Allan Mayer’s Weblog

Posts Tagged ‘Dean Koontz

Prestatyn 09 004Well that’s the holiday period well and truly over.

Before I went down with the swine flu I did take a couple of holidays- the first in Menorca at a Thompson Gold hotel, the second at the other end of the market at Pontin’s in Prestatyn.

Normally we would take two weeks in the sun. The reason for this total departure was that this is our first real summer as foster carers, so we took our first tentative steps into the world of the family holiday.

I am surprised at the extent to which I enjoyed the second holiday.

The accommodation was basic, but in a quiet location and we had one of the best weeks weatherwise of what has been a drab and dismal summer.

The social club, where the evening entertainment took place was, not to put too fine a point on it my idea of spending eternity in one of the lowest pits of hell: dirty, cramped and noisy. But with full days out on the beach and visiting local towns, we didn’t need much entertaining at night.

The best thing was the standard of activities for the kids during the day- a full programme including archery, zip-wiring, quad biking- which our foster son loved perhaps only slightly more than we enjoyed watching him.

I even managed to get some reading done: Odd Thomas, by Dean Koontz. Although I have read loads of his books I have for some reason only just got round to this, which is perhaps one of his best and the first in a series. Spooky, humourous, thrilling and in places extremely moving. Loved it.

So would we go back to a British Holiday camp? We’re already planning the next one. Like any holiday, you have to take from it what you want and leave aside those things which just aren’t your cup of tea.

Not that I could totally leave behind my week in the sun…

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.

 

 Andy Cope, author of the SpyDog series, once asked me the inevitable question: as authors are supposed to write about what they know, do I presume that you witnessed scenes like those in ‘Tasting the Wind?’

Of course the answer is Yes. I did work in a ‘Mental Handicap’ hospital in the 80s, people were treated like sub-humans (not wanting in any way to forget the good staff who struggled to maintain people’s dignity against the odds) and there was a culture of what disability guru Wolf Wolfensberger called ‘death-making.’

It is this experience, more than any other, which informs Tasting the Wind.

In the prologue a man dies having been tied to his hospital bed by a nurse and allowed to choke on his own vomit. The scene was based upon something which really happened, although I have changed the circumstances radically so that its origin cannot be traced back.

Now I would have expected everyone who read that to be appalled. I was surprised when I put it out for review that more than one reader followed the tack of ‘well it wasn’t really murder was it?’ (no, technically it wasn’t) but then went on to say that because I didn’t say what the hospital’s restraint procedures were they were probably doing something quite acceptable.

THEY TIED HIM TO THE BED AS A PUNISHMENT THEN LEFT HIM TO DIE AS THEY HAD SEX IN ANOTHER ROOM FOR GOODNESS SAKE.

Now I do have a different perspective here because I work with people who have severe learning disabilities on a daily basis, but it does seem sometimes that even in these supposedly enlightened times we still lower our standards of what is acceptable when dealing with a severely disabled person.

Imagine that it is one of your loved ones- your wife, child, mother. They’ve done something that a nurse finds unacceptable- like complained about the food. So the nurse ties them to the bed and goes off and leaves them to choke. Would you be talking about hospital procedures then?

The first Dean Koontz novel I ever read was One Door Away From Heaven. It featured a psychopathic killer who murdered disabled people, dressing his actions up as ‘utilitarian bioethics.’  What he did was shocking, but I was even more shocked by Koontz’s postscript, where he explained that utilitarian bioethics was actually being preached by some American academics.

One of the arguments put forward by this warped philosophy was that the existence of severely disabled people brought sorrow into the world. You get rid of those people, you reduce the amount of sorrow.

I don’t need to point out the similarities between this and the beliefs of a certain mid-twentieth century dictator.

Yesterday I atteneded the funeral of a twenty-four year old lady who had been born with severe learning and physical disabilities. And we celebrated her life. We didn’t talk about her in a pitying and patronising way, we remembered her as a person who had touched all of our lives. For the moment the sum of sorrow in the world is increased by her loss.

And I am left with the question: what does it mean to be truly human?

 Here are ideas and links that I have compiled and had sent to my blog over the last couple of months about how to promote your POD or small press published book. Each subject has been dealt with in greater detail on previous postings, but I thought it would be useful to bring them all together here.

So, let’s start at the beginning:

Plan your marketing strategy

1)  https://allanmayer.wordpress.com/2008/11/09/planning-for-success/  

(Be methodical: You might want to make a marketing pyramid like the one described in this post, and add the ideas below to it, crossing off each one as you achieve it.)

Work on having a positive mental attitude

Marketing your book will need perseverence- how about getting a confidence coach? I can recommend:

2) lynn@lynngrocott.com

 Book promotion/ showcasing  sites

 3) http://gwendafox.web.officelive.com/bookshop.aspx 

4)  AllThat.tv

 5) http://www.authortree.com/About%20AuthorTree

 6) Speaking appointments- local writers’ groups, round tables, etc.

 hints from published authors/ professionals

7)  www.deankoontz.com 

8) http://websitemakeoverworkshop.com/    (C.F.Jackson)

9)  http://www.juliamccutchen.com/

10) http://www.howpublishingreallyworks.blogspot.com/

11) https://allanmayer.wordpress.com/2008/11/07/tips-from-published-authors-1/

12) https://allanmayer.wordpress.com/2008/11/12/tips-from-published-authors-2/

13) https://allanmayer.wordpress.com/2008/11/23/tips-from-published-authors-3/

14) https://allanmayer.wordpress.com/2008/12/02/tips-from-published-authors-4/

15) https://allanmayer.wordpress.com/2008/12/13/tips-from-published-authors-5/

16) Contact local bookshops

 17) Make some promotional bookmarks- hand them out, leave them around.

Subscribe to Writers’ newsletters:

18)  http://www.juliamccutchen.com

19)  http://www.geoffthompson.com/

make an ‘audiobook’ on YouTube

20)  http://www.youtube.com

21) Link up with a charity.

22)  Talk About it…  (without getting boring!) friends and acquaintances will buy your book and will sell more through word of mouth.

Read books on marketing

 (and follow their advice:)

23) http://www.amazon.co.uk/Frugal-Book-Promoter-What-Publisher/dp/193299310X/ref=pd_sim_b_5 

24) Highly recommended by publishing professionals is Alison Baverstock’s ‘Marketing Your Book.’  (Used copies are currently available on Amazon at 44p plus p&p):

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/offer-listing/0713659653/ref=sr_1_olp_7?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1229895322&sr=1-7

25)  Send a press release to local newspaper(s)

Put out an online press release 

26)     http://www.pressreleasehome.com/    

27) Contact local radio stations

28) Write a blog

29)  https://allanmayer.wordpress.com/2008/12/07/blogging/

increase your blog hits

30)  www.pingmyblog.com

31)  www.ping-o-matic.com  

32)  www.pingoat.com  

33)  http://alphainventions.com/ .

34)  Build a Website

35) email your friends

and get them to email theirs (Keep it with friends and friends of friends to avoid SPAM!)

 Talk about your book on social networking sites such as

 36) www.facebook.com 

37) www.myspace.com

38) www.wayn.com

and business networking sites such as:

39)  http://www.linkedin.com/ 

40)  http://www.ecademy.com/ 

41) http://www.ryze.com/  

 42) http://www.naymz.com/  

43) http://www.aboutus.org/Soflow.com 

44)  http://sta.rtup.biz/

45) http://www.lookuppage.com

Other online places:

46) www.friendsreunited.com 

47) www.ezinearticles.com 

48) College Allumni sites

49) Local community sites

 For an absolute treasure trove of online bookmarketing look at:

50) http://www.bauuinstitute.com/Marketing/Marketing.html

 

And remember:

Do Something every day…

Book marketing is for life, not just for Christmas.

 

 

 

 

 

Life is  mixed genre. It doesn’t come with a neat label such as ‘Thriller’ or ‘comedy.’  That’s why I enjoy the writing of Dean Koontz. That’s why I write like I do… and that’s my excuse for allowing my blog to take a completely new direction fom time to time.

I’m spending a lot of time finding different ways to promote my book at the moment, which is a complete departure from what I usually do at this time of the year.  I normally spend December dressing up as a lady… so there you have it, the confession.

It’s been interesting to see the number of hits recently on a post I did entitled ‘Coming out.’ I’m pretty sure that these are actually from people who know me. (They’ll be disappointed when they see what it’s really about.)

 But yes, I have from time to time dressed as a lady… or a pirate captain, or a giant fly, amongst other things.

For the last nine years, I have appeared in the local panto, usually as the baddie. There’s nothing like the response you get from a pantomime audience, and the buzz you get from the laughs and boos is unbeatable.

But allow me to let the pictures do some of the talking:

bigsleeping4_jpgJanuary 2000. Sleeping Beauty. My first panto. Because of the year it wasn’t a witch but the MILLENNIUM BUG. My left hand is actually holding onto a crutch, as I had dislocated my knee cap at a work’s party the week before we opened.  It was painful, but very good for publicity.

 December 2000:
Frankenstein the Panto- Dracula
No pictures for this unfortunately. I was a whimpy Dracula, who was overpowered by pepppermint. Being quite bald I had the Bela Lugosi hairdo painted on- and it took about an hour to get off every night.

December 2001- Arabian Nights- Onion Bajhi

bigarabianknights9_jpgToady to the emperor Saladin. I had the fewest lines ever in this one… to start with. The beauty of Panto is that you can expand and play with it. One night I looked up just in time to see the lighting guy throwing his script away in disgust.
December 2002- Snow White and the Seven Dwarves- Herman the Huntsman, another small part- well I could hardly be a dwarf, could I?

 bigsnowwhite3_jpg

 

December 2003- Cinderella- Ugly Sister, Kylie Hardup

bigcinders024_jpg

 

 

 

 The double chin is a clever use of prosthetics… (Oh no it isn’t!)

 

 

 

 

 WARNING: I’m about to blow my own trumpet… One of the highlights of my theatrical career. Professional comedian Johnny Casson rivington-barn-bavarian-night-2004-0101came to see this, and afterwards phoned the writer, Hilary O’Neill, from the bar, and compared my performance to Music Hall legend, Norman Evans. My head was even bigger than it looks in the photo above.

 

December 2004- Aladdin- Abanazzer

 

abanazzer

This part is panto baddie heaven. 

 Record  Breaking Performance:  Thirty seconds between me walking on and first child being carried out of theatre.

December 2005 Babes in the Wood- Sherrif of Nottingham

 

 

new-year-06-028
                                                                                                                                                         For this one I was given the NODA award for ‘Best mortal in a Panto.’noda-awards-aug-2006-014

 

December 2006- Jack and the Beanstalk- Poison Ivan

jack-and-beanstalk-newspaper-001

Due to my success as dame in Cinderella I was originally offered the chance to play the part of ‘Poison Ivy’- a panto villain in drag. But the director thought better of it, so I introduced the line:

               ‘My name is Poison Ivan

                Don’t laugh, it’s not a joke,

               It should have been Poison Ivy…

                But they had to use a bloke…’

 

December 2007- Dick Whittington- Captain Slog.

bigdick20whittington12_jpg 

My ninth and last panto. By this time the muse had left me. I had also been taking part in confidence coaching and foster-care training. Both of these helped me to look at my life: what was useful to me, what was not; which social networks were supportive and nurturing. So I said goodbye to panto and acting (Oh yes I did. )

It was fun while it lasted, but for now… it’s behind me.

 AAAGGGGHHHH!!!!

It must be getting to me: the waiting, the constant search for new marketing ideas, the doubts about the quality of POD published books on some of the other blogs.

Last night I had a dream that my book had arrived. It had cost me about £20. The publisher (YWO) had not used my book cover but some insipid torquoise creation, and pages were falling out.

Even worse than that: the title had been changed. Instead of ‘Tasting the Wind’ it was now ‘Tasting the Christmas Carols.’ (OK you Freudians out there, if it had been ‘Tasting the Christmas Parsnips’ fair enough, but ‘Christmas Carols?’)

 But there was still worse to come: When I looked at the back cover I soon realised that it was someone else’s front cover, and that they had bound two books together…

I woke up in a sweat. So I’m taking a day off the usual subject, and today will mainly be blogging about…

                                                                      CUDDLY BUNNIES…

                  

                           introducing-smudge-june-4th-07-3

Now if Dean Koontz can write books in the name of his dog, I’m sure I can take time out to tell you about my furry friends.

Unfortunately Tilly (front right) and Snowy (back right) are no longer with us. To my great disappointment neither of them has yet done a Trixie Koontz and written a novel from beyond the grave. (OK, if you don’t believe me check it out at: http://www.deankoontz.com/trixie/ )

The little one, smudge, is now eighteen months old and has already fathered twenty little smudges- most of them with the nose markings which gave him his name. We decided to draw the line at twenty- or rather the vet did- a sharp line in a very tender place. Since then, Smudge seems to have lost his competitive edge when it comes to priority at the food bowl, but he seems happy enough.

Fact is, when we bought smudge we were told he was a girl. We had bought her/him to provide a friend for snowy when our first rabbit, Bonnie, died from a tumour. Then Snowy went the same way.

One day I looked into the hutch. Smudge was lying on ‘her’ side, and I was shocked at what I saw. Surely we weren’t going to lose a third rabbit to a tumour in such a short time. Then I looked closer, the cogs in my brain began to turn, and I realised that a long fleshy object between a rabbit’s hind legs is not necessarily a tumour.

Next thing, Tilly was pregnant. Unfortunately she died giving birth, and left two babies. The success rate of hand-rearing is miniscule. We tried, but they only lasted a week.

We missed having Tilly in the house, as she was one of the most ‘spirited’ rabbits we had ever known. The house is ‘rabbit proofed’ but one day when Tilly was in the kitchen we heard a large crash. Tilly had jumped onto a chair, from the chair to the table then onto the top of the hutch- where the treats were kept. We got to the kitchen to see a guilty looking Tilly scampering across the table, and a very happy Snowy helping herself to the contents of a packet of bunny-chocs which were scattered across the kitchen floor.

Keeping a succession of house rabbits has taught me that each one has its own distinctive character. We now have Smudge, Dusty, and their baby, Brandy. Each one is  totally unique in character, but as yet not one of them has demonstrated a talent for novel writing.

I live in hope.

I’ve just had a short break from blogging for two very disparate reasons.

One is the addition to our previously  adults- only home of a foster child. It’s been a tiring week, but rewarding, and I’m beginning to realise what I’ve been missing out on. It’s a great thing to be able to share in a child’s imagination, and within a week I am an expert on ‘Spongebob Squarepants,’ can name several of the aliens in ‘Ben Ten,’ and am now sharing my life with someone who can out talk me on the delights of Dr. Who.

The other reason was that before our lives changed forever, we took a fortnight’s holiday on the tranquil island of Menorca.

I was tempted to do some writing, but instead took the opportunity to do some holiday reading which, as a writer, always doubles up as research.

I consider myself a slow reader, which means that over a fortnight I will read three books. My wife, who has never attended a speed reading course, finds it quite natural to read one book per day. They say that it’s something to do with ‘the voice in your head.’ Mine tends to read every word at the same speed that I would read it out loud. Apparently speed readers don’t have this. I’ve tried it, but always revert to the voice, and I’m aware that sometimes it even wanders from the story- This reminds me of when… I could use that technique… is this leading to- and so on.

So, like I say, I’ll read three books. This year it was: ‘The Rachel Papers’ by Martin Amis, ‘Time’ By Stephen Baxter, and ‘Lightning’ by Dean Koontz.

I have read, I think, most of Amis’ output, but somehow  managed to avoid this, his first novel. I have to admit that  I didn’t enjoy enjoy ‘The Rachel Papers’ as much as other Amis novels, but I suspect that this may be more to do with changes in  my own tastes. You cannot deny the artistry of his writing and the honesty of his observations on relationships. ‘The Rachel Papers’ is so clearly a product of a pre HIV world, where STDs are an unfortunate and darkly amusing occupational hazard of the lothario. His descriptions are designed to leave lasting impressions, and are a lesson to writers in the employment of all the senses. Sex, in an Amis novel, seems to be described by smell more than any other sense.

As a person who has worked with people with learning disabilities for over twenty years, it was interesting to be reminded that we used to call people ‘mongols.’ I comforted myself with the fact that they didn’t know any better then, and that the word was used by a lead character that I didn’t particularly like.

If I can’t honestly recommend ‘The Rachel Papers’ (Which probably brands me as some sort of pleb) I would be happier to direct readers to two other Amis novels, ‘London Fields’ and  ‘Time’s Arrow.’ The latter is an amazing achievement where the principal character emerges from the darkness of death to relive his life backwardards.

Now when I say backwards I’m not delving back into my ‘1970’s Thesaurus of odd ways of referring to learning disability,’ (the same one that contains ‘mongol.’) The guy actually lives his life backwards, walking backwards, regurgitating food onto his fork, and using the toilet in a highly original way. But before he eventually disappears back into the maternal vagina we learn something shocking about his background.

My second holiday reading book was ‘Lightning’ by Dean Koontz. Probably not one of his better known novels, but definitely a good time travel yarn, about a woman who has a ‘Guardian Angel’ who appears at times of danger. ‘Lightning’ has all of the Koontz trade marks- mystery, mixed genre, strong sympathetic characterisation and, in the midst of the tension and horror, a strong ethic. Although the main protagonist was female, she was a writer, and as a writer I was very interested in the autobiographical details of the writing and publishing process.

Like the Amis book, I didn’t actually buy ‘Lightning.’ I imagine it’s standard practice in most hotels these days that there are tables, shelves, and sometimes libraries, where people can leave their books, once read. This year we depended upon there being some sort of book exchange at the hotel, because of the changes in weight allowance. Fortunately, especially for my wife, who normally takes fourteen books, there were two large bookcases.

At one point I found myself wondering how many other holidaymakers were doing the same, and if this is having an impact upon traditionally high seasonal sales. Then I turned over on my sun bed, thought ‘sod ’em,’ and carried on reading my second hand book.

My third book was ‘Time,’ by Stephen Baxter. Science fiction was my first love, and Baxter is rightly acclaimed as the successor to such intelligent writers as Asimov and Clarke.

‘Time’ is a great adventure story, but at the same time looks at how we will populate the universe, and what will happen if human life (or what evolves from it) is still existing when the Universe is drawing to a close. Baxter’s research is thorough, and there is a list of sources, showing that even some of the most bizarre ideas- such as the possibility of genetically enhanced squid being sent on a mission to Earth’s second moon- have a basis in  fact. And yes, that was something else the book taught me- Earth does have a second moon.

So, as you can see, my holiday reading was nothing if not varied. I always find it refreshing to have that double escape: the first to a good hotel in a warm climate, the second into the world of a well-written book. One was considerably cheaper than the other.

I returned home to find that the hits on my YouTube channel had doubled, meaning that someone out there is listening to my talking book. In the pile of bills and junk mail there were no letters from literary agents- neither were there any thick brown envelopes of returned submissions. Either they’re overwhelmed with submissions, or they’re feverishly negotiating with publishers and film companies… or maybe they’re just on holiday.


My Latest Twitterings