Blog on the Bus pt 65 (I’ve discovered the secret to making it as a writer – *caution includes spoilers*)

I know what you’re thinking: why is this lunatic blogging before 8am on a chilly Monday morning in December? I know, right? Catching a bus to work on a Monday: it’s like I’ve gone back in time. You don’t need to know why I’m on a bus on a Monday, that’s irrelevant to this story.

The point is, as I was walking to catch the aforementioned bus, I had a genuine Eureka moment. True, I wasn’t in the bath and certainly wasn’t naked (not in this weather!) but I practically leapt up as the moment struck. It’s what every indie author (and some traditional ones too) strive for: global success. This morning, I realised what it is.

Do you want to know?

I mean, do you really want to know?

(think of this as one of those which pill should I take? crossroads moments)

Are you sure you’re ready for this?

Okay then. I’ll give you a clue…

One word…

Five letters…

Not got it yet?

O-P-R-A-H

Before you ask, I’m not planning to transform my books into dramatic musicals that only strangled cats can sing (I said Oprah, not opera)

Oprah Winfrey is the key.

How many times have we seen her proclaim a book as worth reading only for it to fly off the shelves in every bookstore around the world? I’m telling you: if you want to make it in this game, Oprah’s the key.

What were you expecting? A genie in a lamp?

The trick of course is getting the chat show icon to utter those words about any of my novels.

Don’t worry though, I have a plan. I don’t want to go into too much detail (in case something goes wrong and I need to find a patsy). Suffice to say, it involves 100 copies of my latest book Trespass, a microwave, a milk float and Oprah’s favourite cat.

If things do go wrong I could end up on the wrong side of a wet sponge at Guantanamo. If you don’t hear from me on the bus then look out for my Passage from Prison

Until the next time, happy reading,

Stephen

(Stephen is the author of Integration, Remorse, Redemption, Snatched, Shadow Line and Trespass.
Find his work here, here or via stephenedger.com
)

Blog on the Bus pt64 (why I decided to kill Jack Vincent)

Good morning bus bloggers. Before I begin, I should warn you that this post contains spoilers. If you’ve not read but intend to read any of my work, please look away now and stop reading this post.

That’s better.

I feel troubled dear friend: there is a heaviness weighing on my mind and I feel the need to confess to you the real reason that I decided to kill off Detective Inspector Jack Vincent (in case it was troubling you too).

When I started writing Integration (my first formal foray with the written word), I wanted to create a conflict for my protagonist Mark Baines. Baines, as a character, was based very loosely on myself (write what you know, right?) and a lot of the views and emotions he felt were representative of my own. I tried to create a conflicting character that would get under my skin. Who better than the officer investigating Baines for the crimes he was blackmailed into committing?

In my head, D.I. Vincent’s physique (bald and with a ‘tash) was based on David Haig (the actor who played D.I. Derek Grim in Ben Elton’s tv series The Thin Blue Line). Bet you didn’t know that (In fact I’m curious to know how you did picture him?)! I didn’t want Vincent to be a figure of fun (not to the reader anyway). I wanted him to be a character who strived to do the right thing but inevitably got it wrong. All the time. I wanted the reader to dislike him; more for his misinterpretation of facts than anything specific he did.

When I published the story I felt pleased that he’d reached the level of dislike that I wanted.

When writing Remorse, I once again needed a police officer who would jump to the wrong conclusions and so I wheeled Vincent out once more. He delivered for me again.

When I started plotting Redemption, I had in the back of my mind that Vincent would appear but, as the majority of the plot was in London, his role would only be minor. But as I started to write his part in the final shootout at the hotel, something happened: a breakthrough.

I suddenly understood his motivation and emotional dexterity. As I wrote his farewell to Ali Jacobs I was filled with empathy for this man who had dedicated his life to striving for justice and failing more often than he succeeded.

As I started to write Snatched, I knew that this emotionally-enhanced Jack Vincent would end the story as an anti-hero, delivering unconventional justice for protagonist Sarah Jenson.

Some of you will remember that my fifth novel Shadow Line was originally called Dead Drop and only changed as a better-known author had released a story with the same title a month earlier. The original title had been a reference to a code word used by the Security Services but was also to hint at the end of Jack Vincent. But why did I decide he needed to go?

Simple: I’d grown to like him.

Jack Vincent was no longer a character that got under my skin and as such he no longer served a purpose in my writing.

He had to go.

Out of respect for this character I’d come to think of as a relative, I decided to give him an epic send off which was why he took the central role in Shadow Line (it was the least I could do).

But that left me with a void.

Who would replace DI Vincent, the only character to appear in each of my novels (and one of my short stories)? I couldn’t decide who or what I wanted to step into those size-9s. That’s why his position remains vacant in my forthcoming novel Trespass (which you’ll be able to read on 01 December – contain your excitement!)

The good news is: I’ve been interviewing several potential replacements (my imagination is an awesome place) and I can officially announce the position has been filled and D.I. Tony Hunt, one of Northumberland’s finest will make his debut in 2014′s Crosshairs, currently being written.

Anyway, I’ve taken up far too much of your time today. Until the next tie, happy reading!

Stephen

Blog on the Bus pt 63 (I write, therefore I am)

Welcome aboard the world’s first (and possibly only bus blog) on what is yet another wet and windy day in Southampton. You know winter is approaching when you wake to condensation on the windows and your wife wearing a dressing gown to bed (well, I’m not made of money y’know!) I hope that you are sat somewhere warm, dry and comfortable for this morning’s insight into my depraved mind…

As I attempted to count sheep last night my mind wandered to my alleged writing career (I say alleged as it feels in a bit of a rut at the moment). There is an explosion of talent decimating the writing industry and I must admit it’s difficult to get one’s literary voice heard above the crowd. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you understand; for the reader it opens up avenues, plots and genres that would otherwise have remained unseen. What is currently occurring in the written world is what happened in the music industry a decade ago.

Do you remember when MySpace launched and suddenly potential performers (or would-be warblers) were suddenly given a platform to share their music with the world? The Arctic Monkeys were the trailblazers managing to secure a massive recording contract for their work when their single (I Bet You a Look Good on the Dance-floor) went to number-1. Other acts followed including Lily Allen. It opened up the music industry and stopped the big record companies from dictating what we should listen to. It has only been good for music. I mean, where would we be without this period in history? Probably stuck listening to Simon Cowell’s latest manufactured outfit (I’m not referring to his loud trousers).

Since Amazon opened its ebook doors to wannabe writers, all and sundry have come forward clamouring “read my book!” There are literally millions of books for readers to choose from (heck, 9 of them are mine!). No longer do potential authors need to send dozens of unsolicited manuscripts to literary agents, praying that the pimply work experience kid working in the mail room passes it on. Now it’s as easy as a few clicks of the mouse buttons and whoosh (!) you’re a published author.

I can’t deny publishing your first novel is a truly amazing experience and something that all writers should be proud of. In fact, I still get a warm feeling when I publish subsequent stories. But what sort of author am I? I mean, am I any good?

I don’t know.

I’ll probably never know!

In my three years writing, I’ve published 5 novels, 4 short stories and had work included in 2 short story anthologies (not bad for someone who works full time, has a wife, a daughter and a dog to care for). I’ve had some twenty thousand downloads in that time, which feels pretty good, but to date my work has received only 88 reviews (some good, some bad, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time). It leaves me still wondering: am I any good or should I pack it in?

It was this thought last night that had me thinking: what’s the difference between an Arsenal player and one who plays for Accrington Stanley (remember those milk ads in the eighties? Showing your age!)? They are both football players doing what they love. They both turn out for their team each week and give 100%. They are both thankful for the skills God gave them.

What’s the difference then?

One has honed their skills and now plays to a global audience. The other doesn’t.

The analogy won’t have escaped any indie authors on the bus today.

I’m not JK Rowling, John Grisham or Dan Brown.

I don’t receive an enormous fee from a publishing company to write.

I haven’t appeared on the NY Times bestsellers list (though I have been on Amazon’s twice!) and I’ve never been considered for the Booker Prize.

I am a writer though.

It’s a fact.

I have written books and published them. These books have been bought, read and enjoyed by many. I love writing and when I write I give 100%. I am thankful for the creativity I was born with.

I’m not in the Premier League of writers (well, not yet anyway!) but I am proud to call myself a writer.

Am I any good? As I said: I’ll probably never know. I am trying, however.

Until the next time, happy reading!

Stephen.

(Stephen is the author of Integration, Remorse, Redemption, Snatched and Shadow Line. His novel Trespass is due out on 01 December. Find his work here, here or via stephenedger.com)

Blog on the Bus pt 62 (fed up of flat pack)

People bang on about this do-it-yourself mumbo jumbo like it’s a new religion:

“Broken appliance? You should look it up on YouTube and do it yourself…”

“Want to know how to make a perfect choux pastry? You should Google it…”

Whatever happened to inviting an expert into your home to take care of these things? You think I sound old-fashioned? Well, why should I attempt to fix my broken toilet when a friendly plumber, who has trained tirelessly for years (and knows his U-bend from his U-boat) is more capable of doing it for me? What if I mess up the job? What if I can never do as Mother Nature intended because I’ve botched the bog?

I understand that we’re in a world where we need to be more frugal and it is this that is driving the do-it-yourself cult (I’ve heard a rumour that those on the inside refer to it as D.I.Y.), and I’m all for cutting corners but most of us wouldn’t imagine visiting wikihow to learn how to build their own house, would we?

No dear reader, the proper practice should be to let the experts do their thing.

Well, that’s what I did think…but things are changing.

I won’t pretend to be a D.I.Y. officianado (I really do hate flat pack) but I’m starting to be won over by the merits of taking on certain self-assisted projects. I am, of course, referring to the practice of online book publication.

Gone are the days where you required a PHD in Literary Mastersism or a family lineage linking you to the great William Shakespeare. Now, it’s as easy as…well…writing a book. There is a wealth of information out there on that thing called t’internet and to be honest you don’t even need to be a rocket scientist to find it.

It’s true that publishing to the different online platforms (Kindle, Kobo, iBookstore, Nook) requires patience as each platform wants you to dot your i’s and cross your t’s in a totally different format, but it doesn’t matter because there are hundreds of friendly indie authors out there who’ve been in your position and will guide you through the maze.

Historically, I wouldn’t have dreamed of writing a novel and independently publishing it, not when you consider all the publishing houses out there, yet here I am, about to publish my sixth novel Trespass!

So, whilst I would still recommend you allow a qualified electrician rewire your house, I would urge any budding book builders to step up to the plate and embrace the indie author revolution!

Until the next time, happy reading,

Stephen

(Stephen is the author of Integration, Remorse, Redemption, Snatched and Shadow Line. Find his work here, here or via stephenedger.com)

Blog on the Bus pt 61 (in the shadows, does that make me the new Hank Marvin?)

Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once…

You find me dear reader, on this chilly Tuesday, hiding in a dark cupboard under a staircase. I’m not pretending to be Harry Potter, I’m keeping what we in the criminal-underworld refer to as “a low profile”. For those of you who caught my last blog some 14 long days ago (read it here if you missed it), you will know that there is a lot of political pressure on my shoulders. The local council are labelling me as public enemy number one or “PEN-1″ (a rather ironic nickname for a writer I’m sure you’ll agree) as they hold me personally responsible for a dip in the year’s tourism. They seem oblivious to the financial slump the country is in!

Anyway, since we last spoke I’ve been ducking down in dark ditches, hiding in hollow holes and cowering in cold corners, doing anything I can to keep out of sight. I’ve even gone so far as to temporarily move in with my in-laws (safest place to hide, I mean, who in their right mind would voluntarily move in with their in-laws; they’ll never find me!) they are after me, I tell you, after me! The reason: my novels paint a vivid image of Southampton as a violent and unsavoury city.

They’re right of course: I’m guilty of the crimes I’m charged with. That doesn’t mean I want to be publicly flogged in the streets like a nineteenth century urchin. Imagine the humiliation!

So worried am I about the long arm of the law that I’ve bought a new house! Well, let me rephrase, I’ve bought a shell building that I’ve spent the last two weeks painting, priming, plastering and picking carpets. It’s been hard work! Hopefully it might even resemble an adequate living space by the weekend.

I was building a flat pack table on Sunday night and it struck me how so many small and insignificant parts, when carefully constructed, can form such a practical and solid solution.

“If only writing were so easy,” I said to myself and then realised I must be mad for talking to myself!

And then I realised: writing can be that easy!

Imagine taking 8 or 9 well-written short stories by vibrant, yet different, authors. On their own these stories are small and insignificant, yet when they are brought together, and glued in place by the wonder of digital means, they form a masterpiece.

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Introducing ‘Death Toll 2′ (from the authors who brought you ‘Death Toll’).

The new anthology will be out on Kindle on Friday 01 November featuring stories from Stephen Leather, Alex Shaw, Liam Saville, Matt Hilton, Harlan Wolff, José Bogran, Milton Gray, Scott Lewis and some author formerly known as Stephen Edger (he’s quite good, according to the council in Southampton).

All those stories from that fabulous fiction fraternity make this an anthology not to miss. We’ve even sent the links to Saint Nick so you can add it to your Christmas list without fear of the Elves misunderstanding what you have requested.

Do you hear that knocking? I think I might have been rumbled. I need to go. If you don’t hear from me again, order ‘Death Toll 2′ as it might be my last work…

Happy reading, Stephen.

(Stephen is the author of Integration, Remorse, Redemption, Snatched and Shadow Line. Find his work here, here or via stephenedger.com)

Blog on the Bus pt 60 (infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!)

Dear Bus Blogger, I am in a state of panic as my trembling fingers tap the screen of my iPhone. I received a letter today and the news…well, let’s just say…it’s not good!

I’m not dying, before you ask (I hope at least one of you asked!).

It’s worse…

It appears I (well, more accurately, my books) am being held accountable for the dip in tourism in Southampton!

I know, right? Unbelievable!

“Your stories, whilst thrilling and a bargain of a price (their words, not mine you understand) are painting Southampton as a city wracked with guns, crime and murder. So vivid and realistic are your stories (again, I’m quoting from the letter) that those reading them are being put off visiting the city. We politely request you start writing about somewhere where the crimes you describe actually exist. We suggest Portsmouth.”

You can understand my concern, dear reader. It is true that the stories I write are full of crime and thrills; for that I am guilty. But driving away would-be tourists, surely they realise I’m writing fiction!

To be honest, I’m an incy bit proud to be held in such high regard but I don’t want to end up in court for being born with an overactive imagination! I don’t think I’d last in prison…not with my boyish good looks (hey, stop laughing!)

So, dear reader, to keep the wolves from my back I’ve decided to do some positive publicity on behalf of the city where I live:

Southampton is a lovely place to visit. There is absolutely NO crime at all!

There. I’ve done it! In all honesty, Southampton (which has been my adopted home since 2000) is a lovely city and, if you’ve never been, I strongly recommend you come and visit it some day soon.

If, however, you’re looking for a city with a hidden criminal underbelly, where menaces lurk around every corner, then may I recommend you take a look at my novels (links are below as usual).

I better go. The bus is about to reach its destination and I can see blue flashing lights ahead of me. If you don’t hear from me again, it means I didn’t make it (probably my own fault for using a milk float as a getaway vehicle).

Until the next time, happy reading!

From the author formally known as Stephen.

(Stephen is the author of Integration, Remorse, Redemption, Snatched and Shadow Line. Find his work here, here or via stephenedger.com)

Blog on the Bus pt 59 (are the best things in life worth waiting for?)

Good day to you dear bus blog follower. Thank you for stopping by on this eerily misty October morning. The bus is decidedly full this morning but that’s always the way when it’s late. Sometimes I wonder why I wait…

Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to wait for things?

Imagine a world where all buses ran on time…all trains had a spare seat just for you…where you walk up to a bar and the drinks are already poured for you…just imagine (not you, Mr Bus Driver, just concentrate on the road! Phew, that was a close one!)

Believe it or not (those that know me will), I’m not a very patient man; it’s not one of my virtues. So when I’m forced to wait for something, I become…what’s the best word…angry (=impatient with attitude). I can’t help it: I’m programmed to behave this way.

I was the same as a child: I hated waiting for Christmas and birthdays (many a time I was disciplined for pre-present hunts!)

So when I’m forced to wait for things, I become stressed, tetchy, aggravated and unreasonable.

You can imagine, therefore, how I’m feeling at the moment: waiting for the purchase of a new house to complete. It’s strength-sapping and, I’m sure anyone who’s been in this boat before will know, there are no quick answers. We placed an offer on said property in July and here we are, 3-months later, no closer to moving in. Everything is signed at our end and monies have been transferred to our solicitors so why pray tell are we still sat around twiddling our thumbs? Your guess is as good as mine…

What’s worse is I cannot concentrate on writing, so if you’d like to read something new of mine in future, I implore you to pray to whatever force you follow that my waiting will soon be over…

Until the next time, happy reading,

Stephen

(Stephen is the author of Integration, Remorse, Redemption, Snatched and Shadow Line. Find his work here, here or via stephenedger.com)