Neil Marr – a personal tribute

April 22, 2014

A tale of inspiration and tragedy

Neil Marr 23 June 1949 to 17 April 2014

Neil Marr to right of Peter Tomlinson 2009

Neil Marr to right of Peter Tomlinson 2009

Decades ago while still a journalist for a major newspaper, Neil had an out-of-body experience after five heart attacks in a Manchester hospital – the one my grandson, Oliver, was born in. Neil woke up and was able to tell of how his synapses played tricks on his subconscious mind. Many heart attacks later, small amputations, near misses (once when stepping on to the road outside his Menton home (France) a peleton of cyclists nearly took him out. He loved to tell me as he knew I’m a keen cyclist) he finally hasn’t woken up. Neil was more than an internet friend to me, and many hundreds of other writers. He could be irascible and angry but mainly he was an inspiration and an encourager. There were times he encouraged a tad too much and where he maybe should have suggested an aspiring writer should give up, he wouldn’t – at least not to their online face. In that he was in opposition to Alex Keegan, famous for his tough Boot Camp writing courses where the weak are left on the mountainside to wither and die. Having said that, when I edit stories from survivors of a Keegan writing course I have an easy task, and many of his students go on to win competitions. Nor did Fay Weldon agree with Neil’s encouraging approach, I remember the laughter at the Winchester Writers’ Conference when as GOH she said if a woman sends her an unpromising story indicative of the need for a lifetime of editing, she’d send them a note: Are you any good at knitting?

 

Neil was brilliant at knitting people together, pearls a plenty fell from his pen as he gathered a few editors like myself, Sally Quilford and Donna Gagnon in the BeWrite Books Community Forum 14 years ago to help thousands of writers to hone their craft. Sadly, like with all forums, there are those who only sneak in when off their heads, to barb each other. Writers are barely-contained bombs of frustration, worked up to boiling point with agents, publishers, readers and each other. I used to have a standing order to wake up in the morning, put the coffee on, log on to the forum and delete, delete, delete certain members’ posts. We rarely banned members although I’d come close to calling the police when threats to kill others, or themselves came perilously close. Neil had had enough of the bickering even though he recognised the forum’s worthiness. It should have been a flagship forum to help sell BeWrite Books, which by then was the largest e-book publisher on the planet. However, few of the authors visited the forum to promote their novels and fewer of the forumifera ever put their hands in their pocket to buy them. Neil cited the reason for closing the BeWrite forum as the cost of maintaining it but I didn’t buy that. None of the moderators were paid and I know we and several members actually bought BeWrite books and that should have covered the few pounds necessary to cover web domain costs.

All was not lost for the hundreds of BeWrite forum members. Many of us remained friends in real face-to-face life, meeting at conventions, London Book Fair, and on the BeWrite table at the Wigan Words Literary Festival. I’m one of those nutters who cycle the country calling in on e-friends. Hence I met many in person that live near me in Cheshire, en route to my sister in Gloucestershire, up to Carlisle and abroad. The photo shows BeWrite author, Peter Tomlinson from Shropshire on one of his visits to Neil Marr near Monaco to discuss Peter’s books such The Petronicus Legacy. Perhaps as a sign of regret Neil encouraged a new kind of writers forum to be set up by Transylvanian Anton Szmuk, who’d moved to Canada and among other things set up Bibliophilia. It is still alive today here. Other BeWriters reformed in other places such as Café Doom for the fantasy genre, and the Write Idea.

Marketing BeWrite books then became limited to its website, which was in need of a overhaul. Neil confided in me that money from sales was very low and that he and the administrator, Cait, took maybe £2 a week (!!!) as wages, in addition to expenses. I’m sure if it wasn’t for Neil’s engaging personality, family support and his vast experience as an international journalist, BeWrite Books would have sunk at that time. His contacts from his life as a journalist for the Daily Mirror and other newspapers led him to live in New York, his homeland in Scotland, Ireland, London, Merseyside and finally settled with Skovia in the Mediterranean.

His international journalist press card came in handy to save a mutual friend’s life. BeWrite forum user and friend, LF, possessed many marvellous qualities but sadly also suffered various mental issues. He emailed me and Neil with a goodbye. I’d contacted the police in LF’s town and they told me to ring the local Samaritans. I phoned their 24-hour hotline only to find an answer machine telling me it’s closed and to call again the next day. You could have heard my ironic laughter all over Chester. I was about to call the police again when Neil phoned me. Within minutes he’d used his press card credentials to convince the police to call on LF’s home. They did and he recovered in hospital.

Stories like that of Neil are legion, but this isn’t a biography. In 2009, the administrator of BeWrite Books, after a relationship change, needed a life away from BeWrite and so understandably stepped down. Why I ever thought I’d be suitable to step into her shoes baffles me to this day. I hate admin tasks. I tell lies to amuse readers, a writer of fiction and occasionally non-fiction. Perhaps it was the urge to discover the workings of a small press, the promise of expenses-paid trips to the New York, Frankfurt and London Book Fairs, but mainly the need to help Neil that I stepped in as administrator of BeWrite Books. Neil wrote glowing introductions about me, but he overestimated my abilities. After several weeks of handling spreadsheet files of royalties, re-formatting manuscripts, rewording and sending out contracts to authors and artists, and many other tasks, which took much longer than the two hours daily I was promised, I sadly quit. BeWrite needed better than me.

I was astonished when going over those spreadsheets how few sales are made by highly talented authors. Howard Waldman’s Back There is one of my most favourite literary novels. He’s an American living in Paris. I found that from its publication in 2005 to 2008 it had sold 9 copies! I’d edited his cunning science fiction novel, Time Travail, and asked him if he’d like to do some promo. No, he would not thank you. He was a writer not a salesman. Nevertheless, I mentioned his book on blogs and sales went up in 2009 but still only a handful. Other good books go unnoticed by the great reading public too.

Being in daily contact with Neil at that time revealed those life coincidences we all share. I mentioned how I helped my dad move to Berwick-upon-Tweed: Neil bought his kilts from there. I live in Chester – so did Neil’s former partner of 10 years splitting from her when they lived in New York. I told him I cycle to Warrington often, to see my father-in-law so Neil tells me how he and another Daily Mirror reporter once took a TV to George Formby’s mother in Warrington so she could watch his films. I told him of my Xaghra’s Revenge novel-in-progress and he tells me Anthony Burgess (Clockwork Orange) lived there and had his house sold by the government when he’d stayed too long out of the country. Burgess moved to Monaco where he became a regular drinking buddy with Neil. Near Malta my novel is based on when all the population of Gozo were abducted by pirates in 1551. Neil referred me to a pal, Revel Barker. “Revel goes back for yonks as well. He was Robert Maxwell’s number two at the Mirror Group. The only thing found on Maxwell’s desk after his mysterious death was the last thing he’d signed before leaving for the long boat trip … the agreement to Revel’s resignation payoff and pension.” It’s like that six degrees of separation except with Neil it is only 2!

Then we have the curious tale of BeWrite’s best seller. Jay Mandal is the pseudonym of the publisher’s highest ranking gay literature. They filled an early genre niche and sold thousands. Jay’s novels helped to keep BeWrite afloat and yet Neil hated them. He wasn’t homophobic but couldn’t read beyond a few pages of those novels because they didn’t reach his standards of literary quality. Another editor worked on them. Jay was often on the BeWrite forum and from replies and discussions we all assumed Jay was a man, but I saw the contract. Well done mrs!

Neil published other books he didn’t like, and even loathed. Although he was the co-author of Bullycide, Neil sometimes felt bullied into publishing collections of short stories and novels that he didn’t like. I won’t mention real names because those writers continue to believe Neil liked their work. He would be the first to agree that reading and liking what you read is as subjective as editing, more so.

Neil’s son took over the administration of BeWrite after I left but he had another job, so Neil shortly announced a new administrator, the same Tony Szmuk, mentioned above. Within months, Tony had crafted a new blog – it still exists, here is Peter Tomlinson’s page. Tony also created a hugely improved website and started the mammoth task of reformatting and arranging Smashwords to sell the titles. Sadly, a few years later I received emails from BeWrite authors asking why they had not received royalties for a while. Some thought I still worked for them and knew I’d calculated royalties and sent out statements. After asking around I made some surprising discoveries. Many authors were so happy to see their books published they didn’t ask for royalties and don’t recall seeing a contract. (Cait and I sent every author a contract – something Neil insisted on after a potential author had his long novel edited for free by Neil and then ran off with the polished doc and found a different publisher). Many cover artists such as the marvellous Steve Upham never received payments. Most authors were only owed a small amount but at least one artist and one author were owed hundreds of dollars – and still are.

Neil phoned me not long before he wound up the business to say that Lightning Source Inc was owed thousands of dollars by BeWrite, that he regretted allowing the company to be transferred to Canada and experienced terrible stress when he thought of the authors who were angry and frustrated with the company. It wasn’t his fault that the new administrator “borrowed” the coffers. A large-hearted editor and journalist was having his heart broken by the very vehicle he’d created. Such a shame. On the plus side, he’d inspired so many aspiring writers and even those owed the most, have gushed with his praises.

Besides work and the forum, Neil and I met regularly on an online scrabble and games site, ItsYourTurn. I’m still there. We could leave messages to each other with each move and many times he made me laugh, and I hope the mirth was reciprocated. He’d like to hear of my bike riding misadventures and the topic came up in his illness tales. For an example this shows how fragile his health was even 5 years ago. “Just waiting for the doc to arrive. Managed a short walk on Saturday in new shoes and got a wee blister on my little toe. Nothing, eh? Och well, it seems to have become infected and — with my problems — the last time this happened, they had to amputate the blistered toe and part of my foot. Wouldn’t have happened had I had a bike.

Trouble is with my wee hassle that — having no real blood circulation from the waist down — antibiotics and antiseptics don’t reach the parts. A tiny thing like an infected blister can very easily cost me a leg. Better to lose another toe than a leg, I guess. Seems crazy for a darned blister on the little toe, eh, Geoff? N.”

Health problems extended to his pets too. “Just had to make an emergency dash to the vet’s with Norman the cat. He had an injection for an eye infection and is all stocked up with medicine now. He’s OK. I, of course, am scratched to shreds after struggling to hold him while the needle went in. I’ve left hospitals after major surgery in better shape. Luckily, there was a handy bar next door (a kind of recovery room) where a couple of large brandies restored me to health as we waited for the taxi home. Neil.”

Neil knew the end was coming from a long way off. After one scrabble game during which we discussed the folly of spending our lives hoping to make it big with writing (he was more successful than he realised) and after I’d resigned from BeWrite Books, he wrote: “You’ve got it right, Geoff. And if I could bring myself to do so, I’d never read a book with a pencil in my hand ever again. And I’d chuck books away that didn’t prove within two pages that I wasn’t wasting precious reading time. N” Life’s too short to read something you are not enjoying.

I’ll end this tribute with a quote from Neil on how much he enjoyed his young man’s job as a journalist. This was spurred by him realising I lived in Chester. “There used to be an orang-utan at Chester Zoo that liked wearing newspapers on his head. I spent two or three days once with every newspaper I could lay hands on, tossing them to him one at a time. My snapper was good and the idea was to catch the orang-utan as he was raising the papers to his head just as they reached the position where he might be reading them and with the title masthead in clear view. The pix then went out to the relative newspapers and magazines. A ridiculously profitable lark was that.”

Anyone like to step into Neil’s shoes and make a few bob the same way?

Here’s to you, Neil.

—–

Nelder News

ARIA on wikia http://nelderaria.wikia.com/wiki/NelderAria_Wiki

Another web database here http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/nelder_geoff

Geoff’s UK Amazon author page http://www.amazon.co.uk/Geoff-Nelder/e/B002BMB2XY

And for US readers http://www.amazon.com/Geoff-Nelder/e/B002BMB2XY

You tube video trailer for ARIA http://youtu.be/oh0AAXIe8VU

Like if you will, the ARIA facebook page at http://on.fb.me/12vz7IW

Malta – you teaser

April 11, 2014
Fort St Angelo, Malta from the sea.

Fort St Angelo, Malta from the sea.

Meeting a Maltese prize-winner

I know some Brits say Malta has become too urbanised. It might be true. There are 53 towns with a council on an area of only 316 square kilometres. Its population density of 1321 persons per square kilometre makes it the eighth most densely populated country in the world. Yet, earlier this week, Mrs N and I strolled along empty lanes and sparsely-populated seafront promenades. Yes, we had to choose them carefully. The seaside walk was by accident the first time. On Sundays there is a popular market at Marsaxlokk but the queue for the bus was so long we looked for the nearest bus with no passengers and jumped on it – no matter where it went. That was the similarly-named Marsaskala. What a quaint port with nearly empty, wide promenades and cafes. Yes! We’d discovered a closely guarded Maltese secret: their own resort, hidden from the brochures. There’s more – an even cuter bay, but hey, I’m not giving it all away in a blog. I will say that I remain astonished every time I visit Malta’s sister island, Gozo, that I can walk around a small rocky field with no security, no fences, no people on a site known to be nearly as ancient as the so-called temples – ie older than Stonehenge and the pyramids. At least the most famous site, Ggantija, has upped its security with a higher fence and fancypants shop and ticket entrance.

In hilly Valetta there are many quaint views such as this British postbox.

In hilly Valetta there are many quaint views such as this British postbox.

Gozo and the temples that might not have religious origins, no one knows, has a special place in my heart. I always hug or at least fondle the ancient stones and get a buzz in return. No doubt in the future they will all be encased in clear plastic so hug while you can. I use a kind of spirit of Gozo in my urban fantasy, Xaghra’s Revenge. The entire population of the island were abducted by pirates in 1551. Really! Their spirits cry out for revenge and they get it in my novel – in the hands of my agent Rebecca Pratt – sell it, girl! A few details here with photos. While on Gozo my wife and I met Tina from Toronto, and by chance in several other places too. Amazing how once you see someone you keep seeing them – another story there.

Another reason for visiting Malta for me is another chance meeting. I play scrabble and other games on http://www.itsyourturn.com and met Jimmy from Malta there. He knew a writer, John Bonello, who lives in Jimmy’s town Ħad-Dingli, where he

John A. Bonello, Malta

John A. Bonello, Malta

lives with his young family. In 2008 John was awarded Ġieħ Ħad-Dingli for his first book ‘It-Tielet Qamar’. In 2011 he won 1st prize in the National Book Awards for his second book ‘L-Aħħar Ħolma’. We’ve met a few times now and can spend hours discussing writing and publishing. Anyone out there who can read Maltese and enjoy a clever science fiction dimension-themed story grab it from Merlin Publishers here.

Nelder News

ARIA on wikia http://nelderaria.wikia.com/wiki/NelderAria_Wiki

Another web database here http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/nelder_geoff

Geoff’s UK Amazon author page http://www.amazon.co.uk/Geoff-Nelder/e/B002BMB2XY

And for US readers http://www.amazon.com/Geoff-Nelder/e/B002BMB2XY

You tube video trailer for ARIA http://youtu.be/oh0AAXIe8VU

Like if you will, the ARIA facebook page at http://on.fb.me/12vz7IW

First to be top in 2nd hand books

March 17, 2014

Update on City Walls Books, Chester.

City Walls Books, Chester

City Walls Books, Chester

They have agreed to stock my books. These are NEW not second-hand paperbacks of quality literature. I know because I wrote them. Haha. Escaping Reality is a humorous thriller based in northern Britain and Amsterdam. See below for details. They are also selling Exit, Pursued by a Bee and my ARIA Trilogy. All at hug-them prices below normal retail and Amazon.

a secondhand bookshop – and a good one too. City Walls Books, 2 City Walls, Chester CH1 2JG They have a website here. However good they are, authors like me or even those unlike me, don’t receive any royalties or payments for our books sold there. Having said that, the unknown writers (hands up and waving again) can gain branding, awareness and a tad of recognition by browsing readers finding us on secondhand shelves.

The shop owner is a writer too. I loved his story, The Is Shop, in which a store only sells what the previous customer ordered. It’s based on the concept of fractal so there are cusps and bifurcations of intrigue in the story. Perhaps City Walls Books could be subtitled as The Alternative ‘IS Shop’?  When you go or email the shop as for a copy.

 

Links

Escaping Reality is now out of print but I have a few that I will keep supplying to City Walls Books as they are needed. It is also available as a Kindle – see the page and slide show at

http://geoffnelder.com/ERinfo.htm

Exit, Pursued by a Bee is a science fiction mystery published by Double Dragon Publishing in Canada. See its page at http://geoffnelder.com/exitbee.htm

ARIA Trilogy is the award-winning science fiction medical mystery based on the unique idea of infectious amnesia. Also as ebook from Amazon Amazon US  http://amzn.to/1h4DIaI

Kindle UK – http://amzn.to/1gn3iHI and the publisher details http://bit.ly/HNYyq4 where you can see the video trailer and blurbs.

How to review a book

March 7, 2014

crowdIn several other blogs (with particular thanks to Jonathan Gunson here, and sites I’ve seen variants of the following guide a book reviewer could use.  A good idea, after all I’ve seen reviews of my books range from “Eh?” to ten pages of philosophy all because that reader was inspired by my aliens who totally ignored humans on Earth –  in Exit, Pursued by a Bee. All too often reviews on Amazon are mere descriptions of the plot, slightly reworded from the back page blurb. Then we have what are becoming known as the Amazon bullies – people, maybe rival authors or publishers, who write nasty things in an attempt to discredit the author and bring his or her average ratings plummeting down.  Luckily, most reviewers are being honest but often don’t know what to look for in a book when writing their review. So here is my helpful guide. So as to be even more helpful I put in italics quotes from reviewers relating to my science fiction and medical mystery novel ARIA: Left Luggage.

  1. Did you enjoy or dislike the story? “ARIA enthralled me because I know someone who lost their memory slowly, and I could imagine how the characters feel.”
  2. Was it exciting? “Fast paced with a hook at the end of each chapter. Sorry, Geoff I read it in only two days!”
  3. Extremely romantic? “I didn’t think Ryder and Teresa were right for each other then along came that hot-blooded Jena. Wow. Not only did she take him off her but the rivalry triggered a whole new ball game – so to speak.”
  4. Did it hold your attention? “I wasn’t going to read it one go because I had to go out, but I couldn’t stop thinking about what would happen if amnesia really was infectious! What an imagination in this book.” “It asks the important question of life itself – what’s so important to us we have to write it down everyday?”
  5. Did it provoke emotions? “I hate you Geoff Nelder – I can’t get the scene in the supermarket out of my mind!!!” “More scary than zombies and vampires. How am I going to get to sleep now?
  6. Did you care about the main character? “Ryder was so-so at first but he grew on me. How did you do that?
  7. Did you like the writing style? “Inimical style and yet with touches of M R James.”
  8. Would you recommend it to a friend? “I’m compelled to laud it on my blog.”

 Quotes are taken from the various Amazon sites, blogs, Compulsive Reader, SF Signal, Facebook, twitter, SF Crowsnest, Ideas4writers forum, and by such readers, some of whom are excellent writers, as Gladys Hobson, Annette Gibson, Kyle from the Chester SF Book Group, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Brad Lineweaver.

 Links

Geoff’s UK Amazon author page http://www.amazon.co.uk/Geoff-Nelder/e/B002BMB2XY

And for US readers http://www.amazon.com/Geoff-Nelder/e/B002BMB2XY

You tube video trailer http://youtu.be/oh0AAXIe8VU

There are reviews of ARIA on the Goodreads site at http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15784860-aria

It made me laugh to see a 2* review of ARIA: Left Luggage when the moaner said it should warn that the book is aimed at ‘mature’ readers. See it at http://amzn.to/1h4DIaI

On the other hand, I agree with him!

More than books

February 27, 2014

It’s a sad era for independent bookshops and yet a time for opportunities. Ironically, the end-of-days farewell party at Bluecoat Books in Chester with the marvellous address of 1 City Walls, bulged with people many buying more books than they could carry. However, it wasn’t the lack of business that has led to the closure of the last independent bookshop in Chester but the retirement of its owner. I tried to persuade the beautiful assistant to take it on but she couldn’t afford the lease and was looking forward to working in the shop’s parent shop in Liverpool – also called Bluecoat Books – here is their website.

What drew me to the Chester Bluecoat Books since their opening in 2003 was that they were good to me as a local author and always stocked my books – thriller Escaping Reality, science fiction Exit, Pursued by a Bee, ARIA books one and two, and Escape Velocity magazine. Sometimes I would take books in lieu of cash payment, which was fine.  I wonder if any of my books made it into the bookshop next door, which is a secondhand bookshop – and a good one too. City Walls Books, 2 City Walls, Chester CH1 2JG They have a website too here. However good they are, authors like me or even those unlike me, don’t receive any royalties or payments for our books sold there. Having said that, the unknown writers (hands up and waving again) can gain branding, awareness and a tad of recognition by browsing readers finding us on secondhand shelves.

Urmston Bookshop

Urmston Bookshop

So where can readers who like paper books find my tomes other than online? Sadly, Waterstones won’t stock many small indie books especially if they are not offered a huge discount. The next nearest bookshop to buy my books is where my daughter’s young family live – Urmston, in Trafford, Manchester. Urmston Books sell a range of gifts, cards and offer a tingling atmosphere of friendly service. Here is their website. Frances and Peter Hopkins there kindly have my science fiction books on their

My books on the shelves at Urmston Bookshop

My books on the shelves at Urmston Bookshop

shelves – see photo although by now those are back on the N shelf at floor level! I believe mine are the only science fiction books for grownups in the shop. I urge all Urmstonians and others nearby to journey to 72 Flixton Road M41 5AB and buy books there!

I will be travelling to Heswall on the Wirral soon to visit another great independent bookshop, Linghams.

All these small bookshops sell more than books, and I don’t mean gifts. They are brilliant at imparting knowledge and a love of books. Some develop a small café on the premises if there’s room, hold author readings, signings and events. Most of them also sell books online. Indeed I know that Bluecoat Books sell my books through their Amazon Associate links.

I am loving the ebook reader apps on my tablet but enjoy the tactile experience of a real paper book too. Don’t walk past those small, energetic bundles of fun that are independent bookshops, get in there and buy something.

Nelder News

My trilogy’s page at Wikia http://nelderaria.wikia.com/wiki/NelderAria_Wiki

Geoff’s UK Amazon author page http://www.amazon.co.uk/Geoff-Nelder/e/B002BMB2XY

And for US readers http://www.amazon.com/Geoff-Nelder/e/B002BMB2XY

#free excerpt from ARIA book 2

February 19, 2014

Excerpt from Chapter 35 from ARIA: Returning Left Luggage book two of the ARIA Trilogy. Details at the publisher’s website here. oilrig

In Book One most people on Earth have an infectious amnesia such that unless they’ve been fortunate to be near those with the antidote they have died. Most people have died. This is real apocalyptic stuff, more scary than vampires and zombies. In Book Two a daring rescue is underway off the coast of Australia.

Bryce has lost memory to that of a fourteen-year-old.

At two in the morning, we approach the rig and turn off our radar and transponder in case they are monitoring. I’m in the small boat rather than the rubber dinghy, which would submarine quicker if bullet-holed. Dominiq comes with me, while the women stand guard a hundred metres off. This gives them a good view and would let their infrared-sighted weapons reach the platform that overhangs the ladder up from the water.

We have rucksacks, flash-bang stun grenades, and wear night-vision goggles that auto-revert in brightness. Dominiq is above me, and I repress an irreverent snigger at the look of his SAS gear, complete with holster, ammo belt, knives, flak jacket, helmet, and handcuffs. I wear the same and laugh silently at myself. The mirth helps calm the raging butterfly storm in my guts. Adrenalin is supposed to hype you into battle, but I have knee-wobbling stage fright.

After a long climb, the metal ladder takes us to the platform’s wide veranda where more ladders lead to two floors of buildings. The derrick is on the other side of these buildings, which must be the office and accommodation. We hear nothing except the breeze whistling through gantries. The slough and slap of the waves seem a long way off. I look to sea and just make out the darker shape of the lights-out Solar Sprint.

Like a kid, I wave, knowing they are watching. I imagine their tut-tutting.

Rope and hoses are coiled, there’s no litter and all the doors are shut. It points to Benita’s optimistic view that we have a non-ARIA group. I let Dominiq lead the way. He digs out a mini-periscope and looks in the nearest cabin. We creep along until his peeping-Tom activity makes him stop, turn to me, and raise two fingers.

I return two but of course I know he means there are two people in there, neither being Charlotte. He mocks sleep. He takes a small gun from his multi-tool belt and squirts superglue along the door crack. Clever. The last is unoccupied, so our rubber soles silently take us up the ladder.

The first cabin he shows me a thumbs up followed by giving me the finger. Ignoring his ambiguous crudity, I look. A woman is in the left bunk while a man occupies the lower right. I didn’t telescope the periscope to examine the top bunks, accepting Dominiq’s observation. I reckon the woman is Charlotte. Fair hair, and I see a handcuff. He prepares a flash-bang while I squirt a fine lubricant on the door hinges and lock area. After inserting earplugs, I am to go for Charlotte while he immobilises the other occupant.

He sneaks opens the door, and flashes a low-set torchlight at Charlotte’s face. A twirling hand signal at his brain indicates his opinion that she is too asleep, maybe drunk or drugged, to waken easily.

He shows me the primed flash-bang. I kneel beside the window. Even through my earplugs, the detonation shocks me, and the white light bursts through the window and out across the sea. I take out my earplugs, rush in, and use my bolt cutter on the chain tethering Charlotte’s ankle to the metal bunk.

“What… what? My ears. I can’t see.”

“Don’t worry. We’re your rescue mission,” I say this even though I know she won’t hear anything for half an hour. I throw off the sheet and check her hands are free before carrying her out of the room.

“Wait, wait, my coat… stuff.” I risk laying her under the window and nip back in. Dominiq has taped the man, who has wide, wild eyes. Near Charlotte’s bunk, I find a large shoulder bag and a waterproof jacket. I wasn’t going to bother with her day clothes, because we have spares on the boat, but maybe, she has crucial stuff in the pockets.

Back outside, I put her jacket around her shoulders to give her some comfort we aren’t the baddies, hopefully. We follow Dominiq, who has a short muzzle Koch waving at dark places. The glued door makes a noisy percussion drum as we pass. The two in there are wasting time on the glued door instead of throwing a chair through the window, but who are we to argue?

Within six minutes, we have Charlotte, sipping hot chocolate, in a comfy chair. Her ears remain silent, but her vision hazes back into action.

Benita writes on a card to show Charlotte: Hello, Charlotte, we’ve come from Rarotonga to rescue you.

“I needed rescuing…” She starts sobbing. “But I don’t know who you are…”

I exchange glances with the others. She has ARIA.

Benita glares at me. She’s right. Now isn’t the time to tell her she’s the comms expert our survival depends on.

ARIA Book Two cover art by Andy Bigwood

ARIA Book Two cover art by Andy Bigwood

You tube video trailer http://youtu.be/oh0AAXIe8VU

facebook page http://www.facebook.com/AriaTrilogy

Start with book one? Links to the Kindle below though paperback and other formats are also available.

http://www.amazon.com/Hot-Air-Geoff-Nelder-ebook/dp/B0084OZL9E/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hot-Air-Geoff-Nelder-ebook/dp/B0084OZL9E/

Great SciFi Threads by Tom TInney

February 16, 2014

Initially I squirmed at the start of Threads not because of the characters, such as Billy Ray, assigned to the Royal Mongolian Space Navy Destroyer 119, the Admiral Khan, but the pages of info-dumping as the reader learns about the Mark IV implant in Billy Ray’s head. Then again in Chapter 2 on ISTEC company history. Many science fiction writers use this technique with the risk of losing readers with too much Tell in order to get over the mass of new information they need to handle the story. Get past it and the characters are real enough so let’s enjoy.

Threads by Tom Tinney

Threads by Tom Tinney

Marshall Matt and his twin Mark use an enhanced telepathy link – the eponymous Threads – with each other. It’s this concept that brings a unique element to this novel and one which shapes the whole plot in a clever way.

As a former teacher, who had to demonstrate this, it’s really good to see the Coriolis Effect get a mention no less than three times.

After encountering this medical development used more in this novel as a weapon let me warn you to never shake hands with Tom Tinney, he’ll be palming a derm patch with a powerful analgesic so that you’ll be on the floor before you know it!

Threads has a political agenda and uses the wonderful medium of science fiction as the author’s ‘if only’ and ‘what if’ future making the unlikely come possible. An example:

“In 2079 a group of businessmen collected 1/3rd of the world’s wealth onto a 200-vessel ‘Freedom Fleet’ protected by former US carriers. The fleet negotiated with Hawaii to make it a landfall base but the ‘new’ UN, who’s demanded the money back and distributed to the poor heard of the talks and nuked Hawaii. 4 years later the fleet negotiated with a new liberated Cuba to make them rich and lead the world to a socialist-free paradise.” Kinda, because not everything is what it seems.

I like the relationship between the two paraplegics, Mark and Phyllis. Funny that she’d compliment him on his sense of humour with, ‘You’re funny when you’re not in the middle of a paradigm-shifting incident that could bring the known galaxy to a standstill.’ If only I had a girlfriend who could talk like that. Hang on, I do!

Interesting plot premise with alien ships randomly and devastatingly attacking Earth ships but are they really? A cunning ploy that takes the telepathic Threads and deep undercover work that makes this otherwise often slow-paced novel worth the persistence.

Beware of some sdm scenes such as that affecting Allison Winslow. I’m (spoiler but hope I’m forgiven) glad to say she survives butbutbut not all is as it seems. The perpetrator is something else indeed. Of course you should suspect that Threads isn’t only a communication system for exceptional twins, especially when you consider how bees, ants, whales and other sentient creatures might communicate with the intriguing thought – could a human using Threads use that skill with other species?

Usually, the important and Earthly thing to do when you see ghastly creatures coming at you is to open fire, but wait! Typified by a terrific chapter heading: The End of an Error.

Normally, I knee-jerk against cliché but having read Threads I now take back and delete my quibbles over such cliché as ‘snug as a bug in a rug. The author possesses a wit beyond part one, and those cliché snippets become real!

Threads is a complex novel(s) with its shocks, innovations, socio-political subplots and pseudo-science, none of which are what they initially seem. You don’t just become engaged with a main character but their ‘distant’ and yet close twin, and their ‘squeezes’. Buy this book and you’ll receive far more than you deserve.

The author gives an insight into writing Threads here:

http://thebookreviewersclub.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/an-interview-with-tom-tinney-author-of-threads/

Tom’s Amazon author page

He also runs a book review cooperative, which offers shared book reviews by published authors. A great way to get budding authors reviews and noticed.  The link is here with an author interview with me and ARIA!

 

Engaging the Forumifera

February 1, 2014

“The End of Science Fiction? Nooo, please let it have a different title.” What an introduction to my temporary appointment of administrator of small press BeWrite Books a few years ago.forum

“Read the novel, and you’ll see why the title stays.” I argued that most science fiction aficionados would recoil at the title thinking it was another diatribe by the anti-SF literati. Indeed, the novel was more a detective thriller but based on the premise of the imminent folding in of the universe. While humanity freaked at their termination, the police officer was determined that a murderer shouldn’t get away with his crime. Sam Smith did a good job in that page-turner but with that title, it didn’t sell as many as the story warranted. Titles are important. The title of my ARIA:Left Luggage has been dubbed ‘strange’ and in hindsight too obscure to find easily on Amazon. Go for the juxtaposition of perceived opposites such as in Alyson Bird’s Bull Running for Girls.

Small press rarely see their books on the shelves in chain bookshops, not because of Print on Demand (POD) nature of the process whereby books are only printed when ordered, but because of the low bookseller discount often set by the publishers making it insufficiently profitable. Watch out if you want author signings, for example, in Waterstones. I’ve questioned small press on this and they argue their discount means larger royalties per book for their authors. Umm, methinks a higher turnover with lower percent royalties works better.

An attractive publisher website helps as long as finding books readers want is as easy as picking  delivery pizzas.

Sales are driven by loyalty and this is often generated via forums. I cut my moderator’s teeth on a small press community forum. Lively, heated, angry, calm and passionate book lovers all, it was a marvellous vehicle for book promotion.  Baen’s Bar comes to mind as the active forum for Baen Books. Most small press have them but many are sparsely populated. Even the yahoo group forum for Double Dragon Publishing is tiny compared to their hundreds of titles, but that’s because the owner only allows its authors to be members. Yes, we are all readers but most writers are too busy to read, so publishers’ forums really should be open to all readers if they want the forum to generate sales.

Does twitter help small press? Yes, but ensure your authors don’t just tweet their book links. ENGAGE is the magic word on twitter and all social media. It’s time-consuming to respond, retweet, banter but it helps create friendships, brand and eventually, sales. Remember, the life of a tweet is only 10 seconds especially for high-rolling tweeters.

Publisher and book pages on facebook creates interest, and information is easily reached on releases for the many facebookers out there. Try http://www.facebook.com/abaddonbooks for example. Throw in cartoons and snarky images to find readers sharing your page with a tap of their fingers. What you DON’T do is to bomb facebook users with daily posts and urgings for them to buy your book. I’ve done that for a 5-day period when ARIA: Left Luggage was free for Kindle and even then only 8 posts yet I was criticized. In general it is other authors rather than readers who ‘like’ author pages on facebook and they are not the most supportive in buying books. They’ve little spare time to read them.

To maximise your social media presence in addition to the above, consider Pinterest, Bebo, Google+, LinkedIn, LibraryThing, Shelfari, MySpace, Tumblr, StumbleUpon, YouTube, blogs and Goodreads. How do we find time to write stories?

Geoff’s current novels include the ARIA trilogy, which has infectious amnesia as its unique premise. His social media links are:

http://www.facebook.com/AriaTrilogy

and http://www.twitter.com/geoffnelder

Also http://geoffnelder.com for his website.

The above blog post is the basis for an article in the current FOCUS magazine of the British Science Fiction Association

Geoff’s UK Amazon author page http://www.amazon.co.uk/Geoff-Nelder/e/B002BMB2XY

And for US readers http://www.amazon.com/Geoff-Nelder/e/B002BMB2XY

Lose one Win TWO!

January 29, 2014

AwardsJust as the Wikipedia mandarins delete the page about ARIA Trilogy, two other encyclopaedias include it in! As far as Wikipedia was concerned the concept of infectious amnesia, even if original in fiction, hadn’t attracted sufficiently ‘notable’ references and reviews to be worthy of an entry. Unique ideas are not as important to them as famous people. Yes, notable authors such as Mike Resnick and Jon C Grimwood had endorsed ARIA: Left Luggage but only via private emails and on back page blurbs. The controllers at Wikipedia require such endorsements to be published in ‘notable’ journals with editorial boards and I can understand that even though it’s frustrating to see other author’s books there with fewer endorsements and no real links to their authenticity compared to ARIA. Ho hum. Interesting too there doesn’t seem to be a page on that encyclopaedia to the P&E Awards from which both my Exit, Pursued by a Bee and ARIA: Left Luggage achieved success. The first won top ten (coming second) and the latter came first. I can understand that Hugo and Pulitzer, Man-Booker and  other famous literary awards carry weight, but not many independent publishers can afford the heavy entry fees, nor the authors have a sufficiently huge network of fans. Even so, the Preditors & Editors Readers Poll ought to carry more weight. They involve the voting of thousands of readers not just a handful of selected readers.

So to help ARIA one day achieving its own Wikipedia page please write your review not just in Amazon but in a mainstream journal or any publication with an editorial board! As if it is that easy.

Luckily, ARIA is now in two other encyclopaedias. The rival to Wikipedia called Wikia and the Science Fiction Encyclopaedia. Links below. I feel good.

http://nelderaria.wikia.com/wiki/NelderAria_Wiki

http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/nelder_geoff

Controversial story gets a hit

January 13, 2014
Encounters Magazine #10

Encounters Magazine #10

Issue #10 of Encounters Magazine contains my Science Fiction naughty story, TARGET PRACTICE. Warning #adultcontent! #FREE download http://www.blackmatrixpub.com
The story is about an asteroid heading for impact with Earth. That’s where the cliché of apocalyptic asteroids takes a left curve, because when astronauts divert the incoming rock, it changes direction to head back to us, and keeps doing so. Two things prevented the story being accepted straight away. One was a sex scene between the two arguing astronauts. They’d had a hit and miss romantic history before the mission and I liked the idea of them making up during a fight. Some people didn’t though most readers in the critique group of the British Science Fiction Association did. Thanks guys. Second, was that I’d used Chinese astronauts and technology to go up to rescue Earth. An American publisher couldn’t see the future being Chinese, but that was before the current moon mission with a Chinese rover on its surface!
I’ve been paid for this story and yet it is a free download on pdf for anyone. Not sure how they make their money.
All I want to do as a writer is to have zany ideas and transfer them to you via stories. I don’t want to get involved in arguments with Wikipedia police or with moderators at Linkedin. The latter say my post about Wikipedia censuring the ARIA page for its lack of ‘notable’ references does not belong in a discussion thread because it possesses a link to my blog page about the issue. They say it belongs in promotion even though it isn’t about promotion! Ugh, no wonder I lean towards anarchism – anything to get away from drowning in bureaucracy.
Better news is that the largest writers’ circle on the planet offered to host a showcase page for me at http://bit.ly/KQm6lK Feel free to take a peep.


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