New Books – Philip G Henley

Phenweb Publishing is delighted to announce the publication of two new books by

Philip G Henley

Both available now on Amazon

An Agent’s Rise is the sequel to An Agent’s Demise

Cover Plain Front 300

Available at

Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

The Observers Series Part One – The World of Fives is the first in a new science fiction series. Please also see The Interplanetary Geographic Service

World of Fives cover

Available at

Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

Beta Readers

Anyone looking to be a beta reader for the sequel to An Agent’s Demise called An Agent’s Rise or the first part of my Sci-Fi series called The World of Fives – please get in touch

Time For Numbers

I have been contemplating numbers and their connection with time for years. What time is it? Do not look at your watch or clock it’s a more fundamental question than that. Recently during the writing of my upcoming Sci-Fi book, The World of Fives, I had to do more than think. I had to calculate and check and that led to more contemplation on the nature of time and numbers. I am not a physicist and I certainly could not express any deep understanding of Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of Time and it’s ilk. The factual calculations of time and dimensions and particle physics can become exceptionally confusing, even the concepts and hypothesis espoused are confusing. My own issues concerned why human beings count and have a calendar and clock numbering systems that are the way they are.

For non-Western based societies I will refer to the general calendar in use around the world and the general time system. This means 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, and 365 days in the year (let’s not get into leap years just yet). Then breaking back down to 12 months in a year or 52 weeks of seven days. The question is why these seemingly arbitrary numbers are in use? As I mentioned with the aside on Leap years the Earth does not orbit in 365 days. We correct for the inaccuracy of our counting method. Wikipedia quotes…

“For example, in the Gregorian calendar, each leap year lasts 366 days instead of the usual 365, by extending February to 29 days rather than the common 28 days. Similarly, in the lunisolar Hebrew calendar, Adar Aleph, a 13th lunar month is added seven times every 19 years to the twelve lunar months in its common years to keep its calendar year from drifting through the seasons.”

There are some variations to Leap years for example no 29th Feb every 100 years to correct this inaccuracy and of course the Gregorian calendar only dates to 1582 AD, another arbitrary year based on a possible religious date which is historically disputed. The Chinese and Hebrew calendars are older and adjust leap years differently. Then we have the expired Mayan Calendar – what did happen to the apocalypse?

All this discussion misses the point, why 60 seconds, 60 minutes and why 24 hours? We use base 10 mostly to count probably based on the number of digits on our hands. Why not base 5 or base 8 fingers, or base 20 fingers with thumbs and toes. Base two, binary for computing with hexadecimal base 16 in the mix. The UK used base 12 for currency, pennies in a shilling, then base 20, shillings in a pound, up until decimalisation. Horse racing still uses guineas (21 shillings or £1.05p) to measure prize money or the value of a race horse. Weight measures were even stranger and still are Pound to Kilos then the USA uses a different gallon measurement. No wonder children get confused.

Mathematicians will look at divisors and factors to explain the usefulness of a particular number but that is applying mathematical research to a number that has already chosen. Why 24 hours in the first place? Why not 25 or 20 or 10 or…

Twenty-four has the following factors or divisors 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, and 24, whereas 10 only has 1, 2, 5 and 10. Twelve or 24 hours clocks have an advantage of an exact third of the time period. Decimal is left with the inexact .333333 recurring. Not that there is an exact third of a year, 4 months? Which 4 months have you chosen was that including February in a leap year? A third of a year in days is 121 and two-thirds days; better in a leap year with 122 days. Financial institutions report in quarters, but that is different for each quarter. With the first quarter not always the first in a year but in a financial year.

There is little point in arguing for a decimal calendar or clock although fractions of a second are normally displayed in decimal, but a half and a quarter are all used. My own conflict came in describing time zones and time concepts. As I write this it is nearly Sunday evening in Sydney Australia yet Sunday morning here in the UK with it’s single time zone. Thanks to imperial history and the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and meridian 0º Latitude now called Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) we have defined time zones for the Earth. Time is managed by exceptionally accurate atomic clocks, which use a variety of techniques to measure the decay of particles or movement of electrons, which are then translated into fractions of a second which… See where I am going with this? We use a physical event to force an arbitrary number called a second and so on. But I skipped over the interesting bit. If you spend your time communicating or travelling with other nations the concept of time zones becomes common. You can easily end up talking to or visiting someone where it is tomorrow, only of course it is not. Tomorrow. We are not time travelling, it is the same time only measured differently in each location, to fit another human construct local clocks. So in Sci-Fi ignoring such inconveniences of light speed travel and relative effects, what do next week, last week, tomorrow etc. mean?

If an alien race operates on different counting methodologies, with different length of days, years how would they split the day. What is a day after all? The reference to day can mean different things. Is it 24 hours or the period of daylight or the period between sunrise and sunset? The day light calculation varies with the seasons and the Earth’s solar orbit. On another planet of different size the day may be longer or shorter, the year longer or shorter and perhaps more variable with a more elliptic orbit.

In my Sci-Fi the travelling humans refer back to UTC but have learned to live with the complexities of the impact between, planetary time, Earth time, ship time and another planet’s time. How do you take language terminology for measurements of time, which fill our vocabulary, and even begin to describe what next week means?

Perhaps our exploring ancestors had the same difficulties with native tribes when they explored the Earth. Did the Aztec or Inca pupils complain that they did not know when next week was when the Conquistadors tried to impose their calendar on the native’s solar calendars? I think they might have had other things on their minds. These calendars were at least based on true alignment with the solar events unlike the western Gregorian calendar. Seasons vary not just north and south but east and west and meteorologically based on weather patterns. The end of the solar year (end being an arbitrary term) should occur with the winter solstice shortest/longest day in northern/southern hemispheres respectively but of course this is not Geo-spatially correct, as the closets and furthest distances from the sun are not coincidental with the solstices. Perihelion was on 4th January 2014 at 11:59 UTC, that was the closest approach to the sun and aphelion the furthest approach is scheduled for 4th July at 00:13 UTC. In 2015 aphelion will be on 6th July at 19:40 UTC but perihelion remains on the 4th January at 06:36 UTC. This cycle varies every 22,000 to 26,000 years. Religious festivals coincidental to any of these dates have very little to do with it. Working time linked to daylight, daylight savings time, working hours are all arbitrary constructs based on historical patterns. As we finally begin to travel into our own solar system we will have to think differently. A lunar colony will have a lunar day and year based on orbits of the Earth and the sun. A Martian day is approximately 2.7% longer than earth. Its year is 686.98 Earth solar days, or 668.5991 sols (variable) so nearly twice as long as Earth. What will the questions how old are you and what time is it mean to future dwellers and explorers?

Now what time is it?

A Year of Writing

I   have now completed my first year as an author. My first book An Agent’s Demise was not actually published on Kindle until the end of January 2013. Paperback and hardback versions followed via Lulu.  Even writing the words I am an author still seems strange. I prefer the term writer but that also seems pretentious. Not as pretentious as I felt when friends and family asked me to sign my first editions!
 

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New Author
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I currently have three books published and available. To The Survivors and A Persuasive Man followed An Agent’s Demise in May and August respectively. To say they were all written in 2013 would be misleading. An Agent’s Demise was originally started in 2006 then disappeared until November 2012, when a change in work circumstance led to what was supposed to have been a three to six month break but turned into nearly a year. Writing filled my time, and frequently took over all my time outside of hunting for work, but that is another story and not the purpose of this blog.  Then there is the joy of that first review (good) the despair at the first bad which meant that someone other than friends or family had actually ready my scribble.  Of course making number one in free downloads was fantastic however short-lived!

I wrote back in September in a blog called Advertising for the Self-Published Author of my experiences in trying to sell my books; I thought it would be worthwhile to share my sales figures, not as a way of boasting (there is little to boast about and I don’t want to discuss A Persuasive Man) but as information to my fellow new authors, I have excluded all physical copy sales (nearly all directly to me) – they don’t change anything and SmashWords sales which total less than 10 – so here goes.

Book Stats 1

I have cut off the first couple of months of An Agent’s Demise as this distorts the charts due to the number of Free Downloads and my brief number one position, using KDP Select so here it is on its own.

Book Stats 2

The impact of various advertising campaigns I have run has been disappointing to say the least. I have not been able to attribute any increase in sale to promotions through:

  • Book Daily
  • Project Wonderful
  • GoodReads

These campaigns have cost hard earned money, which can only be recovered through higher sales. So far I would have to say they are a pointless waste of time and money.  I cannot even be bothered to list the actual statistics, number of views (allegedly hundreds of thousands) the number of clicks (tens) then the number of attributable purchases (0)

I did save money initially, by not Professionally Editing (in progress as I write) nor did I pay for cover design, promo video (I only have one) web site design or formatting. I purchased Scrivener and Aeon Timeline software after trying others.  Add in costs for ISBNs, review copies to approve physical output, then there are the library copies British library and the others.  I may never publish a physical copy again simply because of the cost.  In other word I have to purchase 7 copies of each book version just to fulfill these requirements.

I have set up two blogs, this one and one for the forthcoming Sci-Fi series The Interplanetary Geographic Service, a Facebook page and tried Twitter as guided by my betters. For book two I created a YouTube video. I have attended one writer’s workshop but personal selling has been non-existent much like my paperback and hardback sales. I did not join GoodReads until March. I updated my LinkedIn profile to include my new status.

So after my first year what are my conclusions?

KDP Select worked (for the downloaders) for An Agent’s Demise but of course free means nothing for the author.  I am not convinced free actually leads to any reviews or even readers. Amazon knows whether someone downloaded for free but do they know if they have read it?  Does a free download lead to a greater likelihood of a review?  I left KDP Select alone for To The Survivors it has never been free except for a couple of Review Copies but remains my best seller.  For A Persuasive Man it has been very difficult.  It has had more advertising then any of the others, and KDP Select Free promotions and recently a KDP Countdown.  I recently received some personal feedback on the book, which may explain its lack of sales or at least partially explain the reason.  I shall be addressing that over the next few months.

I have several new projects underway:

  • The first part of my proposed Sci-Fi tale The Observer Series – The World of Fives has had a couple of Beta readers
  • An Agent’s Rise the sequel to An Agents Demise is nearly done.
  • New editions of An Agent’s Demise and To The Survivors after editing will be out soon
  • Adjustments on The Persuasive Man
  • My collection of short stories
  • A thriller on revolution
  • More ideas in outline or just paragraphs
  • More ideas about other genres
What have I learned:
  • Building an audience takes time – if I wanted patience I’d be a doctor
  • Advertising has little if any effect – If an advertiser disagrees then put your money where your mouth is.
  • Marketing in any form, including writing this blog, significantly reduces available writing time
  • I’ll never understand how the algorithms that Amazon uses to rank sales actually work
  • Nor which Amazon search expression should be used to describe the books
  • We need more books in more varied categories
  • Too many writers, not enough readers, and even fewer reviewers
  • I have interacted with hundreds of new people around the world making friends with many – may that continue and expand
  • I love writing!
  • That being ranked in the hundred thousands is OK when it’s out of several million!
  • Pushing Publish is always going to be scary.
What would I do differently?
  • Professional editing before launch – if only it was financially feasible for many new authors.  Payback could take several years.
  • Think about a marketing plan, but don’t expect any return
  • Don’t check sales everyday, write more instead
  • Learn from fellow authors – thanks GoodReads – but not all advice will work and don’t pay for the advice.
  • Get more Beta Readers – contact me if you would like a Kindle copy for private review.
  • Blogging and commentating is OK but that is not writing
  • Keep writing!

Beta Reader Feedback

First feedback on The Observer Series – World of Fives

  • They want more!.
  • Needs not to end when it did…
  • One section has too many new characters
  • Some of my future new words need more explanation

Just the feedback I want, and I can make the subtle changes.  I need to ensure that the back story exists both on the web site and in the book

InterGeoServ

The World of Fives

Amazon Reviews For To The Survivors

Amazon Link

4.0 out of 5 stars An Unexpected Pleasure, July 5, 2013
By
zoomreader –
Despite the uneven pacing, this book delivers on its initial promise and tells the story of how survivors of an unimaginable plague might endeavor to continue the human race. When our eventual protagonist is introduced, Gary doesn’t seem like much, but under the tutalage of the older and tougher Hannah, he grows into the role of community leader. The early scenes with Hannah echo through the rest of the book, and the horror of millions of deaths can be related to in the individual losses Gary suffers as the disease takes its toll. This book will bring you close to tears at times but the end is ultimately satisfying.

4.0 out of 5 stars ~~ “A Day”~~, July 25, 2013
By
A Navy Vet…VT town
A virus is spreading quickly by contact and respiratory ingestion. This is a global event and despite the best efforts of governments, survivors will be minimum. At least the “powers to be” had the foresight to set up a few secure storage areas in their countries.

“A Day” stands for Announcement Day and it is the one that the survivors will remember a long, long time.

Gary Tolman is one of these lucky (?) survivors. His parents have just finished a house that is set up exactly for this type of scenario.

One has to be in the mindset of a survivor when reading this story. There are some moral as well as ethical challenges that must be taken into account. I kept asking myself, ” what would I do if in a similar situation?”…..

Interesting mix of characters and naturally individual as well as group problems occur.

And, I found myself cheering for the survivors right to the end. Well written and highly recommended.

5.0 out of 5 stars Sorry To See It End, July 19, 2013
By
Pat Patterson
This is an excellent book that kept my attention from the start. The only gripe I might have is that by the end, there were enough characters that I was having trouble remembering who a few of them were.
Like everyone else, I’m hoping the author doesn’t stop with this book. I’d like to know what the future holds for the survivors.

I highly recommend this book.

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, July 2, 2013
By
dgrotz
I really enjoyed this book. It took you from the beginning to 20+ years. Very well written and a bargain.

5.0 out of 5 stars I hope the author has another novel in the pipeline, July 24, 2013
By
myrthlemaye
The beginning was so dark and depressing and very possible. The rest of the novel I could hardly put down. One irritating aspect was the author’s use of “wonder” when I think he meant “wander”. Maybe this is a British usage LOL.

5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect balance of disaster and hope, June 18, 2013
By
Pixel Huggs
One of the best ever books I’ve ever read in the post-apocalyptic genre! I really hope the author is planning a sequel – the book ended with renewed fears for the human race but with a huge spark of hope – I hope the author continues the story.

5.0 out of 5 stars Top Notch, July 31, 2013
By
Jeffrey Bromley “Jeff Bromley” (Oregon)
Loved this story! Such bleak darkness with a very fervent optimistic streak. Can’t recommend this one highly enough. Lots of good info with a British twist 🙂

4.0 out of 5 stars good read, realistic, July 30, 2013
By
Robert Comerford (Australia)
While the writing is a bit clunky in places and there seems to be a cut and paste went wrong with chapter heading replacing some words later in the book, this is a well thought out novel.
If you are into reading books about authors dreaming about all the weapons they can have and how they can become another Rambo and save the world look elsewhere. This is about a realistic situation with people whose characters have good and bad sides as per normal.
Good value for money.

What The Hell Is YA?

Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young-adult_fiction) defines YA as the following:

“Young-adult fiction or young adult literature (often abbreviated as YA),[1] also juvenile fiction, is fiction written, published, or marketed to adolescents and young adults, although recent studies show that 55% of young-adult fiction is purchased by readers over 18 years of age.[2] The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) of the American Library Association (ALA) defines a young adult as someone between the ages of twelve and eighteen.  Authors and readers of young adult (YA) novels often define the genre as literature as traditionally written for ages ranging from twelve years up to the age of eighteen, while some publishers may market young adult literature to as low as age ten or as high as age twenty-five.[3] The terms young-adult novel, juvenile novel, young-adult book, etc. refer to the works in the YA category”

 So what exactly is YA?   Should I be writing for this market, which seems to dominate many categories or other genres or is this just a marketing gimmick? What distinguishes this genre from other categories?  When I was in this age category I read grown up fiction to prove I was an adult.  Children’s books consisted of Enid Blyton and the classics of Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island and Kidnapped.  I also read The Hobbit.  I have of course read as an adult the Harry Potter series with my own children but also for myself.  Being from the Neolithic age pre-Internet, I regard all these stories as children’s books.  Classic books were what we studied at school in English classes, I love Shakespeare, I have read Jane Austin, some Dickens, are these YA?  Do I have to reclassify Romeo and Juliet as a YA targeted story?  So maybe it’s my upbringing and age that causes my confusion and I am back to what exactly is this genre.  I browsed the list of books on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/list/tag/young-adult and I am none the wiser.  There were 549 group discussions tagged as YA on Goodreads, but the definition still escapes me.  I certainly do not wish to offend any of the clearly millions of YA readers or the thousands of YA Authors.  So what is it that distinguishes this category?

Adult themes appear such as abuse, despair, and the struggles of modern or historical life.  There are fantasy and Sci Fi stories, YA Romance, thrillers, short and long books.  So is it the content I should look at or the language used.  There may be non-explicit sex and violence, but many traditional genre books hold back from one or more of these.  Relationships may not be consummated in YA, but Romance genre has lots of looking and gazing and very little actual sex.  Is it the literary complexity of the language that dictates a YA novel or just the absence of swearing?  One forum discussed the use of YA lead characters in the story as a guide, but that doesn’t seem to hold true for all the stories.  If I read a Sci Fi novel about teenagers fighting off werewolves is it YA, Sci-Fi, Horror, Fantasy, or a romance because one character dreams of kissing another?

My books tend to have fairly robust, some would say explicit, sex and violence and some swearing, does that mean they cannot be considered as YA?  My second book To The Survivors has several YA age group characters.  Is Lord of the Flies a YA novel?  Who decided that this category even exists?

I turn to the marketing industry for guidance, and I am even more lost by tweens, teens, YA.  They separate the three as individual target audiences.  As adulthood is a cultural and legal definition, is a sixteen year old, a YA, a teenager, or a child?  As a sixteen year old I positively avoided reading anything labelled as for a teenager, or a child.  I wanted to be treated and saw myself as an adult, I read newspapers and adult fiction.  I read Heinlein, Asimov, Silverberg and Clarke in Sci Fi.  I read Heller and Updike, but added Le Carre and Deighton, whilst at school we had more Shakespeare to name just a few.   I also read Lady Chatterley’s Lover and other D H Lawrence books and I sneaked in to watch the 18 rated films until they came on TV.  I craved adult content that dealt with sex and violence not some pastiche of a 1950’s Hollywood movie where Rock Hudson and Doris Day are married but sleep in separate beds wearing more clothes than the did in the day time for fear of falling foul of the censors.

So is YA another form of censorship?  The US TV market (excluding cable), gives us a guide, no sex, no swearing but endless violence is fine.  Twilight the books and movies have chaste kisses and dreamy looks whilst violence and death surround the protagonists.  Is this YA?  If it is, then no thanks.  If I ever write a children’s story it will not have sex, violence or swearing.  My other fiction will be written for…. Well I suppose I am writing for me.  I have blogged previously on this subject https://phenweb.wordpress.com/2013/07/27/how-far-should-i-go/ so I’ll try not to repeat myself.  For the YA market, I think if you are a YA then you will like my books because they feature adult themes, but they are not in YA.

I’m not in YA, I don’t understand the category maybe someone else can explain the definition of this alleged genre to me.