Head Boy – Chapter 5 Preview

The following excerpt is from Mark Wilson’s Novella, head Boy. Due for release by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing on June 17th 2013:

All text copyright to Mark Wilson 2013

 

In this chapter, the main character’s friend and policeman father have a conversation.

Chapter 5

DCI Douglas Diller

 

Stevie, coffee in each hand and a bag of McMuffins under his arm, shouldered his way through the blue wooden doors into Bellshill police station straight into the path of a young, uniformed PC headed the other way.

“Fur fuck sake son!” Stevie hollered at the young copper as coffee scalded his hand, “that’s a coffee ye owe me.”

The PC showed a flash of anger before his training took over. “Sir, might I suggest a less aggressive tone when you’re addressing a police officer?”

Stevie cocked an eyebrow in amusement and annoyance. Mostly in annoyance. “Never mind yer pish, wee man. Get yer arse down tae McDs and get a large cappuccino for the gaffer.”

The PCs wee puffed-out chest deflated a little.

“Gaffer?”

“Aye,” Stevie nodded his head, indicating that he should turn around. “That coffee you just assaulted me with was destined for the hand of DCI Douglas Diller.”

Stevie gave the kid a moment to turn and acknowledge the appearance of his commanding officer.

“I’d go, PC Whitelaw, before ex-Detective Sergeant Miller sticks a boot up your lazy hole.”

PC Whitelaw nodded and made for the car keys behind the desk.

“Never mind, Bawbag,” Stevie conceded, “I’ll have half a cup. Dougie, here,” he offered the full cup to his former colleague, “you have mine.” Addressing Whitelaw once more Stevie growled, “Beat it, dick.”

Whitelaw looked very much like he wanted to retort, but kept his mouth shut and did as instructed.

“Still not any more fond of probationers, Stevie?” Dougie accepted the full cappuccino.

“I’m not overly fond of any of you pricks these days, Dougie. Where’d you find these wee fannies?” Stevie nodded at the door that Whitelaw had departed through. “He’s no’ a polis. Can you imagine a laddie like that in the force when we came through? Pffft.” He blew a whistle of disapproval through his teeth.

“It’s a different world, Stevie,” Douglas laughed. “PC Whitelaw has a degree in business and in fannying about with computers. That’s the future of the force right there. He’ll have my job in about ten years.”

Stevie grimaced, scanning Dougie’s face for a sign of humour. “Get tae fuck, Dougie. Yer joking?” he asked hopefully.

“’Fraid not, Stevie.” Douglas took a sip of his coffee and sat himself down behind the desk.

“Jeezus. One more reason to hate you pricks in blue I suppose.” Stevie wasn’t really joking, but Dougie laughed anyway to side-step any tension.

“How’s tricks then, Stevie?” Douglas asked as he inspected the contents of a sausage and egg McMuffin before deciding not to bother and chucking it back in the grease-marked bag.

“Aye, fine. Look, Dougie, I’m a night worker these days. It doesn’t suit me to be up and about before the lunchtime menu at McDonalds, so why don’t you just tell me what it is you’re wanting?”

Dougie leaned back in his seat, his smile fading. “It’s David. My David. I’m a wee bit worried about the company he’s keeping.”

Stevie filled his mouth with a gulp of coffee to avoid replying. He motioned for Dougie to continue “He’s always out, even on a school night. I know that he’s not a wean anymore, but he’s never in. I heard that he’s been hanging about up at Angel’s. You see him much?”

Stevie took a bite of his muffin and chewed over his reply along with the grease-slick ‘meat’. He hated lying to Dougie. Of all people, loyalty and history meant that he deserved better from Stevie, but Stevie didn’t subscribe to those ideals or live in Dougie’s world anymore. Neither did Davie, if he ever did. As he thought it, the wrap and the money from Dougie’s son felt heavier in his coat pocket.

“Look, Dougie. Davie’s in a few times a week, but he’s hanging about wi’ a good crowd. Folk wi’ money, they’re not scumbags. Actually, they’re the professional types. He’s no’ a big drinker and he doesn’t cause any bother. He’s just enjoying himself.” And making a fuckin’ fortune for himself and Big Hondo.

Dougie looked a little relieved for a second before his face hardened again.

“What is it Dougie, spit it out.”

Stevie was getting impatient. It was all right for Douglas sitting behind his cosy desk, and leaving for a nice comfortable house at dinner time. Stevie had a shift from six pm until three am, standing freezing his bollocks off outside and he was missing out on sleep.

“We had a young guy in here a couple of weeks back,” Dougie said. “Picked him up with a couple of grams of coke. Hondo’s coke, just cut a wee bit. Personal use, he said. He got a caution and sent home. On the way out the door, the desk sergeant overheard him worrying about repercussions and mentioning somebody called ‘Diller’.”

“So what?” interrupted Stevie. “It’s just some wee druggie worrying about the DCI Diller.”

Dougie shook his head. “Naw, Stevie. I’d never met the guy. I had no part in his arrest or processing. Do you think he was talking about Davie?”

“Don’t be daft. Davie doesn’t hang about wi’ folk like that. Look, Dougie, you’ve nothing to worry about with Davie Diller.” True. “That boy of yours is a grafter.” True. “Davie’s far too clever to get into trouble wi’ folk like this wee guy.” True. “As for Hondo, what the fuck would a smart guy like Davie be doing anywhere near someone like that?” Lie.

Dougie looked a little less worried than he had before. “Davie’s always had a wee element of danger about him, y’know?”

“Away tae fuck, Dougie. Just cos yer son likes a bit of risk doesn’t mean he’s out doing drugs and fuckin’ about wi’ folk like Hondo. The wee guy was just worrying that the station DCI would get involved. Davie’s got nothing to do with this. You know that.”

Dougie smiled warmly at Stevie. “Aye, you’re right enough. Even if he was the type, he works too hard to have time for that shite. Thanks, Stevie.”

“Nae bother DCI. Right, if you’re all done being a mother-hen, I’m off.”

Without waiting on a reply, Stevie headed for the door. As he approached the exit, PC Whitelaw re-entered with one of the station dogs dragging along behind. Catching scent of the coke wrapped tightly in Stevie’s inside jacket pocket, the wee spaniel went ape-shit, barking, yelping and pointing the metaphorical finger at Stevie.

“Seems that Muffin likes you, Ex-Detective Sergeant Miller,” PC Whitelaw scowled at Stevie.

“That dug’s as big a fuckin’ poof as you are, son.” Stevie barged past him and out the door.

Whitelaw started after Stevie. “I think you’d better come back here, sir.”

“Fuck off, goon,” Stevie replied without turning back.

Douglas walked around to the front door and pulled PC Whitelaw by the arm. “That dog needs more training, Whitelaw. His heid’s up his arse.”

Following the DCI back inside, PC Whitelaw looked unconvinced.

 

After a hundred yards or so, Stevie fished his iPhone from his pocket and scanned for Davie’s number. It was early, so he’d probably be on his way towards the school. As the ring tone started, he heard a phone ringing behind him and turned to see Davie ten feet away.

“Could’ve just shouted on me, Stevie,” Diller laughed.

“Aye, listen.” Stevie brushed off the humour. “Dougie’s been asking questions about your ‘night job’. Nothing serious but I’d make a point of meeting up with yer dad and laying on the charm.”

Diller’s eyes narrowed as he thought through the possibilities. “That boy Kenzo got picked up the other week. Did he open his mouth?”

Fuck, this boy is lethally quick thought Stevie. “Na, nothing deliberate, Davie, the desk-jockey that booked him overheard the name Diller mentioned when Kenzo was being released.”

Diller’s face was the coldest of steel. “Right. Thanks, Stevie. See you later, it’s time for school.

Stevie raked in the McDonalds bag for the last McMuffin, eyeing Davie’s back as he headed towards Bellshill Academy. Aye, Dougie, your boy’s far too clever to get himself in the shit he thought bitterly.

End of Excerpt

Mark’s other novels can be found now on Amazon

headBoy-final-cover

Irvine Welsh and Snow Patrol F@cked It Up

I’m just so excited about the stage we have reached in terms of the music and literature industry in Britain right now. We’re about to hit a bubble where a massive explosion of new, exciting, meaningful and mind-blowingly energetic music and novels are about to emerge; clearing out the bland pish we are currently drowning in. Even the odd meaningful movie with a heart is sneaking through. Chronicle for example.

Don’t believe me? I’m a man in the know.

All my life, I’ve had a peculiar “affliction”. The technical name for it is synesthesia. Essentially it means that sounds in general, and music in particular, appear in my mind’s eye as colours. These are very specific and distinct to what each song or voice is conveying emotionally for me. As well as this, I love books and movies also. Imagine the soundtrack to a movie enhanced by flowing, swaying and splashing colours to accompany the music and words. Imagine the colour that flows from the words on a page when spoken aloud.

Now, how does this give me insight into the shifting landscape of our music and book industry? Well, for about 5 years now the British music industry in particular has been a very beige place to be in. The seemingly endless conveyer belt of X-Factor puppets and reformation of man-bands and Buble’s of the world have left the music scene dry, boring and colour-less. Where’s the excitement? Where are the songs and albums that you can identify with, laugh with, be outraged with, or that make you want to go f@cking nuts? Which particular artists are going to define the teen of today? The Script? The Wanted? JLS? Take-That? Nothing wrong with any of these acts, certainly there’s a lot worse around, but to my ears (and eyes) it’s music to chat to; music to have “ isn’t this civilised?” dinner parties to; but mostly, music to ignore.

Just look at Snow Patrol. This group actually produced some decent and innovative songs in their early days. Now? They’re slaves to their record company’s demands for formulaic coffee table soft rock ballads. They’ve gone from being a battered old VW van, full of charisma, tales to tell and character to becoming a 5 star safety rated Renault Megane. Don’t get me started on those bastards, Nickleback!

This Snow Patrol record is shite

The literary world is just as bad and just as beige. Irvine Welsh came along and redefined everything for me about how a book could be formatted and written, or a tale told. Trainspotting was a revelation; Glue was arguably his finest moment. Everything else? A copy of a copy. Each piece written to emulate what made his early work so vibrant, but never quite recapturing the hunger and passion of those works. Irv, please, don’t keep writing what you think the audience wants; rather give us your best, straight from your black heart. I miss Juice Terry, Begbie and the boys, but don’t trot them out like well-worn slippers for a tired re-enactment or two, put some good old-fashioned Welsh spunk in their stories or don’t bother yer arse.

I could list all day the formulaic strategy that writers have adopted and name and shame those c@nts, but why bother? You know how you are; Grisham, Cornwell, Patterson, Harris, Ludlum and your pals. The comparison between these “industries” is obvious to anyone who loves music, books and movies. The “big 6” have told us who and what we “want” to read for long enough.

Just as music is emerging (hopefully soon) from an age where the bean-counters and committees decide and dictate what we listen to, read or watch, so too is the literary world. Self-publishing without a doubt will bring its problems: poorly written, poorly edited or written to a formula John Locke-type “novels” etc. However with that comes the freedom of being able to publish the stories we want to tell when we want to tell them. To be able to write and distribute the very best words straight from our hearts to (hopefully) our audience. Fine times are ahead indeed.

Here’s the Brucie-Bonus though. Every so often when music or film or literature gets to its lowest point a monster of a group or completely new sound, or a new voice, director, writer or visionary comes along and inspires change of immense proportions. Guys like John Niven are starting to emerge and that suits me just fine Times of austerity and poverty also historically produce musicians, writers and artists who are hungry for change and have a message to force into the public consciousness.. Times are very tough at present.

Revolution is on its way, praise the Lord.

Good times are a comin’.

My debut novel, “Bobby’s Boy” is available now on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bobbys-Boy-ebook/dp/B007SGTHVC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335467068&sr=1-1

 

 

Are Indie-Authors the Whores of Social Media?

Are Indie-Authors the Whores of Social Media?

I’m beginning to think we are you know.

Since the very day I stepped into the world of self-publishing/e-publishing/Indie-publishing, whatever, and published my short-story collection “Paddy’s Daddy”, followed by my full length novel “Bobby’s Boy”, I’ve had my metaphorical arse in the air on twitter (along with every other indie-author) in an effort to attract readers. Mostly I attract other authors, trying to attract readers.

Tweet, retweet, reply; lather, rinse repeat; has become the currency of the indie author. We (the authors) have become the modern day equivalent of the ancient tradition where the poor soul would sit outside the temple reciting “Alms for the blind?” Either that or we’re the tweet equivalent of fluorescent-wearing chuggers on the high street, chasing some poor bastard down the road for a couple of quid royalty, only when we catch them, they’re one of us, and so we gather number. The twitter-sphere is saturated with link-posting authors, in the desperate and futile act of pimping their books, ultimately to each other.

I'll retweet your brains out if you retweet me first

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Indie publishing should have empowered us, instead we chase readers and each other in circles. We sit with a wee sign up saying “buy a book from X, his writing’s great, just ask him, he’s over there. Oh, and he’ll tell you the same about my book, so come back here when you’ve seen him. What’s that? You’re a writer? well, c’mere and I’ll retweet you then, but back of the queue first.

I’m not against a bit of mutual promotion, but it’s so constant, so ubiquitous, so time-consuming and soul destroying and so unimaginative.

Link after link, after link. “My book’s free, mine’s only 99 cents, mines is a series, etc”. It’s become such a clichéd strategy, but it seems that we are all stuck in the cycle because the pioneers of self-publishing, or dickhead profiteers like John Locke, say it’s how it’s done. Guys like Steven Lewis (@Rule17) are a rare and welcome exception, offering much in the way of valid, constructive and useful advice on self-publishing.

I say no.

I say rediscover the creative spark that so easily comes when you write and apply it to your promo on twitter or any other social media. No more links (save for the one in your profile. That’s plenty). Instead, let’s have honest to goodness thoughts about life, books, movies, music, the news, whatever floats your boat. People know you’re an author, its’ right there in your profile, if they like you they’ll go check out your website anyway.

Engage with your “followers”. Retweet away ‘til your hearts’ content, but pass on fun things people say or do. Post ridiculous pics of yourself, have a conversation, by Christ have some fun! Stop self-promoting under the umbrella of promoting others. We’re not buying each others’ books, but we’re tweeting and retweeting the same tired links around each other. Put those creative thoughts out there in conversation. Engage your followers and they just might become readers.

I’m in the process of launching my third book. This last year I’ve done Speeches at a variety of venues on a range of topics including writing. I’ve been on blog tours, promo interviews, been in several newspapers several times. I’ve handed out flyers and dozens of other strategies. None of this makes much difference.

Here’s what I’ve found makes a significant and recurring difference in sales:
Keep writing quality stories, get them edited well and get a professional cover. Give your reader value.

Target the right categories and readers. Do your research on keywords and phrases and place your book in the right shop window.

Don’t rely on social media. Less than 0.01% of this you pester will actually click on your link to your book. Only a small fraction of those will actually buy.

Look at the long game. Your book, if it’s well written, will be there forever, build momentum based on real readers feedback and reviews an your developing skill as a writer. Don’t expect continued and sustained sales from the tweet retweet jerk-circle. It’s a self-limiting and ultimately self-sabotaging type of promotion.

Please fellow writers; let’s stop being the biggest spam source in the whole twitter-sphere. Rely on your blogs, websites and most of all, novels to do the selling and just enjoy the social media for what it was intended. Being sociable.

Or maybe I’m missing something and the “feeling like a social media hoor” phase I’m going through will pass.

Either way please do buy my book……*cough* here’s the link:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bobbys-Boy-ebook/dp/B007SGTHVC/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1334424320&sr=1-1

How I Self-Published: Part 1

How I Self-Published: Part 1 or: Gavin Bain made me do it!

Self- Publishing or Traditional? 

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing a series of articles detailing the process I’ve gone through, and am still learning my way through, on the route to becoming a self-published, eBook author and promoting my books. It’s been a steep learning curve and I’ve made some rookie mistakes along the way (which I’m hoping to save you the time of having to correct) but also the most fun I’ve had working…ever.

All comments and shared experiences more than welcome. Anyway, here’s Part 1:

Gavin Bain made me do it!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. During the process of writing my debut novel, “Bobby’s Boy” I went back and forward in my decision as to whether engage in the process of wooing an agent/publisher. When I started writing, I firmly stood in the self-publish camp. As I progressed in the book, I researched the industry more and more. Royalties, advances, agents, services performed by the publishing house and or the agent, big or small publisher? There was and is a lot to learn. I did weeks of research, seeking out those agents and publishers (mostly Indie) whom I thought would like me and my book, and whom I thought I’d like to work with, and could subsequently stomach whoring myself around. That list remains unused at present.

More and more, as I immersed myself in the snaking and shaded corridors of the literary industry, the same nagging questions came back to me. Is it worth giving away control of my work for the potential exposure a big publisher might bring? It seemed to me that if these guys deigned to take you, they’d in all probability change your work endlessly, until it fit their formulaic idea of what a commercial novel should be. It seemed that most of the promo and marketing would be done by me rather than them anyway, so why should I give them such a huge chunk of my potential earnings and, more importantly, complete control over the words that I had spent so many hours writing? What was more important, potential earnings or creative control?

Advances: For many authors, it seems that an advance, especially a huge one, is the holy grail. I just don’t understand this mentallity at all. Sure an advance is a nice pat on the back, and an indication that your book is commercial enough (or at least can be made to be, in the payers opinion). It also seems like a goood way of allowing the author the privelage and means to write full-time. For me, its a scary prospect. An advance simply means that you’re in debt to the issuer unti your sales repay the money. If the sales take years to do so? Well, you’re in hock to them for years, and quite probably on a deadline for at least one more book. No thanks.

Agents: Whilst there are of course many good quality agebnts, who work hard for their clients, lets remember two key things about them. Firstly, they do try to get the best deal for their authors, but that may mean something different to them than it does to the author, in terms of cash, advances (brrr) or prestige of publishing house over creative control or effective care from the publisher. Your agency is a business, the more money(debt) they get for you, the more money they themselves make, and that is their primary objective.

I also dislike that most publishers now only take submissions from those who have an agent. It’s like a whole level of the indusrty exists as a vetting and an introductory service. Crazy

Secondly, they will take around 15% of your money, which is already a very small percentage (somewhere between 7 -15%) when considering the fact that you worked so hard on your book and will continue to work your arse off promoting the book, publisher or no publisher (unless of course you’re high on the publishers’ radar). Whilst the services of agents can be very valuable, if you take the traditional publisher out of the picture, there’s really no place for an agent.

For me it was a no-brainer, but still, a small part of me, the one that’s low on self-esteem and thinks everything I write is shite, told me that I needed the recognition from an agent or publisher that my book was “good”.  I ignored that needy little shite-version of me, and ploughed on, buoyed by the research I’d done into the standard of eBooks out there. As far as I could see, my book was as good as many self-published eBooks, and better than most (there’s the tiny little bit of ego/confidence I do possess asserting itself).

I had a chat with a friend of mine, Gavin Bain. Gavin is one of those rare people (author, musician, rapper, and singer) who have had extensive experience of not only the music business, but the book business (the music biz with posh accents according to Gav) also. After advice from Gav, stories of mis-handling, missed opportunities and loss of creative control from Gav and several other writers, I decided that my initial, gut, reaction to self-publish was the correct one.

As the lovely Edith Piaf says: “je ne regrette rien” (so far)

Coming In Part 2: The publishing process.

You can find my debut novel “Bobby’s Boy” at the links below. Please come join me on twitter @markwilsonbooks

UK:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bobbys-Boy-ebook/dp/B007SGTHVC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1334080079&sr=1-1

US:

http://www.amazon.com/Bobbys-Boy-ebook/dp/B007SGTHVC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1334080132&sr=1-1

Look up Gav’s band at: www.hopelessheroic.com

John Locke=Simon Cowell

I spent an hour this morning reading John Locke’s “How I did” book. An hour was pretty much all it took to complete the book. Three minutes was all it took for me to decide that this guy nicely represents everything that’s wrong about the publishing industry (and to this man, industry is the keyword) in one self-satisfied, smug and number-crunching little package.

For those that don’t know of Mr L, he sold one million ebooks in five months. Ask him, he’ll tell you. He responds to any and every email dontcha know? He also loves and values each one of them. He should, he spent hundred of hours seeking them out and convincing them to buy his books with some excellent marketing and promo sneakery.

Whilst there are some good tips inside the books pages (many of which you’ll be able to find online for yourself), Mr L spends most of his time telling us about formulas, and strategies for writing. He (like the seasoned gambler) has, he believes, developed his “sure system” for successfully selling thousands of books. Mr L spends hours constructing the perfect blog, containing all the right emotions, themes and keywords to bring you to his book. Very clever (and effective too it seems) but whatever happened to writing because you just had to? Writing because there was something inside that needed to come out?

Not Mr L’s style. Rather, he targets people, deciding what type of beings they are, what they like, eat, dress in, watch at the cinema, and writes specifically for the most common denominator. He seeks out or manufactures the common ground between he and them, between his novels and them. He “gives people what they want” constructing scenes and character traits from a checklist of likes and attributes of what he believes people need or want in a book.

Mr L does not write from the heart. He has no great story to share or demons to exorcise with his work. He doesn’ t even really seem to seek to entertain people, just keep them coming back for what he’s calculated that they want from a book. Safe, predictable and familiar characters, written for a bottom line rather than for his audience’s pleasure. To be fair, it seems to work for him, if you measure success the way that Mr L seems to. In Numbers. In Sales. In volume of books, rather than quality.

Like the man himself Mr Simon Cowell, Mr L pores over data, figures, reviews, feedback and focus groups, assessing, will this strike the right note? Will my targets buy into this? Is it close enough to my “formula” so as to not alienate my core readers? Mr L refers to his books as employees, little soldiers lined up working day and night for him. Simon Cowell, with his endless stream of fame-hungry media-fodder would be proud and envious.

It’s sad to see, especially now at what may just be the beginning of a new era for Indie-Authors, a man like Mr Locke reducing the potential for good, passionate writers to make their mark by pishing in the literary waters with this data-driven soulless approach to writing. The man is a shrewd and calculating businessman first, a profiteer second, and a mildly entertaining writer (who seems to hate writing) third.

The mainstream music we listen to is written, manufactured and promoted by businessmen who care nothing for the art or the artists that they use up so readily and cast aside; onto the next. Music that the masses consume, written to a “formula” and a budget, with little or no input from anyone who cares what it sounds like, conveys or evokes in the listener. They shit it out and laugh as we scoff it down and fill their coffers, marvelling at their own skill in deducing exactly what we want.

Authors have a chance, right now, to break the traditional stranglehold and power that the big publishers and literary agents have over our original ideas, creativeness and yes, earnings. We have the opportunity to produce our very finest work and present it the way that we believe it should be, not diluted down and gelded by a committee of suits, who “know” what the public want.

In my view, books should never be written in this kind of formulaic and targeted way, but delivered from the authors’ imagination and heart onto the page. Polished and packaged up and yes marketed and promoted, but never designed to appeal to this demographic or that emotion. It is a business, writing and selling books, but its a privilege as well.

I hope that John Locke’s breed don’t do to the book industry what the suits in power in the music industry have done. Time will tell.