Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Bring Back The Stocks

I've decided to post about something other than writing today, and I've decided to be controversial.

None of us will remember Stocks. But we've all heard of them.
Stocks were (according to wikipedia) 'devices used internationally, in medieval, Renaissance and colonial American times as a form of physical punishment involving public humiliation. The stocks partially immobilised its victims and they were often exposed in a public place such as the site of a market to the scorn of those who passed by.'

Now (after the events of the last 24 hours, which has seen my niece being assaulted by a group of drunken louts and my nephew's mobile phone stolen) I'd love to see these back in action in towns and villages all across this great nation of ours. I think a day or two in the stocks would be an excellent alternative to the pointless bullshit that is community service or a suspended sentence.
Let's get back to punishing wrong-doers, rather than getting all wrapped up in deep philosophical discussions about the need to rehabilitate. Something quick and the stocks.
We'll not bother with a roof if its wet or sun-cream if its sunny (which would no doubt be high on the list of the hand-wringing liberals!). Not even a cushion to sit on. Just a sign behind them saying 'This is a criminal. Their name is xxx. The crime they committed is yyy.' - and maybe a bottle of water (we wouldn't want them to become dehydrated, would we).
If they need a shit or a piss, well, that's just tough.
Should passers-by be allowed to throw rotten fruit at them? Should young boys be allowed to urinate on their heads?
Points for debate, methinks...hold on, what's that?
Did someone say that what I'm proposing here is barbaric?
O contraire, mon ami.
What's barbaric is a society which has over thirty 'charities' set up to fight for the rights of criminals, but only one which fights for the rights of victims.
What's barbaric is how an individual who has stolen the property of an ordinary hard-working, tax-paying citizen is usually only 'cautioned' by the police (if the police can actually be bothered to follow-up the crime in the first place). That's not really a deterrent,is it?
What's barbaric is how it costs society £40,000 a year to keep a criminal in prison, money that could be used to pay for cancer treatments.
What's barbaric is that someone who has broken the law and been locked up because of it is being given the opportunity to vote on how governs the very society they have transgressed against.
What's barbaric is that prisoners get proper meals, colour TVs and Sky in their cells, when hard-working folks often can't afford these.

I think it's time for society to ask itself a question. If one of the few things we ask an individual to do is abide by the law, why should we not punish, quickly and harshly, those who choose not to?

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Over to you, Beta Readers

I read a blog a couple of weeks ago where a woman (sadly, I can't recall her name) was describing how she felt when she finished her latest book and sent it off to her 'beta readers' for their comments and critique. Now I didn't know what 'beta readers' were before I read this blog, but a quick look on wikipedia confirmed that a beta reader is:
a non-professional reader who reads a written work, generally fiction, with the intent of looking over the material to find and improve elements such as grammar and spelling, as well as suggestions to improve the story, its characters, or its setting. (which is useful to know, I guess).
Anyway, in this blog, there was a very good description of what it is I'm feeling this morning - a peculiar emptiness, a feeling of being a bit at a loose end, not quite sure what to do.
You see, I finished making changes to 'Fractured Time' over the weekend and, whilst I still think it may need just a little bit more polish, I had already come to the decision that I needed to get the whole thing out there so people can tell me what they thought of the entire plot (with all it's cunning twists and turns). I know I'd already had positive feedback on the first ten chapters, but I needed to know whether the whole thing worked. If it didn't, well, there's not much point in trying to further polish a turd, now is there.
So, on Sunday, it went out via the wonders of e-mail to Mags, Matt, Laura, Dan. Chris and Maddie…
…and then, well, suddenly, that was that.
I'd spent the last eight months getting up early to write, staying up late to write, sitting in the study at weekends to write and re-write and then…BAM, there's suddenly a void, a big space that's got nothing in it (definition of a void, I guess) except, perhaps, anticipation and maybe a little bit of apprehension.

So what now (apart from waiting)?
Well, I think a few short stories may be called for, something that is going to keep the creative juices flowing and the literary creativity bubbling nicely, but is not going to be as all-consuming as a full-blown novel can be (besides, I have DIY to do which the good lady wife has been patiently waiting for).
Strangely, though, I find myself already thinking about what novel I might write next.
Hopefully, if all my beta readers think Fractured Time is simply fabulous and I can then get a literary agent or publisher to also think it is simply fabulous, then a new Sam McCall adventure may be in the offing. Alternatively, I did leave Jethro Postlethwaite sort of hanging there at the end of Part 3 of The Book That THEY…, so I could get on and write the sequel to that (which will be imaginatively called The Book That IT Does Not Want You To Read). Or I could have a shot at something a bit racy (Twelve Tears of Regret) or something a bit off-the-wall, such as The Curious Case of God vs Pratt.
So many options!!

One thing is for certain, though.
Over the next few weeks, that peculiar emptiness inside me is going to fill with more and more of that anticipation and apprehension. The question is, when it is finally transformed by feedback, will it turn into bitter, burning bile, or the sweet elixir of success?
Watch this space.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

A blog about a blog

Today, a short piece I recently wrote about whether writers should challenge readers by using words that are not generally in use was posted on Autharium's blog - follow the link.

Autharium Community Blog

Friday, 18 April 2014

A Change is as Good as a Rest

It's amazing the impact a break from the norm can have.
We've spent the last week in a fabulous little two-roomed 'hobbit-home' by the shore of Loch Duich on Scotland's spectacular west coast (I'm not saying exactly where, because then it may become too popular!), looking out at water that has alternated between dead calm one day and 'lively' the next. 
As expected, the weather has been unpredictable, glorious sunshine following sheets of rain carried on a gusting wind, and vice versa; but that's Scotland for you!
Culturally, we've visited Camusfearna, the famed home of Gavin Maxwell's Ring of Bright Water trilogy (which I'm proud to say I've read); Plockton, the setting for the TV series Hamish MacBeth (which I've watched); and we've spent a day as proper tourists on the Isle of Skye (which resulted in me buying a bottle of Talisker Storm single malt whisky).
We've paddled in our inflatable canoe, walked in the woodlands and down by the beaches, and we've sampled some of the local food and drink.
And we've been fortunate enough to spot an otter, share the water with a curious seal, spend several evenings watching the resident garden mice scampering across the patio and, on the Wednesday evening, when a power cut plunged most of the north of Scotland into darkness, we were privileged enough to be visited by the local pine martin.
So, all in all, a fantastic break, not only from the drudgery of work but also, perversely, from writing. In fact, apart from a hurriedly typed note to myself on the evening of our arrival, the only 'writing' I've done is this blog entry…which is strange, because I'm currently two-thirds of the way through what I'm hoping will be the final re-drafting of my next book, 'Fractured Time', and I'm desperate to get a working draft out to the posse of eager beavers that I have lined up to proof-read and critique it.
So, if anything, this week's holiday should have been a source of frustration, an unwelcome interruption in that final reviewing process. But it hasn't been. Instead, it's kind of recharged my creative batteries, given a great boost to my enthusiasm and left me looking forward to the next couple of weeks of review and redraft with renewed vigour and positivity.

The beach at Camusfearna

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

A Bittersweet Rating

It's a strange mix of emotions, receiving your first 'dis-satisfied' Goodreads rating.
In this case it was a 2 stars out of 5 for 'The Book That THEY…Part 1'.
My first emotion, I have to admit, was one of outrage. I immediately reached for that long list of people's names that I keep secreted away for the day I have enough money to hire a hitman. Hell hath no fury, I told myself, like an author scorned.
But then, once I'd got over the initial shock, I found myself thinking a little more rationally (helped by a good cup of tea and a couple of slices of toast). Rather than bemoaning what has happened, I found myself recognising (with surprising maturity) that receiving a less than glowing review, whilst undoubtedly disappointing, was not only an inevitability but was also something I should, in reality, be pleased about.
But how so?
Well, let's consider the perspective of inevitability. The moment anyone decides to share something they've created with the wider world (especially when said creation is something 'arty'), there must eventually come a point when someone takes a look at it and decides, for any of dozens of different reasons, that it simply fails to float their particular boat. It's not anyone's fault, it just is. That's the whole point of 'art' - different people like (and dislike) different things for all sorts of different reasons. With a book, dislike can sometimes stem from the reader preferring a different writing style (more or less description), or simply failing to connect with a character or engage with a storyline. Perhaps the reader is a sci-fi fan, but prefers the hard sci-fi of Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov and Greg Bear, rather than the soft, comedic approach of Douglas Adams. Who knows?
The fact is that people can read the same thing and have a completely different opinion about it. That's life.
Which brings us to the point of why I should be, somewhat perversely, pleased.
Well, it's really quite simple. In order for someone to have decided that what I've written is not to their liking, they have at least to have read it. That, to my mind, is much better than the alternative - that they haven't read it at all.
So, whilst there is a little tinge of disappointment that I now have a 'dis-satisfied' Goodreads reader (who shall be known as Reader X to protect their identity), that disappointment is tempered by the knowledge that at least Reader X not only took the time to read 'They Book That THEY…Part 1', but that they also took the time to post a rating of it.
So, far from placing Reader X onto my hitman target list, I'd instead like to say a little thank you to them for at least showing an interest.

Now I'm going to go and find a cat to kick!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

It's SoRaMA again!!

As those of you who read my previous post will know, in a fit of depression (related to my slowly deflating balloon of hope) I made my sci-fi short, SoRaMA, available in mobi format in the hope that some people would read it and give my self-confidence a much-needed boost with positive feedback that included the word 'pineapple'.
However, due to the quite phenomenal number of people who have been in touch to say 'Hey, Andy, what about those of us who don't have a Kindle? Are we to be denied the opportunity to gaze upon your literary magnificence?', I have created a pdf version.

SoRaMA in pdf

What's that from the cheap seats?
How many is a 'quite phenomenal number'?
Oh, how I hate being honest.
Okay, it was only one - so this is especially for Ellen!

Friday, 4 April 2014


Yesterday I had the somewhat disappointing news that the literary agent who was interested in my latest soon-to-be-blockbuster 'Fractured Time' had decided not to take their interest any further (cue sound of a balloon slowly deflating).
This, understandably, left me very low.
But, today is another day and, though I am downhearted, I am by no means defeated. I still believe that I'm writing damn good stuff and that it is only a matter of time before an agent or a publisher looks at what I'm producing and thinks to themselves: 'My God, this guy is some sort of literary genius. I'd better offer him a seven figure sum before someone else snaffles him up and I'm left dreaming about what might have been, with nothing to show for it except a 'one-that-got-away' story I can recount at future dinner parties.'
To emphasise my confidence in what I'm writing, I am circulating one of my short stories, SoRaMA, totally free-of-charge, to those who have a Kindle (other e-Readers are available..apparently).
Just download it from Dropbox to your computer, copy it onto your Kindle and then enjoy.
Feedback is welcome, so long as it is incredibly positive and includes one of the following words or phrases:

  • Awesome
  • Inspired
  • Visionary
  • Pineapple

Just follow the link below:
SoRaMA for Kindle via Dropbox