Thursday, September 25, 2014

How NOT to write a Thriller...

Sometimes writing a novel is a fairly easy process; sometimes it’s just the opposite.

Last Thursday, worldwide eBookDay, saw the launch of my latest Suspense ThrillerOutsourced’ and that day culminated a project that has taken me over three years to turn the idea (actually several) into a cohesive tale of mayhem and action.

So what’s it about?

Amazon Link
Outsourced’ features a New York-based writer of Thrillers (NO! It’s NOT autobiographical!) who receives a mysterious package from a fan. That fan turns out to be a professional killer. That’s just the start of the writer’s problems; problems that escalate way beyond anything he could have imagined on the pages of his novels, as death and destruction follow rapidly. Just when matter cannot get any worse for the novelist, he learns a high-tech Intelligence agency has been tasked with obtaining the contents of the package too, and they will stop at nothing to achieve that goal.

And, if that’s not enough… the sender wants it back, and his methods are even more direct and violent!

Yes, I’m sorry. I’ve written another fast-paced suspense thriller that will have you missing your stop on the homeward commute and make your food go cold as you frantically turn the pages. As one reader put it (rather mournfully, I thought):

I have sadly learnt that once you pick up one of Eric J. Gates’ books, life as you know it ceases. From page one it is nonstop and enjoyable; a read you will not regret

Anyone who has read my humorous non-fiction book ‘How NOT to be an ASPIRING Writer’ will recognise the opening. It’s the same one I used as a case study in the chapter on turning rough ideas into novel plots: how could someone who has murdered so many people be set free at a court hearing?

That was one of the kernels that grew to make up ‘Outsourced’.

Yet there were more, many more.

If you are not into science, don’t be put off by what follows; it’s not what you think.

From an early age I have been fascinated by Quantum Theory and when, in the seventies, much more information about it was available publicly than ever before, I read everything I could. This was an era when books on Physics written by the leading gurus of the day (Hawking, Greene, Kaku etc) were unheard of. Yet somewhere in the labyrinthine corridors of my mind, a seed started to grow.

Over the years that seed grew into… a HUGE problem.

I wanted to write! Okay.

I wanted to write Thrillers! Fine.

I also had this crazy idea of writing a thriller about Quantum Mechanics!!!

What!!!???

I’m sure you can see the dangers. Readers do not want a textbook; they want something that will entertain above all, something that will get them hooked and turning pages like there was no tomorrow. Physics? A branch of physics that is so difficult to understand??? Have I finally flipped?

The answer to the last question is… Yes, but friends have known this for some years now.

Friends also know that I love a challenge – the harder it is, the more I enjoy solving it.

It took me a while, and three years of back-burner work, but the latest thriller I place before the reading public is about Quantum Mechanics… but don’t worry: first and foremost it’s a fast-paced thriller with enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes as you see which is the mightiest: the pen or the sword gun!

No, the novel is NOT Science Fiction.
Quantum Mechanics, or ‘spooky action at a distance’ as Einstein once referred to one aspect of it, is just a small part of the tale: the part where I stretch science a little to make my trademark ‘Suspense Thrillers with a touch of Strange’ novels. This one will not disappoint habitual fans of my books, and you never know, even Michio Kaku or Brian Cox might like it too!

Just in case either decides to pick up a copy>>>


So be ADVENTUROUS.

Do some EXTREME Reading.

Pick up a copy today…

…read it, then try out the Competition on my web: you never know, YOU could be in the next one!

Oh… in case I didn't mention it, please don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon – they are worth their weight in gold for a writer!

And if you don’t…. well, I have this package, you see…

Outsourced  Click for YOUR Amazon Link

Read it for FREE on KINDLE UNLIMITED in US & UK

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My Guest: Owen Jones

From faraway shores, my Guest this week talks about how he took his first steps on this crazy road to become a writer. Ladies and Gentlemen...


Owen Jones



Getting Started In Writing



Readers, aspiring writers and even practiced novelists often like to know how someone started to put pen to paper, which is what I still do by the way. I still write all my work in rough, before typing it up into neat onto the computer.

I started seeing things that I thought would make good stories about forty years ago, but I did nothing about them, even though I had studied Russian at university and so was used to writing all sorts of pieces from simple exercises to dissertations.

Amazon Link
However, a novel, me? Never!

I had had to read lots, and always had for school, and I did enjoy reading but I didn't know any writers and we certainly didn't have any in our family that I knew of.

If you consider that the average novel nowadays could be 90,000 words or more (although books in those days did seem a lot thinner) and I was used to writing essays of 1,000 to 3,000 words, then writing a book was never an option for me. I found my first 10,000 word dissertation so scary!

Anyway, one day, thirty years on, while I was between jobs, a good friend invited me to join him on holiday for a month in Thailand, so I went.

It was ten years ago to the day as I write this piece.

On that first evening, on a double date, I met a girl, whom I later married. It was easier for me to move to Thailand than it was to get her a settlement visa in the UK, but that meant that I would have to work here too, although there was nothing I was qualified to do and a work visa would not have been easy anyway.

Teaching English was certainly not for me either, because I don’t have the sort of patience required, although I am a patient man, I think.
I was already using the Internet a lot, so I started creating web sites. It got to the point where I had 140 of them and I was doing well, but writing content to keep that amount of sites fresh was a nightmare.

One year, I wrote 1,200,000 words' worth of 500-word articles for my web sites!

It crossed my mind that that was actually enough to write a dozen novels, so I revived an idea for a book that I had had five years before and wrote 'Behind The Smile'.

A lovely woman won a copy of that first book in the only competition I have ever put it into. She liked it and wrote a smashing review, which she put on Amazon (yes, it is still there). It was great to know that someone had actually enjoyed what I had written!

That novel proved quite popular and four people asked for a sequel. When Google closed my Adsense account a year later, they cut off my main source of income too, so all I was left with was writing books and promoting them.

After that first book, I went back to Wales for Christmas, and my stepmother said rather nastily: 'I suppose writing is a skill that can be learned with practice...'. (Six months later, she disowned me 'and all that that entails', although she may have had other reasons too). Nevertheless, my friends and brothers loved 'Behind The Smile', now called 'Daddy's Hobby' and some old friends said that they had been telling me since we had left school that I ought to have been writing for years.

Amazon Link
I don't remember anyone ever having said that, but as I dwell upon it now for the purpose of this article, two years later, perhaps they did, but I didn't want to hear them because I was intimidated by the idea.

I returned to Thailand and another four people asked me for a sequel, so I wrote one and then a third to make a trilogy. (I am writing a fourth and planning a fifth for this year). I have now written twenty-three books and organised all the articles from my defunct web sites into a hundred ‘teach yourself’ booklets.

So, the point of this story?

It is that you should listen to your friends, but not necessarily your family :-), when they have your best interests at heart. You just have to go for it. If you feel awkward expressing your opinions in public and offering them up for public scrutiny and criticism, start with a blog, but write and publish posts regularly and often.

The best piece of advice I have ever had on writing was the daily quotation from the bottom of a desk diary. It said:

‘If you want to be a writer, write for at least ten minutes a day'.

I have never managed it, because once I start writing, I cannot stop and the hours fly past.

One last thing though, as cruel as my stepmother's comment was, it was true - you can and do get better at writing by writing. So, if you want to be a better writer, keep writing! Reading helps a lot too.

Good luck in your endeavours,
and if you want to contact me, please do.
Owen

PS: the girl on the cover of Behind The Smile, is Chalita, my stepdaughter.



When Owen is not writing novels in exotic lands, he can be contacted here:

Website: http://owencerijones.com

Website: http://kindlevsbook.com

Facebook: http://facebook.com/OwenInThailand

Twitter: https://twitter.com/owen_author

Google: https://plus.google.com/+OwenJones1408

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/owencerijones

Lulu Spotlight: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/owenjones


Thank you, Owen, for an interesting insight into how someone can take those first steps toward becoming an author.
Eric @ www.ericjgates.com

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Book Genres for Readers - or how I learnt to love Frozen Algae!

WARNING: Do not read unless you have already eaten!

Forget what you ever thought you knew about books.

Why?

Because YOU don’t decide what you read… Empirical Science does!

A sweeping statement, perhaps… or is it?

Let’s examine one of the most frustrating problems an author can face in today’s writing paradigm. And before I continue, I should make clear I’m not talking just about Traditional Publishing.

Now IMAGINE for a moment you find yourself in a supermarket; we’ve all been there, right. You entered without any clear idea of what you were going to buy; no shopping list clutched in your hand to direct your paces. All you want is something for Dinner; something, a capricious whim, to tantalize your taste buds at the end of a long day. You’ve worked hard, so you deserve a prize. It’s all about seeing something that creates that ‘Oh Yeah!’ reaction. Are you there in the supermarket? Good.

Chicken - FriedNow see your feet taking you down aisle after aisle, seeking that elusive culinary delight. Got it?

Suddenly you find yourself in unknown territory.

Before you is a freezer; shelves laden with tempting promise. You spy an unmarked box, covered with a thin white frost hinting that’s it’s been waiting just for you; the answer to your gastronomic goal. The image on the box looks attractive; lots of calid colours: fiery red, toasty orange. Exactly what you’ve been looking for, right?

You tip the trophy into your trolley and head for checkout – it’s going to be a great evening!

This is where things then go sideways!

Upon reaching home you race into the kitchen, extracting the bounty from the box, preparing to lavish a little TLC on yourself.

WHAT! What’s this?

Chicken - DrumstickInstead of the promised Chicken Wings in Spicy Tex-Mex Salsa the shelf label promoted, you have a chunk of frozen algae. Could this be some new-fangled fashion from Asian shores?

Or is it something far more sinister?

Yes, you have become another victim of  Empirical Science!

At this point, either you have stopped reading to visit your own kitchen, or you are wondering what the Hell I’m rabbiting on about.

So perhaps a little more explanation is called for…

Empirical Science is all about testing stuff independently and using reproducible methods to define exactly what it is. Useful right? Its essence is really quite simple: nothing officially exists until it’s been labelled!

So, am I talking about a mislabelling of your Chicken Wing delight here?

No. The sad truth is that the supermarket has been taken over by the publishing industry.

Now you are really puzzled, right?

When we scribblers finish a tome, still infused with that cuddly sensation of achievement that magically manifests, we head over to the Internet to tell the World about our latest creation. We need to upload our creative content to Amazon etc., and, of course list it everywhere we can think of, especially Goodreads, Shelfari etc. so our potential reader audience can find it. But what is this? We, the people with the most intimate contact with our creation, don’t get to accurately describe it, to place it on the shelf where it belongs. No. We are made to force it into a pre-labelled existence defined by… who knows?

Again, a picture is worth a thousand words, so they say, so let me draw one for you.

I will use Amazon purely as an example; the problem persists EVERYWHERE!

First step: log on to KDP and enter the details of my new title. Now near the bottom of the page, the trap awaits. It’s a two-pronged beastie, cleverly designed to play with your mind, and that of your readers too.

I wrote the book; spent months researching, planning, plotting, typing, rewriting, editing, more rewriting… you get the picture. So you would think, at this juncture, filling in a few boxes on a form would be child’s play, right?

Someone find me a child. I’ve apparently committed a cardinal sin! I’ve written a novel, nay, a lot of novels, that DON’T fit in to the pre-labelled slots available!

A practical example to illustrate my dilemma: A few months ago I completed book 3 of my series ‘the CULL’. At that moment I was feeling great. It had been a challenge: three full-length, fast-paced tales filled with the feats of fantastic characters. Lots of F’s, you’ll note – I added one more when I tried to fit my novel into the available categories.

You see, dear fellow scribe or attentive reader, my sin was to do something different! In short, I created.

I wrote a series of books which introduce you to events in the lives of two female Federal Agents. (That must be the CRIME category, right?) They work for a covert unit of Homeland Security. (Oh, hang on a minute, that could be ESPIONAGE. No problem, I get to list the books in two categories, so CRIME and ESPIONAGE). They find themselves initially chasing a Serial Killer, (SUSPENSE?) but the tale quickly takes an unexpected twist as a far-ranging conspiracy is revealed. (THRILLER territory?) Then it goes international in a big way, with protagonists and antagonists battling it out over several continents. (EPIC, anyone? Or is this a TRAVELOGUE รก la Dan Brown? If you’ve read his latest, you’ll know what I mean.)

Oh! Did I mention there are vampires?

Whoops! That’s torn it! PARANORMAL, you cry, for all you’re worth.

Yeah, I know they’re not your run-of-the-mill vampires; not shiny or romantic at all. Nor are they angst-filled teenagers.

Up until I introduced THAT word, I was clearly heading in the SUSPENSE THRILLER direction. So what else is in the books? Well, the protagonists use computers, the latest in surveillance techniques and there are guns, explosions, and gadgets galore. Wait, it’s a TECHNO-THRILLER!

…and the story of the antagonists has its origins centuries ago. HISTORICAL! …must be HISTORICAL, you say.

…and there’s quite a bit about genetics…  MEDICAL!

So what do we have so far?

How about a fast-paced SUSPENSE TECHNO-MEDICAL HISTORIC EPIC TRAVELOGUE CRIME ESPIONAGE PARANORMAL THRILLER?

Bending over backwards
But they don’t have a box for that!


I’ll have to settle for Thriller – Suspense.

I can’t even mention PARANORMAL because that defines something else. If you want to cite your work as PARANORMAL (for the vampires, even if they are nothing like the aforementioned shiny teenagers, just in case someone has lost the track of my ramblings) then your book can only be listed as FANTASY – PARANORMAL, or worse, JUVENILE FICTION – PARANORMAL. No dragons, sword-wielding knights, fairies, elves, gnomes… or teenagers in sight I’m afraid, so if I use either of those categories I will be MISLEADING the potential reader.

So, it all boils down to a choice:

I can choose to either MISLEAD the reader or MISREPRESENT my novels!

Empirical Science, you see. If I don’t choose one of those, by definition, my book doesn’t exist!

Dammit! We’re CREATIVES! We create; we are original; we generate new ideas.

(Now I’m apologizing for being a fiction writer! Wonder if Bram Stoker had this problem?)

So what’s my conclusion?

Simple, really: Forget science!

What’s the solution?

How about a series of boxes that writers can tick (say up to ten to avoid abuse) where we can more accurately describe our work. Easy, right?

Now, frozen algae, anyone?


So, I throw out a CHALLENGE to my fellow authors:

Why don't you help readers find your books by tweeting about them using the classification system I suggested (Not more than 10 categories, remember).

These are mine: 
(Amazon Links & Extracts on my website: www.ericjgates.com )


















































































That's a lot clearer, isn't it?

Now, about that Frozen Algae...


Oh, in case you are wondering...
NORMAL (blog) SERVICE will be resumed next week with a NEW INTERNATIONAL GUEST! Who could it be?