Whoever’s been in charge of the universe for June and July, should please reconsider their enthusiasm with lobbing challenges at me. It’s getting a bit much now Big Fella. I’ve decided to hang about here as long as I can today, catching up with blogging and so on, so forgive me if I get a little spammy. I’ll also be keeping a weather eye out for any more of these things that float about and make life “interesting”. Mainly, rotten little tentacled bugs, considering the way my life’s been going lately.
After my poor parrot was sick as a… parrot, there’s been Jelly hurting his leg again, and me bringing a rather large guava tree branch inside (in a bid to try and lose my dawn to dusk live feather boa for a few hours a day), which then subsequently fell on me when I forgot it was there, and zoomed on forth to get my morning cup of tea. It also fell on Angus, as he predicted it would when I brought it in to begin with, but we’ll say no more about that.
Then I lost my balance a bit, when I was carrying a nice warm bowl of home-made stew type stuff for the dog and the chickens outside, and with a perfect flick of the wrist, ended up with horrible looking, warm gunge, all over myself. Not a good look, any day of the week, I can tell you. Bits flew all over the place. Including into my left ear. The chickens created such a scene, you’d have thought arma-egg-don had arrived. And I’ve got a pulled muscle to add injury to insult also. Crappy internet issues followed, although I should be used to those at this point, and now I have my second round of malaria in less than a year happening. Happy days, you say? Well… I’m going to have to insist on it.
I do feel crap though. I’m dosed to the eyeballs with everything I can think of. I don’t want to head down the quinine route again, and end up hearing Mozart’s piano concertos in my head, for two weeks straight. I’m not having the musicals return without a fight. That quinine had me seeing the weirdest things, and having even weirder dreams. Not good stuff at all. Then, there’s the still quite recent memory of the last bout of malaria not being so keen on leaving, and death becoming a point to ponder. Bugger all that I say! I’m typing! And also most definitely planning on moving, in the foreseeable future, to climes less prone to full body invasions by bugs.
I’ve been getting on with all the editing that African Me is needing. I’ve honestly been tempted on many occasions to toss the whole thing in the bin. It’s so littered with newbie grammar gremlins and plot issues that I’m embarrassed. It’s not a good idea to write a doorstopper novel before you’ve so much as written a one page short story. I’m realising that I’ve still got years of learning this craft ahead of me.
When I wrote Shadow People for the NaNoWriMo, I got very excited about the whole “write on through without editing” thing, but now I’m thinking that this isn’t such a great idea. Maybe getting it pretty well near perfect as you write it is slower, but you have a lot less chance of problems with grammar or plot sneaking through to the final result. With Shadow People 2 growing nicely, all my previous scribbles are getting makeovers and tweaks too. I’m hoping for the first week in August to launch all my new and improved books. That’s if I survive that long. And if I don’t, I’ll be spending my spectral evenings visiting whoever’s chanting my name, while tossing eye of newt and toenail of toad into their bubbling cauldron. The swine!
Till next time friends. Which should be shortly.
One of my parrots has been quite sick for the last two weeks. Now I’ve figured out what’s wrong with him, I’m hoping he’ll get totally better quickly. He has two sores, one under each wing, and apart from dosing him with antibiotics, and loads of oregano (until tomorrow when I’ll finally get the right medication), he’s been needing round the clock looking after. At least he’s eating now, and judging from the amount of yelling he’s doing, I’m hoping to start getting some proper writing done again, and we can all breathe sighs of relief.
After my chat about anxiety disorders and panic attacks yesterday, it occurred to me that one of my previous posts touched on the subject of finding help. So instead of repeating myself, I’ll send anyone who is looking for new avenues of relief here. Before I read this book, and did what the man said I should do, I tried just about everything, including drinking water upside down. That one worked for a bit for the minutes I was concentrating on the water in my nostrils, but nothing else did. This book more than fixed me. Even if you think life’s just peachy, it’s still an amazing little book.
Right now, it’s parrot fixing time again, before more zooming down my emails. The last one I opened was a recommendation to buy a book on how to write. I won’t mention the actual title, but I will tell you that “write” was spelled “wrti” in the actual blurb on Amazon. Well done that man!
Till next time friends.
Today I’m very excited to introduce you to my first ever guest blogger. I’ve decided to host a guest every week on my blog, to share other people’s news and opinions here, add a bit of spice, and maybe start up some spritely chats. These posts are completely written by my guests, in their own words, with no interference from me at all. I may agree with them or not – that will generally be my little secret.
So, without further ado – meet my fabulous friend, Faiz Ahmed. Faiz writes because he loves to write. Why else would an engineer with a post graduate degree in business management give up corporate life to enter this profession? You can find him on Google+ but not Facebook. He’s also on LinkedIn but not Twitter. Contact him – he’s more than ready to contribute to your blog as well, and share what he calls his random rants. He replies to every mail that he receives at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Endangered Species of Writers
Ideas can come easily, however, it is difficult indeed to clearly express them. That is why all are not writers. There are people who say, writing is an art which can be grown (or inculcated). I do not buy this opinion. Either you have this inside you or you don’t. If you have it, it can be polished; the art of concise writing (if desired and needed), for instance, can be worked upon. But until you have this gifted and “inherited from the abode above” quality of expressing yourself using written words, you cannot grow into a writer.
Nowadays I see a new trade called “content writing”. I will be honest, I tried my hand in it as well. Apart from the monotony of writing on the same topic over and over, I received another insight. The writers are like robots, who are given a topic, a fixed word length, a bunch of keywords and they start. Let me share a true example with you. There is this website development company I am associated with called IT Chimes and one content writer there wrote these articles in 3 days.
1. Acknowledge When Your Garage Door Asks for Repairs
2. When You Have To Get Your Garage Doors Repaired?
3. How to Ensure Garage Door Safety?
4. Selecting the Best Garage Door Opener for your Garage Doors
5. Garage Doors – What to Do When They Start to Malfunction?
I am not taking anything away from my good friend Vijay Pratap who wrote these. You must be someone who can never be bored to write these topics which are identical really. Then there is also the point of being ingenious to present the same wine in so many different bottles. But my thought drifted to a different direction. With so much of useless information overloading the web, will the good writing hold any value? After all, we must accept that we are spending less time on webpages than ever. And when we make the internet a place to dump coals, I wonder whether anyone will come looking for the diamonds, such as the writings from Jo Robinson here. How can we stop this proliferation with the democratic equality the internet presents to anyone and everyone?
I personally keep my blog well hidden. Not only have I never promoted, I consciously tried to keep it out of the reach of the search engines. That is me, but there are various other places where people write extremely well and also desire to be recognized. There again, I wonder, how well the search engines will rank these places. Yes, we have the power of social media. I met Jo in Google Plus only, but that is because I consciously made that effort. Will those who are not aware that Jo writes well be able to find her write-ups using any search engine? I wonder….
I would certainly like to see a world where pebbles are differentiated from pearls clearly and distinctively. Not only the writers who use their sincere feelings to create memorable and insightful readings need this but they deserve this.
Thanks for joining me in my guest hut today Faiz! Thank you very much also for the lovely compliments, and the chance to share your view on content writing, and the flooding of the internet with sub-standard scribbles. I’m looking forward to hearing if everyone agrees with you. Now… For some reason I’ve got a terrible urge to write a story about garage doors. And another to quickly Google my name too.
Till next time friends. xxx
You’re unlikely to go through life without meeting a really horrible person or two. I’ve come across a couple with no redeeming qualities at all. It’s true that some people really are not nice in any way. I find them just as fascinating as anyone else though – you never know when you can use them in a future storyline. I think writers are many things. We gather all sorts of knowledge in our quests to fill our worlds, and make them real. We research and learn about things that most people wouldn’t give a moment’s thought to. We’re also just as likely as psychologists to say, “And how does that make you feel?”, to a stranger, or listen raptly to the big-mouthed fellow that everyone avoids at a party.
This is the way of the scribbler though. We have to know what makes people tick if we want to write books about them. I’ve always been fascinated with the darker side of the human psyche. I wonder how people get to be the way they sometimes end up. Life hurts some people so badly that they break and stay broken. Some fight their way out of horrendous situations, and emerge as beacons of love and kindness. Then there are others that go the evil route, and become sadists and killers. It’s the ones in between all these things that I find most interesting.
I have two characters in African Me that are just downright bad. I’ve been trying to find ways to give them positive traits to balance out the awful, because I read somewhere that all bad people must have some good in them. So that got me thinking that they might be too bad to be believable. Then it occurred to me that this isn’t actually true. There really are some people rotten to the core. I’ve come across many as I’ve trawled the web looking for insights into human nature. So that’s one editing chore out the way. My baddies will stay just as bad as they are. If what you write feels right to you, then that’s the way you should write it.
Till next time friends. xxx
We had a car-load of unexpected visitors arrive today, so all that got done was loads of chatting and eating. The feathered horde always love guests. New innocents, not expecting a parrot to suddenly fly by, as they really do, and swipe the choice morsel they were saving for last, off their plate. It’s amazing people are still brave enough to visit us at all really. The baby weaver is still a tiny bit shy of people, so he mainly lurked today, but judging by the glint in his eye it won’t last. Jelly the big weaver bird is currently furious with the world in general, so earlobes were abused, eyeballs were rudely eyeballed, and scowled and screeched at too.
I can’t say no to him though. He’s so small and cute. And the bravest little fellow in the world. He really did have a very rough start. Besides, I find it seriously hilarious when he’s quivering with rage, and I can never do more than laugh at him, then give him what he’s yelling for. So he’s not aware of being anything but in charge of the entire universe. Right now he’s tired out, fast asleep, and looking more like angelic LB, the character who was based on him.
Some of my friends who’ve read Fly Birdie will know that little LB was inspired by my very own crazy Jelly. This isn’t a ploy to get anyone to rush out and buy it, by the way. In fact, when African Me & Satellite TV goes live, all my other scribbles will be free for a couple of days – so I suggest you wait till then if you fancy reading it. How’s that for great marketing skills?! Hahaa!
Anyway. The poor little guy’s been moulting for a few weeks now, changing from his baby beige feathers, and turning into a proper adult male weaver, with a shiny black head and bright yellow body. Also all his “special” white feathers have fallen out, and normal black ones are growing in their place. He’s finding this a bit depressing and spending quite a lot of his time zooming to the bathroom, all on his lonesome, and staring gloomily at his reflection. I’m not even going to argue the point here that only dolphins recognise their own reflections – he knows exactly who he’s looking at. It pains me that he’s itchy and not liking his new look. Jelly’s a special little fellow.
Obviously Fly Birdie is ninety nine percent fiction, but caring for him when he was just a little lump, made me think about the effect animals have on people – even deeply damaged people – hence the short story. I’m planning on adding a bit about the guy who inspired LB in the revamped little book, but for now, I’ll just tell you.
A tree didn’t fall and start a crazy sequence of events. We did have a very dangerous Mahogany tree that was about to though. They have very spongy wood, and this one was huge, waterlogged, and already cracking. So we brought in tree fellers to chop it down. The feller was a bit of an artist, and really cool in his own right, so it wasn’t his fault when one single tiny branch zoomed across the wrong way and fell into a Palm full of nesting weavers.
A few hours later I noticed the dog picking something up and dropping it again – he looked a bit confused as to whether to eat it or throw it. That was Jelly’s first trip after being knocked out of his tree. I picked him up, wiped him down a bit, and took him inside, not thinking for a minute that he’d survive the day. He did though – the minute he was dry, he was cheeping like crazy, and didn’t hesitate when a spoonful of porridge came his way.
It was a couple of days later. He was sitting on his basket in the kitchen, got a fright, and made an unbelievable leap across the room into a pan of simmering water. I know now how dumb it was to have him in the room at all – but that only helps for the future. I fished him out and held him under running, cold water. He really looked like a tiny goner lying on my palm. He keeled over and stayed that way. Thinking he was dead I quietly lay him in his basket and put him in another room, while I tried to get over the guilt and shock.
When I went back in, he was not only up and trying to clean himself, he was trying to sing at the same time. Long story short – he had third degree burns, his leg really did get horribly infected, and I really did keep him with me every second of every day for weeks, bathing his wounds with antibiotics and pushing it down his beak when he eventually did give up, and try to close his eyes forever. That wasn’t going to be allowed though. Finally one little toe blackened and fell off. And quite a few feathers on one of his wings did grow out white as snow – from the trauma, I would imagine. But he got better, and hasn’t looked back since.
So his life didn’t go as LB’s did. It took too long for him to heal to ever be released back into the wild, but it’s clear that Jelly enjoys his life with us, zooming around, singing his songs, and being a very busy guy all day long. I can’t imagine life without him now anyway. It’s amazing how sometimes, one very special creature will be sent our way, and without the extra effort that’s sometimes required to let them live, we could be missing out on meeting the most gorgeous of little souls. I’m glad I never gave up on him, and my friends can’t mind him munching their earlobes – he’s the only one that gets huge packets of marshmallows brought for him every time after all. Or maybe that’s a ploy to try and keep him busy?
Till next time friends. xxx
Thinking that I would just pop my next short story up today, I started the day off transferring more of my scribbles from memory sticks to my new computer. Then I got sidetracked and spent a couple of hours opening links that I’d emailed to myself to bookmark, and reading ALL of them. Then I got the placement for things for one of my covers lobbed into my frontal cortex by my painting muse (she’s a bit rough around the edges that one), so I had to zoom off and sketch it straight away (looks a bit like a deranged lizard gazing out over a field of mushrooms). Then I did a lot more unproductive things, had a mini panic attack because I hadn’t checked out all my emails yet, came up for air, heard a loud bang in the kitchen (feathered horde flinging a tea cup to the floor), jumped up too fast, and ran into a chair. So… All back to normal then.
My problem is that I want to do too much. And I want it all done immediately. So I have three books on the go, as well as five paintings that I want all finished at the same time to use for my covers. My personally inflicted deadline is looming now. It’s probably crazy to think this will all be done when I expect it to be, but then again, you never know. I remember once when I first started driving, I got my car into a spot that it couldn’t get out of without something being horribly scratched, as you do, so I asked four guys I spotted wandering down the road to just pick it up and straighten it out. They looked a bit startled, then each of them grabbed a corner, and did just that. Didn’t look overly hard either. I’ve since been told that this would be absolutely impossible to do, and that I must be stretching the truth by a very long way indeed. The look that accompanied this sentence definitely suggested that I was the biggest talker of crap on the planet also. I’m not though. Could be they were just really strong guys, or maybe the confidence of my expectation left no room for self-doubt. Who knows? I suppose that if you really believe you can do something, you can. That would work both ways too.
If you think that you can’t do something, even subconsciously, then you can rest assured that you won’t get it done. You might not realise that that’s the reason though. You’ll blame it on social networking, cooking for the demanding swine who live in your house and insist on eating all the time, or any number of time-consuming things that keep you from finishing your projects. I have the opposite problem to that. I think I can do anything at all. Then I end up running into walls and chairs, and realising that I actually can’t. Well. I still think I can. Now I just have to figure out a way to manipulate time itself. Probably doable too. I’ll have to see if I can squeeze finding out more about that in-between scribbling and flinging paint around.
Which reminds me – I bought a book on fantasy art techniques, and tried to copy a bit of one of the paintings in there for practice. I’m not using this for anything, calling it my own, or trying to sell it, so I’m hoping it’s not grand theft art! My covers will be 100% original – this is just to figure out how to paint in general. Anyway – it’s coming along so I’ll share it with you here. It’s a nude too! Then you can tell me to to stop buggering about and just buy stuff from Dreamstime instead.
Till next time friends. Xxx
“Stanley. Where the hell’s my tea?”
Stanley flinched, but couldn’t tear his eyes from the glowing screen in front of him. The excitement of realising that someone had posted a review of his book, the book that had taken him ten years to write, had been quenched when he saw the single lonely star, and read the scathing words.
From George Witherall
Not only do I regret ever laying eyes on this appalling book, I also regret looking at this author’s profile to see what manner of fool could write so badly, and coming face to face with the ugliest man alive. Load of rubbish. The only recommendation that I could give for this trash would be incineration.
“Yes Mother. I’m coming!”
The cold shock of reading his very first book review had rendered him incapable of movement. The rage that now filled him as he clicked away, looking for more information on George Witherall, threatened to blow the top of his head off. What had he ever done to this person? What sort of thing was that to say about his book? Had he even read it? And how dare he comment on his appearance? In a few minutes he was looking at his foul detractor’s Facebook page. Scrolling down, he sneered at the smiling, handsome face. And then with a shock, he realised that he recognised it.
“Stanley. You bastard!”
“Bloody hell,” he muttered, leaping from his chair and heading to the kitchen.
He looked around the immaculate room. His kitchen now. He’d been born in this very place forty seven years ago, he’d been told. Smiling, he remembered gleefully setting about scrubbing it from top to bottom on the day his mother had finally taken to her bed properly a few months back. Dirty old woman. He adjusted his red bow tie, still smarting from such terrible insults being so casually posted on an international book vending site, for all the world to see.
Scowling, trying to remember where he recognised that face from, he measured three spoons of Earl Grey into the teapot. He carefully placed four chocolate digestives on a side plate, and then it hit him. Of course! George Witherall’s face had lately been plastered on billboards all over town. He owned the new department store on West street.
Stanley rushed back to his desk and dialled enquiries. Soon, after a few short rings, a melodious voice answered.
“Mr Witherall’s office. How may I help you?”
“Is he in?”
“Yes Sir. Who may I say—.”
He hastily disconnected, and rushed to his room.
“Stanley. My tea. What’r you doing you bloody little shi—!”
The kettle clicked off and the tea remained unmade. Stanley was loading his .38.
Reality programmes could very well be a treasure trove for writers looking for characters for their scribbles. They can get you thinking outside the box too. Come Dine With Me is one of my favourites. Get five strangers to throw dinner parties for each other one night after another, throw in buckets of booze, a couple of strong-willed individuals, and you have a recipe for at least one disaster. I watched one where one lady was incredibly easily offended, while at the same time being incredibly offensive. She really made my skin crawl just watching her nastiness. It made me think of the few really dislikeable people I’ve come across in my time. Those people that will rudely respond to anything that you say, sometimes even twisting an intended compliment around, and taking it as a personal insult. With these guys it’s all about the “me”. I imagined for a minute trying to sell this woman a book. In the world of real salespeople, you should be able to find a method to do this very thing. Theoretically.
I remember back in the day when I was still a go-getting, career oriented yuppie, I went on a three day sales and marketing seminar at a casino resort. In between the required all night partying, and the costly discovery of a possible one-armed bandit addiction, I picked up a few tips. One of them was to “Know Your Customer”. What one person finds appealing in your bid to sell them ice in winter, another will find irritating – or worse still, see your pitch as an attack on their personal space or time. This could lead to not only an earful, but a character shredding of your worthy self to other potential customers, and subsequent loss of future sales. I think that this could apply to indie authors trying to sell their books also.
You have characters that are so soft that they are easily swayed (or sometimes bullied) into buying just about anything that a salesperson waves at them. You have people that are open to hearing what you have to say, and may or may not buy your product based on whether they actually want it. There are loads of different people out there who respond in different ways to marketing attempts coming their way. Some are genuinely just not interested, and tired of being constantly bombarded with products they have no interest in. They might get a little angry and say something harsh or at the least just totally ignore you. Then – at the dark end of the spectrum, you have the people who are just waiting for some bastard salesman to just try and sell their rotten stuff to them. They take pleasure in being offended, and often equal pleasure in trying to take said rotten bastard cheeky sales guy down and stomp on them as hard as they can.
With general marketing such as advertising in publications or on billboards the seller feels none of this, but with personal sales – as in one on one communication with a potential client – the innocent, untrained salesman of his lovely just published indie book faces a minefield of potentially being stomped on. Sales staff are often employed for not only their training and experience, but also on the basis of their charm and good looks. Not all indies are naturally charming, outgoing, or good looking. Some are painfully shy too. For this reason I’m still baffled as to the best way to market indie books. The more I see posts of nice people genuinely tired of having hard sell methods used on them to buy books, and posts of really nice author guys that have had their noses bitten off for merely mentioning their book to the wrong person, the more I come to the conclusion that I’m missing something here. If someone feels bullied into buying a book they’re automatically not going to feel the love and read it with an open mind. If you don’t try and sell your books nobody will buy them. Not a win win situation.
One thing I do know though, is that just as scribblers are very similar to each other with their creative, gentle souls, so are salesmen a particular breed of razor-witted individuals. Not many people get to be both. They also study for their trade. A three year sales and marketing course is not going to be replaced by guesswork. Why not ask the question of those who might be able to come up with an answer? Can’t hurt. I haven’t been in the world of salespeople for years, but remembering that tenacious bunch, I’ve decided to look online for a group of them, and put this indie book marketing problem to them as a challenge – What’s A New Way To Market Indie Books. So, if any of my friends has a salesman in the house, please give me a shout. It’s time to get the big guns out. We need to learn how to sell from those who know selling, and are as passionate about their jobs as we are about writing. I don’t think I’ve seen a single club or course for writers to learn about the job of selling. If they’re up for a challenge, we might come up with totally new strategies. And we can then give them free copies of our books to review…
Till next time friends. xxx