Backstory: Is it necessary? Should it go at the start of the narrative?

January 23, 2020

A novel’s backstory can slow down the pace of the narrative.  When I read a novel I like to get straight to the heart of the story so it immediately grasps my attention.  Often a backstory is not required.  It is useful as it helps authors understand what motivates the characters they create.  But it may not be needed in the text for readers to understand the plot.  Once a backstory has been written it is often deleted during the editing process but if it is needed to flesh out the characters for the reader then the author must decide at what point it should be inserted to have the best effect.

The backstory in my novel, “Magic Bullets”, kicks in at chapter five when the protagonist hears that the first serious love of his life had died and I decided to show what happened during their relationship rather than simply tell another story.  I began the novel with a terrorist attack.  The episode itself does not occur until three quarters of the way through the book as I wanted to grasp reader’s attention from the start.

I differentiated these out of sequence events from the linear narrative by changing the font to italics.  Judging by the reviews most readers liked this approach.  There were a few who did not care fore the book but I do not think that their opinions had much to do with the structure.  They simply did not like the story.  Still you cannot please every one.

Keith Jahans

Available through http://peatmore.com/magicbullets.htm


Book Review – Graham Taylor: In His Own Words

January 2, 2020

I bought this book from sports journalist Lionel Birnie (who helped Graham Taylor in writing his story) when he gave an inspiring talk at a Watford Writers meeting in March 2018.  I reported this on my blog at the time (see https://peatmore.wordpress.com/2018/03) but such is the length of my reading list it is only now that I have managed to read the book in its entirety.

I have not read many books by sports celebrities because I feel that most seem to be written to enhance the subjects’ own, often shallow, personalities.  But this story is clearly an exception as Taylor was a giant among his contemporary football managers.  As one who has competed at a very amateur level and watched many more, sporting outcome is often dependent on luck.  In general good luck and bad luck will balance itself out and class will shine through.  But the history of international English football has shown that this has rarely been the case.  During his time managing the English football team, Taylor suffered more than his fair share of bad luck and in this book he shows that he accepted this along with the mistakes he made.  But what is extremely unfair was the way he was vilified by the media for England’s failure to qualify for two major sporting competitions and the cruel insults by caricature that were depicted on the front pages of many popular newspapers.

This account also shows what an exceptional club manager he was.  In taking Watford Football Club from obscurity under the Chairmanship of Pop singer Elton John he proved how good he was at man management.  He discovered two major football stars in John Barnes (while at Watford) and David Platt (while managing Aston Villa) and these two went on to have successful international careers and excelled at other major football clubs.  Anyone who has worked with people at all levels will understand the skills needed to be successful and by reading his book will see that Taylor had those in abundance.  It is a tragedy that he died so young as he clearly had so much more to offer in life and to football.  Football is not just a sport; it is the heart of many British communities.  I have been living in Watford for only a few years but I can see clearly how he was much loved by the town.  Taylor’s own words are well worth the read.

Keith Jahans

Graham Taylor In His Own Words: The autobiography
is published by Peloton Publishing Ltd and is available in hardback and as an ebook


Book Review – Duilleog by Donald D Allan

November 25, 2019

A well told tale which kept me reading right to the end.  By “the end” here I mean the end of the first book in a series as there is clearly more to read in future volumes.  I am not sure that the structure, particularly the changing points of view, really works but it is such a fascinating tale this is just a minor point.

The story starts in the first person with Will who has been living in the wild and has special healing powers.  He survives a murderous attack and discovers a gold coin which enhances his powers enabling him to help the people of a nearby village survive a disease.  In doing so he realises that there is more about his past than he first thought so he begins a journey to the country’s capital to find out more.

The narrative shifts to the third person to describe events surrounding a civil war which occurred in the capital.  Here there is more telling about what happened rather than showing the events themselves.  Some fascinating villains emerge and they look like they will play an important part later in the story.

The end of this part of the narrative shifts back to Will and is again told in the first person.  The story is ambitious in its scope.  I personally would be happier if it was condensed into one book but there are fans of the genre who like this form of saga, which has a flavour of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings about it, and I am sure that such readers would love this story and want to read on.

Keith Jahans

Published by the author and
available as an ebook or paperback


Book Review – 17th Century Tottenville History Comes Alive by Angie Mangino

October 12, 2019

This short account seems to be aimed primarily at the people who inhabit this part of Staten Island in the USA, but I found it a fascinating read which means that it has a much wider reach.  My knowledge of the history of this area is sketchy at best as it barely touches on the accounts of British colonial history I was taught in English schools.  I am therefore grateful to this book for extending my knowledge in this area.  It is obviously well researched as is evident from the extensive bibliography.

Some facts were repeated more often than was needed and a little more detail, some photographs and perhaps a map would strengthen the writing.  But that said I was very impressed by the writer’s style.  The book looks like it was first composed as a blog and the author has indicated that there are more books/blogs to follow.  But it has more potential than that and I suspect that if the author wrote another book as a more in depth study (Check out my review of Tim Hannigan’s Brief History of Indonesia) then I for one would buy it.

Keith Jahans

Available on Amazon as an Ebook


The Enhanced Ebook

October 4, 2019

In the early years of this millennium, I produced my first novel, Cogrill’s Mill, as an ebook in pdf and took it to the London Book Fair on a CD.  But the publishers or agents I spoke to there did not want to know.  A few years later someone contacted me to ask if I had any ebooks for sale, but I had already set up my own publishing company and was busy producing my first books in print on demand to spare the time to revisit the market for ebooks.  Then just a short time later a number of large companies entered the arena offering a variety of different ebook formats and the digital publishing revolution began.

Around this time I met someone at a book publishing conference in London who said that the way to go was to publish in Epub format.  He told me about the success of Apple’s enhanced ebook publication of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  I was immediately interested and went about producing enhanced Epub editions of a few of my own books.  Unfortunately, my marketing strategy at the time was not very good and the books languished on the Apple iBook store without selling.  Instead, I concentrated selling my ebooks on Amazon using their marketing strategy, but I could find no way to produce a multimedia ebook in the Amazon Kindle format in the same way I could for Epub.

Now, as a reward for my readers, I have made the enhanced Epub edition of my first collection of short stories, Crime and Passion written under my pennames of Luke Johnson and Jack Lindsey, available as a free download from Apple Books for portable devices and from Kobo.com.  If you like the stories you are welcome to seek out my other books at http://peatmore.com.  Please leave an honest review for any Peatmore Press book you read as this will help promote my writing.

Keith Jahans

The Free enhanced ebook is available for download at
https://books.apple.com/us/book/id879916042 and at
https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/crime-and-passion-3


Book Review – Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary by Anita Anand

September 23, 2019

I heard about this book from the author when I visited the Bath Literary Festival in March 2015 and listened to her speak.  I was so intrigued by the subject of her talk that I bought a copy.  Once I started reading I was fascinated by Sophia and her story.  I meant to loan it to my 90 year old mother, who was a fan of Ms Anand’s and her presentation of ‘Any Answers’ on BBC radio, as I felt she would enjoy it.  But it is a long book and I knew with the other reading and writing projects on the go it would take me some time to finish it so I bought another copy especially for mum.  Sadly she never got round to reading it and passed away earlier this year aged 94.  Now I have at last finished reading the book and found it a very enjoyable read.

The author has obviously put a great deal of time and effort into researching her subject.  It traces the ancestry of Sofia, from her father Maharajah Duleep Singh through her life with her siblings in the court of Queen Victoria, her activities as a suffragette, her support for the freedoms sought by the peoples of her native India and two world wars.  She was a rebel for her time and ran foul of the British establishment, particularly during the period she was an active suffragette when she challenged them to imprison her for her protests but were too frightened to do so.  Because of this the details of her life were buried by the authorities.  But because of this book they have now been uncovered.  This makes the writing of Sofia’s story a remarkable achievement of which the author can be proud.

It is an extremely worthwhile read and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in the political struggles endured by women in the twentieth century.

Keith Jahans

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing
in hard cover, paperback and as an ebook and audiobook.


Book Giveaways

August 30, 2019

The best way to promote your book is to give away free copies.  The next best is to reduce the selling price to less than a US dollar or GB pound.  But only for a limited period as every author deserves some monetary reward for the effort they have put into its creation.

I have published two short story collections and two motorcycle travel books for less than one GB pound, but these have been written to showcase my writing rather than to generate much income, therefore their price is set deliberately low.  Peatmore Press has published four short audio books through acx.com but here the price is set by acx and Peatmore Press has no control over this even though it would like to set this to less than 1 GBP to bring it in line with its other showcase works.

Most of my free promotions are given away online, as ebooks since these formats entail no cost to the publisher.  It is these that generate the most take ups by readers as hundreds are downloaded at a time.  Some copies may be given free to selected reviewers, but the majority of the copies that are given free during a promotion period do not generate reviews.

I buy most of the books I read and review each one as I feel this provides the author with valuable feedback whether I like the book or not.  I find it sad that those who get hold of any free book from an author do not find time to follow my example.  It is even sadder when these books end up on pirate websites and sold for profit.

 

Keith Jahans

 

Peatmore Press Books


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