Macbeth (2015)

One enjoyment that recovering from surgery allows me to indulge in is watching movies. I am also a fan of the works of Shakespeare so I decided to watch the 2015 production of the movie ‘Macbeth’ starring Michael Fassbender. I wish I had not.

I think it is right that film versions of Shakespeare’s plays should not feel tied to the stage. Movies offer a much broader perspective for the director and actors to work with. I also think that the use of imagination with regards to the setting is also a benefit. This version of Macbeth appears to take its main visual cue from ‘Braveheart’ only it is not as hairy. Practically every man to be seen sports what my father refers to as a ‘crew cut’ hairstyle, that is, heads almost shaven.

Scotland is represented as a place lacking in light. Almost all of the external scenes are played out in a perpetual fog. When the action moves indoors it is illuminated by candles, literally, making it very difficult to see the actors faces as they go through the rigours of contemplating and committing acts of murder. I am not sure if raising the light level would have improved things, however, as for most of the film everyone just stares vacantly, either at each other or just into space. Lines are delivered mostly in a low monotone with very little use of inflection. The famous ‘is this a dagger I see before me’ scene was played out in almost silhouette, which made me wonder if the Macbeth’s could see anything at all let alone the fateful dagger.

I found this film version of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays entirely disappointing. It was not for the lack of quality in the cast, David Thewliss, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine, and Michael Fassbender himself are all accomplished actors. Personally, Justin Kurzel’s direction did not work for me. I simply did not find myself entertained by this version of a play that I have seen many times before. They visual style sucked all the tension out of the drama and the method of delivery failed to inspire an emotional response in relation to the fate of the characters. This film was a long, ponderous journey into a low lit landscape peopled by mud splattered men talking softly, barely changing expression, and waiting for long pauses to develop between lines before making a reply. Bloody, yes, but very dour also.


As a king Macbeth can afford a few more candles but he can’t lighten the mood!

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Why Write if not for the Fun of It!

In September I wrote about Following the Muse and not the Market, suggesting that as a writer I feel more inclined to write what I enjoy than what fills a market niche. I was recently thinking about this topic again and it occurred to me that my last novel, ‘Mesozoic’, very much illustrates that very point.

The whole idea for the book came from a friend, Leoni Roussau, who gave me the simple concept of scientists traveling back in time to studying living dinosaurs. From that one great seed of inspiration came an entire book.

I think that writing ‘Mesozoic’ was relatively easy because it involved several things that I was interested in to begin with. I read books from a very early age and looking back I can see that I had a preference for tales that involved adventure, preferably in exotic locations. I read the ‘Doc Savage’ stories when they were published as paperbacks. For those who do not know about ‘Doc Savage’ he was a crime-fighter from the 1930’s who lived at the top of the tallest skyscraper in New York. He inherited a vast fortune and dedicated himself to finding adventure and stopping maniacal super-villains. He used a series of remarkable gadgets to get himself out of trouble. By today’s standards ‘Doc Savage’ might seem a little naive but for a young lad they were lots of fun. That is what I remember most about reading books like that; they were fun.

As time went on I read more literary tomes and thoroughly enjoyed them, but I have always found that mixing a little light relief with the more heavyweight authors is perfectly acceptable. In fact, I found that it often helped me to appreciate written work even more because I was able to compare contrasting styles and understand the motives of the writers all the more.

For me, as a writer, ‘Mesozoic’ was a little light relief. Although I touch on some environmental issues in the book at heart it is an adventure story in the style of the likes of ‘Jurassic Park’ or ‘Raise the Titanic’ or even ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ and not a serious commentary on the human condition. The book did not require me to do a lot of in-depth research, unlike my ‘Sorrow Song Trilogy’ or ‘Eugenica’, although I did have to work to formulate a viable, hypothetically at least, method of time travel. The dinosaurs were not particularly difficult as I already had an interest and, therefore, a knowledge about them. My prime concern with the dinosaurs was to represent them as believable animals and not the monsters of the ‘Jurassic Park’ movies. Of all of my books so far it was by far the quickest to write and, I have to admit, the most fun.

I am not a full-time writer. I have a day job and I have a wife who likes to see and talk to me. Our children might be all grown up but they are still our children and still make demands on our time, as they have every right to do. These days writing even for the eBook market seems to require more and more time, not the actual writing part but the need to promote the finished book. I understand the argument behind this but the fact remains it is the writing that I enjoy. I would be greatly disappointed if all the fun was to be sucked out of writing. For me it is, I suppose, my hobby. It is what I do in my free time. I like the fact that at the end of it there is something tangible to show for my efforts. It has never brought me in any real money and I do not expect that to change really. I still love writing, however, if I have to spend more time promoting myself and my books than I do actually sat at a keyboard capturing my ideas and living in my imagination then I find it difficult to see why I should continue with it other than for my own enjoyment. I suppose that is the point. I am doing it for my own enjoyment and, hopefully, for the enjoyment of the people who choose to read my books. So long as the fun remains so will I.

27 Finale

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What it is to be Free!

In yet another attempt to increase my readership and, hopefully, garner a few more honest reviews, I am offering all of my eBooks for free download from 2nd to the 6th October through Amazon.

If you wish to find out if my books, which have been the primary subject of this blog since I started it, have been worth all the writing that I have done then please feel free to download one or more of my books.

As suggested in the first paragraph one of the objectives of this campaign is to get more reviews. This has been a constant battle on my part as a writer but for some reason the vast majority of readers do not seem to want to post even a star rating let alone a brief description of what they liked about the story. It is a catch-22 situation in that the more reviews a book gets then the more readers it is likely to attract but very few readers seem to be bothered about posting their comments. There is a school of thought that writers should not concern themselves with reviews but I feel that this only really applies to those who are established with a traditional publisher and agent, for the rest of us every little bit helps.

To be honest I would rather spend my time writing than launching promotion campaigns. I enjoy writing stories. If I could do it for a living then this would be a dream job, however, I have yet to be discovered so it is necessary that I become a promoter as well.

So, if you are at all curious then please have a look at the list of my books. There are my historical fiction novels set in 1066, a `930’s alternate history adventure, and a futuristic technical thriller set in the past! All that I ask is that you do take five minutes just to do me the favour of posting an honest rating and review. It does not have to be a literary essay, just a simple statement of what you liked about my work.

Many thanks in anticipation.

All Books Free Promo 181002

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Following the Muse and not the Market

September is coming to a close and I have not done anywhere near as much work as I had hoped. My recent surgery and the many complications that have arisen as a result of it certainly have not helped. However, I do not feel like having another moan.

 Although I have been somewhat discomfited by my situation I find that I am still thinking about writing and that is a good thing. I am still working on my fantasy novel, The Queen of the Mountain. Actually, that is just a work in progress title as I am not convinced that it suggests all that I want it to, but then nothing else has occurred to me on that subject yet so it might end up being the final choice. When I have managed to get to work with the manuscript I have thoroughly enjoyed it and that really is the point; I see no reason for sitting at a keyboard for such a protracted amount of time if I do not enjoy both the work and the end result.

 Enjoyment is a key motivator. I enjoy what I do. It does not pay me enough and I probably will never become rich and famous doing it but it is my hobby. Writing is what I do to relax, the fact that I have something tangible at the end of it is just a massive bonus. It is also why I am not a genre writer. I mention this because someone imparted some advice to me recently, well, basically they said that I would never be a successful writer because I lack the self-discipline to restrict myself to one particular genre. They may be right. I would love to earn enough money so that I could afford to write full time. I am not sure though that I lack discipline. When it comes to writing I seem to be rather good at sitting down and doing the actual work. I can sit for hours and just write. I think that my critic was referring to the fact that I have written three historical fiction novels, one alternate history novel, a technological thriller, and that I am writing a fantasy novel and a crime mystery novel as well. Oh, and I have a great idea for a science fiction book as well!

 There is no doubt about it, my muse lacks self-discipline but so what! For me the story is the most important thing. I mean, that is what I am creating is it not? I want to write a good story so should it matter if that story takes place in a historical or a fantasy or a contemporary setting? If I write a story that a reader enjoys then that is for me the most important thing. I understand that in marketing terms this creates a headache. I have mentioned before that I did not start writing so as to get into marketing but it seems to be a necessary evil for people like me who publish books through Amazon and the like. Curiously, I have not found promoting my varied work that difficult. In fact I recently had some success promoting my self as an author who is not constrained by the label ‘genre’.

 I do not mean this to be some egotistical self-aggrandizement. I do not believe that this makes me better than someone who does stick to a single genre. What it does mean is that I am being true to a simple precept; do what you enjoy. I enjoy reading all kinds of books. I read classics, historical, crime, science fiction, fantasy, horror, anything that grabs my attention and fires my imagination. If I do that as a reader why should I not do it as a writer? I cannot find a good answer to that question.

 I plan to continue to put the story first and the marketplace second. I will write what I want to write free of any artificially imposed constraints. Readers seem to like my books so I must be doing something right. As long as I enjoy writing them then I am going to continue following my muse no matter where that might take me.


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A Persistent And Invasive Nuisance Does Not Help With Being Creative

Once again I have had to take an enforced sabbatical from blogging. The cause was a persistent and invasive nuisance; in other words pain. I had reconstructive surgery on my foot early in April and it has not been a pleasant experience. The fitting of an external fixator was part of the procedure and as these things involve passing several metal rods through both the leg and foot infection becomes a very real risk. To date I have had at least five infections. In the past month I have had three infections that literally followed each other but two of them went untreated. I did call a doctor out for the first of these three but he chose to do nothing. He told me that he was reluctant to prescribe me antibiotics because I had already used them for previous infections. Despite me insisting that this is how the infections are treated he refused to do anything, but he did tell me that I did have a nice house.

It was not the first time that I have encountered this reluctance on the part of a medical professional to treat me as a patient. I live with chronic pain and a few years ago I tried to get myself referred to a pain management clinic but I was denied on the grounds that I was already under the care of two specialists. It did not seem to matter that one of them was a neurologist and the other an orthopaedic surgeon and that I only ever saw them as when required. Neither were concerned with the pain that I experienced. That is how medical care seems to work, no one wants to deal with a patient who is apparently under someone else’s care even if the other doctor or doctors are not concerned with the current complaint.

Before the infection started I was able to walk around my house without using crutches. I was progressing very well with the physiotherapy. Walking with the external fixator was of course uncomfortable. The rods pass right through the muscles of the foot and every step causes them to tear the muscle fibre. It is kind of a vicious in that I have to walk to build up my fitness but the walking also causes pain. Fortunately, I do have painkillers to help with this. When an infection takes hold the pain becomes so intense that I can no longer put my foot on the floor and I am reduced to hopping everywhere. The painkillers do not seem to help with the increase in pain. They also do not treat the hot-cold flushes, headaches, and other symptoms caused by an infection. As a result of the pain I lose my appetite, struggle to sleep, and writing becomes little more than a fond wish.

Despite the very real risk of septicaemia getting swift and appropriate medical treatment seems very difficult to achieve. I complained to my surgeon about the lack of response from the GP and he said he would write a letter to the medical centre and remind them that they are responsible for my primary care; surely this should be already understood? The fact is that today everyone seems to want to avoid dealing with a patient who appears to present complex conditions, possibly due to fear. Not that this situation helps people like me.

My writing has inevitably suffered as a result, not just my blogging but my novel writing as well. I do not find pain to be inspirational, not even the normal level of pain that I am used to. When it becomes excessive sitting down with my laptop is not even a consideration. I was hoping to get my fantasy novel finished before winter but I have not done any work on it for at least four long weeks now. I find that situation rather frustrating. Next week I am to undergo another surgical procedure intended to promote bone healing in foot as it seems that this has not happened as planned. I hope it works. I want to get back to normal and that includes getting back to writing.


Medical science is great when it works, not so good when it is denied

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The Frankenstein Chronicles

I am very used to people messing around with established works to produce something inferior. There is the 2015 movie ‘Victor Frankenstein’ for example. I like to think that James McAvoy was as disappointed with the script as I was, hence why he played the title character in such a pantomime fashion. Neither he nor Daniel Radcliffe could infuse director Paul McGuigan’s effort with any integrity. It seems that despite Mary Shelley’s seminal work being such an original piece of imaginative fiction few people know what to do with it. When I decided to watch ‘The Frankenstein Chronicles’ I did so only in hope but with low expectation. I am happy to say that Barry Langford and Benjamin Ross’s production did not disappoint.

Set in London during the middle 19th century ‘The Frankenstein Chronicles’ does not attempt to retell the story of the book but rather weave the narrative into Victorian history. This allows the writers a certain degree of latitude while at the same time acknowledging the original source material. It also allows the plot to take several surprising twists and turns that creates palpable tension and a growing fascination with the macabre. The setting helps add to the Gothic texture with some authentic renditions of the poorer parts of London.

Sean Bean plays the protagonist John Marlott, an officer in the River Police who discovers the body of a child on the banks of the Thames that appears to be constructed from the bodies of several other children. In a time of political tension caused by the rise of science and the reforms of Sir Robert Peel Marlott is appointed to head up an investigation into the matter by Peel, as Home Secretary. Recruiting Bow Street Runner Nightingale Marlott soon comes to the conclusion that someone is using Mary Shelley’s book as a blueprint for murder. The strands of the case are many, however, and they lead to many suspects and a varied number of scenes of crime.

As a straightforward crime drama ‘The Frankenstein Chronicles’ might quickly run out of steam, even with the maze-like plot, but the writers develop various themes to explore and introduce new characters at opportune moments. The cast also proves remarkable convincing, especially Sean Bean in the lead role. He is a man of undoubted courage, some intelligence, a good heart, but haunted by the death of his wife and child, an even that the blames himself for. At times he seems objectionable, slow on the uptake, and even undeserving of sympathy, like a real person can be. As a policeman he is dogged, loyal, and incorruptible. It is these latter qualities that drive him onward in the second half of the story even when he has lost all authority, his reputation, and the support of everyone who thought that they knew him.

‘The Frankenstein Chronicles’ pays homage to Mary Shelley’s novel. It builds upon her ideas to present a new story that captures all macabre fascination of the original by incorporating it into the history of Victorian England. A dark and disturbing tale of surprising originality.


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The War Wolf is now an Audiobook

At long last I received the email that I have been waiting for from ‘acx’; The War Wolf has passed the final hurdle and has been turned into an audiobook! It has been a long process but the day has finally arrived. Of course, releasing a title into another medium has meant that I go back to what I consider the bane of bring an author without a publisher; marketing!

It is a necessary evil. The market has been swamped by new releases and it is very difficult to get your book noticed. I have toyed with marketing previously and never really enjoyed the experience. I know why as well. I write books because I enjoy the creative process and although there is some requirement to be creative in marketing it is not the same. Okay, I am going to stop whining about it.

The fact is that my new audiobook needs some advertising and no one else is going to do it other than me. I have used Twitter several times, most recently to promote ‘Mesozoic’, my time travel dinosaur adventure technological thriller. Despite investing a lot of time on creating and tweeting a series of cards detailing all the wonderful dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures that can be found within the book they did not seem to attract a lot of attention. That is a shame really because I think that the cards look quite good, but there you go, just because they have dinosaurs on them it does not mean that you are going to succeed! If static pictures of dinosaurs could not cut the mustard then, I thought to myself, perhaps I should have a go at a simple video instead?

27 Finale

I created a presentation based on The War Wolf. It was very simple, just one slide with a little bit of animation to bring in the pertinent information and look a bit jazzy at the same time. Once I was happy with this I exported it as a video and then attempted to tweet it via Twitter. This did not work. There was no warning signs, no notice to corrective action required, nothing. I switched to using Hootsuite, a facility that allows you to compose and schedule a number of tweets. This proved to be more successful as it told me exactly why I could not use the video; it was too tall, too wide, and not in the right format. Thanks for nothing Twitter!

Armed with some of the requisite information I created another presentation based on the physical measurements Hootsuite had provided me. I also created a very simple one animation video based on these height and width parameters also. Using good old Google I was able to find a website that could and did convert MP4 video in the correct Twitter format. I tested it with the simple video and it worked. After that I felt much more optimistic and finished the longer, by a whole 10 seconds, presentation. I loaded this into the converter and then attached it to a tweet. Success! It worked. Tweet launched and marketing a huge success. Of course not. The fact is that I doubt that a single tweet is going to do anything for me; if only it were that easy!

Although I do not like the idea it is obvious that I am going to have to accept that marketing is indeed a necessary evil for a writer like me. I have tried social-media and it is flooded by the same sort of thing that I am doing. In truth I am no different to anyone else. The only way that I am really going to get anyone to notice my work is by buying their attention. I am going to have to spend some cash on proper advertising. Of course, I do not have lots of free cash knocking about the place. It is that old vicious circle again, to earn money you have to be successful and to be successful you have to spend money. However, as I can see no other alternative if I want to continue as a writer then I am going to have to create a budget for marketing and take the plunge. I have done a little bit of this in the past and none of it returned any great streams of revenue or even a single book sale from what I can tell. I have to admit though that previous attempts were very much on a shoestring. I think that I will have to commit a larger amount of money to the project, which brings me back to the release of my new audiobook; The War Wolf: The Sorrow Song Trilogy, Book 1. Written by Peter C Whitaker and narrated by Jack Glanville. Available from Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. All proceeds will go towards my marketing campaign that will, finally, see me established as a successful author.

01.1 War Wolf Audio Cover

Audiobook at Amazon

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