Choices to improve your writing

Hi there,

We all make choices when we write and the decisions we take fit together to shape our style. Becoming aware of these choices helps the author when planning to write and when writing. Here are some further thoughts and learnings from the coal face of an active writer who is writing while learning to improve the craft of his writing. I hope you find these ideas useful for your own projects.

Perspective

First person, third person or omniscient?

Whose head do you want to get inside when you write? And who are you most comfortable writing about? This makes a big difference to whether you enjoy the writing process and also how convincing the outcomes will be. Expressing motives, thoughts, emotions and characters’ voices are vital to building sympathy or antipathy for the main characters. Of course the writer builds up the story and chooses who to build up in their written characters – the question is – can you be convincing as the part you are portraying in the first person?  Or would it be better to observe their actions from a third person viewpoint?

Balance of parts

How much narrative, descriptive, speech and internal voice?

Seasoned authors move between the different parts of writing with ease, at least in their finished work. The key choice here is what is needed, when and how long to stay with each part of writing. A long narrative can quickly become dull, too little action and the plot will not move forwards. Also be aware that an internal viewpoint can help build depth, but too much deep thought can also become tiresome. In other words it’s all about choosing the balance point for the work in progress. Pieces build up into a tapestry and readers need some space to fill in with their own imagination.

Emotional journey of your protagonist & antagonist

To drive the story you need plot points (events) and an emotional arc to support the main characters’ development. It’s essential that the hero / heroine has an emotional journey at the heart of the plot or the reader will not feel sympathy or pathos for their plight. In other words they need to go through hell and back metaphorically. As writers we need to map out this journey and show how it affects them, then review it in flight to ensure it makes sense and has plenty of twists and turns as the writing on the page develops. I find it useful to have an outline and to allow myself to evolve that outline as the characters react to events in the written story. I also constantly review whether it makes sense how the characters react or adjust to each situation they face. In this way the characters becomes alive on the page or demand a better script – and that’s when you know something is happening…

What to leave out

As writers we choose what to show and we choose what to hide or skip over. This applies particularly to twists, love scenes, violence and how much of the story our chosen writing perspective allows us to show. Often, hinting at events and writing around the outcomes can be as powerful as taking the reader to those places. Then again we have to decide what the book genre needs and how to keep the writing engaging. Wall to wall action, description, erotica and such like can quickly become dull, hence our need to choose what needs to be left out and what is essential to the telling of our story.

Choice of words & structures

Obviously the words on the page can be written in many ways. I recommend reading widely and choosing a style that sits comfortably with your own preference for reading. It is often said that creators create primarily for themselves. That being the case, we choose what kind of book we would like to read and set about writing in a style we would like to read. As a personal check if I find myself reading back work that is clunky or dull, I cut or rewrite. If I don’t recognise that I wrote a paragraph and I like it, that for me is a kind of success. I also recommend collecting lists of words, phrases and structures that you enjoy and to set about using them in the appropriate context.

Pace of your writing

It is often said that the middle of a book can drag or be flabby. I have found this to be true even with genuine bestselling authors. There are remedies available, such as speeding up the pace or introducing new twists at the point where this becomes apparent. In truth, any part of a book could drag and as writers we choose the pacing of each book we write. Too much and heads can spin, too little and they hit the pillow. Perhaps we should start at the end and race to a conclusion? At least it’s an option when plotting out a book or working out how to write in an engaging way.  Personally I am easily bored by detailed everyday life accounts when nothing much is happening in the plot. Then again if the writing includes insights and expressions I enjoy, where’s the harm.

Humour and darkness

What overall tone are we seeking to put across?  Further choices are how we balance light and darkness and the extent to which we introduce humour and horror. My suggestion here is to identify points at which light relief is needed and to crank up the intensity where a climatic sequence is due. Surprising the reader can work, but too much of a good thing can quickly become wearing. Comedy only works when someone is having a bad day, horror only works when it is a contrast to the setting. Much like real life. A series of choices lead to the sequence of scenes and tone that we write, being aware of those choices is therefore the starting point.

Twists and surprises

Clearly we design the slights of hand, the twists and surprises that we include in our work.  A recent trend I’ve noticed in some bestsellers is excessive use of these devices to the extent that nothing that’s left is reliable or plausible. Sometimes the work can become too clever clever for its own good. This may be a good thing for movies, but I suggest choosing a balance and keeping the surprises as big shocks with little or no clues because this can be more effective. Also taking lateral leaps beyond the well trodden path and taking an alternate view can be refreshing.

Editing

As writers we first edit ourselves and then submit to whatever it takes to be published. We should remember the choices that we are willing to accept and reject those that have no proper basis in improving the work. Anything that improves quality and reduces flabbiness is most likely a good thing, but there is a line that someone needs to understand implicitly for each piece – i.e. what makes it work? Perhaps the detail makes the work or the depth of a character. We need to understand this of the work on the page and choose to ‘direct’ the improvement of the work from that perspective. As the saying goes, you can only serve one boss. For me that’s the reader. Editing out all the good bits would of course be a bad thing. The question is – what are the good bits? And are there enough of them?

That’s all for now folks. I hope these ideas help your personal writing journey. I’ve been busy of late writing Sean Yeager Claws of Time, which will see the light of day when my own choices have run their course.

D. M. Jarrett

Hunters Hunted Text 2l

What makes great creative writing?

I’ve been wondering about this for some time now and while there is a no definitive answer here are some thoughts I’ve collected along the way:

Engagement

I find myself preferring a writer who engages me on an emotional and intellectual level. If they don’t, and especially if the writing seems flat, I’m unlikely to continue reading their work. I read because I want to feel something and learn something. To step out from my regular places and thought patterns. As the saying goes – make them laugh, make them cry, take them somewhere.

Flow

Complex writing can be great writing – see the recognised classics – but it needs to flow or I lose patience. There are authors who mystify me with their swirling prose and back to front timelines. If I know where I am in the story that’s fine, but if I’m lost I lose interest. I also look for flow of the words and structures. The best writers make it seem smooth and effortless, though clearly it is a result of graft, revision and polish.

Personality

For me, great writers put their brand of persona into the fabric of their writing. It may be in how they speak to their reader within the book, the kind of humour they employ or the  viewpoint and attitude or philosophy of their writing. In some cases, this personality transcends the story and almost becomes an in-joke of itself. I find this refreshing and enjoyable because it develops another layer to the writing. In a way it builds a feeling of connection of the reader with the author as they tell a new story.

Page turner

I like a good plot as much as the next person, perhaps more so. If the plot fails to move along or surprise, I’m likely to fall asleep. The writing may be great, all the other ingredients may be brilliantly executed, but if the plot sucks – I’m out of there. What makes for a page turner may be at odds with ‘great’ writing, I am though convinced that brevity and economy of words is part of the sweet-spot for a great book.

Mechanics

I’ve scanned several books side by side, hopping from one to the next, simply to understand the mechanics of established writers better. In most cases, they use similar structures, variety, visual and sensory descriptions and impeccable punctuation. Those books that fail in these respects tend to stand out like a sore thumb. That said, if the mechanics are readable and the other ingredients are strong, I’ll read on. I remain mystified at the omission of double speech marks from books, but I guess I’m in the minority on that one.

What makes a book ‘great’?

All the above and then some. The perfect wave, the enduring story.

Ultimately I believe it is a personal preference, accepting that classics are decided over many years. For example, will Harry Potter be considered ‘great’ writing?  I suggest we’ll see in thirty years. Memorable and highly successful, no doubt. Great?  Time will tell. War Horse on the other hand is more likely to be lauded as ‘great’ and with some justification.

 

That’s all for now folks

D.M. Jarrett

 

9 writing tips I learned while writing

I write books for middle grade and young adult readers. And every so often I pause to sharpen the saw and learn more about the craft. Recently I took a break while writing my third book and focused on the editing process. This led to some broader learnings from the web, an editing book and my own realisations.

Tip 1

Avoid speech attribution by being clever with context and implied speakers.

In plain English – keep to ‘X said’, ‘X asked’ and above all avoid the need for explaining who is speaking with paragraph character beats or actions, either before or after the first speech in a section.

Tip 2

Keep to a strict viewpoint per section or better still chapter.

Why? Because only experts can make head-hopping work. Also, it is a far better read if your reader can get to know a character’s viewpoint for a while. Plus, it gives the writer time to develop intimacy with a character.

Tip 3

Use character’s inner dialogue sparingly to show their feelings, thoughts and concerns, but only based on what they can actually see from their perspective.

This helps to engage the reader in who the character is and what they are striving for. Too much inner dialogue though can distract from the plot. Too little and the reader can not get to know the character.

Tip 4

Lose the italics and exclamation marks.

Because – if the dialogue is strong enough it can stand on its own merits without signposts. And vice versa.

Tip 5

Read a lot and make notes as you read.

This won’t help you become the authors you read, but it will help your subconscious absorb the tone, words, structures and flows. Your notes are crucial to retain what you notice. I recommend noting that which you would never imagine writing. And then using similar structures made your own. Never attempt to be someone else, but do try to develop your own voice / style / approach.

Tip 6

Variety matters.

Professionals vary word choice, sentence structures and use of verbs. Because if we repeat the same words or phrases over and again it becomes annoying.

Tip 7

Question arcs for the major characters.

Finding different ways to repeat the core themes of the story as questions posed by the protagonist, helps to drive both the hero’s chains of action and the reader’s perspective of what the story is really about. The context of the question will vary by story type – who did it?  how? where are they? how to survive? where is the prize? how to win? does she love him? etc.

Tip 8

The antagonist has to have a convincing motive to allow the protagonist to be convincing.

In other words, flesh out what the antagonist wants and why to properly define the converse for the protagonist. Too often action movies fail in this respect and suffer as a consequence. Why does your anti-hero do what they do? What do they really want? If you as the writer do not clearly define this, it is unlikely that your work will convey a convincing sense of what the hero / protagonist is struggling against.

For example –

Our hero wants to save the world and get the girl/boy – fine.

But why does the anti-hero want to threaten the world in the first place? What do they gain?  Their own certain demise?  Some weird rebirth from the ashes and a power kick?

What does Jason Bourne actually want?  To kill everyone in the CIA / FBI who made him a super-spy?  Or to figure out who he really is and live a happy life somewhere?  Otherwise he’s pretty much on a survivalist kick and a hiding to endless retreads.

Tip 9

Remove -ly words of all kinds – slowly, quickly, badly – gone… make them active in the verbs – He crawled along. In a split second she drew her gun. He was a terrible shot and he knew it. (Yes I cheated).

And cut out the droning on that gets in the way of the plot. Less is more. More or less. If you need filler (excessive – narrative, back story, inner voice, description or repetition) perhaps your plot or subplots are too thin. You do have a plot outline don’t you?  Read up on the 5 act plot or hero’s path if you don’t.

That’s all for now folks

Happy writing and reading

D.M. Jarrett

Author of Sean Yeager Adventures

 

 

 

 

 

Inspiring young readers with STEM

I hear a lot of talk about encouraging youngsters into technical subjects and careers. My take on this is that hearts and minds are won early, through inspiration and positive experiences. It could be a great teacher, project or visit. Most likely it is a personal experience that is rewarding and fun. All the better if there are opportunities to follow up and develop those interests hands-on. But what really sparks the enthusiasm and motivation inside a young person’s mind?

I believe it is imagination and the space to create and build on ideas.

When I began writing I had a series of choices to make. I could chase the market and write what was most likely to be published next. Or I could play safe and fit in with the typical bookshelf of the day.

I decided to do neither.

I asked my son and his friends what they really wanted to read about in their leisure time. They talked about adventures, gizmos and technology. I set about weaving real-world science and history references around their interests, while keeping things fast paced and witty. And so Sean Yeager Adventures was born.

Here’s an example — How does a light sabre work?

Possibly you are now thinking about energy, particles, plasma, heat, contact, radiation. Perhaps batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, nuclear reactions, matter, laws of thermodynamics, the properties of light etc.

There’s no right answer. My digression was to get you thinking about science and design. Who knows, perhaps one day there will be a real light sabre? I’ve asked this question at home and our conclusions were hilarious.

I’ve heard it said that Star Trek communicators inspired mobile phones. Either way, I suspect we are far more visual than we realise. If we see it, imagine it and think about it, do we then set ourselves the tasks of concepting, designing, researching and building?

Of course the world is full of ideas. Skill, knowledge and application are huge factors, and that is where the education system comes in. Perhaps if we start encouraging imagination and enthusiasm as well, future generations will be better motivated to follow through on their ideas in technical areas?

I’ll leave that debate to academics and educators.

My aims as an author are to inspire, entertain and encourage young readers to investigate science and history for themselves. To date I’ve woven in references to Egyptology, cloning, artificial intelligence, robotics, mind training and numerous technical gizmos.

I have to say that researching the facts has been fascinating, and writing the books has been a blast!

Thanks for reading.

D.M. Jarrett

Author of Sean Yeager Adventures

www.SeanYeager.com

www.seanyeager.com

Sean Yeager Claws of Time – Chapter One

www.seanyeager.comHunters Hunted Text 2l

Hi,

Here’s a sneak preview of the first chapter of Sean Yeager book three – Claws of Time. As you can see, things begin to hot up for Sean, Emily and The Foundation when Darius Deveraux arrives in London and presses on with his evil plans.

While I finish book three, please check out the first two books – DNA Thief and Hunters Hunted – which are available from Amazon UK, Amazon US and all major online stores. Also see the website here at: www.SeanYeager.com .

For newcomers: In Sean Yeager Adventures, two factions battle each other while shipwrecked on Earth, leaving Sean and Emily to figure out why they are involved and how to find their missing fathers. While they try to carry on with their ordinary lives, all kinds of crazy things happen to Sean and Emily, often leading to danger and the discovery of some of the Founder’s many secrets.

Sean Yeager Adventures are action, mystery, adventures with sci-fi and wit, set on a near-real Earth. They are written for middle grade to young adult readers (8 to 17) and upwards. If you or your children like James Bond, Star Wars, Percy Jackson, Artemis Fowl, Harry Potter or Alex Rider, they will most likely enjoy Sean Yeager Adventures.

Read on and find out for yourself…

CHAPTER ONE : DISCOVERIES

A solitary Hyperjet raced across a charcoal sky, tracing an unseen path above a maze of brightly lit buildings and streets. It flew between vast, metal and glass structures, banking and weaving in anticipation of each cloud-piercing tower. The pilot adjusted his control stick and throttle. He fought against a strong, gusty wind that sprayed his cockpit window with horizontal lines of rain and violently threw his craft from side to side. He raised the Hyperjet’s nose to gain height and felt his neck and shoulders press hard into his seat. Wincing inwardly, he spoke into his headset.

“ETA two minutes. Get ready, it’s blowing a gale out there!”

“Affirmative,” replied Agents Geist and Stafford in unison.

The Foundation Agents patted their harnesses and pouches several times with gloved hands, each running through a mental checklist of their equipment. Their Hyperjet levelled and approached a sharp, triangular tower that glowed turquoise in the darkness. Circling briefly, it began to hover and descend towards a gleaming spire, using a red flashing light to guide their way. Captain Shaw, spoke on the intercom.

“Okay Gents, remember this is a recon only mission. Get in quietly, collect your evidence and get out. We need to know what happened to our delivery man. The Brigadier doesn’t want any heroics, understood? I’ll circle the area and wait for your signal.”

The agents nodded to each other. They rose from their seats and took up positions at either end of the cabin.

“Understood Vixen, we’ll be as quick as we can,” replied Stafford.

“Seriously, we’re looking for a missing postman?” grinned Geist. “Ok Vixen, take us down nice and easy.”

“I’ll do my best, but it’s going to be choppy.”

“It’s our lives on the line,” added Stafford.

“You don’t say?” replied the pilot.

The agents clipped their harnesses to winch cables and waited.

“Opening doors in 5, 4, 3, 2, open.”

A deafening howl of wind and rotor noise filled the cabin. The floor split in two, revealing the flat, glowing roof of the Adastra tower. It was an area no wider than a half a basketball court and was surrounded by angular metalwork. Agents Geist and Stafford stood silhouetted against the city lights and tightened their face masks. They stepped carefully onto winch foot-plates and wrapped their hands and wrists through loops of cord at chest height.

“Prepare to drop. Are you ready? Geist?”

“Affirmative.”

“Stafford?”

“Affirmative.”

“Lowering Geist in 5,4,3,2, now!”

Agent Geist swung a short distance across the floor and plummeted downwards. He braced himself against the wind and held tightly to his hand and foot holds. The storm blew him in a spiral and he swung four feet above the roof.

“Geist, you’ll have to jump!” ordered Captain Shaw. “I’m not going to risk it.”

Agent Geist groaned to himself and repeated a drill he had practised a hundred times. ‘Grip, release clip, hold steady, pick your spot.’

“Ooofff!!”

Geist leapt feet first and landed firmly on gravel, only a few feet away from a row of blue illuminated skylights.

“Geist in position. It’s freezing down here,” he reported, pulling his assault weapon from its shoulder holster and tightening the strap around him.

He scanned the rooftop through the weapon’s scope. There were no signs of life, only air conditioning units, some solar panels, a few aerials, a gantry crane and the appalling weather.

“Why did we have to pick tonight of all nights?” he muttered, shivering in the cold.

Geist stayed low to the ground and crept a short distance across the roof.

“Vixen, the coast is clear. Give Stafford a shove from me.”

Geist kept watch over the rooftop, constantly scanning for movement. He peered up for a moment at the noisy shadow hovering above. A dark figure fell rapidly from the Hyperjet’s belly. It jerked to a halt, and began to swing in circles. Geist flipped his weapon onto his back and ran across to help. He grabbed Stafford’s winch plate at shoulder height and steadied it.

“Come on Twinkle-toes, show time!” he joked.

Agent Stafford leapt from his platform and fell sideways.

‘Crunch!’

He landed on a blue skylight. A hairline crack extended from the front of his right boot and forked violently across the glass. Stafford stretched out to spread his weight and slowly crawled off the glass on all fours. He rolled onto the gravel.

The two agents waited in silence for an alarm to sound, but there was nothing. Above them, their winch cables rose and vanished into the night sky.

“Geist, Stafford, what’s your status?”

“Vixen, we’re down in one piece,” replied Agent Geist.

Stafford nodded ruefully.

“Vixen withdrawing. God’s speed Gentlemen.”

“Stay close, Vixen,” added Geist.

“This is Vixen, wilco and out.”

********************************************************
Sean and Emily crept into the family room at Kimbleton Hall. A log fire flickered invitingly in a large grate. Above it, on a stone mantelpiece, stood a plain ceramic clock with Roman numerals. It was nearly seven pm.

“Where’s the remote, Em?” asked Sean. “Our film’s on soon.”

“Wherever you left it silly,” replied Emily, slouching into the most comfortable armchair and lying back with her legs curled up.

“Ahh! Where is it?” complained Sean, scouring the room.

He overturned scatter cushions in a frenzy and threw them in a heap.

“Phew!” he said, finding the controller beneath a purple sofa.

There was a creak at the door and footsteps rippled through the wooden floor.

“Not so fast you two,” announced a familiar voice. “We’ll be catching up with the news, if it’s all the same with you?”

Sean hissed under his breath, and hid the remote behind his back.

Emily’s mother, Mrs Campbell, entered the room with her dog, Braveheart, bounding along beside her. She was followed by another set of footsteps.

“Sean, hand over the remote,” ordered Mrs Yeager. “Now!”

Sean grimaced and pretended not to hear. He turned on the TV and selected a movie channel. The film was Raiders of the Lost Ark, one of his favourites. Emily giggled.

“Now look here, Sean,” began Mrs Yeager. “If you want any time on your computer this month, you’ll hand me the remote this instant!”

“Oh, Mum!” complained Sean, throwing the TV controller onto a chair beside her. “It’s so unfair…”

“Enough!” snapped Mrs Yeager. “There’s something on the news I want to see.”

Mrs Yeager selected a news channel and turned up the volume. The first program was an advert.

“That’s right, buy one bottle of Aqua Vervier and get three bottles absolutely free! Aqua Vervier, feel the goodness of life inside you!”

“Stuff and nonsense,” muttered Mrs Campbell.

“If it’s that good, why are they giving it away?” added Mrs Yeager. “And what’s wrong with tap water anyway?”

“It tastes disgusting for a start,” replied Sean.

And it’s full of chlorine and calcium,” added Emily.

“Calcium’s good for you, my dear,” corrected Mrs Campbell.

“Chalk?” replied Emily.

“Shoosh!” snapped Mrs Yeager, increasing the volume to an almost deafening level. “This is it!”

“Today, an exciting Egyptian discovery was announced by the British Museum. Over to our reporter James Morgan.”

“Boring,” complained Sean.

Mrs Yeager ignored him and leaned forwards in her chair.

“Yes Mark, a team of international archaeologists, based here in London, has discovered a long-lost Egyptian temple, with the aid of satellite technology. In this image, you can clearly see a complex of buildings hidden beneath the sand.”

Sean and Emily studied the TV screen. It showed a black and white image with two blurred squares. Inside the squares, were some shadowy lines and around them were a group of irregular blocks.

“That could be anything,” joked Sean.

“So James, have there been any finds at this new site?” continued the anchor man.

“Yes Mark, the team have announced the discovery of a significant number of artefacts, many of which will be displayed in a special exhibition later this month. What is remarkable, is that this site is hundreds of miles from any other Egyptian ruins. Of course, its location is being kept a closely guarded secret.”

“Amazing,” said Mrs Yeager.

“More mummies? Don’t we have enough of those already?” asked Sean.

Mrs Yeager scowled.

“It wouldn’t hurt you to take more interest in history young man,” she replied. “The sooner you go back to school the better.”

“Oh Mum!” groaned Sean.

“Or we’ll have to find you both another tutor,” added Mrs Campbell. “After what happened…”

Emily sighed, and glanced first at Sean and then towards her mother.

“Actually, I’d like to go back to school Mum,” she said.

“Hmm, we’ll have to see my dear,” replied Mrs Campbell

The news program moved on to its next story and showed a home-made video of a meteorite striking a parked car. The car had a huge dent in its roof and exploded shortly after impact.

“And this is only one of a number of incidents,” said the reporter.

“Why? What happened?” asked Sean.

“Listen,” said Mrs Yeager.

“Locals here say that last night there were an unusually large number of meteorites, some as large as a tennis ball. This video was recorded by a tourist and shows a meteorite destroying a parked car.”

“And what other damage have they caused?” asked the anchorman.

“Well Mark, we have reports of houses being hit, a school bus, some trees, and several commercial buildings.”

Sean and Emily giggled.

“What’s so funny?” asked Mrs Yeager.

“We can’t go back to school because a meteorite could flatten it,” laughed Sean.

“Why? Is your school in America?” asked Mrs Campbell.

“Erm,” replied Sean sheepishly.

Mrs Yeager laughed.

“You have the attention span of a gnat, Sean. The reporter was talking about meteorites in America. Okay, you can watch your film now,” she said.

“And I’ll make you some popcorn my love,” added Mrs Campbell.

“Yes!” cried Sean pumping his fist. “Thanks, Mrs Campbell!”
********************************************************
Two men wearing full-length, black trench coats entered a dimly lit restaurant. It was situated in a quiet London side-street. Although it was early evening, and already dark, its first customers had yet to arrive. The men studied several rows of immaculately prepared tables and a handful of eager waiters. Satisfied that the restaurant was safe, one man returned to a waiting limousine, while the other held the door open for an older, distinguished gentleman.

“I’ll wait here, Sir,” he said.

The gentleman nodded, and gave his coat to a waiter. He sniffed at the green ceramic up-lighters and informal décor. It was a bistro at best. In the centre of the room, stood an impressively large aquarium containing a sunken ship. It was brightly lit, in shades of yellow and blue, with constantly rising bubbles. It appeared to contain lobsters with their claws bound. A figure walked towards him.

“Ah Minister, thank you for coming,” announced a tall, slim, white-haired man, who reached out to shake his hand.

“Mr Deveraux, a pleasure as always. Alas, I am pressed for time. I have some important reading to do before tomorrow’s Cabinet.”

“Of course, Minister, of course,” smiled Darius Deveraux. “Shall we?”

A waiter led them to the best table in the virtually empty restaurant. It was set with glasses, napkins, and a small table lamp. The Minister for Interior Affairs sat with his back to the aquarium, and reached for a breadstick.

“So Mr Deveraux, how can I be of assistance?”

Darius Deveraux sat opposite wearing tinted glasses. He beckoned for the menu, and offered the Minister a small bowl of olives.

“I’ll be direct, Minister, it’s The Foundation. I’m concerned they are a great danger to the public.”

“I understand your concerns,” nodded the Minister. “But you realise they have friends in high places, including the Prime Minister?”

Deveraux stretched his pale face into a half smile.

“I can tell you are not a supporter of The Foundation, Mr Deveraux?” added the Minister.

“My concerns are that they spend public money, and have a record of causing damage to public property.”

“Well, let me allay your fears, Mr Deveraux, The Foundation does not receive a penny from the Government. It is entirely self-funded.”

The Minister accepted a copy of the menu and sighed. He scanned it briefly.

“I am relieved to hear it,” replied Deveraux, focusing on the Minister through his glasses. “However, my sources tell me that The Foundation are reckless. Only a few months ago they destroyed an entire shopping mall.”

The Minister raised his right hand in acceptance.

“And the whole affair was thoroughly investigated. It was caused by eco-terrorists. The Foundation was cleared of any wrongdoing.”

“How convenient?” scowled Deveraux. “And who was backing these ‘eco-terrorists’ I wonder?”

Deveraux nodded to a waiter, unseen by the Minister. From the aquarium, there was a gentle sloshing of water. The Minister looked up with a quizzical expression.

“I believe that someone’s chosen a lobster,” he explained. “Are you partial to them?”

The Minister shook his head, and returned to examining the menu.

A waiter stood behind them, and flipped open the aquarium’s lid. He appeared to mentally choose a lobster, but looked startled and quickly backed away. He composed himself and approached the Minister.

“Are you ready to order?” he asked.

The Minister peered over his reading glasses and gave an audible ‘huff’ as he breathed out. Deveraux noticed the waiter’s eyes glow red and nodded to him.

“I need another two minutes,” replied the Minister, shrugging as he returned to his deliberations.

Behind him, a dark shape slowly approached the front of the aquarium, sending lobsters scuttling in all directions. The creature completely covered the shipwreck with its muscular bulk. It was covered in dark, mottled scales, with here and there a few luminous green stripes. It stretched out and extended several long tentacles above the waterline. Using its suckers it climbed and reached over the edge of the aquarium’s thick glass wall.

‘Slap!’

With a sudden whiplash motion, the creature hurled a lasso-like tendril around the Minister’s neck. The Minister sat bolt upright with a startled look on his face and gasped. His veins pulsed and protruded on either side of his throat.

“Are you alright, Minister?” smiled Deveraux.

“Feel my pain!” wheezed the Minister, with his eyes rolling upwards inside his eye sockets.

“Excellent choice, Minister,” added Deveraux. “I knew you would see it my way. The Foundation simply cannot be allowed to continue. Are we clear on this matter?”

The Minister struggled to reply and Deveraux did not wait for a response. He stood and leaned over the table, steadying the Minister’s head with his left hand. The tentacle released its grip and withdrew to the aquarium, as quickly as it had arrived. Deveraux ignored it, and picked up a napkin with his free hand. The Minister groaned quietly as if in a trance, his eyes now shut. Stepping around the table, Deveraux dabbed at a red puncture mark on the Minister’s neck and raised his shirt collar to hide the evidence. Next, he gently lowered the Minister’s head to rest on the table, beside his plate. Deveraux waited a moment, before walking confidently across the restaurant towards the bodyguard.

“I think the Minister needs your help,” he called.

The bodyguard stopped reading his newspaper and crumpled it in two. He looked disgruntled, as if someone had disturbed his rest. Deveraux spoke calmly.

“He seems to be over tired,” he added.

“Leave it to me, Sir,” replied the bodyguard, speaking into a microphone inside his sleeve, and glancing across at his superior.

By now, the Minister was sitting upright and babbling incoherently with a wide grin on his face. The aquarium had returned to its yellow and blue glow, with red shapes wandering slowly across its gravel bed. A waiter stooped to wipe the polished oak floor with a napkin, while another poured water into a bulb-shaped glass in front of the Minister.

“It’s been a long day,” smiled the bodyguard. “He’s barely eaten.”

“Indeed,” replied Deveraux with a smile. “I do hope the Minister will be okay.”

The bodyguard grinned.

“I’m sure he’ll be fine after a good night’s sleep, Sir.”

********************************************************
Agent Geist unclipped a pouch from his webbing. He opened its cover and selected a cutting tool and a spray can.

“Looks like the shutters are pretty strong,” he said. “Lucky for you.”

Geist leaned over the row of skylights. It extended for several paces in a large rectangle, like an ornamental glass pond. Beneath it, he noticed a grid of interlocking metal fins that formed a solid barrier. A faint blue light glowed through some punched holes in the metalwork.

“What do you mean?” asked Stafford, inspecting the glass.

“Or you’d be freefalling into the lobby” explained Geist. “Splat!”

“But it’s toughened glass,” said Stafford. “It cracked, that’s all.”

“Here,” said Geist, passing Stafford a sonic cutter. “We’re behind schedule. Try not to break it.”

Geist motioned for Stafford to cut an adjoining panes of glass. Meanwhile, Geist cut a large oval hole. His sonic-cutter squealed at a high frequency, barely audible to humans. Using a handle with two suction cups, he removed the unwanted glass and laid it on the roof, beside a row of heat-exchange units.

The rain had stopped, but a strong gust of wind nearly blew Geist off his feet. He crouched and leaned into the storm, until the wind had died down.

“So how are we going to get through those shutters?” asked Stafford.

“Watch and learn. If this gel doesn’t work, we’re aborting the whole mission,” replied Geist.

Geist leaned over the first hole and sprayed a fine gel onto the shutters. The aluminium fins spluttered and fizzed, throwing steam and bubbles of noxious vapour into the night sky.

“Stand back!” he ordered. “Or it’ll melt your face.”

Stafford staggered away and nearly lost his balance.

“Of course, that might be an improvement,” chuckled Geist.

Satisfied with his work, Geist repeated the exercise on the second hole.

“Okay, let’s find something firm to hitch onto,” he said.

After several minutes of preparing lines, harnesses and clips, Geist tested their anchor points and nodded.

“Scanners on,” he said.

Stafford shuffled forwards and sat on the window frame, with his legs dangling into an empty space.

“No signs of movement below,” he reported.

Geist sat beside him. A cavernous atrium stretched out beneath them for hundreds of feet. He could just make out a row of elevator shafts in the dim light. Geist felt his heart pounding and checked his harness and line for the third time.

“Remember, we’re heading for the first balcony on the right,” he said. “Last one down is buying drinks!”

Agent Geist cast off into the chasm and whirred down his line, swinging gently as he went. He braked by wrapping his boots around the rope and squeezing with his legs, as the floor approached. Geist landed softly, and quickly detached himself. He took up a position with his back to the wall, and brought his weapon up to his shoulder. Through his scope, he noticed a line of elevator cables and a handrail. Only one of the elevator cars was visible. It was glass-walled and empty.

“Quiet as a crypt,” he reported, scanning the rest of the balcony.

Geist watched Agent Stafford land a short distance away.

“What kept you?” he joked.

“My need to stay alive?” replied Stafford grimly.

“It’s gonna cost you,” grinned Geist.

Geist watched Stafford pull out a sidearm from his thigh holster and check that it was loaded.

The building was strangely quiet and even the gale outside was now a distant rumble.

“Where’s the night watchman?” asked Stafford.

Geist crawled to the edge of the balcony on his hands and knees and peered down into the main lobby. Far below, he could just make out a lone orange spot against a cool grey background. In front of it, stretched a wide, curved desk.

“In the land of nod by the looks of it,” he replied.

“Vixen, we are in position, over,” reported Stafford.

“I copy that,” replied Vixen.

Geist rose to a crouched position and scanned each end of the short balcony through his assault weapon’s sight. It had a neatly carpeted floor with fake plants and little else.

“Okay Houdini, work your magic,” he said.

“I’m on it,” replied Stafford.

Geist stood guard, and watched Stafford run past him to examine a door with a long vertical bar for a handle.

“Where’s the keypad?” asked Stafford.

“Come on, we’re running out of time!” complained Geist, turning around.

Stafford scanned the wall looking for signs of heat and shook his head.

“Do you have any burn gel left?” he asked.

“Sure do, but we’re under strict orders not to leave any mess behind.”

Geist reached into his map pocket and pulled out a pencil-shaped device and threw it to Stafford.

“Magnetic impulse detector,” he declared. “There has to be a locking mechanism somewhere.”

The device flashed green, as Stafford swept the wall on the left-hand side of the door frame.

“Set your blaster to impulse, should do the trick,” suggested Geist.

Stafford fired his blaster at the wall. His weapon hummed quietly, but nothing happened.

“More juice,” muttered Stafford, adjusting the power level.

Stafford fired again and a short flash emerged from a tiny crack in the wall. A small gap appeared in the textured wallpaper and a square flap became visible. Stafford pulled out his combat knife and prised open the outer casing. “Looks like a manual override,” he explained.

“Then fuse some wires, Houdini! We’re late for dinner!”

Instead, Stafford reached inside the wall box and flicked a switch.

‘Hiss!’

The door opened inwards with a sudden rush of air. Geist approached and peered into a dark corridor.

“It’s all clear! Come on!” he said.

The moment Geist took his first steps into the corridor, another door hissed open a few strides ahead. He raised his weapon, fearing the worst.

“Wait!” called Stafford.

But he was too late, Geist passed the inner door, and began to scan the interior.

“Stone cold,” he reported. “I can’t see a thing in here for the fog. It’s colder than outside.”

Geist crept forwards, and switched his helmet scanner to sense heat and movement. The room was dark and full of dense vapour. He noticed a cold, blue pattern on his headset, but no sign of activity.

And it stinks of chlorine. What is this place? A swimming pool?” he complained.

“That’s what we’re here to find out,” replied Stafford. “Come on Geist, raise your game.”

Geist inched slowly forwards through the fog, and heard a dull metal ‘clang’ beneath their feet.

“What was that? Did you drop something?” he asked.

Stafford, turned towards him, with his weapon and visor glowing bright red.

“It’s our boots,” he replied, tapping his foot against the hard floor. “We’re on a metal walkway.”

“I don’t like this,” said Geist. “Take your readings, and let’s get out of here!”

“Sure,” replied Stafford. “Just a little further.”

Agent Geist noticed a tiny flash of red light at ankle height on his left. Stafford took a step towards the beam.

“Stop!” he cried.

‘Bamm!’

The inner door slammed shut behind them and hissed. It was followed by the howl of overhead fans. Soon, the fog began to swirl around them. Geist turned to his right. On infra-red he noticed a distant orange spot, it was joined by a second, then another. A row became visible, then a second row. He flicked his headset to ultra-violet and his stomach sank like a lead weight. Geist realised in horror that they were standing in a vast gallery, four floors high that stretched as far as the eye could see. Each floor held several rows of stands, and each stand held a dark figure wearing a mask, tubes, and a combat suit.

“Stop!” he ordered.

Stafford stood with his weapon raised. Around him, a pale orange glow illuminated the clearing fog on all sides, and a series of dull thuds echoed through the gallery. Geist peered into the mist and saw the distant outline of a dark figure. Behind it stood another. One by one, the figures moved, with their eyes shining red. His infra-red sensor glowed with a patchwork of heat patterns, changing from pale yellow to orange and then crimson.

“Hostiles ahead,” he reported. “This is going to get really messy.”

 

I hope you enjoyed Chapter One of Sean Yeager Claws of Time (book 3 in the series). Please stay tuned for more news about Sean Yeager books.

For more information, take a look at the website at www.SeanYeager.com

Books One and Two are available from Amazon UK and Amazon US in print and e-book formats. Book Three will be ready in 2017.

Happy reading

D.M. Jarrett

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 learnings about self-publishing from a dedicated independent

Hi, here are 7+ things I have learned about self-publishing by doing it myself, researching, talking to professionals and discussions with other authors (independent and traditionally published).

Now before we start, I am the living embodiment of ‘learning from not yet succeeding’ at this point, so please consider these thoughts and how they apply to you. In other words, I do not profess to have the magic gift of how to sell self-published books, yet. I have succeeded in progressing this far and the genuine positive feedback from readers has been what has sustained me to this point. That said these are honest findings from the coal face without sanitizing to suit my sponsors. (My little joke – I don’t have any sponsors).

I have self-published two books for 8 to 14 year olds and here are some things I’ve learned along the way. Check out my books online here and here, If you know readers in this age group please support me by reading free samples of Sean Yeager Adventures either on my website here or with Amazon’s ‘look inside’ feature. If you feel inclined please purchase a copy.

  • Yes you can self-publish
  • The mechanics are relatively straight forward to execute, learn the ropes and DIY with CreateSpace, Smashwords and similar. Do not pay someone else huge amounts of money to format or create your book. If you need some help with e-books it can be worth a modest sum £60 / $80 to resolve formats with a first edition. You will however need a cover designer and help with editing your book, because different perspectives will help you to increase your book’s quality. The cover in particular is critical to how your book is perceived. I suggest budgeting according to how complex your cover needs to be and negotiate good terms. Editing is all about raising your game to professional writing standards, for which you will need to find a good editor with knowledge of your genre.
  • Self promotion is challenging
  • There are numerous articles on the internet about how to promote books. Essentially you need to have a promotional plan and ‘reach’ to sell books. I define ‘reach’ as the number of people you can put your product in front of with a promotional message. That can be real world, online or through paid advertising.  I have found promotion to be a challenge. You also need to clearly understand your target market and make sure you can reach them.  (e.g. mine is mums & dads buying for children aged 8 to 14 who like adventure books)
  • Twitter – does not sell books. It is too noisy and full of pushy self-published authors and promoters of the same. I have also heard it said that people go there to dump emotions not to buy. If you find an exception go with the flow. You can gain interest about yourself as an author and possibly clicks to your website. None the less, Twitter users are reacting and want to say something, direct sales for books are less likely.
  • Facebook free – rarely sells books unless your reader audience is online, typically aged 20 to 35. You need genuine organic word of mouth to encourage people to buy your books.  I have also heard it said that people are checking out their interests and connections, browsing rather than buying.
  • Facebook paid advertising – is good for targeted visibility, but rarely sells books in my experience.  Now that may again be due to the ‘mode’ people are in when using Facebook. Browsing rather than shopping. Clicks to your website will help, your website then needs to convert the interest to actual sales which is the tricky part.
  • Google Ads paid – rarely sell books, but will send traffic (briefly) to your website. It is complicated to use Google Ads and it can be expensive. The click-through location is where the selling would really happen, hence the challenge. Can you set up a compelling shop to convert traffic for your books into sales? It is worth remembering that you can not advertise your own website and also direct traffic to your Amazon page in the same Google Ad.
  • Goodreads – can sell books, if you receive good word of mouth, reviews and give away books. Again your target audience need to be using Goodreads for this to be effective. The Goodreads audience is broader than Facebook and book-centric which helps. The rest is down to how you engage with your Goodreads audience. Claim your works, add a blog, run some giveaways, contribute to some forums, but never argue with anyone on Goodreads about your own works.
  • Book blogger reviews – might sell books. I honestly would not know because hardly any book bloggers with good reach are open to reviewing new books in my genre. It seems the market is saturated and traditional publishers are targeting book bloggers. If you can have your book reviewed by a book blogger within your book’s target market I recommend it.  The visibility is probably worth the effort.
  • Face to face selling – does sell books, but in limited quantities. The buyer is buying ‘you’ as much as the book. It can be embarrassing the first few times, but it is satisfying if the reader genuinely likes your book and gives you balanced feedback (which I am pleased to say has happened to me).
  • BookBub (newsletter) does sell e-books, but only if they accept you and you are targeting an adult reader market. And yes it is not a given that they will accept your book, they price and prioritize based on the market reach for your book’s genre. It is worth reading their price list alone to understand the market size you are dealing with.
  • Your own Newsletter – can sell books, especially when you are launching a new book to an established list of people who have signed up to hear more about your work. You will though need to incentivise them and add the links into the promotion you send out.  I suggest treating your subscribers as you would prefer to be treated, with relevant, infrequent and genuine offers. I do not propose spamming with news updates or trivia because this tends to annoy people and they will most likely junk your emails.
  • Your own website – might sell books. I see a steady trickle of traffic to my website www.SeanYeager.com . (Most people think I am Sean Yeager which is entertaining.) You can control your own content on your website. I suggest using a relatively cheap provider who can support what you need and where you control all the content yourself, hands-on – blog, pictures, about, product information etc. If you need a shop you need to be more careful, because it is more complex to set up a compelling store online, especially for mobile phone users. Likewise for video blogs and storage. Shop around and trial some.
  • Your own blog – can sell books. However you need ‘reach’ and ‘relevance’ for this to be the case. Often authors become ‘author helpers’ or ‘consultants’. When this happens I wonder to what extent their viewers perceive them as a service provider or advisor instead of a book seller and author. In fact they may well make more income from services & advertising than books. Or from books about ‘how to self-publish’, no pun intended because it is an industry in its own right.
  • WordPress is a really good platform and the free offering is great. If you need more features, I suggest shopping around for the right balance of price and ease of use. If you plan on becoming a professional blogger / expert, it is important to have enough storage for your video blogs and articles.  I have no such aspirations at this time, so I stick with WordPress Free. (And no they do not sponsor me).
  • Don’t give away free e-books
  • This will be controversial to some. I suggest keeping a price and protection on your e-books at all times. Firstly, because it puts a value on your work. Secondly, because people will pirate your work more easily otherwise. I do not believe that people who take free books are inclined to buy future books. Also, you would need to have a lot of different books available to benefit from any halo effect caused by your first free book. Instead, I suggest making free chapters available on your website. Or consider cheaper offers for your book for a limited period. Smashwords are good with offer codes which you could combine with your newsletter for a new release.
  • Learn to think like a marketeer
  • At first you need to think like a writer, because let’s face it you need a lot of good ideas and hard work to complete your book.  However, you also need to embrace thinking like a marketeer for your work as a product as well. This will be needed for all the strap-lines, brief book blurbs, the back and inside covers, your website text, how you position your work and of course your promotional plan. Fortunately it is possible to learn about marketing, advertising and promotion online using resources in YouTube and on career marketeer’s websites. This will speed up your learning curve.
  • People will discriminate against a self publisher because you are not ‘published’
  • Rightly or wrongly people will assume that your product is not as high in quality as a traditionally published work. The truth is that no matter how emotive you may be about this lack of fairness, it is going to happen. You therefore will need to dig deep and find your coping approach and support. There are successful independent authors who self publish and as far as I can tell they will sign a deal with a multinational to gain reach and a better deal once they have gained attention. And to be honest I would be tempted myself depending on the nature of that ‘deal’. In the meantime, you can sell books despite the discrimination, only don’t bank on leaving your day job for a while and best of luck with the selling.
  • Book fairs – I was asked for my publisher to forward my back-list before even being considered to be part of a book fair. It was the published authors’ subtle barrier. Now if I knew what a back-list looked like and had a publishers’ letter head I could play along.  Most likely they would then have me marshal a car park.
  • Book bloggers – most do not want self-published books to review and they say so. You could try to bypass this, but honestly you could equally annoy them into a poor review.
  • Book stores – pretty much struggle as it is. Those that do not are probably open to local authors to some extent. However, if you mention self-published / independent you can pretty much see their eyes glaze over. Best tactic is to not mention it and put forward your charm to sell yourself and your sale or return books.
  • Book store head office – will routinely ignore your self-published book unless you somehow manage to meet someone sympathetic to the qualities of your book. They already get bombarded with books from traditional book publishers who offer all kinds of incentives, so the competition is fierce.
  • Libraries and e-libraries – may take a free gift of your book. They may also tell you that someone has to vet it first before putting it on the shelves. It’s worth a try. However, e-libraries are now locked down by a handful of suppliers who only deal with publishers who offer a minimum of 6 plus books. So you’ll need help to get around the restriction and gain an account with them.
  • Book giveaways often do not lead to book reviews
  • Book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads make a difference. Getting them and keeping them is tough. I do not recommend attempting to rig reviews because people notice and Amazon has been known to remove them. I do recommend asking anyone who is willing to write an honest review and post it on Amazon and Goodreads. Now, giving away a print copy on Goodreads may lead to a book review. The odds are about 10%. Goodreads prefer that you do not contact the winners or entrants, which is not so hot. I suggest you write a note when you send out the physical book to winners and ask for a review from them. It does not always work and sometimes the receiver can be mean in the review. However, it is still a review and decent people will give you a fair review in exchange for a free book.
  • You will need trusted beta readers
  • It’s a tricky balance – who do you trust?  Well you can start by trusting yourself. Next, hopefully your partner, though be aware they could become jealous or dismissive, it happens. What you need is a set of beta readers who are interested in your genre of book. Ideally you need them to be balanced in their feedback. That said, if you have some overly critical, some more relaxed and plenty of mistake and typo spots, you are onto a good thing. I suggest you follow-up on everything they spot even if it does not make sense at first sight. I have known five people to overlook the same typos and plot holes before now. And you need all the help you can find to maintain high quality writing for your book. Also thank them and gift them a signed print copy, it’s a win win.

Hope these thoughts help you on your quest. Best of luck. Remember to share this link with people you know and feel free to drop by www.SeanYeager.com .

Thanks for visiting.

D.M. Jarrett

www.seanyeager.comHunters Hunted Text 2l

 

 

 

 

Readers love Sean Yeager Adventures books

Sean Yeager books are written to inspire and excite readers. I often hear feedback from parents and I ask what their child likes and ‘why?’ Here are some highlights.

If you are considering buying a present for a child in your life (8 to 15) take a look at a free sample of the first chapters: DNA Thief and Hunters Hunted .

Verbal feedback about DNA Thief:

Mike:  My son raved about the DNA Thief, he said it was the best book he’s read. He loved the action and insisted on writing his own Amazon review. He’s quite selective about what he reads and he took his time reading it because he didn’t want to miss anything. I was taken aback, we’ll buy the second book as a special present.

Alison: Our son was up until late reading DNA Thief and he wouldn’t put it down. He finished the book within two days. He says it’s his second favourite to Percy Jackson. He loves all the gear and gizmos. He asked if there can be more machines and gear in the next book? He wants to know what happens next.

Anne: My son read both books from cover to cover in a few days. He’s now read it twice and raves about the characters. He’s been designing pictures of craft and bases inspired by  the book. He can’t wait to read the third book. He’s asked if there can be more jokes and lots of incidents. He loves the characters and wants to know more about what happens next.

Here are some Amazon.co.uk reviews in the words of the reviewers:

It is sci-fi and an action thriller rolled into one, and centres on Sean Yeager, who believes he is fairly ordinary until a burglary at his home reveals he is anything but. The boy is spirited away by a protector he didn’t know he had – The Foundation. From there the plot unravels at terrific speed, and reveals secrets about Sean’s Dad and his own status.
My only comment would be that the title and cover graphics might not be as enticing to kids as they should be – this book deserves to be read! The other character names, such as Major Clavity and Greerbo – are certainly spot on.
Both tongue-in-cheek and seat-of-your-trousers thrilling, it is cleverly written ‘take’ on the ‘Boy Fights World’ philosophy of more well known titles and, in my view, stands up just as well. Love2readuk

There was so much action in this fast-paced thrill ride that I kept seeing it as a movie in my head. Never sure where the story was going, I decided to sit back and enjoy the ride. What would have helped was to have put on some popcorn first! Although I understand that this is the first in the series I wanted to know more about Sean and indeed his mom who is quite the character and I laughed every time she shows up. I hope we see more of her in the series. What I also really liked was the fact that the bad guys really are bad guys and not some laughable buffoons like we tend to see in so many other kid stories. DragonOne

Sean Yeager and the DNA Thief is a fast-moving action-packed novel containing lots of exciting, humorous and thrilling scenes. This book is a must-read and a worthy competitor for James Bond. The story is about an organisation that has set out to protect a boy named Sean Yeager, who has special powers. Although he is only a boy, a lot of trouble was spent to kidnap and protect him and it’s fun finding out why. This book has really excited me and I can’t wait until the next book comes out!:-) LavaMitts

And a review from Goodreads USA:

I will put this book into my reading cupboard for my high school students as they will enjoy it. This story had action and an interesting storyline and I want to know what is going to happen to Sean and why he is so important to the Founder. How do I get this next book?  A, Goodreads

 

Wishing you a great holiday season and a Happy New Year!

I’ll be busy preparing for the celebrations, while finding time to develop book 3 Claws of Time which is now plotted and in progress. There are so many ideas I’m struggling to fit them all in!

Happy reading

D.M. Jarrett

www.seanyeager.com

 

 

 

Sean Yeager Adventures website

Buy Sean Yeager Adventures books