So, here's the thing! A nice lady reviewer of one of my books complained about me using 'stood' instead of 'standing', and 'sat' instead of 'sitting'. She also mentioned a few occasions where I'd missed the apostrophe off it's to signify 'it is', and one incidence of putting 'aloud' instead of 'allowed'! Okay, I hold my hands up to these latter minor transgressions, but... and here's the thing - I didn't know about the 'stood/sat' and 'standing/sitting' usage. I know, you're thinking, WHAT, the guy has a PhD, two Masters degrees, is a qualified teacher, and has written sixteen books! Well, first of all, let me say that I'm not using the following explanation as an excuse, merely as an explanation.
Apparently, it's a Northern thing. Some have said it's dialect, but it's not dialect it's simply the way people speak. Well, I come from Manchester, and we say 'stood/sat'. Now, when I say, "We" that's not strictly true. My wife is also from Manchester and she doesn't say it, but when we discussed this issue yesterday she said she'd been taught the correct usage at school. That revelation brings up a number of issues. First of all, we could blame her for not telling me! I mean, after thirty-something years (I can never remember how many - and I hope she doesn't read this!) of marriage you'd think she'd have corrected me when I said something like, "I was stood behind the bar helping myself to a pint of Guinness" instead of, "I was standing behind...", or "I was sat watching Manchester United thrash Arsenal 8 - 2" instead of, "I was sitting watching...", but the evidence for such finger-pointing is a bit tenuous to say the least.
Okay, if she learnt it at school why didn't I, you could ask? And you'd be quite right to ask too! The trouble is, it was probably one of the days I wasn't there, and I wasn't there a lot of the days I should have been there. My mates and I used to wag it, bunk off, play truant. In fact, I left school at 15 when the actual school-leaving age had been increased to 16. I did go back to get my razor and little Gideon's Bible, but otherwise school was a complete waste of time for me. I was in an all-boy's prison... school (Freudian slip, or what!), I mean how can they put a boy with raging hormones in a school surrounded by boys? And... worse than that, they put an all-girl's school across the road. What I did learn at school were the concepts of magnetism, torture, and corporal punishment. Yeah, unfortunately I was seen smoking a cigarette and strutting my stuff past the girl's school when I should have been in lessons. Needless to say, I got six of the very best for the privilege!
So, you can probably guess, based on the aforementioned conditions under which teachers attempted to 'learn me good', that I didn't learn a lot. In fact, I obviously missed the lesson on the correct usage of 'stood/standing' and 'sit/sitting', but you know what they say , "You're never too old to learn!" And it's true. I started doing my Masters degrees (Oh, I was able to get into University because I'd done a lot of edumacation in the Army in terms of Maths and English - and a lot of other stuff as well - but I obviously missed the lesson on correct usage again!) when I was 40 years old, and didn't finish until I was awarded my PhD in Educational Management at Lincoln Cathedral on a cold January day at the tender age of 51.
Anyway, after my sloppy English had been pointed out in no uncertain terms by the wonderful reader, I did some research! Hey, if there's one thing I know how to do - it's research. And you know what I found out? Of course you do - I found out the correct usage of 'stood/standing' and 'sat/sitting'. So, I'm thankful to the reader for pointing my error out because I genuinely didn't know! And... you wonderful readers, don't think your reviews are ignored! Oh no, they're taken very much to heart by us writers (OMG I'm a writer!). So, when you say that, "Your book sucks", you may as well go round to the author's house and stick a twelve-inch knife through their heart because that's the effect it has on us! It's as if you've put your grubby hands in the baby's buggy and throttled the ugly creature... I won't carry on with the analogy, but I'm sure you get my drift. Now, I'm not saying don't write a truthful review, but you could be gentle with us poor half-crazed writers huddled round the braziers trying to keep warm as August turns to September. I write my books in about 4 months (don't say, "It shows" like that!), but others take a year, two, three, or more, so in effect what you're saying is that a writer has wasted a large chunk of their life creating a lead balloon, a concrete parachute, a chocolate fireguard or teapot, a ... - don't you just love idioms?
Anyway, after I'd worked out the correct usage of 'stood/standing' and 'sat/sitting' (because its not easy let me tell you) I revisited The Wages of Sin and made corrections - there were a lot of them! But you you know what - now I'm using two words instead of one to say the same thing! And... after using the incorrect terms for over 40 years it just doesn't look right, but I suppose I'll have to bite the metaphorical bullet to keep you wonderful readers happy. If other writers can get it right, I'm sure I can. So, I suppose I'd better look at the other books I've writ and correct them - don't want people thinking that those who come from north of the Watford Gap services (pictured) can't write proper King's English, do we?
You know what else the woman said in her review? She mentioned an editor/proofreader! Well yeah, one of those would be great, but contrary to popular belief - they cost a lot of money, and for starving struggling authors such as myself it's a big deal. Not only that, when I first started writing, I sent six chapters of a book to an editor who suggested changes etc., and charged me an arm and a leg for doing it (I think - £180), but you know what - she was rubbish. Of course, I didn't know it at the time, but once I started teaching myself how to write properly - after I'd written three books (It's a man thing - we read the instructions after getting the flatpack out of the box and trying to put the damned thing together!) I found out that I'd paid £180 for a shoddy service. Now, I do it myself. Hey, I miss the odd 'its when it should be it's' or 'aloud when it should be allowed', but generally speaking, I'm a damned good editor and proofreader. Not only that, even the professionals get it wrong - the amount of traditionally published books I've read peppered with errors you could stack one on top of the other and make a skyscraper!
Anyway, to conclude! Now that I know how posh people from the South talk, I'll endeavour to write proper English from now on. I mean, whilst I'm sat sitting here thinking about standing up in a stood position, I could learn to be a proper writer instead of playing at it! Have a nice day y'all!
So, here's the thing! You've spent month's creating your baby - I know, the analogy of the birth of a baby has been used many times before in relation to creating a piece of writing, and I also know - because I was there, in the delivery room, at the birth of my son, watching the blood, the forceps delivery, the episiotomy, the ugly pointy-head thing splurge out, and hearing my wife screaming as if the gynaecologist was torturing her - that writing and publishing a book is absolutely nothing like giving birth, but bear down with me, and PUSH when I say.
So, you've written a blockbuster, a bestseller, a magnus opus? You've nurtured it, held it in your sweaty hands, talked to it, caressed it... Yeah, some writers are like that about their books. Anyway, after all the antenatal classes, the breathing practise, and carrying around a bowling ball in a sack, it's time to publish. You've written a blurb, and sought advice from those who know about those things; created a cover or paid someone a fantasmagorical amount of moulah to create one for you; edited it yourself or sent it to someone who say's they're an an Editor who charges exhorbitant fees to put in a couple of commas or take them out, sent it to beta readers who tell you that it's fantastic - the best thing they've ever read, so you decide now is the time! You wait expectantly while the midwife cleans the acid-drooling alien with an oil-soaked rag, you keep typing in the title on Amazon to see if its there yet, and then when you weren't looking, it appeared and people started downloading it. OMG! Your heart thrashes about abnormally, you have to breathe in and out of a brown paper bag (do they still make bpb's?), you lie down in a darkened room until your sales reach double figures.
You fret and worry that they won't like your beautiful baby, and lo and behold, they didn't. They said it was ugly, too short, too long, there were problems with punctuation, grammar, and formatting. There was far too much (or not enough) violence, sex and gore. You can't write sex scenes, romantic scenes, violent scenes. In fact, the general consensus was that you can't write at all, and should think about dancing, singing, acting, or possibly a job as a highwire act. It was over-priced, under-priced, at any price, so you made it free and that was far too expensive, but it shot up the free bestseller list - don't people just love a bargain!
You felt violated, betrayed, used and abused. You swore you'd never write another thing as long as you lived. Then somebody said your baby had beautiful blue eyes, a warm smile, that although it was still a monstrous abomination, it had some small redeeming features. There was a sliver of light in the all-pervasive darkness, you stopped drinking the alcohol, stopped popping the pills, crawled out of bed to the computer clutching the quilt to your flabby nakedness. You forced yourself to put one word in front of another again, to create sentences, paragraphs, scenes, and chapters. Ideas were like stormtroopers trampling through your mind, characters rose up like wraiths in the mist and created conflict, mayhem, and emotional turmoil, stories with plots and twists snaked away into the distance like a yellow brick roads, and so the process began again.
You hadn't forgotten though, you would never forget. The wounds were deep, too deep to really understand the psychological damage that had been wrought by uncaring readers. Reviewers who liked the sound of their own reviews and took pleasure in trying to be funny with their one-liners. This time it would be different though, this time you would be prepared. Nobody would ever say you had an ugly baby again.
The darkness slowly enveloped you and you signed on the dotted line, Lucifer was your constant companion, but in the end you knew he was only after one thing - your battered and bleeding soul, and welcome to it he was. What good was it to you now? You had promised him everything if he gave you everything, and the sales started to peak, readers said how beautiful your new baby was, a top-six agency offered to sign you to a publishing contract that would make you a legend in your own mind. Indies, self-pubbers, and other strange creatures that live in the London Underground tunnels, began to use your name in their blogs, follow you on Twitter, wanted to friend you on Facebook. You were the talk of the town, men with burning eyes sought your company, took you to expensive nightclubs, for exotic meals, and bought you stylish gifts. You became a parody of yourself.
If you've read this far... All I can say is that you obviously have too much time on your hands. Get writing that blockbuster! You can't please all the people, all the time - Bob Dylan said that!
So, here's the thing! I published my latest - The Flesh is Weak (Parish & Richards 3) - three days ago and its already riding high in the Police Procedural bestseller lists. As one of my reviewers said, "You've got a good thing going with Parish & Richards", and so it would seem.
An American reviewer likened the partners to Mulder & Scully, while here in England someone compared Parish to RD Wingfield's Jack Frost. I'm flattered, but also pleased, because in terms of these two characters, my influences have been the dry humour of RD Wingfield's Jack Frost and Reginald Hill's Dalziel & Pascoe. I suppose they should be flattered as well, because imitation is a form of flattery - or something like that!
As usual, I stumbled off the track! I was going to talk about the pressure to keep writing. I've had emails - well, you do don't you - saying, "More, we want more, and we want it now!" Well, something along those lines! I mean, it takes me (at least) about 4 months to write a book, and a reader gobbles it up in a couple of days! That's not fair is it? There's a definite inequality between writers and readers. Readers should be rationed (gets fingers out): 300 pages would equate to: 75 pages per month, 19 per week, 2.7 per day. Thus, by the time the reader finishes reading a book, the writer (that would be me) has finished writing the next book! Synchronisation - a well-oiled machine - nice and neat. You gotta love people with OCD!
So, you ask, what's next? There's no rest is there? I mean, I finish one, and you're already asking me for something else! If I said I was taking a couple of weeks off, how would you react? Okay, stop tearing your hair out, I'm not taking any time off - with so many ideas I can't stop writing for two weeks! Here's what I'm going to do, so that you can begin to count the days, plan your itinery, fit in the birth of a baby, or plan a visit to see your loved one in the prison after the riots! 1) I'm going to edit and upload my father-in-law's book - I know, you're saying, "What's in it for me?" Well, nothing really, except you'll have a warm glowy feeling and, if you like historical first-person narratives about the 'good old days' in Bishop's Castle, then you'll enjoy the book. 2) I'm going to finish a collection of short stories and publish that - Hey, call it a bonus for being good and waiting a couple of weeks! 3) Now, I don't know in which order I'm going to do these, so you'll have to be patient - Complete The Timekeeper's Apprentice, which is currently at 26,000 words, so I'm half way through it; Complete a novella (17,500 - 40,000 words) as a prequel to Quigg 1 (without the sex) ready for Xmas because its called The Twelve Murders of Christmas - I know, how spooky is that! And, get cracking on Quigg 3 (Yes, I've heard you all: NO SEX PLEASE, WE'RE BRITISH - And you Americans don't like sex either! What's the world coming to?) The Skulls Beneath Eternity Wharf. But there's so many others I want to write: Footprints of the Dead - I'm really keen to get my hands on this; then there's Triple Helix - a biopunk novel, and... so many.
I received another 5* review for A Life for a Life from a wonderfully discerning person in the USA who thought it was, "A great read from start to finish", and then I got one in the UK by a different fantastically sagacious lady who said it was, "A must for crime fans to enjoy". I would like to say thank you to those fantabulous people. Sometimes the wife and I make utterances to each other, and I happened to utter this morning that - and I don't really want to tempt fate here, so bugger off fate - anyway, I said that I hadn't had a bad review of this book! Maybe the people who hate it - if there are any asylum inmates roaming free out there - just couldn't be bothered to write a review, thinking they'd wasted enough of their life reading the book. Ah well, whatever will be will be!
So, how should I finish this bloggy thing off? I've said how wonderful I am, plugged most of my books and then some, discussed my OCD again - you'll be fed up of hearing about that, I'm sure. I haven't told you about the fire we've just had in the field at the back of our house. Fire brigade came with two engines, my wife was out with the hose and then the camera, dogs were barking, ash fell over everything - and here's me trying to watch Coronation Street and have my dinner. The wife gets excited easily. My excitement lasted all of two minutes and then I became bored.
I was just looking at the bestsller lists - as you do - and I was struck by the different sized book covers. Now, I've mentioned my OCD a couple of times, and how I like to have everything lined up and squared off, ship-shape and Bristol fashion, well these damned covers are all shapes and sizes and don't exude professionality. I mean, it all looks a bit messy, odd, and scrapbook-like. Amazon should stipulate 500 x 750 pixels, don't you think? Anyway, I'm all writ out now, so toodle pip!
Hi, I'm Tim Ellis - I write a lot and I hope you enjoy what I write.