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

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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 theBus pt 58 (what makes a good book?)

Good day bus bloggers and train tattlers (you may define your own category), I hope your journey to work is passing slowly enough that you’ll have time to finish this post before you reach the gates of purgatory (or work, whichever comes first).

What makes a good book?

Not such an easy question when you really think about it; and I really want you to think about it. Ultimately, we’re all different (even twins like different stories) and all enjoy different stories. So how can one define what a good story is?

Impossible, right?

Well, if that’s true, how come your Rowlings, Browns and Pattersons make so much money from their manipulation of words? If we really are all different and like different stories, what makes one more popular than another?

Let’s take a step back: it’s far too early in the day to start consulting psychology reference books.

Let’s look at you.

You’re sat / stood / lying down (delete as appropriate) reading this post. You’re an individual: You work (or not), you earn money (or not), you read books (or not) and you read this blog (though I’ve no idea why!!!). You’re an individual, right?

And presumably you read (that or you really have stumbled to the wrong site!). So what do you think makes a good book?

I really want to know.

For me, a good book is one that I don’t want to stop reading. I enjoy a book that compels me to keep turning the pages even when I know it’s late and I should go to sleep. I enjoy reading crime thrillers (hence why I write in this genre).

I don’t like too many characters. I absolutely loved Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code but was less keen on his Inferno. Though both were great books, there was something about the first that I enjoyed more than the second.

But what was it?

I’m not smart enough to figure it out.

But youYou… You seem to like my stories. But why?

What is it that you have enjoyed?

I need to know. If I know what my audience enjoy I’ll be able to write it.

So, this message goes out to you. You. You!

What makes a good book to you?

Answers on a postcard to the usual address (or via email if you prefer) please.

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 55 (it really is a global world, right?)

Good morning tube-trekkers, bus-bloggers and patient-pedestrians.

I started a new job last week. I can’t tell you what it is (just pretend I’m Jason Bourne or something, will you?) but it is part of a global organisation (how many of you are picturing me stroking a white cat at this point?). I have always known I was part of a global group but I don’t think I ever truly understood what that meant until Wednesday when I attended a team meeting via video phone. I was in London, there were 3 in Mexico, 2 in the USofA, 2 in Hong Kong and 1 in Brazil. We were all talking about the same thing but in our own interpretation of the English language. Being a global organisation, this was not as difficult as you might assume (SPECTRE never had a problem, did they?). But it was the very fact that several corners of the world had come together to communicate that really opened my eyes to the possibilities that technology brings to us (did someone at the back just utter “D’uh”?).

I appreciate I might be a bit slow in reaching this obvious insight, but there’s no time like the present to learn new concepts (unless you’re my mother who still can’t remember how to make a call from her brick-like mobile phone). Wednesday’s meeting reminded me just how important technology, particularly the kind used for communication, is. We are blessed with Twitter, Facebook, SKYPE, LinkedIn and the rest but how many of us truly embrace it? The clue is in the title: World Wide Web. Why are not more of us using it to reach out to others across the globe?

Many authors (for that is what I pretend to be when I’m out of the office) will blog about the means they use to build their social network and this usually revolves around a kind of paying it forward strategy where you scratch someone’s back in the hope that they’ll return the favour. More often than not this seems to work relatively successfully. I take my hat off to anyone who can find the time to scratch all the backs out there to indirectly promote their work. I’ve been fortunate to have my spinal itches caressed by others and have endeavoured to return the favour but have struggled to join this group of successful indie authors who reach out and use their fingernails for more than just chewing.

Ultimately, it’s easy to be a writer but it’s bloody difficult to be a successful one. The writing community is warm, kind, gentle and supportive (certainly in my experience), however, the publishing industry is competitive, harsh and not something I would wish upon my worst enemy (even those bastards who called me names in school!). To be a successful writer requires 50% good story and 150% brawn, effort, back-scratching and sheer damn luck (maths skills not so essential thank goodness!). So where does that leave indie author Stephen Edger (that’s me in case you’d forgotten)?

In a dog-eat-dog world I fear that I will only wind up in someone else’s toothpick but despite my reservations about what the future holds I can rest safe in the knowledge that I’ve published 5 of my stories and in doing so I’ve left my digital footprint on the world.

So let’s all raise a toast (orange juice or Champagne – you choose) to those embracing the World Wide Web and hope that we don’t get left too far behind.

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 54 (should I rename the blog to “talk on the train”?)

Bonsoir dear bus bloggers,

Today’s blog finds yours truly aboard a train on my way back from the Big Smoke (a.k.a. the City a.k.a. Landaan town) for today was my first day in a new job. I can’t tell you what I’m now doing as it’s top secret (very hush-hush, wink-wink-nudge-nudge) but it does require the treacherous train trail to our nation’s capital.

Said journey is approximately 3hrs door-to-door and starts with a 5 a.m. alarm call. Hopefully you can begin to appreciate just how knackered I feel as the trundling train traverses the tracks to the terrace (I live in a terraced house and couldn’t think of another word for home beginning with a “t”). For those of you who’ve never made it to London, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned today:

1. Train stations are lonely places at 06.30 in the morning.
It’s true, nobody talks to one another. I tried to initiate a couple of conversations but got the strangest looks (it seems no-one wanted to know about my published works – hard to believe I know!). Eventually the Guard asked me to either be quiet or to leave.

2. An hour and a half in the ‘Quiet Zone’ is time well spent.
I recently purchased one of those Windows tablets so that I would be able to continue my early-morning-pre-work-typing sessions that have served me so well for so long. Today I managed to type 1800 words of the current work in progress. Not much left to write for draft-1 which makes me very happy.

3. There are TOO many people in London
This isn’t so much a complaint as an observation. In the building I’ve been in all day (remember, I can’t reveal its location without taking a contract out on you) there were so many people who didn’t know me but didn’t seem to even flutter an eyelid in my direction. It was quite a change from what I’m used to.

4. Tubes are hot places when they’re full of people and stopped in a tunnel
Alas this is true and something I’m going to have to get used to. Despite growing up in London I still anticipate the tube to be crawling with Fagin’s Artful Dodger(s) and so I spent the journey covering every orifice from prying hands. I survived (I think!)

5. It’s not as bad as some people make out
New York, without doubt, is my absolute favourite city and I would happily move my mini-family there if the opportunity arose. That said, I think London gets an unwarranted bad reputation and needs to be given a chance. Of course my view may change as the weeks progress but right now it seems pretty good.

So, what have I learned from my first day in London? It’s not so bad but it takes some getting used to.

This journey is going to become more regular so I am proposing (NOT marriage) to change the name of this blog to the “talk of the train” but am putting the proposal out to YOU (my followers and digital-friends) to make the decision for me (“delegation is the key to great management” according to my new boss). Let me know if the name should change and I’ll oblige.

Anyway, that’s enough from me (he said, stifling a yawn), I’m off to bed in a minute to do it all again tomorrow!

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 51 (so what have we learned?)

As we approach the anniversary of the ‘Blog on the Bus’ and as I have now commenced my sixth (yes SIXTH!) novel, I thought it best to reflect on what I have learnt from this whole writing experience (you better pour the milk on your corn flakes, we may be some time).

1. It’s not easy.
Whenever I tell someone new that I am a writer (for that is what I’m pretending to be), the reaction is always the same:

Wow, that’s amazing! I wish I was smart enough to write a book. I’ve always wanted to write but I just never have the time.

I usually take the modest-response-option and play down how difficult it is and respond with:

It’s easier than you think, you just need to give it a go.

I say this knowing that none of the people I suggest this to will actually do it, so I don’t feel bad about misleading them. The truth is that writing words on a page IS easy, it’s just the rest of the writing experience that requires effort and patience.

For me, writing a structured plot so that I know at least five things that need to happen in each chapter and how they string together, is fundamental. I spend weeks plotting a project. In the early stages all the plotting takes place in my head (usually before I have finished my previous project) and then I start to write it down. The written plot gets revised several times before I start writing.

At this juncture I should point out that I have a full time job, and I am not lucky enough to have the freedom to type all day every day. So, I have to be very disciplined about making the time to write. I do this by going into the office early so that I can type for nearly an hour before my shift starts. Most of the time I will also take a sandwich to work for lunch so that I can have an uninterrupted hour of typing in the middle of the day. And that is it! The rest of my free time is spent with my wonderful family.

Maintaining this level of discipline allows me to complete a first draft of a project within 3 months.

As I said, it’s not easy but if you can be patient and disciplined, it’s achievable.

2. Editing and proof-reading is worth its weight in gold.
When I completed Integration I asked 1 person to proof read it after my attempt. This resulted in an inferior version of my first idea being published (though a revised version is now available). Whilst it received some positive feedback, it received A LOT of criticism for poor spelling and grammar (although I’ve always prided myself on my skill in this area).

What I’ve learned is that the more eyes that look at a project, and provide feedback, the better. I now use 4 people as well as my own feeble attempts to proof-read and edit and so far, I’m pleased that Redemption, Snatched and Shadow Line have been so well received.

3. Building an audience
This is the lesson I’m still learning. Like any author with delusions of grandeur, one day I’d like to see my work in the hands and homes of every living creature, with the sound of checkout chimes ringing in my ears. Until that day (or hell freezes over, whichever comes quicker!), I need to make efforts to share the fruits of my labours with anyone who will listen. I will persevere with this and hope that those who have enjoyed my stories will tell their friends to give them a go.

So what have I learned so far?

> Writing is not a hobby, it’s a way of life.
> It won’t make you rich over night.
> It takes patience and discipline.
> Despite what I have said, it’s still one of the most enjoyable journeys I’ve been on!

If you are working on a project at the moment or if you’re considering starting one: just do it!

Until the next time, happy reading.

Stephen

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