Archive | February, 2012

Describing a book to a potential audience

23 Feb

I’ve written a book and I’ve put it onto Amazon Kindle. I’ve set up a FaceBook page and I’m keeping this blog.  Sales are slowing down but I’m sure there is a potential audience I am not currently reaching. One reviewer described my anti-hero as being ‘James Bond’s father,’ which I rather like. As the book is about the beginnings of the British intelligence agencies in 1909 it is rather appropriate, and there is enough action and gadgetry to please any fan of Ian Fleming’s books.

Then again, it is set at the same time as John Buchan’s book ‘The 39 Steps,’ though I hope it is less casually racist than that book and has many fewer plot holes.

I was reading of the popularity of the TV series ‘Downton Abbey’ in the States, which starts around the same time as my book and also involves life in English country houses. But how can I introduce my book to this potential audience without trying to indicate that it is primarily a drama of class and manners? There is no point in misrepresenting the book to this audience as they would only return it.

Another series I might try to latch onto is the Bourne novels by Robert Ludlum. There is none of the paranoia or superhuman efforts so beloved of Jason Bourne fans.

Part of the research I do is into the technology of the era. I now know a little of the cars, aeroplanes, naval vessels and motor bikes of the time. In doing this research I came across a character I really had to include in the story, an ex-secretary called Dorothy Levitt who held the women’s land speed record for several years, was the first British woman to learn to fly and also raced motor boats. Besides that she looked stunning and mysteriously disappeared in 1910. What better suggestion than that she was working for the intelligence agencies?

It’s all in the words

10 Feb

Ye knowe eek, that in forme of speche is chaunge
With-inne a thousand yeer, and wordes tho
That hadden prys, now wonder nyce and straunge
Us thinketh hem; and yet they spake hem so,

That is Chaucer, from Book II of Troilus and Criseyde, lines 22-25

English is a language which is particularly prone to change of speech, with a magpie attitude to including useful foreign words. The Great Vowel Shift  which changed the way words were pronounced, means that the words above can prove quite difficult for modern readers. Even  eighteenth century novels can seem arcane and challenging. The language is evolving at a great pace even today, with text speak coming in to many vocabularies, OMG.

I don’t wish to be prescriptive, but I do think we should value the meaning of some words, and the shades of meaning among synonyms. The words, ‘sight’ and ‘vision’ might be thought to be synonymous, but  if I were to call my wife a vision she would be considerably more happy than if I were to call her a sight. (Perhaps that only works in UK English).

Last night I heard a presenter on the television describe an historical building as being ‘relatively unique’. I inwardly screamed. There are no gradations or comparisons of uniqueness. Something is either unique or it is not. If it is not unique it might be described as being very rare or extremely unusual if there are very few examples, but never, ever, ‘relatively unique’.

There are other words where the gradation of meaning among synonyms has become blurred. If I hear an expert on the radio or television use the word ‘diminish’ in all possible uses, I groan. I like the phrase ‘the law of diminishing returns’, as this indicates a trend which can be shown graphically over a period of time. In most uses, ‘diminish’ would be better replaced with ‘reduce’ or ‘lessen’ or one of several other words. In seems the very sound of the word, diminish is an end in itself.

I have a problem with adjectives being used as verbs, as in ‘Largeing it’, and another problem with clumsy construction which makes the writer sound as dumb as Dubya in his pomp.

I am not a pedant, but it could reasonably be judged that I exhibit some factors in my work which are traditionally associated with pedantry.


Plugging the book

8 Feb

I will be on the local radio station on Friday, talking about ePublishing and my book in particular. The researcher, who also does the traffic reports, asked me to send a copy so that the presenter could understand what it was all about, and was unwilling to stump up the $2.99 to buy it on Amazon. This is a genuine conundrum, as the radio interview is unlikely to generate a huge number of sales. The age demographic of the station is fairly elderly, and I can’t imagine that many of them own a Kindle or Kobo reader or an iPad etc. In fact, despite my determination to have only eBook editions I can see that a PoD version, and a few copies to hand out, might be a good investment.

Anyway, I sent a PDF copy over and hope that it doesn’t  get passed around too much. The last time I was interviewed on the station was about twenty years ago, when I was appearing in a play at the local theatre. That went very well, and I hope this new one leads to some more interest. I may well try to plug a book I have put up for another author, who is getting sales despite not having reviews, a website, blog or Twitter feed. It seems that this book has plugged in to some audience I hadn’t envisaged. It certainly contains some interesting and challenging ideas. Judge for yourself, and look it up on Amazon or please me even more by puchasing it through The book is ‘Interview with an Alien’ by Hari Nyalls.!133143011%2Cn%3A!251259011%2Cn%3A1286228011%2Ck%3Anyals+interview

The necessity for speed

2 Feb

I was reading that a successful writer of eBooks manages to write a YA novel in fifteen days. It takes me longer than that to think of the plot. Then there is the research I need to ensure that my plotline fits in with the actual events of the period  am writing about. I now know a good deal about the Paris floods of January 1910, what Lenin (Vladymir Ulyanov) was doing in exile in Paris then, the activities of the local gangsters (Apaches) and the interior decoration of the ultra luxurious La Chabanais brothel.

In trying to get things right I have consulted railway timetables and town plans. All this is not just to ensure that some anorak somewhere won’t write to me and tell me I’ve got it all wrong, but to give reality to the setting, time and place.

Were I working solely within my imagination or an entirely imagined world I am sure I could write one of those bloated fantasy tomes that I find so annoying. J R R Tolkein was working on a body of story and myth from the British Isles, Ireland, Iceland and Scandinavia. He may have invented Middle Earth, but he sure as heck knew how he saw it in terms of the literary background which allows us to see that world in four dimensions.

Anyway, the idea of writing 70,00 words in 15 days just doesn’t work. I am planning to write 90,00 words in seven weeks. And that includes review and corrections. Even that is pushing it, but I must try to keep up the interest that was generated by the first book and feed the appetite of those readers who bought and enjoyed it.

See what the fuss was about,