The worst thing that can happen to a writer

July 6, 2020

The worst thing that can happen to writers is that nobody reads their work.  I used to get upset when I found some of my books were being pirated, but then I realised that I was getting free publicity.  Many readers, when they finish a book they have enjoyed, pass it to friends or family members.  The book often ends up in a second hand or charity shop.  Authors have no choice but to accept this, but what is unacceptable is that there are unscrupulous individuals out there who exploit the endeavours of an author for their own gain.

Sometimes a reader will not like a book and may leave an unfavourable or even a bad review.  It happens as a writer cannot please everyone and hopefully those occasions will be very few.  But at least this person will have read the book.  Of course, if it happens too much then the author must seriously rethink how they go about their trade.  A new author or even an establish author will give away free copies of a new book in exchange for a review.  It is very unusual for a reviewer to take advantage of this and sell the book on, but it can happen.

I have been surprised to find some of my books for sale online for far more money than they are advertised by my own website or reputable book stores.  There is a market for early editions, especially those signed by the author.  Some early copies of my first books, complete with typing and formatting errors, have even ended up online for exorbitant amounts.  There is nothing an author can do about this.  But it is publicity and how much income authors can loose must be offset against the free publicity they get.

Most authors earn little from selling their work.  I know very few who earn a living from their writing full time.  They write because they enjoy their craft, but above all they love to bring enjoyment to readers.  The best thing that can happen to a writer is when a reader who you have never met picks up your book and writes to you to say how much they have enjoyed it.  Those are the moments I savour.

Keith Jahans


Words per Day

June 10, 2020

I am fortunate in that, as well as a writer, I am an independent publisher which means I do not have to set targets for my writing.  I write when and where I want to.  I had had enough having to keep to targets set by my bosses in my day job in the years before I retired.  This means that I can go for days without writing a single word, which is often the case as I am lazy.  But it also means that I have time to enjoy it.

I like to tell stories and periodically find myself compelled to write them down.  Sometimes I write several hundred words a day and on the odd occasion this rises to over a thousand.  But more often than not I struggle for words, so my output can be just a few sentences.  My first drafts contain all sorts of mistakes of continuity, spelling and grammar.  The plot can invariably not make much sense.  This is where the editing comes in where content gets changed, thrown out or even added.

I am slightly dyslexic and, fortunately, there are aids on line and in the writing community to help me.  Before the age of computers and word processors, I began writing my stories by hand, but this was a slow process as it made for much crossing out and rewriting.  I graduated to a portable typewriter and, as I was very much a novice typist, the process became even slower.  But then came PCs, the internet, online spellcheckers and grammar aids and I was away on my journey.  This technology, though brilliant, is not nearly enough, but the help I receive from the trusted readers I first show my work to is invaluable.

Keith Jahans


Book Review – Babe Driven by Lizzie Chantree

May 14, 2019

This book is technically flawed in that the narrative constantly jumps point of view so that I had to re-read some passages twice in order to understand which character was describing the piece I was reading.  But having said that the story worked well and I really enjoyed reading it.

There was a great deal of description on what the characters were wearing, but this was never boring as it was evident that they were obsessed with appearance.  The characters themselves were well described and showed that the author had a good understanding about those she wrote and what motivated them.  The central narrative centred around Harriet (or Harry as she was mostly referred to) and her chauffeur driving company employing attractive female drivers.  Most of the story centred on her and a group of friends who were holidaying in an attractive villa next door to one rented by a famous pop group.

The interaction between the sexy males surrounding the pop group and the gorgeous Harry and her girlfriends was well described.  There were several twists in the story which kept me reading to the end.

Keith Jahans

Published by Nielsen and available
as a paperback and ebook


You gotta dream

November 28, 2018

Why Scientists are Allergic to Statistics

November 21, 2018

Physics and Art

This article in Medical Xpress addresses a huge pet peeve of mine. Scientists largely suck at statistics! Especially for experimental scientists, this is insane. Yet I cannot express how frustrating it has been to me throughout my career as an experimental scientist to see study after study proven invalid because the statistics were botched. And I’m not just talking about bad scientists; even the very best are constantly caught in this trap. Many a brilliant scientist has treated statistics as an afterthought and been burned by it. In fact, I’d bet many non-scientists can name multiple times that some big breakthrough was announced in the media, only to fade away into nothingness. Virtually always this was due to the responsible scientists not understanding their statistics.

This article delves into possible causes for this. I myself was drawn into the fray a few years back, to try and stem the tide of poor…

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Moby-Dick by Melville

November 16, 2018

Book Excerpt – Magic Bullets by Keith Jahans

October 13, 2018

Absent-mindedly, he stuffed his right hand in his jacket pocket and felt the jar.  He drew it out, looked through the glass at the white lumps of organic matter inside and said aloud to himself, “Magic I don’t think so.”  He tossed it in the metal waste bin then, as the clanging sound his action had caused resonated around the room, he had another thought and looked in the bin.  The jar was still intact.  He retrieved it, put it down on the laboratory bench, discarded his jacket and put on his labcoat.  What followed next led to the discovery of Floracillin.

Read http://peatmore.com/magicbullets.htm


Medicine in literature

August 15, 2018

I was surprised when Amazon classified my new novel Magic Bullets as Medical Fiction.  But then I read an article I saw on the Wellcome Book Prize webpage (see https://tinyurl.com/yaf3hb7c) where judges and former winners picked their all-time favourite fiction books that touch on this topic and it seemed that their links to medicine appeared rather vague.  So I decided to list three books that I felt could be similarly classified.

The first one on my list is Trouble with Lichen by John Wyndham.  This is about two biochemists who extracted and anti-aging drug from an unusual strain of lichen only to find that it could induce harmful side effects.  My memories of the book are rather vague as I read it a long time ago.  I do remember it as being rather heavy reading but I kept going as I found the plot most intriguing.

The second on the list is The Invisible Man by H G Wells.  In this book Wells goes into great detail about how to change a body’s refractive index and become invisible.  What I liked about the story was that Wells skill in explaining the science behind the plot makes it seem entirely plausible.  I have read this book several times and still enjoy it as an absorbing read

But my favourite has to be The Double Helix by James D Watson.  It is an autobiographical account of the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA.  It is controversial due to Watson’s willingness to appropriate data surreptitiously from others and his sexist attitude towards scientist Rosalind Franklin who, because of the harmful nature of the X-rays she worked with, died early and therefore could not share the Nobel Prize.  Despite these flaws, I found the story fascinating.  It is probably the greatest medical discovery of all time which has lead and is still leading to momentous breakthroughs in modern medicine.  It is the best detective story I have read and is the main reason why I followed a career in biological science.

 

Keith Jahans


Available on Amazon in hardcover, paperback,
as an ebook and audiobook.


Book Review – Dead Simple by Peter James

April 11, 2018

This is the first book in Peter James’s detective series featuring Roy Grace.  The author has hit on a winning formula as the jacket states that 14 million copies of have been sold of this book alone.  It is certainly a rattling good read for anyone who loves police procedural crime novels.  The plot kept me riveted right to the end with many unsuspecting twists along the way.  Peter James is certainly an expert storyteller.

Keith Jahans

Published in 39 formats and editions and easily found
on Amazon & other major book stores


Robots and Typing

February 20, 2018

I spent most of my working life in the years BC (Before Computers).  When I started work at a UK Government veterinary laboratory at the end of the 1960s there were no calculators; desktop and laptop computers had not been thought of.  Instead, we worked out calculations and wrote letters with pen and paper.  Then a typist would type up the results of our endeavours and copies were made as she typed (it was always a female typist) on carbon paper.

The ladies of the typing pool were some of the kindest, jolliest people I have ever worked with.  Sometimes I dictated my words into a cassette recorder and handed them a tape, but most of the time they had to decipher my scribbled handwriting and most could touch type faster than I could talk.  When I presented the thesis for my Masters Degree for one to type, I did not know that the G and F on the qwerty keyboard were next to each other so that when the word, “buffer”, appeared in my hand written script (and it appeared frequently because of the nature of my study) it came back as “bugger”.  A red faced lady apologised profusely but instead of simply erasing the offending word with correction fluid, she insisted on retyping the whole manuscript.  Then came the first computers and word processors and I guiltily typed out my own letters and reports.  Then came the demise of the typing pool.

Now the personal computer is as much of my life as a pen and paper once were.  I am slightly dyslexic so the built in grammar and spell checkers are a godsend.  But the human interaction with someone who most always presented the text in a manner more pleasing to the eye than I ever could is gone.  Most repetitive human actions now seem to be being replaced by robots.  Even driverless cars are appearing on the roads.  The world is advancing at a pace scarcely envisaged three decades ago.  On the surface it appears that we may have lost something along the way but I like to think that we can still keep the human touch alive with art, music, writing and humour that people have naturally built into their genetic makeup which machines can never replace.

Keith Jahans


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