Choices and Decisions

We must eat and drink simply to survive, and that, of course, is the most important decision we all make—if we are to exist. After making the choice to go on, the quality of our life is next and that is improved by shelter, and fulfilment, which may or may not include companionship, with due respect to Mr Maslow and his Theory

From the moment we wake up every day our life is filled with making decisions based on choices … selecting which direction to take.

When a creative writer develops an idea and produces the cast for a story, the entire process from those early ideas right through to the publication of the book is filled with choices. Within the story, each character must make decisions. Those are designed to produce the various incentives for the character and action to move forward, and to maintain the reader’s interest. If you’re still reading, my choices for this post are working, so far.

For an author, while the internet is a wonderful source of information, and a valuable marketing tool, it can be a distraction, cause laziness, and among other things, at worst, deplete self-confidence. In terms of ‘research’, we authors now have an incredible volume of information at our fingertips, but we must be wary and professional. Google, Wikipedia and suchlike, with respect, are not factual deposits of information on all that ever was, is, or will be. We must be prepared to make some effort (apart from producing our stories), by reading widely, and utilising multiple sources to corroborate and balance our information.

Smoking, alcohol, and drugs are addictive and harmful when overused. Social media too, is habit forming, and while we have the choice to join a site, a group, or actively partake in discussions, it is easy to be drawn in. ‘Click-bait’ is the phrase used to tease someone into reading an article, post, or whatever in media. We are all susceptible to being ‘caught’ and as we delve deeper into the article, the active thread of comments, or information, we invariably find ourselves going down a rabbit hole. Personally, I feel guilty and cheated in equal measure when I realise I’ve spent half an hour or more on social media … and gained nothing of any benefit.

Are you susceptible to the lure of a literary or graphic hook?

When you saw the title of this blog post, what was it that captured your interest?

Did you have concerns about how far you might read, and how much time might be spent on it?

Those are not trick questions. Any intelligent species naturally strives to explore, especially with the intention of improving understanding, or position within their group. It stems from a desire to benefit.

I’ve just returned from two weeks holiday in the Netherlands. My wife and I enjoyed a break in our caravan, based in an excellent campsite which unlike many, doesn’t have internet access. I don’t intend to detail our activities, but suffice to say, apart from booking our ferry crossings and our pitch, I had no need of internet. If we wanted access, a walk into the nearby small town to a cafe was all that was required of us.

Did I make any good decisions about my writing while away?

Earlier this year, I was having difficulty developing Crusader, my latest crime thriller, so I opted for working on Selena: Sea Nymph, my first sci-fi fantasy. Over recent months, apart from when on regular trips in our caravan, I’ve made progress with Selena, but I needed a break from the story. I arrived in the Netherlands having made the decision to only work on Crusader.

It was a good choice, and within a couple of days I was at peace, unlike many of the characters in my new crime story.

Did I make any other decisions related to writing while I was away?

Yes, and as I tend to do, I experiment with ideas and implement them without bells and whistles. In other words, unlike some folks, I don’t usually advertise my every intention on social media or elsewhere.

Over the past few months I’ve reduced the time (and energy) expended on social media. Apart from slowly withdrawing from the daily, mind-numbing frustration of some of the posts and comments (in a variety of internet locations), I’ve also left several groups.

Having made progress with my plan, in the coming months, I intend to reduce my ‘social’ media activity to the minimum. To aid me, I’ve already made my choices regarding websites, and groups on those sites, and it’s a short list. Within the sites and groups I will also be reducing my ‘friends’. I intend to remain a part of the Indie Author Support and Discussion group (IASD), but will soon relinquish my admin role.

I haven’t lost faith in my ability to write, however, writing is a passion for me, so the stresses of marketing, monitoring sales, and reaching ‘targets’ are not concerns. Whether or not my work is selling is in the hands of those who see what I produce, and they will decide my level of success.

In a brief visit to Facebook on my return I was delighted to learn that not one, but two of my titles had received a Reader’s Choice Award in the Connections eMagazine, a superb platform for authors. Codename: Foxglove achieved a Silver in the Thriller/Suspense category, and Amsterdam Calling achieved a Bronze in the Romance category. In the time-honoured tradition, I’d like to thank … Melanie P. Smith for her tireless energy supporting fellow authors, and also all who voted for my work. Congratulations to all of you who were honoured by an award.

For many folks it takes a long time to find a balance, but in my case, pleasure and relaxation come before stress, and any personal fulfilment or success is derived from an occasional positive comment, or review. If I entertain one person with a story, I’ve been successful, and the level of my success is increased exponentially by the number of people entertained.

Is there a difference between choices and decisions?

I think of choices as the options we perceive on our journey in life, and our decisions create the ongoing route we take. A crossroads is often used to depict this but I chose a picture I took in woodland recently. Our options in life are not always clear-cut and definite as in a relatively simple crossroads. We must occasionally be prepared to venture along a route which is not staightforward.

Thank you for taking the time to read this brief distraction, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

Justice Will Be Done …

Anyone who reads my work will be acquainted with my continual need to see justice done. It’s usually summary in style. After all, who needs a judge and jury when you know who the bad guys are? I know that there are those who might disagree, but we’re talking fiction here.

The immediacy of that type of justice is more akin to retribution, a demand for an individual or group to pay the price for the wrongdoing.

What other justice is there?

Apart from that which we associate directly with crime, we can also, ‘do justice’ to someone or something. In other words, to represent fairness or appreciation where applicable.

Having completed another edit of my latest crime thriller, Codename: Foxglove, I feel that I’ve encompassed both meanings of justice. Within the story, there are few grey areas for the characters. They are either bad guys doing bad things, or good guys doing bad things to bad guys. In that second category, in mitigation, and using artistic licence, I absolve the good guys.

How have I used the second meaning of justice?

I feel that I’ve done justice to my original idea for Beyond The Law and the creation of the trilogy. From a passing thought (as we creatives tend to have), Phil McKenzie’s plight became a poem. By the end of the poem, I knew there had to be more. It became a thirty-plus poem series; The Hawk.

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I followed up on the supportive comments of my fellow poets on the Starlite Cafe website, and prepared notes with a view to using the poetry series as the basis for my first novel. In further preparation, I enrolled for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November 2010. I completed the challenge and ended with a rough 65,000 word story. I was in full-time work at that time so it took two years of dedication and multiple drafts before Beyond The Law was published.

I increased my output (work permitting), and apart from other stories over the next few years, I completed my first crime thriller. I later amended the title to Beyond The Law: Formation, because it became the first in a trilogy. Like many of my readers, Rachel was a favourite character of mine, and so she was developed in a spinoff; Codename: Nightshade.

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Once again as the story closed I had a nagging doubt about leaving things as they were. Dominique had been introduced in Rachel’s story and at that point I recognised what had to be done. The series needed not only another spinoff, but one which would provide closure.

Codename: Foxglove is now a few weeks away from publication, having been through two full edits already, and more are on the way. I aim to have the manuscript ready for beta readers by November.

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If you’d like to be one of my beta readers for this final tale in the series, I’ll be ready to send out the manuscript on Monday 29th November. The deadline I’m setting for returns/critique points is Sunday 5th December. This will afford me two weeks to work through the feedback and amend as necessary.

When I publish in mid-December, Justice will be done … regarding the Beyond The Law series.

Comments and suggestions are welcome as always, and thank you for taking the time to read my blog.

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