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Mystery drama

Mystery drama




PETER’S
BLOG

 Link to Amazon book page for Alternative Outcome

About this blog

This blog is embedded as a section of my main website, www.peterrowlands.com. You can either browse blogs posts and upload responses from this blog section, or use the top nav menu to move around the rest of the website.

Link to Amazon book page for Deficit of Diligence

Read this. No don’t! Yes, do.

My new mystery thriller, Deficit of Diligence, is out now! It’s a sequel to the earlier Alternative Outcome, and follows the fortunes of downbeat journalist and would-be novelist Mike Stanhope as he settles into his new life in the West Country.

As you’ll quickly find out, he doesn’t actually get much breathing space. He’s soon on the move to the north of England, where a lot happens to him in a remarkably short time. His part-time boss has an assignment for him there, and he also has his own agenda – to find out more about a mysterious legacy.

But here’s a bit of a puzzle. I want to promote my new novel, but for people who haven’t read the first novel, the new one contains spoilers. So what should my message be? I want to say, “My new book is out, but please don’t read it – read the other one.” Yet that sounds daft!

Deficit of Diligence - link to Amazon book page

Deficit of Diligence – the new mystery drama from Peter Rowlands

I suppose it’s wonderful when anybody reads any book of mine, so perhaps I shouldn’t worry too much about who reads what, or in which order. But I don’t want to deter people from reading the first book by letting them find out too much about it in the second. Is this a problem for all series writers?

All I can say is, if you like the sound of my new book but you haven’t read the first one yet, you’ll find it will pay you to start there. But if you’re determined to lunge straight into the second, please don’t let me stop you!

 

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The challenge of getting noticed

How do self-published authors sell their books? The answer, in most cases, is through a combination of hard work and hard cash (the latter being for required for ongoing advertising and promotion).

The Concrete Ceiling, by Peter RowlandsIn The Concrete Ceiling, the latest mystery in the Mike Stanhope series (out now!), Mike decides that if he focuses on the cash angle he may be able to shortcut the process. He spends a lot more than he should to promote his own book; but instead of ramping up sales, he quickly finds himself in all kinds of trouble.

In a way, The Concrete Ceiling is a mirror on itself – an offbeat look at the lengths writers of books like this need to go to in their efforts to find readers. And this means that in some respects it’s the most satisfying book I’ve written so far.

I’m relieved to say I’ve never faced the kinds of problem Mike encounters here, but like him, I’ve come to realise that getting traction for self-published books really is hard. I feel for him in his frustration, and I’ve enjoyed showing the world what it can be like. As he’s all too aware, it doesn’t matter how good your book is; people won’t read it if they don’t know about it – and putting it in front of enough readers to make a real impact is challenging. Very challenging.

Don’t worry; at heart Concrete Ceiling is a mystery thriller, not an essay on the trials of getting your book to market! It’s a breathless ride as Mike struggles to understand what he’s unleashed, and at the same time attempts to straighten out his tangled love life. His girlfriend is half-way across the world (and seems happy to keep it that way), but the new woman he’s fallen for is heading into a relationship with someone else. He has a lot to contend with.

The plot has some sudden swerves that may initially surprise you, but lead unerringly back to the beginning. Early readers have told me it’s the fastest-moving episode yet in the Mike Stanhope series.

All that being said, the underlying theme did give me the chance to air some of the issues that plague most self-published authors. A lot of those authors probably wish, like Mike, that they could simply dip into their pockets, spend as much money as they could possibly afford, and boost their book into the mainstream. I certainly do! But I sense that it would be an enormous gamble, and in any case I’m not sure where or how I would place my money. Hopefully not as injudiciously as Mike does; but then, he’s just plain unlucky.

Maybe this book about someone trying to promote their book will help me get a bit more exposure. Or maybe I need to write a book about a book about someone trying to sell their self-published book?

This could run and run.
.

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Book delay? Blame Brexit!

A quick apology to readers who have been looking out for The Concrete Ceiling, the next novel in the Mike Stanhope Mysteries series. It was due out in early 2019, but has been delayed until March. However, it’s nearly ready, and I hope you’ll find it just as engrossing as its predecessors. Watch this space!

If you’re wondering what happened, blame Brexit. I’ve been so absorbed by what’s going on in the UK that everything else seems to have been neglected. I simply can’t believe the massive harm the country is about to inflict on itself. I feel as if our government is wandering blindfolded over a cliff.

I wrote a thriller with a Brexit background a year ago, but what’s happening now is stranger than fiction. To tell you the truth, I’m hoping I’ll wake up one day and find it was all a dream – a bit like the death of Dallas’s Bobby Ewing, if you remember that far back. He was killed off in the series’ 1986 season, then brought back to life two seasons later by popular demand. His death, we were told, had simply been someone’s dream.

In the case of Brexit, it’s more like a nightmare. All the polls now show that if there were a referendum tomorrow, Remain would come out on top. People who were too young to vote last time would overwhelmingly vote Remain, so the balance is unlikely to shift. So why is the UK government doggedly insisting on implementing something that the majority of Brits don’t want, and will probably never want in future? It’s defies all logic.

It’s not too late for campaigners to push through with a second referendum, and that’s what I’m hoping for. Will it happen? We shall see.

 

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The Brexit questions the media fail to ask

Have you ever sat watching TV or listening the radio in mute outrage? I feel as if that’s what I’ve been doing endlessly for months. Almost every time there’s been an interview about Brexit, the interviewer has ignored or skated round the most obvious questions. I’d almost call it a conspiracy – except that then you’d mark me down as paranoid.

I’m writing this as we await the “meaningful vote” on the Government’s referendum deal on 15 January 2019. And I’m wondering how it can be that Britain is saddled with a Parliament packed with people advocating a policy that clearly no longer has the support of the majority of its population.

A lot of these politicians seem determined to achieve some sort of Brexit “because it was in our manifesto”, or because the public voted for it nearly three years ago. They don’t seem to care that there’s now such a strong groundswell of opinion against it. No wonder so many people have lost faith in the political process.

Meanwhile the media, who should be championing the views of the populace, are instead caught up in their own process. To take a simple example, when Theresa May’s Government says the failure to agree a Brexit deal would be “a catastrophe for democracy”, why do interviewers consistently fail to ask, “Why? Exactly what aspect of democracy would be undermined by taking stock, and testing current public opinion?”

In the BBC’s case, the organisation also seems paralysed by a terror of appearing to favour one side or the other. This is especially bizarre, given the rather contradictory fact that ever since the referendum of 2016, the BBC has adopted a base position that Brexit is inevitable. It may well have given air time to Remainers, but always with the prevailing assumption that their stance is dissonant, marginal and even heretical in some way. There’s been a hidden partiality in the entire tenor of its reporting, which rather makes a mockery of its supposed even-handedness.

Incidentally, on the day of the vote I noticed a typical example of this weighted reporting in an article on the BBC web site about the implications of the vote for the value of sterling. It suggested a small surge in its value if the doomed deal were approved by Parliament, and even went so far as to say that a delay in implementing Article 50 would also see a rise. But nowhere did it describe the implications for the pound if Britain were not to leave the EU at all. Why not? Surely that would see the biggest possible rise in sterling’s value?

I have every respect for principled Leave supporters. They’re just as entitled to their opinion as I am to mine. Of course they want to implement the 2016 referendum. So would I, in their shoes. But there’s a big difference between holding a view and claiming that it is supported by a majority, when in reality that majority has shrunk to a minority – which is what all current opinion polls suggest.

Admittedly, the claim that the Leave vote was influenced by lies and illegal spending is a nebulous one. It’s probably true, but hard to quantify – as is the belief that many people were voting against austerity and poor government, not against the European Union. Rightly or wrongly, voters in democracies are not required to explain or justify their decisions.

What is not tenable is the claim that it would be a “betrayal” in some way to disregard the result of the 2016 referendum by holding another. This is simply making a mockery of the very notion of democracy. It’s what despots do after they’re voted into power.

Sadly the media seem conspicuously incapable of pressing this piece of hard logic on politicians. So here are the questions I would ask Brexit advocates in their shoes – the questions I crave to hear, but so often don’t:

  • Given that nearly half of voters favoured Remain in 2016 in spite of the lies and disinformation spread about the alleged benefits of Brexit, how can you constantly claim that “Britain” voted for Brexit? What about the 48 per cent who didn’t, those who have changed their minds, and those who didn’t or couldn’t vote last time – perhaps because they were too young then?
  •  
  • Since the public know far more about the implications of Brexit than they did in 2016, why would it be wrong to allow them to restate their opinion in a second referendum?
  •  
  • If it could be proved that the majority of the public no longer want any kind of Brexit, would you still insist on implementing the 2016 referendum vote regardless?
  •  
  • If the 2016 vote was democratic, why would another one not be?

If I were in the interviewer’s chair, I would not allow evasions or distractions until I got answers to the above, or at least an outright refusal to answer.

That’s easy for me to say, of course, when I’m not in the hot seat. I realise a media interview is not a court of law or an inquisition, and politicians are not compelled to participate. The very process of conducting an interview and actually eliciting meaningful answers is a political one (with a small “p”), and I greatly admire the most skilled practitioners of the art. But even they are not immune to following the question sheet instead of probing for real answers.

History will not look kindly on those who have consistently failed to do that, and have allowed themselves to be obsessed with process to the detriment of substance.

 

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Where is this mythical pro-Brexit majority?

I’m a writer, not a politician or an activist. My fondest wish is to get my novels in front of readers. Yet as Britain stumbles towards the disaster that is Brexit, I’ve had to hijack my own blog in order to voice my anguish over this miserable, misconceived saga.

And as the UK Government embarks on a programme to convince the country to applaud the ludicrous Brexit deal it has just signed in Brussels (I’m writing this in November 2018), I can’t resist voicing my disgust at the cynical, manipulative, transparently dishonest and unrepentantly revisionist way they’re trying to convince the British people that it’s a “good thing”.

What I can’t understand is why so many politicians who claimed to be Remainers in the past are so determined to endorse this ridiculous so-called deal, instead of standing back and questioning why we need to proceed with Brexit at all. If they all stood firm and simply said, “Let’s not do this,” it would go away – and a according to recent polls, a reported 54 per cent of the population (at least) would give a wild cheer.

Instead, they insist that their Brexit plan respects the will of some mythical majority who want it. What majority? A tiny majority of voters may have opted for Brexit two and a half years ago, but why does that mean we must disregard what voters want now, with their much greater understanding of the implications of leaving the EU?

Governments are happy enough to call snap general elections if they think the sway of public opinion happens to favour their party more than it did when they were voted into office – so by that standard, what is wrong with testing the current popular view of this infinitely more far-reaching measure? Why not check whether people really meant it when they voted to leave the EU, and find out how many of them would vote that way now?

It seems to me that there is absolutely no defensible argument to justify the implementation Brexit against the apparent wish of a majority of the current population – or to deny that population the opportunity to test public opinion in a confirmatory referendum.

Therefore I can only assume that the parade of pro-Remain MPs advocating Theresa May’s half-baked Brexit deal are revealing monumental self-interest – elevating their own political fears and ambitions far above the long-term best interests of United Kingdom. Shame on them!

Either that, or we’re experiencing a “King’s New Clothes” phenomenon of unprecedented magnitude, in which politicians are not merely disporting themselves naked because that’s what their leader is doing, metaphorically speaking, but are rushing like lemmings to follow their leader over a cliff. And that’s without confronting that other kind of  “cliff edge” – the no-deal Brexit scenario we’ve been warned about for months.

I have to assume they’re not that stupid … but if not, what am I missing?

 


If you see a book cover flagged up against this blog, and it’s for my novel Alternative Outcome, I have to smile at the appropriateness of the title. Ironically, that book has nothing to do with Brexit, but I’ve written another novel that does! It’s called Never Going to Happen, and it sets the Brexit debate in the context of a fast-moving thriller. It’s on Amazon, and was published under the pen-name Anders Teller.

 

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Democracy means democracy: why Brexit time-lag could prove Remainers’ salvation

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a million times: the Brexit referendum vote must be implemented because it represents “the democratic will of the people”. What utter, unmitigated nonsense!

When future generations look back on this whole fiasco, this is possibly the aspect they will regard as the most bizarre. How could a flawed, two-year-old vote on a bland, unqualified question – leave or remain? – seriously be considered a true democratic mandate? Why should the citizens of today and tomorrow have their futures dictated by something so insubstantial when it’s already in the past?

Hey ho, say the Brexit supporters; that’s democracy for you. Live with it. But they can’t escape the greatest weakness – but perhaps it’s also the greatest strength – in the whole concept of any referendum, and especially this one. Quite simply, it’s the time lag between the vote and its implementation.

Whether or not you consider the referendum outcome fair or reasonable, the fact is that it couldn’t be acted on overnight. There was a process to go through. As we all know now, that process was destined to take a minimum of two years and nine months. That’s the time lag between the vote itself and the date on which Article 50, Britain’s departure, is due to take effect in 2019.

No one can lay blame anywhere for this time lag. In nation-changing developments like this, such a thing is inevitable. There are so many issues to agree on, so many decisions to make; there’s so much new law to put into place.

“The Britain which is approaching the Brexit date is not the same Britain as the one responsible for that fateful vote “

But no one can deny the reality of the time-lag either. It has happened. Brexit supporters need to live with that. What it means is that the Britain which is approaching the Brexit date is not the same Britain as the one responsible for that fateful vote. Electors are now more savvy. They know what they’ll be losing by leaving the EU as well as what they might have to gain. They are far less ready to be taken in by lies about the likely outcome.

Opinion polls in the latter half of 2018 have repeatedly shown that in a new referendum the remain camp would stand a good chance of winning. So standing back from this, what do we have? A Government determined to implement a ill-informed decision taken more than two years ago, despite widespread and growing evidence that the majority of its citizens no longer support it.

What possible, conceivable logic could there ever be in any rational society for driving through a world-changing decision like Brexit on such an utterly flawed basis?

“What possible, conceivable logic could there ever be in any rational society for driving through a world-changing decision like Brexit on such an utterly flawed basis?”

That decision, moreover, could take at least a generation to reverse. Some people compare the referendum to an election vote, but snap elections can be called overnight, and the political direction of a country can shift in a blink. Brexit can’t. If we leave the EU, for many UK citizens it will effectively be forever.

Some people worry that a second referendum would throw the country into a new period of chaos, but this is simply a fear whipped up by pro-Brexit panic. If we voted to remain in a new referendum, we could simply halt the Brexit process, and life would go on as before. Yes, there would be a lot of rethinking and some pretty massive political fallout, but we’re still in the EU now, and we still would be after the vote.

If, on the other hand, by some strange quirk we voted again to leave, well, hard or soft, Brexit would be ready to roll. Again, nothing would be lost.

The time lag is the enemy of Brexit supporters, which is why they are becoming increasingly strident in shouting down anyone who dares to suggest a rethink and a new public vote. They’re determined that yesterday’s suspect vote should dictate the shape of tomorrow.

“The time lag is the enemy of Brexit supporters, which is why they are becoming increasingly strident in shouting down anyone who dares to suggest a rethink and a new public vote.”

So should we have any sympathy at all for the fact that the Brexiteers have had to hold their breath for two and a half years before they could get their way? No! Let’s just be thankful that the time lag was necessary. Think what would have happened if we’d somehow been forced to quit the EU the day after the referendum. Decisions of this magnitude need reflection, and arguably two and half years has barely been enough.

Meanwhile, young people are overwhelming opposed to Brexit, and the longer we wait to implement it, the more of them will be around to oppose it. No wonder the leavers are so worried.

“You can’t undermine democracy with more democracy” – David Lammy, MP

But what about the Brexiteers’ insistence that the two-year-old vote was democratic, and must be upheld at all costs? The MP David Lammy has knocked that one conclusively on the head. “You can’t undermine democracy with more democracy,” he’s pointed out. In other words, it can never be wrong to ask people if they’ve changed their minds.

Two years ago the Leavers were delivering a constant cry: “Brexit means Brexit.” It’s time to put forward another one: “Democracy means democracy.” In a rational society, democracy is a dynamic thing. It doesn’t simply stutter to a halt at the casting of a vote.

“In a rational society, democracy is a dynamic thing. It doesn’t simply stutter to a halt at the casting of a vote”

To put it another way, why should a generation of citizens have to suffer the outcome of Brexit for a decade or more, when in the two short years since the original vote it has already become increasingly clear that the majority don’t appear to want it?

That’s the truly democratic question we should be asking. And we should be asking it now, in a public vote.

Peter Rowlands

 


If you see a book cover flagged up against this blog, and it’s for my novel Alternative Outcome, I have to smile at the appropriateness of the title. Ironically, that book has nothing to do with Brexit, but I’ve written another novel that does! It’s called Never Going to Happen, and it sets the Brexit debate in the context of a fast-moving thriller. It’s on Amazon, and was published under the pen-name Anders Teller.

 

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“If Brexit goes ahead” – the referendum’s most insidious taboo

Has someone invented an infallible crystal ball? Reading a lot of Brexit reporting in the press and hearing it in the broadcast media, you would certainly think so.

Here's a book title that could turn out to have some prescience!

Here’s a book title that could turn out to have some prescience!

As far as I know, sitting here in September 2018, the United Kingdom has not yet left the European Union. That development is not scheduled to happen for nearly six months. Therefore no one in the known universe can predict at this stage how Brexit will eventually play out – or crucially, whether it will play out at all.

Yet every report I hear on the BBC, along with many that I read in newspapers, treats Brexit as an absolute, unstoppable, cast-iron certainty. Four little words are missing from all these reports: “if Brexit goes ahead”.

This reveals a terrifying flight of reason in the face of Political Correctness (yes, with a capital P and a capital C). The reporters writing these stories would never dare to suggest that any other future world event is bound to happen by immutable law. Yet somehow, rules of logic have been thrown away in the reporting of Brexit. Merely because there was a referendum on the subject more than two years ago, reporters and editors have apparently decided they are to duty-bound treat the implications of the vote with absolute, unshakeable certainty.

You only have to make a small leap in imagination to see the utter folly of this reasoning. Just suppose for a tiny moment that Brexit does not go ahead. It is possible, after all. The earth might be struck by a meteorite, for instance. Britain might have a general election. There might be a “no” vote in a second referendum. All these scenarios, whether likely or not, are possible.

If that does happen, then all the certainty about Brexit exhibited by the BBC (and of course by all the pro-Brexit politicians) will be exposed as having been based on a false assumption, not on any practical reality. All those confident pronouncements about “when Britain leaves the EU” will be seen for what they were – hot air. It will become clear that all along, the word “when” should have been replaced by “if”.

I am a lifelong supporter of the BBC, so it saddens me to single it out for criticism in this way, but on the subject of Brexit it has turned itself into a stubbornly insistent, if perhaps unwitting, apologist for the pro-Brexit camp. And all because of its pursuit of so-called “objectivity”.

I understand why this has happened; the BBC is terrified of being accused of breaking the impartiality obligation written into its charter. But I would argue that its dogged assumption that Brexit will go ahead it not in fact impartial or objective; it is based on a false premise.

The trouble is that the two pieces of wording have not been recognised as opposites. If used to qualify the content of news reports, the phrase “if Brexit goes ahead” would be seen as revolutionary and subversive, whereas “when Brexit goes ahead” is accepted as merely expressing the mythical “will of the people” (as determined by a close-run and deeply flawed referendum process). It is assumed to reflect a universally accepted reality.

It does not. “When Brexit goes ahead” is insidiously manipulative, and just as pointed in its implications as the “if” phrase would be. It treats as a certainty something which, however likely or unlikely, is at best a possibility. In fact in some ways it’s worse than “if”, since it postulates the outcome as inevitable, when at least the “if” phrase leaves room for doubt. “When Brexit goes ahead” is a silent killer – for the most part accepted and tolerated, rather than being seen for the hidden political statement that it is.

Unfortunately, the BBC can look for support to numerous politicians on both sides of the  divide – and that includes people who, even though originally Remainers, now claim to view Brexit as unavoidable, and obstinately parrot arguments about “the democratic decision of the people” in defence of their stance, as if a one-off vote two years ago had to stand for all time. It’s difficult to understand what fears or foibles might have prompted such people to become clairvoyants.

“When Brexit goes ahead” has now become so ingrained in the BBC’s thinking that it infuses its every utterance on this subject. Even when the organisation gives airtime to Brexit opponents, which in fairness it does on a frequent basis, there’s always an implication that these people are operating on the fringes of societal norms, and have little if any chance of getting their way … because “Brexit will happen,” come what may.

I’m a realist. I know the BBC couldn’t suddenly start inserting “if Brexit goes ahead” into its reporting. Such a move would instantly undermine the pro-Brexit cause in such a blatant fashion that the director general would presumably be fired within minutes.

Yet as momentum builds behind the drive to revisit Brexit, and even to hold a second referendum, I can’t help feeling disappointed that the BBC seems to be lagging so far behind popular opinion favouring a rethink on the subject. If the organisation could somehow weave a more genuinely impartial tone into its Brexit reporting, that would actually reflect the impartiality it is supposed to uphold.

Claiming that “when Brexit goes ahead” reflects objective reality is about as plausible as arguing that it is possible to predict who will win the next World Cup … or who will win Britain’s next general election.

Any takers?


My novel Never Going to Happen, written under the pen-name Anders Teller, explores the two sides of the Brexit debate in the context of a fast-action thriller that is also a mystery and a romance. More details here.

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Fixed in time?

Can a novel work if it’s set against unresolved real-world events?

What if, for instance, someone had written a thriller whose backdrop was the election battle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton – and the book had come out before the election result was known? Could that have worked?

I’m hoping the answer is yes, because that’s the approach I’ve taken with a new mystery drama, Never Going to Happen, which I launched under the pen-name Anders Teller in March 2018*. One of its underlying themes is Britain’s tortured progress towards leaving the European Union, and the book was released more than a year before that process sees any kind of resolution.

Does it matter? I don’t think so. First and foremost, this is a personal drama, a mystery thriller and a romance, and it includes themes entirely unrelated to the dreaded word “Brexit”. The twists at the end (and there are several crackers, if I might be so bold as to say so) don’t depend on how our real-life politicians conclude the Brexit process. Whether you read the book now, while the clamour is still going on, or five years hence, when we know how it all turned out, I believe you will experience the same satisfying and rounded story.

In that case, why have I featured Brexit at all? It’s because the subject has thrown up so many challenging issues – fake news, the rise of populism, the power of the internet to manipulate opinion, and above all, the belief that the referendum vote somehow legitimised the expression of extremist views and the entitlement to shout down dissenting opinion.

I thought these issues might make a compelling quasi-real backdrop to a fictional story – one about shadowy people who are trying to reshape the way world events will turn out.

Some readers might still argue that they want a “story arc” that is set within a known and settled contextual framework. They might rebel at the idea that the real-world events raised within the book should continue after the story has ended, and may not turn out as the people in the book would like.

As far as my book is concerned, my answer is that it sets its own bounds, and simply doesn’t rely on real-world outcomes. It isn’t really very different from other such books – it just has a slightly more contemporary feel.

Obviously it won’t be contemporary in ten years’ time! But I don’t think that matters. By way of analogy, dozens of films were made during the second world war: not just propaganda films, but also human dramas that used the war simply as illustrative context. Most were released long before the outcome of the war was known. The ones that over-played the sentimentalist, rabble-rousing themes probably sank without trace, but those that homed in on universal issues and enduring values had a much longer shelf life.

I won’t be so bold as to make such claims for Never Going to Happen, but I do think it deals with timeless themes that are not tied to Brexit or to any other specific world event.


*Never Going to Happen is now available worldwide in Kindle e-reader format from Amazon, and is also available from Amazon in paperback.

Read more at my publishing arm: www.tophampublishing.com
Link to Amazon book page: click here

 

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The heroism of the average man

Should we approve of everything done by the leading character in a novel? Should he or she be a “hero” in the traditional sense, or should such characters exhibit normal human flaws such as occasional bad judgement and indecision?

You might respond that it depends what kind of book we’re talking about. Perhaps heroic adventures do demand appropriate heroism, you might say. By contrast, arguably a book about “your average man” (whoever that might be) should portray average strengths and weaknesses.

But even pure adventures need conflict and crisis; and this, surely, means that heroes can’t always be invincible. If they were, there wouldn’t be any drama. So perhaps the only difference between “levels of perfection” in different types of book lies in the detail.

The reason I raise this is that one or two otherwise positive reviewers of my stories have complained that Mike, my leading character, can sometimes be weak and indecisive. They say that this has stopped them giving the books the highest rating.

Now it’s not up to me to tell reviewers what they should think of my books. I feel enormously indebted to every single one of them for taking the time to write about the books at all. I try to learn from any adverse criticism.

All the same, their point about Mike’s alleged failings has me slightly puzzled. It’s not as if he’s constantly bowing to pressure from others, or conceding in arguments and avoiding conflict. In many ways he’s quite tough-minded.

But I’ve deliberately given him a few flaws. He’s sometimes self-doubting, sometimes evasive, even a little naive when it comes to relationships. Basically he’s human, and that means imperfection. He wants to do the right thing, but can’t always decide what that is.

I would have thought that this sums up what most of us are like; and that’s precisely the point of my books. I’ve tried to create a character readers can identify with, and then I’ve aimed to get those readers wondering how they would deal with the challenges I pose for him.

Usually, by a combination of luck and perseverance, Mike ends up in the position where we want him to be. What’s more, he often notches up incidental successes along the way – saving a business in Alternative Outcome, for instance, or finding a buyer for publishing company in Denial of Credit. But he doesn’t pull these things off through conventional heroism; he does it by his forthright manner – his impetuousness even – and by reasoning his way through each crisis as it comes along. If anything, what redeems him is the heroism of the average man.

To me, each book is a twin story; it’s about my leading character’s battle against some kind of external adversity, and it’s also about his struggle to summon up the best in himself.

Some reviewers have kindly said they find Mike a very strong character – a surprising contrast to the views of those who are unhappy with him. This is very gratifying, even if (as I suspect) these more positive reviewers actually mean he is “a strongly-written flawed character”. That’s exactly what I intended. But as I said, I do listen to criticism, so perhaps my challenge is to ensure that Mike’s strengths and weaknesses continue to balance out to a character readers like and care about – someone whose story they want to follow.

I’m keeping that constantly in mind.

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Self-publishing, and making the right moves: what am I missing?

Self-publishing? Three or four years ago I knew nothing. My biggest challenge was formatting my first book so that it would look plausible on a Kindle. Actually selling it once it was online was a challenge for later.

Now, with a couple of years’ experience under my belt, I could take the view that I’ve moved forward. I’ve gradually notched up a few dozen really positive Amazon reader reviews, and people are actually buying my books. Not a lot, but hundreds, anyway. (If you’re one of them, thanks!) Being a half-full kind of person rather than the half-empty kind, I know I should feel pleased.

Yet I’m strongly aware that I’m still very much a novice. If I’d progressed further, I would be selling loads of books, not just the modest numbers that people are buying at the moment. I still seem to be a thousand miles from joining the league of seasoned Kindle authors – people who apparently sell thousands of copies of every book they publish. Why?

Well, not for lack of making the right moves. I’ve notified the top readers’ websites each time I’ve published a new book (Goodreads and so on). I’ve circulated press releases about each new book to the printed and online press. I’ve uploaded author profiles to readers’ websites and responded to author interview requests. I’ve set up Facebook pages, a Twitter account and a website, and tried to keep them up to date. I’ve contributed to writers’ online forums, Facebook groups and book blogs. I’ve put my books into Amazon’s Select scheme and run periods of free days – supporting these with paid promotion, of course. I’ve run paid advertising on Facebook and Amazon.

Some of this has created short-lived blips in sales (mostly run-ons following the free Amazon days, I have to say). But some spending has yielded zero extra sales. Write it off to experience, I’ve told myself philosophically.

I’ve also set up paperback versions of all my Kindle books, complete with my own ISBN codes (yet another investment). So no one can pass on a purchase merely because of technophobia.

With all this under my belt, in a way I’ve matured from a tyro into a fairly seasoned campaigner. I now know which book promotion web sites seem to work for me – and which of them will never accept my books, however good they are. I know how to contribute to writers’ forums without being dismissed as an idiot or getting too many rebukes for inadvertently offending someone. I know roughly how to distinguish between snake-oil merchants and people who can provide genuine help with selling e-books. In short, I’ve graduated from my basic training.

But where has all this got me? Not terribly far! I know that people like my books, and I know the books stand up well in comparison with many on the internet. But that tipping point into steady, substantial sales remains as elusive as ever.

Friends sometimes smile encouragingly. “At least you’re a published author now, and you’re doing what you always wanted. You’re writing your own books, which gives you pleasure in itself, and you know that if people want to read them, they can. Surely that’s enough?”

Well … no it isn’t!

(a) I’m not “published” in the way they mean. I did it myself. When thousands of people start flocking to buy the books, perhaps I’ll accept that notion. Not until.

(b) I’m not writing to please myself, I’m writing to please other people. So unless people do read the books in reasonable numbers, I can’t with hand on heart feel that the primary objective has been achieved.

I hasten to add that I’m not blaming anyone else for not having progressed further or faster in this market. I was the one who chose the self-publishing route, and it’s down to me to make it work.

I’m just saying it’s no easy ride. Clearly I haven’t made all the right moves, even though I keep trying to persuade myself that I have. So if anyone can see what I’m missing, please let me know!

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Boss from hell? Denial of Credit is out now!

We’ve all met him – the boss from hell. You admire him, you almost love him, yet you also despise him. You hate what he asks of you, but you’re proud when you achieve it.

Alan Treadwell, entrepreneur and one-time logistics leader, is one of that breed … and journalist Mike Stanhope has to get into Alan’s head. He’s asked to ghost-write Alan’s autobiography, but he’s soon wondering if he’s bitten off more than he can chew. Alan expects so much, and so quickly. The original writer dropped out (not surprisingly, perhaps), and Mike has to pick up the pieces. It’s no easy task.

And what about the parts of Alan’s life that he isn’t revealing? Mike can’t resist probing, and it quickly gets him into deep water. Meanwhile, what really happened to Joe, the original writer? Where is he now, and why is he keeping his head down? The farther Mike looks, the more urgently someone seems to be trying to stop him.

Denial-of-Credit

Denial of Credit by Peter Rowlands

It doesn’t take Mike long to realise that high achievement like Alan’s tends to come at high personal cost. What he doesn’t reckon on is the potential cost of his curiosity to himself and those around him.

Denial of Credit, the third novel in my series of Mike Stanhope Mysteries, is an even more relentless ride than the first two – and it takes Mike into murkier waters as he juggles his faltering relationship with the attraction of a new romantic involvement. The plot gradually builds to a dramatic confrontation that makes it as much a thriller as a mystery drama.

As you can see, the logistics world once again provides a compelling backdrop. It’s so pervasive, and is packed with so much dramatic potential. In a way, my series is turning into an ongoing campaign to make logistics seem exciting. (Not that I’m saying it isn’t exciting anyway!)

As with its predecessors, this novel is packed with vibrant, convincing dialogue and three-dimensional characters, and has a multi-threaded plot in which all the elements gradually converge. I think it’s my strongest yet.

But are my characters based on real people? Of course not! Elements of them might be, but not their totality. I met only nice people in my many years as a logistics journalist and editor. Or course I did. They taught me that it’s better to lead by example than by intimidation. At any rate, those are the bosses I remember most fondly.

You can download Denial of Credit from Amazon UK here, or Amazon US here. It will be available as a paperback by the end of April.

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© Peter Rowlands 2019

 

 

 

 

Peter Rowlands on Facebook Peter Rowlands on Twitter

 

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