All posts by tony

The Great Writer?

The great writer or perhaps not so great, as a little boy. At that stage in my life my great joy was to listen to my dad tell of his adventures in World War Two. At school when asked to write about What I Did Last night I used to write pirate stories.

Who would have thought such a young and innocent face could contain the brain that created the zany, the crazy, the absolutely mad and insane whodunits starring the awesome threesome Bigfoot Littlefoot & West. See my book Death in the Australian Outback. A romantic love story not

This is me when I had long hair at that time I wrote and staged all the plays in my book Noahs Nuclear Niche.

A Bicycle Made for FUN

Remember when cycling was fun? Read about Jennie who cycled over a snake, Jason who fell asleep cycling to work, how I was run down 3 times on my touring bike in England, Nona who became entangled in her machine, Ros’ Grand Tour of Holland and what happened to her bike, Cafe’s dad Hi-de-hi Ho-de-Hoing, my dad getting run down by a tram and left for dead – all good fun. See Freewheeling or Tony’s Bicycle Book Smashwords ibooks Barns and Noble Amazon.

How to Market Your eBook

Do you want the Bad News or the Good News?
There is a myth that everyone can make a killing by writing an eBook. The myth goes that all you have to do is follow a few simple rules, get into social networking and you’re in, however this is not the case, eBooks have changed the rules of book publishing but it hasn’t increased the small percentage of the population who read books. It might, for a time, make reading more popular but this is not likely to be permanent, cheap books have always been available through libraries, second hand shops, cheap book shops and just plain borrowing from friends and family, now you can get cheap books on line as well.

The good news is that you can write the book you won’t to write, publish it for free and, if you’re lucky, make a few dollars, if you love writing that is a wonderful thing. If you are very lucky you can make a killing but first and foremost you are in control of your own destiny. Brilliant!

The Author is King:
The difference with eBooks is that the middle men (publishing companies) no longer decide who will and will not get published. The middle men no longer take a huge cut of the profits. In the old days of dead tree publishing the author was at the bottom of the ladder. He/she would humbly submit manuscripts to publishers and, on the whim of the publisher the author would or would not get published. Today the author is king but the problem now is that there are a lot of would be successful authors trying for a piece of the action. How does the new up and coming talent fight his/her way through the plethora of other talent to get noticed? Rule one is be confident that what you have written is brilliant and that the world needs to know about it, you need to be confident enough to get up and tell the world about it. So that’s the trick it is up to the author to tell the world.

Fool Proof Guides:
There are many fool proof, all singing and dancing guides out there for you, the would be author, to read and every guide tells you how easy it is if you follow the guaranteed scheme of the successful author who is about to reveal all. Buyer beware, of course they are not going to tell you all, they have worked hard to get to the position they have achieved and they are not going to give it all to you for $0.99 or even $2.99¢. It is not all bad news however, every: How to Make a Million Dollars by Publishing eBooks book has to give away some good points for you to consider. Use the information for what it is worth but don’t be sucked in. The thing to do is to red, watch and listen, evaluate everything and come up with a marketing plan that suites you, now this may take time but if you take the time the chances of you achieving your goals are greatly increased.

You are in Control of Your Destiny:
The difference today, the brilliant difference, is not that more writers will be a success but that writers are now in control of their own destiny. No longer is a writer working like a slave to pay the plethora of bills knocked up by international publishing companies. Today the author can upload his/her book and the customer can download the book electronically, the cost savings are enormous and the money saved goes to three groups: the customer, books can be very cheap now, the writer and the internet publisher who do make a killing but that is in the nature of things, they are providing a service. Writers and customers are richer and the middle man, the publisher and his crew, to a large extent, may become extinct. You are your own editor, cover designer, type setter, publicist, promoter, even at times delivery boy. What the modern writer is, or can be, is the complete artist, not just a wordsmith but a creator of a whole experience, a true Renaissance Man, what more could you want?

Hard Work:
There is a changing of the guards, so that although roughly the same number of books will be read, the money that authors can make could easily increase tenfold, but be prepared, at the end of the day you still have to work, and work hard, to make this money. At the end of the day you have to write a book that captures the imagination and is marketable.

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?
The modern author has been empowered by technology, it is the modern writer’s job to embrace and run with all the new opportunities and if they do this it will in fact enhance their creativity. Why did the chicken cross the road? Because he was focused and had enough tunnel vision to get up there and want to get the food or whatever it was on the other side. What a pity a prime mover came thundering by and flattened it. My advice is to cross the road but watch out for the prime movers! Getting back to the prime movers, to hell with them, to hell with caution, jump head first into the modern world of publishing and just hang on in there, enjoy the ride, take in the scenery and see where you end up.

The Cover:
First and foremost get the cover right! The cover is vital, it needs to be eye catching and look professional a good cover will sell your book before the prospective customer has read anything about it, but most importantly with eBooks, a good cover needs to do these things when it is reduced to the size of a postage stamp!

Now get the font size and the layout right! If you want to sell your eBook it has to look good and look professional from the first page and the first thing the prospective buyer sees when having a look at your book are the fonts and the layout. The would be customer clicks onto your book to have a quick squizy and a short sample is down loaded onto their screen and if it doesn’t look good well what do you think will happen?

Tittle Page:
After the cover and fonts comes the first page which should include the title of your book and your name, perhaps a reference to copyright and that is all that the customer should see no other publishing paraphernalia is needed.

After the title and your name the following page should be the contents, the contents should have hyperlinks so that the reader can skip in and out of your book at their leisure as any reader can do with a paperbacks.

Chapter One:
So now chapter one hits the reader, you the writer must make it very spunky. Get into the story straight away, draw your reader in with no explanation of when, where or why that can come later. Later the reader will be thirsting for when, where, why but start the story with the now. Make the reader think that they are there with you and that you are exploring a strange new world together. Paragraph one is the clincher, you must tantalise your readers’ taste buds and make them want to sample more, make them hungry for your book. Seduce, tantalise and enrich your customer, if you do this your job is done.

Practice Practice Practice:
Practice, practice, practice and then practice some more. Write well then practice until you write better, then practice some more. Don’t just scribble a few words onto your computer and think that you are a great writer. These days I believe that I am a good writer but it took me many years of practice to get there. Good writing doesn’t happen overnight. Practice, practice, practice and then start again.

To sell a million copies you need to write well and to do that you need to understand exactly what you are doing when you write, you need to look into your soul and find out who you are and what you are capable of, when you have done this you can then begin to strut your stuff. There is only one way to look deeply within for a writer and that is to write, print it out and then give it to someone to read who will tear strips off it. To be a writer first you must experience the pain. The pain is good it teaches, soul searching follows and from the soul searching comes resolve and more importantly, but slowly, comes style. You need to create your own style from your own inner being. This all sounds a bit religious but the truth is that to write well you have to undergo something akin to a religious experience. Remember understanding your mistakes will build the writer you become. Listened to every complaint, take critical reviews seriously and if you do that you can develop.

The critic can make you into a great writer if you know how to listen to and evaluate what they are saying. Some people are just naturally critical but even so you must cut through the rubbish and get to the core of what they are saying, they may have something important to teach you. Think of it this way: everybody has something valuable to give, it is up to you the writer to find out what that person has to give you. In the end remember you can’t please everybody but you do need to please your target market. To do this you need to know yourself and to understand your inner being and you need to present the person you have discovered on page one and every other page of your book. All this is very intense and personal but that is how I work, and I believe that is what makes a good book.

Edit Edit Edit:
So you have written a novel and you think that you are the bee’s knees, a brilliant novelist, one of the beautiful people! That is so much rubbish, pull your head in and get an editor. The most important person in the world for a writer is a good editor! Where does a good editor come from? You can hire one, you can form a group of friends into an editorial collective, give them food and drink and a manuscript, or you can marry one. I took the latter option. Whatever you do in your writing career you need to remember a good writer must have a good editor.

Whilst living in England I wrote ‘Lazonby Trips the Light Fantastic’ as a comic spoof on romance novels, my agent in London liked it, I didn’t. I rewrote it as a spoof on gothic novels and this took me a long, long time, real writing can be a very slow process, thankfully at times it can also be a sprint. As I said Lazonby Trips the Light Fantastic turned into a gothic horror romance spoof and I gave it to Sue, my wife, to read. When Sue had finished reading she said: the best thing to do with Lazonby was to bin it! I didn’t bin it, I cut, rewrote and cut. The heroine underwent major surgery and became a hero and I gave it back to Sue to read, her comment was: better but… So I cut, rewrote and cut again and invented three Australian girls on a train travelling north from London and gave the book back to Sue to read. She said that she admired my stamina and that the new version had some good bits, especially the three Australian girls, so I cut, rewrote and cut again.

Suddenly Sue started getting into the book. I cut most of the gothic stuff, but not all, added character descriptions that became part of the structure of the book and the book started to get personal, it started to come from within. I gave it to Sue to read and her eyes started to sparkle, I had cracked it. I love Lazonby, I never did until I started editing it and with each edit I loved it more. If I don’t love a book, and the characters in it, then it doesn’t work for me and it is not going to work for anybody else. The moral of this story is that a good writer needs a good editor.

Pulp Fiction:
It is important to remember that there are only so many books sold and only so many people to read them so if you want to be a successful writer it is a jungle out there and you will have to, so to speak kill or be killed. So how do you do this? Do you have to be better at writing? No, the fact is that most of the people who succeed and make a living at writing, write pulp fiction that’s read for entertainment value. A pulp fiction writer needs to write the best pulp fiction they can but they don’t have to be the best writer in the world. To write pulp fiction well you need action, tension, simple characterisation: he’s bad she’s good, a well thought out plot that grabs the reader and leads them through the book and a good sturdy, not overblown, prose style. I have never wanted to be a pulp fiction writer so for me to succeed it is more difficult. I do not worry about plotting or how many words I need to write each day, I push my brain to do the work using inspiration as my driving force.

Pop Fiction:
If money is your main goal, and money is good, we all need to eat, start with a good cover usually a half-naked girl, star crossed lovers, that sort of thing, make it striking, make it capture the eye of the reader. Have a good title that says: hey I’m interesting, pick me up and buy me. Also, you must write in one of the pulp fiction genres, romance is top of the list but gothic horror, vampire, werewolf, zombies are pretty high, whodunits also sell well.

Real Books:
Alternately you can write a good book about things that are important to you, write with style and use the English language with great panache but you will still most probably be completely overlooked unless you get down to the nitty gritty of marketing. A real book is original. A real book has guts. A real book is sexy, a real book is spunky, a real book is with it, a real book is now, a real book is a happening thing and perhaps there are only a handful written each generation. How can you tell if you are writing a real book? A real book says to you all the things I have just said, a real book gets right inside your head and you love it, it makes you cry, it makes you feel. If your book doesn’t do this for you then it won’t do it for anybody else.

Market Market Market:
Short of being the world’s greatest writer what can you do? Firstly you must find yourself a genre and then write: A Werewolf Ate My Mother, but stop, hold it, that market is probably saturated! There is no sure fire route to success, write your book anyway, upload it on to the internet with a good title, a good cover, hire someone to do the cover for you if need be, you will need a good opening paragraph and the rest of the book needs to be pretty good too then what you have to market your book. So now is the important stuff, you have to market, market, market, sell, sell, sell. Writing is the easy bit selling is the hard stuff. Marketing is where if you love your product or at least yourself you get up and sing your praises to the world.

What the Gurus Say:
All the following authors have one thing in common, they all work hard to sell their books and because of that they succeed.

John Locke: How I sold a million eBooks:
His main point is very interesting and that is not to try and please everybody, write your book for a niche market and keep your niche market happy and then they will buy your book, an eminently sensible idea. John believes in building a following of dedicated fans and when he publishes a new book he gets in touch with his followers but an important point he makes is not to use people but treat them well. He says that he spends about an hour a day responding to his fan base and that is the draw-back of social media, when you should be writing your next book you have to play about on twitter. Oh yes, one excellent point by John is to be original, that will put you to the forefront of your niche market. John Locke puts much store in his blogs and he even gives a few examples, I am going to be quite frank here, I found John’s blogs trite, sentimental and insincere, like something written for readers digest, but hey I tried to write for readers digest once and utterly failed, however my views are not important, what is significant is that John Locke’s blogs work for him and if you want to sell books you have to do promotions that work for you.

Michael Alvear: Make a killing on Kindle:
Michael also has a very interesting main point and that is to use the Amazon kindle system for all it is worth and then you don’t need to blog, twitter and be on Facebook and he states that blogs twitter and Facebook are actually next to useless. He writes that you must play the system to the full, don’t just scribble down your key words but work on them, they are the most important tool for a new writer, as is the presentation of the book and the blurb that you write about it, use every word you can, that is how to win over the prospective buyer. Reviews are important he says, 10 to 20 are very good but 5 or so are very important to have, get people to buy your book and review it is his advice. Some interesting sections in his book are: coming up with a must click title, designing a book cover that ignites, how to get to the top of Amazons search engines, how to pick the right category for your book, how to write oceanfront book descriptions, how to use Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ to clinch the deal and how to get reviews that make people buy your book.

James Scott Bell: Self Publishing Attack:
Another very practical book, James categorically states that you shouldn’t be scared to be part of the new self- publishing era. He writes that what you need to succeed is entrepreneurial spirit, self-discipline and talent. He comes up with five laws, think like a publisher, write the best books you can, create a quality book, develop and put into practice a marketing plan and the fifth law is that you must repeat the first four laws over and over again. One good point James makes is; Before you write it pitch it, what he describes as an elevator pitch which is a short summation of the overall plot that you pitch to a movie maker who you meet in an elevator, (I very rarely meet movie makers in elevators) when you can do this you can write you’re book.

Zoe Winters: Smart Self-Publishing:
A very sensible book that will put the absolute beginner on the road to publishing their own book. Lots of information lots of how to do it. The book is a good summing up of just about everything you need to know to be a modern independent publisher/author.

Toby Neal: Building an Author Platform:
This essay is a short, sharp and sweet whirlwind of internet blogging, Facebook and Twitter advice and if that is the way you want to go, why not? One point he makes is to always give your customers value for money, always give them a little bit more. His philosophy is: Before you ask anything of anyone do something for them first. He says: start a blog, develop email lists, expand your twitter following to 2,000 then on to 5,000 and launch your book with all the fanfare you can muster.

J.A. Konrath: A Newbies Guide to Publishing:
An author who started off as a traditional dead tree publisher and has now moved into eBooks in a big way. In one blog I read he discusses the bad old days of book signings, public speaking, interviews etc and says that now with eBooks all that old style marketing has been swept under the carpet. The book is big, full of stuff and I can only begin to sum it up here as I haven’t finished reading it yet but if you are looking for a good long read on being a writer, by a successful writer, this is the book for you. Lots of good information, lots of tips. Konrath has his own style of writing and a strong personality and my advice is do not copy his style, if you do you will end up as a minor star in the glare of his mega sun. To me writers need to find their own style, to find their own voice, having said that this book is a great long read. Here is a quote from the book to keep in mind: There is a word for writers who never give up…published. And there is a word for a published writer who never gives up…successful.

Scott Nicholson Write Good or Die:
This is a good book to have a look at as it is a collection of articles by many writers and some of the articles are very good managing to say a lot in a few words. Here is a list of the articles I found interesting:

Nurture Your Inner Hack:
Tells you to write from the person within you, freely and fluently.

States that sports champions are disciplined and as a writer if you want to win you must be disciplined too. The author has four rules: One: define your goals. Two: list the problems to writing that you personally throw up then you can do something about them. Three: change your thought patterns, make writing your priority. Four: find what you love about writing and celebrate it.

Write the Novel You Want To Read:
This covers writing a book that excites you, because if it doesn’t excite you how the hell do you expect others to get excited by it. Don’t write for a demographic, publisher, reviewer or agents write for yourself. I found this piece of advice particularly good. The author says that readers respond to authenticity, originality and excitement, so be exciting original and tell it from the heart.

This was really interesting as the author talks about the word No. When you are rejected, instead of seeing it as a bad thing, see it as part of the journey to a Yes. A good philosophy in life.

What’s Your Premise?
Another good article that I found helpful, the author writes that you need an elevator pitch and suddenly I got it, I understood what was meant and I think that I can now write one, brilliant. The author says that you need to include in the pitch a protagonist, an antagonist, a conflict, stakes, setting, atmosphere and genre, so go for it.

Write What You Are Passionate About:
In this essay the author states: Never let agents tell you what to write. The rules are One: write what you love. Two: sell it when you have written it. Three: never let anyone tell you what to write. Four: (I think this is my rule rather than the authors): Trust yourself.

So what is true is to succeed you must find a system that suites your personality and exploit it to the full. Some people swear by social media other people do well by using the kindle and Amazon system for everything that it is worth. Me, I am slowly working towards a system of my own, I don’t know what that system is yet but I will know when I get there. All the above authors have good ideas, my advice is keep slogging away, be very creative and look for new and innovative ideas.

The Facts about Marketing:
The truth about marketing is that there are many different and varied ways to go about it and any one of a plethora of totally different approaches can give you an excellent result. No one method will work for you, if you read all the advice and try to put someone else’s system into operation you have a good chance of failing. Marketing needs to come from within, you must find the marketing system that works for you. If you hate blogging and Facebook and Twitter it is highly likely that you will fail at it, if you love social media on the other hand you have a good chance of success along those lines. But as one author pointed out there are other strategies other than social media such as making the most of the Amazon kindle system.

My advice is to do everything you are comfortable with but spend no money or very little money. Do not succumb to advertising agencies who tell you what they can do for you for $50, $500 or $5,000 you will get excellent exposure. I know from hard experience in our cider business that what is called advertising is an utter waste of money, unless it is very, very focused, and what is called journalism or editorial will work much better than any paid advert, so keep your purse strings tight.

More Books:
So how do you sell your book? As Hamlet said: ‘That is the question.’ I wish I knew the answer but there are strategies and you must have a strategy, so sit down and write a ten point plan, put it into place and revise it every week. A really good point that many of the gurus make is not to have just one eBook but two, three or more because if people buy your book, read it and like it, they want to read more.

The trick seems to be if you have established a fan base and you contact your fans and let them know that your book is out there they are more than likely to buy your book and if they do this the book is propelled through the ratings and pops up in the top 100 in its category or better still in the top ten and then it becomes very visible and, ipso facto, people start buying it. It is visible, it is popular, people buy, that’s the trick! So you work hard at your fan base or you buy a lot of books yourself, the latter is not really practical.

What are your goals? For many their goal is to make a lot of money, for some it is recognition. A lot of authors, whose books on writing I have read, say that their goal is to make money but when you read their books about writing it is obvious that they are a fairly paranoid bunch and that their real goal is to get people to love them and this they achieve through Facebook, Twitter, emails, blogs, reviews and sales. These people make great salespeople in this new internet age, they can muster the time and energy to spend their life at the end of the World Wide Web sitting at a computer for most of the day and night. That sort of life does not appeal to me however, I think a writer has to live and experience life.

My goals are simple, I want to make a little money, I want to achieve a little recognition, I’d like a few people to really appreciate what I write. In my writing I want to be new, different, original and really try to say something about life on this planet, I don’t want what I say to be some cliché inspired by genre fiction but from within my own heart. I want to achieve a unique style which is appreciated, I don’t want to make it easy for people to say ‘Oh he writes like so and so,’ to me that is failure. A lot of writers like to write like some other writer, it makes selling your book easy, the publishing companies look for this and the public, but I’m sorry, I just call it the sheep syndrome and I am not a sheep.

What you must do is decide what you want from your writing, what you want to achieve but it is very, very important that you do not set your goals too high. If you set your goals too high it is like having no goals at all. Set attainable goals and then you will feel good when you reach them.

When you are a new writer and have just uploaded your first eBook you think: ‘I’m not giving away my hard work for free, if people think they can have my book for nothing they can think again!’ However one of the main things successful writers point out is that to give the customer more, not less, and for a completely unknown novice the best way to get your name out there and to get a fan base is to give your work away for free. You may think that you are a great writer and that your book will sell itself, it won’t. Give your prospective customer something for free and they will love you and buy your other books and even promote you to their friends.

Giving your book away is free advertising but, if you are giving away a book, my advice is to wait until you have at least two other books available for people to buy. You do want to make some money don’t you? Sue, my wife, and I were talking about selling and she said: ‘If people think that they are getting something for nothing they don’t mind that they have had to pay for it!’ Something to keep in mind when you market your book.

Ten or is it Eleven Point Plan:
1: Write a good book, with spunky prose, get the reader into the story.
2: Get a good editor and listen to and evaluate what they say and then rewrite.
3: Work on your social media profile Facebook, twitter, web site, blogs and the rest but do not be pushy.
4: Get a good cover which is eye catching such as my cover for Death In The Australian Outback, if you can’t do it yourself pay someone to do it for you.
5: Don’t have much front matter in your book, start with a cover, then a title page then get right into the story so that people can down load a taste and be seduced.
6: Announce your book’s publication on your social networking sites.
7: Use the particular internet publishers system for everything that it is worth, write good blurbs about your book that get people interested. Write a good blurb about yourself. Pick your key words and your categories carefully, change these if need be experiment, adapt, revisit.
8: Don’t overprice your book.
9: Encourage readers to review your book, this is important.
10: Write another book, if someone likes your book they will want to read another, repeat customers are the best.
11: Sorry, this is only a ten point plan but here is an eleventh point just for the hell of it. When all else fails read and reread these jottings and the ones I have described above and any other books on the subject that you can get hold of. You should find the answer to your questions hidden inside these tombs somewhere. Persist and you will win through.
12: Whoops I have already gone over my allocated number of points but one thing I seem to have missed – get a great tittle that helps sell your book.

Reviews are funny things, people who like your books almost never review them but people who don’t like your book can’t wait to put the boot in! It is worse than that however, they seem hell bent on giving you the worst rating they can and here is the crunch, frequently they haven’t even read the book.

So what’s to be done? Well you need to treat your internet publishers site as your own little bookshop, you need to manage it, dust it off, make changes and most of all get impartial people to write reviews. Make sure that your book covers are working. Update your blurbs so that the prospective reader knows exactly what your book is about. One trick is to only market your book to those people who actually want to read what you are writing. If all these things are done properly then you will tend not to get bad reviews but it is not guaranteed. The most important thing of all is don’t market your book to people who don’t really won’t to read! If you market your product to the wrong people then you are going to get bad reviews. At the end of the day however you have to learn how to handle bad reviews and not to take them too seriously

Who the Hell are You?
Put your best foot forward and build your character through what you write, what you wear, what you say, what you eat and what you write about yourself. When you have built your character market that character.

Do not write blurbs like: I am 37, I went to Dolittle University where I studied creative writing. I won second prize in a short story competition and a publisher showed interest in a novel I wrote but he lost interest. I live in Normalville and am married with two children. I like cooking and walking the dog.

This is better: I have spent 37 years achieving nothing. I studied creative writing at Dolittle University, what a waste of time that was. Up till now I have been an utter flop, a second prize in a short story completion, only two people went in for it, and I sent my novel to a publishing company and they said: ‘Don’t call us we’ll call you.’ I live in a boring suburb in a boring town. I spend my days looking after a man and two kids and dreaming about what could have been. I cook their food, I walk their dog. I need to break free! I need to break out and I have formed an escape committee, join me and let’s throw off the shackles together.

All the information in the last blurb is the same as in the first one, I don’t say it will work but it is a hell of a lot more fun to read. What your writing needs is passion and when you write about yourself you need passion. People don’t want to read a book by a boring old fart.

When you write about yourself add things like: I have only got one leg. I wasn’t house trained until I was fifteen. I nearly died once from eating peanut butter and mushroom sandwiches, that was a laugh. I walk the dogs twice a day, there are six of them and it’s my job to look after the cats there are twelve of them and I hate pets. I write whenever I can but I only type with one finger as I got frost bite once and all the rest fell off. I only eat green apples and red capsicums as I got sick years ago and have never been able to taste food since so I eat by colour. My hair fell out when I was five from sucking something I found in the bathroom and it has never regrown and, oh yes, I was born on Mars.

What I am trying to say here is, add the juicy stuff to your story, it is the juicy stuff that makes you fascinating. Look at me for instance, I sang in a university choir for five years but I couldn’t sing a note. I was bottom of the school at high school and I couldn’t read or write, then I taught myself to read and write and came top of the school. I went to England and toured around on a bicycle and got run down three times. I’ll stop here as this isn’t about me, I’m just trying to get the idea across that you are more interesting than you think. So go for it, be fascinating.

Every man and his dog nowadays advises the woud be author to get into Facebook and Twitter and get a platform! Initially I wasn’t bothered but I decided to give it a go and I can tell you now that Facebook and Twitter are not the hen that laid the golden egg.

Twitter is full of young, and not so young, women who like to write the word fuck and young, and not so young, men who like to write about their penis’s. There are teenagers, mostly girls, who like to write about getting drunk on Friday nights, there is a whole army of merchandisers with something to sell and there are heaps and heaps of would be authors who have written the best book ever and give you a link to it, there are also slightly more sophisticated would be authors who are busy telling you how to write a book and finally there is the mass of twitter membership they are, I apologise to them for saying this but it is the truth, neurotic, they are looking for a way to connect with other people in this emotionally fractured world. You can make twitter work for you but first you have to be a bit neurotic yourself and then you must spend a lot of bits of hours scribbling tweets on your mobile phone. I think with twitter, if you want it to work for you, you must enjoy it, you must find time to tweet and your tweets must be interactions with other people not sales jargon.

The Twitter Effect:
I found a book on Twitter called The Twitter Effect, the book was short and sweet, that’s how I like them and gives some very good general advice like: Your tweets define you so tweet carefully. What’s the good of a thousand followers if not a single one is listening to you.
Do not post tweets full of links. If someone tweets you something good retweet it. If someone talks to you reply. Don’t try to sell yourself too quickly, interact with people and if they like you they will check you out. Write great tweets that others will retweet. Conversation is key.

The way to make Facebook work for you is to set up a good interesting site with good graphics and slowly add to it. I think of it as an alternative web page where people can log on and look at and read about you. Don’t sink your life into Facebook after all it is just a superannuated photograph album.

I have thought about this a lot and I believe that what you need most to be a good writer is to be yourself. You need to believe in yourself and to work hard both at writing and at marketing. You need a sort of restless need to communicate and to do everything very well. You also need a story, a story that is about you, make it an interesting story and tell that story to your prospective customers make them want to be your friends.

Good Luck
Anthony E Thorogood
Author Extraordinaire

How do you spell – Dyslexia ?

How do you spell Dislectic Dixlixit Dyslexit?

I called out to my wife: How do you spell dyslexit? She told me but by the time I came to write it down I couldn’t remember what she had said. I can be sitting at a typewriter, about to type a perfectly ordinary, perfectly everyday word, a word that everyone can spell without thinking about it, and I get a mental block, I have no idea how to spell that word. It’s often just stupid words such as story or storey, which one is which? Do you tell a storey or do you have a two story house? For a dyslectic these are matters of major importance, not quite life and death, but getting there. If I get the spelling of a word wrong I believe everyone will think of me as a prize idiot so I use a dictionary but I have no idea where to start looking for the word in the dictionary.

School always seemed a bit of a waste of time to me, it was a strange and foreboding place full of people running around and making noise and I was shy and unsure of myself. My first memory of school was being taken there by my two elder sisters Shirley and Susan. Mum told me that they would look after me and stay with me during play time and dinner time, so I would be alright. I remember standing all by myself at playtime waiting for my sisters to come, I stood on one leg and scratched myself with one hand, I stood on the other leg and scratched myself with the other hand, kids ran all around me and laughed, my sisters never came. The bell rang to go back in and sit on hard seats and listen to things I didn’t understand and at the last moment Shirley, my eldest sister, arrived asked me how I was and, not waiting for an answer, disappeared in a run, she was late for her class.

What I couldn’t fathom was: why was I at school? I didn’t know what the teachers wanted me to do, I felt dumb and feeling dumb made me lethargic and stupid. The other kids got on with their work, they seemed to understand what needed to be done, I just sat there bemused. I found the idea of spelling, reading and writing incomprehensible. What is this spelling thing? What are these words? I was supposed to write essays, but what the hell was an essay? Had I missed something somewhere?

I enjoyed history and was good at it. I could remember what the teacher told us but when she handed out tests I couldn’t read the questions and, even if I could have read the questions, I couldn’t write the answers. One day a teacher explained to us the difference between there and their, I sat next to the wall and copied both words from the blackboard onto the wall so that I would remember how to spell them and yes, I could spell them, but I didn’t know which one meant what.

I remember queuing up in front of the teacher’s desk to sound out words for her. I thought the whole thing childish and silly so I made my way to the back of the queue and made sure I stayed there. We had to write essays, I had no idea what an essay was so I wrote down letters in groups as if they were words: fabw votswk lofhjs qeudslxm ghdleopwcn mkopl wmwmwsk khtreqn mordbj kjsai qplmcz ddhglp and when I had filled a page I was satisfied that I had written an essay. The teacher must have looked at my essay and wondered which planet I came from.

Then our family took a bus to Gatwick airport and flew across the world leaving drizzly London for sunny South Australia. In Australia everyone played sport and I couldn’t catch balls, I felt a total idiot. But worse than not being able to catch balls, we had dictation. The teacher would read something to us and we would have to write it down and for every spelling or punctuation error we would lose a point. The dictation was marked out of 40 and the only saving grace was that we marked our own work, when I got down to minus five out of forty my embarrassment factor came to the fore and I would say that I got seven out of forty to try and save face.

My teacher in England, Mrs Gordon, had said to mum and dad that there was something in there – my brain I think she was referring to, but it couldn’t get out. Later at secondary school in Australia a teacher said to me that my answers were the best in the class and that I was the only person who understood the questions but she had to fail me because of my spelling. The best in the class but I failed – if you couldn’t read, couldn’t write and couldn’t spell you were well and truly in the shit when I went to school.

One day, for some reason, I was thirteen or fourteen, I kept working at the times tables until I learnt them by heart. I started with the easy one, the two times table, then I moved onto the ten times table and next the five times table and then I started attacking the hard stuff. Having mastered tables I began working hard at spelling. I remember getting the word neighbour down pat, and getting it right in a spelling test, I felt pretty good about that, I could spell the word neighbour, wasn’t I brilliant!

I was on a roll now and I taught myself to read, after a fashion. In class we had to read from books, out load, I couldn’t do that, however when other kids read out loud from books I followed on the page and memorised whole pieces and so was able to pass reading tests because I could, apparently, read. This wasn’t a complete waste of time as I learnt to associate written words with sounds, and began to recognise words, possibly as complete units rather than collections of individual letters, whatever the reason I very tentatively began to read.

I got into High School through sheer bloody mindedness.
‘I’m sending you to a technical school where you can learn a trade,’ said my teacher.
‘No, I want to go to a high school,’ I said.
‘I think it’s better for you to go to…’ she went on and on and explained in great detail why it would be best for me to learn a trade.
‘No, I want to go to high school,’ I kept saying.
‘I really think it’s for the best if you go to a technical school where you can learn a trade,’ she said yet again.
‘No, I want to go to a high school.’
I went to high school.

My first day at high school we were given three books to read. A great tome called Moby Dick: ‘Call me Ishmael…There now is your insular city of Manhattoes…Circumambulate the city of a dreary Sabbath afternoon.’. I threw the book in the bin. There was a play called The Merchant of Venice: ‘In sooth I know not why I am so sad: it wearies me you say it wearies you; but how I caught it, found it or came by it…’. That hit the bin as well. Finally there was a slim little volume called The Silver Sword: ‘This is the story of a Polish Family, and what happened to them during the Second World War…’. I sat down and read it through, then I read it through again, it was the first book I ever read.

Even though I learnt to read, by my third year in high school I found myself at the very bottom of the school. The other boys in my class were only interested in sex or cars, I wasn’t interested in either. As a fun thing to do we were given a test on how to ask a girl out on a date, strangely I came top. Then the boys took a car apart and we were given a lesson on the internal combustion engine, the science teacher then gave us a test on that same internal combustion engine, again I came top. This was strange, I knew nothing about cars, apart from what the boys had told me, and I outclassed them in the test. Something was clicking into place in my brain.

My education had come a long way, I had progressed, but there was nowhere for me to go. I couldn’t move through the education system anymore, I was at the bottom of the school and on my way out. It was a hopeless situation for me until a teacher of Greek descent, Mr Frost, said to me: You are a smart cookie Tony, you shouldn’t be in this class you are getting straight A’s, I’ll have a chat to the headmaster and see what can be done. I was getting distinctions, lots of distinctions, for my work and I moved from the bottom of the school to the top and sat for the university entrance exams the following year. I came top of the school and was offered a scholarship to study law at the University of Adelaide. I had certainly come a long way from the boy who strung letters together, ad hoc, just to try to write an essay, but I had still never heard of the word dislextic or whatever it was.

Anthony E Thorogood
Author Extraordinaire


On Writing

Please tell us about the latest of your highly sucessful Jack Hamma books: Miss Marple Struts Her Stuff is the latest of the successful Jack Hamma books it is a relentless and, dare I say it, humorous thriller where every move is a false start and every clue is a red herring. Private eye, Jack Hamma, faces the Hong Kong Mafia, better known as the Triad, and gets mixed up in a deadly turf war where knives and cleavers are the order of the day. Engaged to protect a beautiful Chinese girl, February Ling, daughter of the Triad Dragon Master, Jack fouls up big time, can he pull everything together and sort out the mystery or will the Triad’s infighting see the end of our indomitable hero.

So what I and your readers would like to know is when did you decide to become a writer? I have always written. As a small boy, who couldn’t read or write, I used to write pirate stories. These stories happened in my head and as I didn’t know words or how to write them I used to make up words by combining letters, any letters from the alphabet or I’d go to books and take words and copy them out. The teachers would have found my stories strange to say the least, if I read them now they would seem surreal.

What genre do you write in? When I read a book I like it to move not to plod along so I call the books I write electric. I want books to be alive, I want them to race along and at the same time give the reader the feeling that they are there, that even if the story is not happening to them, they are standing in the wings watching. To put it more conventionally I write factual books such as my book on cider, humorous whodunits, romantic travel adventures including Sex Sardines and Sauerkraut and my latest series of slightly humorous action adventures, Shakespeare on the Roof and In Bed with Jane Austen.

What inspired you to write in this genre? I think ebooks need to move and be fast paced, they shouldn’t be overblown, now that publishers are taken out of the mix books don’t need to be any longer than they need to be, all a book needs is to introduce the characters and to tell the story with style and flair.

How long do you take to write a book? I don’t like writing long, long books so I write about 150 pages plus and that can take me up to six months. My books may be relatively short but they are packed full of life, action and dialogue, I don’t spend pages describing irrelevant things.

Do you put aside a special time to write each day? I believe that if you want to write you first have to live otherwise you won’t have anything to write about. A writer shouldn’t be a nine to fiver with set work patterns but should go out there and live life and then write about it. So yes, or should it be no, I do not have any set patterns. I write the book inside my head and then sit down and get it down on paper or the PC as is the modern way.

Do you work to an outline or plot when you write? I like to get an idea for a situation and a character or two and that is my starting point. I develop a vision of where the whole thing is going and then I start writing letting the characters have their own voice and the situations develop organically.

Any advice for aspiring authors? The main trick to being a writer is not to talk about being a writer but to sit down and write. I think if you have just finished school or university then really you may be able to put pen to paper but will it be interesting? First and foremost you have to develop the person within, get some life experiences and then you can write something interesting, pertinent and your own. My other piece of advice is to find a good editor, a good editor will turn the ordinary into a masterpiece.

You mentioned you’re writing a new story. How about a teaser? My latest story is Hi Jack. It’s the fifth Jack Hamma action adventure and is being edited right now. Here’s a little bit from Chapter One of Hi Jack:
I was out cold until I hit the water. It was freezing and I immediately awoke. My senses had no time to figure out what was going on, I was in the sea, it was cold, I was heavy and sinking fast. I desperately needed to breathe and before I could take control of myself my mouth automatically opened and in rushed the sea. I coughed and spluttered, if you can do that under water, the sea raced up my nose and ran down my throat. Drowning, it is said, is a lovely way to die, believe me it isn’t. My throat was retching painfully, I felt like I had swallowed a glass of tiny pins. I was dying, I was lost and there was nothing I could do. I had a chain attached to something heavy and also attached to my legs and my hands were bound tight, there was no solution to my dilemma, I was sinking and I realised that I would sink forever. I kicked and kicked and kicked out anyway, it was hopeless but I kicked some more.

Who is your favorite character in your book and why? Jack Hamma is one of my favorite characters possibly because he is a laid-back Australian. Jack never takes anything seriously, not even dying, and he often looks death in the face. Jack is a bit of a rebel, he doesn’t get on well with authority, he’s fair minded and doesn’t like to jump to conclusions. He’s also a sucker for a pretty face which gets him into trouble along the way. In one story, Miss Marple Struts her Stuff, he even gets hijacked by February Ling the daughter of a Triad mobster.

Do you have any tips you’d like to recommend to aspiring writers? I believe writers need to develop their own style. I guess mine is direct, electric, fast moving, first person, with rapid-fire dialogue. I wasn’t taught this I developed it, you can’t be taught how to write you have to find it from within.

You come up with so many ideas and characters in your stories where do you come up with them all? First I get an idea for a character and a situation. Sometimes from talking to people, sometimes from watching people in a café or at a market, I guess I watch and listen and absorb influences from the world and then scribble them down to create my stories.

What do your fans mean to you?
My fans are the core support system of who I am as a writer. I write to be read and a fan is someone who loves what I write so fans are a great ego boost and we all have egos that need boosting. To put it simply my fans are my best friends, I owe them everything.


Sex Sardines & Sauerkraut

Travel can be a fantastic adventure, a slow boat down the Yangtze Kiang in China or taking the trans- Siberian railway across Russia. It can also be a not so fantastic adventure, gun battles in Israel, the brothels of Bangkok and food poisoning in sight of the Pyramids in Egypt. These three books have it all in delightful spoonfuls.

But we mustn’t forget the characters. A mob of interesting people inhabit these pages, Polish refugees escaping communism, ex members of the Irish Republican Army, a drunken Franciscan friar, a deaf and dumb Greek farmer who took on German paratroopers in World War Two and an eccentric American professor who believes that we were all descended from the same fish.

And that’s just some of the men, there are a whole menagerie of interesting and exciting women. Texas the feisty American girl who is saved at a border crossing in India, the beautiful and frenetic Frenella, an expert in foreign languages, who wants to be loved for her mind, capitalistic Saffire with her blue lipstick and finger nails, the ambitious tour guide Adelaide who leads a merry dance through the Holy Land and not to forget the Curly Wurley Sex Machine, Curls to her friends, with her glorious trusses.

You will enjoy meeting the heroes of these romantic travel adventures. Axel is dominated by his mother and has tentative experiments with sex, entrepreneur, Jonathon Marvel, is the youngest self-made billionaire in the world and Ash, something of a recluse, learns to cope with the world because if he doesn’t it’s going to walk all over him.

These books form a trilogy of travel adventures through the world and back again. Travel was never like this, one commentator wrote but yes it is, as all these books have a large slice of autobiography to add to the delicious pie that you will taste as you dip into these glorious tales.

M&H Front cover

SSS Front cover

The Eccentric Detective

The Eccentric Detective

Arthur Conan Doyle started it all with his highly successful and extremely eccentric detective Sherlock Holmes. If you read the Sherlock Holmes stories, I hope I am not treading on too many toes by saying this but quite frankly they are not very good! So if it’s true that they are not too brilliant how come they are so successful? ‘Elementary my dear Watson,’ says Holmes, although I don’t think Holmes ever said that. What makes the Sherlock Holmes stories so popular is not the plot line or the stories but the character of Sherlock Holmes himself. It was the violin playing, drug taking, master of disguise, intense, meticulous and utterly methodical and amateur, but inspired amateur, detective that captured the popular imagination. Holmes could work out who killed who simply by the wear on a left foot shoe or the slight piece of dust on the lapel of a dinner jacket and this spellbound the readership. This sort of attention to detail was new and so was the art of detection, throw in a deerstalker hat and a funny pipe, both added later, and you have a character that the reading public and later the film and TV going public can visualise, admire and love.

Strange interesting detectives sprang up in many books in the early twentieth century. Lord Peter Wimsey a frivolous, languid and decadent aristocrat spent his spare time solving intricate murders in the Dorothy Sayer murder mysteries. There was also Chesterton’s Father Brown starring a short, fat, priest who wore a cassock and a funny hat and used lateral thinking, or thinking outside of the square, to solve complex mind boggling riddles of crimes.

Then there was Agatha Christie. She created two eccentric detectives destined to become superstars on a par with Sherlock Holmes, the funny little pedantic Belgian detective Hercule Poirot with the silly moustache who is full of his own importance with his little grey cells and is really a bit of a pain and Agatha Christie’s other famous detective the gossiping old lady Miss Marple who misses nothing and has a rather severe view of human nature. After creating these two eccentric sleuths Agatha Christie went on to become one of the most read writers in the world. When I was a boy people read Agatha Christie when they went to the beach as a holiday read but she was considered very low brow, today her status has improved but really she is not a great writer so why is it that she is so popular?

I put Agatha Christie’s popularity down to basically one thing, she didn’t write detective stories so much as puzzles, and puzzles of one form or another are immensely popular. Agatha Christie’s approach to a story, as in Murder at the Vicarage, is to introduce up to a dozen characters from all walks of life and to set up a situation where any one of those characters could have done the murder. There is a murder, the police arrive and the eccentric detective takes over, the clues are set out, a few red herrings are thrown in for good measure, the police get nowhere and then the eccentric detective unravels the puzzle. Agatha Christie writes clearly and concisely so the books are easy to read and easy to follow and all the time the reader is kept guessing, and clearly the reader enjoys the guessing game, the reader enjoys pitting their brains against Agatha Christie’s, they enjoy trying to outsmart the eccentric detective.

The other quality that Agatha Christie has, and this goes hand in hand with the puzzle format, is the ability to create a dozen or more quite distinctive stereotype characters, the priest, the retired soldier, the interfering old lady, the lethargic young girl, the love struck boy, the energetic but rude police detective, the self-possessed artist, the unloved wife and so on. Agatha Christie’s ability to create a mob of energetic and individual stereotype characters enables the reader to follow her puzzles with ease. Finally the eccentric detective is a draw card in itself and the weird little man, Hercule Poirot, is a real draw card every bit as famous as the great Sherlock Holmes.

Another quality Agatha Christie has is the ability to present interesting stage sets for her murders, a famous train in Murder on the Orient Express, a river boat in Death on the Nile, an archaeological dig in the middle east, a holiday resort on an island, a famous hotel in London and she also uses the English grand country house and the typical quaint English Village and so on. She is also very good at throwing in the odd amusing line. The following two quotes are from The Murder at the Vicarage:

I do hate old women they tell you about their bad legs and sometimes insist on showing them to you.

There is no detective in England equal to a spinster lady of uncertain age with plenty of time on her hands.

There is also a whimsical side to Agatha Christie, she even satirizes herself in the form of the novelist Ariadne Oliver. Hastings is yet another of her fun characters, the loveable Hastings is a send up of the average middle class English gentleman come fuddy duddy military intelligence officer. If you peruse Murder at the Vicarage the maid, Mary, is a character of pure fun, Agatha Christie sends up the hired help, in the form of cook and girl of all trades, she can’t particularly cook, isn’t much good at cleaning, is surly with both guests and her employers alike, but they won’t say anything to her as they don’t want her to get any better, they are worried that she could find more lucrative employment elsewhere if she wasn’t so bad at her job.

An interesting point about Miss Marple, the busy body old lady detective, is that she quite often doesn’t take part in the stories to any great extent, she is more a Greek chorus sitting in the background commenting on the action. Take At Bertram’s Hotel, she is more like an avenging angel helping to guide providence than a real detective, she lets the police do ninety percent of the work. Hercule Poirot or the other hand likes to take control and he is a rather annoying creature full of his own self importance someone should write a whodunit where he gets shot. Miss Marple has met her Waterloo in the book Miss Marple Struts her Stuff however, I know this as, in fact, I wrote the book! It’s coming out soon try it.

Cheers Anthony E Thorogood July 2015

I also wrote

In Bed with Jane Austen

About to start In Bed with Jane Austen woohoo looking forward to Jack Hamma’s next case.

An awesome book! It’s really funny and you’ll just love the book.

The Action Adventure Hero Grows Up

The Action Adventure Hero Grows Up

One of my favourite genres in literature is the Action Adventure. This genre goes way back to the beginning of literature with Homer’s Ulysses (The Odyssey) and Apollonius of Rhodes Voyage of Argo or Jason and the Argonauts. Many of Shakespeare’s plays have the aura of the action adventure about them and to me Robert Louis Stevenson’s two books Kidnapped and Treasure Island are two great action adventures.

Just before World War One the action adventure came into its own with two of my all-time favourite books The Riddle of the Sands and The Thirty Nine Steps. The Riddle adds three new features to the action adventure: romance, the spy story and the detective story. The hero of The Riddle of the Sands, Davies, meets a girl and falls in love but the girl’s father is a German spy so Davies is in a dilemma, he has to do the right thing by the girl and at the same time he has to do the right thing by his country. Patriotism was a new feature of the action adventure and has been a big component ever since but personally I do not think that it is an essential element. When I write my action adventures old fashioned drum bashing patriotism is left out, I write more about the people, as in my first action adventure Shakespeare on the Roof. Jack Hamma is the all singing and dancing hero but he is much more than that and Kashmere is the beautiful but at times over zealous heroine. In Bed with Jane Austen, another Jack Hamma adventure features Anastasia, she is a girl in the process of becoming a woman, and I tell the story of Jack, Kashmere and Anastasia through the action.

One element that is very important in the action adventure is the hero. He (read he/she whichever you prefer) must be credible, a good guy, at least at some level, and an action man. The hero doesn’t need to go around shooting people but he must set the plot spinning. Richard Hannay, in The Thirty Nine Steps, is one of the greatest heroes of action adventures, he is resourceful, rugged, has incredible stamina, he can fight, he leads the charge and in later novels he even gets romantic, slightly.

The Thirty Nine Steps is a patriotic pre World War One adventure but after this time writers, in the shape of Sapir with his hero Bulldog Drummond, wrote about the collapse of society as a result of the psychological damage done to the fabric of society during World War One. Sapir, to me, fails for two reasons. One, the best action adventure such as The Thirty Nine Steps and my own Jack Hamma series, set their hero in incredible landscapes and the geography and location play a significant role in the story, not so Bulldog Drummond, the stories are set in a rather flat landscape. The second weakness is that to continue to write the Bulldog Drummond books Sapir lets his villain escape every time and, to me, this is just a little bit limp.

Action adventures have the ability not only to dovetail into the geography of the location but also into the politics of the day. So when the Nazis took over Germany Eric Ambler was inspired to write his spy stories that involved international politics and of course German spies. Ambler’s heroes have changed, they are no longer super heroes but ordinary people caught up in world events. In the book Appointment with Death the hero is a rather ordinary engineer who has a rather ordinary wife back home, he gets into a tight spot, through no fault of his own, and gets out by the skin of his teeth, a sort of everyman type hero.

After World War Two the Nazis were beaten and a new enemy arose for our action adventure hero to fight. The communists, Russians and the KGB were now the enemy and a powerful enemy they made. This political situation, The Cold War, called for an especially brilliant super hero and Ian Fleming’s naval commander James Bond took up the challenge. James Bond represented all that communism was seen not to be, he was resourceful, he was a playboy, he was a go getter who enjoyed all the pleasures of western civilisation as against the ruthless but rather dreary Russian spies.

Both the action adventure and the spy story, which had been closely allied after The Riddle of the Sands, suddenly faced steep competition from a fairly new genre, the whodunit. The whodunit became so popular that the action adventure heroes became private eyes and policemen. The action adventure hero has also headed off into space, isn’t Doctor Who an action adventure? And the action adventure has also returned to the world of fairies and myths, The Lord of the Rings is an action adventure par excellence. The action adventure has come full circle, it emerged from mythical tales of super heroes and has re-immersed itself in a mythical world of super heroes.

So where is the action adventure going now? The answer is that today the patriotic hero who risks all for king and country is dead, the modern hero has to be a caring sharing free thinking, good looking, fit and ready for action, action man. He has to be considered a bit of a hunk by the ladies but the James Bond sleaze bag is long dead. We live in a world where loyalties transcend national boundaries, the action adventure man has to be the defender of a united humanity rather than the patriot fighting bad people from a bad country. The action adventure hero is no longer fighting for the status quo, no longer defending the ruling classes, he fight for the poor and down trodden, he can be an environmental warrior or he may defend an individual against an intrusive and all powerful government. In short the modern action man, such as my hero Jack Hamma in Shakespeare on the Roof, is a complex character with contradictions and weaknesses, he is of the common man and the defender of humanity. The action adventure hero has come of age.