So, here's the thing! Next Friday there's an event happening - Murder 9.0 will be published, but . . . come closer - it's been pre-released and you can get it here in the US: http://is.gd/UKYFRl and here in the UK: http://is.gd/SKZA2k.
I know, you're saying to yourself: "And how is this event going to effect the price of kiwi fruit in New Zealand?" And well you might. But listen . . . come closer - not only have I written a novella of 23,000-words called An Ill Wind that incorporates a new hero - DI Cyrus Kane - who plies his trade in Brick Lane in London, but is on holiday in Cornwall - four other brilliant bestselling authors have also written new stories:
Lawrence Kelter (The Death of Red Rocket and the Bright Blue Light);
Jenny Milchman (Mother May I);
Rick Murcer (The Pier); and
Rebecca Stroud (Amelia's Island).
Now, anyone in their right mind would think that was more than enough, but . . . come closer. We've included four full books. I know, I know - you couldn't dream up something like that, could you? Me, myself and I have included Footprints of the Dead, which is one of my very best and . . . come closer - I'm writing the second in the series Whispers of the Dead (Tom Gabriel 2) now, and it'll be published during the first week in September. Also, and as well as - three of those other four brilliant bestselling authors have included a full book as well:
Now, if that isn't the best offer you've had while we've been sitting in this lifeboat wondering where our next meal is coming from, I'll eat all my vegetables up!
So, here's the thing! In 2008 I was frequenting the charity shops looking for books to add to my collection (this was in the dark unenlightened days before the Kindle and the ebook) when I came across a handful of Writing Magazine. I'd just started writing, and it was exactly the thing I was looking for. I was beginning to wonder if anybody produced a magazine on writing. Well, discovered somebody did. So, I devoured every copy, and then subscribed. I'm still a subscriber now, and look forward to each magazine flopping through the letterbox every few months. So, if you're looking for regular features on writing, I can recommend it. Although, they have a feature on self-publishing in the July copy and I'm not in it! I know, somebody's head is gonna make my spike look good.
Oh, I forgot to tell you! I've published another book. I know, how could it have slipped my mind? Well, I get confused. What with these characters inside my head talking to me all the time - chitter, chatter, chitter, chatter - it's no wonder I forget things sometimes a lot. So, this magnus opus is another Parish & Richards: The Twinkling of an Eye - that's 13 now! Who'd have thought when Jed Parish met Mary Richards at that bleak snowy crime scene in Chigwell it would turn out this way?
I was recently subjected to an interview by the incomparable children's author David Chuka, and do you know that a million photographs were taken of me at the London Book Fair? No, I don't suppose you do - unless, of course, you were one of those who took a few of them! Anyway, have a guess how many I have? You guessed - zero, zilch, nul. Until now. David, unknown to me, was at LBF14 happy snapping and managed to take one of me helping some inquisitive children on book choices at Author HQ! David has kindly identified me - with a red arrow - as the main suspect in this case, but for those with eagle-eyes there's also a head shot of me on the hoarding that Amazon were using as a warning to others who might think that life will never catch up with them!
Also, let me tell you that I've made the Parish and Richards series available in chunks of three - that's four trilogies to you, Toady. And, if that weren't enough - if you buy three together they're cheaper than buying them individually! Is that a deal, or is that a deal? And, if that weren't enough - I've done the same with Quigg. I know, call me a mad impetuous fool!
Well, I suppose that's about it then. Although, I'd like to thank my army of fans - all three of them - for supporting my continuing efforts to achieve mediocrity. I think it's working!
So, here's the thing! I was at the London Book Fair at Earl's Court from 8 - 10 April . . .
'Hello, Toady. How're you today?'
'What are you doing?'
'I was just telling people about the LBF . . .'
'That's my job.'
'Really? Were you there as well?'
'I'm meant to be interviewing you for the Toady Times.'
'Who said so?'
'Me? Are you sure?'
'You said, and I quote: "Come and interview me after the LBF and I'll tell you all the gory details and who was sleeping with whom."'
'They say that forgetfulness is the first sign.'
'No, that's talking to yourself.'
'Well, I never.'
'So, what was the LBF like?'
'Ah! Now you're asking.'
'Yes I am.'
'Oh, okay then. Well, the days were long.'
'More or less.'
'What about the people?'
'There were two types.'
'Those who liked your book, and those who didn't?'
'No - Amazon people and other people.'
'Are Amazon people different from other people?'
'Very much so.'
'In what way?'
'Some of them liked to speak American.'
'Is that because they were American?'
'Could be, but one guy - who thought he was an American - went to see Chelsea beat PSG.'
'Maybe he had British genes?'
'Do we still make British jeans?'
'Were these Amazon people all American?'
'You would think so, but no - some of them live in this country.'
'As illegal immigrants, you mean?'
'I shouldn't say this . . .'
'But you will?'
'There were two . . .'
'Yeah. They even had English names. One was called Amy - Amazon seem to employ a lot of Amy's - Amy Tipper, and a guy who had a permanent smile called Darren Hardy . . .'
'I suppose you'll report them to the Illegal Immigration Board?'
'You know, I don't think we've got one those anymore.'
'Oh well. What about the other people?'
'Readers and writers.'
'At a book fair?'
'I was astounded as well.'
'I bet you were. So, what did they want?'
'That's a good question.'
'Did you give them the benefit of your experience?'
'You know me, Toady.'
'Always happy to talk about myself.'
'That's true. And did they listen to what you had to say?'
'Yeah, I saw a few people nodding, pulling faces, grimacing - you know, that type of thing.'
'You're certainly a good talker.'
'You would say that, Toady.'
'You've trained me well.'
'And afterwards . . . ?'
'You went down the pub?'
'Ah! If only, Toady my friend. No, people came up for a chat.'
'That must have been nice?'
'Oh yes. I gave some of my books away, and even signed a few.'
'That's not like you.'
'I know. It must have been the occasion. I was feeling impetuous, carefree, full of wild abandonment . . .'
'Is that because you had too many the night before?'
'More than likely, but you know what?'
'I kind of enjoyed talking to people.'
'You don't normally.'
'I know, I know! But they say that a change is as good as a rest.'
'Oh, okay. Is that it then?'
'Nearly. There were two other people there.'
'You sound vague.'
'Well, one was the famous Mel Sherratt . . .'
'Taunting the Dead?'
'The very same.'
'I love her books.'
'As much as you love my books?'
'That's not a question a friend asks another friend.'
'Of course not! So, what was Mel like?'
'I thought you said she was there.'
'Mmmm! But she was like a wraith - flitting here and there to talk, and network, and have meetings, and jabber, and . . .'
'That's what women normally do, isn't it?'
'You can't say things like that here, Toady - this is a family-friendly blog.'
'So, you didn't see much of her?'
'What about the other person?'
'What, with green skin and bug eyes?'
'The very same - masquerading as someone called Steven McKay.'
'And what was he like?'
'No idea. He'd written a book on Robin Hood called Wolf's Head.'
'Maybe it's you.'
'Me? I don't know how you can say that, Toady. He spoke in an alien language, and you know I'm no good at things like that.'
'The name sounds Scottish.'
'Yeah, that's it - a country called Glasgow.'
'Never heard of it.'
'Me neither. I saw a lot of him, but I couldn't understand a word he was saying.'
'So, overall how did you find the experience?'
'Would you go back and do it all again?'
'Steady on, Toady. I've got books to write.'
'But you would, wouldn't you?'
So, here's the thing! I've just published my new book. Yep, you've no doubt spotted it on the left - Number 12 in the Parish & Richards series. And . . . I'm already writing No13: In the Twinkling of an Eye - and here's the first chapter.
For those that might want to see a struggling and penniless author in all his glory, I'll be on the Amazon Publishing Stand (16n) at the London Book Fair on the 8, 9 & 10 April at Earl's Court juggling two rubber balls, practising my sword swallowing, sawing some female volunteers from the crowd in half and signing a few copies of my book - Hey! Don't say authors aren't willing to go the extra inch to please their readers.
I'm doing some other things as well! I'm writing a novella called: The Measure of all Things for an anthology, which takes place in Cornwall during the Christmas flooding - it'll be a wet one! Also, I'm compiling another A-Z for crime writers - this time on forensics.
And then, of course, I need to write another Tom Gabriel: Whispers of the Dead. Talking of which, I submitted the first Tom Gabriel Footprints of the Dead into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) and it just got through into round 2, so pleased about that.
So, that's about it really. I'm quite sure you don't want to know about . . . no, probably best not! Oh well. I could tell you about my business cards. Here's one I prepared earlier. Yeah, I'll be pressing the skin with these at the LBF as well. Hey! We struggling and penniless authors have to do what we can to make ends meet in these austere times.
So, here's the thing! I've been neglecting my writing. I know, but it was all in a good cause. I needed to revamp my covers. The trouble is, I have a lot of covers to revamp. Anyway, I've done the Parish & Richards series for now - plus three future titles in the series.
The plan, of course, was to let someone else do my covers, but I couldn't let go. While I'm writing a novel, I like to design the cover as part of the creative process.
So I decided to get the bit between the teeth and just get on and do it. I have done a bit of writing, but there's been some neglect. Designing book covers is a lot more fun than using my brain.
I needed two things: 1) A decent font, which hopefully you'll think that I found; and 2) A ready supply of photographs, which I was pleasantly surprised to find on Morguefile. This site is wholeheartedly recommended, and has thousands of free photographs, which you are allowed to: "Copy, distribute, transmit and adapt without attribution (mostly, but check each photograph when you download just in case)." To the photographers I say: "Thank you very much indeed."
Finally, I know you're sitting there thinking: Wow! I wish he'd design my covers! Well listen, no reasonable request refused. This could be the germination of a new career. Who'd have thought - Hey, Toady!
Now, don't start looking for the next three books because I haven't written them yet. At the moment, I'm writing Silent in the Grave, which is due for release mid-March (if I can stop designing book covers). Also, I reserve the right to change a cover if I decide I can produce a better on!
So, here's the thing! Let's talk about 'Entry and Exit Strategies'. No, I'm not talking about inserting a team (led by Arnold Schwarzenegger) into a fire zone to fight nuclear-powered aliens, I want to waffle for a while about entry and exit strategies into and out of fictional scenes.
Your book has a beginning and an end - you get in, do the business, and get out - simples! In-between, you have any number of scenes (or Chapters for those who don't work in scenes). Well, there's been talk recently about first lines of novels. Here's the 100 Best First Lines of Novels. Now, I don't know about you, but some of those first lines do nothing for me. A first line is meant to make you want to carry on reading, not put the book in a dark corner and cover it over with wood for the fire. I know, sometimes I can be a phillystine! But, life's too short to read books that make your head hurt. Also, here's Stephen King talking about opening sentences
So, let me talk about scenes, because books are built on scenes. Usually, I write between 1 - 5 scenes per chapter of a crime novel. Sometimes, it's difficult starting a scene, but I think that the first line of a scene is just as important as the first line of a book. You're opening and closing doors as you move through the book from the beginning to the end. You lead the reader into the scene, make them part of what's happening, and get the hell out. Getting out and into the next scene is important as well - the transition!
They don't want to leave.
They want to tarry a while. 'Please don't make me leave.'
You pull them by the hand.
They grip the door frame with bleeding fingers.
'I won't go.'
'You have to, my child. It's time. We still have many scenes to go.'
'Will they be as good as this one?'
'They'll be as good.'
You've made a promise, and you have to keep that promise. It's not about word counts, or filling quotas. It's about a story within a story. I'm sure there are people out there who remember the ZX Spectrum or the Commodore 64. The first gaming computers that worked from cassette tapes or floppy discs - the good old days. I used to buy adventure games where you could go from room to room and level to level. Yes, I know, there are games like that - a million times better - for the PS4 etc., but these were new - some based on Dungeons and Dragons - where you had to solve clues, riddles, collect lives, fight monsters etc., until you found the treasure, saved the damsel in distress or the world. Each room was a self-contained environment where you had to work out how to get in and get out.
Scenes are much the same. The reader should step into a scene as if they're climbing into the hollowed-out canoe on the Wet 'N Wild ride. They want to be scared stupid, and when they reached the bottom they wonder how they got there and . . . 'Please, can we go again?'
The exit strategy is just as important. The scene has ended, but the story isn't finished yet. They want to turn the page, but it's two in the morning and they have work . . .
'I'll have a duvet day.'
'You had one of those yesterday.'
'I don't care. I have to read just one more page.'
So, here's the thing! I have a new book out! Yes, that's it on the left - or the right if you're reading this over your shoulder. Well, when I say new - I mean nearly new - does that count? When does "new" run out? When is it considered "old"? Is there a stipulated period of time? Are there statutes that . . . ? Old people don't half ramble on about nothing in particular!
So listen! Come closer! I'm thinking of revamping my covers. Is that exciting, or what? Now, I have over 30 books, so you can imagine I'm not going to commission people who charge £000,000's for one cover, so I've been thinking - and I don't know if this is a good idea or not, so I don't want anybody to get offended by my idea - that there might be art student(s) out there who would like their artwork all over the internet . . . terms to be agreed!
Now, it wouldn't be too shabby to say that the majority of my books are available in print and ebook format across the majority of online book retailers and usually become bestsellers on Amazon during the first month of publication, so we're not talking about a kid living in a cardboard box under the railway arches here!
Anyway, I usually do my own covers (don't say those horrible things under your breath), and here's one I made earlier:
Here's the plan: The above is an early prototype of a cover for my next book (Parish & Richards 12: 'Silent in the Grave', which is due out around mid-March 2014. Anybody who's interested registers said interest below and designs a cover - Closing date: 28 February i.e. the end of this month for the hard of hearing. You send me a copy of the image, I take a look, if I decide to use it we'll discuss terms and conditions. If I don't decide to use an image, I'll respond with thanks within a week (as long as there's not a million responses) in which case I'll just delete the images. And I promise not to use anybody's work without their permission. Have I forgotten anything?
If anybody wants to ask me a question here and there - feel free, but remember - I prefer writing to answering dumb questions. Not only that, I'd like people generally to know that I'm a nice guy - most of the time!
Also, I've put the first nine Parish & Richards books into three trilogies, which are obviously cheaper than buying them individually, changed the names (previously 'Congeries of the Dead', which seemed like a good idea at the time), and revamped the covers.
So, that's it. Hope to hear from you!
So, here's the thing! It's been a while. What can I say? I've been busy - you know - writing 'n all. I wrote and published a novella. Yeah, that's it on the right. It's set in Manchester - hey, that's where I'm from, so I thought I'd go back to my roots and create a new hero - Josiah Dark.
Also, I started writing Quigg 6 'The Enigma of Apocalypse Heights'. Now, this is where it gets complicated because I made that into a novella and called it Quigg 7. Why? I hear you ask. Well, it started to meander into the realms of fantasy, but all is not lost. Quigg 6 is now 'The Haunting of Bleeding Heart Yard' (see below), and I've added Quigg 7 to the end of Quigg 6 as a bonus novella.
Hey, I know! Call me Santa's little helper! There's a problem though! Here we go, I hear you say. No, listen! Quigg 6 won't be ready until the first week of the New Year - call it a belated Christmas present.
It'll be worth it though. It had better be, I hear you say. Trust me. Quigg aficionados will be suitably impressed that Quigg's back in the groove - so to speak.
Now, what's the festive season without four dogs? I know, call me an old softie! Here's their toy box - don't ask! And there's one of the four - Coco trying to find just the right one! The week before, another dog - Daisy, wasn't eating and showing other symptoms of not being well, so we took her down the vets. We had to leave her there to have her uterus removed (she's ten years old) because it had become infected. You'll be pleased to hear that she's fine now, and back at home with us for Christmas.
It's a real place, you know! I went up to London a couple of weeks ago to take a look - there's not much to it though. A few cobbles, a restaurant, some offices and a couple of cars. It does have a history and you can read about it here! and that was the trigger for the book.
You know Quigg! He likes to get himself and his partner - Tallie Kline - into the worst situations possible, and this book is no different!
As an aside, I wrote a preface! I know, you're wondering who would want me to write them a preface? Matt Posner - that's who. He's written a few books about magic, vampires and the like - especially a series called School of Ages.
But I didn't write a preface for any of them - oh no! I wrote it for How To Write Dialogue because I think we can agree - or maybe we can't - that my dialogue isn't too shoddy.
So, there we are! Have a fantabulous Christmas and a New Year full of love and joy . . . and hey - be careful out there (for those who remember Hill Street Blues).
So, here's the thing! Do you remember what's his name - Max Bygraves? His catchphrase was, "I wanna tell you a story". Oh! Before I forget, I've got a new story out: A Lamb to the Slaughter (Parish & Richards 11), and for those who are still interested after the long and tortuous journey - the truth is out about Parish's beginnings.
I was at a family get together the other night, and I was asked, "How do you do it?" I asked the lady in question to elaborate before I made a fool of myself. "How do you write all these stories?" she said. "Where do you get your ideas from?"
They're good questions, aren't they? At the time, I merely said that, "I just start writing and the stories tumble out," which is true, but the questions got me thinking - well it does, doesn't it? They say that there's a book in everyone - is there? Do we believe that? It might very well be so, but that isn't saying that everyone can write a book.
I'm not talking about the mechanical aspects of writing: words, sentences, paragraphs, spelling, punctuation and grammar, which incorporates style: point-of-view, tone, use of imagery and the multitude of choices that become the writer's style - their voice. I don't need to tell you that they're all a bit important. I'm not talking about the characters (who), plot (what), setting (where and when), theme (why) and style (how).
The reason I'm not talking about any of those things is because you can learn all of them. I know, because I did. In fact, anybody can learn those things, and once you do - are you a writer?
Here's my next book: The Enigma of Apocalypse Heights (Quigg 6). I know some people like a bit of Quigg! Anyway, as I was saying, does learning the rules of writing make you a writer? I would at this point refer you to leadership. I know, it's a bit of a yomp from writing, but not dissimilar - as you'll soon find out. If you learn how to be a leader, does that make you one? The boy at the back picking his nose . . .
"Yes, you Sir."
"Are you sure?"
There you go then. The proof is in the pudding. I used to teach and assess leadership skills, you know. I've had this conversation many times. You're either a leader or you're not - regardless of whether you've learnt the how. And I would say that the same goes for writing. You can either tell a story, or you can't. Jokes are the same thing. Some people can't tell a joke if their next meal depended on it. Can I tell a story? You'd have to ask my readers that question. Much in the same way as followers will tell you whether they're following a leader or not.
Let's talk briefly about story structure. The first thing to clarify is: "What is story structure?" Simply put - BME - Beginning, Middle and End, which is easily illustrated by the story of The 3 Little Pigs above. Below is another diagram illustrating the structure of a story - Note that the climax is as close to the end as possible.
Here's a few more diagrams to illustrate story structure:
So, here's the thing! I had a review the other week that suggested one of my books was "bad writing"! Now, I don't mind people having a different opinion from a significant majority of other people, but the person failed to expand on what she/he considered to be bad writing, and it got me thinking - well, it does, doesn't it!
What is bad writing? What is good writing? "Ah, my boy," is the common response. "You'll know it when you see it!" Well, that's not very helpful, is it? That's my response to the common response.
So anyway, having done a bit on statistics - not much, just a bit - I was reminded of the normal distribution (Gaussian distribution, bell curve). And for those who have no idea what it is - and I don't mean to teach people how to suck eggs - it's simply a visual representation of occurrences in a population (and the purists need not send a postcard explaining how my definition differs from the longwinded mathematical one).
Let's take writers as a relevant example. If we get all the writers in the English-speaking world (we don't want any translators, editors, or publishers mixed in with our writers, do we?) and we grade them along a continuum with '0' in the middle and a positive score going left, and a negative score going right as follows:
Now, let's apply this methodology to our group of writers - we've put them all in Greenland for the time being because there's some space available there and Greenland likes writers!
So, we can now see that in the population of writers per se, there are very few good or bad writers, and even fewer 'very good or very bad writers'. The majority of writers group around the middle (mean) of the population - what was termed in the days of 'pre-ereader' publishing as a "mid-list author". Now, we should turn our thoughts to defining - if we can - what is a "good writer", and one assumes a "bad writer" will be at the other extreme of a range of continua.
If we look at what makes a good writer we find that: It depends on the audience who is going to read your drivel! Mmmm, that's not very helpful. Or is it? Maybe, the only measure of a good writer is for a reader to determine. How do readers identify a good writer?
Sometimes, we're told who are good (or great) writers, such as: Stephen King, JK Rowling, Leo Tolstoy, JD Salinger, Ray Bradbury, JRR Tolkien, Mark Twain, but even great writers are not necessarily good writers all the time. For instance (and this isn't my list), Ulysses - James Joyce; Sons & Lovers - DH Lawrence; The Old Man and the Sea - Earnest Hemingway; Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy; Moby Dick - Melville . . . the list goes on.
So, we are still left with "What is a good or bad writer?" I leave it up to the reader. If the bulk of my reviews were 1* or 2* I might think that I was a bad writer, but they're not. A few people obviously think I am a bad writer, but then I'm comforted by the fact that some people think JK Rowling, Steig Larsson, William Shakespear, and many others
Hi, I'm Tim Ellis - I write a lot and I hope you enjoy what I write.