Posts Tagged ‘between the tides’

the sea southportI began my last piece with the intention of waxing lyrical on the notion of loneliness, of isolation, and the apparent meaninglessness of life. But I ended up putting the world to rights on several tangential fronts sparked by the current political situation, and the picture of a gold plated motor car that somehow tipped me over the edge, puncturing what was left of my magnanimity. This is still relevant, but what I’d hoped to touch upon also was a way of seeing the world in which our current preoccupations with the state of it become in fact unimportant.

What I wanted to talk about was Between the Tides.

This was a book I wrote some years ago now, a novel, a story about two strangers, stranded on an imaginary island off the coast of Lancashire. Both protagonists have been damaged by life, both feel isolated, lost and alone. Phil likes to draw, likes to put his pictures up on Flikr. Adrienne writes poetry, keeps a literary blog but both have come to understand how futile such things are at least in so far as they reflect the Facebook generation’s fallacy, that the undocumented life is a life not worth living, that we are only as successful a human being as the number of followers we can boast.

between the tidesWe pass a stranger in the street. They are of infinite worth to themselves, occupy the central role in the drama of their own life, a life that is in each case a miracle of creation. Yet when we pass them by, only rarely do we remember them for long afterwards. As an individual then we are worth little to others, our lives irrelevant them. So what’s the point of being alive if no one really knows we’re there? This is the nihilistic end-game of the material world view. And we know it’s not true. Phil’s drawings and Adrienne’s poetry are important, but not in the way they originally believed.

What makes each of us important, and how can we return to that realisation, and rest easy in it, even if no one else knows we’re alive?

Both Phil and Adrienne are visionaries in that their lives are haunted, literally, by visions. Phil sees things out of the corner of his eye, overlays imaginary entities on reality like Pokemon Go, and receives intimations from them, suggestive of another, hidden dimension to the world. Adrienne has suffered a life changing accident, one that triggered a near death experience so profound she is confident of the reality of the continuation of her life after death, though what that means is no less confusing. She is also developing as a neopagan witch.

Both, in their separate ways are colouring the world through the lens of their imaginations. They see patterns where others see nothing. They can view a landscape, both seeing it, visually, and feeling it, emotionally. In the brief time they are stranded together, each learns not to fear their visionary experience, more to trust in it, and to take it forward. Phil and Adrienne are extreem examples, but we can each follow their lead, since we all possess the faculty of imagination.

In the material world we try to describe the meaning of the universe, but in a language that is entirely inadequate, a language lacking the vital dimension of insight. Contrary to belief, however, through the visionary experience, the world makes even less sense, descends into a kind of incoherent anarchy. But we lose also the childish need to make sense of it. Instead, embracing the ambiguity, we realise at once each our own meaning and our importance. This is our true and real celebrity.

So forget Facebook. It’s doing your head in and those mysteriously apposite little adverts will one day have you dropping your trousers in public. Instead, like Phil and Adrienne, try seeing the world through the lens of your imagination a little more, and don’t be afraid of where it takes you.


Read Full Post »

between the tidesFor a writer who’s determined to give their work away, there are still only two online ebook “publishers” worth considering – one of them is Smashwords, the other is Feedbooks. For the independent writer who isn’t interested in going pro, it’s the readership that counts, so a publisher has to deliver on that score or it’s not worth us signing up. They have to deliver the downloads. End of story.

There are other ebook publishers out there  – some of them will even contact you and ask to feature your work – and I’ve tried most of them, but if I get a couple of downloads a month from their sites I think myself lucky. Feedbooks and Smashwords still deliver the goods, and they don’t require your potential readers to sign up and divulge personal details in order to get at your stuff either – which may be the reason for their success. Your readers just click on the site, the books are displayed at once – no nags, no nonsense – and away they go. If they didn’t deliver the downloads you’d be as well self publishing via links from your blog to a public Dropbox folder. I shift my non-fiction titles this way. It’s not great, but it works as well as most other so called ebook publishing sites in terms of download rates.

As for who’s best, Feedbooks and Smashwords, that’s not an easy question to answer. Certainly Smashwords is most vociferous in sticking up for the independent non-pro author, while I feel these days Feedbooks looks upon us more as a loss leader to suck in the punters while they focus on pedalling the “real stuff” from the pros. Feedbooks stats have also been broken for years now so it’s not easy to work out what our true downloads are. So far as I can figure it out they take a snapshot on a Saturday night and whatever that day’s downloads have been, they add it to our running total, basically ignoring the other six days of the week.

So, the thing to remember with Feedbooks is you’re most likely getting more downloads than they’re telling you, which is silly because downloads are the only thing of interest to a writer when we’re giving our stuff away, and we might be tempted to pull our work from asny platform where we think it’s being ignored. I’ve queried this with Feedbooks, got sucked into the tech-query-ticket thing, to be told it was all fixed and the matter closed. Well, it’s not fixed and I can only surmise this state of affairs persists because it’s too expensive to fix. I half expect Feedbooks to pull the plug on their “original” (i.e. independent and free) content in the future, and surmise the only reason it’s still there is because it costs nothing to maintain. Personally, I’ve had a good run with Feedbooks and it would be a bit churlish to make an issue of it now, so I won’t and will continue to enjoy the ride as long as it’s working. You can dig for the actual download figures by looking at the graphs and totting up the dailies, but no one’s that obsessed – well, not all the time anyway.

Out of interest, and for this blog piece, I totted up the true download figures for my novel “Between the Tides”, which has been on Feedbooks and Smashwords getting on for a couple of years now. It’s still achieving about 40 downloads a month on Feedbooks, about 12 on Smashwords. It’s a similar story for my other stuff as well. All told then, Feedbooks may no longer be the champion of the independent author it once was – bigger fish to fry and all that – but it’s still better at achieving the downloads for you and worth sticking with, which is why I’ve just added “Fall of Night” on there as well, and why I’ll still advise any aspiring independent to use Feedbooks if they’re not interested in the money and just want to get their book out there.

Meanwhile, Smashwords is actually shaping the ebook market and making a real difference to indy authors collectively, while not quite achieving the same penetration for us individually. If Smashwords could work out how Feedbooks achieve their downloads (the true figure) for the same book by the same unknown author, they’d be offering us the best of both worlds: a rallying voice and an efficient channel for our work.

Smashwords or Feedbooks? Obviously the answer is both.

But in all this studying of the market, remember, a writer is a person who writes.

So go away now,

and write!

Read Full Post »