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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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 soundbites

Morse has his opera. Banks has a wider repertoire of taste: everything from Miles Davis to classical, to the Grateful Dead. Is music important in a novel? As a musician myself (I’m a drummer – hey, no drummer jokes, OK? 🙂 ), I was a little surprised recently when I realised that music isn’t strongly represented in the DCI Brendan Moran novels. I thought about this for a while and came to the conclusion that music and musicians, especially contemporary music/musicians, are rarely portrayed with any degree of accuracy in modern crime fiction, be it TV drama or literature. And I think that’s why – at least so far – I’ve been cautious about introducing musical elements into the storyline. OK, so I know what makes musicians tick, but it just seems to me that when, as an author or scriptwriter, you try to capture some kind of musical zeitgeist, it all goes horribly wrong.

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Case in point. I remember watching an episode of a TV crime series (which I shall charitably keep anon.) in which a group of old sixties musicians were getting back together (or ‘trying to get it together, man’) for a reunion tour. It was horrendous, ghastly and stereotypical. Every cliche in the book (‘scuse the pun) was trotted out. The musicians all spoke in quasi-stoned pseudo-hippy language that, frankly, made me shake my head in disbelief. The writer clearly didn’t know much about contemporary music, especially the minutiae of how a band functions in everyday life. The episode quickly degenerated into a wildly exaggerated and unbelievable pastiche. The wigs were hilarious, though.

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I’m thinking about this as I write. Music is a soundscape for our current situation in life, isn’t it? Time and place is recalled, often with great intensity, by the opening bars of a favourite song, or a faintly-discerned chorus left behind in the slipstream of a passing car. I can’t listen to certain pieces of music because they’re just too evocative, too nostalgic. And that might have a bearing on my reluctance to apply a little musical colour to my novels. One person’s happy memory may recall another’s lowest point. And whichever way the reader reacts, the musical intrusion could end up being just that – an intrusion. As authors we want the reader to be glued to both character and plot, with no distractions.

Hm. So, perhaps I could invent a favourite musician for my main character? But why stop there? I could invent a whole string of violin concertos, or a completely fictitious top 20 chart. Without Kanye West. But then that wouldn’t ring true with the reader, either.

I think the answer is to aim down the middle. Maybe keep your characters’ tastes fairly general. I have a friend for whom the sixties seemed to have passed by without a note of music being played or heard. He’s simply not into music at all. You can mention Woodstock or the Beatles and he’ll be with you, but deviate from the big names and he’s immediately lost. Gentle Giant? New Riders of the Purple Sage? Atomic Rooster? Forget it.

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Yep, aim down the middle, I reckon. Keep the novel’s musical backdrop unobtrusive but gently atmospheric. That’s the way forward.

In other words, no sharps or flats – just a good stereo balance.

 

Today’s little known musical fact: There’s no chorus in REM’s Losing My Religion.

So you do want a drummer joke:

Q. How can you tell when a drummer’s at the door?

A. He doesn’t know when to come in.

(I don’t get 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 – 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

Life in the glass cube

They’re crammed into a huge glass cube.

They can’t move a muscle; ten million others press against them, all fighting for room, all shouting the same thing – it’s hard to hear exactly what because the noise is deafening.

Outside the glass, fast-moving shapes zoom in, take a quick look, and zoom away again. This happens so swiftly it’s hard to follow. Sometimes one or two shapes part the glass, reach in and touch one of the shouting people. Most times they just look, hover and leave.

Every day, the roof of the glass cube opens and more people are poured in.

The shapes mill around in confusion.

They hover. They squash up against the outside of the glass and peer in.

Very occasionally they suddenly converge upon one individual in the crowded glass cube. Some common agreement has been arrived at. There is something different about the person they have selected, something which makes them stand out from the others.

This individual is plucked from the glass cube, never to return. They are taken to a clean, roomy cube where they are nurtured, communicated with and, most importantly, read.

How did this happen? What was different? How did the mysterious shapes make their unanimous decision?

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An Empty Glass Cube. Half close your eyes and fill it with authors.

 

The glass cube, of course, represents the online bookstores. The cramped millions are the indie authors – and traditional authors too (let’s not forget them).

The zooming shapes are the internet surfers, the book-buying public.

They can, and do, find authors who write books they want to read. They support them, and in doing so make the author a success.

Case in point? How about Rachel Abbott?

So, here’s the thing: How do you get noticed in a vast, glass room where you can’t move for people? Where the noise is so overwhelming that it’s impossible for the shapes to think, let alone make any kind of decision?

The decision you want them to make.

A buying decision.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Stop shouting ‘Buy My Book!’ Or, as more often seen (conceptually, of course), BUY MY BOOK!
  • Check out Joanna Penn’s very helpful website/blog
  • Interact with your shopping and browsing shapes (I like to think of nice shapes!) – they are your potential buyers, after all. You are nicely shaped, right?
  • Keep these potential buyers up to date by blogging/updating your website with interesting and informative stuff regularly
  • Keep writing!
  • Consider occasional promotions – free books/reduced price for limited period
  • Wear smart, attractive, intriguing clothing (this means ‘get a good cover design’!)
  • Diversify. Publish on Kobo, Nook, Audiobook, Kindle, Print
  • Be realistic. Rome wasn’t built in a day (or in a glass cube, I know ….)

Enough from me. I’m off to practice what I preach. Move over, I’m getting squashed …

More info about my books (in a quiet whisper) at www.scott-hunter.net

Modus Operandi …

Or Odius Moperandi, as my Great Uncle Quentin used to say whilst throwing liberal bucketfuls of Flash over the kitchen floor…

Sorry, it must be the heat. Not used to this sort of weather in Blighty.

Anyway, I digress. The question is, ‘How do you write?’.

I don’t mean how as such; I mean, I know you use a laptop or an iPad or something similar (a sheet of paper and a pen? No, really? Is your name Philip Pullman? He of the twisted theology…? Hang on, I’m not going down that route…)

No, I mean ‘How do you write?’

Do you sit for three immobile, disciplined hours, churning it out, or are you like me? One paragraph and I’m up, walking around, talking to myself, scaring the dog or maybe boiling the kettle. (On a bad day I could even be boiling the dog and scaring the kettle).

I have a bad case of restless writer syndrome. I’ve just made that up but I’ve got it big time, for sure.

I prod the keyboard, coax a little dialogue from my characters and then retreat to leave them to it. Am I expecting them to carry on the conversation while I’m away? Who knows? Maybe I’m hoping they’ll sort the plot out for me in my absence.

No chance. When I return, mug in hand and scalded dog in tow, the last words I committed to paper are still there. Followed by a great deal of white space.

And so I write a little more. And then repeat. And so on.

A painful way to write a book? Well it probably is for the dog, granted, but I can’t do it any other way.

Do I need professional help?

Answers on a very small piece of paper to:-

(comments)

PS Here’s a book I actually finished …

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Days of positivity and days of …

You all know the feeling. You get out of bed and immediately feel great. One or two coffees later and you feel even better. The sun is shining, the muse is  kicking in like never before and your brain is in major creative mode.

Today is the day you feel as if you could write the next ‘To kill a Mockingbird’, or maybe even the next Robert Langdon. Er, maybe that’s going a wee bit too far, but you get my drift …

photo (2)Wouldn’t it be great if all days were like that? But you know as well as I do that they aren’t. Most days it feels like every sentence has to be dredged out of some steam-punkish type spaghetti-maker. Like every word you eventually judge a perfect fit (after at least an hour of manic sentence juggling) ends up turning the text into garbled, unintelligible rubbish.

So what do you do? Give up? Start looking for clerical jobs on the internet? Wish you hadn’t started the sequel to (insert WIP title here) which, four and a half thousand words ago, still seemed like a viable proposition?

No!

Listen to your peers!

John Banville:

‘Civilisation’s greatest single invention is the sentence. In it, we can say anything. That saying, however, is difficult and peculiarly painful.’

George Moore:

‘No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader’

Vladimir Nabokov:

‘I have written – often several times – every word I have ever published’

Sidney Smith:

‘A great deal of talent is lost to the world for want of a little courage’

Hmmm. Authors are to be brave then, and resilient. Accept that the job is a hard graft, enjoy the days of inspiration, persist through the days of darkness.

So what’s your remedy for when the going gets tough? Drop me a line and let me know! I could use a bit of moral support … 🙂

Happy weekend!