Allan Mayer’s Weblog

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Summer. And we love nothing better than flying off to restful, idyllic, carefree environments. Places where we can soak up the sun. Places where we can partake of exotic food and drink…

 Places where we can read about the gory exploits of crazed but highly intelligent serial killers.

Odd that. Although we would definitely not want to live next door to one, so many of us find great delight in reading novels about psychopaths- and novelists seem to be continually stretching themselves to find crueller and bloodier methods with which they can dispose of their victims.

This year I read two novels during my one-week break: Velocity, by Dean Koontz, and ‘Book of the Dead, by Patricia Cornwell.

I was on sure ground with Koontz, and I took great pleasure in the fact that (**NAMEDROP ALERT**)   Velocity was recommended to me by Koontz himself. Considering his output, I’m sure that the reply to my letter was sent from the pile labelled ‘send to wannabee authors seeking advice,’ but it did bear his signature (In ink) and has influenced the style of my next novel. Koontz suggested that any new novelist attempting to break into the field should go for the ‘High Concept Novel.’ He said that the only novel of his that he considered ‘High Concept’ was Velocity.

And it is a great rollercoaster of a read. So what would you do if you received a letter which said ‘ If you don’t take this note to the police, I will KILL a lovely blonde schoolteacher somewhere in Napa county. If you do take this note to the police, I will instead KILL an elderly woman.’

I’m sure that in this position I’d just take the note, but in true Koontzian fashion there are lots of good reasons why it isn’t that simple, and a strange logic to how Billy, the hero of the piece gets further and further embroiled. Lots of beautifully ghoulish scenes about how to dispose of a dead body without spoiling your carpet, and a satisfying denoument in which we find that the clues really have been there all along.

I have never read a Patricia Cornwell, and am aware that Book of the Dead is quite a way into the series of Kay Scarpetta novels. This made no difference to my enjoyment of the book, as there were enough references to the characters’ backstories to put you in the picture.

The characters are brilliantly crafted, and in addition to detailed forensics there is immaculate characterisation. I particularly enjoyed the way in which the complex relationships of the major characters are portrayed.

If you don’t like forensic detail- e.g. descriptions of bodies with their skin peeled off and eyes removed- not by the psycho but by the good guys- in order to confirm that abuse has taken place, then this novel is not for you.

I thought it was excellent, and will be looking for more in the series.


I’d like to think that someone, somewhere in the world has said that recently…

(I’m talking about my book, what do you think I meant?)

I’m at the stage now as a newly published author where I’m starting to get feedback from people who have read my book- some of them friends, others people I have never met who are e-mailing or writing reviews on my Amazon page.


It’s a strange feeling. I had clear ideas when I wrote ‘Tasting the Wind’ of what I wanted to convey, and am pleased to say that for the most part that readers seem to be grasping that (which is probably more a statement about the intelligence of my readers than my writing skills.)

 What is amazing me are the themes that some readers are picking out that are clearly there but of which I wasn’t aware during the writing process. I’ve also had comments about scenes which I didn’t think the strongest of the piece, but which some readers found the most memorable.


It is also really flattering to hear people talking about my characters by name- characters I have lived with for over a decade- and to hear them referred to as if they actually exist: ‘When Eddie said this…’ ‘When Andrew did that…’ ‘That Martin’s a bit of a lad isn’t he?’


I have gone to great lengths to differentiate between myself and Martin, the major protagonist. He is thin and freckly with ginger hair. I am not. He comes from a broken home, I do not. The only comparisons are that in creating Martin I drew upon my experiences of moving to London in the mid- 80s to work in care. I did work in an electronics factory for a short time, but that was in gap years between school, college and university.


Writing about situations about which you are passionate is a little like exposing your soul to anyone who cares to look. When writing and publishing you do have to ask yourself if you are happy for absolutely anyone to be given a glimpse into your imagination, and if you can’t cope with that- don’t do it.


Similarly, in this world of instant and widespread communication via the internet, people have been finding out the hard way just how public and accessible their jottings are. One man made critical observations on Twitter about Memphis, after he had visited in a business capacity, and this was picked up by his hosts, who were far from impressed. Another man commented about his new job that he was having to balance the size of the pay cheque against hating the work, and the comment was seen by his new employer.


So if you are thinking about curling up with Allan Mayer tonight be careful how you phrase it. And don’t put it on Twitter- just send me a personal e-mail… and maybe your phone number….


 Author RUTH ESTEVEZ                     

“My novel, Meeting Coty was turned down by the big publishers, mainly
because it was too short (65,000 words approx). 80,000 is the magic
number! A new, small publisher who wanted to support the books they
felt strongly about, took it on. They put great effort into the look
of it, but unfortunately, small presses don’t have the money or clout
to put into marketing. Factual or local interest books seem to fare
better than fiction with small presses as they are angled to specific
Print on demand means that bookshops can’t financially afford to stock
copies on their shelves which means that the casual buyer won’t buy
your book as they can’t physically see it. Also, though available to
order, it often comes out as more expensive as a small publisher will
charge postage which bookshops often have to pass on to the customer
in order to make any profit.
The publishing you are discussing on this blog will find it just as
hard, maybe even harder to get into bookshops, so it’s up to the
writer to use any means available to publicise their book. Sites such
as University Alumni, local newspapers, radio stations, festivals and
bookshops are usually helpful. If your book has an IBSN, I would
suggest registering it with the Public Lending Right (
so that it can be ordered through the library system. Friends in the
right places are always useful too! Good luck to every new writer out


Or: how to breed emails like rabbits.


Some of our litter of nine, the night before they went to the pet shop

(thought you’d like this one Gwenda- how’s it going?)


There is a theory that we are separated from every other human being by only six steps. That is to say that I have a friend who has a friend who has a friend who has a friend who has a friend who knows Barack Obama, or Osama Bin Laden, or whoever.


Using this theory, you could have an amazing piece of free marketing technology at your fingertips.

If, like me, you have a modest number of contacts in your email inbox (mine is about 30) you could soon be reaching thousands. Send a message to everyone in your inbox, and ask them to pass it on to everyone in theirs. supposing they have 30 contacts you will soon have advertised to 30×30 people, and so on. It is what is known as a ‘viral email.’

Of course not everyone will pass it on, but some will, so it is worth trying. I did it earlier this year to tell people about my YouTube channel, and my viewings soared.

A month or so later, follow it up- this will remind some of those who forgot to forward the first one.


click here: 6degrees to see an example.

OK, it’s a bit hyped up, but you’ve got to dream big to get there!  And if it only gets you one sale (it should get you at least 30 if they think anything of you!) it will be a good return for a small investment of time.

In addition, do you work for an organisation which uses internal email? Send it out to everyone in your address book. There are bound to be some people who will be so curious about that shy little wallflower on floor 5 who has written a novel about rampant nymphomaniac zombies.

Go on- be a little bit cheeky- you won’t get if you don’t ask.

Good luck, and let me know how you go on.

Visit my Website at:


People have been asking if they should be concerned they have heard nothing yet from YWO. I’m tending to think that this can only mean that everything is in order, and that they will next be contacted once their books are published.

I, on the other hand, must by now be in a file at YWO marked ‘High Maintenance Contributors.’

Firstly, my document had changed in transferring from my computer to theirs, so that my prologue began on an even page. To remedy this I was asked to send it in again on PDF.

A couple of days ago I received an email saying that they hadn’t received my back cover blurb. I knew that I’d sent it, so the same gremlins that mixed my pages up had run off, cackling, with a whole file.

At the same time I read a very good review of ‘Tasting the Wind’ from a YWO member, who spotted a grammatical error. Now I’ve always thought that the grammer wot I ‘ave got to be quite good, and that of many of my proof readers even better. But there it was, and it had escaped us all. And not only was it very basic, it was right at the beginning. And not only was it at the very beginning, but it was in a rhyme which was repeated by a major character at various points throughout the entire length of the book.

I would be getting my new baby in December, and even if others commented favourably I would be aware of nothing but the blemish.

So I emailed YWO, explaining what had happened and attaching a corrected copy.

 I was very surprised the next day to receive an email saying that my new PDF had been passed on to Legend Press. This is very reassuring, in light of the fact that the contract said that there would be no correspondence.

I am now back to looking forward to the arrival- and I vow not to look at it again before it’s in print.

Then again I don’t need to, because now it’s absolutely perfect…

Information overload? Take a moment to go 'Ahhh.'

Our house rabbits Dusty and Smudge had a litter of nine earlier this year (which came as a surprise because we thought that Smudge was a girl!) For those of you who are suffering from information overload I’ve put this on to make you stop and go ‘Ahhh’ before you continue on your relentless quest through cyberspace…

Hope that feels better, now onto the blog…

I will be writing more about blogging, but just a quickie to draw your attention to Julia McCutchen’s website ‘The Writer’s Journey’  and her  ‘ask the author’ teleseminars.

On Thursday 27 November at 8pm (UK time) there is one about blogging, and its importance as a marketing tool for people who are self-published or who have published through small presses.

You have to register for a place on the live seminar. To do this costs £15, which includes a copy of the event on MP3.

If you are a cheapskate like me don’t worry, there are lots of freebies on Julia’s website, and if you sign up you will receive her regular inspirational newsletters.

You can find her at:

So, you have published your book, got your ISBN and a link to Amazon. And that’s where it ends if nobody knows a thing about it. So what happens next?

This is new territory to me, and I am not venturing into it from any position of expertise, but as one who is learning. But one thing I do know from other areas of my life experience is that the old cliche is true: ‘fail to plan… and you plan to fail.’

It is essential that you have some sort of goal and a plan of how you are going to reach it. Everest was climbed in stages- so set up your base camp, plan your route and make sure you have the best sherpas (to use an analogy from and about the ‘Writers’ and artists’ yearbook,’) before you begin your ascent.

I know of three methods of planning which I have found useful for various projects in the past, both personally and professionally.

The first is the ‘web’ or ‘spider’ diagram.

Take a large piece of paper, draw a circle in the middle and write in it what it is you want to achieve. For example: ‘sell x number of books.’ Next you brainstorm on all of the ways in which you can make it known that you have a book for sale. Draw lines from the central circle and at the end of them write words such as ‘local papers,’ ‘websites.’ ’email contacts,’ etc.

Once you have thought of all of the general groups, go to each one in turn and develop it. For instance, from ‘websites’ you could draw a line which says ‘design own website,’ another which says ‘friends’ websites’ and a further one to ‘social networking sites.’

Break those down even further. For instance, you can draw lines from ‘social networking sites’ to ‘MySpace,’ ‘Facebook,’ Bebo, etc.

If you develop each line you will soon have a plan of all of the places where you can promote your book.

The second method I have used is the PATH. In my profession, which is working with people with learning disabilities,  the ‘Path’ method has been developed from Strategic Path Analysis to help  people to have better lives. I won’t describe the method here, as I have already written about how I applied the ‘Path’ method to writing at : .

 I think that the method would be equally applicable to promoting your novel. For those of you who like to set deadlines to your work it is useful, because you set your goal for, say, one year from now, then work back, asking yourself ‘if I am to achieve my goal in twelve months, where should I be after nine months? To get to that stage, where should I be in six months… in three months, then what do I need to do now? 

My third, and favoured planning method is one that I was shown recently in a course on confidence coaching: the pyramid. It is similar to the web method, but visually more goal-oriented and a good way of viewing your progress.

Q: How do you eat an elephant?

A: One piece at a time.

That is what the pyramid is about.

Draw the final stone on the top of the pyramid and write in it your goal. You can’t achive that goal in one fell swoop. You need to break it down into small, easily achievable ‘bricks.’ So at the base of your pyramid draw in bricks and put in the first things that you need to achieve. Above these add the tasks you need to do- the contacts you need to make, the places where you can leave a link to you book on Amazon- linking them together if you need to with arrows. (You can draw this, or create it on your computer using text boxes.)

Always have more bricks than you need, because later in the process other things will come to you.

Then  make sure that you do one thing each day. That one thing could just be a phonecall, or a piece of research, but that one thing is one step toward your goal. Every time you achieve a step, cross it off, or fill the brick in with highlighter pen: you are progressing toward your goal.

I have added a sample pyramid here:


In later blogs I will be looking closer at some of the things on those bricks.

Hope you find this useful,


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