Category Archives: fiction

What next after Harry Potter? 5 Great middle grade to tween book series

Well it had to happen, our son has read all the Harry Potter books and we’ve been searching for other great book series. In no particular order here are 5 great book series for middle grade to tween readers. (I have omitted Young Adult titles deliberately).

1. Harry Potter Click here

Obvious really. If the first three books don’t grab your child’s attention I guess they don’t like Harry Potter. Stand by also for the comparisons and proclamations of the things not in the films which are better presented in the books. Strangely the shorter books were voted the best by our son, perhaps they were better edited?

2. Percy Jackson Click here

Now you do need to allow your child to settle with the idea that Greek and Roman myths have been ‘borrowed’ and transplanted to the US. (Not my idea of plausible I have to say). Apparently the books are an easy and exciting read with lots of action. I would add that they seem to be easily read in next to no time. Good news for the author and publisher, not such great news for the parents asked to buy the next book in a matter of hours.

3. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Click here

Perhaps a push for middle grade and pretty heavy in volume. We started with The Hobbit and it was very well received. A budding fan is born. I await the film and book comparisons. LOL. Given the length of both that could be some years away.

4. Sean Yeager Adventures Click here

Fast paced, exciting and full of ideas. Our son and several of his friends have been up all hours reading and re-reading books one and two. Be prepared for an explosion of ideas, designs and follow on stories.

5. Bear Grylls Mission: Survival  Click here

Apparently these books are non-stop boys own adventures with all the details added in. Useful if you are ever stuck in a jungle and need survival skills. If only there was an episode for commuters and office workers.

6. Artemis Fowl Click here

Technically this is the sixth book series, though I did say ‘after Harry Potter’. We have had a mixed reception with this series. Son loves the action and humour, he’s not so keen on the faeries. Nonetheless a worthy addition to our humble book series list. Lots happens and there are plenty of books in the series.

So there you have it parents, grand parents, aunts, bloggers. We hope you find this list of book series useful when seeking purchases for the children in your life.

Happy reading.

D.M. Jarrett

 

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Cats without hats and other characters…

One of the most popular characters in Sean Yeager book 2, ‘Hunters Hunted’, is ‘the cat’. Here’s a little insight into how I came up with the character. A sardonic robo-cat who saves the day with ruthless efficiency, complete with deadpan one liners and no prisoners taken. Truly a Clint Eastwood among cats.

Years ago I was given a pet. Or rather my parents came home in the early hours from a party one Sunday morning with a tiny kitten and I was instructed to look after it. It was a tiny ball of black fur with bright blue eyes and liked to suckle my jumper. Being young, I thought it was cute and cuddly. I guess it was. Little did I realise.

Over the months and years ‘Bozo’ grew up to become a green-eyed cat with predominantly black fur flecked with brown. He still liked to cuddle up to some body warmth and developed a mean streak a mile wide. If you moved Bozo when he was comfortable he would dig in his claws. All of them. He would still seek out a warm lap though. My best friend was terrified of our cat. I was secretly proud. Especially when Bozo climbed up onto my friend’s lap one day… He screamed like a girl and begged to be ‘saved’.

Famous incidents included the time Bozo climbed onto our bungalow roof via a garage and a leap between two buildings. He had figured out that birds liked to nest near the guttering. I noticed this when he leaped fully into the air to try to catch one. A blue tit I think it was. Like a cartoon Bozo soon realised he could not actually fly and landed heavily on his padded feet. Fortunately, the birds escaped unscathed, but not for long.

Bozo kindly gifted us a number of animals during that time. Usually on the back door mat.  A mouse who had mislaid its head. An adult pigeon which promptly tried to escape from the dining room and nearly made it. Feathers flew everywhere and there was a lot of screaming. And bizarrely a full-sized rabbit. We never did figure out how Bozo managed to catch and drag the rabbit home.

One day, a dog came to visit our house, a little yappie thing with a friendly disposition. It was all sniffs and licks and wagging tail. Pleasant enough. Probably a small spaniel or similar. It trotted around confidently and checked out the house. In the living room, it came across Bozo perched on a settee. Bozo sat there nonchalantly with barely a flicker of recognition. I think the dog was just being inquisitive. It sniffed around the room and trotted over to see if Bozo would play. There was hardly a sound from either animal. The dog seemed harmless enough and Bozo just sat there barely twitching his nose. The dog approached and sniffed right under Bozo’s chin which I thought was brave. In a split second, Bozo raised both paws, extended his claws and dug them into the dog’s skull just above its eyes. The dog howled and howled, while Bozo remained static with a demonic look in his eyes. We had to prise them apart.

Bozo’s finest hour was undoubtedly when he decided to perch on a warm car. Not the bonnet (or hood) you understand. He sat up in the wheel arch near the engine mount out of sight. He remained that way for possibly half an hour. Until, mother dear started the engine and drove away. I have never seen an injured cat move so fast. He sprinted down the garden path at pace with an obvious limp. When we eventually caught up and ferried him to the vet, the news was surprising. He only had a stress fracture to one bone near his left hip. We were told to keep him house-bound and well fed. Bozo tried his very best to escape at every opportunity and made a complete recovery.

So there you have it, a little insight into an unusual animal and the inspiration for one of Sean Yeager Adventures’ most popular characters. I have had requests to continue his involvement in the series. For book 3 I have a cunning plan or two lined up and a couple of surprises.

We came to believe (rightly or wrongly) that Bozo was half a domesticated cat and half a feral or wild cat. Whatever the truth, he was a brave and adventurous animal. I would say pet, but I rather think we were Bozo’s pets at his command. By comparison, other families’ animals were bland. There’s no question and no doubt, Bozo was the toughest cat on the block!

D.M. Jarrett

Sean Yeager Adventures website

Buy Sean Yeager Adventures

Amazon reviews:www.seanyeager.com

Fast-moving, action-packed and humorous

Make this into a movie now!

Buckle your seat belts!

This story reads like an action ride and I enjoyed the ride

Ingredients for a hit novel

Print

Recently I’ve been considering ‘what makes a hit novel’? And here are my thoughts:

1) Characters we care about

A hit novel contains a handful of great characters that you grow to love and want to follow. And there are many examples we can all call to mind: Darcy, Harry Potter, James Bond, Hannibal etc. If we care about the characters, we’ll want to know what happens next to them.  And if we don’t, we may well put the book back down.

2) Plenty of incident & twists

To keep us awake and stop us from skipping ahead or worse switching off. A hit novel contains plenty of action, regardless of the genre. Things happen, challenges are faced and our hero has to overcome stuff. Otherwise it can become ‘interesting’, but basically dull and uneventful. Spicing things up with events we can’t predict also helps a lot.

3) A quirk or three

People become bored with formula pretty quickly. Most hit novels contain at least a few grains of ‘uniqueness’. Whether it be: dark threats and scandal in Scandinavia; allegorical animals in a boat; an orphaned wunderkind wizard; dystopian gladiators on TV; or rich man, innocent girl and a heap of sexual experiments (or smut).

4) Ease of reading

You notice I did not highlight ‘elegant writing’. That may win prizes and be a worthy aim in itself, but readers want to be able to read easily. They want to be able to enjoy the story without reaching for a dictionary.

5) A place you want to visit in your head

In my view novels are escapism. Along the way we learn things about the world of our characters and ultimately ourselves. A hit book asks questions of the reader in a subtle way, such as ‘what would you do in this situation?’ It also takes the reader to a place they want to learn about and experience from the safety of their reading location.

6) Visibility

Of course none of the above would matter unless readers were talking about a book and recommending it to their friends. As with the Fifty Shades series, that recommendation may be more a viral ‘you need to read it to believe it’ kind of thing or a ‘but is it actually any good?’  In my view that particular series is written in an okay manner and is highly effective as titillation and for provoking interest. And clearly it is a massive hit.

That’s all for now

Happy reading

D.M. Jarrett

Sean Yeager and the DNA Thief Cover, available now at Amazon, Kobo

Sean Yeager and the DNA Thief Cover, available now at Amazon, Kobo

Hunters Hunted Text 2l

Self publishers – how to reach your future readers…… tips and learnings

Hi,

I thought I would share a few learnings before I start taking what I have picked up for granted. After many hours I’ve learned one thing more than anything – authors need to keep learning and connecting with their readers and peers. Because self-publishing is a constantly evolving enterprise and world.

How to reach an audience online? Partly it’s about luck, mostly it is about toil and being interesting for your audience.

Here in no set order are some tips. I hope you find them useful.

1) Set-up your own website with your own branding and content relevant to your books. Cross-link your online presence in all directions with your website as the hub. Brand your website and link to reviews, sales points, samples and everything else you can think of.

2) Make absolutely certain that your books are as good as you think they are AND as good as they can be. Find some critical readers and correct ALL the typos, mistakes and rubbish parts. Polish, polish, polish. IF the feedback is poor or ‘iffy’ STOP. Re-write your book until it shines under all lights. If you cringe when you read back a section, it is because it is not good enough, YET.  Or it might need to be cut out completely……

NOTE: Omit this step at your peril. Bad reviews can not be deleted later when you attract a level of interest. If your book(s) suck paying customers really will tell you so….. and in so doing tell the whole world. Plus you could spend a lot of hours promoting yourself and your work with a relatively poor product to sell. And that will ultimately prove painful.

3) Join a group or two of like minded self-publishers. I recommend the Alliance of Independent Authors. This will help you to stay in touch with developments, meet helpful people and ultimately keep you relatively sane. And contribute what you can in return as well – it’s good for the soul.

4) Set-up and use Twitter, being authentic, interesting and book / fiction centric in the main. Your aim is to connect with people who can help you, read your work and people you can help in return – by entertaining them with great books or sharing learnings.

If you use Twitter automation tools be aware that Twitter could suspend your account. So be careful and as low key initially as you can be. I do not recommend buying followers or for that matter book reviews.

5) Set-up and use Facebook. Create a Facebook page for your books. Upload interesting content and cross link to everywhere. Friend authors, readers, book clubs and anyone you reasonably ‘know’ or share an interest with. Avoid complete strangers and people peddling non-book stuff.

6) Set-up and use Goodreads. Become an author and ‘claim’ your books. Use the groups to make connections. If you have print copies, create ‘giveaways’ over a 2 to 3 month period. Use a ‘pull’ model to attract and invite interest. Do not chase or hassle on Goodreads, they don’t like it! They could bar you.

7) Set-up and use Librarything. Load your books etc. Use your Bio (that you created way back for your website) and run e-book or print giveaways.

8) Set-up and start writing a blog. Use it as your own lessons learned log and a way of talking about your journey. It’s your blog so experiment with the style you prefer. Do you want to be a book / writing tips consultant? Or maybe a reviewer / blogger? Or perhaps a commentator on a particle genre of media that ties in with your books? Your blog. Your call.

9) Keep writing your books. All the above is pretty much useless until you have written your next and subsequent books. Why? Because it will take you time to do and you need multiple titles to cross-sell to your audience. Satisfied customers will ask – ‘when can I read the next one?’

10) Commercials matter. Price appropriately and DO NOT give away too many books. You are a business and you do not want to promote yourself as a ‘free writer’ who values their work as only good enough to give away. Possibly run promos for limited periods across titles, possibly have a sacrificial promo title that will always be free. Remember basic maths – making one thousand bucks is a whole lot easier if you are charging 2.99 than if you are charging nothing or 99 pennies. Remember, the big indie authors usually have lots of titles and a huge audience. You don’t. Yet.

11) Monitor your SEO and presence online by regular Google and Bing searches. Check what sites are moving up the rankings and promoting your work. Your work will still have to sell itself ultimately, but your page rankings matter if you want to attract browsers. You will also have to take a realistic look at your book market and Google Adwords analysis of terms ‘searched for’ can be a sobering exercise. Are people really looking for funny books about duodenal ulcers and the family consequences? That’s not a dig, but you do need to be realistic about your market expectations. Not every genre sells and that’s a reality.

12) Treat all your online contacts (messages, posts, responses, emails) in a consistently jovial and constructive manner. Never enter a slanging match EVER online. Because it will not go away, it will be recorded for a long, long time. Ignore bad reviews; block inappropriate followers and comments; delete what you have control over if it is plain abusive. HOWEVER – leave constructive comments alone and learn from them.

13) Write this out and repeat it daily. ‘I will learn more from a constructive and harsh critic of my work than I ever will from my friends’.

It’s true. You will. It will hurt initially, but you have to learn how to open your mind to the reality that no one’s work is perfect. Everyone can improve how they write, how they plot, what they write about etc etc. Even the pros. Check out any successful book’s reviews on Amazon to see the array of thoughts if you don’t believe me.

And of course you can select which parts of the feedback to action. Often people will give conflicting suggestions, so look for the patterns. Consider whether they have a point. (That is after you’ve (privately and offline) fumed and vented your initial reaction).

14) Last and by no means least – be yourself across all sites, media and in the real world. Have fun and consider all the new skills you’re learning as positives. In theory, you could now promote almost anything online. You will also have to learn firm time management and how to stay healthy – another time perhaps for those topics.

Good luck

David Jarrett

Sean Yeager Adventures

Sean Yeager Hunters Hunted

Sean Yeager Hunters Hunted

Website page read stats – what can you trust?

Sean Yeager Hunters Hunted

Hello and welcome,

When not writing the highly entertaining Sean Yeager adventures series, I do what I can to spread the word. A phenomenon I’ve come across recently is a massive disparity between website page read stats from different sources. And by massive I mean 1000% inaccuracies.

So what do we mean by a page read?  Simply – how many times did someone open (and hopefully read) a page of your content? (Or more precisely – the number of discrete page impression per browser session / IP combinations by a human being in a given time frame).

(Definitions – IP meaning IP address which can identify a single machine or at least a service provider’s bundle of active connections to the internet. Session being a period of active use of a given website before a log-off / period of inactivity. )

Now that may seem like a very straightforward concept. And it is. However, consider this:

  1. A website site counter showing 2000 reads with peaks of 100+ per day for a rolling month
  2. Google Analytics stats reporting 50 reads with peaks of 4 per day for a rolling month

And that’s for the same website and for the same month.

And on Scribd for related content:

  1. Scribd document counter showing 3000+ reads for a given period
  2. Scribd user map counter showing 12 users who have ever read the content for the same content and period

So what’s going on here and how can we interpret these conflicting web stats?

Firstly, they are all strictly incorrect as a measure of real people, because that is impossible to measure unless everyone logs in and/or saves cookies for the whole month, while using the same device / log-in. The reason being that no website can recognise and verify the person browsing the content unless they choose to positively identify themselves. (Consider a shared public or home computer or multiple log-in Ids per person or multiple devices per person).

Also, if people have Javascript or some session hiding software active that can also distort the stats. Sure, you see a trend. However it does not answer the question – ‘how many people read my content?’ It leads to an approximation, which is as good as you can reasonably expect.

In addition, we have to eliminate web crawling software, malware and robots that trawl for content from our numbers. This should be easy given that their sessions on any given page will be very short and their IPs repeat. However, many counters do not look at such information. Which means that …..

We can only gauge ‘real people’ responses based on comments, subscriptions, purchases and log-ins. Otherwise we are left with vague ‘ball parks’ and trend indicators and that is all.

From my experience Google Analytics under-counts and unfiltered website counters over-count. (I base my Google assertion on tests that bypass Google search results and use JScript =Off with cache clearing each time).

Incidentally, there are no apparent patterns that I’ve noticed to correlate between the two sets of figures either. One might expect a busy day to show up as spikes using either measuring method, but in my experience they don’t. I’ve had a spike on Google and nothing unusual on the website stats and vice-versa. I often have spikes on the website counter and next to nothing reported on Google. Which is frustrating and perplexing.

Bottom line – if you really need to know your traffic stats, you need to find a website SEO tool that is impartial and well integrated with your site / blog. Unfortunately, you can not rely on free tools and counters if you need accuracy. And you’ll need a webserver log analytics analyser to see what is really happening – but that is for the big commercial sites only. For the rest of us we simply need to make do with the free or cheap alternatives.

Hope you found that useful. That’s all for now.

Happy reading

D.M. Jarrett

Author of Sean Yeager books

DNA Thief and Hunters Hunted

seanyeagercolsmallcover1

Sean Yeager Hunters Hunted

Sean Yeager Hunters Hunted

 

 

New year, new story…..

Hunters Hunted Text 2 small

So welcome to 2013, not my favourite number, but I’m glad we have all that Mayan nonsense out of the way. Lo and behold nothing happened. Or to be more precise more of the same continued to happen. More meanness, cruelty, deception, opinionated horse droppings etc etc. I dare say if we could turn the clock back to 2013 BC it would be much the same. Power, corruption and lies only a different flavour and some different empires in full flow….

Over the holiday season I’ve been busy avoiding the echo chamber of writers selling stuff to each other. It’s been refreshing. It’s also given me a chance to focus on book 2 – Sean Yeager, Hunters Hunted. The cover is nearly completed and I’m progressing well on the many passes of revision and updating. Not my choice of fun activity, but essential none the less. And even if I say it myself (and I am, ’cause there’s no one else here….) it’s a step up from the last book with loads of stuff going on. It is essentially an action, mystery adventure with lots of action and weird stuff. It’s funny to think this could be a future classic and so far no one but me has read it yet. More on that in future posts….. 

So above there’s a quick sneak preview of the cover while I continue the never ending rounds of revision. I’m also mind mapping out some ideas for book 3, which given the strengths of Hunters Hunted is going to be a challenge, a good challenge. It’s also the part I enjoy the most, so it’s all good. Yep, plotting is where it’s at people! Be afraid characters, be very afraid. Some nasty stuff will happen to some random people among you…. Ha ha ha!

Happy 2013 and happy reading.

D.M. Jarrett

Commas, what is the point of them anyway?

Today I’ve been revising the various rules about correct comma usage. And I’m somewhat appalled at the absurdity of several of them. Who made up these rules anyway? What exactly is the purpose of a comma?

For example – this is apparently correct:

Jim carried the ladders, and his partner cleaned the windows.

It is apparently correct because there are two clauses in the sentence which can exist without being joined. SO WHAT? What is the point of the word ‘and’ then? Would anyone not understand this sentence if it excluded the comma? Really?

Another example this time of an introduction taking a comma.

‘In ancient Rome, it was considered good practice to eat while lying on your side.’

The purpose of this comma? Do we need to punctuate this sentence with a comma? Would it really be so bad if people decided where to take their own breath? Is ‘ancient Rome’ so important as context that we need to dwell on it longer than the rest of the sentence?

More supposedly correct comma madness:

“Yes, Mark, that is correct.”

But we already capitalise Mark to indicate he is a person! Why do we need to separate the word as well? Does ‘Mark’ have herpes or something? Try reading this out loud and take a pause at each comma – does it sound good? Not to my ears. It sounds like the speaker is being sarcastic or aggressive. What if they are agreeing with Mark or congratulating him? Surely the important part of the sentence is the ‘correct’ or the ‘yes’ part?

And the mess all this comma prescription gets us into:

‘I can not attend on Wednesday. However, I will attend next week.’

All to avoid the awful crime of this incorrectly punctuated variation:

“I can not attend on Wednesday, however I will attend next week.”

Apparently you must not place a comma before ‘however’ they say. Why not? The rules insist on ‘and’ being  desecrated with a preceding comma. Is this a case of separate clauses or just rules for the sake of rules? I would take a breath where the second example indicates unless I’m seeking to make a big point about attending next week.

So it appears that rules have reigned comma usage for eons. I wonder how many good sentences have been ruined in the process and how many debates and re-writes have resulted? Why not simply use them to avoid ambiguity or to denote breath taking in a longer sentence? I can hear the chorus of disapproval from purists even as I write the words (without commas).

And lastly consider the Oxford comma. Why? Does this extra mark add anything at all?

“I bought oranges, apples, and bananas.”

“I met Aunt Lucy, Jim, and Peter.”

If we needed to know in what combinations surely it would be better to break up the sentence and avoid the possible ambiguity? If Aunt Lucy is on her own or with someone then simply state that facts we need to read.

So I’m off to howl at the moon and immerse myself in more important things while contemplating the rule book. So much for easily read script and smoothness of language. Far better to pepper the page with commas. Yeah right! Rant over.

Happy reading

D.M. Jarrett