Martyn K Jones

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Patreon pains


As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve recently opened a Patreon account so that those who feel sorry for me like my work can throw the odd dollar my way. Part of this process has been creating a one minute introductory video for my new Creators Patreon account, explaining who I am and what I have to offer to prospective patrons. As it’s been the long Canadian thanksgiving weekend, I took time out from the day job and set to work.

Thirty plus ‘takes’ and two hours later… I have about five one minute video segments that I’m actually half way happy with. Not that I’m in love with the sound of my own voice or the way I look, my voice is too light and nasal for my liking and I’m not a handsome sight, but I am what I am and that’s all that can be said for it. I didn’t actually think that speaking under a hundred words to camera would be difficult. Oh how wrong I was. Fortunately the world will never know because all the fluffs, corpsing, swearing, face-pulling and mispronunciations have been consigned to digital Hell. There will be no gag or blooper reel. At least at this stage of the game. There’s simply not enough space on my hard drive.

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Publication schedule


The updated Paul Calvin eBook ‘Head of the Beast’ has (finally) been submitted via Amazon to their Kindle Direct program. Paperback and Hardback versions have been withdrawn from Lulu.com for the moment, but new editions will be available shortly with updated text and better cover art. Link to Amazon Kindle format will be added to my Authors Den page and this blogs ‘Published Works’ page around ten am Pacific Standard Time, Saturday 23rd August.

Per previous blog post, work on its sequel, ‘A Falling of Angels’ continues. Less than 12,000 words and a denouement to go. First eBook edition should be available shortly before Christmas.

To close, I must say it isn’t easy being a one man writing, publishing, and marketing band. I really do find these final submissions quite stressful so I’m off for a quiet lie down now until my hands stop shaking. Many thanks in advance to everyone who likes my work enough to spend the price of a cup of coffee and a cookie on it. Enjoy.

The importance of humour as a storytelling tool


Proof reading ‘Falling’ I’ve noticed how often I use a comic sequence to get a story point across. For example, in the second half, juxtaposed against the tragedy of involuntary slave workers, there is a thwarted DEA raid when a heavily armed task force invades foreign territory, only to find themselves out thought and out gunned. Mostly by my renegade Mayor and ex drug lord character William J Colby. Mostly it comes from the one liners Bill delivers as part of his address, and the bathos of a rural Police Sergeant arresting a bunch of enforcement agents who are clearly out of their jurisdiction with the line; “Hey. Can you hear me at the back?”. I love writing Bill, as he’s so disreputable and ruthless when faced by the evil embodied by villains such as Eldridge Farrow, another who was a lot of fun to write. In the words of George Bernard Shaw’s creation, Henry Higgins, they are both “So delightfully low.”

There’s also a lot of what I like to call ‘Blue collar banter’ between minor characters which moves the story along and wraps up a section on an uptick, or to soften the edge of an anticlimax. Adding bulk to otherwise two dimensional characters. Such as a line from a ground crew member known simply as ‘Chesney’ arguing with his friend Leroy Colby, which begins with an exasperated Leroy urging his friend and colleague to stop wisecracking and simply get on with it. “You know Chesney, sometimes with you.” To which Chesney responds; “I know, I know. Sometimes the fun never starts.” Well I liked it.

A gag is a great way of highlighting a point, or rounding out a character in a crisis situation. The kind of everyday crosstalk everyone engages in to make a dull, involved, or emotionally intense job a little bit less of a struggle. To go even further; laughter is one of life’s essentials. A day without a genuine shared smile is a day wasted. The life autistic.

All right. I’m biased. I’ll put my hands up to this one, having done a few stand up gigs and finding I didn’t have the nerve or comic talent to succeed, I still strongly believe in the power of humour. Especially as a contrast to tragedy, a tool of protest or getting a complex argument across in a sound bite. This has been an understood dramatic principle since before the days of Plautus.

Some of my favourite TV shows have strong tragi-comedic elements with a great deal of comic interplay between characters. Take ‘House MD’ as a classic example. As a character, House is a high functioning drug addict who tortures his staff, routinely manipulates and insults friends and colleagues, who without his humour would be an opinionated ass whose work is highly suspect. He is the loosest of cannons. Yet his primary redeeming qualities are his wit, directness, and incorrigible humour when dealing with difficult or emotionally charged situations. Without these qualities, the show would consist of dull geeky medico-speak punctuated by melodrama. Gold without the glitter. Add appropriate (And even some ‘inappropriate) humour, and the show sparkles.

Well, that’s my take on it. For the few (One? None? Who cares?) who will bother to read this far. From the black comedy of Hansel and Gretel’s attempt at Haute Cuisine, through Shakespeare’s comedies (And tragedies, there are even a few chuckles in Henry V, Richard III and Romeo and Juliet) and Aesop’s Fables to modern day comic geniuses like Terry Pratchett and P J O’Rourke. Humour is the essential counterpoint to all the scary stories others love to tell. Sometimes I think as a tool of domination. Maybe one of the “Hah! You’re scared-I’m not, so I’m better than you.” mind games some like to play.

Appropriately targeted humour by contrast provides an alleviation against the force of crushing conformity. Providing joyous relief from feeling “So it’s not just me, then.” A shared vindication. A tool for conflict resolution. In fact next to air, food and shelter, I would argue that it is the fourth most critical requirement of survival and being human, and a good story should always contain at least a little.

Update: An ability to laugh at your own shortcomings is also very useful when dealing with frustrating glitches in eBook distribution. ‘Sky’ needs one tiny update before they will accept for wider distribution. Header 1 on first line.

Pray for me. I need all the help I can get.

The future state of publishing


As a self-publisher, I’m always on the lookout for ways to break the glass ceiling. Every self published author knows what this is; news outlets who won’t even think of reviewing a book published by an author, but will give acres of room to specialist works no-one but a handful could be interested in. Book distributors who need all sorts of incentives just to mention a self published work in their catalogue. The sixty forty split which makes it difficult for an author to make any money, even if they are lucky to break into the bookstores.

For a small time self publisher, the means of getting ‘out there’ into the larger marketplace are limited and time consuming. Which is what publishers do. They take the hard graft of getting noticed and into bookstores, and make it look easy because they have established and maintained media contacts and procedures which flow from manuscript to customer. They also get to say what style gets into the marketplace. Which accounts for some authors, in frustration, sending in the barely disguised first three chapters of a classic novel, only to find that it too gets rejected with barely a syllable being read. The castle drawbridge is up, portcullis down, and you peasants can just jolly well stay in your scruffy little self publishing hovels, what? Your betters have spoken.

In some ways the current situation reminds me of the old trades union ‘closed shop’ with all its negotiated restrictive practices. It’s ossified, semi-paralysed, looking for the next big thing, but hardly daring the radical move of expanding its catalogue. There’s always a sense that it’s not what you know, it’s whom.

For me, my frustrations reached boiling point some years ago when I spent weeks on a 1500 word short-short, revising and rewriting because the magazine in question had done “A very nice picture.” Afterwards; having ‘done the sums’ as they say, I worked out that I’d been working for something like five English pence an hour. Hardly a fortune. I’d also submitted several finished manuscripts and when publishers deigned to reply, all I got was one, repeat one, form letter from someone whose job it was to periodically clear the company slush pile of unread manuscripts. The rest I never heard a whisper from. So when I first heard of online self publishing, I thought “Great!” and like so many others piled in. So far the experience has been like building a boat, getting it launched, beating the tides and making it out to sea, then looking out at the big cruise liners disappearing over the horizon and thinking “Now what?” The ocean is open, deep and vast, there are continents to conquer on the other side, but not being able to keep up with the big boys leaves you feeling somewhat adrift.

At the moment, self publishing is an alphabet with letters missing. Like a language without the right words. Conceptually bereft. I suppose like the man in the small boat I’d better get paddling. Doesn’t matter where. Just pick a direction and go for it.

Gone


It’s off. Heads of the Beast has been submitted and for better or worse is now with Harper Vector. Gods that was nerve wracking!

70,100 words. 50,000 of which were written in the past two weeks. I must be mad.

Video readings


I’m currently having a Henry Higgins “By George he’s got it” moment. My stammer is mostly absent, and I’m finally confident enough to sight read my own work to camera. The proof of the pudding came yesterday, when I settled down in front of my laptop camera and read the first eleven pages of ‘Sky full of stars’, hardly muffing a word. Well, apart from six occurrences that I noticed. Not bad for twenty-nine minutes without a break. I’m quite pleased.

Until I’ve sorted out some kind of video hosting, I think my best path is to post on Youtube and embed on this site on a specific page like on a Youtube channel. While I’m sure there will be some less than kind comments from the casually immature, I’m hoping that there will be more supportive responses. A couple of friends tell me that the best way to deal with negative people online is simply to delete their unpleasantness.

The current state of play with our local Weather is that we might get lucky with clearing skies to view a possible Aurora Borealis on Saturday night. SOHO has experienced considerable interference from heavy S1 level particle bombardment as reported on Spaceweather.com. I shall also be watching the CSSDP Real time Auroral data to see if anything in happening elsewhere.

My fifteen minutes


Literary luminaries at Nanaimo District Museum and fifteen minutes delivering what should have been a ten minute set piece to an audience. Five minutes about the Stars Trilogy, plus a five minute reading. One or two people picked up my books and checked out the promotional signs I’d made. “It’s well written.” One browsing reader commented. Sadly they did not buy. At 11:45, my turn came to speak.

One of my (many) shortcomings is public speaking. I make all the classic mistakes. I ramble and digress. I don’t keep to the script. I’m too busy reading my notes to give the audience my time and eye contact. I forget key information. In short, I’m happier behind a keyboard than in front of potential customers. No matter how polite and complimentary they are towards the end.

Having taken professional acting training I should be a whole lot better, but I’m not. I’ve picked up a stammer from somewhere. Now where in the tenth circle of hell did that come from? I’m sure I never used to stutter. Maybe it’s because I’m presenting my own work.

Again; this is odd. Acting, and especially comic improvisation used to be one of my strong points. Loved every second. Smooth as greased glass without a verbal tic in sight. Throw me a line or a gesture and I was away like a dog after a stick. Well, maybe not my dog, Amos. He sees me throw a stick for him to chase and he lies down with his tongue hanging out and gives me a funny look, as if to say “But you threw it away. Now you want me to get it? Jeez, Boss!”

One of the things I liked about the event was getting to talk to some of the other authors. I was the only sci-fi writer there, my neighbour Historical fiction writer Kenn Joubert and his wife Fern were on the next table but one, and spent a good deal of time speaking to Mary Ann Moore, a poet and writer from Gabriola Island.

Not many potential buyers, but it was good to see Jordan, Aimee and Amy of the Museum staff. I’m very fond of all the crew there. Although now I’m doing more shifts at my day job, I don’t get to volunteer as much as I used to. I miss that about Tuesdays, but most of the big display changes are done, and Jordan and Rick take care of most of those. On the run up to Christmas, I often felt I wasn’t really contributing any more.

Perhaps if the writing paid a bit better, I’d probably volunteer more. I’d also like to go to one or two of the Science Fiction conventions to hawk my wares. Just for the opportunity to rub shoulders with some more experienced authors like Niven and Bova. One can dream.