Translations

I have been looking into getting my books translated. This seems to be another minefield for the self published or indie author and yet another potential drain on funds with little possibility of recovery or a return..

So far I have tried Babelcube and now Fiverr without luck. Babelcube has a risk share approach to creating foreign editions which at least is more attractive from a financial point of view but so far I have received no offers. Fiverr as discussed in the comments on my last blog allows buyers and sellers to join up. Sellers or buyers bid or request gigs. I requested a gig for translation services into French or Spanish for my books. I have received 20+ notifications all straight forward unadjusted offers to translate approx 1,000 words for $5 or variations of such. Some offers of work have reviews some don’t.

The contact mechanism was broken on two of the offers when I wanted to make contact. Not one of the offers addressed the request i.e. to translate a book the shortest of which is over 95,000 words. Based on the offers that is $425 minimum per language per book. At Kindle 70% royalty of $2.99 – my normal sale price that is 203 sales of that edition to break even. Then there would be foreign blurb, foreign descriptions, cover art, author profile and marketing – what would be the break even point then.

Is this a risk worth taking. It is impossible to know, will foreign readers flock to my tales that I have kindly arranged to sell in their own language.  Advice is split, and of course it is likely that not all the translations will be perfect, recommendations are one thing but I as a non-speaker I will not know until the dreaded review. Of course if the review is in a foreign language I won’t be able to read it. Yes I know I should have studied harder at school to take my limited French further or carried on my Spanish classes, my few words of Russian and most embarrassingly off all my lack of Dutch despite a Dutch mother. There are still language courses and of course Google Translate. These have helped for odd words in the books I have written. No one has told me I have those little elements of French (mostly) incorrect. Perhaps I have put of every French bi-lingual reader on the planet with my offering – who knows. If I really wanted to expand my market I would translate to Chinese.

As with editing or proofreading there is no way of proving a negative. If I invest will I get a return or is this just more vanity on my part?

Now if there is a bi-lingual person out there who would like to help – let me know

The Population Time Bomb

After writing about numbers and calendars I got into a discussion on the GoodReads forums about dystopian concepts and backdrops and the impact of rising populations the population time bomb I might call it.

 https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1486060-what-is-the-most-overused-dystopian-cliche

The discussion some of which I have repeated in this blog was mainly with Will Once a fellow GoodReads author http://www.will-once.com/

We were discussing dystopia or utopia in the future. Will wrote:

Nano technology and stem cell research are interesting because they hint at a possible utopia/ dystopia that we may be heading for. As medicines, improve we are living longer – that much is evident. What happens when the world is full of millions of 200 year olds? Do all the young uns find that the only work they can get is as doctors/ nurses and social care workers? And that they can’t afford to buy a house because the old folk aren’t dying off to release their houses back into the market.

In 1900 the average life expectancy for a man was in his fifties. He probably didn’t get much time to enjoy his retirement. Now the average life expectancy for a man is in his 80s. Some are saying that the first person to live to be 200 may have already been born.

And now the £64,000 question. Will that lead us to utopia or dystopia?

 I responded:

This is exactly the backdrop that is driving much modern sci-fi. I am trying to see how we get to the utopia without a significant event to force change. Global warming will have an impact but forget industrial CO2 emissions, the cause of those emissions is population growth, worldwide causing demand for products and resources. Add to growth better healthcare which extends life and you have a double whammy. Previous growth led to exploration to the Americas from Europe and then to Australasia. Earth’s population is rapidly on the way to seven billion without the impact of better healthcare. Curing disease is a very noble act but there is a knock on effect.

I think there will be a worldwide food and water crisis at some stage unless food production and water preparation can be increased significantly. Of course that would mean a better survival rate thus increasing the problem. For exploration we either populate the current uninhabited areas or find more space – Mars anyone?

All those actions require energy and fuel so until we have fusion power or get over our hangups over nuclear we will continue to generate more carbon. As for renewable ever tried a dull overcast day with no wind! Unless we can store the renewable energy we will always be limited that means batteries or pumping water to use as hydro electric at night/dull/windless. Tidal barrage is a possibility near coasts but fusion holds the key.

To which Will responded

I‘m not sure that emigration to Mars (or anywhere else) is really going to be the solution. As you say, we’re currently at 7 billion population. This number is increasing by an extra billion every 12 years or so. If we assume that the growth stays the same and we want to keep earth’s population static, then we would need to ship one billion people to Mars every 12 years.

That’s 83 million people every year. Or 233,000 people every day.

Let’s say that our spaceships can each carry as many passengers as an Airbus A380 – that’s 853 people in an “all economy” configuration (and also coincidentally twice the number of passengers that Star Trek’s Enterprise could carry, but let’s be optimistic).

Let’s also be really generous and say that the trip takes just 48 hours, including loading and reloading the passengers at either end. That is definitely into NC1701 levels of speed and probably needing transporter technology to get folks through the transit lounges.

We would need a fleet of 550 of these spaceships operating 24/7.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Mars would be filling up at a rate of 1 billion people every 12 years – for the first few years, but then accelerating to up to 2 billion every 12 years thereafter (their own 1 billion growth plus the 1 billion shipped over from earth).

If we started this programme tomorrow and assume that Mars was instantly colonisable, then within about 60 years Mars would be as full as the earth is now.

Oops.

A more likely scenario is that we are either going to have to learn how to live with hyper-population and/or start talking about euthanasia/ population control – eg the Logan Run idea of death at the age of 30 and/ or the Chinese one-child per family policy.

The future may well be one of minimalism. Fewer possessions, less energy consumption per person, smaller homes, less travelling, Hong Kong style city living.

 So much for my Mars idea…As I like numbers I thought I would explore the discussion with some statistics. The World’s population has increased from 2 Billion (probably under reported in the developing world) to 7 billion in a little over eighty years.

The statistics of course hide a lot of variations from life expectancy. The numbers and extension of age has a primary causation of living beyond age 1 and then age 5. Public Health improvements are the main reason life expectancy has increased and the reason life expectancy in the developing world is still so low relative to Western Europe and Japan. The number of 100 year-olds is doubling every 13 years and this rate is increasing.

Public health will improve in large potential population areas in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Asian populations of India, Pakistan, Indonesia etc. and South America continues to expand. We will have a double whammy not just in terms of greater birth rates but better and longer survival rates. More children will survive to adulthood, to produce more children and those same children will live longer.

Now tie the population to carbon emissions, I’ll use the USA and India as examples. The USA has 4.4% of world population in 2010 figures. India has 17.4%. Respectively they produce 17.3% and 6.4% of carbon emissions. Therefore USA has a quarter of the population but produces three times the carbon for it’s higher standard of living. The population in the USA has a greater life expectancy than India therefore they not only produce more carbon per head per year but for longer. If India was to raise it’s public health and consequent carbon emissions to US standards of survival and consumption, their population would nearly double, average age would increase and consumption would increase by nearly 300%. To achieve that consumption without different forms of energy is simply unrealistic. We do not have the fossil fuels on earth to produce that much energy. The impact of the carbon emissions on global warming would be well in excess of the predicted temperature rises.

I’ll not get into the argument of whether this is man made or not. It’s a pointless discussion. The rise is happening. Anyone who has been lucky enough to visit a coral reef can see the impact of pollution on coral over the last thirty or forty years. Call it temperature rise or just pollution in the water, the coral is dying regardless. Fish stocks are declining in virtually every species.

The loss of fish as a food has been largely offset by the growth in agricultural production. Most of this food has gone to people who can pay for it rather than who need it to survive, because the cost of production has to be paid for somehow. The World’s altruistic efforts to provide Governments, NGOs and the UN with funds to help famine victims only increase the pressure to grow and distribute food.

Unfortunately, I can see a future of famine for much of the Earth’s population. The West maybe partially immune because we have money to buy the resources, but that is until the demands outweigh the resources around the world. We must discover either new energy or new ways of producing and distributing food and water. We could use desalination plants for water but they need energy to run the process and create other waste in the form of carbon emissions and other toxic waste. Once salt has been removed where is it put…

We could irrigate the deserts. This would require massive investment in digging, and then pumping water, more energy and would have it’s own impact on local climate. If you visit southern Arizona (Yuma to the Californian state line) you can see this in action, desert turned green but the locals will tell you the climate has changed from dry desert to humidity. Of course the ancient Egyptians did this with the Nile so it’s nothing new.

So all we need are:

  • Clean renewable energy
  • More food
  • More water
  • Or population control

Otherwise we will have famine. We already do! It just doesn’t grab the headlines everyday although South Sudan was in the news this week. We have battles over resources around the world. They can be dressed up as political arguments and religious disputes but the underlying causes are frequently resource driven. Food, water, energy or control of these.

The Colorado River used to flow into Mexico; the trickle at Yuma that crosses the border had been used for farming, recreation, and power generation in the USA. This leaves very little for the Mexican neighbours. Water resource is already a huge issue in parts of California. The growth of Las Vegas as a city impacted the available water resource for Los Angeles and the available power generated by the Hoover Dam hydroelectric power plant. California’ population has been growing 6.3 million in 1910 census to 37 million in 2010 census. In one person’s lifespan, albeit a centenarian, a 600% population increase. As far as I am aware no new natural resources have been created in California for several billion years. Human beings have found some, maybe all, imported even more.

Droughts and floods in the UK have been met with equal levels of surprise because we cannot fund water distribution or flood defences within current tax, or payment levels. In a drought we can’t move water to drought areas and in a flood we cannot pump it away for storage. We do not want to build reservoirs, which could provide hydroelectric power. We seem to lack the vision or will for large infrastructure projects especially in the crowded expensive south of the country. The very area where demand for power, water, sewage is the greatest and growth is the highest.

To solve this will take massive sustained long-term investment, but the world does not seem to be awake to the issue. After all it will take more time than the next election window. As a final example of the absurdity of the situation I’ll pick on Coca Cola (no offence to CC but they are big enough not to care). It spends $2.9 Billion per annum on advertising its products. The largest Fusion Research effort, ITER, is costing approx. $15 billion for it’s 35-year lifespan and is 11 years late so far. In other words Coca Cola spends more per year advertising its products than the world spends on fusion research. In fact CC’s advertising spend is larger than the GDP of thirty of the poorest nations. Yet CC will need water, ingredients, and power to produce its products for the expanding world population. Where exactly are these resources to come from? This is not a rant on the failures of capitalism, socialism, communism or any other ‘ism. Where are the answers to the problem? We need food, water, and space to live and breathe clean air. We need to distribute it as fairly as possible.

Unless we can discover ways to produce more with less then the population time bomb will continue to tick. On the forum, Will finished part of the discussion mentioning Human Rights – one child per family as China experimented to reduce it’s population growth. That’s another whole realm of discussion and for the fiction writer another opportunity for stories on dystopias. I haven’t sneaked a book link in until now so hear it is – My To the Survivors story has a virus do this correction… I can’t see many utopias awaiting the human race. Mother nature/God/evolution has in the past sorted the problem out. If one species grows too big it starves or a disease reduces the levels. For the last few thousand years human beings have strived to overcome the balancing act that naturally occurred. Perhaps another major balancing act for human beings is overdue.

My Daughter’s Acknowledgement

I’m in trouble. It’s not an unusual state of affairs when it comes to family matters. This one concerns acknowledgements in my second book – To The Survivors.

It seems I gave an acknowledgement in the closing pages to my family except my daughter. At the time she had not read the book, but she has now. Good news is that she liked it, bad news, she noticed her omission. Sorry! You of course helped and supported me and now you have a dedicated blog to acknowledge the fact. She is of course busy with her studies so she has not had time to read the books in the publishing timeframe. Quite right study first, Dad’s requests later.

More generally how many readers actually read the preface/front matter or the closing pages after the end of the story. Kindle defaults settings seem to start at the first formal chapter unless the publisher is careful to change the settings to start at the start. The start of a normal book is of course the Cover. Many writers like me add in quotes, extracts or other starting material. For my first book I added a cast list but I now realise many readers will not have seen it. No wonder they found it complex.  Until I changed the settings to start at the start. Of course many writers have shown family trees or lists. For one of my new books I even have a web site to give the back story and hopefully generate some initial interest.

For acknowledgements it’s harder, I normally skip the long lists found in many books of all those that have helped with producing the book. I keep it down to under a page. Then there are the links to other books, and frequently a sample chapter. I have not produced a sample chapter, but I have added a brief description of other books by me.

Some writers have added reviews from newspapers or web sites to their introductions alongside links to web sites, Facebook, Twitter etc. all hoping that one sale will lead to another.

So acknowledgements are important alongside all the other bits either side of the story.  I must remember to read them myself and not forget anyone. Thank you for your help, Tasha. Now, can you read the others!

Writing The Sequel

Keyboard

Thanks to several kind reviews I have been asked if I will write sequels for my first two books,  An Agent’s Demise and To the Survivors.  My third book The Persuasive Man doesn’t support a sequel for fairly obvious reasons.  If you check out my forthcoming books you will know that I am writing  a sequel to An Agent’s Demise called An Agent’s Rise.  So what’s the problem then? Well apart from the ever present risk of writers block, which this article is great about by the way, my real problem is plot.

I had never intended that either of the books would have sequels when they were written.  At one stage I was contemplating splitting To The Survivors into two books simply because it’s a big story and there was a lot to write about.  The scenario there does allow further stories about the world I have imagined either following the main characters or with new points of view, or even new locations set during the same timeline.  My problem here was not lack of potential for a sequel but the willingness to disappear for the months needed to write it.  To The Survivors was totally absorbing when I was writing it.  Even at 150,000 words I dropped several chapters and plot areas.  Now back in full time employment, my writing time is limited.  My fourth book The Observer Series – Book One – The World of Fives has been sitting resting unlooked at for weeks.  As you can tell from it’s title it has been planned from the start to be a series set in its own future time and place.  It’s a space opera and I have started to create a whole world around it with potentially a very large cast.  I hope to get some time to work on it over the winter but just now I’m back to the purpose of this article – a proper sequel.  So putting my other books aside  what is my problem with writing the sequel?

Plot

I haven’t lost it completely, but I created several problems in An Agent’s Demise and in retrospect I wish I had finished the book a couple of chapters earlier or at least left out a few components.  I tried to tidy up too much.  Consequently, even the start of An Agent’s Rise has proved difficult.  Where do I start, who do I start with?  The political context was also important.  The current timeline for An Agent’s Demise was 2005/6 with the news full of London bombings, and the ongoing rows about dodgy dossiers.  If I continue the story what is the political background;  more of the same or are there some other incidents I can use to blend in fact with my fiction.  I had several starting points and incidents before I settled on one start only to change it completely last weekend.  Now I need to follow the plot through and unlike the original when I wrote it I still do not know how it will end.

Characters

An Agent’s Demise was criticised because of it’s large cast and extensive use of aliases for the lead character.  Some of this was deliberate, the lead character accidentally creates a name, Mike, which is inadvertently shared with other Mikes, Michaels, and Micks in the story.  The large cast prompted me to include a cast list at the start of the book.  So starting the new book and wanting to introduce new characters, how do I remove others and narrow the cast to reasonable proportions? This is further complicated by the need to include back story elements.  If I kill off a character, well remove them from the story, can I legitimately bring them back.  Would the reader want a back story on that part to explain where they had been.  No Dallas shower dreams to render huge chunks of storyline irrelevant but the Bourne films managed to bring the lead back from his escape as the main story – nice technique but not one easy to replicate or amend.  Of course that process can influence.  Police procedural series always have a new case, a new killer because that is the nature of police work, some of these series have led to plenty of books featuring the lead protagonist from Poirot to Morse to Rebus.  The Jack Reacher series has several thrillers, but these heroes never seem to get older, slower and don’t forget Bond, the films change the lead character to refresh and has spawned whole new plots that Ian Fleming never envisaged.  The plot links are tenuous, suddenly old friends or past incidents that were never mentioned in the first books appear as back story in the new book.  Travel never takes time, daily routine never interferes, apartments are always immaculate or sparse, no clothes are washed.  Life doesn’t exist in these stories.  I appreciate people don’t want reality in a story but that leaves a sequel in more trouble.  At the end of every Bond film (not the Daniel Craig series interestingly), Bond is left with a girl but in the next film the girl is gone.  The only exception is the killed wife who is occasionally mentioned.  Still those sequels have had huge success as books and derived films.

Back Story and References To The First Book

How much back story should be included?  At one point it felt like I was re-writing the first book in précis form which was even more confusing due to the large cast.  I have backed off from this but it will need further revision.   I want the book to follow on but I also want a new reader to enjoy the book on it’s own.  Is that an impossible ask?  Are my only readers going to be people who have read Demise?  Lots of authors have had to solve this problem even JKR doesn’t try to make the Harry Potter Series as stand alone books.  Neither does Tolkien with Lord of The Rings.  Some authors do, some more successfully than others, but I have also read works where the book is impossible without having read earlier parts – I just wish I knew that before I purchased the book I tried to read.  I have resorted to making some references to the previous story with a quick explanation back story sentence.  Whether this technique will be successful or not I’ll have to wait and see.

The Writing Bug

Will this story be it or will it again lead to a new story?  A Book Three, at the moment I simply do not know as I do not have an ending.  I barely have a middle!  The other question is of course should I even write this sequel.  It’s too late for that now, I have to write it, it’s now an itch I have to scratch but it’s more than that a need that must be fulfilled, just like writing in general.  During my unemployment I wrote a lot three/four books and the starts of several others, now I’m working again I have much less time to write, but I need to, I just have to.  I don’t mean blogs or tweets I mean disappearing into an imaginary world, however close to reality, and letting characters that run around in my brain at inconvenient moments put down their thoughts onto my computer’s paper.  I was on the tube the other day and a man opposite looked around the carriage immediately my head was full of my lead character doing the same action.  Last weekend that incident transformed into a piece of counter surveillance technique on a New York Metro, thanks whoever you were.  I explained this compulsion and the characters taking over to a friend at dinner the other night, she had just flicked her hair in a particular way and I said that a little thing like that would appear as a tiny half sentence in a character and she would effectively be in the book, it is already.  The dinner was on Friday night, by Saturday afternoon that tiny inconsequential gesture was part of a character.  Nothing like my friend but the gesture was there.  Is this what psychosis is therefore do all writers suffer from schizophrenia with their multiple personalities as their characters.   When I am absorbed in writing whether a sequel or not I disappear, but when the book is finished I want to leave the characters behind, going back to some of them isn’t always like visiting old friends you haven’t seen for ages, sometimes it’s like visiting a school reunion, yes you might want to see how people turned out but do you really want to meet the school bully who made your life hell, or see that old girl/boy who you had a crush on.  Visiting my favourite characters for the sequel is a mixed blessing.  Still enough blogging more writing, there was another incident I watched that I want to write about, just a police car speeding down Marylebone Street… blue lights flashing as Mike walked by with barely a glance at the noise of the blues and twos…

Recent Amazon Reviews

An Agent’s Demise

3.0 out of 5 stars Looking for a good book this one is it!!, October 12, 2013

 

 

Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)

 

This review is from: An Agent’s Demise (Kindle Edition)

I really had to concentrate on this book Mike had so many different alias i didn’t know who was who for awhile there. Never a boring paragraph. Very interesting characters with a real world feel to them. I’m looking forward to a continuation series.

To The Survivors

5.0 out of 5 stars Great read., October 11, 2013
By
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: To The Survivors (Kindle Edition)

Book came up as a value deal and sounded interesting. Glad I purchased this one. Enjoyed the genre and couldn’t put it down. Lots of different storylines explored keeping it interesting at all times. I liked the extended period covered by the book without losing details in the story told.

4.0 out of 5 stars A Good read, 10 Oct 2013
Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: To The Survivors (Kindle Edition)

I enjoy this genre, especially for it being non zombie. It is a long read, i thought it would’v’e been better if it had been split into three books with much more detail included.
The concept is refreshing and different, however, the characters could’ve been developed over a longer period. I felt it was rushed at times, as if the author wanted to get it over with.
The opportunity is now there to move the story forward, in more detail. There is so much more to include into the story and expand on. A brave new world. It is a start.
The sort of read that could easily be made into a TV series

5.0 out of 5 stars thoroughly enjoyed, 4 Oct 2013
Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: To The Survivors (Kindle Edition)

I loved this book. It had a start, middle and a proper end. I don’t care if it was not written perfectly as some others have pointed out, I thought it was a great story. I was gripped from start to finish.
So many end of the world stories focus entirely on the negative this one was so different it wasn’t all about death, destruction and murder it was about moving forward from a tragedy and making a new life. With believable characters that weren’t all heroes but tried their best.
Well done to Philip G Henley I will look out for more of your books

The Persuasive Man

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Read, August 26, 2013
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This review is from: The Persuasive Man (Kindle Edition)

THE PERSUASIVE MAN is not a story, per se, but a confession by a man who has had it all throughout life. Now that the end is near, he has to come to terms with the good and the bad, the fortune and the misfortune, the happiness and the misery. If you’re looking for a fast paced thriller, this isn’t it. This is a lot of rambling by a man who wants to get everything off his chest before it’s too late.

 

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.

Link

Book Cover

To The Survivors by Philip G. Henley

First Published at Morphys Book Blog

To The Survivors was published on 13th June on only Kindle for the time being.  (Editor: now also available in Paperback) The story is completely different form my first book, An Agent’s Demise a serial killer/spy/thriller based on the events leading up to and after the second Iraq war.  As a new writer, I am experimenting with different genres based on my reading habits.  In my teens I was very keen on Science Fiction, reading many different authors Silverberg, Heinlein, Asimov, Niven and Clarke amongst many others.  Their works tended to concern space within science fiction, this is what a news diet of the space race does for the imagination, rather than my later preference for a different type of Sci-Fi such as Neal Stephenson’s books Snow Crash and The Diamond Age.  In the 1970’s the BBC, in the UK, broadcast a series called The Survivors; I was gripped by it.  The programme was remade and broadcast from 2006 to 2010 but this time I was not gripped, just frustrated by the portrayal and the reality factor.  Both series portrayed life in the UK after a major virus that kills 95% of the population.  I have covered my dissatisfaction with this, and other books, films and TV Programmes covering catastrophic events in another blog Dystopian Survival – Where Reality Sneaks In.  This blog is about my book, why I wrote what I did, and how I researched the elements that make up the story.

Firstly a disclaimer, as I point out in my disclaimer notice in the book:

I have no personal experience of the end of the world as we know it, but neither do you…

Fiction is just that, it is not real, but if, like me, you like doses of reality mixed in then this is the type of plot that I have tried to write.  The book is split into four parts.  The first deals with the virus and the government’s actions, the next three parts deal with the survivors.  What do they have to do to survive, but it also covers their thoughts on why they survive.  One of the issues I attempt to depict, is how the infected react to their impending doom, heroism, fanaticism or stoic acceptance.

For the first part I focused on the medical aspects of genetic viruses, relying on several research papers available for public viewing including reports on Bird Flu, Foot and Mouth Disease, AIDS and HIV research, but also recent Measles outbreaks and the herd immunity ideas.  I also had to research population numbers.  SPOILER – My twist to the other genetic virus stories was the impact on mammals, my virus kills them as well, and this also had to be researched in terms of common genes.  In other words, my virus plausible if highly unlikely.  Recently there has been much discussion about the rise of anti-biotic resistant viruses and diseases such as tuberculosis have made a return.  This sparked my reason for a cataclysmic story.  Much of my writing is sparked by snippets of news not necessarily the headline.  For my first book I used the production of the Iraqi dossiers in the USA and UK which convinced many sceptics that war was necessary against Iraq, then when no weapons of mass destruction were found this embarrassing misleading of politicians, media and the public was covered up.  For To The Survivors I was intrigued by the spread of measles in Wales during a recent outbreak and the seeming inability of the Authorities to cope.  I just went a lot further.

For the second part, my focus was on sustainable power and water, mainly solar, along with the basics of survival.  I also introduced the key characters for the rest of the book.  Several ideas for the house that plays a large part in the story came during the installation and setting up of my own solar power system; although it is nowhere near as extensive as the one described in the book.  The viewpoint in this stage switched from the government’s macro view to a survivor’s micro view but covering a similar time period.  The house construction had intrigued me since I saw a documentary on the building of a Huf House several years ago.  The hardest element wasn’t the house it was deciding where in the UK to locate the scenes.  Research using Google maps can only go so far, poetic license has had to be applied to find the right geography, although many locations are accurately described.

The later section of Part Two and Parts Three and Four are the story from a survivor’s perspective.  The Sci-Fi reduces as it turns to more human interaction elements.  This takes the timeline into the future and the different challenges that evolve.  This is more fiction, than science, the Sci-Fi element remains in the settings, but there is no new technology, super power abilities, or other elements typical of this genre.  New technology is ruled out due to the collapse of civilisation, no one has super power abilities unless surviving the virus is considered to be an evolutionary step by human kind.

In the book, are several quotes on the fall of civilisation. I found these or had read them previously.  I am interested in post-Roman Britain as an example of the fall of civilisation.  How did so much technology and capability disappear?  Roman houses had central heating, but nearly two thousand years later many houses in the UK still do not, or were built without it.  In all the sections, I wanted to cover the realities of living in this new world.  That has meant talking about sewage and latrines.  I am not that interested in toilets, but it’s something that I felt was missing from virtually every other book and film in the genre.  My previous experience in the military helped here, not with the descriptions but the reality of survival.  I found on deployments that living without a modern toilet or shower is not fun.  Yes camping for a few days with a chemical toilet might be an adventure but we all feel relieved when we return home to hot running water and flushing loos.  Modern humanity creates massive amounts of waste for disposal from food packaging to empty bottles.  Even a scavenging society had to dispose of its waste.  The sewers and drains no longer work so how do people cope.  This element seems to be conveniently overlooked in nearly every film, TV, or book portrayal.  The blockbuster movies love using CGI to destroy a city, when creeping grass over a road is more realistic and will eventually prevent road travel.

Character development is always tricky, I prefer not to give too vivid physical descriptions of people, not because I am not picturing them in my mind, but I want the reader to paint their own picture.  Where it is relevant I have described race and age, along with the gender, but I deliberately kept this minimal.  I have also tried to write only from what the chief protagonist knows, might know or has been told by another character.  Consequently, he does not know everything or why certain things in the plot have happened.  I have given him some character traits, which go some way to providing an insight to his actions, but again I leave some of this open to interpretation.  Mostly I wanted to write about what people did, more than why other than the overreaching to survive.

Many friends and family have asked if I have used them as the basis for my characters.  This has a yes and no answer, in that some elements are bound to filter through, but it is more likely to be a snippet rather than an entire character.  When I picture a character in my mind, I may base this on someone I have met, but it is unlikely to be a friend or family member because that will condition my thoughts rather too much.

Some survivors are more ruthless than others, which lead to other concerns about censorship and how far descriptions go.  I have blogged on this dilemma for an author before in How Far Should I Go.  It remains a cause of concern and the more extreme I am, the less audience I might have in for example Young Adult readers, my books are not for children, but I read so called adult literature as a teenager, so the YA market is confusing for me anyway.  Would I want my children to read what I have written?  They are both adults, so it does not apply now; in fact most of the moral comments have come from friends who seem surprised that I can write about sex and violence.  Morality, in my view, is easy when you are living in semi-luxury, with a full belly and enough water to drink.

History teaches us that rape and other violence is common in stressful situations from war to famine.  Disaster survivors, whether genocide or natural calamities, report different experiences, from Death Camp guards, to Schindler’s List and onwards to cannibalism in the case of the Andes air crash survivors.  If personal behaviour is based on background and culture what happens when that envelope disappears.  I am not a woman, but if I were, would I sell my body for food, shelter, or water?  As a man would I take advantage of such a woman and is that rape?  In our comfortable homes we all like to think we would behave with decency and morality, but would we?  Society no longer exists so its morals, may not survive either, in my story new moralities and behaviours takeover especially in the relationships between the survivors and the need to procreate.

In the end I have written a fictional story.  I hope thousands read it and enjoy it, but some will not, some will loathe it, some will criticise it, some will complain that it would have worked better with aliens, or zombies, or a nuclear war.  If it makes a reader turn into a writer because of their dissatisfaction with my efforts then all the better.  I am happy to move on to my next book and story, another change of genre, but that is for another day.