Is There Anybody Out There?

Not trying to steal Pink Floyd lyrics from the song of the same name and no this is not a comment on the recent planetary discoveries. This is about this very quiet blog. Quiet from me that is after nearly a month without a post. Of course I have done a couple of minor updates to pages. Blink and you would miss them. Updates on pages about books which is, in the end, the purpose of this blog.

Yes despite the politics and commentary I’m trying to sell my books or at least get people interested in reading them. Sorry if that is a shock to anyone that does read the blog.

“How’s that going then?” I hear you not ask.

Well, as of 18:30 UK British Summer Time on 7th September 2016, generally OK. Not great but OK if I take the long view. My biggest seller is currently ranked just over 700,000 out of 6 million plus on Amazon USA and 290,000 on Amazon UK. One sale can move me up tens of thousands of places until you hit the lofty heights of the sub 100,000s. Good news today is that I have had an offer to translate one of my books into Portuguese.

I still have sales occasionally, even rarer to get reviews which may or may not hamper or help sales but we are not here to discuss sales or reviews or even lack of blogs. Oh no, we have bigger fish to fry.

The anyone out there was based on some alarming statistics on the actual number of readers as percentages of the population. I was led to this topic by a GoodReads forum discussion. They had USA figures which implied that only 2% of the US population had read a book in the past year. That is still a lot of people but that means 98% had not – a much bigger number.  So I have been digging.

According to National Readership Survey 65% of UK adults read some print news on a daily basis rising to 92% on an irregular basis and higher if electronic media is included. According to this news story in The Guardian from 2013, 4 million adults never read a book for pleasure which implies that the UK is far more literature inclined than the US and…

A quarter of the UK’s adult population – more than 12 million people – had picked up a book to read for enjoyment less than twice in the past six months.

Which of course means that 75% of adult population had i.e. 36 million potential readers and the numbers are better for a single book in 12 months. I would presume that this number had not gone down significantly in last 3 years.  So I have a massive market to aim at. I should be happy at the potential, I mean even an Apple like 0.0005% (tax Apple allegedly paid on profits in Ireland) would equate to 186 sales – wow I could get to 150,000 or higher on that basis!

Surely there is someone out there that wants to read a book, mine I mean? Is there anybody out there?

Anti-Social Media

I’m a Luddite, a technophobe or just plain old. I don’t get social media. Clearly that is not strictly true. This is social media or part of it, as are Twitter and Facebook. I have accounts at both I just don’t use them. I mean when this blog is published it gets linked to Twitter, Facebook and my Linked-In profile and of course back to my author pages on Goodreads and Amazon. But that is it. If I don’t post I barely use the other means. I do post some limited comments on Goodreads and occasionally re-tweet a like. I have used a small Twitter advert alongside my other woeful attempts at marketing. Other than that the accounts are dormant – I struggle to recall my Facebook log-in

I just don’t fell the need to tell the world what I am doing every minute of every day. I watch the Millennial generation permanently connected and typing text, Facebook, Whatsapp, etc. I have no idea why they do it or feel the need to share their now non-private lives with anyone who cares.  They exchange their data with all these companies with barely a thought for what is done with it or where it is or why anyone wants to know.  My wife and daughter constantly update and like others’ streams, timelines and whatever the profile details are called.

As the usual technical support for these and other IT issues, I have no idea how to post a photo onto the timeline. Actually, I do but I cannot be bothered. I don’t want to be tagged in a photo. Actually as a so-called IT professional I feel I should know all about these systems and how they work, but frankly I do not care. I am far more concerned with infrastructure, databases, networks, system up time and performance than I am with how to add a comment to a Facebook post..

At work I have email, Intranet, IM and Yammer. Again I struggle to understand why everyone wants to know what I am doing, where I am and what I am working on or even at work, in a meeting or away. Of course my boss wants to know and he does. Normally we meet or I telephone.

Some people think this is reclusive behaviour, guilty as charged. I just like to think that I like my privacy especially away from formal work. This means that I am doing the role of author all wrong. These days I should be posting and twittering continuously in the vague hope that all this activity might lead to someone reading my book or even better buying one.

PC Pro published an article this month (I’m a subscriber to a physical magazine – as I said a Luddite) stating that ‘eBook sales were stagnant and the technology underpinning them was dull.’ It then listed some stats on UK sales from the top five publishers, forgetting about the rest of the world and independent writers in the process. Certainly the biggest e-book retailer seems to be having few problems. Perhaps the premise was wrong

I bring this up not just to comment on the article, I might write to them in a handwritten stamped addressed envelope delivered by Royal Mail. They appear not to have a web site not one the magazine lists anyway – they do. They have email, Twitter and of course Facebook. I have dispensed with a dedicated web site. I still have a name and page but my web site is now this blog. A sign of the times or just the sheer effort needed to keep all these systems going. I’m blogging today when I should be writing. I’m reading Goodreads’ forums rather than reading a book or better yet trying to write one.

We go to restaurants for company and the food to find our companions still telling the world that they are in a restaurant and interacting with people that are not there. Still one thing I would have loved when I was a single dating person (neolithic age I think) is Tinder. I used to hate asking a girl to dance or to buy her a drink, because I was scared of the big No rejection. Now I would just have to swipe. Not that I have. I have just watched how it works. Mrs H need have no concerns. This is not an Ashley Madison confessional.

You see I do know about these things I just don’t use them. They are like a drug and a I saw a news article this week about IT Detox. Yes it was on-line and had hundreds of comments, likes rather missing the point I thought.

Please of course like this, re-tweet it – I’m not that anti.

The Demise Trilogy

Out today on Kindle

Demise Trilogy Cover

The Complete Demise Trilogy
This is a complex thriller based on the lead up to and aftermath of the second Iraq war. A conspiracy to cover up the associated activities of parts of the intelligence services. Now available as a complete trilogy.

An Agent’s Demise
Intelligence analysts and agents have gone missing, some may have been killed. The press and the police suspect there is a serial killer on the loose. John Slater was near the latest victim, he is evasive, appears to have no history, and he might be the killer. The second Iraq war and the intelligence network may link the victims and so The Metropolitan Police’s Special Branch investigates, with the help or hindrance of the Intelligence Agencies. The mistakes made in creating the dossiers used to support going to war are supposed to stay buried on both sides of the Atlantic, but still a killer strikes and is everybody telling the truth?

An Agent’s Rise
The Demise operation was shut down the killer allowed to disappear. But the conspirators have not all been caught and the efforts of MI6 and the CIA to cover up the dirty deeds of the security services only results in more deaths and destruction. Slater returns to tidy up, but how can he reconcile his new life with what he is asked to do?

What happens to Jess and Michael? Will the newly promoted Detective Chief Inspector Hooper really allow the suspected killer to go free?

Can the authorities continue to cover up the plot to alter the Iraqi Dossiers on both sides of the Atlantic?

Can the killer stop killing?

An Agent’s Prize
The conspiracy is over, the mistakes and cover up are hidden and buried for good. Both sides of the Atlantic can concentrate on the threats from Islamic Terrorism. That is what they all hope. They want to enlist a hidden black asset in the chase, but there are risks to that approach.

Meanwhile the FBI is still investigating what really happened. Is the conspiracy really over?

Al Qaeda plan new atrocities and MI6 with Homeland Security will try to stop them.

The newlywed Michael Johnson can help but his wife is still recovering from her injuries and she is suspicious of her husband and the authorities. From the streets of San Francisco to the suburban towns of England the terrorists are plotting an outrage.

An Agent’s Prize

Available for Pre-Order – The sequel to An Agent’s Rise and the climax and conclusion of the Demise Series which started with An Agent’s Demise

The conspiracy is over, the mistakes and cover up are hidden and buried for good. Both sides of the Atlantic can concentrate on the threats from Islamic Terrorism. That is what they all hope. They want to enlist a hidden black asset in the chase, but there are risks to that approach.

Meanwhile, the FBI is still investigating what really happened. Is the conspiracy really over?

Al Qaeda plan new atrocities and MI6 with Homeland Security will try to stop them.

The newly-wed Michael Johnson can help but his wife is still recovering from her injuries and she is suspicious of her husband and the authorities. From the streets of San Francisco to the suburban towns of England the terrorists are plotting an outrage.

Cover Plain

The book is also available from Amazon,  UK, USA, Canada, Australia and in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and selected other Amazon sites.

Intervention – The Observer Series Part 2

Part Two of the Observer Series will launch on 30th January on Kindle – It is available for pre-order now:

Amazon.co.uk  or Amazon.com also other Amazon sites worldwideIntervention cover

The continuing story of Cathy Rodriguez – a Senior Observer in the Interplanetary Geographic Service. The story follows on from Part One The World of Fives

Cathy is recalled from her Observer duties as she is asked to establish first contact with a new life form. Meanwhile the Conspiracy to prevent humans changing their non-Intervention policy continues to try and kill her. Together with Marta De Jaste, a Senior Investigator, and Tony Briggs her former jailer and security officer, they travel to the chosen planet.

On the planet Tullymeade, Karloon Niesta, a disgraced scientific observer, detects a strange anomaly. A discovery that will change his planet forever.

In deep space two groups of survivors try and recover from their battle in orbit above the planet Freevur

Using Scheduled Post

Aside

I’m supposed to be something of a techie so I have just surprised myself by using a feature here on WordPress for the first time. I’m referring to scheduled Post – why I had not used this before is beyond me. I should have used this before to link a post which is automatically tweeted, repeated and posted around other social media.

In this case I have used it to coincide with a book promotion starting – all done whilst I was safely tucked up in bed snoring away. I then awoke this morning to find re-tweets, new followers and so on. – Now what else can I do on WordPress that I’ve not used until now?

The Writer’s Craft

I thought I would take a break from actual writing to show you some of the tools I use to put the story together. As an example I am using Intervention the second part of The Observer Series. Whether what I display makes it into the final cut we will have to see. I am over 50,000 words into the story.

The main tool I use is Scrivener, the chapter manuscript is in the centre of the screen with the list of proposed chapter headings, characters and places/scenes on the left. All my writing is done here and the formatting for eBooks and Paperbacks using Scrivener’s Compile feature.

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 10.21.39

In the continuing absence of an iPad version for Scrivener, I use Index Card when I am away from my desktop Mac. It does link with Scrivener but it s not the same.

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The next tool I use is to keep my timeline straight. This is Aeon Timeline which integrates with Scrivener. This one shows a couple of Arcs (chapters or scenes) with events and then cross linked to characters, scenes etc. I do not need this for all my stories but when it gets complicated i.e. with travel, synchronous events, etc.  it keeps things organised

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 10.21.20

Next comes the ever present Excel. Nothing very clever here, apart from all the ratios and calculations to convert Earth measurements and time into my alien settings. Of course I do not need this for every story but I find it essential in my SciFi. I like to think that my stories could work if you ignore the faster than light etc elements. Before I used Scrivener and Aeon, I also used it for character lists and timelines i.e. calculating how old people are and what day of the week it was/will be.

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 10.22.03

Finally, there is, of course, research. In the screen shot below, from a Physics site, (http://www.physicsclassroom.com/class/circles/Lesson-3/The-Value-of-g), I was checking up on how G is calculated, then using the formula in Excel to calculate for my other planets. Research varies considerably from Google Maps for other stories to University research papers that I read when writing To The Survivors about how viruses spread.

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 10.23.46

I know that many writers use other tools from simple text editors to complex design systems for covers. I use PaintShop Pro for that. One of my last Windows only tools. Keep trying to learn others but have not found a layered system one (that can import my old ones), as easy to use – I just wish there was a Mac version – come on Corel anyone would think Macs were new!

I have also used  a CAD program for laying out physical buildings. I have also used mind- mapping software – that was in An Agent’s Rise and I actually created the mind map I had the characters do.

SQL for Sequels

Mixing my topics today and probably confusing everyone in the process including me.

SQL stands for Structured Query Language a method of querying databases to find results but often used to describe the database itself. It is normally pronounced sequel hence the connection.There are several databases that call themselves SQL including Microsoft’s larger server based system, right down to SQLite Personal Edition running on various operating systems. Why is a SQL database on my mind? Because my sequels are causing me problems.

Part Three of the Demise Conspiracy, An Agent’s Prize, Part Two of The Observer Series, Intervention and an as yet unnamed sequel to To The Survivors currently named TTS2 by file name. What has this to do with databases. Characters that is what. Characters and timelines and scenes. Of course it’s all my own fault for trying to write several books (not just these) at the same time, but now I have added to my problem. Which character appeared, when, in which book, and do I need to explain their role or half the story of the earlier parts.

As I have previously blogged, I use Scrivener to write and it is an excellent system to list characters and scenes within a manuscript. I have tried importing all the characters over from the earlier parts but that just makes the lists longer. What I need is a clever database that tells me when, where and in what context I wrote about the character or the scene. In other words i need to add all the meta-data and link all the appearances of the character in Scrivener. I also need to know how much I should cover of the earlier story in order to have the current actions make sense. Not sure any tool can help with that. Many might say it did not make sense in the first parts!

Currently, I end up re-reading long sections of the earlier books, using Scriveners’ tool set to find the relevant section, but then comes the real problem. I end up wanting to change the original for grammar, construction or even plot to fit in with the next part’s scene. Oh if only I had written it differently, called the character something else, not killed off xx. God knows how longer series writers manage. Did  J K Rowling have a database of Harry Potter characters? Now if I had a database of all my ideas, characters etc there would be one place to go. This would avoid one section I just had to change where I used the same character name in two different manuscripts.

So clever database designers get on it. Get me a SQL database with the right easy to use queries so that I can look it all up. My writing would increase in speed, I could effortlessly cross reference and the world would be a better place.

Of course I could just get better organised get the sequel written without SQL at all.