Time to Adapt

Most situations are learning opportunities. Do not worry, this is not going to turn into some kind of motivational essay. The fact is that when I came home from hospital I was frustrated by not being able to get back to writing as quickly as possible. One of the reasons for this was that the laptop that I  had been using was just too big and heavy. It works well for photograph manipulation and digital art but when you have to keep one leg elevated it just weighed too much. Also, I made the mistake of allowing Microsoft to persuade me to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10. Before the upgrade the laptop worked great, afterwards it just labours with even the most basic chores. The fault was mine, I should have been stronger, but I made the mistake.

To rectify things I decided to indulge myself and buy a new laptop. Well, really the plan was to by a new PC but my study still only exists in my imagination and I do not yet have the money necessary to purchase the kind of PC that I really want. I decided to get a basic laptop instead. My reason for going basic was practical in that I had a fixed budget of between £300 to £400. Also, I wanted to go smaller than the Behemoth so that it would be easier to carry around. I decided that what I needed was something that I could use mostly for writing. After looking at reviews I settled on the ACER Swift 1. I have to admit that my decision was swayed by the number of students who praised this machine for being light, robust, easy to set up, and easy to use. I was also able to buy it for £330 so it was well within my budget.

It is a basic laptop, there is no doubt about that, but even thought I am new to it I am finding the ACER Swift to be everything the student reviewers said it was. The body is made from metal so it is robust and yet light enough not to be a burden. It sits on my lap comfortably even with one leg elevated. Setting the machine up on first use was a doddle. I am a computer user, not an expert. I have found getting things like email working and connecting to the internet a real trial in the past. With the Swift 1 I just breezed through the process. I have to admit that it was the most painless setting up of a computer that I have ever known.

This is the very first piece that I have written and to be honest I have enjoyed doing it. I am using WPS Writer in preference to Microsoft Word. I was initially delighted to find that Word was included on the laptop but when I opened it Microsoft were waiting for me with a begging bowl. The fact that I already have a paid for version of Word on my other computer does not mean anything, if I wanted to use the one that they had thoughtfully installed on this one for me then I was going to have to pay for the pleasure. Fortunately for me I had discovered WPS Writer earlier and I was already toying with the idea of using it, Microsoft just made my mind up for me. WPS Writer looks so much like Word that I have had no problem finding my way around it.

I feel like I am moving on. My foot is healing, although I did have a setback due to a recent infection, I have a new laptop, and I am able to write again. Also, England are doing well in the World Cup!

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And He’s Back!

I have been out of action due to surgery but I was not expecting the recovery to be so frustratingly slow. For the most part I have had to remain almost horizontal, which has meant using my computer has been practically impossible. I have done no writing since early April. However, I seem to have reached a milestone. I am now able to sit normally and use my laptop again. This is such a relief.

War WolfAlthough I have been on the sidelines for an extended period things have been moving on. The War Wolf has finished recording as an audiobook and is now in the final production stage with publication pending. I am very excited about moving into the audiobook world. I am lucky in finding a great voice actor in Jack Glanville, not least because he enjoyed reading my book. In fact he got so into the role that we had to re-submit several pieces from the more active scenes because he got carried away with the action and exceeded the decibel limit for audiobooks! It has delayed the final publishing date but it is worth it, believe me.

Book Cover 01Mesozoic, my time travel dinosaur adventure, has received its first review on Amazon and it is a 5 star rating! I am always happy to receive reviews. When I first started writing I told myself that I would be happy for just one person I did not know to read my book and tell me that they enjoyed it. Since then several thousand have read my work, unfortunately far fewer have published their thoughts in the way of a review.

On the same subject my alternate history adventure, Eugenica, also benefitted from a new review. I have to admit that I find this book rather perplexing in that everyone who has read it has told me that they have thoroughly enjoyed the story but getting people to read it initially appears to be a real Grace Flag 01.4problem. I can think of a lot of reasons as to why this might be, the subject of eugenics for example or the fact that the main characters are all disabled, but at its heart Eugenica is a very positive story. It is a tale that relates the triumph of the human spirit over adversity against overwhelming odds. At least writer of Eugenica’s latest review seems to agree with me on that.

Now that I am able to sit up and do some work I am looking forward to finishing two books that have been in stasis for a little while. The first is ‘Queen of the Mountain Kingdom’, a fantasy with a different approach to the genre. I realized late on that there was something not quite right with the protagonist, I think that I have figured out what the problem is and I am keen to rewrite some sections to develop a missing aspect of the character. The second book, which only has the working title of ‘The Vintage Detective’ is a whodunit. There is still plenty of work to do on this one but I really enjoyed what I have managed to write and I am looking forward to getting back and completing this project.

So there we are. I am making my return and a prolonged enforced absence. Hopefully I won’t be going through this experience again, rather I will be spending my time writing!

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Back on Track and Looking for New Audio Book Adventures

I have had my surgery and been discharged from the hospital. The long journey to recovery has begun. It took a little while but I have also managed to set up my laptop so that I can use it for as long as I am comfortable each day.

Some time ago I submitted my first novel, The War Wolf, for adaptation to become an audio-book. The process took a little longer than I expected and there was some frustration along the way but the narrator I chose, one Jack Glanville, has done an excellent job. I am currently reviewing the chapters that he has submitted. It is something quite entertaining to hear a talented voice artist reading your own story. I am sure that Jack’s obvious talent enhances the experience. Previously, I have only heard my work spoken by the electronic voices of ‘Text to Speech’ engines. That was fun as well, but it does not compare to hearing someone who actually enjoys what they are doing delivering your words.

War Wolf

As I sit here listening to my book being read, almost like a radio play, I cannot help but think that I was very lucky in finding Jack Glanville. He became a professional voice actor after agreeing to do my books, which caused a delay in getting the project going, but I am glad that I was patient with him. We have an agreement for him to complete the entire ‘Sorrow Song Trilogy’. I thought at the time that it would be more professional to have the same actor do all three books and he agreed. This is a project that stands to benefit both of us. If the audio-book proves to be at least as successful as the eBook then my work is going to be exposed to many more new readers, or should that be listeners. For Jack it another kind of exposure. I am sure that his talent will be quickly recognised. He has a very clear and charismatic reading voice. I believe that even a moderate success for the book will lead to great success for the both of us in the near future.

My time is somewhat limited, however. This is the first day that I have spent tapping away at my keyboard since undergoing the surgery. I can feel my foot and lower leg becoming uncomfortable, as it does every day. I can distract myself for so long by doing other things, but ultimately I have to recognise the fact that I am in pain and that I need to rest as my reserves of energy have not yet returned to their normal level.

Although producing ‘The War Wolf’ as an audio-book is exciting and attractive in that it does not require too much of me, I still have plans for continuing with my writing. There are two other projects that require my attention sooner rather than later. The first is the fantasy novel that I started several months ago. I stopped writing when I realised that I needed to review the protagonist. I have done that now and I think that I know what to do to make him more deserving of the reader’s sympathy. It will not take much to re-write his parts and the largest part of the book, some 70% I reckon, is already complete in the second draft.

The second project is a whodunit murder mystery that seemed to run out of steam. The story is not long enough for a novel at the moment. This is not a problem, more of an observation. I need to work on the plot more and introduce some further twists and probably one or two more characters. As this is my first foray into the murder mystery genre I am not surprised that I have run into this problem. I do not find it discouraging, however, more of a challenge really.

In conclusion, my hiatus due to medical issues has come to an end. I may not be back to full strength yet but writing is, once again, featuring on my horizon.

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Having Fun while Avoiding the Beast from the East 2

As my surgery is approaching and I now know that I will be out of action for effectively 6 months my wife decided that we should do something as in a brief holiday. Our timing was not particularly brilliant. The weather in the few days leading up to our little road trip was actually quite promising with rising temperatures and even a bit of occasional sunlight. Then it all went wrong and the Beast from the East 2 arrived! Beast from the East 1 had been and gone, bringing with it a touch of snow and a bit of ice to East Yorkshire. Its sibling was supposed to be either equally as bad or even worse.

Checking the Met Office’s weather map I noticed that most of the country north of the M62 motorway seemed to be in the area that was to be least affected by the wintery monster. We were heading west, across the Pennines to Lancashire and I really had not planned on using the motorway. It is not that I dislike them, I do not, they are very useful when you want to get somewhere rather quickly, but they also tend to be a somewhat boring. Time was not really an issue so I thought to aim for Skipton where we could have a coffee break at something like the mid-point of the journey.

Some people warned us off even attempting to go outside of the house’s front door but we had made a decision; we were going on holiday!

Heading north from Hull to York we noticed that the weather just kept improving. There was very little snow to be seen and no ice. Just south of York we turned west and arrived in Skipton with no problems whatsoever. After a casual walk and the obligatory coffee we wandered back to the car. Snow was falling but it was so light that it really was not anything to worry about. Westward ho we went.

Our first real stop was to be the Midland Hotel on the sea front in Morecambe. It is often

The Midland

The Art Deco Midland Hotel

referred to as an Art Deco building but purists will tell you that it is in fact Streamline Moderne. I just like the way it looks and have always wanted to visit since I discovered the place existed thanks to the Agatha Christie’s Poirot television show. Morecambe was basking under an amazingly blue sky when we arrived. The wind was very strong and cold but it was far from being the Beast from the East. Nevertheless, we decided to eat in the hotel that evening. I really like the fact that this hotel, which was built in 1933, is still very much in use and has been sympathetically updated.

The next morning we took a walk down to see the statue of Eric Morecambe, a well-loved

Eric

Eric Morecambe

English comedian. I am not a big fan of sculpture to be honest but I have to admit that this is one of the better examples. It captures the man’s character so beautifully.

After saying hello to Eric we headed north into Cumbria. As our next hotel room was not due to be ready for several hours we took a slight diversion to Ulverston in Cumbria. There was only one reason for doing this, it is the place where one Arthur Stanley Jefferson was born and spent many of his formative years before going to America and finding his fame and fortune as Stan Laurel, erstwhile partner of Oliver Hardy.

I have always been a fan of Laurel and Hardy. Their films still make me smile today. In Ulverston there is a museum dedicated to remembering ‘the boys’ as they are still affectionately known. It is currently housed in the town’s working Roxy cinema. To be honest I was a little disappointed, the place felt like it could do with the attention of a good curator. There are a lot of exhibits but some of the pictures are repeated several times. There are some interesting pieces but they are presented a bit haphazard. I still enjoyed my visit but then I am an avid fan so I was willing to be generous.

The Boys

Laurel and Hardy

Also to be found in Ulverston is another statue, of Laurel and Hardy unsurprisingly. The pair visited the town during one of the tours of Britain so it seems fitting that their presence should be recorded in bronze. I actually quite like it, especially the inclusion of Laughing Gravy.

From Ulverston we continued north heading for the Lake District. Our next stay was to be at the Dansom Dene Hotel near Bowness on Windermere. The hotel is more modern than the Midland, some 5 miles from the town. It is obviously popular and boasts a relaxing lounge complete with a log fire and comfortable leather sofas.

We spent the next day touring the lakes, taking the ferry across Windermere to explore the village of Hawkshead. So much of this part of Britain is just naturally beautiful be it the long lakes, the mountains, the quaint streets, or the typical pubs. We were tasked with finding one such pub, the Drunken Duck, and discovering the reason for its name. We found the pub and enjoyed the tale of the duck’s near death experience caused by alcohol.

Drunken Duck

A Duck’s Tale

The next day we moved to the Broadoaks Luxury Hotel just a little further north. On our way there we stopped off in Ambleside, which is another beautiful Cumbrian town. The weather remained our friend and we had a good wander around before retiring to our suite at the hideaway of Broadoaks. I am not one for high tea but my wife is and she really enjoyed the cream tea that we had on arrival. To be honest so did I. We had a very relaxing evening enjoying fine dining.

As if to extend our journey we left Broadoaks and headed north again to Penrith, almost within a stone’s throw of the Scottish border, but we turned east and ended up in the charming Yorkshire market town of Richmond. I have to say that Richmond has the most charity shops that I have ever seen! After another cup of coffee we eventually started for home. Heading southeast we skirted York and made for Hull once more. The Beast from the East 2 had largely disappeared. All those people who had warned us against venturing out of doors were proven wrong, but only in the nicest way possible. As I count down to my surgery I am going to have some great memories to console myself with. It really was worth the effort.

Ambleside

Ambling around Ambleside

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Time for a Break, Break in Writing and Break in Bones

Well this is disappointing. Way back in 2010 when I was writing my first ever novel, The War Wolf, I had to undergo major reconstructive surgery on my left foot. It was a very uncomfortable period. The hope was that this surgery would put right many years of problems caused by the slow but persistent deforming of my feet that is the result of having untreated Spina Bifida. Unfortunately, it has failed and I will have to undergo the treatment again.

When I saw my surgeon last year I was more optimistic. Although it was accepted that my foot was still being deformed the damage did not seem that bad and the surgeon suggested that a relatively simple procedure would suffice. That was not the case when I saw him earlier this week. Now it seems that the damage is much more severe than first thought and the surgery has to be that much more extensive. Instead of only three months I am going to be wearing an external fixator for as long as six.

At times like these it is necessary to try and weigh things up. Yes, I am going to be in a lot of pain and discomfort for several weeks. There’s no escaping that. Once the healing process begins, however, then things will calm down. Past experience teaches me that. Then I will have a long period off work that I might be able to use for writing. At the end I will have a foot that has been reconstructed for the third time and it should, hopefully, allow me to remain independently mobile for at least another eight years.

Despite the suggestion of writing this will not be a paid holiday. Wearing an external fixator comes with risks. It creates a number of open wounds that have to kept clean. The risk of infection is high and any infection can lead to septicaemia, which is very dangerous. Add to this the fact that people who have Spina Bifida should not have epidurals but also people who have Myotonia Congenita, which I also have, should not have general anaesthetic and the risk factor increases again. The myotonia causes other problems as well. As my muscles do not relax normally after exertion I have problems with my balance and have to be very careful using crutches. Also, the Becker’s variant that I have causes sudden weakness in the large muscle groups, in particular the arms and legs, which can lead to the limbs giving way without warning. Something else for me to consider when trying to move around.

There’s no escaping the fact that writing will not be uppermost on my mind over the next few weeks. I might not be able to post on my blog for a while so apologies for that in advance. I have decided, however, to keep a journal of my experience. I was surprised how much hospital care had changed between 2010 and 2012 and it was not for the better. I do not expect to find an improvement this time round. I know that sounds rather negative but it is an opinion based on experience. I have spent an inordinate amount of time in hospitals and seen first-hand the actual results of so many politicians ‘reforms’ of the NHS; it has never got any better. However, I do not want to end on a negative note. I will get through this ordeal and come out the other side with at least two more novels added to my catalogue and a foot that helps me walk a little bit better. You see, it is not all bad.

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Yeah, that was my leg and its fixator back in 2010. It is going to look something similar very soon!

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A Advertising We Will Go – A Follow Up

My experiment with paid advertising is coming to an end, time to check out the details and see what my dollars brought me. Here are the metrics:

I had a budget of $100.

From 02 Feb to 04 Mar 2018 I had 7,768 impressions, an ‘impression’ being when my advert was displayed.

There were 18 clicks, which is when someone ‘clicks’ on the advert.

For every click I was charged $0.24 so that cost me $4.34.

My total sales for the period of the campaign were: 0 (nil).

Okay, that might not look very impressive at first glance, probably because it is not very impressive at all. However, although these figures are supplied by Amazon they do not make any reference to Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime members who might have looked at ‘Mesozoic’ or even read the book, for which I also receive a reduced royalty. During the ad campaign the book did very well in respect of eligible Amazon members but obviously I cannot say for definite that the two are linked.

The problem is that with so many eBooks now being available it really is a struggle to get my work noticed. Although this campaign might seem to have failed the fact is that 18 people who I would not have reached otherwise showed an interest in ‘Mesozoic’ and in reality it only cost me $4.34, which is actually equivalent to buying a beer!

I am not put off by this experience. I think that there are some things that could be better, such as finding the page where your results are displayed, which is not actually under the tab marked ‘Advertising Campaigns’ on the KDP dashboard, you have to follow the rather innocuous link to another page and the data does not appear for a day or two either. That is a small complaint, however. Now that I have acquired a little experience I will look at running another campaign but this time I want to put a little more work into it. I have access to several social media outlets, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc., but I did not really use them that much in this instance. A more coordinated effort on my part might lead to a better response. I have said previously that I did not start writing books to become a marketing expert and that still holds true but I am aware that sitting around waiting to be discovered is not very fulfilling either.

Not being one for just sitting around and complaining I accept that I have to become more active in the promotion of my books. I believe that the trick is to make sure that my time is used efficiently. I want people to read what I write but I also want to be able to write for people who want to read. Giving too much time to marketing is only going to leave me feeling frustrated but then not giving enough time will also result in me wasting that effort, probably. It is just another one of life’s balancing acts.

 

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That Disability Thing!

I had a reader ask me why there seemed to be a disabled person in every one of my books to date? My answer was, if not me who else was going to do it?

One of the tenets of writing is to write about what you know and having been born disabled I know a lot about disability. I do not have a chip on my shoulder about it. The disabled characters in my books are not out to right wrongs suffered by disabled people. They are not outraged protestors on a quest to make everything right. My aim is very simple, I want to portray disabled people as people.

In The Sorrow Song Trilogy, I invented the character of Half-foot, a Saxon who proved his worth by his learning rather than the traditional method of the sword, spear, and axe. He serves King Harold in the capacity of a secretary and is looked upon favourably. For Mesozoic, there is Charles Marsh, a man who overcomes his physical disability by means of medication and the use of an exoskeleton. As a result of this, he gets to pursue his passion of studying dinosaurs and even travels back in time to the Mesozoic Era to do it.

Without a doubt, Eugenica is my most determined effort to present disabled people in a positive light. The whole theme of the book is society’s attitude and treatment of the disabled. It makes for a harrowing read in parts but then it is based on some of my own personal experiences. It is also an adventure story, a type of story that I have always enjoyed, and getting four disabled young people into that setting proved very satisfying.

I suppose the point is that society, in general, has been very good at ignoring disabled people. It has not always been an active thing. In many respects, it has just been apathetic. In literature and other media I have often found the disabled to be presented as very shallow characters, usually designed to inspire pity, Charles Dickens’ Smike for example, or loathing, Richard III always springs to mind with that one. Very seldom do I find worthy characters like Long John Silver. Okay, he was a pirate but he was also a man of courage and ambition. I preferred him to Squire Trelawney anyway.

At the moment I have two books in writing. One is an epic fantasy, but without wizards, orcs, or elves, and the other is a whodunit mystery. Both have disabled people in them. I think my books are always going to feature disabled characters. It is not always a conscious effort on my part as the writer, they seem to enter my stories quite naturally. I suspect that if I was not disabled myself then this probably would not be the case, but I am and I do.

 

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