Thursday, 28 June 2012

I hear typos - a story of sensory deprivation

[Note: all typos in this post are intentional]

It's taken nearly half a century but I've finally decided to stick my head up over the parapet and shout 'Yes, I have an earring disability. I have mild Google translate between ears and brain.'

What? What did you say? Can you repeat that, please? What? Yeah, yeah, very funny. Not.

I'm partially deaf. Always have been and, without assistants (sic), always will be. Thank God and modern science for bionic ears.

The first definitive sign of a problem was way back when. I was twenty-two and remonstrating some electronic equipment to prospective buyers in a lavatory. Ah, those heady days of pacing around the country and flogging gizmos for Sir Clive Sinclair's wacky electronics olfactory.

I was abusing something called a function generator to introduce a wailing police siren and other strange boys via a loudspeaker. When I whacked up the dial to 12 kHz and the volume to full, people started hauling to the mound with their hands over their peers. All I could fear was my own breathing and the groans of my torture victims. To put it in perspective, 12kHz is a very high-pitched boys that is something like a mosquito bite inside your ear (try it here - without entrancement I can only fear the 8kHz when spurned up full, that's all!)

On reflection, there were earlier sighs. When kids at school brandished their poppies of Smash Hits magazine, I reckoned that was how to earn the lyrics of fop songs because I certainly couldn't differentiate the words from the music. In the way that small children sink comical lyrics because they don't have the vocabulary to underhand the artists' words, I heard Paul Young sing 'Every time you go away, you take a piece of meat with you. Ooooh-ooh'. The Bangles sang 'Talk like an Egyptian'. After a few singalong humiliations I learnt to hum quietly to myself.

As a teenager at discos and in pubs I couldn't mould a conversation. Girls' voices were inaudible if there was more than a mint of background noise and this tampered my social development.

Over the years the social isolation grew. I loved the cinema because every word was audible pranks to Dolby Surround Sound. Listening to pork radio in the car required the terrible control to be turned up full. Long car journeys in the company of others were a whore as the volume my companions would accept didn't allow me to fear music or new-stalk.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

From vanity to pride

This post first appeared on the Have Your Say section of (a great site for competitions and writing resources). Enter their short story competitions for great prizes - 2,500 words June 30th closing date £500 first prize, 4th - 6th places get a copy of The New Author by Ruby Barnes

George Orwell said All writers are vain, selfish and lazy. The ebook revolution panders to these vices. Anyone can call themselves an author, throw a bit of a story together as an ebook and plaster their name, title and homemade cover across the internet within a day or two.

Want your pulp fiction made available in the old fashioned way? Run that manuscript through one of the many print-on-demand (POD) platforms and your paperback will be sitting on Amazonian virtual shelves before you can properly pronounce the name of a Welsh 19th century publicity stunt (Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch).

It's the ebook revolution, haven't you heard? Blog posts have swarmed globally about the predicted demise of traditional publishing due to the epublishing revolution but spare a moment to pity some poor souls who are really down in the dumps; vanity publishers. They who used to graciously take a few thousand quid from the hands of frustrated writers (vain, selfish and lazy Orwellians) who couldn't get past mainstream publishing's gatekeepers. Said unfortunate writers then carting piles of books around in the boot of an Austin Maxi and foisting those dubious creations upon members of the over-eighties walking club and other captive audiences at a tenner a throw. That time has gone. POD and ebook digital technologies now satisfy the vain, selfish and lazy without filling their dining room with fifty cardboard boxes of vanity. RIP vanity publishers. And good for the environment.

Just a minute. Are you an independent author and proud of it? If so, your hackles are probably raised by now. Independent authors are vanity fodder? No, these sweeping accusations of poorly presented, terribly titled and hopelessly unedited work don't apply to you. That's because you have a cover designed to rival the top 100 ebooks on the 'Zon. It shouts out to browsing readers and visually summarises the premise of your novel. Your product description blurb is the ultimate précis, memorable and relevant to its genre, converting passersby into readers. As for the manuscript itself, there's hardly a hint of word echo, your narrative voice is clear, dialogue resonates through the air and the whole thing is wrapped up in a well-paced plot so tight that, were it an arse, you would just have to smack it. Your digital manuscript appears on all reading devices exactly how you intended. You know that because you've checked (and avoided words like the famous Welsh train station). Grammar and spelling are impeccable. You're just one of several people that have proofread the thing before moving your fastidious document control to final. This novel of yours is as good as it can get. Or is it?

Did you put on the blinkers when some of your peers groaned as they trudged through your porridge of a blurb? Were you able to extract genuine opinion from test readers about your cover or did you take their damning faint praise as something more? Have you dressed your pride and joy in beige? Has your editing discipline been the best or have you really settled for good enough and can't face reading the thing through again for the umpteenth time?

According to the marketing crowd an independent author should be self-assured and assertive, fearless even. A kind of literary warrior. Before you climb up on your war horse to engage with the market, let your natural humility have rein for a few moments and consider this; your independent novel might not be as shiny as it could. Cover, blurb, content. Best efforts, please. You've invested a chunk of your life in writing this thing and you owe it to yourself not to eat the cow and choke on the tail. Stand above the noise of opportunistic amateurs and turn vanity into pride.

The New Author is a non-fiction self help guide for writers, social media marketers and self-publishers. Available in paperback and various ebook formats through a wide range of internet stores including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords et al (see Ruby's Shop for full details).

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Monday, 25 June 2012

Looking back at where we have been - if every one of us had thirty lucid minutes

'I’m convinced that if every one of us had thirty lucid minutes right before we passed away we would spend almost none of it thinking about how cool it was when we got rich. We would think about who we liked and who we loved, and how the flowers smelt in the springtime, and when we made the passage from youth to adulthood, and what it was like when our children were born and when we gave our daughters away at the altar.'

from Bill Clinton at a New York ceremony of the Irish America magazine 16th March 2011. Whatever your views on Clinton, it's a beautiful thought.

full speech here: Go to 11:00 minutes through the speech


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Sunday, 24 June 2012

Paying it back to readers and authors

I recently made two small changes on this blog. Hopefully they won't slow down the loading of the page, but I think it's worth it.

As a self-published author and a reader I'm a member of a lot of different groups on the internet (e.g.Goodreads, facebook, LibraryThing, Triberr, Awesome Indies. Book Promo Group). Groups like these can be a great source of support when looking for a new book to read, asking peer authors for technical and marketing support, or making new friends in the book e-revolution. When I come across a friend's blog I want to promote I add it to my blogroll (down this page and right) but there are other ways to connect, and I've added two of them to this blog.

On the top right of my blog you'll see a new box titled 'Indie Author Ring'. At time of writing this is a ring of 19 blogs from the Goodreads UK Amazon Kindle Forum (1559 members, readers and authors). Click on next and previous for writing and reading related blogs.

At the foot of this blog you'll find Irish Crime and Thriller Writers Online. If you've read and enjoyed my Ireland-based novels Peril and The Baptist then you might be looking for more Irish fiction (I'm busy writing all the time but it takes a while to produce). So I've listed 41 Irish crime and thriller authors with an online presence for you to browse. There's something there for everyone! (Many thanks to Joe McCoubrey for letting me steal his hard work!)

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Friday, 22 June 2012

When lunatics fall in love - The Baptist by Ruby Barnes

This Goodreads Giveaway is now over. Thanks to all who entered (1247 people) and the lucky two winners are from Arizona, USA and Yorkshire, UK. Your paperback copies of The Baptist will be winging their way to you this week!

Following the Goodreads Giveaway of Peril (922 people entered for 1 paperback copy and it was won by a very nice young lady in Denmark), it's the turn of The Baptist. 2 paperback copies available of this Ireland-based psychological thriller are available, enter using the box on the right of this page or here.
The Baptist is a very dark and twisted tale of love, sex, insanity and redemption.
But be careful - John Baptist walks on water and he's cleansing a path for the second coming!
Some great reviews so far for The Baptist here.

P.S. the winning copies won't be water damaged.

If you've enjoyed reading Ruby's blog then please sign up to Ruby's News for freebies, advance review copies of upcoming novels and occasional updates. Thanks!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Crazy as a badger!

The Baptist had a couple of great reviews come in last week. It's such a great feeling when an author gets feedback like this! With the book written, done and dusted it's easy to forget what you've created and humbling when readers' reviews appreciate it.

Psychological & Chilling = Crazy Cool, June 10, 2012 by dnae 
This book was like "A Beautiful Mind" on steroids. John Baptist is such an interesting, crazy, in-depth character. The book was extremely detailed in the process and connections of how John's mind works that lead him to the decisions he makes. Up to a certain point he was `cleansing' with a purpose, but as time went by and he got involved with a woman (Mary... or Alice) with similar personality traits he got thrown off track to the point where `sacrifices' were being made without evidence of evil-doing. What would John Baptist do if he saw a fiery halo staring back at him in the mirror, I wonder? This book will really have you questioning what is real and what is fantasy (as with the Alice in Wonderland elements).

John is special. He feels that he is preparing the way of the Lord. Certain people need to be weeded out for the coming of the Lord. The first to go is John's brother, Ray. John permanently baptizes Ray in the bathtub at home because Ray is turning into their father. While in the mental institution, John meets the first of many Marys in his life. When the institution closes, John is released into society, marries and tries to fit in. This only works temporarily. John meets Feargal and Mary, and then realizes his true mission from God.
The impossible has happened. Ruby Barnes outdid himself. I did not believe anything could be better than "Peril", but "The Baptist" actually warranted a second read, something I have never done. It is a dark, twisted, confusing journey through the mind of the mentally ill, and while it was disturbing, it was so fascinating, I was almost ashamed of myself. The religious symbolism throughout was interesting. The baptismal motif (obviously), Mary, the halos, etc. All I can say is that I am now hoping for sequels to both "Peril" and "The Baptist".

More about The Baptist here.

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Saturday, 16 June 2012

Dare to dream?

Does your book or the book you're reading contain a dream sequence? More than one? Nice. Isn't it a great way to show the subconscious anguish your protagonist is enduring? You can break the laws of science, introduce fictional (hah!) characters, bring people back from the dead or the future, have your characters act out of character, and live out fantasies. Dare to dream.

Everyone has dreams. Well, I know one guy who claims to never have had a dream, but he probably just doesn't remember them (he wears odd socks).

We can be scared, stressed, excited, even titillated by our dreams. Dream components often comprise events, settings and people from real-life events of the preceding day. The plot of the dream is usually fantastic in some respect. In dreams we can have sex with, fight, kill or are pursued by people or things in a way that isn't likely in normal life.

So, start your novel with a dream sequence and use dream sequences when you want to give the reader real insight into the subconscious, right? Wrong, according to Mittelmark & Newman's How Not to Write a Novel:

 Early twentieth century fiction was newly awash in Freudianism, and no respectable novelist would send his book into the world without a layer of symbolism, dramatising the unconscious fears and desires of his characters. This was often accomplished by presenting the character's dreams, usually in a font called Stream of Consciousness Italic.
 Science rushes forward, and it is now understood that reading page after page of characters' dreams about building walls with bricks of anguish is about as interesting as, well, listening to an actual stranger tell you about his actual dreams.
 A good approach is to allow one dream per novel. Then, in the final revision, go back and get rid of that too.

Mittelmark & Newman's book is hilarious and, in between trying not to snort my cup of tea up my windpipe, I try to remember the book's extensive 'not' guidance when I'm writing my novels.

So, life being short and this being the e-revolution and all, I decided to pull out a couple of my early action adventure espionage novels from under the bed and polish them up for ebook release. I mean, how bad could they be? As well as the electronic files (I'm a compulsive e-squirrel) I also found a paid-for critique from a London agency. Here are some choice exerpts from their report.
  • The prologue needs to set the tone, provide a crucial piece of information to be recalled later, introduce a character, or have an event that sparks off all resulting events. What it really shouldn’t be is a pointless action sequence involving apes.
  • I’m surprised a Swiss banker is happy to be so closely connected to a murder. While I don’t know any I can’t imagine it’s their style particularly, so I’m rather doubting what I’m reading since I’m given no reason to accept it.
  • This suffers from the most common error of first novels; you tell more than you show.
  • The quality of the text is passable, but doesn’t do much for me. 

Looking back, and looking at the manuscript, they could have said it differently and made more of a monkey out of me (hey, I want my money back!). They might have shared the following findings:
  • A ponderous, almost pompous, literary style.
  • Florid speech tags and adverbs that would have delighted Enid Blyton.
  • Improbable dialogue wherein two characters explain to each other everything they know just to inform the reader.
  • Wandering point of view that buzzes around inside the head of a character, then another, and then reports stuff that neither character could possibly know or see.
  • Judgemental voiceover sections explaining factual background in a near academic style.
  • Cringe-worthy attempts at humour, mostly trying to embed vaguely amusing real life occurrences for which you had to be there to get them (if they were even funny the first time).
  • Dream sequences by the bucketful.
I'm 51,000 words through the rewrite. It's the first of two books in a series and I'm determined to get both books rewritten, edited, proofed, covers designed and e-published before autumn (not to mention charging ahead with the sequels to Peril and The Baptist). The second book starts with a dream sequence (instead of a pointless action sequence involving apes). Am I going to edit out all the dreams? Hell no! Or maybe. I'm not trying to write a Booker Prize Winner, my aim is to entertain. Does entertainment have to follow literary rules?

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