In Need of Reviews

Grace Flag 01.4Eugenica appears to be a difficult book to get people to interested in. I suppose the themes of the book, the persecution of the disabled for example, are not that attractive. I can understand that there is nothing attractive either about the issue or the nature of disability. Nevertheless, wrapped around that theme is a rather positive story that attempts to portray the disabled in a very constructive and affirming way.

Although eugenics and its rather more infamous cousin, dysgenics, are not attractive to most readers today the spirit of adventure, I believe, always is. At its heart, Eugenica is an adventure story. It features mystery, discovery, fights, chases, and narrow escapes. There are heroes and villains, a femme fatale, a (bit of a) mad scientist, a superman, and a monster. The characters use cars, trains, aeroplanes, and even an airship. All the stuff of high adventure really.

I think that this book is a very good read. No, a damn good read, actually. I want to spread the word and to that end, I am looking for people who will read this book for FREE under only one obligation, which is that they will provide an honest constructive criticism of it.

That is the deal. I will provide a free eBook for you eReader and you, in return, will send me a totally honest review. I do not want flattery. I do not want appeasement. I want honesty and integrity. If you are interested then please leave a message below or contact me at: petecwhit@gmail.com

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A Book’s Life Beyond Kindle

There is no doubt that Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) has revolutionised publishing for everyone. I published my first book, The War Wolf, through KDP after going through the usual frustration of trying to find a literary agent. I do not regret this action. I can remember how I felt when my book first appeared on Amazon’s pages for sale; it felt great!

The ePublishing industry has grown enormously since then and KDP is not the only player. Kobo has their own slice of the pie and doing rather well and Smashwords are also carving out a niche for themselves. Although Amazon makes a great first launch pad there are reasons for why an author like myself should consider putting their book out with alternative publishers like these two.

Amazon is a very controlling organisation. They want an author to submit their book for ‘KDP Select’ but that means giving them exclusive rights to it, that is, the book cannot be available anywhere else, like Smashwords for example. I did not mind this back in 2013 when I first submitted The War Wolf, the book seemed to do well, but as the market has grown so much since then I find little advantage in this exclusivity. My sales have dropped and interest seems to have waned somewhat.

Grace Flag 01.4Now, Eugenica is a book that I have struggled to get readers interested in. I believe that it is the themes of the book, eugenics and disabled people, I always knew that these would be difficult as I found them equally difficult to write about. Eugenica has more than that, however. It is an adventure as well. A dark one, I admit, but it possesses all the traits of a classic adventure tale. There are fights with fists, guns, knives, and even canes. There are chases using cars, aeroplanes, trains, and even an airship. Brave heroes achieve escapes from desperate villains. It is all quite a thrill ride really. There is also a little humour thrown in there and an awful lot of cultural referencing. The weird fact is that although I have found it difficult to convince readers to look at this book all those who have done so have told me how much they have enjoyed it. One reader who has a daughter suffering from Cerebral Palsy even suggested that everyone should read this book because it will change people’s opinion of the disabled.

The fact is that Eugenica has not done as well as I hoped in terms of sales through Amazon and so I have decided to make it available through Smashwords. One of the things that I like about Smashwords is that they offer books in various formats, whereas Amazon only caters for the Kindle. This approach widens the field of new readers considerably I believe. I have now enrolled the book and it is ready to go so to mark this new venture I have decided to run a discount campaign by offering a 50% off coupon. The idea is very simple, a prospective reader is given a coupon number, they visit Smashwords’ website, select the book and then when they reach the checkout they enter the coupon number and viola! They get the book with the discount applied instead of at the regular price.

As this is my first attempt at applying a coupon to one of my books on Smashwords I am running it for a fixed period, until 25th August to be exact, and what I do after that will depend on how successful it proves to be. My aim is to get more people to read the book and, hopefully, talk about it, either with a review or with other readers. I will not make much money out of this but I am alright about that as that is not the purpose of these sort of campaigns. If you would are interested in trying Eugenica at a discount price of only $0.99 then please visit here:

Smashwords

And apply the coupon number ‘SA59Q’, and then enjoy a rather good book at a bargain price!

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So, I got a 5 Star Review

I have written previously about how much I value readers’ reviews of my books and also how frustrating it is not having very many such reviews. Well, I finally got another one.

Anders Bloom wrote a very pleasing review on the KOBO website and gave Eugenica 5 stars, but that is not the important part, this is:

“Reading this book made me change how I look at disabled people.”

Wow!

Grace Flag 01.4Now when I first started work on Eugnica one of my aims was to present disabled people in a positive light. Here in Britain the politicians had launched a quite shameless attack on the disabled in order to rob them of any public sympathy prior to reducing the state disability benefits. They were very successful. So successful that hate crime against the disabled rose dramatically. This was also at the time that disabled Olympians were being raised to new heights, kind of a weird contradiction really. On one hand genuinely disabled people were being demonised as work-shy scroungers for qualifying for state benefits, even though those same benefits were not actually work related (never let a fact get in the way of savaging a minority group), and on another disabled athletes were being lionised for their attitude towards dealing with their disabilities.

I have suffered some personal abuse simply because I am physically disabled. It was not pleasant and the comments used were very similar to what was being published in the media at the time. Mostly I seem to get ignored, which should not be preferable, especially when you are stood in line like everyone else, but it sometimes it is as well. If the idiots ignore you then you do not have to deal with them.

With Eugenica I tried to be as honest as possible about disability, especially in respect of the main characters, all of whom have one type of disability or another. They are not, I hope, shallow caricatures of people. They have the full range of emotions that ‘normal’ people have. That was my goal, to present them as people, just people, like everyone else.

It would seem that with respect to at least one reader I have been entirely successful in achieving that goal, which makes me very happy indeed.

Here is a link to the full review: Kobo

 

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Promotion, Promotion, all this Self Promotion

I have touched on this subject previously, I know, but it is a subject that I keep returning to so I thought I might as well write about it again. As an ‘independent author’ I have to do everything myself. I write my book, I design the cover, I upload it to Amazon and other sites, and then I promote the book.

This is a necessary evil.

The fact is that when you are independent then everything falls down to you. It is a question of responsibility I suppose, but it is a double-edged sword. I want to spend my time writing but getting new readers, which I also want, demands that I invest some of my valuable time in getting my books noticed. To achieve this I have opened a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a WordPress blog (obviously), I have my own website and I am on Google+. I put a lot of effort into maintaining this ‘presence’ as the promotion gurus call it and I even turn out the odd promotional book trailer as well.

Here is one of my most recent works:

Sorrow Song

Sorrow Song Video here

It is not the first that I have done this but like so many creative enterprises it is a learning process. My first attempt was clumsy in retrospect but then aren’t they always? I learnt that it was too long and too wordy, so I trimmed it down and added some better images.

For my next effort I turned to ‘Eugenica,’ my dystopian alternate history novel, and produced this:

Eugenica Video

Eugenica Video here

Again, this was not my first attempt at promoting ‘Eugenica’ but I had a much better idea of what I wanted this time.

I have put both videos out into the public domain but I know that it is already saturated with similar products. There is only one way to know if these will work and that is with a positive response in terms of book sales, reviews, and comments; to date all I have had is a request from someone on YouTube for a dollar!

It could be that I have wasted my time with these efforts but then that is something that you only know after doing. Theorizing about it is all well and good but, like Schrodinger’s Cat, you only know for certain after you have opened the box!

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Take Science Fiction

When I was younger Science Fiction was one particular genre that always fascinated me. I was a fan of Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury and such. I found their alternative worlds rich in texture and imagination, even the darker tales. I have to admit to enjoying ‘space opera’ as well, a sub-genre that is probably best illustrated by ‘Star Wars’ I suppose.

I have to admit that my recent forays into contemporary Science Fiction have not proven very satisfactory. It seems that all I have been able to find is very long books that contain very little science and an awful lot of opera, of the space variety of course. Even when I found a book that had a rather interesting idea, a huge station tethered to an alien planet, the write opted to point their readers to internet pages that explained the whole theory and practice of this possible technology. This was an example of lazy writing to my mind. Not every writer can invent original concepts and technologies for their books, I agree, but if you find something, an idea, that you then build a story around, then surely there is a necessary test in writing about that idea in a way that your readers can understand. If nothing else this shows that you understand the idea and probably some of the science as well, which I would have thought was a prerequisite of a Science Fiction writer.

Many of the books that I have read recently that carry the tag of ‘science fiction’ have seemed very lacking in any qualification. It seems that most, rather than work at something new, just offer a shiny version of American society projected into the future with no thought as to how such a society might grow, develop, change, over the next couple of centuries. Capitalism is still there, all kinds of bigotry, the same institutions, only instead of flying from London to New York the characters fly from one planet/system/galaxy to another with no explanation as to how this is achieved. It all seems to very lightweight, like a gloss applied to a story that could take place anywhere and almost in any other genre.

I have yet to read a contemporary book that has an account of a believable alien race that is not based on humans. I blame Star Trek for this, but they did suffer from budget restraints, which made painting people blue and dressing them up funny a genuine option, but that does not excuse the same approach with today’s Science Fiction writers. So many just make lizards look like humans and give them a funny name and present them as something new, which they most certainly are not.

It is curious that early Science Fiction writers seem to produce far more imaginative work than those who have the benefit of seeing how far we have come since the 1903 Flyer took to the skies. Technology now is burgeoning with new ideas, developments, and possibilities, most of which seem to be getting ignored by those writers who identify themselves with Science Fiction. The next time I peruse the eBook market I hope I that am proved wrong.

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On a Lighter Note

Considering that my last post was a little bit serious I thought I might change the mood a little with a discussion about music.

One of the things that I have found is that when I am writing or working on my books in any other way, such as editing for example, then I really do not like to listen to music that has lyrics. Normally I love music, all kinds as well, but I find even songs that I really like a real distraction when I am trying to concentrate. The other thing is that total silence really does not work either.

I do most of my work at home, which is a terraced house with a reasonably busy street outside. If I try and work in silence then I seem to become aware of the sounds that people are making outside, cars driving by, children screaming, people talking very loud, that sort of noise. To try and blanket this out I decided to listen to classical music. At first this was quite good but my playlist became predictable, even on when I put it on shuffle I soon realised that I was listening to pieces that had already been played. I did try the radio but the adverts and the talking and the change from kind of classical music to another, probably one that I am not particularly fond of, distracted me.

After a search of the internet I discovered ambient music. Well, to be honest I already knew about ambient music, I just had not thought of using it. Using the Tune In radio application I was able to find all kinds of different music station on my Android tablet. Amongst the many that I tried I found ‘Ambient Sleeping Pill’ and this really worked for me.

Some people think of this kind of music as monotonous, and I suppose it is, but then it is there not for me to listen to consciously but rather unconsciously. I do not concentrate on the pieces of music being played, I do not want to do that, I want to concentrate on what I am writing instead. Listening to ambient music seems to help me do this. Indeed, I would say that having ambient music on actually helps me be more creative. Does ambient music play with your brain? I expect it does as most other forms of music provoke reactions of one kind or another. For me it allows me to exploit my powers of concentration. I have no doubt about this. My writing experience when I have ambient music in the background just seems more enjoyable and less fraught with problems. In fact problem solving within the confines of the book that I am writing is easier and more satisfying.

When I get a study of my own, which I keep telling my wife that I will do (she’s okay about the idea as long as I keep it clean, not tidy, just clean), then ambient music is always going to be on in the background.

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There is No Benefit to Being Disabled

“Before my diagnosis with multiple sclerosis, I knew what ‘the disabled’ looked like and I’m sure I had the right instincts towards ‘them’. But I had no understanding of what it was like to be ‘disabled’ and no understanding of the myriad obstacles — born out of discrimination or disinclination, bureaucracy or bullying, ineptitude or ignorance, a failure of the imagination or a failure of the will — which disabled people have to face on an almost daily basis. In short I was not prepared for disability.”

Alastair Hignell CBE.

Alastair Hignell played Rugby Union for England, was a county cricketer, and a sports presenter for the BBC. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999. As part of the Leonard Cheshire 100 Years of Inspiration he posted a blog about his experiences as a disabled person here link.

The title of this particular blog entry is a direct quite from what Alastair Hignell wrote. The fact is that few if anyone actually understand what it is to be ‘disabled’ unless they can experience it for themselves. There are people like carers, whether family or volunteers or professionals, who get an insight into the kind of problems that disabled people encounter, but that is not the same as experiencing them for themselves from a purely subjective point of view.

In truth no one can comprehend the myriad of problems that being disabled can entail, not even a disabled person, simply because every disabled person is unique and the causes of disability are themselves too numerous to count. For this reason I do not get routinely upset about most of the problems that I encounter as a disabled person myself. I get it that most people simply don’t get it. The kind of problems that I do get annoyed about, however, are the ones listed in Alastair Hignell’s quote above, those that are caused by discrimination, disinclination, bureaucracy, bullying, ineptitude, ignorance, and failure of reason.

One of the things that does really annoy me is the assumption that some people make that being disabled is not that bad because of all the benefits that come with it. I am being serious here. I have had people tell me this to my face. There is no benefit that makes being disabled worthwhile, certainly not from my point of view, but then that is not what they are talking about. Invariably they are talking about the benefits that come from legislation and social security, so here’s a quick review of what this means to me.

  1. I currently receive Disability Living Allowance (DLA). However, it took me over 20 years to get it and I am likely to lose it when I am reassessed for the lower Personal Independence Payment (PIP) by the Benefits Agency’s contractor. My condition is so rare that even members of the medical fraternity do not know what it is or what problems it gives rise to, which is why it took so long to qualify for DLA. The DLA does help pay for my monthly medication, however.
  2. I have a car but this is not a benefit. I bought the car myself and I had to pay an extra £1,800 to have it adapted to hand controls so that I could driver it. I had to take out a loan that paid for both the car and the adaptations. On my driving test my examiner asked me how many cars I had tested before choosing the one I was in? I told them that I could not afford to test drive any cars because of the cost of having them adapted!
  3. I have a Blue Badge that permits me to park in reserved disability parking bays. I am assessed for this permit on a regular basis but the non-disabled people who find such parking bays conveniently close to ATMs and mothers with children who also think that they have a right to use them are not. It also does not exempt me from parking charges. I have to pay for the Blue Badge at every assessment as well.
  4. I have boots that are custom made for me. They are ugly. I refer to them as my ‘Frankenstein boots’ because they are over-large as I also wear leg splints that have to be accommodated by them. I cannot wear anything else, even on holiday. To have them repaired I have to return them to the hospital and make do with a pair that do not fit so well.
  5. I am protected by disability legislation. In theory, yes, in practice, only if I make a complaint. Not so long ago I proved that my employer discriminated against me on the grounds of disability. Winning did not change anything, except may be labelled me a trouble maker. I still did not get the job I had applied for. Disabled people have been proven to earn less than the majority of working people as they are often overlooked for promotion. A former employer once told me that I should have been glad to just have a job and not expect to get paid the same as ‘normal’ people.

I could go on but it would probably make for tedious reading. The point I am trying to make is that if someone offered me a miracle cure for my disability then there is not one single ‘benefit’ that I can think of that would cause me to turn that cure down. There is no real benefit to being disabled as far as I am concerned. For all the perceived benefits that some people actually begrudged the disabled for receiving, especially politicians it would appear, the problems, the pain, the loss of independence, the mistreatment, the decline in dignity, none of it is made up for. Nothing prepares you for disability and very little makes it any better, except if you are lucky enough to have family and friends who care for you, but you do not have to be disabled to enjoy that.

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