Saturday, December 17, 2011

Blog Seven - Inevitable Coincidences?

As I was writing Milkshake I often found life imitating art.

A version of something I made up would suddenly be mentioned in the NZ media, or at least to my ear, it would sound like a familiar scenario.

Now I find the situation reversed. With the book out for over 2 months, stories are appearing in the NZ press which eerily mirror some incidents in the book.

 Milkshake could be seen as a cautionary tale; its a 'what if?' or 'speculative fiction' story, showing the reader an alternative, slightly skewed but almost believable version of the present, or recent past. I'm therefore sensitive any events in 'real life' which appear to, in some way, be echoing the fiction in my story.

Three such events have already reared their head in recent weeks.

Am I just hyper sensitive to these news stories, given my feeling that I 'predicted' them over 5 years ago? or am I just warping innocent current affairs to fit my purpose?

I'll let you decide by checking out the links to three recent news stories via the milkshake Facebook page

Of course, you will have needed to have read the book to get the point!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Blog 6

The paper copy of 'Milkshake has arrived'!

A month to the day since it was published online.
The cover is a little fuzzy compared to the sharp online image on Amazon (both Tim and I suspected this and could not see how we could correct it)

I was keen to see how thick the book has turned out to be -  260 pages is an average -sized book.

I also think the paragraphs look too close together.

I also think i'm being an overly critical parent and accentuating the negative rather then the positive!

I'm pleased I've gone for a fairly vivid cover  -  often I've seen self-published (or rather self designed) covers attempt mean and moody and end up plain dull.

Also glad I went for cows not people -  people instill a false sense of a character's identity in the readers' mind in my opinion -  leave that to the readers' imagination (The publisher disagrees about faces).

On the last page Creative have added the actual print date -  20 Oct 2011 -  20 days to cross the Pacific. The pigeon must have struggled.

Overall, a pleasing but somewhat surreal experience.

Not only do I now own a first edition, its currently the only copy in the world

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Blog 5

Milkshake has been out for just over 2 weeks. I'm reliably informed by the publisher 145 copies were downloaded from Smashwords in the first few days - not sure if that was while it was free!

Anyway, CreateSpace have now confirmed the paper version and its up on the website to order at US$11.99 (click the amazon link to the right). It'll also be available on the UK amazon site in the next few weeks. For now its just there as a Kindle download.

I've had 4 reviews on Amazon so far. Once I get over 5, other book-selling websites become more likely to stock it, so just waiting for a few more people to finish reading so they can post reviews!

I've signed up so I can supposedly track sales via both amazon sites. After 3 days its a big fat zero. But other people have told me not to rely too heavily on the tracking software.

Once I get a few copies delivered into New Zealand, I'll begin the job of local publicity. I need to ensure I have review copies readily available to send out in case reviewers prefer a real book to a downloaded one.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Blog four

Just a quick few lines to announce 'Milkshake' has been published in the last 24 hours and is now available as an e-book from Amazon and will soon also be available in hard copy.

I feel a bit like a terrorist who has planted a bomb and walked away, never being able to turn back and witness the devastation. The book's out there, people are downloading and perhaps even reading. I have no way of knowing what they think as its far too early for reviews even if people bother to write them!

People on Facebook have been very kind in promoting the book and praising, but realistically that will probably lead to maybe half a dozen sales?

Perhaps I'll check back in here in a few days once I've had some feedback

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Blog three

I thought I might share the proposed cover art for 'Milkshake' The publisher suggested (and I agreed) the original photo I'd pinned my hopes and dreams on was a little obscure and arty. So after a very brief internet conversation where we agreed there was an element of satire and humour to the story, I came up with this:

Which we both agreed conveys a far better message and is likely to work well as both an internet image and hopefully a proper paper book cover.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Blog Two

Milkshake just whizzed around unfinished on my PC.

 Inspiration had dried up. Motivation had stalled. 

The story was never going anywhere.
 Each time I sat in front of the screen it just stared back. 

 Then, on a dull winter's afternoon in July 2007, fate stepped in.

 Riding home from work on my motorbike, the inattentive driver behind, staring out into the bay instead of at the road ahead, failed to see the slowing traffic. All I saw in my mirror was a car approaching much faster than I was travelling. 

 There was a bang and I remember seeing the sky. 

 The next thing I remember is lying on the hard road with people staring down at me asking me who the Prime Minister is. At that point I'd lived in New Zealand for 5 years. But I struggled to remember it was Helen Clarke, not Tony Blair. 

I wiggled my toes. I could feel them. Then fingers. Sensation there also. No broken spine then. That didn't stop the cautious paramedics strapping me carefully onto the stretcher for the short ride to Nelson Hospital where they found a broken left wrist and mangled fingers on my right hand. 

 Six weeks off work. 

Midwinter in New Zealand. Stunningly bright clear days and sharp still nights.

 I rested my sore wrists on the keyboard and began typing, one finger at a time.

 I sat there for four or five hours every day. The silence allowed my mind to wander. The creative juices finally flowed.

 Suddenly the autobiographical travelogue became a story; a mysterious thriller. Nothing like I'd ever read before. Fifty pages were re-written, taking out 'me' and 'I' and putting in place someone else, who eventually became David Turner.

 I watched the TV and scoured the internet for more inspiration. 

I realised an isolated country such as New Zealand has stories of national importance that the rest of the world knows nothing about. Stuff goes on here that could have international significance. If anyone ever bothered to scratch the surface. 

 So what if something was going on? 

 What if the apparently innocuous stories on the nightly news were part of something bigger, something secret and hidden? 

 Many of the incidents and 'facts' in 'Milkshake' can be traced to actual events. Ones I have put my own slant on, to weave the story. 

 Milkshake is a fictional account of an attempt by the US Government to establish a herd of biofuel cattle in New Zealand. Sounds benign? It would be except the milk is poisonous to humans.

 On the day I finished the first draft, and without any prior knowledge or notification, the following story appeared in the national press:- Click here to read it 

Someone was already onto the concept. 'Milkshake' was suddenly no longer fictional. 

 Next time I'll tell you about more truth stretching and coincidence....

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Blog One

Milkshake is about coincidences. Time and again as I struggled for inspiration, something would happen in the world, which I could then use in the story. Spookily, often I would write a scene and then something very similar would happen in real life. 

The coincidences worked both ways.

As I finished writing this blog (which I've put off for at least 18 months) I looked at the date which prompted the move to New Zealand, and the subsequent writing of the book, which itself draws on, but does not directly reference the same date. 

September 11 2001. Exactly 10 years ago today, as I write.

A bit of history first.

When we moved to New Zealand in July 2002 I had a bit of time on my hands. We'd chosen to leave the UK after 9/11 the year before. A country where the kids could still be kids for as long as possible, still speak English and fulfill all their educational and creative potential seemed like a good idea. Somewhere they could play unsupervised beyond the garden gate.

Britain was no longer that country.

So, with the time I now had, inspired by the landscape, the laid back Kiwi lifestyle, and the happy coincidence of finding Nelson to be a hub of various creative activities, I set about writing.

I'd written as a child; even won first prize in a nationwide essay competition run by Smiths Crisps when I was 10. That Action Man tank and other items lasted for years. In school English classes I often ran out of time or exercise book as page after page fell to frantic descriptive scribbling. So I knew I'd come back to it one day.

In bizarre and completely disciplined preparation I decided to not read again until it was time to write. So, apart from the odd biography plus, obviously newspapers and reference books, I barely read another novel for the next 20-odd years, Certainly no more than 10 in that time.

My rationale was, the less I read of other people's work, the less I would be unduly influenced by style, or accused of plagiarizing a plot.

Milkshake began as a first-person travelogue of how we ended up in New Zealand. As I wrote, I often watched the TV news and soon became fascinated by the culture of my adopted country. How small stories made big news and how quickly a minor incident, in global terms, could influence a small nation of 4 million people.

I started to think  what if..?

What if there was stuff happening that was not reported on. What if events were occuring, but for entirely different reasons to the ones explained on the TV?

I decided I might be able to construct a whole different story around what the public were being fed in the media. I went back and removed all the first person reference in my travelogue. 

I needed a character, I needed another reason why he had decided to emigrate to New Zealand. He was still driven by the events of 9/11. But why had the media influenced his decision so much? What if there was a conscious attempt, a conspiracy, to persuade people to move from where ever they lived in the world, to one of the safest countries?

What exactly was that conspiracy and why was its influence so powerful?

In my next blog I'll talk about how popular culture influenced the storyline and what personal event drove me to complete the initial draft.