Wednesday, July 29, 2015

It's one of those side track moments...

Over the last few days it has been reported that over in Zimbabwe, Cecil the Lion was hunted and killed by an American dentist.

What an amazingly handsome beastie he was, but, thanks to a dentist, a corrupt ranger and $55,000, Cecil is now nothing more than a wall decoration - You selfish dickhead!

Anyway, not getting on my high-horse, I was keen to understand how others had taken this news - and it ain't pretty.

I suppose by way of a disclaimer, I have never hunted for decorative purposes - hunting for food, killing for protection, pest control or to end the suffering of an animal is a completely different topic of conversation, and I am not against any of them. (Oh, I should tell you that I am no tree hugger, nor do I have hippy tendencies, and vegetarianism is definitely not something I practice).

Decades (and a lot of them) ago, long before Walmart or Tesco's, or 'The Warehouse', were established, hunting probably was a multifaceted pastime - a good feed for the family, a new coat or blanket, even a draft excluder for the cave, all from one hunt - and the head got put up to possibly act as a hat rack or coat stand, or somewhere to hide the family jewels whilst waiting for Chub to invent the safe. Today's modern hunter hunts with a camera, a way of preserving the spectacular images of these (and other such) creatures in the wild, safe in the knowledge that they 'could' have killed the animal, but intelligent enough to understand that there is no need to.

Qualifying as a sniper during my military career, I enjoy shooting, and have participated in a number of shoots inside and outside of my Army day's - but ALL with good reason. I also fish whenever possible; the same rules apply - If I'm killing it, I'm eating it. (With the exception of protection, pest control [mainly rabbits and rats] and euthanasia, I can think of no other justification.

There are a few that say it is the 'thrill of the chase' - fine, chase it, but you don;'t have to kill it; take a picture and brag to your friends how you tracked it through the outback for two days, leopard crawled through dense bush and croc infested swamps, blah blah blah. Crikey, you can even get the picture custom enlarged so it covers that blank space of a wall. Then pat yourself on the back and go and get a McD's - kudos. How is killing such a majestic animal challenging? High powered rifle (probably with scope) fired from a safe distance versus what? Where is the thrill in that?

Apparently, there are places where wild boar are herded into enclosures and shot - I am assured that this is because, in those parts of the world, they are dangerous to the locals, destroy crops and their population is in need of control, (the meat is distributed locally), This ticks many of the boxes and, although the idea will still upset some people, I am ok with it.

Now there is a huge social media backlash aimed at this American dentist, and he wonders why? I'm not an advocate of bullying, or personal attacks, and would be equally appalled should this backlash take on a more sinister form.

Just to add to the whole mess, it is reported that the shoot was illegal, something that the dentist denies. I'm pretty sure that there will be some sort of PR exercise where we're told that Cecil was old, or in ill health, and that killing him was probably a good thing! No, never! Morally, ethically and for the love of God, I am sure that the $55,000 could have been used in a far more constructive way, that would have brought greater satisfaction to the individual than robbing the planet of something so majestic - Dickhead!! -

Just my personal thoughts on this tragedy.

Monday, July 20, 2015

A warning to all new authors...

OK, I think I'm safely far enough along the Author path to be able to give this piece of advice, and it's important for two reason's; 

1) because I assure you that this will impact your peace and quiet.

2) because no bugger told me!

You are told to 'write what you know', this refers to drawing from your own knowledge and personal experiences. But that doesn't mean that you've done everything you write about, right?! Crikey, if that was the case I'd be in a whole host of trouble, actually probably just prison. Don't judge me - I wrote one story that involved some pretty horrendous medical experiments, a wee bit of killing and some other un-pleasantry's, set in Russia; One that is a tragedy romance and the last, a modern war, kill pirates, special forces tale. I can honestly say that I've never been to Russia, and certainly not in 1940 something - well not in this lifetime anyway. BUT, as more and more friends, family and colleagues read the material it is amazing how many of them think a character or scene is based on either them, you, or actual personal experiences. And be warned, they take some considerable convincing otherwise. 

I make no apology for writing a scene, or creating a character, that has such authenticity it can resonate to that degree; but, in truth it's very difficult not to write something that somebody, somewhere hasn't already experienced, and not be writing fantasy. Authors tend to be a little more observant of people and environment, it's a sixth sense that hunts out potential story lines or character traits, and it stores them in the sub-conscious for future use. If you add to that that an author always leaves a part of themselves in every book, be that an emotion, a specific phrase or word, or one of a thousand other ways, it's hardly surprising that there will be some familiarity to the reader; even if you've only left an inherited trait shared by other members of your family. 

Writing 'what you know' is one thing, but you'll be amazed how much more you get to know with a decent amount of research. 

It's really ironic that your first 'hater' will be from within your family, friends and colleagues!  :-) But it's also kinda logical.

To date, ALL of my hate mail (that's probably a bit strong) has come from that group - then again, maybe I haven't sold that many copies outside of that group - dammit.

In reviews, where the reviewer has mentioned that the authors 'personal experience is evident', (or words to that effect), I take it as a real compliment, even if there is no personal experience, or true event, behind it/them. So, despite the fact that one of your stories may cost you a friend, family or colleague, you could lose them to a compliment.

I'm only mentioning this because it is something that had never occurred to me, nor did it occur to anyone else to warn me about it.

Anyway, there's a new story coming people, 23,000 words into an American Drug/political thriller,  it's gonna get messy.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Elementals - The editing begins...

Well, it's that time again - the latest 'Work in Progress' begins the transition from my lap top to (eventually) the next Amazon publication - Yes, it's editing time. As I hand over the manuscript to Judi there is an air of excitement building in the pit of my stomach, or it could be nerves! 

This story is of Young Adult genre, sort of Harry Potter meets Indiana Jones, meets Lord of the Rings. I think I'm always nervous when I hand over the script, all the questions race through my mind... is it good enough, is it the best it can be, what if Judi doesn't like it... I still have the doubts. Strangely the doubts don't go away, ever! If you look at Russian Redemption and Invictus Part 1, they have some brilliant reviews, huge compliments from complete strangers, but it still doesn't eradicate the doubts or fears. 

Something else that doesn't help is rereading the story - not just the five or six times, that's fine, but when you get to the point that your mind 'auto corrects' spelling or grammar errors so the eye doesn't even see them, then it is time to stop, it is no longer effective or efficient. But it is so bloody frustrating.

Anyway, the WiP - Elementals. We start the editing phase, and I hate it. When the sections come back with red ink all over the place I feel depressed - we're not talking throwing myself off a tall building depressed, more of 'humph, how did I get that so wrong' depressed. I dream of the day I'll submit a manuscript to Judi and it comes back with almost no red writing highlighting my errors - I fear we are a way off from that place. On the upside, at least it stops Judi from getting bored, eh? I absolutely loved writing it though, probably more than any I've written to date. To immerse myself into a child based fantasy was like washing off forty years of grown up. To reconnect with an innocence that sees the world a whole lot differently than adults, and to be able to walk, talk and observe the world without the burden of real life was exhilarating. I had the help of my twelve year old daughter to keep me 'young' as we planned story boards, explored scenario's and recorded details through the eye's of a child, another fantastic experience - talk about role reversal!

There also seems to be a bit of a perception that a YA story requires less research - this is completely untrue. As an author there is a responsibility to have just as much detail as any other book, the challenge is to communicate it in an appropriate manner. Why? Well, it is my view that a good book fuels the imagination of the reader, and no one has an imagination quite like youngsters. My writing is fiction, it's not real, but I love to weave the story's with facts, with real locations, with actual truisms; during a recent visit to the Amazon forums I saw a poster called Anna Karenina describe the difference between fiction and fantasy as being:-

"One hasn't happened, but could - the other hasn't happened and can't"

And that is why I research so much, I want the reader to think 'hmmm, this could be true', it brings a different dimension to the story.

An example is a book titled 'View from the 6th Floor - an Oswald Story' by Elizabeth Horton-Newton. A really enjoyable read that makes various references to the JFK assassination; it's not a conspiracy theory story, it's a kind of romance between old friends but suggests enough fact to make the reader ask 'did it happen that way?', it certainly lays it out in a manner that suggests that it could have - and that's a great achievement from a book.

That is the same reaction I want from readers of my books, I want them to be drawn into the story, invest in the characters, and have enough fact to anchor them to the real world, whilst encouraging the imagination to wander outside of the confines, to explore alternative avenues, not quite alternative realities.... yet.

So now Elementals starts to breathe. With Judi's skills and advice the story of Granddad Bert and the family adventure will take on it's own life, released onto the Amazon stage to do it's own thing. (hopefully before Christmas). Now I have to look at cover options and the other peripheral requirements needed to complete the wrap and pack. If anybody fancies reading an Advance Review Copy let me know.

Onwards and upwards!