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 57 (the plot thickens)

You know, it always amuses me when people say “You’re a writer? Oh, I always wanted to write a book…but I don’t know what I’d write about!”

It amuses me because I was one of those people. I always had this voice in the back of my mind saying “You should write a book!” I ignored the voice for as long as I could through a combination of alcohol and prescription medication but still it persisted:

“You should write a book!”
“But what about?” I would argue.
“Write what you know,” the voice told me.

Eventually, I relented and decided to give it a go. I’d tried before of course and had failed. I wondered if I could do it…

So, how does one judge success? I suppose it depends on your point of view. At the time of writing Integration, I judged success by how many words I could get on a page (I should point out that this is an appalling measure of success and would strongly discourage you from using it!) I was delighted to write a one hundred thousand word manuscript with no real idea how I had arrived there. I remember writing the first four thousand words and having a very rough idea in mind of how I wanted it to go. But that was it: it was all in my head! To say that writing Integration was more luck than judgement would be an understatement.

I knew when I endeavoured to write again that I wanted a greater structure and so physically typed a plot statement for Remorse. All it covered was what would happen on each ‘day’ in the book but didn’t break it down chapter-by-chapter. It was a better way of doing things but still left me scratching my head on occasion wondering what I should write next.

So, I evolved again and by the time I was ready to write Redemption, the eagerly anticipated follow up to Integration, I had a plot that broke down what should happen in each chapter and it was very easy to write. Seems obvious, doesn’t it, but at the time I was writing blind; there is so much help and support out there from various authors (both ‘indie’ and ‘traditional’) that it’s easy to lose sight of what is beneficial.

Writing a plot these days, for me, is a three month process and a good plot can be upwards of 10k words before I even type the first line of a manuscript. But it works: I managed to write my latest potential masterpiece in two months!

I’ve just started writing the plot for a new project. The writing won’t start until January so there’s plenty of time for the plot to develop in my head and on the page. This one is set over twelve hours and so the plot will need to be very detailed as I’ll need to know exactly what is going on with all the characters at any given minute. It’ll be a challenge but one I’m relishing!

So, the next time you hear that voice in the back of your mind saying “You should write a book!”, don’t challenge it, don’t argue, just say “Yes!” If I can do it, anyone can!

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 56 (finding fun in France)

Salut, bonjour, hello and hiya! I’m back from my far flung fortnight in France and up to my usual tricks (well I’m on the train to my job in London).

So, what have I learned?

> My grasp of the French language is better than I remembered.
> Driving in Europe is not quite as heart-in-mouth as I had feared it would be (there was the odd scary moment but that’s what happens when you drive with your eyes closed)
> Flan Parisian is thick custard in pastry and absolutely delicious!!!
> There is nothing wrong with €1.50 wine (grabbed ten 1l bottles for €15!). It was very drinkable and I shall be enjoying it till Christmas.

I spent the two weeks relaxing, drinking, eating cakes and proof-reading. You’ll be pleased to hear I excelled in each of these areas. I managed to finish draft two of ‘Trespass’ my next project. It will be off to my team of proofreaders in the next week and I will publish it on 01 December. What’s more I began work on a new 15k word novelette, which I’ll publish at some point in October.

As any struggling-to-be-heard-over-the-crowd (too many hyphens?) indie author, I know what it is to be racked with self-doubt (if the acne-ridden teenager doing work experience in the publisher’s office doesn’t like it then it must be crap, right?). I’ve now self-published five novels and three novelettes in the three years since I set off on this road to writer-dom, with the two projects already mentioned due before the year is out. Surely there’s a reason I’ve completed all these projects? Right? I mean, surely (don’t call me Shirley!)

What I actually learned in France was:

Your Rowlings, Shakespeares and Browns can capture the majority of the reading world and enjoy their millions of pounds in offshore bank accounts. Whilst I would love to join that club, I have something they don’t: I have the minority audience, the handful of people who defy the pimply teenagers in the publisher’s office and actually enjoy my work! That’s something JK, William and Dan will never have. They are my loyal fan base and the fact that I’ve entertained them and you means I’ve achieved my writing goal!

I set out on this road to leave my name in history. I guess I can consider that box ticked.

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)