Writing outside one’s comfort zone?

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My latest book ‘Lost Identity’ (released on Boxing Day 2017) is quite a departure from my four previous books, which comprise the ‘Roy Groves Thriller’ series.

Those of you who follow this blog will know that, before becoming an author, I spent some thirty years pursuing a career in the world of business, for much of that time operating at Director or Managing Director level. I got to learn a great deal about the back-stabbing corporate world and the twisted politics which often ensue in that world.

Eventually, an opportunity arose to attempt (with the rest of my senior colleagues) a management buyout of my company from its huge American multinational parent company. It was an incredibly difficult and stressful process, and the experience which provided the inspiration for my first book ‘Buyout’, which is a fictionalised account of a management buyout attempt similar to that in which I took part. Obviously my own real-life experiences meant I had a deep insight into the corporate world, and how such buyouts can spiral out of control, wrecking personal, as well as professional relationships. ‘Buyout’ was, in a way therefore, semi-autobiographical.

The sequel ‘Payback’ follows the fortunes of the principal characters from ‘Buyout’ in subsequent years. The plot, while still set in the world of business, is much less ‘businessy’, and majors on the horrific lengths that some people may go to when consumed by a desire for revenge. Even so, my knowledge of the business world meant I could write confidently and authoritatively about this world.

The third book in the series ‘Chinese Whispers’ explores the dire consequences when business is infiltrated by organised crime. I must admit that never happened to any of my businesses, though it definitely does happen. So, while I have no first-hand experience of tackling the Chinese Mafia, nevertheless my real-life business experience provide much-needed background which I could lean on when writing this book.

The fourth, and final book in the ‘Roy Groves Thriller series’ is a comedy thriller. ‘Horizontal living’ sees the main character of the previous books, Roy Groves, quit the corporate rat-race and retire to an expat community on Spain’s Costa del Sol. Once again, I had real-life experiences to draw upon because, since retiring from business, I too have a home in Spain – in a residential community of which I have been elected President. The often funny, but sometimes alarming or tragic, events I have experienced in the role provided much of the inspiration for this book.

So, you can see that all four of my previous books drew, to a greater or lesser extent, on my own real-life experiences. But, with the publication of ‘Horizontal Living’, the ‘Roy Groves Thriller’ series came to a natural conclusion. However, I love writing, so for my next book I was going to have to come up with something different.

I decided to write a psychological thriller, set in the world of drug-trafficking and murder – a world of which, I hasten to add, I have no actual experience. At first, I found writing way outside my comfort zone to be a little intimidating. I also had to create all-new characters from scratch (in the previous books, many of the characters followed through from one book to the next).

As I got into the meat of the book, however, I began to find the whole process of writing about this unfamiliar world strangely liberating. When writing about business I always felt the need to be really authentic – after all, some of my readers would surely be business people themselves. I quickly realised that, when writing about the murky word of drug-trafficking and murder, I could allow my imagination much more freedom – it was pretty unlikely that many of my readers would be drug-traffickers or murderers, and even if they were, they would hardly be likely to give me damning reviews for mischaracterising their criminal world!

Anyway, my trusted team of beta readers, who had already read the first draft of the book way ahead of it’s official release, gave me great feedback and, as always, some invaluable suggestions for final polishing of the plot. I’m really happy with the final version which hits the shelves on Boxing Day 2017. If you read it, I’d love to hear your comments – right here on this blog.

Ray Green

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‘Horizontal Living’ published at last!

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Horizontal Living_3d-bookYes, the fourth book in the ‘Roy Groves Thriller’ series is finally available, in both paperback and Kindle formats. http://hyperurl.co/ktfpz1

In March, I sent advance copies to three trusted fellow authors for ‘beta reading’ – the process of critically assessing the manuscript and providing feedback as to what works, what doesn’t and providing suggestions for improvement. Their feedback has been invaluable, and I have spent much of the last few months editing and re-writing certain parts of the book to try to make it as good as it can possibly be. It’s been hard work, but I am happy with the final result.

Once I had completed all my edits, I had two independent proof readers go through the manuscript searching for all those pesky typos, spelling errors, and any clunky grammar or syntax. I think we found them all, but if you read the book and find any still lurking in there, let me know.

In marketing the book, I have really struggled to decide what genre category it belongs in. It’s certainly an integral part of the (now) four-book Roy Groves series, but is it a thriller? Well, yes and no – it is definitely written with a lighter touch than the previous books in the series, and there is a good deal of humour running through the book. Yet there is a darker, more sinister aspect to it as well, as indeed is true in the real-life world of southern Spain, where crime and corruption lurk just below the glamorous surface.

I guess I would categorise the book as a comedy-thriller, which is a well-recognised genre in the world of films, but Amazon – my most prominent sales channel – doesn’t recognise such a genre for books. One person described it a ‘Mediterranean Noir with a comic twist’, which I think captures the flavour well. Anyway, as far as Amazon standard genre categories are concerned, it’s ended up in ‘Financial Thrillers’, ‘Dark Comedy’. and ‘Literary Humour’.

If you decide to read it, I hope you enjoy it. If so, I’d be delighted if you’d post a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. If you don’t enjoy it, please don’t post a review (only joking!). Either way, I’d be really interested in any feedback you’d like to give me directly by commenting on this post.

‘Horizontal Living’ Now Out for Beta-Reading and Proofreading

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Horizontal Living_3d-bookAfter some eighteen months of toil I have at last arrived at what I hope is a final draft of my 4th novel ‘Horizontal Living’.

It is with a degree of trepidation (I always feel like this when I get to this stage in the creation of a new book) that I have given the manuscript to several fellow authors for their critique (a process known as ‘beta-reading’). Although I have edited and refined the manuscript several times, I am only too aware that it is easy to become too close to one’s own work, and this is where some new, constructively critical pairs of eyes are invaluable.

Obviously, I’m hoping for a response such as ‘It’s great – don’t change a thing’ but I know that the authors who are going to read it for me won’t say that just to please me. If they think it could be improved by certain changes, they’ll say so – and after I’ve had an initial grumble to myself, I’ll take their comments on board and consider what I need to change. Nevertheless, in the hope that I won’t be making really big changes, and in the interests of saving time, I’ve decided to have the manuscript proofread in parallel with the beta-reading. My proofreader will be going through the manuscript with a fine-tooth comb checking for typos, punctuation errors, clunky grammar, and confusing syntax. Actually, my own grasp of these things is pretty good anyway and some who know me have asked why I even need a proofreader. Well, for a start, I’m not arrogant enough to think I have all the answers, but there is also another reason: I know from bitter experience that when reading your own work there is some bizarre typo-blindness thing which kicks in – your eye just skims over the page, seeing what you intended to write, and think that you actually did write. In short, it’s near-impossible to spot your own mistakes.

Anyway, ‘Horizontal Living’ now moves a step closer to launch – hopefully within the next couple of months now. If you want to know a little of what the latest book is going to be about, check my publisher’s website http://mainsailbooks.co.uk/ for a synopsis.

For those of you who have already read my previous books, you’ll recognise the main protagonist, Roy Groves, but you’ll find the genre and writing style somewhat different. This one’s a sort of ‘comedy thriller’ – I do hope you like it.

First draft of ‘Horizontal Living’ finally complete.

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At last, I have completed the first draft of my fourth book, ‘Horizontal Living’. It continues to chart the fortunes of Roy Groves, the principal character featured in my first three books, but it’s rather different in flavour to the earlier Horizontal Living_Front Covernovels. I guess you could categorise it as a ‘comedy thriller’.

After years of battling business rivals and even vicious criminals during his business career, Roy has retired from the rat-race and settled in Southern Spain where he is looking forward to a quieter life. Little does he know! He gets talked into taking on the role of President of the ‘community of owners’ at the development where he lives and that is when trouble starts. He becomes entangled with a diverse cast of characters as he discovers the darker side of life in Spain and the resultant shenanigans range from hilarious to darkly disturbing. I hope my readers will enjoy the switch of gear.

So … first draft complete – what comes next? Well, I will now embark on a process of editing, rewriting, more editing, more rewriting etc. Firstly, I’ll be looking to correct inconsistencies in the plot (you’d be surprised how easy it is to completely forget what you wrote more than a year ago and find that you have later contradicted yourself!). Then I will endeavour to cull superfluous detail, while adding more detail where it is appropriate to create atmosphere or set a scene. I may rearrange the order of scenes or even complete chapters in order to improve the flow of the narrative. All the time, I’ll be looking out for typos, clumsy grammar, punctuation mistakes, and spelling errors.

Even after I have done all this, I expect there will still be plenty of mistakes in the manuscript so I’ll submit it to an independent copyeditor and then a proof-reader to pick these up.

Finally there will be some mechanical steps to be taken before publication. These include file conversion from Word (in which the original manuscript is written) to file formats suitable for paperback and Kindle versions, and adjusting the spine width of the cover to accommodate the exact number of pages which the book ends up with. I might also take the opportunity to revise the blurb on the back cover of the book. I wrote the blurb around eighteen months ago, before I’d even started on the actual manuscript and, inevitably, as books do, this one took on a life of its own as I wrote it, so the blurb could perhaps do with amending slightly to more accurately reflect the finished article.

So how long now before ‘Horizontal Living’ hits the shelves? Even at this stage it’s hard to be precise, since the timescale for carrying out the activities outlined above is difficult to predict accurately. My guess, though is that the book will be ready to publish somewhere around May 2016. I’ll keep you posted!

What ‘Point of View’ and What Tense Makes for a Good Novel?

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Horizontal Living_Front CoverI haven’t written much on this blog recently, mainly because I am well into writing my fourth book ‘Horizontal Living’. It’s hard enough to find time to write when other aspects of one’s life get in the way, but in writing this latest book I’ve made a fundamental departure from the writing convention I adopted for my previous books and I wanted to share some of my thoughts on this change.

There are fundamentally four (the purists would say five) approaches to the ‘points of view’ (POVs) through which a novel can be written. If you want to explore them all just google ‘points of view’, but the majority of authors choose from just two: first person, or third person omniscient. Now this all sounds a bit academic, but anyone who reads books regularly will have encountered both styles.

When writing in first person POV it is the principal character in the story who narrates the book ( ‘I’ crept into the alleyway. A bullet whistled by ‘my’ ear. It missed ‘me’ by inches. And so on).

When writing in third person omniscient POV the narrator is an outsider looking in on the action, but he/she knows exactly what is going on inside the head of every character and can let the reader know what a given character is thinking or feeling (Charles insisted that he had no idea what had happened that night. Amelia thought Charles was lying. Rupert decided to confront the issue head on … etc.).

Now, my first three books all utilised the latter approach. I had quite an extensive cast of characters and, as narrator, I was able to jump from one to another, letting the reader know how they each saw things and what they were thinking or feeling. This gave me great scope to explore the action from many different angles but it also brought its challenges. If you are going to present many different POVs you really need to be disciplined in how you introduce them. If you present two or more POVs within the same scene (or even worse, within the same paragraph) the narrative becomes disjointed and bitty. Most readers won’t realise what, exactly, is wrong, but they will find that the narrative just doesn’t flow properly. What you have to do, as an author, is keep to one POV throughout an entire scene and then make a tangible scene or chapter break before switching to another character’s POV. Mixing POVs is probably the single most common error that first-time authors make. I used to do it myself until my editor pointed it out to me, and now it hits me right between the eyes when I encounter it in other authors’ work!

For my fourth book ‘Horizontal Living’ I decided to change tack and write the entire book in first person POV. It’s so, so different! Deprived, now, of the ability to let the reader know what every character sees, hears, feels, and thinks, I have to find new ways of conveying the various aspects of the story, which can be quite challenging. On the other hand, I can now really get deep inside the head of my principal character and in some ways, I am finding it enables a greater sense of realism. After all, in real life, every one of us actually perceives the events around us from a first person POV. Who really ever knows what anyone else perceives?

So which is best: first or third? I would say they both have their place; it really depends on the genre of the book and what the author is trying to convey. I chose to switch from third to first person for my fourth book because the genre is different from the previous three and, so far, I think that’s proving to be the right choice.

The other thing I wanted to touch on is what tense the author chooses for the narrative. The vast majority of novels are set in the past: the narrative tells what has already happened. The obvious way to narrate them then, is to use one or more of the past tenses (He raced down the alleyway, only to be confronted by a locked door at the end). Nevertheless, many authors choose to use the present tense even when narrating the past (I race down the alleyway, but I find the door at the end is locked). Those authors who use this device usually say they do so for increased dramatic impact. Well, I guess it all comes down to personal preference, but for me, when I am reading rather than writing, such an approach just comes over as contrived, and as such, becomes a distraction from the story.

Conclusions? Well, I believe first and third person both have their place but I’m afraid that, for me, using present tense to narrate past events just doesn’t work.

Are there any other authors – or, more importantly readers – who would care to comment?

Mainsail Books – From indie publishing shell to specialist publisher of business / financial thrillers

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Mainsail books logo sail jpegMAINSAIL BOOKS

When I wrote my first book, ‘Buyout’ I discovered that some printers were not prepared to deal with an individual independent author like me but only with publishers. After taking some advice from literary consultants I decided to set up my own publishing company, Mainsail Books, at that time purely as a vehicle to get my own books printed. I certainly didn’t, at that time, envisage getting into the mainstream publishing business.

My literary journey saw my first book, ‘Buyout’ develop into a trilogy of business thrillers, with the publication of ‘Payback’ and ‘Chinese Whispers’, all three published by Mainsail Books. I also came into contact with a number of other great indie authors, but I found that there were very few writing in a similar genre to me: thrillers rooted in the business / financial world. That was until I discovered Rose Edmunds, talented author of ‘Never Say Sorry’ and ‘Concealment’. Rose has enjoyed a glittering career in the financial world, working in the City of London, and like me, decided to retire early from the corporate / financial rat race in order to become an author. Her novels, like mine, draw heavily on her own real-life experiences giving them the gritty ring of truth.

Having read both of Rose’s currently-publishedrose edmunds headshot works I was just so impressed with both her storytelling ability and her literary skills. Even more interesting to me was the uncanny level of synergy between her books and mine. Rose and I both set our stories in the backstabbing environment of the  corporate / financial world but we come at it from slightly different angles: I approach it more from a business perspective and Rose more from a financial perspective. Our books are thus nicely complementary.

I decided that I just had to meet this lady and it turned out that we had so much in common that it seemed only logical to start working together. I am delighted to tell you that Rose has agreed to join me in publishing under the Mainsail Books umbrella.

As it happens, I have also now discovered another great author who writes in a similar genre, and it may well be that he too might join Mainsail books. I won’t mention any names at this stage in case it doesn’t happen but … watch this space!

So Mainsail Books is now well on the way to becoming the leading specialist publisher of corporate / financial thrillers.

If you want to learn more about Rose Edmunds and her books, why not visit Mainsail Books’ recently revisedwebsite http://mainsailbooks.co.uk/  While you’re there you could take the opportunity to sign up for our quarterly newsletter and to receive regular updates regarding new signings, new book releases, and special offers.

It’s an exciting time for Mainsail Books!

‘Chinese Whispers’ – The wait is finally over! Release date Tues Feb 10th

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Chinese Whispers_bookI’m delighted to be able to tell you that ‘Chinese Whispers’ has finally been released for publication on Tuesday 10th Feb 2015.

http://amzn.to/1DWa5Ag  http://amzn.to/1EUqSrc

Even though this is my third book, I have, nevertheless,  still been astonished at just how much work there is still to do after finishing the first draft of the manuscript before one can finally push the button to release a book for publication. Firstly, I always ask for an independent assessment of the manuscript by a literary consultant. They’ll give an unbiased, and sometimes painful, assessment of where the story, characters, and narrative need improvement. Once I have stopped fuming about how they don’t know what they are talking about, I calm down and read their comments carefully and invariably decide that, actually, they do have one or two good points. I then embark on the rewrites necessary to polish the manuscript to achieve its full potential.

Once the manuscript is ‘finished’ I submit it for copyediting. This is where an experienced copyeditor goes through it with a fine-toothed comb to check for typos, grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors as well as any clunky or ambiguous syntax. Actually, I think my grasp of grammar, spelling, and punctuation is pretty good so I rarely find the copyeditor is telling me something I don’t know, but they always find tons of unintentional errors.

OK, so next is typesetting. This is basically rearranging the layout of the text on the page to make it suitable for a printed book of the size specified (in my case 6×9″). Actually, for my third book ‘Chinese Whispers’ I realised that this is something I can do for myself, so I dispensed with the services of a typesetter.

Then comes file conversion. For the paperback version a pdf file needs to be created from the typeset Word document, and for the kindle version a mobi file needs to be made. I know my limitations, so entrust these tasks to the professionals! Once all this has been done I arrange for a ‘proof’ copy of both paperback and kindle versions to be created. This is, essentially, a preview of the versions which will be released to my readers.

Finally comes ‘proofreading’ a final read through the ready-to-publish versions in case any last typos etc. still lurk in there. Guess what? I had to go through proofreading and revision twice before I was happy to release the book.

But now I’m finally there! For those of you who have already read my previous two books you may be surprised at the direction taken in ‘Chinese Whispers’. Whilst it does continue on from the previous books, together with some of the same characters, it moves away somewhat from the ‘Business/Boardroom/Financial Thriller’ format and veers towards mainstream ‘Action Thriller’ territory. I hope you like it!