Survival International

My novel, Almost Gone is set in a world that has only known tribal culture, and alludes to uncontacted tribes, a true rarity in our modern world.

I’m standing on a stony riverbank, looking across a wide pool of almost still water. Facing me are trees of every type, reaching and pushing through each other as they cling to the cliff-side. To one side a slender wisp of smoke curls into the bright white air and vanishes.

Eoran is next to me, blinking again and again in the overwhelming skylight, and  I notice he is also looking straight across the water, his eyes widening as sounds of laughter drift from the opposite bank. There is movement: pale limbs and hair, distant figures barely clad or naked, splashing and diving.

A hand falls on my shoulder and I turn to see Merod, her face full of joy.

“Isn’t it wonderful?” she whispers.

“What do you mean?” I reply, unsure of what is happening.

“They’re just like us, except they’re not. Look at them, listen to them!”

Survival International make significant efforts in ensuring uncontacted tribes are left alone, and are the social organisation I have the very highest respect for. As such, until further notice, I am going to be donating 100% OF ALL PROFITS from the e-book sales of Almost Gone to Survival International.

Almost Gone can be purchased from:

Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/645194

Amazon Kindle – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Almost-Gone-Keith-Farnish-x/dp/1310380287

Kobo – https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/almost-gone-6

You can read more about the work of Survival with regards to uncontacted tribes at http://www.survivalinternational.org/tribes/uncontacted-brazil

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When the Second Becomes the First

other_worlds_cover_spThere have been a few events that have convinced me that, perhaps, Almost Gone isn’t the best way to start a trilogy, such as meeting with an agent and a publisher, neither of whom could work out how to market the book; when a good friend told me it took a lot of effort to get into Caeleb’s head, and the huge list of form rejections in my inbox. More than any of these, though, is myself – I have been holding off saying this in the fear that it would jeopardise any success for that book, but here goes..

Other Worlds is a better book than Almost Gone.

There, I’ve said it. I always suspected it had been the case, and a part of me was holding onto the possibility that Almost Gone would be a gentle introduction to the Conorol Trilogy before the darkness of Other Worlds. Reading the early chapters of that “second” book makes it obvious now that it should be the first book of the trilogy. In fact, it could just be its own YA novel with nothing around it.

In reality, and here’s the practical bit, it’s now going be the first book of the Conorol Trilogy – well, that’s what I’m going to pitch to agents, but it’s up to them what they do with it. Almost Gone, as it currently is, needs a little more depth and this is where I can raise a smile, because the sections I previously took out, giving voice to the ancients, could go back in as important back-story for the reasons…

Well, you’ll need to read Other Worlds to find out what those reasons are. I have a few emails to write now.

I Seem to Have Become Distracted

instagramcapture_71840099-faef-4aed-88ea-56cac88b4db1I had a choice, either I could push full-on with the promotion of the barely-if-at-all selling Almost Gone (available from all good online retailers, folks!) or I could leave it to trickle through cyberspace and get on with something else, maybe nothing to do with writing at all. I can’t remember exactly how it started, but for some reason I found myself sitting down at the computer and typing a few words, something to do with leaves swirling around and a red button that must not be pressed at any cost. This, I realised, was basically the premise to the book I had planned to write way before I even thought of the Conorol Trilogy, or even anything to do with writing Young Adult fiction. Basically, it was a blast from the past.

Actually, my youngest – now causing mayhem at a university nearbye with various musical instruments – suggested a title, which is still at the top of an empty page in a folder called “Other Writing”. That hasn’t been started, instead something called “This Nearly Happened” has been started. It started at the beginning of last week, and after just 6 days writing it has reached ten thousand words.

Bloody hell!

It’s a lot different to Almost Gone in that it’s clearly aimed at adults, has lots of humour in it and it’s also a techno-thriller, which culturally is a universe away from the world in which the Conorol Trilogy is set. Probably because it’s also a wee bit autobiographical it’s very easy to write and, for some reason, I’m finding comedy very easy to come by. Maybe later it will get darker, we will see. Anyway, that’s where I am for the moment, and when I need a break there’s a huge hedge to cut and plenty of other gardening to be getting on with before the winter starts to set in.

Oh, and I’m going to be seeing The Divine Comedy perform in Glasgow in a couple of weeks time, courtesy of a very generous birthday present from aforementioned youngest child. Altogether now: “Take the National Express, when your mind’s in a mess…”

My Name is Keith, and I Write Books No-one Reads

This isn’t a piece about sympathy, it’s a piece about reality. Most of the time, writing books is quite easy, enjoyable in fact. No one would write a book if (a) they didn’t want to or (b) they didn’t have to. There are lots of sub-reasons within those two categories, but for the most part people who write books want to write books. I fall into that category, for the most part.

Getting a book published is incredibly difficult. It’s far, far harder than writing a book. Ok, once you’ve got an agent and a publisher, then getting a book published is easier, but even then, what you write will be edited to buggery, and the end result might be thrown back at you as “not good enough”.

Selling books is harder than that.

Having released Almost Gone a week ago, without an agent or a publisher (though, also without anyone to tell me it’s not good enough), I can vouch for the selling bit.

Total sales after Week 1 = 0

But, as I said, this isn’t about sympathy. Thousands of books were released on September 5th, 2016. Thousands of those books have sold no copies. So, I say to all those authors, whether published or self-published, “Solidarity. You are not alone.”

Things might get better, they might not. But there’s always the next book, who knows if that will be a success? And don’t forget, you do this because you enjoy writing, so it’s fine.

ALMOST GONE Ebook Released Today – 5th September 2016

poster-flyer base standard webToday is a very exciting day. Although I’m not saying my entire life has been leading up to this moment – being released by a major publisher in a frenzy of marketing in hard and soft back would be very nice – but it is very exciting to know that lots of people will be able to read my first ever novel for very little money. It’s the bit about lots of people reading it that makes me buzz. However you get hold of the book, in whatever format, just by reading it you get an idea of what was coming out of my head, the emotions, the inner thoughts, the meaning, maybe even imagining what the characters are feeling beyond the words. So, if you do read Almost Gone, then thank you, it does make a difference. And there’s the not so small matter of telling other people about it – word of mouth, social media, via reviews and mentions in the most unlikely of places. That means a lot too.

So it’s out there. If you have a Nook, an Apple or a Kobo reader then it will be there in your catalogue already. If you have a Kindle, then you can download it from the same place as you can download all the other formats, that’s www.tiny.cc/almostgone. It’s quite easy to remember, so tell a few others about it if you can. Feel free to share it around if you have bought it, as I said, it’s the buzz of knowing it’s being read :)

Update 07 September: Despite my antipathy to Amazon (the company, not the river or rainforest they stole the name from) I have been persuaded to add the book as a Kindle download. So, if you have a Kindle and want to search for “Keith Farnish” then please do so. At least I got to choose the price…

Semi-colons and Apostrophes

You know, nothing is ever 100% right, even when you get to the point when you can’t do anything else at all, when there isn’t a second (or a heartbeat) left to change a single thing. Even then, you always find something isn’t quite how it should be. Right down to the semi-colon or the apostrophe.

Actually, punctuation really is a big deal when you want something to read in exactly the right way – to tell the story how you want it to be heard, what you hear in your head. This afternoon I have been editing, for the many-eth time, the Ebook manuscript of Almost Gone, as it’s just five weeks until it goes live on Smashwords. Oh, what a strange field of semi-colons I faced! In MS Word, you find things using Ctrl+F, which I repeated time after time, first with semi-colons. It’s like I have some kind of tic that makes me hit the key to the right of “L”, randomly spewing out ;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; until my index finger is satisfied. What I ended up with, after hours of editing was a lot more full stops (thanks to Brian, an old school friend for repeating his mantra), quite a few more commas, a few more en-dashes (they have their place) and a manuscript that is just a bit closer to how it sounds in my head.

Then I decided to check for rogue apostrophes in the word “it’s” – you know, where you put one by mistake when referring to gender-neutral ownership of a thing. In this case I only found one, but also realised that word, “it’s”, was overused to the max. I got rid of about twenty, with suitable replacements, and again, it reads better.

That version has now been uploaded to Smashwords, and…yes, it’s uploaded fine, and their strange algorithms are all happy with it. You can read the first 20% for free by going to https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/645194 if you like. Don’t forget, the launch date is MONDAY 5th SEPTEMBER, and you can get the book for half price if you use the code MX73K when ordering in advance.

Taking The Plunge #2

almost_gone_cover_sp_72dpi_webWell, here it is, the front cover! You will probably notice a theme here – the wonderful photo that graces the Conorol website is also the basis for the cover, with a little text in a suitable font, and that’s it. So that’s the easy bit done.

Making the book visible to lots of people, pre- the launch date is the hard bit. There’s now an interview on Smashwords, which you can read here and maybe find out some things you didn’t know. It’s going to be a long summer, putting out feelers to all sorts of social media places and other more conventional places such as local papers (“LOCAL AUTHOR FINDS INSPIRATION IN THE BORDERS”) and whatever else I might dare to do. There’s even a discount code at the bottom of the website, which means you can pre-order the book for 50% of the normal selling price, which in itself is absurdly low, but as I say in the interview, it was never about making money, just putting some food on the table perhaps.

There will be lots of updates to come, but so you don’t get bored, I’ll try to keep them interesting – front cover of The Guardian Books anyone?

Taking the Plunge #1: Hello Smashwords

A long list of agents who all say the same thing is one of the most disheartening things for an author who aspires to be published in the world of mainstream books. My list is getting long, and the responses are pretty much all the same, along the lines of: “Sorry, I don’t think I can find a market for your book.” Of course, those words aren’t actually used, instead there are very polite template replies saying the agent didn’t feel in love enough with the book, or it didn’t fit their list, or they have to be extremely selective, but if you boil things down to the function of an agent – to sell a book to a publisher – then it’s really that.

It seems Almost Gone isn’t the kind of book any agent wants to spend the time pitching to publishers because, and I’m not just guessing here, it’s not heavily plot-driven (as you know, I don’t like plot – story is far more important) and it’s not the kind of story that has shifted millions of units in other guises. Try as I might, I can’t find anything out there that’s (a) quite like Almost Gone and, (b) well written. It’s probably best not to go too much into the latter for fear of getting cross…

I had resisted the idea of self-publishing, then on Saturday I was looking to run a few copies off using my favourite PoD site, Lulu, in an effort to get physical versions into the hands of a fewSmashwords logopeople, when I ran across Smashwords. It’s to my shame that I didn’t know much about the company, but after doing a little research I realised there was one very interesting option open to me: publish eBook only, giving lots of people a chance to read it, but leaving the physical book option still open to a conventional publisher.

Faced with the prospect of following their very strict (for good reasons) guidelines, I found someone who does a conversion service on Word documents, and paid them the small fee. In a few days the converted document will be getting back to me, and then I’ll have to start working out a strategy for a launch, set up pricing, and speak to all sorts of people who might be interested in promoting it. First, though, I need to design a cover…and it’s done.

Do you want to see it?

The Story of an Agent (a.k.a. The Plot Thickens)

Okay, this is a positive thing, though at times it may appear like I am being critical. Just putting that out there in case you get the wrong idea…

A few weeks ago I was contacted by one of the agents I submitted a sample of Almost Gone to. The feedback was positive, but it was clear I would have a lot of work to do before they were happy taking me on. There were some very useful points such as as ensuring the story was much clearer; that prologues were generally not a good idea; that back story should be treated carefully and with caution. There were also a few other things I didn’t quite agree with, and one thing that led me to make a very major change to the book, but more of that later.

What was especially good was that an agent was actually interested in my writing – they liked it, which makes me not a crap writer. Taking everything on board and being assured they did want to see the whole manuscript and not just a sample reworked, I spent the next two weeks breaking everything down and reassembling it, checking for errors, tightening up the beginning and generally making the book more readable. I also removed four chapters.

Up to this point there had been four “mini” chapters which had required a greater amount of creativity and off-my-head thinking than almost anything else in the book. The Ancients had their own voice, told from the point of view of Merogilal, in a clipped, earthy and rather odd language. It felt wrong to remove it, but on the other hand, jumping into a world the reader would be unfamiliar with, from a world they were already unfamiliar with was probably a step too far for most publishers, so I found a way round the language, while ensuring the Ancients existed in the Conorol world.

Happier with the book than I had ever been, albeit with a few literary sacrifices along the way, I sent it back. After two weeks I called the agent up – they said they would try and read it soon. This morning they emailed and said they wouldn’t be taking the book further as, while I had made significant changes, there wasn’t nearly enough plot in the book and the story wasn’t fast-moving enough. This is what publishers seem to want, but it’s not what happens in the Conorol world; there is no hurry, we have to learn and we have to connect, and all in the amount of time it takes to do so properly.

So, I am not bitter; if an agent doesn’t want the kind of novel I write then that is entirely their prerogative. If a publisher only wants something that immediately jumps to the top of the best-seller lists because it fits a type then that is entirely their prerogative. It is a business, after all. I am always wanting to be a better writer, and willing to take on criticism, but I am also prepared to wait until someone wants what I am willing to offer rather than change everything in order to sell something that is not me at all.

Waiting is easy enough, so long as that’s not all you are doing…

Going for the Triple

On 14th January the last few edits were completed on the latest draft of Other Worlds, meaning that there are now two books in the Conorol Trilogy pretty much ready to be offered to agents. This is a rather nice position to be in, even though nothing is anything like guaranteed in terms of getting published. A normal person would be content with this and pitch the first book to agents, with extracts from the second book – as a couple of dear people suggested.

I am not normal (I get this a lot).

After a short discussion with some neighbours over a showing of The Descendents – a pretty good movie about how family and culture should always trump money – I left it in their hands as to whether I should do the aforementioned, or continue with Hollow Ground. After all, the two (yes two) prologues have already been written and there’s a plethora of ideas straining to get out. The consensus was to carry on, so that’s what I’m going to do. Hollow Ground will begin in earnest from late next week, once I’ve got through splitting a huge pile of random logs we had delivered yesterday due to running out of seasoned firewood.

To be honest, given the choice between splitting wood and writing novels, it would be a very close call, but at the moment there’s a robin that sits next to me and demands food when I’m outside, so the logs win :)