enough.”
“So what can you do, what should you do, but indulge the serpent. Feast with it, feed it, give yourself over to it in all its forms. Let the lust become you. Let it define you in everything. Let nothing be called debase, decry nothing as depraved, let all experience be welcome and indulged in its name. Let lust be your deity, let its angels guide you and its demons enthral you. If to lust is human, then let it be your everything, and drive you on to newer heights and greater depravities in its name. Let it be your joy, feed it your suffering and your pain, let it lead you to pleasures those who decry it would deny you. Be as one in this my children, let it consume you and feed yourself to its insatiable appetite. Let it lead you to heaven through the fields of hell.”

The sermon ended. The congregation as one stared at the minister who bestrode the pulpit. Then filed silently into the night. The minister wiped the sweat from his brow. Replaced his hat and descended from the pulpit, to make his way to the vestry.
On the back row, Vera exclaimed quietly,” Buggeration with it,”
Her octogenarian compatriot Edna jumped up at this, “Did you say something dear?” she asked.
“Dropped a stitch,” said Vera, showing her companion her knitting.
“Well that’s no cause for obscenity in church dear” Edna scolded. 

Friday, 23 October 2015

A wonderful review and Book of the Month in November

The wonderful people at The publishers Bookclub have made Cider lane book of the month for November.  The words over the moon spring to mind
To read their full review etc you'll have to wait till November the 1st ,, ( me too come to that ) but below is the Amazon.com review they did for me ...   words fail in describing how awesome it is.


best review ever ............
5 stars November 2015 Book of the Month
By A Publisher's Book Club Official Review on October 22, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
Hayes captures the essence of trauma to perfection in his book Cider Lane: Of Silences and Stars.
It's a difficult feat to write emotion. First, you must submerge yourself within the walls of the pain that we try so desperately to avoid. Hayes does this without flaw as he describes the car crash as witnessed.
It is a macabre beginning to a story that is beautifully told and easily relatable.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Strange worlds and Awkward reviews

As anyone who reads my blog is aware I review Indie authors books on a semi-regular basis.
Partly I do reviews because I am an indie writer myself. Thus I know how hard it is to get people to do reviews. In particularly honest well thought out and considered reviews. There are options out there where you can pay for reviews, and as the option is out there I am sure some people do.
Partly I do review because it means I get to read a lot of interesting writers work and it encourages me to read a broad span of different genres and styles, something which is important to me in my own development as a writer. There is nothing that expands your own scope like reading something different.
And finally partly I do reviews just because I enjoy a good read. Which is occasionally where the problem with reviews lays, because I offer to do reviews to a couple of groups on +Goodreads, and never quite know what I am going to be reading when I agree to do them.
Don’t get me wrong here, the majority of Indie books I read are genuinely great read. There is a rich vibrant community of indie authors out there. Often they are also the most thought provoking, interesting and different novels you can find. As opposed to main stream novels because main stream publishers publish books with an aim in mind, that been profit.  Many of the indie novels I read might not even get read by a publisher. Let alone find one willing to publish something that’s more than a little out of the ordinary. Indeed the indie book is generally written by authors not thinking in commercial terms. Instead they are writing what they want to write and how they wish to write it.
You may hate the book, you may love it, but either way the indie author is telling their story how they wish to tell it. Immortown which I reviewed a couple of months ago for example is a really interesting read, that written in a fascinating way. The strength of the book lays in how it is written. The strange perspective the author uses added to the power and charm of the book. It tells a good story but not in any way that I would have written it. It’s one I recommend to anyone all the same. In part simply because it is so different.
The down side is I have been asked to review a couple of books which I really have struggled with. Having committed to review them I feel obliged to read them, equally I feel obliged to give an honest review. The trouble is my honest review would be that I did not enjoy them, or that I found the writing problematic, difficult to follow, or worse perhaps just actively hated them.  I don’t often hate a book but it does happen.
One of these was a sfi book written with entirely non-human characters. In itself this isn’t an issue, a character doesn’t have to be human for me to feel empathy towards it. However in this case I did not feel anything for the characters. The writing got me lost constantly and the concepts it tried to introduce just felt flat and unreadable. It could have been better, it certainly had interesting ideas but it read like a first draft and a first draft that was written without much of a plan. What interest I found in the ideas was swamped by a lack of cohesion and most of the time I had no idea what was going on. Which was almost a shame as some of the ideas were interesting. It really seemed to be an early draft however.
Another was a YA novel which had a reasonable premise. The writing was better and it started well. The problems I had with it were more to do with the setting than anything else because when I agreed to read it I was told it was based in part around Norse mythology. The problem is I know a little about Norse mythology and what the novel was actually based on was the +Marvel Entertainment  version of it built around there character Thor. Which has as much in common with real Norse mythology as a Mel Gibson historical epic. Frankly I am not a Marvel fan as such so in fairness this was really not written for me. At the same time however it was only loosely based on Marvels universe. Again I had trouble with the characters, the main character written in the first person I had an overwhelming desire to slap every five minutes, while the sorties into third person for off centre action were  worse somehow. Though as I say I don’t think this was written for me and plenty of people might enjoy the style and the writing. Certainly it was better than the sfi book I mentioned earlier.
Every author has something to say, and every author should be allowed to say it. But having agreed to review someone’s work I wish I had a get out clause.
“Sorry I hated your book, but I don’t want to give you a bad review, so let’s just say it’s not for me.”

#bookreviews

Friday, 9 October 2015

New price on kindle

New reduced price for the kindle version of Cider Lane : Of Silences and Stars £1.99 ($2.99) 
It is also still on kindle unlimited and free to subscribers of the service
And available in paperback for £8.99 from amazon 


If you haven't read it yet nows the time to buy
#booksale


Thursday, 8 October 2015

Cider Lane Reviews

A few recent reviews for Cider Lane :Of Silences and Stars from +Amazon.co.uk , as once in a while it's nice to blow one own trumpet.


5.0 out of 5 starsI thoroughly enjoyed this incredibly compelling book
ByMark Adams
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed this incredibly compelling book, and it gripped me from beginning to end.

The author's ability to give you insights into the character's way of thinking and the damage they have endured to their mental health through their lives is something very rare: believable. The empathy that the two richly fleshed out main protagonists evoke makes the book an absolute page turner!

4.0 out of 5 starsHide From Your Friends!
ByJon Padgett
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I took this book to read on holiday. Unfortunately it got nabbed by a friend who spent his time reading it instead. Now I've got it back, I'm enjoying the start and the rest of the book was obviously good enough for my friend to deprive me the pleasure of reading it on holiday.

4.0 out of 5 starsThe writer holds the reader's attention on two central characters ...
ByChristophe
Format: Kindle Edition
The writer holds the reader's attention on two central characters as their story unfolds and their paths inevitably cross. Really it is the depth of Susanna and Colin that are the basis of the book and the reader enters their troubled lives and learns about their tortured pasts. The story itself is minimal and I didn't realise that a writer could hold my attention for so long revolving around tin openers, camp fires, erotic tension and the preoccupations of troubled souls. An absorbing, if somewhat melancholy, read.

5.0 out of 5 starsA good story and at times thought provoking
ByA. Hawley
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This is an interesting book. A good story and at times thought provoking, the characterisation is well done and the story well told. It is difficult to believe that this is a book from a first time writer.

5.0 out of 5 starsthis is a good book to take on holiday
ByMr Paul Mellor
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
A well paced and interesting story, this is a good book to take on holiday. With detailed description and fascinating insights about the life of a gentleman of the road, this book will catch your attention and engage your interest all the way to the dramatic conclusion.



#bookreviews

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

book promotion, or how not to do it

Promoting your own book is a difficult task. That is not to say there are not lots of options out there, in fact there are a ridiculous amount of them out there if you look. From companies that advertise, 'We will promote your book for you.' at an exorbitant cost.
To more streamlined ways of promoting your book, such as +Facebook, +Twiter and +Goodreads  among others.
There are also those who will promote your book for a small cost that you can on sites like +Fiverr.  
Then there are promotion options with +Amazon.com and +Kindle Ebooks Daily If your willing  and have the money to put some investment in up front.
Finally there is also doing your own promotion as much as you can. While you try and avoid driving away your friends with endless 'buy my book, posts and requests to share.

When I published Cider lane a few months back I made a decision that while I wanted it to be successful by my own criteria, which were basically I wanted to get a few copies sold and hopefully get a good reception from friends and family, I wanted it to reach a wider audience as well. However I was under no great illusions that selling beyond my own circle would be easy. So I made a deal with myself that any money I made from the book I would set aside to put into further promotion of my novel. Which then leaves me with the question of what i do with that money.

To look at the options,
Social media is the life blood of self-promotion, but realistically there are only so many people you can reach through your own network of friends. You can, and I have rather too much I suspect, ask friends who have bought a copy to share links to the book and say nice things, and as they are friends they will do so to an extent. But once you get beyond your own circle the number of people who will take a chance on a new book from an author they have never heard of is limited.

The companies offering to promote your book at an exorbitant cost, well less said the better.

The amazon and kindle promotion options are equally limited for a new author, they are relatively expensive though not exorbitantly so, but the results are open to question.

The option of doing a kindle sale deal is one that is worth pursuing if your willing to discount your book or give it away for free. But after  three years hard work went into my novel giving it away for free seemed to be a depressing concept. That said free copies will sell better than paid copies and if you have several books out there then putting one up for free is a way to build an audience. I don't as yet so I settled for a one-week kindle countdown deal that reduced the cost of the kindle version of my book considerably. I then made a concerted effort to promote the fact and in fairness it did pay off a little , a few more books were sold on the kindle, but only a very few. I was a little nieve which may have come into play here, I should have put that promotion out there in other ways as well to try and hook in readers.

There are deals which can be done on good reads and ways to promote your book including giveaway , but I have not yet taken that route. It is however a good way to get people to list the book as 'want to read' which may in time help to get people interested in buying the book .

Finally, and what I should have done before the kindle sale, I looked at Fiverr. Where for $5 you can pay people to do 'gigs' promotion wise for your book. Most of which are social media concerns. The lesson learned here is to combine a kindle sale with a marketing campaign to try and maximize your results.

I did however get a check from +CreateSpace for selling the printed versions of my book recently so I put some of the money into Fiverr promotions. The ones I went for claimed to reach 100,000+ people with facebook and twitter accounts on various pages. Which seemed worth a try. So I paid out the princely sum of about £12 between two different promoters and let them get on with promotion my book for me. As I say this was some of the money iI had made on Cider lane, only a small portion but I wanted to see how effective they might be before i expanded this approach further.

There are a myriad of other services out there on Fiverr including people who will give amazon reviews and stars without ever reading the book ( which just seems like cheating to me ).  Paid reviews are what they are, you can follow that route if you wish, but I prefer all reviews to be from readers.

So as I say as an experiment I tried promotion through third parties on social media. It was inexpensive and I only put a small portion of my budget into it. So little in fact that half a dozen sales or more would earn me the money back again. As an experiment it was a failure, Indeed I did not sell a single book on the back of it, at least as of today. The kindle sale was far more effective, and I suspect combining the two would be more effective still, but as a stand alone it was a waste of money. (Luckily not a great deal of money).

So this puts me back at square one. I have a small budget from royalties that have come in. But nowhere to spend that budget. Tempting as more promotion via Fiverr may be it seems low cost is not the same as effective.

When i next do some promotion work I will put an update here. in the hopes my experiences will be of help to others

mark


Monday, 5 October 2015

Wife in space: the scruffy drunk




17907284A while ago a good friend thrust a book into my hand called Adventures with the Wife in Space: Living with Doctor Who.  Which was written by +Neil Perryman and in part his wife Sue after Neil, a lifelong Doctor Who fan convinced Sue to watch every episode of Classic +Doctor Who with him and record her thoughts on each episode in his blog. He even convinced her to look at the episodes that don't actually exist anymore. The so-called reconstructed episodes that make up a large amount of both the +William Hartnell and +Patrick Troughton seasons, which don't exist because some thoughtful people at the +BBC archives decided the tapes should be reused to record one man and his dog or just wanted to shelf space. The reconstructions have the odd clip in them ( generally thanks to the Australian censor trying to protect the humble Aussi), lots of stills footage , generally some one narrating them and the audio tracks form the episodes. Once in a while they have even been animated or CGI'd by fans in order to make them a little less of a chore to watch. Indeed if Sue Perryman had cited been made to watch them as cruel and unusual punishment she could probably have got a quickie devoice. But watch them they did. As well as the rest of the 26 classic series of everyone's favourite mad man in a box.

The whole experiment was recorded faithfully in the blog and readers encouraged to comment on Sues various pronouncements and observations. Many of which were the source of much mirth and merriment. Once they had finally finished this grand opus Neil wrote about the whole experiment and his own life which has occasionally been influenced by his fandom of the time lord, in the book which my friend forced upon me about two years ago. It was a great read, not least because Neil and myself are of similar age and recollections of the Tom Baker years along gave me some common ground with the book. It was also tremendously funny to read about the whole experiment. the kind of thing only +Doctor Who can throw up. As well as Sues ever delightful view son doctor who episodes there are a plethora of her views and opinions on other things. Also Sue herself is an interesting character, having built her own house and been the one who puts up shelves in the Perryman house hold. The whole book had me in stitches quite often and was tremendous fun. So I recommend it to anyone, particularity any Doctor Who fans out there. As I would also recommend reading the blog.

Which leads me to why I am writing this now, apart form my passion for independent publishing which should be clear to anyone who reads this blog. My good friend thrust another book in my hand this weekend. Due to an error at the printers the first run of The Scruffy Drunk , the blogs about the Troughton series was composed of books which were falling apart. So Neil send out replacements to everyone who had received the dodgy run. A fine philanthropic gesture which probably dipped into any profits SueMe were going to make form there limited run. the consequence being I had the second doctors blog book thrust upon me for free.

Note. unfortunately for Sue a few lost episodes were rediscovered recently and she had to sit through those again, because, well you have to be completest about these things don't you.
Since then Neil and Sue have gone on to watch and blog the whole of +Blake Seven as well as other scifi shows in a  series of blogs and books. As well as currently turning there original blog into a series of books, One for each incarnation of the doctor. These are been produced by SueMe books the couples own independent publishers in a short press via kickstarter campaigns. Fairly successful ones that that as they seem to be fully subscribed very quickly. The latest one of which is for the +Jon Pertwee years or as Sue calls him , The pompous Tory .


So in true independent publishing review style I thought what the heck I will read it, and then found it next to imposable to put down. If your a Who fan, then I recommend both the original book , and the blog . I also recommend the Blogs in print versions. Which I am probably going to have to buy myself now.

These are a treat, Sue and Niel are a fabulous couple and the Wit of Sue is endlessly entertaining.


#doctorwho #bookreviews



Friday, 2 October 2015

YA fiction, the fiction of YA

Image result for hunger gamesThe indie writer scene seemed to be over flowing with Young Adult Fiction. Or YA as it gets referred to in general. In many ways it seems the in vogue thing to write in indie circles, at least if your not writing erotic fiction. Its hard to be critical of this. It is a growth market in some respects, it is certainly the popular genre to be writing in thanks to the success of novels like +Twilight , +The Hunger Games, +Divergence , and +The Maze Runner making the leap to the big screen. YA is seen by many as a road to success, but the down side of this is the 'many' have flooded the market place with YA fiction which are now all fighting for recognition among so many books that follow the same patterns and story lines. So many want to be Stephenie Meyer's are writing teen / twenty something vampire romances, rewriting a genre that dates back to old count Dracula himself. This is not to say there is anything wrong with this. If there are people who want to read the genre then its a good thing there are people who want to write it. The problems with the Twilight Saga aside, given that it portrays and yet romanises a relationship in which a man hundreds of years old stalks a young woman. That it has inspired people to write is a good thing. Just as the Hunger games and Maze runner have there own YA dystopia clones. If there is a problem with YA fiction it is to my mind simply this. YA is not a genre. It is instead a collective genre into which everything gets dropped if it fits the very loose criteria of having main characters who are young. Preferably american high school or collage young.
So your asking, why is this a problem? 
Well its a problem because so many of these YA novels fall into the same trap of thinking calling your novel YA allows you to dumb down to an audience which is just as widely read, intelligent and thoughtful as the audience for other genre's. 
The successful YA fictions, by which I mean the ones which really go on to cross over to the main stream are the ones which most ignore there YA tag and write for an audience of everyone. Take 'The Hunger Games.' for example. The novels never write down to there audience. It is in fact not YA at all but a real grown up dystopia, carefully constructed and thought out, which never talks down to its audience or dumbs down its writing. It gets described as YA by the marketing department and placed in the YA section of big chain book stores, but it was never written to be YA. 
A cursory look around +Goodreads will let you find groups of every description. If you want to join a group which reads YA vampire fiction exclusively it will be there. Indeed there is probably a group for YA blonde werewolves in china fiction which caters exclusively to this tiny sub genre. 
Its the tag of YA that bugs me most, and I will admit it is a personal grievance and nothing more. That it seems to be endemic in the indie writer scene is the part which worries me. I have read some good YA and some bad YA. But usually the bad YA is bad because it tries to be a rewrite of something successful or it takes ideas and a concept which could be awesome and waters it down to fit a YA description rather than just write a good story. 
If you want to write YA then my advice is try not to think of what your writing as YA to start with. Tell your story but don't make your characters teenagers just to fit in with the genre. What makes the hunger games so good is the characters are who they are. Rather than carbon copies and cardboard cut outs of generic teenage misfits. 





Sunday, 27 September 2015

The Watching : the waiting book 2

Book review   The Watching : the waiting book 2


25066339I reviewed the first two books in this series earlier in the year and the first of these can be found here .  This, the third book in the series picks up where the last two left off. If you have read the earlier reviews you will know I compare it to a glitzy American soap opera like Dallas in its hay day. A soap opera I named 'Rivers' after the hospital where most of the characters worked.  So perhaps the best way to think of this novel is season 2, which follows on from the tragic ending of the previous season.

As with the first two books the back drop of Louisiana gives the books a setting which has an exotic flavour at times. While the complex lives and loves of the characters twist, turn and snake back on themselves. The real joy of this series is however the writing. Elizabeth and Marie manage to keep the action moving swiftly along from one character to another. The point of view moves from one section to the next like links in an elaborate chain, with scenes cutting each few pages. It would be easy to have the stories become lost and confused, carrying such a large cast and so many plot lines and yet they manage to weave it so well that you never lose track, and are held in a wrapping of anticipation for the next snippet of story.

The measure of any novel is whether you care about the characters and their lives. No matter how well written a story may be if you don't care about the characters then you will lose interest along the way. it is perhaps therefore an indictment to how much I cared about the characters that I was  moved to tears in a couple of places. I worried about them, cared about them, shared there joys and there defeats. But importantly the characters also grew along the way. Characters who in the first novel were mired in a darkness stepped forward into the light. While they still carry the dark side of them that gave them anti hero status in the first books they are fleshed out with more back story and they change along the way. Events influence the actors in this drama and they develop in ways you don't expect yet seem natural all the same.

In short these novels are a joy, and indulgent joy of, occasionally like swimming through chocolate.



 

Monday, 21 September 2015

The joys of the second come fourteen draft

I'm redrafting after completing the first draft a week or so back of my second novel 'The passing place.' Which may or may not be the final title.
This is always an odd process. having broken the habit of a life time of incomplete novels when I wrote cider lane, I have half tried to follow the same ethos with this one. that been write till its done and then and only then go back and edit. The reason been I can edit myself into a corner and get no where all too easily.
I say half tried because in this case it isn't entirely true. 'the Passing Place' was started long before Cider lane was a glint in the keyboards eye. About five years ago all told. Thus the first hundred pages or so have been written for a long time. And as I did not follow the ethos of write it right to the end back then they have been edited and re-edited respectably over the last five years.
So for the first 100 pages or so this is more like a final edit than a second draft. Then it will be a second draft for the other 200 pages of the novel.
Which is all a bit odd, and in truth I should probably have started at the middle and drafted form there. But I always redraft the whole novel start to finish. Which is my advice as an approach to anyone. Not least because that's how the magic happens I guess. Here's a secret, all those cunning little twists and turns in the plot , those tiny clues you miss completely until latter on when you realise they were there at the start. Most of the time they weren't. At least not in the first draft.
I can only speak for myself, but I suspect this is true of most writers, when we go back to do the second draft we put the little clever bits in.
So even though what i am working on at the moment is the fourteen draft of the first third of this novel, I am still adding the clever bits as I did not know they needed to be there till I knew how it all finished.
Which leads me to a favourite quote, "A novel is a long piece of prose with something wrong with it." According to +Neil Gaiman.
There is still much wrong with this particular novel. But the first third is more or less done at least. Now the clever bits are in there.


Thursday, 17 September 2015

Cider lane , Kindle sale


Cider lane goes on a +Kindle Ebooks Daily  count down deal tomorrow at 66% off the usual price . A mere 99 of your English pence or 99 cents in america. The promotion only lasts 1 week but if your interested now is the time to buy. 


Friday, 11 September 2015

Welcome to Esqwiths

So i finally completed the first draft of 'the passing place' which is a working title I should add.
I started this about five years ago, having hit on the core idea while walking at 3 am with my girlfriend ( now fiancée) through the streets of Middlesbrough on a warm summers night.
Over the last five years I have kept coming back to it, the main hiatus been while I was writing Cider Lane through its various drafts. Though I have jumped about with other projects as well over that time.
It has been a long old road but technically at least my second novel is now written, several redrafts not withstanding.
This is the novel I wanted to write, as opposed to Cider Lane which is the novel I wrote. Which is not to say I am any less proud to have written Cider Lane.
The hardest thing with this novel has been knowing when to stop. The original idea has spiralled around so many times as have the characters that it has grown it different directions.
It is a story about stories and the power of stories.
So as you may expect it has a lot of stories within it.

Now I am faced with redrafts, book cover designs, finding a good proof reader, publicity and all the other things that go with been an indi author.

So as I am in a position to do so I am going to keep a journal of  the process here, on the chance it will help others who are looking to do the same.