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Self Editing and Pro Writing Aid

A few years ago, after fiddling around for the umpteenth time with my first novel I happened across a conversation on one of the various boards I’m affiliated with. The discussion concerned professional editing, the huge cost and what one might do to mitigate such cost. A larger than life contributor started by informing me (without reading any of my work) that no one should publish their first novel. Apparently all first novels are only good for one thing, the slush pile and learning how not to find oneself in the slush pile again. Having spent hundreds of hours honing my characters and plot, this wasn’t quite what I’d hoped to hear. With a sigh I could almost hear through my router, the lady in question pointed me in the direction of two online editing tools; Autocrit and Pro Writing Aid.

“Log in, upload your work and either of them will tell you how far you are behind the curve.”

With a, ’I’ll show you,’ attitude, I dutifully did as I was told. I’ve been hooked ever since.

The entirety of my 105,000 word tome has now passed through Pro Writing Aid and I feel I can comment with a degree of expertise on its functionality. I have tried Autocrit but the price held me back from engaging fully.

For the purpose of this blog however, I’ve decided to give them a side by side test using a few paragraphs from my latest novel, ‘The First Shot Fired, Rosewell.’ Although a PWA user, I will attempt to approach this as a neutral.

(Ten minutes later) I’ve just attempted to elicit the free analysis from Autocrit and stumbled into a slight problem – Autocrit no longer provides a ‘free’ analysis, but rather a very generic report (https://www.autocrit.com/). The Autocrit team then require a payment of $30 before I can proceed to see the detail. The interface itself is impressive and the slaes pitch certainly says all the right things. However, given the free version of PWA exists I can’t really see the benefit of paying so much (I bought a two year licence to the premium version of PWA for $40).

Glancing through their sales pitch I have noticed something new – advertised as follows:

‘Want to know how your writing stacks up against other published works of fiction? AutoCrit compares words and sentence constructions from your manuscript to successful published fiction, including mass-market paperbacks and bestsellers.’

It might be a gimmick, but it sounds interesting! I’m still not convinced though; as far as I can see the free version of PWA does virtually everything AutoCrit does, and in my opinion, a little more. I know more is not always necessarily better, but when it comes to free, it’s hard to beat.

To give an idea of what the PWA software can do I uploaded a few hundred words into the programme and received the following comprehensive report:

Key Actions

  1. A high “glue index” suggests you’re using lots of filler words. Try reducing these. Look at the sticky sentences section below for more specific guidance.

Document Statistics (The key statistics about your document)

594 Word Count

95 Sentences

61 Paragraphs

2,568 Characters

No Spaces

3,396 Characters

With Spaces

Vocabulary

318 Unique Words

291 Word Families

Most Unusual Words

  1. yup
  2. granddad
  3. nappies
  4. refocusing
  5. smirked

Most Used Words

the 37
and 14
of 13
to 10
on 9
a 9
in 9
John 8
‘s 8
Major 8

Your vocabulary was more dynamic (unique words/total) than 52% of ProWritingAid users

Readability Measures (Your text analyzed using common readability measures)

Tip! Readability scores are calculated using a combination of words per sentence and syllables per word. Grade Scores correspond to US school grades. i.e. 5th Grade is very easy to read and easily understood by an average 11-year-old student. To improve readability use shorter words and sentences.

84 Flesch Reading Ease

Target > 60

Grade Level Measures

Flesch-Kincaid Grade 3.1
Coleman-Liau 4.9
Automated Readability Index 2.1
Dale-Chall Grade 7 – 8

Other Measures

Flesch Reading Ease 84.1
Dale-Chall 6.6

Readability by Paragraph

 

22 Easy-to-Read Paragraphs

1 Slightly Difficult-to-Read Paragraph

2 Very Difficult-to-Read Paragraphs

Overused Words (Words and phrases that are overused compared to published books)

Tip! We compare your document to published writing in the same genre to show overused words and constructs. Identifying and reducing these will improve your writing. Note: Often this requires more than substituting a different word.

1 Overused Words

generic descriptions (watch/notice/observe/very) 3 Reduce by 1

14 Not Overused

have 4 Not overused
just/then 4 Not overused
could 2 Not overused
feel/feels/feeling/felt 1 Not overused
believe/think 1 Not overused

Sentence Structure

Tip! Varying your sentence length keeps the reader engaged. Too many long sentences are hard to read.

5.9 Sentence Variety

Target > 3

6.3 Sentence Length

Target between 11 and 18

0 Long Sentences

Your sentence variety was higher than 30% of ProWritingAid users

Your sentence length was higher than 12% of ProWritingAid users

Sentence Lengths (The length of all the sentences in your document. Varying your sentence length engages your reader.)

Tip! Look for areas where all your sentences are around the same length. These areas will benefit from more variety to maintain the reader’s interest.

 

Writing Style

Tip! Highlights common style issues such as passive voice, hidden verbs and adverb usage.

4 Passive Index

Target < 25

0 Hidden Verbs

Target 0

3 Adverbs

2 outside Dialogue

Most Used Adverbs

Surely 1
exceptionally 1
instantaneously 1

0 Repeated Sentence Starts

Target 0

4 Style Suggestions

Top Style Suggestions

You have to let Let 1
began pointing – pointed 1
in turn (omit) 1
Alright – All right 1

Your readability was better (suggestions/sentences) than 78% of ProWritingAid users

Grammar & Spelling

29 Grammar Issues

Top Grammar Suggestions

15
‘Because I still have an ounce of 1
‘What more can there be? We’re stood 1
‘Dr Hunter, what you know is just 1
‘Yup,’ said the Major. ‘Look at Nazi Germany. If 1

1 Spelling Issues

Top Spelling Suggestions

iPhone – orphan|earphone|oven|affine|avenue 1

Your grammar was better (mistakes/sentences) than 67% of ProWritingAid users

Sticky Sentences (Sticky Sentences contain too many common words. They slow your reader down.)

Tip! Sticky sentences are ones containing a high percentage of glue words. Glue words are the 200 or so most common words in English (excluding the personal pronouns). You can think of the glue words as the empty space in your writing. The more of them there are the more empty space your readers have to pass through to get to the actual meaning. By cutting down the amount of glue words in your sentences you help expose the true meaning and make the reader’s job easier.

8 Sticky Sentences

Target 0

46.5% Glue Index

Target < 40%

Your glue index was better (glue words/total) than 30% of ProWritingAid users

Dialogue

13.6% Dialogue

52.9% Dialogue Tagged

Top Dialogue Tags

say 7
ask 1
retort 1

Your use of dialogue tags was higher than 73% of ProWritingAid users

Pacing (Shows areas of slower pacing by looking at verb tenses.)

Tip! Dark areas in the chart indicate areas of slow pacing (backstory in creative writing). Where you have large chunks of slower pacing, try to add some faster pacing to keep the reader more engaged.

1.4% Slow Pacing

Transitions (Looks at words and phrases that link your writing together)

Tip! Transitions are useful when you’re trying to structure an argument. They link your sentences together forming a flowing and cohesive structure.

3.2% Transitions

Target > 25%

Top Transitions

since 2
Surely 1

Repeated Phrases

Top 3-word phrases

let us help 2
to the next 2
the Major pulled 2

Top 2-word phrases

the Major 8
said John 3
Got it 2
the door 2
his body 2

Top 1-word phrases

said 8
John 6
door 4
just 4
Solomon 3

Cliches & Redundancies (Cliches can make your writing sound tired)

0 Cliches

1 Redundancies

Top Redundancies Found

hurry it up 1

Consistency (Checks for consistent spelling, hyphenation and capitalization.)

1 Inconsistent Spelling

Target 0

0 Inconsistent Hyphenation

Target 0

2 Inconsistent Capitalization

Target 0

Usage Consistency

Curls/Smart Double Quotes 2
Straight Double Quotes 0
Curly/Smart Single Quotes 73
Straight Single Quotes 0
Ellipsis characters 1 Fix
Three dots 1 Fix
Hyphens 3
En-dash 0
Em-dash 0

Other Items

Diction

up 3 Avoid using prepositions such as “up” as the last word in a sentence
of 2 Avoid using prepositions such as “of” as the last word in a sentence
about 1 Avoid using prepositions such as “about” as the last word in a sentence
as 1 Avoid using prepositions such as “as” as the last word in a sentence
at 1 Avoid using prepositions such as “at” as the last word in a sentence

Vague & Abstract Words

all 2 Vague
like 2 Vague
cold 1 Vague
about 1 Vague
would 1 Vague

Corporate Wording

exceptionally 1 Try to use a simpler wording. Examples: only when; in this case

 

As you can see the report is very comprehensive and will certainly give even the most pedantic of writers something to think about. Although I must admit to ignoring at least half the reports, the grammar/spelling, repeated words, consistency, and adverb reports have been a godsend.

I’m currently in the middle of crowdfunding my first novel, The Atlantis Deception, via Unbound.com. I firmly believe they would have rejected it had the novel not been edited via PWA before submission. With any luck the copy editing process will also be less traumatic!

In summary, if you are considering using an online editing tool, and have sufficient funds, I’d suggest comparing the two yourself. If not just go with Pro Writing Aid and see how you get on. It is free and good free stuff is hard to pass up.

If you have found this blog useful I would really appreciate your support in pledging to publish, ‘The Atlantis Deception.’ The £10 pledge is currently half price with promo code atlantis5. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

https://unbound.com/books/the-atlantis-deception/

Best wishes, Mark

(I should add I’m not affiliated to either programme in any way – just though it would make an interesting blog!)

Wattpad, Inkitt, Critiquecircle and Unbound – Navigating Writing Websites for the Uninitiated

There are number of outlets for publishing your work on the internet and some are better than others. Over the years I have used four platforms to have my work both critiqued and read: Wattpad.com, cirtiquecircle.com, Inkitt.com, Unbound.com and Authonomy (now deceased).

The biggest of the sites and perhaps the most famous is Wattpad. Boasting an audience of 45 million and over 300 million uploaded books Wattpad felt like the place to start if I were to build a following for my work. I uploaded Atlantis Reborn chapter by chapter over the course of two or three months and set up residence on the club pages, offering advice and help in return for some small promotion of the novel. It was a tough introduction into social media but one that I needed and the experience has held me in good stead for what was to come. I still remember feeling so proud when the novel hit 100 reads!

As with most things in life, you get out what you put in. I (perhaps misguidedly) joined Wattpad after hearing that if you do well there is a good chance of being picked up for publication. Although the chances of being plucked from obscurity to international acclaim is unlikely, even if your work does moderately well, at the very least Wattpad notoriety is something tangible to include in submission letters – should the traditional publication route be your goal. On that point you should note that if you do post a novel online it will lose its first publication rights. This is looked upon unfavourably by many of the big publishing houses. Ironically the same publishers that insist you prove you work can attract an audience – Catch 22!

After realising this a little too late I decided to use my first novel as an advert for the second and treated Wattpad for what it is – a platform to build an audience.

There are two distinct groups on the site; the writers and the readers. There are a huge number of subscribers in the under 18 category, but given the size of their readership, still more than enough to satisfy for most authors to find a readership, whatever your genre.

As a new writer, as I see it your job is to promote your work until it becomes both visible and viable. Treat Wattpad as a kind of safe beginner’s introduction to the world of publication. If you are successful on Wattpad (promoting, reviewing, blogging, tweeting, joining in with forum debates etc.) the experience should provide you with the skills and confidence to apply them in the big bad world of paid publishing. If you do well enough, Wattpad will give something back for all your hard work. From my point of view I was promoted as a featured author and my book even appeared at Comi-con a couple of years ago, associated with the TV series ‘The Dig’. The site are also constantly running various writing competitions throughout the year which again can only look good on a CV if you are lucky enough to win one.

The second of the sites I posted on was Inkitt, which is essentially Wattpad on a smaller scale. The biggest difference in how they market themselves is the analytics. They claim if you prove you have a readership interacting with your novel you will win a publishing deal. This is what drew me in but after a few months the standard and genre of books winning prizes did not inspire me and eventually I removed my work from the site. I have since been told their publishing terms require a 15 year association with their label which seems excessive, especially if the book doesn’t sell.

Criqiquecircle.com is a website I would recommend to anyone involved in writing and interested in improving their craft. The site is free (although there is a paid version) and revolves around reciprocal critiquing. For every chapter you read and review you will receive a credit. Credits can them be cashed by submitting your own work. You need a thick skin as some of the critics can be quite tough on you, some of it warranted but some not. It does hurt, especially at first but it is all part of the learning process. My advice would be to try not to be precious about anything. Take onboard advice you agree with and dismiss what you don’t. That said, if a few people pick up on the same point it might be wise to take notice!

My final port of call is the crowdfunding publisher, Unbound.com. They are a relatively new publishing house and one that has recently taken me under their wing. They may be young but already they can count established names such as Kate Mosse, Terry Jones, Tony Hawks, Andy Hamilton and Katy Brand amongst their clientele.

All crowdfunded monies go directly into supporting the book. It covers copyediting, proofing, cover design, typesetting and eventually marketing. To date, the Unbound community has pledged over £3 million to a variety of projects, ranging from an anthology on race and identity in contemporary Britain to a compilation of terrible old video games you’ve probably never heard of.

Over 113,247 people from every corner of the globe have supported an Unbound project and helped make that idea a reality. To date, Unbound have published 218 books and many of these have been bestsellers and received critical acclaim (included being long listed for the Man Booker Prize). I am proud to have been given the opportunity to bolster that number with my own work.

If you haven’t heard of Unbound I suggest visiting their website. In my opinion this is the seed of change the publishing industry needs to wake it up and end their reliance on the so called super-authors such as King, Rowling and Brown.

Thank you for reading and I hope you can find the time to visit my campaign page and perhaps pledge your support.

https://unbound.com/books/the-atlantis-deception/

Best wishes,

Mark

BECOMING AN EFFECTIVE MEMBER OF THE TWITTERATI – PITFALLS TO AVOID FOR AUTHORS

After struggling my way through Social Media like many of my contemporaries, I decided the time has come to put a few of my discoveries down on paper – or onscreen in this case.

In the last few years, like many others I’ve attempted to grow my readership using a number of platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin, Wattpad and of course, Twitter. This is not an exhaustive list but merely the sites with which I’ve had at least a degree of success. The latter is my current medium of choice (simply due the huge footfall the site attracts), so the decision to choose Twitter as the primary focus for this particular blog was easy.

I’ve heard many of my peers bemoaning Twitter and advising me to steer clear as it doesn’t work and people don’t interact. Ignore anyone telling you this. This is simply not true and merely a indictment of their own misunderstanding as to how the site should be used. Believe me it is a daunting prospect and I’m not surprised people are left floundering on a metaphorical beach, gasping for air.

twitterbirddown

PITFALL ONE – YOUR BIO

Does this look familiar?

Author of 5-star #thriller CLOUDS AND CONCRETE available for #Kindle. Fervent #manutd fan, #cats, and #cycling.

So many of us adopt this style (I did) and now know it scares potential followers rather than attracting them into the fold.

Hashtags are a complete no no for one. They are difficult and annoying for people to read. The mini advert also suggests the author will spam followers into buying their book should they choose to follow. Again avoid the tactic if possible. Shouting about your book’s star rating on amazon, or comparing it to Lord of the Rings will only come across as arrogant. Your bio will not sell books. The subject matter and how the follow relates to it is much more important.

It is fine to spam, but do so as tweets mingled with other more ‘interesting’ tweets. Sayings and quotes are perhaps the most popular way of doing this. This will not only humanize you, but also allow you to tweet at least a limited amount of advertising ‘spam’ without annoying followers.

Remember the bio is about you. Talk about what you write and why you are unique; Mention topics you will be tweeting. Your bio needs to inspire people enough to hit the follow button.

PITFALL TWO – AUTOMATED MESSAGES

How often to you hit follow only for an automated advert to flick up on your screen. How often do you read them? If you’re like me, virtually never! They just serve to annoy so avoid them. You instantly fall into the category of a marketing bot rather than a real person. Humanizing yourself is the only way to get results on Twitter so don’t put yourself on the back foot before you begin.

The same goes for automated tweets. That said I do use them through the night to promote to my American audience but rarely during the day. As I said above, mixing adverts and tweets of general interest is paramount to attracting followers. Reacting to world events and tragedies is a must. How distasteful would it be for adverts to go out in the wake of a terrorist attack, for example?

PITFALL THREE – PROTECTING YOUR TWEETS

Obvious, but don’t do it. Remember the point of social media is to be accessible. Forcing people to go through TRUETWIT validation or some other mechanism is a waste of time and who wants to risk being rejected.

PITFALL FOUR – HASHTAGS

Hashtags will promote traffic but make sure the hashtags you use are relevant. If you use an abandoned hashtag you may as well not use one at all! You can check a hashtag is being used by checking it yourself (search Twitter) or use a bespoke website like Hashtags.org.

PITFALL FIVE – LISTS

If you don’t group your followers you should start. I’ve only just started and it is a lifesaver (in terms of time). Tweets coming out of each group can be highlighted using programs such as TweetDeck or Hootsuite.

Lists can also aid in making connections with specific groups – agents, editors, cover artists etc. They are also invaluable in helping build relationships with other writers; keeping track of subject matter experts for potential plot lines; and if you’re lucky for staying in touch with fans.

I hope this has been of benefit and I would appreciate it if you could like or share the post.

I am still actively seeking pledges for my latest novel, ‘The Atlantis Deception’ which I am aiming to publish with the crowdfunding publisher, Unbound. Please check out the project at https://unbound.com/books/the-atlantis-deception/ and perhaps consider becoming a patron of the creative arts.

 

 

The Atlantis of Heinrich Himmler and Nazi Germany

Heinrich Himmler is one of the central characters in Part Two of my upcoming novel, The Atlantis Deception. I thought I would take a moment to acquaint potential readers with a little background to this infamous individual.

Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-S72707,_Heinrich_Himmler

Reichsführer Himmler is widely recognised amongst historians as the second most powerful man in Nazi Germany. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior, he oversaw the affairs of all internal and external police forces as well as the German security forces; security forces that included the feared units of the SS and the Gestapo. He is known to have been fiercely protective of his involvement in developing the SS; taking great pride in helping to design and approve the black uniform and distinctive lightning strike insignia.

Himmler infamously presided over the holocaust and as the figurehead of the atrocity attracted sole responsibility for coordinating the deaths of over 10 million “enemies” of Germany. Indeed, after visiting one of his numerous concentration camps, he took the decision to implement the use of gas chambers. The idea being it would prove a more cost effective and efficient method of execution when compared with bullets. Himmler was one of the most dangerous and influential men in the Third Reich; it was a shame that his cowardly suicide robbed the West of its chance to put him on trial in Nurnberg.

220px-Himmler_Dead

Himmler’s corpse in Allied custody after his suicide by poison, 1945

There is however, a little more to Heinrich Himmler than the cold and calculating war criminal history has grown to despise. He kept a series of diaries from the age of 10, diaries perhaps evidencing metal illness, illness manifesting itself in a fear and subsequent hate for all ‘foreign’ outsiders. The hate jumps from the pages and was something he carried from childhood to adulthood before finding acceptance in the confines of the Nazi Party; an environment where it blossomed into something almost inhuman and consumed him. The diary entries make it clear that, although Hitler and other leading lights within the Party could certainly be considered active racists, some of them can be considered almost left wing when compared to Himmler.

The Reichsführer was certainly not shy of this fact and indeed it is well known he thrived on his reputation as a racist in the extremist sense of the word. What is less well known is how Himmler sought to justify his stance using archaeology. Armed with a huge budget, he commissioned a variety of archaeological and anthropological projects throughout the world, each of them designed to unearth evidence of how the people he considered as Untermensch, or sub-human, genetically pollute the world.

To understand Himmler, one has to understand the world within which he lived and unfortunately thrived within. It is well documented that Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ Party can be traced back to the Munich chapter of a small organisation known as the Thule Society. Founded sometime around 1910, the core belief of its members pertained to the conviction that the Germanic based Aryan race were the direct descendants of the survivors of the Atlantean Apocalypse. However, once the Thule Society had served its purpose in providing Hitler with a public platform, he, perhaps wisely, rejected this core principle; choosing merely to incorporate and adopt the Society’s recognisable swastika logo into his new regime.

History records that Heinrich Himmler did not actually have any direct links to the Thule Society, yet nonetheless he was fascinated with the alleged Aryan link to Atlantis. He believed as descendants of a civilisation mythology leads us to believe was far superior to anything else existing at that time; it followed that those with Aryan blood should also be considered as superior to those around them. In his eyes the world was contaminated and continuing to be contaminated by ‘sub human’ societies. These Untermensch were diluting the blood line and he believed knowingly interbreeding with his beloved Aryans; the sole aim being to steal their ‘superior’ genetics.

Paranoia set it and concerned this interbreeding was effectively wiping out the Aryan race, he decided to take a stand on behalf of what he perceived to be ancestors. His dark hair and weasel-like features not deterring him from the belief he was of Aryan descent.

As a result, through a combination of these misguided fanatical beliefs and his supreme position of power in the Third Reich, Himmler instigated, what he saw as a programme of justified genocide.

Himmler was convinced his standpoint was right, but he wasn’t stupid. He realised that eventually the rest of the high command, and indeed Germany in general, would eventually require proof of this Aryan link to Atlantis and the conspiracy to eradicate it. Once the war was over, whatever the outcome, both he and Hitler must have been aware a time might arrive when they’d have to justify their use of concentration camps; as well as the many other atrocities that were committed in their names.

Therefore, in 1935, with the consent of the Fuhrer, Himmler established the Ahnenerbe, the ancestral heritage branch of the SS.

Ahnenerbe_svg

Emblem of the Ahnenerbe

Under his direct command, the unit was primarily tasked with investigating the Aryan bloodline and over the next few years, undertook numerous projects designed to uncover the supremacist proof that Himmler so craved. Although carrying out much of their work in Europe, Himmler famously funded expeditions into Tibet and the Andes. It was in the former locale the team is alleged to have struck lucky. Although the find was never made public, amongst a number of ancient texts, it is believed the expedition leader, Ernst Schafer, presented Himmler with at least one document pertaining to the origin of the Aryan race. Unfortunately, from the point of view of archaeology, the end of the war followed soon afterwards and with Himmler’s suicide, the funding and the trail ended there.

120px-Bundesarchiv_Bild_135-KB-14-082,_Tibetexpedition,_Ernst_Schäfer

Ernst Schäfer in Tibet, 1938

So what did Schafer find? Evidence of a lost civilisation; a sunken kingdom; proof that the Aryan race was in fact related to Atlantis? Whatever it was, if indeed it ever existed, and depending upon what it actually said, Himmler must have either destroyed it or locked it away. Maybe locked away in the hope of a successful defection at the end of the war. A defection allowing him to one day return to his quest and trumpet the truth to the world.

History, unfortunately for Reichsführer Himmler, had other ideas.

ancientMaps-header-featured-2-for-web

 

The Real Indiana Jones

Colonel Percy Fawcett

It may not be a name you are aware of (unless you have watched the recent Amazon film – The Lost City of Z), but Fawcett is alleged to be the inspiration behind the beloved fictional archaeologist, Indiana Jones. Fawcett’s Amazonian field reports were also read by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, inspiring him to write his seminal novel, The Lost World.

During his travels Fawcett recorded his many exploits in a number of handwritten journals; accounts that have most recently surfaced in David Grann’s excellent retelling of his adventures in his book, The lost City of Z.

51o-3-68PML__SX335_BO1,204,203,200_

The book seamlessly fills in the blanks weaving together a compilation of various extracts from the Colonel’s field notes recorded between 1906 and 1925. There are a number of highlights such as crossing paths with killing a 62 foot giant anaconda, recording unknown animals including an odd cat-like dog, the double nosed Andean tiger hound and the giant Apazauca spider.

anim_h3

Throughout his various expeditions Fawcett became convinced of the existence of an ancient civilisation, now lost to time which once existed in the Matto Grosso region of Brazil. He claimed to have seen the city, which for the sake of ease he labelled “Z,” and set out on his final expedition in 1925, determined to bring back evidence.

Along with his eldest son, Fawcett never returned from his final adventure, disappearing in unknown circumstances and with his death, the location of Z perished with him.

The journals are a goldmine of ideas for writers and it is easy to see why George Lucas and Conan Doyle pounced upon them. Intriguingly, Fawcett makes it clear the evidence he uncovered in Brazil was enough to convince him absolutely that Z was an offshoot of Atlantean civilisation. A city of refugees founded when Atlantis fell.

“the connection of Atlantis with parts of what is now Brazil is not to be dismissed contemptuously, and belief in it — with or without scientific corroboration — affords explanations for many problems which otherwise are unsolved mysteries.” (Lost Trails, Lost Cities, pp. 15-17)

“I expect the ruins to be monolithic in character, more ancient than the oldest Egyptian discoveries. Judging by inscriptions found in many parts of Brazil, the inhabitants used an alphabetical writing allied to many ancient European and Asian scripts. There are rumours, too, of a strange source of light in the buildings, a phenomenon that filled with terror the Indians who claimed to have seen it.

The central place I call “Z” — our main objective — is in a valley surmounted by lofty mountains. The valley is about ten miles wide, and the city is on an eminence in the middle of it, approached by a barrelled roadway of stone. The houses are low and windowless, and there is a pyramidal temple. The inhabitants of the place are fairly numerous, they keep domestic animals, and they have well-developed mines in the surrounding hills. Not far away is a second town, but the people living in it are of an inferior order to those of “Z.” Farther to the south is another large city, half buried and completely destroyed.”

Many expeditions have attempted to follow in Fawcett’s footsteps and each of them has failed, even one mounted by his own youngest son. Nonetheless, with so much of Brazil still hidden from the naked eye it is not inconceivable that its Rainforest may still hide Fawcett’s lost city.

As his co-ordinates yielded no results, the city has long been dismissed as the mere folly of an eccentric explorer. However, with researchers such as Rand Flem-Ath (The Atlantis Blueprint) offering up new theories as to ancient and long-lost mapping techniques, maybe now is the time to pick our maps back up and re-calculate. Who of us is going to be brave enough to take a chance and act upon the theories of a man who, after all, was the real Indiana Jones…

Pledge and Publish The Atlantis Deception on Unbound. Join Dr John Hunter on his unrelenting quest to uncover the origins of civilisation

https://unbound.com/books/the-atlantis-deception

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The Atlantis Deception on Unbound.com

I am proud to announce my first novel ‘The Atlantis Deception’ has undergone nine weeks of assessment and been accepted by the prestigious Crowdfunding publisher, Unbound.

https://unbound.com/books/the-atlantis-deception/

If you enjoy my style of writing please pledge your support using the above link. There are a number of pledge levels ranging from £10 all the way to £1000. I am very excited to announce I am collaborating with Southampton based artist, John Howse. An incredibly talented artist credited with creating some truly amazing imagery. Inspired by the themes of the novel, John has agreed to take on the task of creating the Cover Art and additional canvases to be used to fulfil certain pledge levels. Please do check these out, John’s work is highly collectable and these limited edition prints and originals will not be around for long.

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To give a little context, please be aware this is nothing like a kickstarter campaign. Unbound are a publisher in their own right. The crowdfunded monies will all go into directly supporting the book; paying for copyediting, proofing, cover design, typesetting and marketing. To date, the Unbound community has pledged over £3 million to a variety of projects, ranging from an anthology on race and identity in contemporary Britain to a compilation of terrible old video games you’ve probably never heard of. They work with new authors such as myself all the way through to television personalities such as Andy Hamilton and Tony Hawks.

Over 113,247 people from every corner of the globe have supported an Unbound project and helped make that idea a reality. To date, Unbound have published 218 books that only exist thanks to the Unbound community. Many of these have been bestsellers and received critical acclaim, and I am proud to be given the opportunity to have my own work bolster that number.

If you haven’t heard of Unbound I suggest visiting their website. In my opinion this is the seed of change the publishing industry needs to wake it up and end their reliance on the so called super-authors such as King, Rowling and Brown.

Thank you for your time and I hope you can find the time to visit my page, maybe pledge your support and make my dream a reality.

Best Wishes, Mark.

Donald Trump ate my Hamster – Crowdfunding a Novel

Fake news but amused me when I saw the shock tactic title on youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wckL_lqL4aE – The video is irrelevant but I’m guessing the title may have drawn in more viewers than it should have received! Perhaps it’s something I should learn from…

I’ve just sat through my lunchbreak re-tweeting anything of vague interest appearing on my feed whilst intermittently checking the landing page of my crowdfunding project. Life has certainly changed from those heady and long forgotten days of just logging in and simply writing for the sheer joy of it.

I’m now a nervous wreck of a man, complete with sweaty palms and a nervous tick as I patiently pray for someone somewhere to click on my project – and God forbid – pledge their support. 96% now… 96 – a number I loved two days ago and now loath with abandon at its stubborn refusal to remove itself from my screen, making way for my new and upcoming love… number 97.

My relationship with Penguin’s crowdfunding publishing platform, Unbound, began almost six months ago now. Little did I know when I whooped and hollered at my acceptance email that this single word, crowdfunding, would impact on my life in so many different ways.

I’d just entered a world I knew nothing about, a world full of sharks wanting to separate you from your hard earned cash.

“We have thousands of contacts ready to crowdfund your project!” – No you don’t…

“We can market you on Twitter (or Facebook) to our 500,000 followers!” – Fake followers…

“We can DM all your Twitter followers and guarantee £££!” – Errr no you can’t…

There are so many of these preying vulture sites out in the internet ether, I can’t keep up. Maybe some of them do work, but I can safely say most of them will not work for first time authors. If you are currently in the same crowdfunding boat as I am, then as far as I have worked out there are really only three “guaranteed” mechanisms at your disposal. Your friends and family, their friends and family and anyone you have ever worked or had a relationship with in any capacity. This is where the majority of your initial pledges will be coming from.

It is all very well looking at Facebook and Twitter and dreaming but once online, your project will join hundreds of thousands of others, all of which are competing for the attention of potential backers and readers. It’s a tough environment to enter – as I know all too well.

Since the start of my campaign I’ve tweeted nearly two thousand times, acquired nearly ten thousand followers and spent hours doing so. So much so, there are people out there thinking I’m a bot! The infamous twitter trolls are certainly out there but luckily I don’t seem to be coming across too many. Those crossing my path just get blocked and quickly. I’m told engaging with them is the worst thing you can do. Plus it feels good to block rude people. It’s bizarre that people who have no interest in what you’re doing seem to want to interact more than those who are interested! I digress.

Although I’ve picked up four or five pledges via Twitter, I’m hoping the platform will show it’s true worth once the book is actually published. People are much more likely to spend two or three pounds/dollars or a product they will receive immediately rather than for something to arrive later. It’s probably the same for Facebook but I’m struggling with that medium at the moment (over and above contacting my own friend base).

The same long game style tactic goes for my Website. The first thing I was advised to do was set up a website “to legitimise” my claim to be an author. Although initially good fun, keeping it up to date with interesting blogs and information is not an easy task. Just coming up with potential topics is hard enough. Then you’ve got to write it, find interesting pictures, edit it, worry that it’s crap and then release it anyway. Again I know this is all a necessary evil to inspire whoever might be reading to click a link, but it’s something else I didn’t really think about when signing off with a flourish at the end of my novel.

I’ve been very lucky with my backers so far and in particular my brother in law and his Company have been amazing. Without him I’m not sure what I would be doing now. Writing off for Company sponsorship might have been a possibility; along with setting up workshops; pledge parties; reading to children at local libraries and perhaps a talk or two on the crowdfunding process. These tactics are now all in reserve for the sequel’s campaign (the well of goodwill from my friends and family is definitely drying by the day…) and I expect the night terrors leading up to such events will form the subject of another blog.

I don’t know who I’ve aimed this blog at but if you want to share your experiences or perhaps use me to bounce some ideas off, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

In the meantime, if you fancy taking a look at my project please find it at https://unbound.com/books/the-atlantis-deception

Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

XWWX ATLANTIS SANDS OF RA

How to avoid Account Suspension on Twitter. Playing within the rules.

I’ve recently been at the wrong end of a blocked Twitter account and it really wasn’t the best of experiences. Not only did it take three visits to Twitter’s help centre (each visit taking two days for a response) but the consequence of having a blocked account for nearly a week cost me just under a thousand of my hard earned followers. It was a pain as I’m trying actively trying to build my following to attempt entice backers to help publish my latest novel.

Anyway, as a result I decided to undertake a bit of research into what it is that the Twitter bots are objecting to me doing.

My tactic to build followers is simple and consists of following the followers of authors in my genre. With any luck they’ll notice my follow and like what I’m doing enough to follow me back. The technique seems to work and I’m now up to eight thousand followers. All good but the downside being if I’m not careful, Twitter can mistake me for a spammer and as a result block my account. Bad times.

Twitter’s rules, limits and regulations regarding following and unfollowing can at times be a little vague and confusing. Obviously they are there to stop abuse of the platform and are probably vague to prevent reverse engineering by naughty programmers much cleverer than me.

Assuming you aren’t intentionally trying to abuse Twitter you need at least a working knowledge of these Twitter rules to prevent your account being suspended.

From what I’ve read there are three points that one needs to keep in mind – particularly if you use the platform on a daily basis.

  1. It is recommended that you follow less than one hundred people per day. This is particularly key if you have less than two thousand followers.
  2. Once your following rises above this level you should find you are able to follow more people without a problem. However please note that Twitter has a hard limit of one thousand follows in a twenty four hour period. This is where I think I’ve been caught out; If you follow more than a thousand the account will be blocked and additional follows in the same period rejected.
  3. Be aware there is allegedly no limit on unfollowing, but again I would stick to the thousand limits. Again I have been asked to verify the account on a couple of occasions when unfollowing on mass. It is also recommended that you do not unfollow and refollow the same people repeatedly. Twitter considers this as aggressive activity and will result in a ban.

If you stick to the rules your Twitter account shouldn’t face any account suspension issues. I suppose as a caveat remember that Twitter are entitled to change their rules and limits without notice or even publishing the changes. Good luck and I wish I’d known about these limits earlier!

I am still actively seeking pledges for my latest novel, ‘The Atlantis Deception’ which is on the road to being published by the crowdfunding publisher, Unbound. If you like Michael Crichton with a little Clive Cussler on the side, please check out the project at https://unbound.com/books/the-atlantis-deception/ and perhaps consider becoming a patron of the creative arts.

I’ve Published my book – So what do I do now?

Although in the midst of a tricky crowdfunding sell on my latest novel, ‘The Atlantis Deception,’ I have started to think about the processes to come – the copyediting; the proof reading; the advertising – should I put my eggs in the google advertising basket, Facebook ads, amazon ads, or maybe all three? How should I use Goodreads to its full advantage – and what about twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn? Is my website good enough? Are my blogs frequent enough – Is my content even worth reading?

At this point, with my meltdown in full swing, I turned off the computer and crawled under my desk.

I needed to get back to the basics and focus on the why as oppose to the, ‘just do it because everyone else is doing it.’ Forgetting about the pre-publishing bit, I know I need to throw myself into aspects of post publication marketing even now and I need a plan of attack. Without a focus and simply an aimless approach I will achieve nothing and probably just give up, disheartened, like hundreds of authors before me, by the enormity of the task. Even with a plan it still feels like I’m trying to break through a wall with a toothpick.

So what is important? What should I (and therefore you) be trying to improve as I hurtle into the world of publishing? I’ve come up with five target areas I can influence:

  1. Cover Art
  2. Teaser paragraph
  3. Trailer
  4. Reviews
  5. Traffic

I’m linked to a publisher now and I still not certain how the cover art will be dealt with. That said I’ve still commissioned a local artist to generate some advertising posters to support the launch of the novel when it happens. Imagery is so important in this field and given we are artists ourselves, often overlooked. It is ironic that the phrase, ‘never judge a book by its cover,’ couldn’t be more wrong in the literary world – for the first time author (assuming the title pricks the interest of a reader) this is absolutely what our work will be judged on. If the cover does its job, the reader will then move onto the teaser paragraph. Test your cover image before revealing it to the world – if you are online only, ensure it is striking enough to work as an Amazon thumbnail. If you wouldn’t click on it yourself, go back to the drawing board.

I’ve included a couple of images John has created for me. If you like his style and would like to work with him, please drop me a line.

The teaser paragraph is your clincher, you’ve reeled in your potential reader with an interesting title and excellent art work – now you need to wow him and her with your ability to weave an interesting story. Similar to the cover art, you need to do the groundwork. Find out what works and what really doesn’t. Check out the number of hits you’re getting and dump accordingly. Once you hit on the winning formula your views to buys ratio should start to fly!

Item number three on the list is the book trailer. This is a new(ish) method of advertising to me and something I’ve had to create as part of my Unbound crowdfunding project. With little budget I’ve found this tough to engage with and although my trailer (uploaded to YouTube) is okay, an investment of (at most) two or three hundred pounds would make it amazing. Once published this is where my initial budget will be heading. There are so many thousands of books out there now and I believe this is a nailed on game changer and something that will help me stand out from the crowd. In case you are already at the point of requiring a book trailer, these are a selection of developers I have come across so far.

(under 1minute book trailer, around $250).

http://www.3dtree.net/ http://www.vimeo.com/user4056030 (usman-rafi@hotmail.com) http://ligastudio.webs.com/ http://www.mindofminnich.com http://www.pixelgenio.com/ http://pcledera.webs.com/ http://www.thedesigncrew.biz/

Lowest Price (Less than $150): http://redlotusproductions.wordpress

Reviews: This is where social media starts to come into play. Reviews are key (if you believe the hype, Google analytics and Amazon itself) to generating the next of my goals, traffic. Optimising your cover and teaser paragraph will not mean anything without traffic. First and foremost, try and make everyone you know to both buy your book and leave some kind of review. They should be truthful to some extent – we’ve all seen those self-published books with twenty or so five star reviews and they stand out like a sore thumb. That said they will at least move you along the path. It’s then down to begging and pleading (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn); giving away free copies, doing favours and swapping reviews with other authors in the same boat. With any luck over time enough reviews (hopefully good) will land on your plate for Google and Amazon to take notice. Then you’re away!

Once you set out your plan of action and allocate your budget appropriately, the publishing game suddenly doesn’t seem quite so complex. Maybe it’s even a game we can win. Just remember everything you do should be geared towards one thing – persuading readers to click your BUY IT NOW button!

I am still actively seeking pledges for my latest novel, ‘The Atlantis Deception’ which is on the road to being published by the crowdfunding publisher, Unbound. If you like Michael Crichton with a little Clive Cussler on the side, please check out the project at https://unbound.com/books/the-atlantis-deception/ and perhaps consider becoming a patron of the creative arts.

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Where is my Muse? – Motivation for bloggers and writers

Another ridiculously hot day here in the south of England, once again hitting 30°C – bordering on assault for my pasty Scottish skin!

It’s tough to concentrate and lethargy has definitely set in. It got me thinking about how I manage to find the motivation to actually pick up a pen or tap away on the keyboard. I’ve come up with a few and it would be interesting to hear what others might add to this far from finite list.

  1. Setting aside a specific and recurrent period of time: Sounds obvious but it works for me. If I know my witching hours are between 8 and 10, I tend not to procrastinate so much and get down to the serious job of creating content. If I sit down ad hoc, I tend to play about on Twitter, Facebook or the like and eventually the time drips away with little to show for my efforts.
  2. The right time: This sort of relates to the above and is personal to the individual. The muse in my head seems to perform better late at night so my creative time has adjusted accordingly. If there’s a time when you’re more alert, make this your daily writing time.
  3. A comfortable space: Again this is personal but I always feel I need a clean and comfortable environment to work in. If my space isn’t just right I go a little bit OCD and clean up everything in the vicinity. I don’t want anything on show past the bare minimum! I suppose the opposite may be true of others and clutter may invoke your muse but the space should and will inevitably match your personality and fit the creative you.
  4. A blank canvas. Switch off your phone. E-mail, smart phones, tablets, and any other electronics-are the enemies of writing. They are the Devil when it comes to distraction and eating away precious writing time. Every notification will pull you into a zone incompatible with creativity. I’m not suggesting doing this if you’re a doctor on call but other than that turn then off – maybe even lock them away! Any messages will still be there when your period of creativity is over.
  5. Ritual: I’m not saying you should be chalking a pentagon into your carpet and chanting at its centre – well unless that floats your boat – but a ritual of sorts might help get you in the grove. I have a set of Star Wars models that must always be arranged in a certain order before I start, but I guess a hat or lucky pants might also do the trick!
  6. A daily quota of words: Back to a familiar one – simply setting a target. I may set aside two hours a day but the word count is the motivation within that period. 1000 words tends to be my minimum and once achieved I can relax. Sometimes I use all my dedicated time to its full and in other instances I finish early but either way having a target quota is essential. If nothing else it is proof you have achieved a tangible result for your efforts that day.
  7. Record and set your targets: I keep an A4 calendar on my desk with daily targets and actual results registered. It gives me an enormous sense of well-being (to quote Blur). It’s nice to see progression and gives you an idea of time frames (first draft will be complete in June – for example).

So that’s me. I’m sure there are many more examples out there and please feel free to share. It would be nice to engage with one or two of you out there in the internet ether.

I hope this has been of benefit and I would appreciate it if you could like or share the post.

I am still actively seeking pledges for my latest novel, ‘The Atlantis Deception’ which is on the road to being published by the crowdfunding publisher, Unbound. If you like Michael Crichton with a little Clive Cussler on the side, please check out the project at https://unbound.com/books/the-atlantis-deception/ and perhaps consider becoming a patron of the creative arts.