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msknight

Michelle's corner

Michelle Knight. Writer, photographer, programmer, truck driver and general, all round nut case. Life is a journey and that's what this blog will probably end up being. Let's see where we go, eh? ;-)

Currently reading

Zero Point
Neal Asher
Your Beauty Mark. All You Need to Get the Hair, Makeup, Glow, and Glam.
Dita von Teese
Progress: 208/256 pages

Who am I writing for?

Once a week, I go to the local pub, where I act all social-like and attempt to convince my neighbours that I'm really quite harmless when you get to know me.

 

I was talking with another of the regulars about the book I've started writing, and he asked me to define my audience. I have to admit that I couldn't answer him.

 

He hails from the more traditional business world of manufacturing widgets and selling said widgets, to widget using people. Of course, in his position, the successful manufacturer has to understand widget users, and what they want from their widgets.

 

Personally, I didn't think that his viewpoint translated into the world of books, as different people have different tastes, and those tastes change at differing points in life. But, in for a penny, in for a pound...

 

So, I thought I'd ask you... my audience... to define yourselves, and what widgets you expect to see on my stall ... if that makes any form of sense.

Fake Followers Floundering

"including politicians, models, actors and authors." - https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/11/technology/twitter-fake-followers.html

 

Social media has had a real problem for years. One by one, it's slowly being addressed but to  see authors being quoted, instead of other professions like musicians, artists, etc. should be a wake up call not only to the creators but also to the audience.

 

Me? My career is I.T. and I've been on the internet since the mid 90's, so I could see this coming years ago. Advertising in its current format is failing. I even wrote to the CEO of Unilever with my observations and beliefs about this, so I'm not just an idle keyboard warrior saying, "I told you so," after the sky has started falling in.

 

So what happened? The society of old shoved adverts under our noses. We rebelled with add blockers. People desperate for social media fame went as far as cementing their heads in microwave ovens - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-42271150 - shooting each other with .45 handguns - https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-40438207 - and more, in order to get those all important views.

 

Brands that were desperate to be seen, actually ended up getting a social conscience and not only started pulling their adverts from controversial media (exactly the kind of media that was required to get heads stuck above crowds) but also started firing employees that shamed the company even when they were on their own dime - https://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/12_outrageous_job_losses_due_to_mishandling_social_10202.aspx - and not much of this is a surprise. Amid claims that social media companies were cooking the figures of how many eyeballs had actually seen the adverts sold, https://www.jonloomer.com/2014/02/11/facebook-fraud-response/ - it came as no surprise that advertisers would scale back their social media advertising spend.

 

For the corporations, they are now turning to sponsoring the new wave of content. That will fail too, but for different reasons which mostly boil down to too much of it, in a market which will become very saturated, very quickly. They need to change tack more drastically. As I wrote to Unilever's CEO, I had no clue who Tom Dickson was, but now I know all about his company Blendtec through their videos - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBUJcD6Ws6s so advertisers are still working their way through the obvious.

 

But where does that leave the creators... you know, the authors?

 

Buying likes has been the common way to boost your ratings and in a rushed world some people are likely to latch onto you not because of the book reviews, but due to popularity, in a search for a quick decision on which of the mahoosive number of books to buy next.

 

 However, the social media platforms have now hit problems. People have woken up to the personal data scandal and all the pushing and shoving. Trust has taken a hit... and so have stock prices. Big companies are being levied with fines which, to be honest, are just chump change to them, but are a signal that legislation is coming. The US saw the UK's GDPR and want their own. California are drafting laws and it's all going to get ugly.

 

But where does that leave authors and readers?

 

What? You're looking to me for an answer?! ... for authors, the same old grind will continue. I can see self published authors having a harder time than ever in getting their head above the parapet. Ethics appears to be making an impact; across the board people are being judged as much for who they are and what they stand for, as much as they are the works they produce. Among a certain percentage of the population, I can see this becoming a larger slice of the decision pie.

 

Among the readership, I think it will make it more difficult for some people and probably narrow the choices for those that haven't got the time to put the effort into their choices.

 

Long story short, it has always been tough for the little guy to get noticed. The ways to game the system worked for a little while, but now that door is closing and the indie book world itself will have to find a new way.

An interview with myself.

Where are you from?

 

I’m from Wales. Not the deep sea mammals, but the country. A part of the United Kingdom. Currently I’m living in Sussex, in the south of England, where I’ve been for around fourteen years.

 

A little about yourself (i.e.,  your education, family life, etc.).

 

I’m a career IT technician and for these last ten years I’ve been living with my Mother. It's just how it worked out. No children, but loads of friends. When IT work went quiet I’ve done various things for a living, including brief spells as a photographer, baker and a period as a light truck driver. I like walking for relaxation. I also have channels on Vimeo and YouTube, although I'm not monetised. I'm not in this for the fame and fortune; that's another lesson I learned over time.

 

Tell us your latest publishing news.

 

I’ve started a new science fiction currently titled, “The Wrap.” No idea when it will be finished. It’s a case of doing it whenever the muse strikes. I'm hoping to get it finished this year, but as I have a day job I won't worry if it drags on a little.


When and why did you begin writing? 

 

I started writing in 1996. I was into BDSM and writing was a way of working some of the fiction out of my system. Things you dream of, but will never become reality. That was published by a specialist in the genre. I did see a copy of it available on Amazon three years back, but someone was asking ridiculous money for it, so I stepped in and reviewed it myself, giving it a three star. Someone commented of my review, “You stand practically alone, I would guess, in the modesty of your self-assessment. Remarkable!” I actually checked to see if it was still for sale, but it was listed as unavailable. Well, whoever bought it was warned fair and square!


When did you first consider yourself a writer? 

 

I don’t think I’ve ever considered myself a writer. It isn’t my career. Sure, the elation of holding a book with my name on it was incredible, but over time I realised that I’ve got a long way to go before creating anything of any worth; so I guess I’ll never really consider myself a writer.


What inspired you to write your first book?

 

I don’t think it was inspiration, more than circumstance. I had a computer so the tools were there, and I had emotions that I wanted to get out.

 

How did you come up with the title for your latest novel?

 

At the moment, it’s still a working title based on the central object of the story. Right now, I can’t see that changing.


Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?

 

My previous genre came naturally, as BDSM is in my soul. Science fiction, which is what I write now, is challenging in terms of writing new worlds and new societies with their own rules, while still keeping it relateable. I suppose I could try mixing the two some day, but even that’s already been done.


How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

 

Realistic is where I like to be. Things that could actually happen. That’s what I also like to see in the books that I read. I don’t knowingly bring my experiences of any one individual into the books; although I’ve used common-ish names and I do wonder whether some of my friends think that a character of the same name, is what I think of them; but I think they know me better than that. OK, I, “hope,” they know me better than that. Otherwise, I'm in deep trouble.

 

Some events, particularly the main BDSM series, do draw on real people and events; but everything has to be mashed together to form a cohesive story line, so no one would really be recognisable from them.

 

Of all your characters, which one is your favourite? Why? 

 

I think that Mark is my favourite, from the BDSM series. He’s the dominant, but particularly as the books go on, it demonstrates the areas where he doesn’t have any control and that life haunts even him. Just because he’s the one whose supposed to be calling the shots, he’s still human and can’t control everything. To a large degree, I will always curse that I didn't write these books later on; but it was always actually meant to be, book and done, to get the story off my chest. I certainly didn't envisage making it a series. I think that, if I'd written them later down the line, I could have done a much better job of the books, but even then Mark would have still been the key character, for the same reasons already given.

 

What is your favourite book of all time? 

 

“Dirk Gentley’s Holistic Detective Agency,” by Douglas Adams. There are some other books that nip at its heels, but that’s top of the heap by a small margin.


To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process? 

 

Well, I do travel as far as wikipedia and Google maps let me. Both before and during. For, “Check Mate,” I did a chunk of research on a few locations and I looked over Roswell for both geography and the buildings themselves, as well as the surrounding areas. I try and do my research, but there are limits.

 

Who designed the covers?

 

For the BDSM series, the publisher found the artwork. Check Mate was done by a friend from Germany, and GENIE was done by an artist in Worthing who declined to be named in the book, so I’d better not name them here!

 

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

 

Well, the BDSM series had a message, that scene people are just normal people with a penchant for exploration. They still have to face the same challenges in life that everyone else does. The science fiction books don’t really have a message, except possibly a warning of what can happen to humanity if we take things too far. But then, a good chunk of fiction seems to do that.


Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?  Who is your favourite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?

 

I’m still reading old authors. People who are generally no longer of this world. I blame it on my TBR pile! My most favourite is Terry Pratchett in his early Discworld days. He had such an ability to take mundane observations about our everyday society and turn them into something which would make me actually laugh out loud.


Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.

 

A good friend, Phillip Kettless. He’s named in almost all the books, or possibly all of them, I can’t remember. He’s got a great imagination and I’m hoping that he buckles down and writes his own book some day.

 
Would you please recommend three titles for a holiday break? 

 

“Prison Ramen – Recipes and Stories from Behind Bars”

“The Game Believes In You”

“Life with an Autistic Son”

… and I recommend those even though they’re factual, because that’s what a break is all about; renewal, yes?

Review - "Hey Abbott....."

The Second Myth-ing Omnibus - Robert Asprin

The Second Mything Omnibus comprises of the fourth, fifth and sixth books in the Myth Adventure series. About 520-ish pages in total, roughly 170 per book, thereabouts.

 

It was more of the same as the first omnibus. The situations and gags kept coming in a constant stream. I think I guffawed loudly once in the book, the rest of the humour was a stream that kept coming, but rarely took a breather. Again, like watching a long Abbott and Costello routine.

 

Asprin is a skilled writer, as I think I might have said in the previous review, but some of the situations just didn't ring with me at all, just like in the first omnibus. Things were left unexplained and it wasn't really a roller coaster. It didn't really trigger any powerful emotions. I just felt like I was an outsider, observing the chaos as it unfolded. I did twig the identity of the Ax in, "Little Myth Marker," but I didn't find it disappointing, because I didn't, "feel," for the characters, if you know what I mean. At one point, there were also a lot of characters coming at me too quickly, and I had to put the book down a few times to process what I'd just read, before continuing.

 

An entertaining, well written romp if this is the kind of thing you like.

Early Draft - The Wrap - Chapter 1

Whadda you think? Worth progressing with?

 

----------

 

Seth Anvar. That was his name, according to the screen. Below it was his age. Twenty four. Occupation, chief technology licensing officer for the Planetary Government. He’d come a long way for such a young age. Must have been one of the gifted. His address was in the Gethra district. Nice place. High class. Next of kin, none. Parents dead, no siblings and no life partner. Beneath that, a diagrammatic outline of his body with different coloured splodges showing the various degrees of damage that he had suffered.

 

Terri let her eyes drop from the screen and she examined Anvar’s naked body on the slab. This was the weirdest case she’d ever seen. Large bruises on his waist, cuts on his forehead and his hands were a real mess. Nails ripped and blood all over his fingers. The really confusing part was that the blood was all his. They’d had to break into the apartment to get to him and there was no sign of anyone else having been there. All the doors and windows had been locked from the inside, but the place looked like a riot had taken place. Trashed! It was as if he had been fighting with himself and still managed to be the looser.

 

“Heart failure,” said a tall, slim man in a white coat as he entered the room. “No doubt about it.” he continued while picking up a pair of medical gloves from a nearby table and began wriggling his fingers into them. “I even checked with the central computer. He had a massive heart attack.”

 

“None of this makes sense.” Terri stated the obvious.

 

“I know,” said the medic, “and to see this kind of violence in an area as peaceful as this, is a shock even to me.” He moved Anvar’s head and arm while he examined him, as if in disbelief of what his own eyes were seeing.

 

“I’m going to need his wrap.”

 

The medic looked at her with a blend of horror and uncertainty on his face, “Are you certain? That kind of thing isn’t normally done, you know. It usually goes with the body, in death as it does through life.”

 

“We’ve been over the apartment and found nothing. We’ve been over him and found nothing. I’m clutching at straws here and the wrap is the only thing I’ve got left.”

 

“Well,” the medic paused, “if you’re absolutely sure...” he tailed off.

 

“Unfortunately, I am.” Terri insisted.

 

The medic drew a deep breath. “OK.” He reached over for another pair of gloves and presented them to her. “I’m going to need your help, Detective.” Terri took the gloves and the medic waited patiently while she struggled with the unfamiliar rubber. Eventually, she nodded at him and they positioned themselves around Anvar’s body. “I’ll lift this side, and you push yours towards me.” With a heave and a grunt, they turned Anvar onto his front.

 

The medic lifted a laser knife from the table, and started cutting a large square into the back of the neck. The light hissing of the energy blade meeting flesh, resulted in a burning stench that made Terri wince. It was a smell that hadn’t been in her nostrils since her early days in the Earth Force, when the food riots of 3047 had claimed many lives.

 

The food riots were ended with the discovery of algae growing on the moons that flowed around Saturn. It was possible to process it into something edible, and the Galius corporation converted it to form red, “Moon Bars,” to feed the population. The bars could still be bought, even though the majority of the population had long since left to find their fortune on other planets.

 

Terri fought against her stomachs desire to heave, which grew in intensity as the medic slipped his gloved hand into the back of Anvar’s neck and brought out a heavy chunk of flesh, bone and blood. Putting his free hand underneath to catch the worst of the red liquid before it hit the floor, he went over to a corner of the room and put it inside a box. He pushed a button with one of his stained fingers and the lid of the box gently slid closed. A bright, clinical light illuminated the contents as a gentle hum floated on the air. “It will only take a few moments to dissolve the organics.” said the medic, reaching for a plastic bag which he opened in readiness for what would come out. He peered inside the machine. “Hmm… I think it’s working. Haven’t used this in a while.”

 

The glowing and the noise stopped and, once the medic was satisfied with what he could see, he pressed the button that opened the lid. Reaching inside, he brought out an intricate mesh of metalwork and electronics, which he transferred to the bag and sealed. Presenting it to Terri, he admitted his puzzlement. “I haven’t got a clue what you’re going to do with this, but… here you are.” He finished this with a sigh and continued to hold it while Terri fought to remove her gloves.

 

After wrestling herself free from the grip of the rubber, she took the bag from him. “Thank you. I’ve got the data from the body scan, so he can go to recyc, or whatever you’re going to do with him.” She gestured at the floor. “Sorry about the mess.”

 

“All in a days work Detective.” the medic sighed, clearly not happy that what should have been a simple push of an on-screen button, had now become a tiresome, smelly mop up job.

 

Terri made her excuses and left.

Review - Raising Steam

Raising Steam - Terry Pratchett

“Raising Steam,” was the penultimate novel in the Discworld series, before, “The Shepherd’s Crown,” which dealt with the passing of Nanny Ogg, possibly deliberately to parallel Terry’s own passing.
 
To my eyes, this book investigates the futility of the far right in trying to turn back the progressive multiculturalism in the world. A group of renegade Dwarves who think that progress has led them to abandon what it means to be a true dwarf, are running a guerilla war trying to disrupt progress. The renegades will play while the King is away, and the race is on to get the King back to the Scone of Stone before too much damage is done.
 
In aid of this, the new fangled steam engine is employed, along with decoys and a fair chunk of fighting. In with this are echoes of humanity and moral introspection typical of later Pratchett works. Personally, I found the Discworld series starting with hilariously twisted observations on everyday society and as it progressed the sharp wit was replaced with a deeper look at humanity and the morals which drive us. Had Pratchett lived, I believe he might have taken a look at the other side of the coin, the far left and political correctness; which I believe he did occasionally swipe at, but that’s just a guess.
 
The end of this book was a bit of a disappointment for me, personally; not unlike the protagonist waking up to find the whole thing had been a dream. It was a logical conclusion... that being insofar as logic could ever be applied to the Discworld, but I can't help feeling a bit empty inside at the end.

Review - Observational humour that touched a chord

Going Postal (Discworld, #33) - Terry Pratchett

Thinking of a title for this review is difficult, because I could easily have mistaken Pratchett for having been a civil servant in British government early on in his career. For an explanation of the kind of thing I mean, watch the first 3 minutes and a few seconds of "Whoops Apocalypse" - that will explain the kind of humour in this book.

 

Here, the book is four stars. Number 33 in the Discworld series, I found Pratchett's later books to not be as rip roaringly funny as previous titles. His earlier novels embarassed me considerably, as I couldn't stifle a guffaw while on public transport.

 

In this book, he comments on the real life situation of corporate greed screwing over the general public and society at large, including not caring about the people it kills. But then, that is one of the endeering things about a Discworld novel. Pratchett not only entertains but brings observations about our present society, into the book to be held up for examination, discussion and sometimes just plain old flagrant abuse.

 

The UK's postal service, the Royal Mail, had been threatened with privitisation for some time, as various public services and properties had gone this way over preceeding years. Going Postal was published in 2004, perhaps forseeing the eventual beginning of the privitisation process in 2011. As such, this book holds an extra resonance with some readers.

 

In this book, the public postal service has been tehnologically overtaken by the Clacks, putting the post out of business. A group of financiers took over the Clacks service by dubious financial means, and proceeded to run it at bare minimum investment, causing failures which the public have no option but to stomach. Then, by dint of fate and perhaps more than a little planning by the extremely cunning Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, Lord Vetinari, a new postmaster is found.

 

The task is frought with dangers, including a sorting machine which sorts mail that hasn't been written yet, letters that talk to you and, of course, the owners of the Clacks don't take too kindly to having competition, even if it does cost a dollar to send a letter to Genua. You can imagine the mayhem that ensues.

 

I'll hire vampires if they're a member of the League of Temperance, trolls if they wipe their feet, and if there're any werewolves out there I'd love to hire postmen who can bite back.

Review - Skilled writing, but no rise and fall

The Myth-ing Omnibus - Robert Lynn Asprin

Asprin is a clever writer. He can turn a phrase and has a knack of comedy. This is three books in one. Total of 600-ish pages, at roughly 200 pages per book.

 

Asprin builds his characters well and reasonably believably. That alone is what kept me glued to the book, wanting to read more. There were a few places where I was jarred, but it wasn't enough to make me put the book down. A number of situations left me completely puzzled, like why a smaller dragon should talk with a larger draggon which is under control of someone else, in a battlefield situation... and the larger dragon just give up and fly off. That one left me thinking, "Eh?" and as it was a fairly strong turning point in the battle that was being waged at the time, I have to admit that it left me scratching my head. I just didn't get it.

 

The other thing is that the level of the book continues at more or less the same pace. It didn't leave me hanging on the edge of my seat. I didn't feel like I was riding a rollercoaster of emotion... it was more like a bungling of one situation to the next, with a constant stream of Abbot and Costello.

 

My conclusion is that it was witty and well written, but it left some trails of breadcrumbs where I got lost in the woods through losing the trails, and it didn't really make me want to belly laugh, if you know what I mean. Worth reading, but don't expect to be blown away.

 

Review - As an IT person, I enjoyed it

The Blue Nowhere - Jeffery Deaver

This heavily involves IT and hacking and as you can probably guess, as IT is my career, I am sensitive to certain things. (I'm writing this on a Macbook Air which has been altered to run my preferred Linux distribution, and my mobile is neither Apple, Android, Blackberry or Microsoft. Not telling you what it is!) nevertheless this achieved 4 stars.

 

Even though various segments within the book were technically out of whack (I had to look at the publishing date when I read some company names, as they aren't around any more) it didn't phase me. I could see a few things coming before they hit, but there were many twists and turns that I didn't catch. I ploughed through it quite quickly, and enjoyed the ride.

 

It moved quickly and mostly believably, only jarring me in a few places. Well written and certainly more believable than many thrillers that pull greatly on IT. An enjoyable short read.

"The Wrap"

I've been on hiatus for a while. I had planned "Green lightning," which had a theme of fighting the organised gangs in Mexico. However, it looks like things have got too serious there, for me to write a fiction book around it. So that idea is parked.

 

Issues elsewhere in the world are also quite serious, so I've decided to go into the future again. Science Fiction... again. Begins with a murder investigation. The core plot is already down. I know the who, what, when, where and why. As usual, greed is the primary motivator. Also, a commentary on corporate greed and the weakness and gullibility of politicians.

 

But then... it is a well worn path. The key is the journey... the twists, the tales, the intrigue... that's what it's all about. Right?

 

The next step is the primary characters. Names, descriptions, motivations and where they sit in the great scheme of things. Also, how they change. Would they have the guts to  pull the trigger in the critical moment?

 

Once I've got the primary characters down, then I can use their personalities, drives and agendas to weave the sub plots that will surround the skeleton of the main plot itself.

 

It has taken a while to get to the point where I want to write again. The block of six books that I wrote, took a lot out of me in terms of energy and effort; and nothing sizeable came back to recharge that bank, so I've had to wait for it to fill itself through its own mechanisms. Let's just hope that I take the lessons I've learned so far, and write a better book this time.

Page 4, put down

Zero Point - Neal Asher

I don't know what's wrong. me or the book. Too much detail, too fast, for me to take in, so I've put it down and will return to it another day.

Aww... come on...

— feeling beaten

I know I'm not a successful author, HMRC... but there's no need to rub it in...

 

 

Booh yah....

In GENIE I wrote about Spy Fly. In the meantime, in the real world, we now have RoboFly .... https://newatlas.com/robofly-tetherless-flying-insect-robot/54621/

Even the tax office is a critic

I earn so little as an author that the tax office shut down my self assessment portal account. After some conversations, I sent them details of how much I'd earned as an author.... and got a rebate of £34.50 ... I know I don't sell many books, but... man... that hurts!

 

I thought I could write....

The bathroom needs re-working. The kind of re-working where everything is ripped out and started again. I thought, "OK, I can take a few weeks off work and while they're working on the house, I can make a good start on the next book." ... oh, was I mistaken.

 

There's dust everywhere, and I have to cross my legs for long periods as our only toilet has to go out of commission during certain work phases. I mean... honestly... if I even attempted to write this into a book, no one would ever believe it.

 

Post from Facebook

I'm slowly deleting all my posts on Facebook, and one of them I thought I'd post here, to keep it safe :-)...

 

Dedicating a book to someone you care about is so very, very difficult. How do you wrap up years of friendship, companionship, laughs, tears, hugs, walks, warm evenings together over glasses of wine, cold evenings together over a hot cup of tea ... in just a few words on a page?