Blog on the Bus pt 27 (can someone remove that obstacle please?)

Ah, hello there dear friend, thanks for dropping by. Are you aware this is the 27th week of the Blog on the Bus? That’s 6 months’ worth of bus travel with me as your co-passenger…and yet still you come back for more. Are you a glutton for punishment?

Today’s subject of discussion is a bit taboo (no, not sex again). There is a two-word phrase that cuts into the deepest recesses of every writers’ soul and scars them like a child picking at chicken pox. It’s a phrase that should only ever be whispered amongst literary folk for fear it will cast despair over the work of whomever uttered those immortal words.

Some have compared it to the urban legend of that Billy Shakespeare play that no-one speaketh of…1st syllable sounds like a fast food chain and 2nd syllable is a shortened version of our Majesty’s first name (this isn’t a preview of Dan Brown’s next book, it’s a game of charades!) No, I didn’t mean BurgerLizzie, what kind of play would that be? I was referring to the Scottish play: the one where the Queen does her husband in to claim his throne (only in Scotland, right?).

Anyway, back to my point.

My name is Stephen…and I’m…suffering with writer’s block (the gasps across the room are audible).

There, I’ve said it.

I’ve admitted the truth.

For the past week I have been unable to focus my vivid (and sometimes uncontrollable) imagination on the task of writing Dead Drop. The first 30k words fell out of me faster than heavy diarrhoea (wrong metaphor? Sorry. Hope you weren’t eating). But this last 10k words have been a real struggle, particularly as I’m trying to avoid all kinds of padding. It’s been a stressful few months one way and another and my creativity feels sapped.

Then the answer came to me just now…

We bought a new toaster yesterday (stay with me on this, the end is near) and this morning was my first use of the stainless steel 4-slice beast. Everyone has a favourite toast setting, ranging from barely crisp to burnt-to-buggary and each toast taster will know what setting on their beast will achieve the desired output. But what happens when you replace your toaster? How do you know which digit on the dial will cook to the suitable standard? (that was a rhetorical question, the driver doesn’t care how you like your toast)

The answer is, you go back to scratch and play around with the settings until you find what works for you.

So, what I need to do is return to my plot and adjust it until I’m happy. The starting step (bread = first 30k words) will be the same and the output (perfectly crisp toast = the thrilling conclusion and the end of a popular character) is the same; it’s just how one becomes the other that will be adjusted.

I’m sure the analogies these blogs throw out either amaze, baffle or bore you and yet you keep coming back!

Anyway, my stop is just around the corner so it’s time to ring the bell and thank the driver. I will re-work the plot today and let you know how I get on.

Until next time, thanks for listening and happy reading,

Stephen

Blog on the Bus pt 26 (no sex please, we’re British)

Hi de hi campers. Welcome to another exciting edition of my Blog on the Bus. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin.

The topic for discussion, while you tuck into your Corn Flakes, is sex (whoa there driver, easy on the brakes, I’m talking about sex, not having it). It seems even in this enlightened era that S E X is still something of a taboo for most (in fact I may even be arrested just for saying it out loud on this bus). And yet stories like the 50 Shades saga prove that we Brits, whilst being prudish about such things, can’t get enough of it! There are even some who have claimed that E.L. James is responsible for dragging us out of recession!

So if we are all gagging for it, why don’t we openly talk about it? Sex has been around for thousands of years. Even the Old Testament references the bone(r) that Eve gave to Adam so why do we find it such an awkward topic? You think it’s hard (pun intended) to talk about it? You should try writing about it!

Why am I blabbering?

I’m at a point in my current project Dead Drop (40k words and still going by the way) where I have just written a short sex scene (I mean short in length, not that the characters are short; I’m not writing dwarf porn you understand). So the scene is there to provide background on one of the characters. He appeared in a minor role in Snatched but is someone I am looking to develop for later stories so I want him to have a flawed history. So a question for you fabulous indie authors: where do you find your inspiration?

They say (whoever they are) that you should write about what you know but I’m not sure my wife would approve if I shared the details of what happens when the lights go out. I am no method-writer so I can’t go out and have an affair just to understand what goes where and so forth. So where does that leave me? Should it be based on fantasy (who wants hobbits in a sex scene?) or should I just plagiarise something I saw on the telly? In the past when I’ve ventured into this tantalising territory I have given it my best effort but the writing is less erotic more entry-level. I want to get it right this time so any help or guidance you care to share will be welcomed.

Anyway, that’s all for now. The driver keeps glancing at me in the rear view mirror: I’m either in big trouble or about to be invited out for dinner. Must dash!

Until the next time you find yourself on my bus, happy reading!

Stephen

Blog on the Bus pt 25 (got to wear shades)

Here we are again, aboard the luxury and joy-filled 4A, hurtling across the humble highways of Southampton (what did you call me? I’m a what?! No, I’m a writer…a writer).

As you’ve come over for a chat, let’s talk about my ongoing projects (arrogant? Moi?). Well, I have a couple of stubby fingers in a couple of grubby pies at the moment.

The first is Dead Drop, my latest thriller. I’m 37k words into the project, so technically (technically you understand) I am behind schedule, but in my defence I have been working on other projects in the last week too (see below). Dead Drop finds D.I. Jack Vincent facing his toughest decisions to date, a face from the past and three of the biggest cases he has ever seen. It’s going to be action-packed and full of more twists than an egg cholla (it’s a bread, popular with Jewish folk. Google it!)

The second project is Death Toll, a short story anthology featuring yours truly among a host of other dynamic indie authors. I’ve written a new story, Best Served Cold for the project about a man arrested on suspicion of killing his wife (they do say you should write about what you know – watch out Hannah!) The aim of the project is to introduce you, the reader, to some other wonderful independent authors, and likewise, me to their readers. We have been very busy getting our stories ready. The authors involved include bestselling indie authorAlex Shaw who is the creative genius behind the Hetman series. You’ll also find contributions from Jake Needham, Kim Chamberlain who is the man behind Espionage Magazine (worth a look if you enjoy crime / thrillers) and non other than Internationally famed Stephen Leather. Stephen who writes the Spider Shepherd series has kindly offered a short story to the project to help its launch. Next will follow the website with further details. Watch this space…

That brings us nicely onto project-3: my audacious attempts to get some of my work on the shelves of Waterstones. We are in early talks, so no guarantees yet, but if I continue to badger them, hopefully I can wear them down.

So as the title of this rant (sorry, I mean blog) suggests, the future is looking bright (by bright, I’m talking ‘energy saving bulbs’, not your traditional halogen jobbies).

Oh look, here we are again, time to disembark and return to our families. I swear this journey gets quicker everyday, or maybe it’s just that I’m getting more immersed in this world where I think I’m a writer. Still, you’ve got to have a dream right?

Until the next time, happy reading!

Stephen

Link to Books

Blog on the Bus pt 24 (gratitude is free too)

Hello again. It’s so lovely to see you once more. It’s becoming a bit of a regular trip for you on this bus isn’t it? I don’t blame you; it sure beats taking the train or walking.

Since you’ve stopped by, I wonder if you could do me a small favour? In the past 5-days, I’m sure you’re aware, I’ve been flogging my debut novel for free on the platform that is Amazon’s Kindle. It has been a decent few days, with downloads keeping Integration in Amazon’s Top-100 thrillers. That doesn’t quite make it a bestseller (hell, what does?) but it gets my work out there to a few more readers. And as I said in Blog on the Bus pt 22 the purpose of me giving away my hard work was to increase my readership. I’m sure some will read the novel and see it for the s*** it is, but hopefully some might also connect with it and (dare I say it) buy one of my other novels.

So anyway, the favour is for you to say ‘thank you’ on my behalf to anyone you know who has downloaded a copy of Integration. If you yourself downloaded a copy then please also accept my thanks.

I won’t pretend being an unknown writer is particularly pleasant (the self-doubt, vulnerability and feeling of your heart breaking into a thousand pieces is reminiscent of being a fourteen year old school girl) but it’s something I continue to pursue in the hope that my writing does touch somebody out there.

Enough of this mushy soul-searching: it’s too damn early! Thanks again and please do share my gratitude with anyone you know who grabbed a copy.

Until the next time, happy reading.

Stephen

Blog on the Bus pt 23 (don’t embrace the future too much)

Morning fellow bus traveller. The ‘X4’ is packed on this cold Southampton morning. I wanted to share a rather heart-warming experience I had on Saturday. I visited…

…a bookstore…

…a real one.

Not a digital ‘Internet-based’ bookshelf but a genuine bricks and mortar, dusty and wobbly book case, bona fide bookshop. In this age of computer wizardry where any buffoon can create an ‘e-book’ it was a real joy to walk amongst paper and ink. To be honest, it had been years since I had actually gone to a real book shop to look for something in particular.

Ultimately, I didn’t find what I was after, but it brought back memories of a teenage-me at my local independent bookstore, browsing through spines, discovering new talent.

These days most of us are guilty of only choosing from the limited titles that publishing houses stick on the shelves of the local supermarket (the 3 for 2 culture). Or we look at what iTunes or Amazon have logged in a Top-100 category using their latest algorithm. But how many of us go into a dedicated book shop and look for something different?

It probably seems paradoxical for a “brilliant” (I’m quoting myself here) indie author who is only published thanks to Amazon to be championing the good old-fashioned bookshop but believe me, if you go and stand in one, you’ll know what I mean.

Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t a call to arms. I am not a quiet voice in the wilderness proposing that we burn our kindles in protestation at the end of the common page. There is no point in swimming against the tide (particularly as I am profiting rather nicely from it). I am, however, challenging you not to forget the lowly bookstore you remember from your youth and to remind the readers of the future that they should not allow anyone to dictate what they should read. We all have free will and if, like me, you read for pleasure, then don’t be afraid to buck the trend.

Meanwhile, Integration remains ¬£free to download on kindle until Tuesday 05 February, so don’t miss out.

Oh, here is my stop so I must alight. Until we meet again, happy reading.

Stephen