The Third Rule – Selling my Soul

Just into its third day, so I thought it appropriate to share how it’s doing out there in the big wide world. In two words: very well. In three: very well indeed.

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When the Beatles ‘cracked’ America, it seemed the world had lost its marbles. There were scenes of youths passing out after being starstruck, of crowds running to catch a glimpse of their new heroes, of queues a mile long anywhere Beatles merchandise was for sale, or anywhere they were playing.

This has not happened to The Third Rule or to its author.

But in my own small way, I have cracked America. For two consecutive days, The Third Rule has sat on the top step in the Police Procedurals category and briefly peeked inside the elite world of the top 100 overall. So far nearly three thousand people have clicked ‘Buy it now’, and to each one of those three thousand, I say thank you – this little author is indebted.

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In the UK, The Third Rule has been inside that sub-100 club for several days, and let me tell you, the company here is terrific.

So far the paperback sales have left a little to be desired. I have ordered more than the worldwide public. And I only ordered three! But that’s fine; to know it’s there if anyone should choose is just dandy. It’s a large book (6” x 9”), and it weighs only slightly less than a house. But let me tell you, it looks great on the shelf.

But am I selling my soul? I hear often that people have ‘To Be Read’ books on their ereader that number in the thousands. They see a freebie and dive on it – owt for nowt, eh? I personally hate having a large TBR file because I then feel pressurised by the OCD part of me to clean the damned thing up. But I understand this mentality: there are some wonderful books out there, and the authors are giving them away!

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Well, as everyone else who sells their soul, I only hope that some of those books are read, and some of them go on to buy the rest of the books in the series. This has happened, and I pat myself on the back (not easy) for employing such a cunning strategy. And really, with so many authors using this technique, it’s become impossible to break away from it. It’s often the only technique available.

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So yes, I am selling my soul, but I hope to spread the word, and I hope that people eventually get around to reading The Third Rule because, like every other author who plies their wares, I put my heart and soul into those words and would love the chance to do more of it.

My Way – Part Four

Writing rules.

By now you know what I’m like for following rules. Not too keen – unless they’re necessary. Too many of today’s rules in all aspects of life are there just to confound us, or to delay us, or impede us. Most rules are created by buffoons in their plush offices, so far removed from everyday life that they might actually come from another planet. But some rules are good, right?

When I write, there are some rules I actually try to follow. The Anti-Repetition Rule of 1968 is quite a good one to be aware of. How often, when reading through a first draft, have you seen the same thing twice on a page, sometimes twice in the same paragraph? In a first draft, it’s acceptable – you’re in ‘stream-of-thought’ mode, and everything is acceptable. What’s not acceptable is seeing it in a finished work. The same point made more than once is an indication that the author felt he didn’t quite make the point with sufficient force the first time around so he gives it another shot. If you notice this, then the author did make his point the first time around!

Another reason for this kind of repetition is that he thought of a better/more clever way of putting it across – this tells me that the author couldn’t choose which one to use! Come on guys, sharpen up your act, or you’ll find your book in the ‘Shit’ file on someone’s Kindle.

You want more repetition stuff? Clause 2 in the above Rule states that authors must keep the use of name tags to a minimum. How often have you seen a character’s name appear after every sentence they speak? Does it get on your pip? Yeah, me too. Name tags like this should be used sparingly; in fact, you should be able to write a complete page of dialogue and get away with just two tags – one for each of the two characters involved in the exchange. Okay, you could throw in an extra couple just to make sure the reader stays on track, but your characters and their situation should provide sufficient information for the reader to instinctively know who is talking at any one time.

Even now in my own writing I can see repetition, not usually on the same page, but certainly across several chapters where one character is feeling the pain I gave him and simply won’t shut up about it. To those who’ve read it and noticed it, I apologise, and I constantly strive to do better.

The Passive Sentence Act of 1976 states that using passive sentences can seriously weaken one’s prose and should be avoided if at all possible.

Check this out: Most rules are created by buffoons in their plush offices… This would read much better if the author had said: Buffoons in their plush offices create most rules… It’s better isn’t it? Well, I think so. That’s not to say I don’t still use them; sometimes they’re necessary, or they actually read better, or make the meaning you’re trying to get across clearer. All I’m saying is be aware of them.

Fragments are great.

I like them because they break up swathes of text, and they have the power to shock if used right; they certainly have the power to amplify a point. So when the wiggly line beneath your fragment warns you of a rule infringement, don’t ask yourself if that frag is absolutely necessary, ask yourself if the writing would suffer without it!

Cliché is always the bearer of bad news. I’ve never known a cliché add something positive to a piece of exposition – except one about the weakness of using clichés perhaps. The only time I will knowingly use a cliché is when it falls from a character’s mouth – and even then it’s there to demonstrate that he’s intellectually challenged and can’t think of anything better all by himself. If I spot a cliché in a sentence, I kill it dead. If I can’t think of a better way to illustrate the point other than use a cliché, I elect not to illustrate the point.

The same goes for originality. Okay, it’s on a much larger scale, but if I can’t find a way to tell a story without using a way that’s already been used, I’ll move along to the next story idea. In the past I’ve come up with a wonderful idea only to learn afterwards that some bastard already wrote it. Nothing I can do about that – no one can ever accuse me of plagiarism.

Simile and metaphor. How I adore these two things. They are nearly the same thing – just that metaphor is the big brother of simile. Both can only enhance a story (if used sparingly – come on, not every sentence has to be illustrated with a simile, and not every theme or object has to be broadened or compared by using a metaphor) and draw a reader deeper in to where you lie in wait with your fragment! Seriously, use a metaphor to expand the theme of your scene and it comes alive; it makes showing rather than telling become your natural way of writing. Use a simile to inject a bit of colour in what might otherwise be a dull but necessary sentence too. When searching for them, be very careful not to fall through the trap door into Clichéland.

I Blame Eddie Collins

I blame Eddie Collins.

You know when you get to Sainsbury’s for the fish fingers for tonight’s tea, and you curse because the carrier bags you’d set neatly aside on the hallway table are still there? These are the carrier bags you’d bought on the last shopping trip because the ones you’d bought the time before are also on the hall table.

My point is that these little annoyances throw a spanner in your day, and I try so hard to eradicate them.

The old cover
The old cover

One such annoyance, other than perpetually forgetting the carrier bags, is my constant inability to put my life in order. Take my e-books for example. All are available from Amazon, and also from other platforms, but the paperbacks (and I believe you should offer paperbacks – some people, myself included, often prefer the feel of woodchip over microchip) are scattered between two publishers.

So I’ve begun hauling them all across to Amazon’s CreateSpace.

That was the plan. But I thought about The Third Rule for some considerable time. I thought it an unwieldy tome, and how it would read better if I worked on it. When it began life in 2004, it wasn’t part of a series; it was just a good old stand-alone crime epic to get your gnashers into. Born out of The Third Rule was the lead character, Eddie Collins. And I liked him. He was a bastard most of the time – to his colleagues and even to the public – but he had redeeming features which became obvious throughout the course of the book. Anyway, I didn’t want to ditch him and begin another book using someone else. I wanted Eddie.

So I used him in the following books, Black by Rose and Sword of Damocles. And I’ll use him again in future books. I like him that much, yes.

That made The Third Rule part of a series and not a stand-alone crime epic. And its size made it the odd one out. As you know from a previous post, I managed to whittle it down by 70k words – I modernised it! And this new edition needed a new coat and a new blurb. So here they are.

The new cover!
The new cover!

 

And here’s the blurb too…

Capital Punishment is back!

When you’re accused of murder, you’d better hide, run, or fight.
The Third Rule is England’s new infallible capital punishment. But absolute proof of guilt is no longer required, so there’s a queue at the Slaughter House doors.

CSI Eddie Collins hasn’t killed anyone, but he knows who has. That’s why he’s on the Slaughter House list, and when a government hunter tracks him down, Eddie has to fight or die. 

“If you want to kill serious crime, you have to kill serious criminals.”

Sir George Deacon, Minster of Justice.