All posts by Martyn K Jones

First published in 1978, Martyn has produced a wide variety of work; from PR copy in trade magazines to supernatural short stories and the occasional satirical article. Emigrated to Canada in 2007. Became a Canadian Citizen December 2014. Now branching out as a serious science fiction novelist and short story writer. Loves motorcycling, deep sea fishing and travel.

Relocating


Not much writing going on at the moment. My major focus has been our forthcoming move back to Europe. Have created a separate blog about our assorted adventures called Craicerjack Life. What that will turn into is anybody’s guess.

I don’t post much here because unless there’s a new release or development, there’s not much to say, but ‘fabblegab’ seems to have the panic over SARS/COV-2 down to a T.

For us, the future is going to be a very broad canvas. I get the feeling I shouldn’t be buying paintbrushes to fill it, but a large format spraygun.

Now I am no longer working for a Canadian Distance Learning School, there will be time for all the projects that I’ve been neglecting for far too long.

Mid September through October will be taken up with the fine detail of relocation, which I will detail with video content, on the other site.

Fabblegab, a definition


I came across a wonderful adjective the other day which is descriptive of so much. That word is ‘fabblegab’.

fa·bblegab
/ˈfābəl/ gab

noun
noun: fable; plural noun: fables

A confusing mass of verbiage designed to deceive.
Similar:
nonsense
confabulatory
bafflegab

verbarchaic
verb: fable; 3rd person present: fables; past tense: fabled; past participle: fabled; gerund or present participle: fabling

tell fictitious tales.
“I do not dream nor fable”

Happy new decade


Not just a happy new year to everyone, if as usual the deadline for saying so has just whooshed past, but happy new decade. The futures I was afraid of over twenty years ago don’t look like they’re going to happen. Which is a bit awkward when you’ve been writing dystopian sci-fi for much of that time.

Over the last week or so, having put “The Cat Tree and other stories” out in the marketplace, I have been watching lots of YouTube videos on what makes a successful writer. The first is my least favourite. It feels like the two festively dressed presenters are giving the finger to those of us who like me, are massive introverts.

For the record, according to the Myers-Briggs test I’m an INTP or ‘Fixer’. I’m really terrible at socialising and can only do it for short periods, after which I need a long lie down in the proverbial darkened room. So to all these self publishing gurus who say you need lots of reader / writer interaction, sorry, that won’t work for me. I just don’t have the emotional makeup to readily switch between creator mode and dealing with the rest of the stuff that comes with marketing. I’ve worked in marketing and hated every minute. I’m happiest out of the limelight, firmly behind the keyboard, inner eyes focussed elsewhen, my attention focussed on the story.

My favourite video, well at least so far, on the topic of writing and success is the 2016 mashup below, where successful writers are being asked about what and how they think. I particularly like the interview with Elizabeth Gilbert starting at 25:14 where she talks about the shit sandwich all writers have to eat, every day. It’s candid and revelatory. As are the three sections where Neil Gaiman has something to say.

If anybody does drop by, check out the videos and tell me what you think.

If anyone wants me, I’ll be behind my keyboard.

Progress


Have re-written “Oggie” and re-titled it as “Aug-E”. The beginning of the story has always worked well, but I was forever unhappy with the last version that can be found under the ‘Short Stories’ menu. So I chopped it in half and junked the Paul Calvin ambush story line, preferring to follow my stepdaughters comment about one of the characters, the transgender ‘Pete’. She told me she was disappointed with the original and told me I should have done more with ‘Pete’, so I switched story lines to make it more about the dynamic between the uber-male character Frank Yale and the less physical ‘Pete’.

At a shade under seven thousand words, it’s a much better read than the original and I liked the follow through from the gangland theme in the beginning. I know about gangs and how they work from my experiences in the late 70’s with some of the outlaw biker gangs in Birmingham, UK. Also, having worked with two pre-operative transgenders whilst in nursing college during the early 1980’s, I did some more research and threw in what I knew from personal experience. It seems to ring true. So I’m putting it into the ‘finished’ file.

The story emphasis in Aug-E is now more about transitions, both from the physical and psychological aspects. I’ve got an idea for some basic but interesting artwork and the ending is a lot better, but no spoilers at this point. It will form the key story from a collection of quirky science fiction short stories with the working title “Aug-E and clones”. I have the skeletons of another eleven tales that I shall be working on during January and February, hopefully with a total word count of fifty to sixty thousand words. White on black art for the cover and simple silhouette art for the inside of the hardback as before. It’s a lot simpler, far more striking, and fits in with Stobor Books general artistic ethos. Which it to keep things simple and striking.

Have finished the eBook text for the eBook version of “The Cat Tree and other stories” so should be getting an ISBN for that version in the next week of so, after which that will be released to follow up with the Hardback original which should be hitting Amazon any day now. Although if anyone wants a hard copy, I would prefer it if they bought it direct via this link. That way I get more of the royalties.

Released into the wild


Stobor books has now released my finalised Hardback edition of “The Cat Tree and other stories” for distribution. Currently only available from here for the modest sum of CAD$35.00, the hardback will be joined on Amazon and Barnes & Noble by an eBook edition in January 2020.

The rewrite of the Stars Trilogy grinds on, but in the times when I am not working at my day job, I will be putting out a collection of my short science fiction and fantasy stories, which I don’t have a working title for just yet. However, I do have around twelve four thousand word stories which should fit the bill nicely and provide some welcome diversion from all the doom and gloom in the news.

This means a lot of editing and re-writing over Christmas, but this will be my own antidote to terrible TV and far too much to eat and drink.

First on the list for revision is “Oggie”, originally written as a companion piece to the Paul Calvin themed stories. I’ve had what I think is a very entertaining idea, which means some major surgery, an amputation here, a few grafts there, but nothing that won’t make it a far better read.

Stobor Books


Stobor books, my new boutique publishing web site, is now up and running. “The Cat Tree and other stories” is published and due for general release when the main proof copy arrives and approved for general distribution.

For anybody keen to purchase a hardback copy, I appreciate that there have been long intervals where it appears that nothing has been happening, but these are delays mostly occasioned by production faults, travel and a four week illness, also holding down a part time job which temporarily drifted into full time hours and of course waiting for Canada Post.

One of the things I will do over this Christmas, as part of my own learning curve is share my experiences of the publishing and distribution process on video, hopefully enlightening any would-be authors about the quirks of putting their own work out in the marketplace.

Done and almost done


Life recently has been reduced to a box ticking exercise.

The Cat Tree and other stories draft proofed and final edit – done

Artwork design including logo for Stobor Books – done

Registration for free bar code as a publisher – done

ISBN and bar code created – done

Upload and recheck of all files – done

Proof copy ordered for final production check – done

Lie down in a darkened room – To do.

Well two weeks from now I should have my proof copy before giving the final okay on distribution so I can shift my focus back to writing once more. Or then there’s doing some brand recognition for Stobor Books. That means a number of other boxes to tick. There will be links, there will be other publicity related things. That and the eBook which I have to complete before December 12th.

Then maybe I can set aside some time for a much needed rewriting of the Stars trilogy. I’ve done the rough edit and will try to be ruthless with the next draft. In the meantime I’m going to try and place some copy with some of the science fiction magazines in the United States. That and keep on top of the day job.

No rest for the wicked.

Free ISBNs?


Well that is a turn up for the books. Quite literally. Canadian authors and publishers can qualify for free International Standard Book Numbers (Link here). Normally someone like Bowkers in the USA will charge US$25 each per 13 digit book number, or an eye watering GBP 89 From Neilsen in the UK. The only ‘price’ ISBN Canada stipulate is that the author / publisher send them a free copy for the Canadian Literary Archive.

Places like Lulu.com and other print to order houses do also offer ISBNs for free, but I’ve always had a nagging doubt that the distribution on those is limited somehow.

For the record, ISBN Canada registration was quite painless and no credit cards etcetera were requested. Although the Canadian Literary archive do say that it might take up to ten business days for processing, Stobor Books login ID came through at 4pm Tuesday 26th November, after being registered on the evening of Friday 22nd. Which I thought was quite brisk. Especially for a Government based initiative.

Will register the hardback and eBook editions for ‘The Cat Tree and other stories’ this evening when I get time to do so. Then I will create the barcodes using this site. The rest is simply finalising the layout and pressing the ‘go stud’.

Deep breath and off we go.

Update: I’m impressed. I filled in the online form and got my ISBN within thirty seconds. Fairly straightforward process too. The barcode likewise.

New Venture


Small announcement for those interested. I am launching a new venture, Stobor Books. At first this will be merely a vehicle for my forthcoming edition of ‘The Cat Tree and other stories’ and other follow up volumes on long-neglected projects.

Stobor, once I’ve ironed out all the bugs in publishing and distribution, will be a niche publisher specialising in Fantasy, Science fiction and Horror. Maybe I’ll open it up to submissions from other authors, maybe I won’t. Maybe the whole thing will be a massive flop, but if you don’t try you never find out.

Looking forward


Generally speaking I try to keep away from mainstream politics, it distracts from my narrative habits. However, I may not be interested in politics, but that alas, does not mean that politics is not interested in me.

Take for example a forthcoming and hard earned holiday in London. The planning and booking for which trip were finalised in February, with only a minor panic over accommodation in June interfering with our schedule. On my to do list from the 15th October to the 6th of November are many visits to museums and all the other cultural wonders that the UK’s capital has to offer. Afternoon teas, theatre, lectures, sightseeing, a couple of grooming interludes and a few strolls down memory lane. Three whole weeks of just chilling out and having my own form of restrained fun. By restrained incidentally, I do not mean any kinky sojourns around the more salacious streets of the capital. I leave all that to younger flesh.

While there I will also be editing down an old copy of ‘The Sky full of Stars’ to make the story crisper and more engaging, refreshing my memory prior to a wholesale rewrite of the whole trilogy. A task I have long neglected. Then I have a few quirky stories which I will be throwing at some of the more mainstream sci-fi magazines from this list. I hope some of my narrative mud will stick, or at least get some worthwhile feedback.

Also whilst in London I hope to run into a couple of very decent people I have come to know through online contact. Just for a general chat and the simple pleasure of shaking their hand. A little face to face socialising, nothing much.

Regrettably a shadow has arisen which threatens our enjoyment. The whole dreadful soap opera of the UK’s departure from the European Union. Overall, I think leaving that bureaucratic farrago is a good thing. The UK should have been freed March 31st 2019. At least according to the date set by the triggering of article fifty of the EU constitution. I have seen no good reasons for not leaving on that date. Nor should another extension to the leaving date be sought, no matter the court judgements. Courts should not interfere with the political process, nor create political law retrospectively. That is a dangerous path to walk.

This does not matter to those who do not want the UK to leave. They do not believe in democracy. At least not in any form I have ever witnessed.

In the UK we were always told that we lived in a country where the average voter had a say via the ballot box. The general rule being that the majority gives an elected government an opportunity to fulfil promises made, contingent on their party being given a parliamentary majority. Whilst those elected are not compelled to keep their word to the absolute letter, a promise to their voter base is a promise and such commitments should not be broken lightly. Failing that, what is the point? If politicians continually break faith with those that elect them, does a walk to the polling station become nothing but an exercise in outright futility?

Let me expand. When I was eighteen, I had the opportunity of voting in the plebiscite for the UK to remain in the Common Market, as the European Union was called then. To my undying shame I voted for the UK to stay in, voting that way because my older brother told me it was a good thing and that I should vote yes. That decision has haunted me for several decades. It was a bad decision, made in ignorance that I have regretted for over forty years. During that time I have had the displeasure of watching the great promise of the then EEC morph into little more than an exclusive club for the well connected and arrogant. Of laws concocted by crass bureaucrats for what seemed no more than their own self-aggrandisement. Regulation for regulations sake from an unelected commission and rubber stamped by a parliament in name only. Watching the importance of my vote diminish as European democracy began to languish and die, the sovereign bodies of all the nation states gradually becoming little more than yes men for a patronising elite, hoping against hope for their turn to ride the bureaucrats great gravy train.

Now the UK is (probably) leaving the EU, I think a great wrong is at last, I hope, being righted. ‘Deal’ or no. All precautionary mechanisms are, from the best information I have available to me, in place for Britain’s World Trade Organisation terms exit aka ‘no deal’, or more pejoratively ‘crashing out’ if one is to maintain the hyperbole. Emergency provisions have been made and supplies stockpiled. The much prophesied worst is like the weak protestation of a street corner penitents mantra that ‘the end is nigh’, it will not come to pass. Like so many of the scare stories presented as news drip fed from so many once reputable media outlets.

On the day, the greater British public may not even notice the difference. Only those involved in warehousing and distribution will notice significant changes to their paperwork. The price of some goods may even fall as suppliers will no longer be forced to use EU based distribution hubs and instead bring their products directly into the UK as they did before the EEC and later EU.

My final word on the matter is this; if the UK does leave the EU on the 31st October I will be in a London bar somewhere celebrating with a modest glass of single malt, then stepping out to see the fireworks. This promises to be a Halloween and bonfire night to remember.

There may even be a story in it.

Post published


Waiting game again. The second proof copy of “The Cat Tree and other stories” has been despatched and will reach me by the end of the month. This should finally mark the end of the writing and editing process so I can move forward into the distribution and marketing phases.

While the interminable wait goes on, I will fill the unforgiving minutes between then and now with a little motorcycle riding, before the weather really closes down in October. Did try yesterday, but when I passed the eighty kilometre marker, what had been merely a little moisture in the air turned into enough rain to make the roads damp, so, being a fair weather rider, I beat a hasty retreat down the Island Highway home to Victoria, moisture rapidly beading my visor and the front of the fairing, as you can see in the attached video. Apologies for the lack of sound, but it’s my first time using this particular camera and I’d managed to mute the microphone.

Now I’ve ridden in far worse, everything from snow, hail, torrential rain and cold that put a quarter inch breastplate of ice onto my leathers. Cold that bit through three layers of gloves within a mere twenty miles so that I had to warm my gloves on the cylinder head. The worst of those times was over thirty five years ago, but now that I am over sixty summers, my taste and tolerance for such saddle bound masochism is much diminished.

Today my wife has the car for a lunch date with friends. Looking out of my office window, I see we have sunshine, which after I finish work today at lunchtime I intend to take full advantage of.

Proof of publishing


Had a word with the printers and they are sending me a new, hopefully no missing pages this time, proof copy of my book “The Cat Tree and other stories”. They were very good about it and will expedite matters to ensure the issue doesn’t happen again.

There will be just about enough time to do the final proof edit and approval before I head off to London in mid-October. Whilst I’m over in the UK, I’ll take a little time out and re-read the proof a few times before giving the green light for distribution in early November. Just in time to be out for distribution 1st December.

The book itself has four previously published stories nestled within it’s elegant hardback cover. One is a dark little tale of mix and match mythologies, the second a plain old fashioned ghost story. The third and fourth are both comic supernatural tales meant to act as an antidote to the seriousness of life. The story behind the five thousand word tale entitled “Three park benches and a bicycle rack” is a happy little anecdote where the title came before the story. As it sometimes does. Must start doing video’s of those. Just video commentaries about where some of my stranger ideas come from.

One of the comments I did get from the printers today was that the original MSS they received had no stray codes in it that could have accounted for the missing pages, so they were going to do a little due diligence on their own internal processes. Could have just been a one-off error, but I did submit a second, and triple checked MSS via their web portal to replace the first, which had two minor errors (One formatting, one factual) which escaped the proofing process. Spelling, apart from the dialogue, is OED standard. The typesetting is mostly in nice, easy to read Times New Roman 12point, with only the headings and title being larger. Overall it’s as nice a piece of work as I’ve seen, on or off a bookstores shelving.

This is one of the things no-one tells you about when it comes to publishing. First, that the manuscript has to be pretty damn good before anyone will even so much as glance at it, second, that you as the author have to do a hell of a lot more than just write. You have to give approval for designs, layout and any changes to the text. Procrastination may be the thief of time, but publishing is a whole different animal.

After your book is listed for distribution there’s the marketing. Which even big publishers tend to leave that to the author. I recall reading world famous Auto journalist and satirist P J O’Rourke’s account of sitting alone behind a pile of his own work in some remote midwestern US mall.

Which can midwife that nagging doubt in a writers soul. You wrote the book, of course it’s good. Isn’t it? So why haven’t you sold many? Why does no-one seem interested? Or why is it already in the ‘remaindered’ section of Barnes & Noble? There may be several reasons; not least of which is timing of the release. Any press releases you send out may end up spiked in favour of something much more newsworthy, or relegated to an obscure corner where few eyes ever stray. There are so many other possibilities they are hard to enumerate, let alone describe. It may well be simply that your work is in an unfashionable part of a genre. Your standard of writing may be on a par with the literary greats, your characters fully realised figures that jump straight off the page into a readers head, but if no-one is currently interested in the topic, this might well be a reason why it is not selling. Your initial premise might even have arisen from an idea that is too far ahead of it’s time. There is no one reason for a great idea not taking off.

Writing is a tough business, especially when the world fails to immediately share your good opinion of your work. Whenever rejection hits I find there is always a certain sensation of being more than a little crushed. The wounds of rejection re-open time and time again and during the upheavals of disturbed sleep the vampire of doubt bites, sucking creative blood from aching veins, draining the impetus, disconnecting the narrative drive. After a bad episode it’s often very hard to put fingers to keyboard.

Sometimes the only answer is to just keep your head down, try another genre and never, ever give up. Because even if you never sell much, at least it won’t be because you didn’t try.

Looking good, but…


I received my proof copy of “The Cat Tree and other stories” on Thursday 12th September, so in my naivete I thought I’d do a mildly tongue in cheek ‘unboxing’ video. What the hell, everyone else does them.

Here’s what happened (Do not watch with the volume turned up too high)

Can you hear my teeth grinding from here?

The proof


Well that’s it for the most part. The heavy lifting is done and here’s the screenshot of the first proof copy which should reach me by mid-September for final proof and edit.

After many hours checking and re-checking I’m fairly happy with the content, but if asked to go through it one more time, I’m not sure that I could resist the temptation to tinker.

As advertised this small collection is like an old brides wedding dress list. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Although without the traditional sixpence in the shoe. I like it. And if asked would add that this is primarily fiction to my taste.

Once I have the actual copy in my hot little hands I’ll be busy for a week or so checking on the finished result before approving the design and outline of the hardback edition for distribution. Thence I may send a couple of copies as gifts to friends. The eBook will follow in December, all things being well.