Diary of an author – eBook, Paperback or Audio?

Cards on the table. I love paperbacks. New ones. The smell, the feel. The glossiness of the cover (or mattness – is that a word?). I love being in Waterstones, or any bookshop really, WH Smith being the exception (they don’t know what they are at the moment, do they? Bookshop? Fast Food outlet? Bric-a-brac shop?). Bookshops with ambience. That’s what I’m talking about.

bookshop

I can spend hours in bookshops – spend, not waste, note – and I’m still bemoaning the closure of Reading’s best bookstore, Waterstones, in the Oracle. Why did it close? It was a perfect bookstore; lengthy, walk-through (you had to walk through it to get anywhere in the Oracle – well, I had to anyway), well laid out, friendly staff. It even had a Costa, for goodness’ sake. I mean, what more do you need?

Now we’re left with the Waterstones in the main street. It just doesn’t have that same vibe. I don’t know why. Anyway, I digress. Paperbacks, they’re the thing. Yes, I sell eBooks as well as paperbacks, and the format is very popular. They’re handy, friendly on the purse/wallet, and eminently practical. It’s not that I don’t like the eBook format, it’s just that, given the choice, I’d always go for the physical version, not the electronic. The powers that be tell us that the paperback is enjoying a resurgence, and that eBook sales are in decline. I think that we’re finally getting a natural balance between the two.

Audio is a different kettle of fish. For me it all depends on the skill of the narrator. If I like his/her voice, no problem. If not, it’s an instant switch-off. A few of my novels are available on Audio, and wow, what a great job the narrators have done! It’s amazing how the right voice can bring a story to life. Wayne Farrell, my narrator for the first DCI Brendan Moran novel, Black December, almost epitomises the way I heard the detective speak in my head as I wrote the book. Have a listen.

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Audio is great for car journeys, and pretty good for an alternative to TV if you’ve watched too many Emmerdales in a row. You have, haven’t you? Look, it’s no use denying it. Help is available, but you have to want to kick the habit yourself, OK?

Anyway, what’s your poison? Paperback, eBook or Audio? (I’m not even going to mention hardback … dang, I mentioned it …)

 

The first three novels in the popular DCI Brendan Moran series are available in one volume, The Irish Detective, via the Amazon and Kobo bookstores

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diary of an author – wait a bit, want it now?

So now I’m told that, in the new world of agile authoring, I must produce three books a year. Or more, if possible.

It’s possible, but is it beneficial?

Author Jonathan Kaye completed his debut novel, After the Affair, in three years. He laboured over it, perfected it. I’ve not read it yet, but I probably will. There’s something appealing about a guy willing to put in so much effort, to make his novel the very best it can be.

I know, I know, there are authors out there who seem to churn out novels as if they were some mass-produced commodity. And I’m not saying they’re bad books. They’re probably very good. But could they have been better, given a little more time and love?

I can’t imagine JRR knocking out the final draft of Lord of the Rings in four months, and still enjoying an avid readership over sixty years later. Can you?

I’m willing to bet that Rohinton Mistry’s novels take a bit longer than four months apiece as well.

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So, has the artful business of novel-writing also fallen foul of the ‘must have it now‘ social-media generation?

It takes me around twelve months to finish the first and second drafts of a novel. Am I too slow? I guess I’ll make less money than the three-times-a-yearers, but then again I’m not in this exclusively for the money. Sure, it helps, but for me it’s more about the craft itself than the remuneration.

So what do you think? Are you happy to purchase a novel dashed off in a few months, or are you likely to be more discerning?

Speed, or quality? Which wins?

Diary of an Author – in bits (a short bit)

Imagine the scene – build the tension …

So, here’s a short bit from the novel in progress, ‘Silent as the Dead’.

An armed gunman is stalking a young girl in an underground car park. Outer doors are locked. Two cops outside. Backup (ARU) running late. What do they do?

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DC Bola Odunsi was a good cop and he knew it. He’d had a few wobbles, sure, particularly after DS Steve Banner’s murder and the ensuing DCI Wilder debacle, but he’d got over that. He was on the good guys’ side now, and proud of it. He and Tess worked great together and Bola had a lot of time for his tenacious, sassy partner. Thing was, there was an armed guy in the building and his sense of … well, rightness, wouldn’t allow him to rank Tess lower than himself in the safety and due diligence stakes. That meant she stayed outside while he went in for the girl – if there was a way in.

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But it wouldn’t be easy. Tess wasn’t one to hang fire and he’d have to insist. They were standing at the rear of the apartment block, by the concrete ramp which led to the electronic car park door.

Which was shut. 

Their heads were close together. Bola said: 

‘You can open these from inside. Button to open, button to close.’

Tess looked the metallic slats up and down. ‘Helpful.’

Bola made a frustrated face. ‘What I mean is, if she can get to the door and hit the button, she’s out.’

Tess shook her head. ‘He’s in there, close. He has a gun. He’ll pick her off as soon as she breaks cover.’

‘Maybe he won’t shoot her. Maybe he just wants to put the frighteners on.’

‘We don’t know enough about what’s going on here, Bola. We can’t take that chance.’

‘So what, then?’

‘I’ll talk to him.’

Bola shook his head. ‘Uh uh. No way.’

‘Then we check with the boss.’ Tess thumbed her radio.

Charlie’s voice: ‘Go ahead, Tess.’

 

Can you feel the tension?

More tomorrow!

 

The first three novels in the popular DCI Brendan Moran series are available in one volume, The Irish Detective, via the Amazon and Kobo bookstores

The Wonder of Rome

This is one of many blog posts which will run for four days from 15th-19th August, 2013, celebrating Roman historical fiction…

…and there’s a prize for the most interesting comment! 

My novel, ‘The Serpent & The Slave’, is set in Britannia, in 367AD,  a turbulent time of invasion which hinted at Rome’s loosening grip on our sceptred isle.

Below are my notes from the afterword which I hope you will find intriguing!

At the time of the great ‘Barbarian Conspiracy’ of 367 AD, Valentinian was the emperor of the West. Historians reckon that such an invasion would have required a coordinator of some stature; someone familiar not only with the structure and strength of Roman military deployments but also with a keen understanding of which political issues were likely to affect the emperor’s judgement. Paulus Catena certainly fits the bill and it seemed rather a waste to allow the man known as The Chain to rest in peace after his execution in Africa.

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In terms of the ‘look and feel’ of fourth century Britain, I have tried to paint as accurate a picture as possible.

The provinces were divided as described, Corinium being the capital of Britannia Prima. Interestingly, there was indeed a fourth century governor by the name of Lucius Septimius, although I cannot claim that the character described in ‘The Serpent and the Slave’ bears any resemblance to the original, save for the fact that the real Lucius was also a dedicated pagan. We know this because he is noted as making an ‘almost aggressively pagan dedication at Corinium’ by Peter Salway in his excellent work, ‘Roman Britain’. The Alamann chieftain, Fraomar, also has a real counterpart in an Alamannic chieftain who was sent to Britain in 372. Salway confirms this to be a known fact and I quote: ‘Fraomar was in fact sent to Britain as a deliberate act of Imperial favour by Valentinian 1 as a military tribune to command a normal Roman unit of Alamanni already stationed in the island’.

Religion

The fourth century was a time of religious change. Constantine had legalized and formalized Christianity during his reign in the early years of the century but there was still a strong pagan tradition, particularly amongst the civil magistracy. The short reign of Magnentius whose tolerance, even encouragement, of pagan worship caused many to ‘come out’ and resume their old ways of worship led directly to the Pauline persecutions when Constantius gained control of Britain. No doubt there were many who simply continued their pagan practices in secret. Valentinian himself was of Christian persuasion, although I suspect that he, like so many others, could best be described as having a ‘nominal’ rather than a ‘life-changing’ faith, such as demonstrated by the character of Freia. Many slaves, the downtrodden members of a corrupt society, embraced the new religion as being one that offered hope, salvation and equality. What more could a slave wish for than this? Small wonder then that many found the answer they sought in the person of the humble rabbi from Galilee, Jesus Christ, the chosen one of God. 

The Roman Army

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The army saw many structural changes during the 3rd and 4th Centuries. The legions were redeployed and reabsorbed into two distinct groups, the limitanei, operating on the frontiers and the comitatenses, originally stationed with the emperor, but later becoming more of a mobile field army to be deployed as the need arose. The thinking behind this change was based on the premise that a reasonably well maintained border force combined with a high quality mobile army would be the most effective way to deal with the many and varied threats to the empire. Britannia did suffer from a degradation of troops as demand across the channel became more pressing, but the double defeats in 367AD of the Saxon Shore Count, Nectarides, and the dux Britanniarum, Fullofaudes, left the country vulnerable in the extreme to the invaders. Many Roman troops deserted after the defeats and took to wandering the countryside, no doubt undertaking a little plunder and pillage themselves. In ‘The Serpent and the Slave’, the character Scapulus and his men had awarded themselves ‘leave of absence’ from the army, and this is indeed what many of the army remnant actually did. It was only when Count Theodosius arrived late in 367AD and offered free pardon, food and supplies to any renegade troops wishing to give themselves up that the Britannic army began to reassemble itself into some sort of order. For the hapless ordinary folk of Britannia, particularly those living in the countryside, it must have been a very unpleasant and trying time to have lived through.

Excerpt from ‘The Serpent & The Slave’

The Rhine Frontier, Gaul – Sept 367AD

In the headquarters tent of the Rhine campaign, the Emperor Valentinian, arguably the most powerful man in the known world, leaned back with some discomfort on the curule, an elaborately carved oak seat inlaid with ivory. The chair had been especially commissioned for his imperial behind, and was the only obvious indication of his status, except perhaps for the imperial purple of his cloak. The emperor’s back was playing up again and he was not in a good mood. ‘Well?’ He barked at the tribune.

Well, don’t just stand there like a wilting vine, man. Show him in!’

‘Caesar.’ The tribune saluted and signalled to the tent guard.

The tent flap opened and a man entered. He had a pinched, hunted appearance in marked contrast to his speech, which was direct and confident. ‘You sent for me, Caesar?’

‘I did.’ The emperor stood up carefully with a grimace of pain. The seat was murdering his vertebrae. He drew a hand wearily across his eyes. ‘Nipius. I seem to remember that you had a hankering for foreign travel.’

‘Caesar?’ Nipius frowned.

‘I’ve had an interesting communication from Britannia. From Septimius in Corinium.’

Nipius raised an eyebrow quizzically.

‘They have, apparently, in custody a member of the royal Alamannic line. One named Fraomar. Ring any bells?’

‘Chnodomar’s brother. Went missing after Strasbourg.’

Valentinian nodded approvingly. ‘The same.’

‘We were outnumbered three to one,’ Nipius recalled,  ‘but Julian led us to a great victory.’

Valentinian allowed himself a smile. ‘His gods certainly seemed to be with him that day. But I heard it was the Magister Equitum who deserves the credit for the victory.’

Nipius bowed stiffly. ‘Caesar is too kind.’

‘A shame that the victory of Strasbourg was marred by Fraomar’s escape.’

For the first time, Nipius seemed uncomfortable. Rain began to drum softly on the leather covering of the tent roof as Valentinian continued:

‘But you are a popular man, Nipius. Your exploits are legendary. You have – what can I say– ’ Valentinian stroked his chin thoughtfully, ‘a loyal following?’

‘I am fortunate enough to have the respect of my men, yes Caesar.’

Valentinian grunted. ‘Well, naturally I thought of you for this little job.’

‘What does Caesar command?’

‘A simple ‘go fetch’ job, nothing more. Give you a break. God knows you probably need one. And a chance to set the record straight.’

Nipius smiled thinly. ‘I am most grateful to Caesar.’

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from ‘The Serpent & the Slave’, by Scott Hunter

Here are the other links for this Blog hop:

http://pillingswritingcorner.blogspot.co.uk/

http://elisabethstorrs.blogspot.com.au/

http://www.gordondoherty.co.uk/writeblog/

http://mark-patton.blogspot.co.uk/

http://www.ruthdownie.com

http://wordpress.mcscott.co.uk

http://www.frednath.com/blog

www.eaglehasfallen.com

http://teacake421.livejournal.com

http://themasterofverona.typepad.com/the_master_of_verona/

http://alison-morton.com/blog/

http://petreaburchard.com/blog-2/

http://timhodkinson.blogspot.com/

www.eaglehasfallen.com

Http://sjat.wordpress.com

 

Dominus mihi adjutor

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A simple bookstall – or not …

The idea was very straightforward:

Buy some stock, get a small display unit/table, bring the laptop. Use a few posters. print some flyers.

Find a comfortable slot in the town centre. Chat to the public. Sign and sell some books.

Busking, but with books.

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Easy, right?

Wrong.

The local council said: ‘Sorry, we only have six street trader licenses to give out and they’re all allocated.’

The Oracle Shopping Mall said: ‘Sure, but you have to use one of our display units. We only rent them for a week and the rental price is £1000’.

I’m working on a solution because these licensing and rental restrictions/impositions are crazy. Free enterprise? Where?

Anyone else thought of/had issues with doing this? Let’s talk!

End Game . . .

‘I’m slipping into grey.
And I was (in my way) good to you.
And you were good for me.
Bye Bye my love.
Going to play the End Game…’

Ian Anderson – End Game

The relationship between author and reader is a close one  – or should be. You have created a world in which the reader has lived, laughed, cried, been scared (maybe) –  in short, has experienced every emotion going.

So how are your characters going to sign off? How are you going to end it?  There are quite a few choices:

  • Suddenly (an unexpected disaster?)
  • Violently (a sub category of the above)
  • Reflectively
  • Sadly
  • Stoically
  • Philosophically
  • Happily
  • Esoterically (ie you haven’t a clue what’s just happened)
  • Unexpectedly
  • Uncertainly
  • Poetically

You can probably add a lot more to this list!

But returning to my trusty Shakespeare illustrations, old Will was really good at the end game stuff. Often he’d have someone wander on and sum up the play in a few verses, maybe evoking some of the above options, or maybe giving his/her take on the events which have just drawn to a (usually tragic) conclusion.

SH at meet the author

This can also work well in a modern context, where a revealing closing conversation between two leading characters ties things up nicely and leaves you in a satisfied, pondering sort of frame of mind.

As I write Crime novels and thrillers I like to end with the unexpected, or rather ‘the hinted at’, where something the reader has predicted might happen actually does happen, but not necessarily in the way they anticipated.

This works well because it ‘wrong foots’ the reader, and (if a big enough event) may either reinforce or even overturn their understanding of the novel’s theme.

Think of your favourite novel. How did it end? What did you like about the way the author brought the curtain down?

Sebastian Faulks’ powerful novel, ‘The girl at the Lion D’or’ concludes on a note of hope. But boy, do the final few pages make you sweat! I held my breath as the heroine was plunged into the worst despair ever before she finally won through and showed her incredible strength of character; thus was a tragedy averted by sheer will power and determination.  And let me tell you it was SO gripping!

Another of my favourite novelists, Rohinton Mistry, is a master at leading you to the inevitable without you realising it until it actually happens. Read ‘A Fine Balance’ or ‘Family Matters’ (btw, his characterisation is wonderful and very often it’s the characters themselves who dictate their eventual fate).

How about an epilogue? Well, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the pointless. A good epilogue is akin to providing the reader with a kind of literary airlock which prepares them for (and eases their return to) the real world. It can be written in a different style, a different tense. If one doesn’t occur to you naturally, don’t force it! Better no epilogue than an indifferent one.

If I don’t end with the unexpected, I must confess that I tend to the poetic (Will’s influence again!). But only after I have resolved all conflict and tied up loose ends! This is the camera shot that pans back and back and back and allows the reader to catch their breath, relax and enjoy the moment.

Here’s the closer from ‘The Trespass’:-

Towards the east a congregation of clouds was
gathering. Dracup watched the formation coalesce as
a zigzag of white lightning cut the horizon in two. He
rested his head against the padded seat and closed his
eyes. The Chinook flew on, into the eye of the
coming storm.

Over to you! Going to play the End Game…?

Late again . . .

OK, so it’s been another long gap in blogs – apologies . . . but I haven’t been idle: ‘The Serpent and the Slave’ has been published on Amazon in Kindle format only for the moment, and I’m hoping to release my adult crime thriller, ‘Black December’ in . . . yes, December. In the meantime, ‘The Trespass’ has hit the Amazon Best Seller listings and is currently selling around 5000+ copies per month. Its highest charting was no.14 in the overall Kindle paid charts.

The success of ‘The Trespass’ is enormously gratifying and makes all the effort worthwhile, so a huge ‘thanks’ to all my readers and look out for a new website coming up soon at http://www.scott-hunter.net!