Remembered I have a blog

I got asked about my novel again recently. It happens from time to time. It usually goes along the lines of, “Didn’t you write a novel? Where can I get it? Free, is it? Can you send me the link?”

I’m not good at self-promotion, and long ago gave up attempting it. But yes, gentle or ungentle reader, the book is still out there, available for free download. Absolutely free. You don’t have to sign up for anything or sign in. Simply click one of the following links for the format you want:

For epub version: http://bit.ly/29h3Scr
For Kindle version: http://bit.ly/29acl2f
For Pdf version: http://bit.ly/29acDpL

If you would like to join Smashwords and leave a review, that would be lovely. If not, a comment on the blog would also be appreciated. I’m not on Amazon. If you’re interested in my reasons for this, they can be found in this post: http://bit.ly/1SHxXD4

Just for the record, I’m not on social media. I’ve never been on Facebook and I deleted my Twitter account a while ago now. Nothing good comes from the endless desire for immediate responses, upticks, thumbs-up, hearts, or whatever button they clothe approval in. You’re simply being exploited to feed a beast that doesn’t care about you. See this from a couple of Facebook’s former leading lights: http://bit.ly/2EZbs82

A bit link-heavy this post. Please like and comment below the line (yes… irony. Social media has made interesting others in something you’ve done rather unseemly).

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6 things (you might not have considered) that will hold you back as a writer

1. You’re actually interested in the writing (you know, style, elegance of expression) — not just getting noticed for your hackneyed, no-intelligence, punctuation-doesn’t-matter story.

2. You hate Amazon: a company run by a psychopath with dodgy working practices being indulged by sycophantic governments as it moves towards a virtual monopoly position (my novel’s on Smashwords).

3. You hate Facebook: a data-mining company run by a psychopath (I’m not on Facebook).

4. You hate posts about how to promote yourself on social media (I deleted my Twitter account).

5. You find self-promotion rather unseemly, a bit undignified really (while recognizing you have to tell people it’s there — the novel, that is — if you want them to read it).

6. You think best-sellers are mostly shit (Dan Brown, James Patterson, E.L. James, Lee Child, Clive Cussler, to name a few), reflecting the poor taste of the “average” reader.

7 (bonus point). You recognize, at bottom, that this world isn’t really for you.

Turnings taken without a map

I think we’re alone now. Good. Because this is going to be a long and meandering — even maundering — post. I’m tired. And the motivation to write has left me. It would be fair to say I don’t see the point, and truly regret the labour I put into the novel I “promote” on this site. I think it spiritually exhausted me. Writing might even have been a wrong turning for me, an out of character hard shoulder, something I forced  myself to do, a kind of phony raison d’etre, a pseudo meIST religion. Work was the vulgar, secular world of having to make a living; art, in the form of writing, my spiritual calling. Utter, self-regarding nonsense, I now realise. I suppose it’s not uncommon to wish I’d been given better advice when I was younger, made to see how easy it is to delude and bullshit yourself, though I tend to the view that drowning in one’s own bullshit is a widespread human affliction.

I’ve deactivated my Twitter account (I’ve never been on the odious Facebook). It, Twitter, has pleading, shrieking “notice me”, “approve of me” aspects marinaded in desperation and unloveliness. Part of that world of recommends, upticks, upvotes, likes, etc. Here’s something like the ultimate expression of the latter coming to a community near you sometime soon: Sesame Credit

A world of endless connections has been created, of checking phones for updates of one sort or another. I’m not alone, cries the world; I’m connected (even if, for the most part, it’s only digitally). Twittering something every so often seems rather pointless to me, and I’ve always found self-promotion rather embarrassing, though I know that’s the world we live in now.

I voted for Brexit. I’m convinced that the Brexit vote is one of the most significant political events of recent years, even (perhaps especially) if the establishment don’t allow it to happen. They, the establishment, have been forced into the open. They have a near-total contempt for the lives of ordinary people, are themselves entirely insulated from, and indifferent to, the world of having to make a living. For them, it’s about power games and shaping the country and world to their will and vision. The British were noticing when the EU did their bullying number on Greece. So was the rest of Europe.

Immigration is not something gentle, generous, and benign, as people like the Greens would have you believe. It’s a sharp, weaponised means of undermining working conditions, communities, and cultures. Want a pay rise? Too bad. We’ve got ten migrants who’ll do your job cheaper than you, and who care not a jot about you. It’s surely worth noting that these migrants (seeking the iconic “better life”) either come from an inappropriately expanded EU (the Western powers wanted to get to the borders of Russia post-haste) or trouble-spots that weren’t troubled until we stuck our oar in. It isn’t hard for powerful countries, like Britain and the US, to create conflict elsewhere, and then open their doors to the refugees fleeing the trouble that wouldn’t have happened if they’d left well alone.

The game is up now, or at least it’s in the open. The EU is, always was, a hard-nosed economic union that was allowed to happen because of an unholy alliance between money-driven technocrats and the fluffy-headed well-meaning types who believed it was principally intended as a way of stopping war and bringing peoples together. A younger me counted himself among the latter — though, of course, the early (earlier) iterations of the EU could reasonably be regarded as a club of equals: that is, there wasn’t so much of a disparity of living standards between the countries involved. Opening the EU to the Eastern European countries (done, as I say, to undermine Russia after the fall of communism) was a tempting sparkling beacon of consumerist light to those who imagined freedom was the ability to buy lots of things. Of course it wasn’t done for political freedom; it was done for Coca Cola and Levis and Micky D’s.

The mainstream media (MSM) has lost its monopoly on the narrative. There are other narratives now, closer to the truth (and social media has played a big part in this). This is a catastrophe for the MSM, since they/it become irrelevant the moment people stop buying their view of the world.

Their narrative, incidentally: we’re the good guys, as is the US; globalisation is a GOOD thing; Russia is bad; there’s always a threat for which we, the State, have to protect you; freedom must be curtailed for the sake of protecting you from terrorism and protecting the children from bad people (no, NOT advertisers and Big Pharma — they’re good guys, too). Now, they’re on about false and fake news, suggesting in true Orwellian style that only they, the MSM, are telling you the truth. Only their view of the world is the right one. Dissent from that, and you’re a loon seduced by fake news and conspiracy theories.

Brexit happened despite the MSM being railed against it; so did Donald Trump. Supporters of both were vilified as ignorant and ill-informed before and after the vote, meaning they weren’t buying the doo-doo pouring out of the MSM. Another interpretation would be to say they — the people — used the tools available to them to kick the establishment, which is rightly perceived as serving only its own interests and that of other elites. We’ve seen now how much the elites really like democracy. Their fondness for it ends when it threatens to make a significant difference. Matteo Renzi resigned in Italy as a result of losing a referendum on constitutional reforms that would have given him and his office more power. It’s been a tumultuous year politically. I’m hoping for more across Europe in the New Year.

Me? I’ve lived more than half a century, and work as a Test Analyst. I live with my partner in the South East of England. I’d like to move. North(wards). I don’t own my home, but still hope I might. I think at one time I wanted to be a writer. A fairer world would have been nice, too. One where there was a right to a home and food and the other necessities of a decent life, and where the difference between the top and the bottom of a society was linked, so that the prosperity and misfortune were always — at least relatively — shared. Orwell, and others, had the same idea. It’s amazing how radical an idea it sounds now.

In some parts of the world, from your penthouse view, you can watch children climb over toxic dumps, looking for something they can sell to eat. But that’s okay, that difference between rich and poor — that’s freedom. And if the casino goes against the house elite, then you’ll hear about the need for austerity because we have to bail them out. They can’t fail, or we pay the price.

Parenthetically speaking

Consider this.

Would it really be quite decent (or prudent) to tell her he was dead?

The above sentence is from my novel. What we’re interested in here is the use of parenthesis or brackets, which I’m told I over-use, and which (I’m told) adds difficulty for the reader.

So – consider the following:

Would it really be quite decent (or prudent) to tell her he was dead?
Would it really be quite decent – or prudent – to tell her he was dead?
Would it really be quite decent, or prudent, to tell her he was dead?
Would it really be quite decent or prudent to tell her he was dead?

The question is: can and does the “average” reader mark the difference, appreciate the distinction? Or does the appearance of an “unfamiliar” punctuation mark (the brackets) simply act as a distraction, a stumbling block, a jagged impediment?

Consider, too, the following:

My hair is shoulder-length and mousy and (outside the private domain) invariably worn tied or clipped back. I had been a (the) DCI in Amberton for two and half years, having briefly been a DI in the Met. Amberton has a population of eighty thousand or so souls and a slower pace of life than the capital. Friends and colleagues had assumed (quite correctly) that I had craved a quiet (or quieter) life. I had, indeed, begun to find London brittle and dispiriting.

Here it is again with the parenthesis replaced with dashes:

My hair is shoulder-length and mousy and – outside the private domain – invariably worn tied or clipped back. I had been a – the – DCI in Amberton for two and half years, having briefly been a DI in the Met. Amberton has a population of eighty thousand or so souls and a slower pace of life than the capital. Friends and colleagues had assumed – quite correctly – that I had craved a quiet – or quieter – life. I had, indeed, begun to find London brittle and dispiriting.

To me, there is something of the theatrical aside to the parenthetic content, a change of tone, an extra thought – some of which might survive with the use of dashes, though it is distinctly weakened. With merely commas or no punctuation at all, this (the tone change, the extra thought) is entirely lost, and the meaning (not so subtly) changed.

Here it is again with the dashes stripped out and not replaced:

My hair is shoulder-length and mousy and outside the private domain invariably worn tied or clipped back. I had been a, the, DCI in Amberton for two and half years, having briefly been a DI in the Met. Amberton has a population of eighty thousand or so souls and a slower pace of life than the capital. Friends and colleagues had assumed quite correctly that I had craved a quiet or quieter life. I had, indeed, begun to find London brittle and dispiriting.

It seems to me a lot of tone and voice is lost in the above if one compares it with its parenthetic counterpart.

But… perhaps all this sounds rather too precious, and one should simply go with reader feedback. In this word-processing, digital age, these things are easily changed. It would take very little in the way of effort to swap out the parenthesis for dashes and/or commas, and I could later argue that brackets – as a punctuation – are just too visible for the “average” reader, too much of a surprise. They’re not used to seeing it, I would say regretfully, and don’t quite understand why it’s there, nor how they should read it. Nuance, I would add snarkily, must be sacrificed on the altar of marketability.

I worry about this, of course. I fear the ability to read generally has been (is being) degraded, that poetry and its cousin, style, are now regarded with suspicion and mistrust. Will I, then, be searching and replacing my brackets? No (actually), I think not. There are so many other reasons for the novel to fail (in terms of the market), its subject matter for a start. The “average” reader is not going to be clamouring for my book anyway, parenthesis or not. And there’s surely something to be said for authorial integrity, for an artistic rather than a mercantile decision.

You can be sure, though, I’ll have it in mind for my next novel (partially built and in abeyance), which will be written third-person (the “average” reader is more used to this) and unburdened with “eccentric” punctuation.

I’ll end on this:

While I was sleeping in Italy, I heard news from overseas – England to be precise – that affected me emotionally and made me want to write a poem in protest.

Or:

As I lay asleep in Italy
There came a voice from over the Sea,
And with great power it forth led me
To walk in the visions of Poesy.

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Punctuation – what a pisser!

It’s another one of those tiresome, technical things that get in the way of the great story you want to write. Punctuation – yawn or what? Boring boring boring! And, anyway, haven’t you read books which have hardly any punctuation and no speech marks. Yes, you have. Problem is, they’re written by writers who REALLY know how to do punctuation – so much so that they can SUBVERT it for effect. I know, it’s not fair. A bit like those people who get praise for unmade beds and piles of bricks.

Consider this: “hi sharon how’s it going”

What’s wrong with the above? It’s clear that someone is addressing another someone, presumably (but not certainly) a female, and asking her how she is. You’re doubtless more used to seeing something like the following:

“Hi, Sharon. How’s it going?”

I would write it as follows:

“Hi, Sharon – how’s it going?” Just a personal preference. I think the full stop a bit much, but a comma not enough.

Once upon a time, this would have been okay: “Hi, Sharon; how’s it going?” And, of course, it’s perfectly acceptable now, and does the job, but it might alarm the modern reader.

So, let’s take “Hi, Sharon. How’s it going?” and say something about it.

Do we really need the comma between Hi and the name?

“Hi Sharon. How’s it going?”

I hope that looks odd to you. It should. People’s names, when they’re being addressed, are usually enclosed in commas. That’s the convention, and it’s a convention that makes sense.

“Morning, Mike. Did you have a good evening?” Mike as opposed to Morning Mike, the popular AM radio entertainer.

If you doubt me on this, and you REALLY shouldn’t, go and check any book on your bookshelf (or ereader). “Good evening, Mr Bond. Your reputation precedes you.”

You’re not going to find it without the comma. If you don’t know this – or GET this – then just do it.

“Morning, Mary.” “Hi, Jon.” Hello, Tom.” “Greetings, Sue.”

Argue the merits if you wish, but that is how it’s done.

“Hi Mary.” People will point out the MISSING comma to you, especially if you do it more than once. I usually let the first instance pass – happily assuming it’s a typo – until I hit the next one… and the next. Then I point it out, not because I want to spoil your day, or sneakily suggest that your work isn’t compelling enough to distract me from dull stuff like punctuation, but because I want to help, and you ASKED for my advice.

Yes, I DO understand – it IS disheartening giving ten pages of white-heat creativity to someone, only to have them go on about commas and quotation marks and proof-reading. That’s what editors are for, right? That’s what THEY do.

Okay, then. Next time, ask me what I think of the STORY. Read it to me. Better still, make a recording. If you give me the text, I’ll assume you want to know about missing commas and misplaced apostrophes. Because, really, I think you do. I think you just get angry with yourself because you wish you could do all this boring punctuation stuff.

Writing Services

Have you written a novel? Well done! Pat yourself on the back. That’s a BIG achievement. You’ve every reason to be proud. But maybe, just MAYBE, you need a little help! I’m Doctor John, your manuscript doctor.

Yes, in your enthusiasm for getting your story done and OUT THERE, you’ve neglected the boring but IMPORTANT part – the writing. That’s where I come in. For a modest FEE, I can take your novel and make it into a book ready for an agent or publisher and the world. Remember, it’s all about YOU and your most important creation – your STORY.

It’s tedious, isn’t it? Worrying about boring things like punctuation and grammar and (don’t be silly) style when YOU just want to tell your story. I’m here to help with that. Send me your three less-good pages – and, hey, why not consult your friends to help you decide – and I’ll send them back to you EDITED. Not PROOF READ (that comes as a happy incidental), but EDITED. For FREE. Yes, your three worst (sorry, least-good) pages edited to the high standard agents and publishers demand. And, you know what, where I can detect a style, I’ll bake it right into the EDIT for you.

Once you have your FREE, fully EDITED three pages, do with them as you wish. They’re yours. Read them, learn from them, show them to your friends (the same ones you consulted earlier). They’re my no-obligation GIFT to you. After all, it’s your novel, your story, your work; I just helped a bit here and there with the boring part. Enjoy your writing and your life.

HOWEVER…  if you find yourself thinking, “Hey, wouldn’t it be REALLY great if all my novel were that well-written?” – well, hey, why not hire me. I’m yours for a one-off, flat fee of £10,000. Imagine. A mere £10,000 to make your novel, your story, your pride and joy, the best it can be. And while, of course, I can’t guarantee an agent or a publisher, I can guarantee you’ll have your special story as special as it can be.

But, hey, no worry, no obligation – read those magic three pages, talk to your friends, and ask yourself, “Is this story, my story, worth £10,000?”

I’m here for YOU! You know where to find me.