The Importance of Networking

April 6, 2022

It is important that a writer meets with readers, other writers and representatives of the publishing industry, which is why Keith Jahans is representing Peatmore Press Ltd at the London Book Fair 2022.  Writing fiction is a solitary pursuit so it is easy for an author to loose contact with others and become unaware of those he or she he writes for.

The publishing industry does not stand still and neither does the technology it uses.  Readers’ tastes change so does the way they interact with the written word and there is a need to keep abreast of current trends.  It is imperative to understand how people feel about books and how they interact with writing.  The only way to be sure that authors are not left behind is to get out and meet readers to find out how they feel about fiction.  But one important fact that remains constant is that everyone enjoys a good story.

 

 

 

 


Enhanced Ebooks

March 2, 2022

Back in the mid 1990s I visited the London Book Fair.  I had written my first novel, “Cogrill’s Mill” and although there was some interest from a few agents and publishers none of them were willing to take a chance on an unknown writer.  I downloaded a pdf to a CD, labelled it with a book cover I designed and set off to promote it at the book fair.  No one was interested because during this time no one had heard of Ebooks.  So I gave up on the idea, formed my own publishing company and went down the print-on-demand route and began printing my own paperbacks.  A few years later someone approached me and asked if I had any Ebooks for sale.  I had not as I was busy promoting my paperbacks.  Then low and behold the Ebook phenomenon took off.

I was still promoting my paperbacks but it was not difficult to produce them simultaneously as ebooks.  Initially, I posted them on Amazon in Mobi format which was being used by Amazon for their electronic Kindle readers.  Then other platforms were developed, notably by Kobo.com, Google and Apple.  I visited a gathering of ebook enthusiasts at a Soho café in London where I met someone who told me that the way to go was with the epub format as Apple was using this to produce interactive ebooks.  He pointed me to Apple’s interactive version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland which featured videos embedded in to the text.  I checked it out and remembered one featuring a caterpillar on a toadstool smoking a cigarette.  Later I vivited the London Book Fair once more and found a small number of publishers producing epub books with videos embedded in the text mostly used as promotional tools.  I was smitten.

Amazon was sticking to its mobi format so I began to produce my own enhanced epub ebook to showcase on Apple as what were then called ibooks but are now called Apple books.  I decided to utilise a book of short stories as a few of these I had turned into audio books.  So I inserted two audio books into the text at the beginning of two short stories and embedded a video trailer advertising the whole collection before the contents page.

I am still promoting this ebook.  The problem I found was that the files I made available to download are much larger than text only ebooks.  This may be off putting to the average reader.  In addition Apple has proved difficult for a small independent publisher such as me to work with so now I have made this epub book available free of charge on Google Play and Kobo.com.  Readers can download this themselves by following the link below or it can be open to read on line without downloading it at

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Luke_Johnson_Crime_and_Passion?id=YvK0DwAAQBAJ

 

Keith Jahans

Crime and Passion enhanced ebook is available at:
http://peatmore.com/crimeandpassion.HTM


Writing Detective Stories

February 16, 2022

When writing detective novels it is very easy to fall into clichés.  Such stories often use an element of violence and many of these involve the use of guns by the protagonist.  In my latest novel, “The Lost Girls”, the lead detective is a crack shot but hates using fire arms.  While working as a policeman in a past life he went to great lengths to avoid them.  He never carries a gun except at the end of the book when he is forced to do so by the villains.

Available as an Ebook from
Peatmore Press and Amazon

This scenario is helped by the fact that the police in the UK are routinely rarely armed.  When arms are needed during the arrest of known dangerous criminals fire arms are usually carried by specialist teams.  It is also important to note that handguns are illegal in the UK and are difficult to come by by the average member of the criminal fraternity.

The first detective story I published, “Victim of Compromise”, was a police procedural novel set in southern England.  Again the lead detective does not carry a gun, but other police officers do so.  I expect if I was writing in the USA my characters will be carrying hand guns and I would be tempted to use these in the plot which will add to the excitement of the narrative.  The advantage of having my central characters unarmed adds to their vulnerability and makes them sympathetic to the reader.

Available as an Ebook and paperback
from Peatmore Press
and as Ebook from Amazon

 

Keith Jahans


Writing Violent Scenes

November 18, 2020

Violent scenes have more impact when they come as a surprise.  I am not talking about those in horror stories where the suspense leading up to the action is often more effective than the violence itself.  Battle scenes tend to be ongoing and have violence surrounding them but a sudden violent act amongst the turmoil can have a devastating effect.  A good example of this can be found in the book, “Against All Odds by Jacqui Murray,” which I reviewed recently.  Here the author expertly describes battles between primitive peoples but in the last battle the impact of a sudden violent act against an individual comes as a shock.

My novel “Magic Bullets,” opens in a prologue with violence perpetrated by a single terrorist.  This is not referred to again until well into the story but I hope has the reader wondering how this event effects the narrative.  I feel that placing such violence in a novel without any lead up to it can be much like what happens in life.  The real effect is in the aftermath and comes when the characters in the story deal with it.  Post traumatic stress is an occurrence which happens to many people who experience violence, including professional soldiers.  The skill of the writer is to examine how these effect the characters in the story.

 

Keith Jahans

Published by Peatmore Press
as a paperback and an ebook


Writing Sex Scenes

October 7, 2020

Writing sex scenes is a special skill which I do not have.  I have used such scenes sparingly in two of my novels and only when I felt they fit with the plot and when added they clarified the motivations behind some characters.  But sex sells.  One only has to look at the success of “Fifty Shades of Grey” and the popularity of erotic films and porn sites on the internet.  I must admit marketing was partly behind the decision I made when adding them to my novel “Victim of Compromise” but I still maintain that the scenes played a greater part in making the central characters more rounded.

The sales of DH Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” sky rocketed during a famous court case to overturn its ban and, more especially, after it became legal to buy in the UK.  On reading it I feel it would be a much lesser book if the explicit sex scenes and the language used to describe them were omitted.  Now that the Lady Chatterley milestone judgement has passed there are many contemporary writers who excel in the genre of modern erotic fiction.  One such author is Harmony Kent whose novel “Back Stage” I reviewed in my last blog.  I confess that, despite my past endeavours, I am not one of them.

Keith Jahans

Kindle Edition


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


Baby Boomers

April 9, 2020

It was a different world when we were born and bigotry was part of the culture.  Homosexuality was illegal and women were supposed to give up working once they started a family.  These attitudes though unpalatable today did not pose the same threats that we face now.

The two generations which preceded us boomers went through the war years and were largely unappreciated by us at the time.  We were spoilt and did not care to consider why they thought the way they did.  The flower power music and sexual freedoms of our youth were often self indulgent and then gave way to greed for power and possessions.  Thus we voted for governments (both Labour, Coalition and Conservative) who failed to plan properly for future generations, similar to the way that the post war administration set up the NHS.

The modern world has been unprepared for the current pandemic.  Governments had been warned.  As a microbiologist, who spent forty years in government service, I attended national and international meetings where the general consensus was that a pandemic similar to the flu outbreak of 1918 was on its way.  These views were largely ignored and other warnings expressed about climate change simply pandered to.

Britain has lost its soul to global corporations.  Those that follow us are the smart phone and play station generation that are already being recruited to pilot drones to drop bombs on poor people thousands of miles from where they are based.  But on the bright side the Johnson Government is having to introduce measures far more socialist than anything proposed by Jeremy Corbyn.  When the current pandemic passes our world will never be the same again.

Keith Jahans

 

 

 

 


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


Writing Courses

July 29, 2019

A friend recently asked me if I could recommend any creative writing courses.  I have never signed up for one myself.  There are so many it is hard to advise anyone where to start.  There are plenty advertised online and several academic courses run by Universities and colleges, one of the most famous being the MA in Creative Writing run by Malcolm Bradbury at the University of East Anglia in the 1970s and attended by both Ian McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguro.

I dabbled in writing fiction in my teens and studied various forms of biology at technical colleges and University up until middle age so I felt I knew how to write basic English and had no pressing need to follow a writing course.  But I have attended writing workshops and found them useful in gaining tips has they helped with character development and overcoming writer’s block.  Where they really come into their own is in meeting fellow authors and learning about the challenges they have faced in the course of their writing life.

Writing fiction is a solitary endeavour and to swap experiences with those who follow the same path is invaluable and so I recommend those setting out on a fiction writing career to join a local writers group.

Keith Jahans


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