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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Plotting the Story

I have been working on a fantasy novel for quite awhile now but it seems to be getting stuck. At first I thought that this was a fault of the protagonist in that his character had not seemed to form in the way that I had expected. I did a review of him and quite naturally found some improvements that I could make. Having done this I went back to work on the writing again but once more I found myself being dissuaded by yet another blockage in the creative process. I decided to take yet another break from this book and think it over, again.

Curiously, the thought of abandoning the book has not occurred to me. I like the basic story and I have enjoyed creating a fictional reality for it to take place in. It is not a question of the amount of work that has already gone into this project. I believe that I instinctively know when an idea has run out of steam and I do not think that this one had. While distracting myself with learning how to paint in 3D I had an idea that the problem with this book is that there are too many sub-plots going on.

Actually, that is not quite right, as a quick review of my notes revealed, it is really a questing of the book’s plotting; it is all wrong!

Of all my books so far this one has the most going on. Not only is there the main story but there are various sub-plots as well. I wanted to include these for the sake of giving the book depth, which in turn, I believe, gives the fantasy world more validity. That is just my approach to writing. The main plot is working at a higher level, involving important people, kings, priests, diplomats, and the protagonist. Below that are several more stories that concern more everyday characters. I used this technique successfully in the Sorrow Song Trilogy. In 1066 the main story follows the struggles of King Harold of England, King Hardrada of Norway, and Duke Guillaume of Normandy. Running alongside this is the stories of people lower down the hierarchy, Mildryth, Wolfhere, Edwin the Shield Bearer, and such. However, with the Sorrow Song Trilogy the pacing was relatively easy as each book is driven by the approach of a battle. I have found with the fantasy story that although there is the inevitable conflict it does not tie all of the sub-plots up in the same way. This is why, I believe, the pacing is off.

I have decided to go back to the beginning of the creative process and plot out the book in much greater detail than I had originally. This can be a little frustrating as it means suspending the writing again but it is also an opportunity to do other practical things as well. It offers me a chance to do some editing, I have already removed one sub-plot altogether, to question the need for some of the more superfluous characters, and to focus more attention on those that remain, to define and develop them more.

Different people do the same thing in different ways. For myself, I like to plot my books using a spreadsheet. How I lay out the plot seems to differ with each book, however. For Eugenica I had two main plots that ran parallel to each other and then collided to form the conclusion. For Mesozoic there was only one plot that was diverted by character actions rather than sub-plots. For the fantasy book I discovered that I needed something that put everything into a chronological order first and then highlighted where the various plot threads impacted upon each other. I am already beginning to see some benefits from this work. As mentioned earlier I have removed an entire sub-plot already. This little story obviously had interest to me or else I would not have written it but when I reviewed it I decided that it did not really contribute much to the story and slowed the pace down. Plotting can seem like an unattractive task but like most other things associated with writing it can aid the creative process. In relation to a book that is intentionally complicated by the various themes it looks to draw upon then I think proper plotting is absolutely essential.

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Well, That Looks a Bit Familiar!

I was browsing through Facebook the other night and got a bit of a surprise. Okay, it is not really surprising to get a surprise from social media, I know, but this one was closer to home than anything else that I have encountered. It did not involved a cat or an example of stupid human behaviour or even a photograph of somewhere amazing that I have actually visited. No, this surprise related to something that I had done myself in a creative capacity, it was this:

BCornwell War Wolf

That above is the cover of Bernard Cornwell’s new book, The War of the Wolf. This is why I was surprised:

My War Wolf

That is the cover of my novel, The War Wolf. I think that I can see one or two similarities.

I published my book in 2013 through Amazon. Prior to doing that I contacted several literary agents in a vain attempt to go down the traditional publishing route. One of them was Bernard Cornwell’s own agent. They declined to represent me stating that they could not be sure where to place my book, a historical fiction novel, to get it published. Obviously, they did not have a similar problem with Bernard’s work!

I am not a fan of conspiracy theories. I do believe that coincidences can and do happen. However, sometimes there are facts behind an apparent coincidence that are just too suggestive of something else. Now, it might just be that Bernard Cornwell and the people who work with him have never heard of or seen my book, except his agent of course. It might just be that the subject material inevitably suggests similar things to the imaginations of different people who are exploring it. I cannot speak for Bernard Cornwell and his people of course but here is how I came to produce my book.

When I started writing my novel had the working title of ‘The Battle of Fulford Gate’. I knew that it was not really very catchy but as I was writing about the actual Battle of Fulford Gate in 1066 I was quite happy to use it. As part of my research into the period I read the poem Beowulf. I had read it many years previously and I thought that it might contribute something to all three novels. I am not sure what in particular but in the end Beowulf gave me the titles to all three of my Saxon books. The War Wolf gets its name from this passage:

“War-wolf horrid, at Heorot found a warrior watching and waiting the fray”.

In my imagination the War Wolf was King Hardrada of Norway invading England, Heorot was York, and Coenred was the warrior waiting for the fight to begin. It all seemed to fit together very nicely and gave the story something of an epic feel.

For the cover of the book I wanted something that, to my mind at least, captured the elements of that quote. I created a banner decorated with an idealised wolf in the style of Saxon art. Below it is a Saxon warrior wearing the famous Coppergate Helmet, which was found in York. I used green as a base colour and found that yellow for the fonts worked very well. The composition proved to be both simple and effective. I was able to use the same design with a few singular adaptations for the other two books in the series. This, I believe, gives them an identity as a trilogy.

That is a brief account of how I came to create the cover and choose the title of my book, unfortunately, I do not know the story behind Bernard Cornwell’s novel.

When I showed the the picture of Bernard Cornwell’s book to my wife she was rather angry. She urged me to contact him and complain. I am not sure what I can complain about though. I think that there is a passing resemblance between the two, superficially at least, but I doubt that it extends to the story within. My book is concerned with the end of the Saxon world whereas Bernard’s appears to be about the beginning of it. The War of the Wolf is, I believe, book 11 in his Lost Kingdom series. I suppose that I could assert that imitation is the best form of flattery and take satisfaction in the fact that a struggling to be recognised writer has, even if inadvertently, been recognised by a successful writer in this manner.

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The Audio Book Cometh!


At long last the audio book version of my first novel, The War Wolf, is imminent. The project to turn a good read into a good listen has taken longer than I anticipated but I believe that the wait has been worthwhile. Despite various problems along the way, both personal and technical, the end is now in sight.

My narrator, Jack Glanville, has done a great job. He tells me that he thoroughly enjoyed reading the script and that this made it much easier to complete. I found this quite encouraging. Jack explained that he had looked at several projects but that most of them were not of a quality that he wanted to put his name to, he liked the sound of The War Wolf, however. As he worked on the recording he followed the adventures of the main characters, Coenred and Mildryth, with interest. It is a truth that we do our best work when we enjoy what we are doing.

Within a few days the finished audio book will be ready for release. I am going to put together an advertising campaign. I have a bit of experience in this having published five novels to date, I also have no allusions about being successful. There is so much material out there that the market often seems swamped, well, in respect of eBooks at least. The audio book market is growing and, at least at the moment, does not seem to have been overwhelmed with sub-standard works. This may have something to do with talented people like Jack being more discerning about what they want to put their name to? I hope so.

I am not thinking about how many copies I might sell. Of course I want the book to be a success and I am certainly not against receiving a handsome amount of money in royalties, shared 50/50 with Jack, but the creative process is also important to me. I really enjoy the act of artistic creation. Although most of the work in transferring my work from written book to audio book has been completed by other people, Jack with his vocal performance and the technicians at ACX, the original words are all mine.

It is quite exciting to be exploring new artistic frontiers. Just when I was beginning to feel that the eBook environment was becoming stale with poor quality submissions a new area of creative possibility opens up. I will be putting a lot of effort into advertising my new audio book but I will also be working on two new books. I am also in the process of revamping my website. I suppose that when you do something that you feel passionate about the activity itself can become almost self-perpetuating. It may just be a hobby at the moment but it is proving such a rewarding pursuit that just doing it has become enough of a reason to continue writing.

Further information about Jack Glanville’s work can be found here: Vojack – Voice Actor

War Wolf


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