Sunday, 25 September 2011

A brief spell in the clouds

I spent a brief spell high up in the atmosphere this week.

No, I don't mean that I was literally up in the sky. What happened was I had the most amazing run of sales for my ebook novella Doodling. For a while I was absolutely stunned, figuring the sales numbers Amazon was throwing at me were just some sort of error in the system.

Turns out that I was basically in for a stroke of luck. My friend Natasha Larry, the author of the YA fantasy novel Darwin's Children had her book featured on the site Pixel of Ink. Most likely, while looking at her site, they discovered mine and decided to feature me as well.

And that's when things started happening. I suddenly found that my book was leaping off the shelves (or the online equivalent) at Amazon. In a couple of days I tripled my total sales and suddenly found myself not only in the top 1500 books in the kindle store (out of over 750,000) but in the top 50 for both books and ebooks in the category of humor.

It was incredibly exciting. I could barely stop myself logging into the Kindle Direct site to see how many more I'd sold in the last couple of minutes. And to think that all those people actually wanted to buy a copy of my book. It was an amazing feeling.

Things are returning back to normal now. Sales have slowed and I'm gradually slipping down the rankings again. But for that brief couple of days, it was fantastic to see my book fly up into the higher reaches of the kindle store. And now that I know it really is possible, I'm determined to make sure it happens again. Not quite sure how at this point, but I'm going to make it happen.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Strange synchronicities

I spent a large part of last week working on what I hope to be my next release. It's called Magnus Opum and it's a kind of epic fantasy, but definitely as seen through a dag-lit filter. I like to refer to it as Tolkein meets Dr Seuss.

While I was working on basically cleaning up the text in preparation for getting it out to readers and then editors, I couldn't help noticing some strange synchronicities between the supposedly fanciful stuff I was writing and what is currently happening to me in my all too real (at least as far as I can tell) life.

The basic theme of Magnus Opum is perception. How the various characters see each other is pretty much the main thing that drives the story. And different chapters look at different ways that characters understand (and misunderstand) each other based on their perceptions and then act accordingly.

What really struck me as I was going through the text was how much these ideas resonate in real life. We really are driven by our perceptions. And quite often we make all sorts of assumptions and react in fairly illogical ways based on them. Reading a chapter in which two characters have a completely different understanding of what seem like a fairly simple set of instructions, I couldn't help thinking about some recent situations where I'd been given a set of instructions, I'd thought I was following them, then discovered not only that I wasn't but that the person who'd instructed me thought that I was quite deliberately choosing to get them wrong. This person had a fixed perception of me and couldn't see past the assumptions they'd made based on that perception. And this perception was so strong that I was not in any way able to convince the person otherwise (unlike the characters in my book who actually do sort it out - I really love a happy ending).

It's funny because Magnus Opum was never intended as something quite so serious and deep. It's really a fun story, a bit of a romp if I can paraphrase a review from one of my previous releases. But I feel like I've hit on something quite rich and I'm confident that it gives the story quite a bit of strength.

I'm really looking forward to getting it out.

Monday, 12 September 2011

It's time to play the music. It's time to light the lights

It's time to pay tribute to one of the greatest influences on my writing. And it's not another writer. It's not even something that sits within the general genre of books. It's the Muppet Show.

In my opinion, the Muppet Show is one of the greatest artistic achievements of the 20th Century. It's clever. It's wonderfully funny. And it has heart. A few months ago, I posted on the idea of how something could be "joyously dumb" and yet smart as well. Well I reckon that could sum up the Muppet Show. The jokes are often dreadfully corny, and yet there's something amazingly clever about the way the whole thing is constructed that works so well.

As a writer, I can see how the show brings together so many elements with such great success. The basic concept is great - a bunch of puppets putting on a vaudeville-style show to a bunch of other puppets in the audience - with all the backstage drama that entails. The writing itself is sharp - the pacing is snappy and the jokes fly. But the most amazing thing about it, the main element that makes it work so wonderfully, is the amazing range of characters.

Most live-action shows would kill for a group of characters as strong, as clearly-defined, as engaging and as entertaining as those on the Muppet Show. Just think of a few of them: Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, the Swedish Chef, Beaker... The list just goes on and on. Each one clearly recognisable. Each one playing their part. It must have been a writer's dream to create dialogue and situations for them

And once all of those elements are put together, something undefinably great was created. Maybe not directly satirical but incredibly subversive in the best possible way.

I watch old episodes with a real sense of wonder. And my lasting hope is that the writing I produce can have the same effect, even though I'm working in a different medium. If I could produce something half as entertaining, half as funny, half as clever, half as subversive, and with half the heart of a typical Muppet Show episode, I'd be happy.

I just want to finish off by sharing a clip which seems to me to sum up the spirit of the show. It's a Muppet tribute to Ingmar Bergman - a piece of high art in the greatest "joyously dumb" tradition. And just look at the expression on Sam the Eagle's face as things start to go haywire. Most live actors would struggle for that level of expressiveness.

I hear that there's shortly to be a revival of the Muppet Show. I really hope they can do justice to the original.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Big news hatching

This weekend is a big news weekend!!

The first major announcement to make is that the Flidderbugs have just hatched.

Flidderbugs is my new ebook release. It's a story about a strange race of insects who live on a very distinctive tree - the Krephiloff tree. And like the Flidderbugs themselves, the story is a bit tricky to classify. It's kind of a political satire and kind of a modern fable. But if that sounds a bit complicated, it's also just a funny story about a bunch of 'bugs with some most peculiar obsessions.

It's available via Amazon, Amazon UK and Smashwords - and will soon be up on most other ebook retailers as well - and it's just 99c (or the nearest equivalent pound amount).

Check out my Flidderbugs page if you'd like to learn a little more about it and especially what reviewers are already saying.

The other news for the weekend is that I am participating in a major ebook event:the Indie Book Blowout.

Myself and over 100 other writers are involved in this event, organised by the Indie Book Collective. All of us are making their book available on Amazon for just 99c from now until Monday.

So if you're on the lookout for something to read, please check it out.

For anyone participating in the GoodEreader ebook of the week promotion, please leave your email address in a comment below. First 5 comments will receive a free copy of Flidderbugs.