June 14, 2016

Guest Blog - Thriller writer Eric J. Gates

Today it's my great pleasure to introduce a blog by fellow crime and thriller writer Eric J. Gates. He is a writer with a background more interesting than most who writes contemporary thrillers and is highly successful at it, too. He is also a great friend to writers, promoting them on his own blog and through a tweeting regime second to none!

As the theme of this blog is What crime writers do, and how they've done it, I asked him to write something about the process of writing. And I hope you'll agree he's come up with a fascinating approach.


Write what you know? – the Menu Method

Jumping between the roofs of two skyscrapers, decoding a cryptographic text using just paper and pen, rappelling down a cliff face. These are just a few of the things I’ve done in real life that haven’t appeared in my thriller novels… yet. Then, on the other hand, I’ve never shot a Javelin shoulder-fired anti-tank missile (one of my bad guys did in ‘Full Disclosure’), had a wound cured by genetically modified blood (yep, that happened in ‘the CULL’ series) or used an ancient artefact to modify Destiny (the ‘Outsourced’ series, though I used mine to have Keith invite me to this blog. Shh – don’t tell him) so I guess things have balanced out nicely.

On Amazon
They say (the grey They) “Write what you know”. I’m sure you’ve heard this. Supposedly it’s a piece of advice from Mark Twain. However, is it practical to expect writers just to include stuff they master in their books? I think not. That’s what in-depth research is for. (In-depth means not just relying on the Internet).
Not everyone has had the crazy life I’ve had. My incessant travelling and peculiar profession has allowed me to accumulate a wealth of thriller-esque experiences (and a particular set of skills) I can draw upon for my novels, yet I’m sure I am not an example of the ‘typical’ author in this respect. Many scribes, especially when facing their first books, look at their mundane jobs and life experiences, and despair. ‘Where is the material to populate the pages of a bestseller?’ they ask themselves. Well there’s a little trick I use which might help here, and would probably surprise them in the process. I call it the Menu Method.
Take a blank sheet of paper. Draw a line vertically down the middle. Now on the left hand portion, list out the things you know how to do, not the usual stuff shared by most (making a good cup of tea doesn’t count), but things that you’ve learnt because of what you do and who you are. Can you drive an articulated truck? Do you know how to fly fish? Are you a painter? Do you read ancient manuscripts as a hobby? Think hard, there are bound to be items to include in your list.
Now move over to the right hand side. Here you should list things you would like to do. Sorry, travelling on a one-way trip to Mars as a colonising astronaut may not fit the bill. Keep the items here reasonably practical. Once you have listed a few, go back over them and note down why you’ve not done this already; why is it on the right side of the page not the left?
Fun, right?
On Amazon
But what you have just created is a menu for your writing. Take something, anything, from the left-hand column and contrast it with anything from the right. What would you (or a character) need to do to go from the you of today to the one that is reflected on the right? Whatever you come up with, that’s an idea for a novel right there!
To make the right-hand column entries sound convincing when you include them in your novels, you should mix them with some of the stuff from the left-hand side (even superheroes need to iron their capes, right?). Then to flesh out the items on the right you have two options: learn how to do it (skydiving, ocean swimming, motocross racing etc) or research it in-depth. If the former is not possible, you should start the latter by finding an expert you can contact. Over the years I’ve been constantly surprised just how many people are willing to give of their time and knowledge to help out us poor scribblers. I’ve had University experts in ancient tongues (‘the CULL’ series), even the Dalai Lama’s Head of the Library of Tibetan Works & Archives in Dharamsala, India, provide me with information in response to my emails. Just offer to acknowledge their contributions in your books and many will provide you with far more data based on their own knowledge and experience than you could ever use in a story.
You see, you have missed out one important item on the left-hand side of the page.
You know HOW to have people help you when you come up against a problem. That’s something all successful writers do and nothing is stopping you from doing the same.
“Write what you know” may have worked for Samuel Clemens on the Mississippi back in the day, but remember he also said “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education”.

Eric J. Gates - Biography

Eric J. Gates has had a curious life filled with the stuff of thriller novels. Writing Operating Systems for Supercomputers and teaching cyber warfare to spies are just a few of the moments he’s willing to recall. He is an ex-International Consultant who has travelled extensively worldwide, speaks several languages, and has had articles and papers published in technical magazines in six different countries, as well as radio and TV spots. His specialty, Information Technology Security, has brought him into contact with the Military and Intelligence communities on numerous occasions.
He is also an expert martial artist, holding 14 black belt degrees in distinct disciplines. He has taught his skills to Police and Military personnel, as well as to the public.
He is the author of ten thriller novels, drawing on his experiences with the confidential and secret worlds that surround us.

Where you can find him: 

April 21, 2016

The Indie Author Fringe Event - London Book Fair

Indie Author Fringe London Book Fair

For any writers who are interested in a little fun, last weekend I participated in a recorded video for the Indie Author Fringe Event at the London Book Fair. The subject was 'The better way to write a book: Plotter or Pantser' ... this refers to writers who plot out their books in advance as against those who fly by the seat of their pants. The link to the video is here, and if you're a writer you should definitely look out some of the other events at the fringe - they're a great resource of information and advice:



April 15, 2016

The Indie Author Fringe Event - Friday 15th April



At the London Book Fair this week, the Alliance of Independent Authors, ALLi, is hosting the Indie Author Fringe Event. It runs 24 hours and consists of a number of articles, videos and podcasts from a wide variety of respected voices in the world of self- and independent publishing. If you're an author making your way in this new world you're bound to find something that will be useful or relevant to you.

As it happens, I recorded a video with three colleagues last weekend on Plotters vs Pantsers - that is, what is the difference between authors who plot their works closely and those who fly by the seat of their pants. Is one more effective than the other? Does it matter which route you take? And so on ...

The Event is hosted at this page:

http://selfpublishingadvice.org

And you can see the agenda for the whole event here:

http://selfpublishingadvice.org/indie-author-fringe-april-2016-agenda/

If you see this post in time you can find my humble contribution at these times:

15 April • 7:30 pm • LONDON
15 April • 2:30 pm • NEW YORK
15 April • 11:30 am • LOS ANGELES
15 April • 5:30 pm • SYDNEY

The good news is that even after the event, these articles, videos and podcasts will still be available on the ALLi blog.

March 31, 2016

A new Sam Dyke short story

... well, not that new actually. It's been available for a couple of months on Amazon Kindle only, but is available through the Kindle Unlimited borrowing scheme if you don't have the pockets to buy it!

Sam Dyke looks for a missing woman but has doubts about the motives of his client ...


Available now on an Amazon near you! The Second Guess

January 03, 2016

Catching up on important news

It seems I forgot to update this blog with info about my new book The Innocent Dead. How stupid is that? So much time spent on the website and FB and Twitter ... some things just fall off the back.

I should also mention that in the interim, The Bleak has won its category in the Chanticleer Reviews CLUE competition - noir/private eye. I win all sorts of prizes for that - a free review (which otherwise costs a fortune), a free run on Bublish, which is a Twitter advertising campaign; and various buntings and badges. Also, it's quite prestigious. So that's nice.

I'll shortly be starting work on the next book, a non-Sam Dyke crime thriller based very loosely on a true story. Why make things up when you can copy real life? ;)







July 28, 2015

A Nice Thing


I was surprised and pleased to receive an email from a site called BookWorks.com saying that my novel The Hard Swim had been made their 'Book of the Week.'

BookWorks bill themselves as 'The Self-Publishers Association' and I happen to know they're associated with Publishers Weekly, the bible of bookselling. So it's no small accolade, and I'm appropriately grateful and humbled.


May 18, 2015

Self-Publish Your Book

A colleague and friend, Jessica Bell, has had her Facebook page suspended for some mystical - probably mythical - reason, just at the point where she has a new book published. So myself and several other colleagues are publishing her pitch for the book so that she can get at least some promotion while her FB page is down. Here's the pitch:

Are you ready to self-publish your book, but dreading the massive learning curve? Well, there’s no need to dread it anymore!

This 6th installment of the bestselling
Writing in a Nutshell Series, will not overwhelm you with all information available—it will tell you exactly what you need to know, without the faff, by following a foolproof, cost-efficient, time-efficient, extremely easy-to-follow, step-by-step self-publishing method.

Want to go from manuscript to a professionally published book within one week? Then this is the book for you.

You’ll learn how to: prepare your manuscript in Microsoft Word, design your paperback and eBook cover, prepare your front/back matter and blurb, format your paperback interior & eBook, proofread your designed pages, register with desired retailers/distributors, export your eBook to a retail-ready file and upload your paperback and eBook to retailers/distributors.

Not only will this book save you time and money, but it will also save you from inevitable stress. What are you waiting for? Grab a copy of Self-publish Your Book today! 
Jessica's an excellent writer, musician and book designer and I'm sure if you're entering the hazardous waters of self-publishing that this book will be a great boon. Rush out and buy it now! (Or stay in and buy it, I don't care which.)


May 12, 2015

Revisions, revisions ...

I decided to issue new editions of my Sam Dyke Investigations, with revised covers. I haven't completed all of the work yet, but here's a sample of those I've finished ...




April 26, 2015

The Secret Sharers

If you have eagle eyes you'll probably have noticed a new book cover on the right of this page - well, The Secret Sharers will be available for download from 1st May at all the usual sites: Amazon's Kindle, Barnes & Noble, Kobobooks, iTunes and so on.

If you have the courage to read it, I'd be grateful for a review as reviews drive interest and traffic - which, if I'm to be selfish about it, is good for future work ...

April 08, 2015

Venture into audiobooks ...

A quick plug to say that the first Sam Dyke book, Altered Life, is now available as an audiobook. It's read by the wonderful Rob Ellis in a fashion that brings out the Chandleresque tones of the prose (he said hopefully ... )

Rob is working on the other books in the series too, which will be released over the next twelve months or so.

The audio versions will be available through Amazon, Audible and iTunes, so there should be an outlet you can use. There seems to be a deal if you're a first-time user of Audible you can download it for free - can't be bad!

March 08, 2015

Re-reading Chandler

Some years after reading Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep and Farewell My Lovely, I thought it was about time I read his other most famous novel, The Long Goodbye. I had fond memories of the ‘reworking’ of the story in Robert Altman's 1973 film starring Elliott Gould and wondered how Chandler’s style would stack up against some of the modern crime writers I’d been reading in the last few years.
The Long Goodbye shows Philip Marlowe becoming involved in what appears to be two separate cases but which wind up being connected. The first is his growing friendship with Terry Lennox, who turns out, it seems, to be the murderer of his rich socialite wife. After the friendship ends with Marlowe driving Lennox to Mexico to escape a possible charge of murder, the second storyline picks up: Marlowe is hired by Eileen Wade, the wife of famous novelist Roger Wade, to find her husband, who is a drunk and has either gone off on a bender or is drying out somewhere in a sanatorium. These two plot-lines converge in more violence in which Marlowe is implicated but doesn’t participate.

November 20, 2014

Shameless promotion ...

As an inducement to sign up to my Keith Dixon's Novels website, I've added a freebie. If you sign up now, you'll be able to download a free copy of the book I put together of the earlier posts on this blog.

It's actually been one of my best-sellers and has often hovered near the top of the charts for "Writing Skills" on Amazon. Here's a review:

"Excellent. Insightful, entertaining and inspiring. I thoroughly recommend this book to all aspiring authors, regardless of genre."

It's currently retailing at $0.99 or £0.99, but you can have it for free. When you subscribe you won't be bothered too much with messages from me, but you'll get advance notice of new books coming down the pike and the occasional other piece of news.