New Release: “Tulpa”

The Gas Giant Sequence is complete!

I’m very pleased to announce the e-book publication of “Tulpa”, the fourth and final part of the “Gas Giant Sequence” of short stories. Tulpa is available on the Amazon store here if you own a Kindle device, or via Smashwords here if you own any other ebook reader.

Reviewers of the earlier stories called them full of “evocative human experiences in alien environments”, saying “I was drawn in with the characters to the beauty and hallucinatory otherworldliness”.


Tulpa David BrookesA shattered moon. Minds unfurled.
Mysterious thoughtforms brought to life.

The impossible truths of Jupiter have finally been revealed.
Now it’s up to a haggard survivor, with nothing more than
cloned brain tissue and the fragmented resources of an
usurped conglomerate, to stymie the awaking entity
that threatens to bring pandemonium to Earth.

In this final part of the Gas Giant Sequence,
all hell will break loose, and Jupiter’s eye is ever watching…


I encourage each and every one of you to give my little stories a shot and perform what I like to call The Three Rs…

Read, Review, Recommend!

Write to me here if you would like to subscribe to my news feed: hear about new releases, as well as exclusive previews and offers.  Otherwise, join me back here for the next post where I’ll fill you in on even more news and one or two big surprises…!

–db

How to fail at writing a novel (pt.2)

writers-blockA few weeks ago I asked struggling writers to get to grips with their genre before attempting to tackle the arduous, intimidating task of writing a novel. You can read part 1 of my ‘how to fail at writing a novel’ series here.

This month there’s a lot of ‘news’ in the literary world about E.L.James’ forthcoming bestseller, “Grey”, the companion to her “Fifty Shades” series. This time she’s telling the story from her male protagonist’s perspective.

I considered pre-ordering the book, for about a whole minute. I would love to see James flourish into a competent author, in much the same way as I saw J.K.Rowling’s writing mature and improve. Then I remembered how utterly, irrevocably shit “Fifty Shades of Grey” was, and I couldn’t bear the thought of slogging through another 500 pages of ill-written tripe. I would dearly have loved to read “Grey” so that I could express, from a first-hand perspective, how awful it is, just as I did with “Fifty Shades” (Yes, I’ve read it, and no, it’s not worth the minimal energy expenditure it takes to open the cover, let alone read to the ‘end’).

Instead I realised that it was an opportunity to talk about a key issue in literature, and something that should be everyone’s foremost concern at every stage of writing their masterpiece.

2. Originality

“Fifty Shades” and its pointless sequels are a perfect example of doing a novel wrong. Of course, E.L.James is now a millionaire, despite single-handedly destroying feminism, diluting the self-publishing pool with the trash she inspires, and being yet another person who is famous for being talentless. If I sound bitter, it’s because I am. These three issues worry me greatly, particularly the first two.

I have no intention of retreading old ground by talking about the appalling pacing, terrible writing and laughable dialogue, or inept characterisation. Not to mention how painfully un-erotic the whole venture is. Nevertheless, it’s an excellent case study for the originality issues that surround this incredibly lucrative piece of radioactive cowshit.

E L James, Grey, 50 Shades, Fifty Shades of Grey, Christian Grey, Anastasia Steele

“Grey”, E.L. James – “Fifty Shades of Grey” as told by Christian

There are two angles to this multi-pronged assault, both related to originality. The first is the matter of knock-offs in the self-publishing industry.

Working in editing and ghostwriting, I see fiction from a lot of would-be authors who would like their work appraised. Some are disappointed – occasionally offended – when I point out that they have failed to meet the number one criterion for worthwhile fiction: originality.

“It’s a bit like Fifty Shades,” they’ll tell me, “but different.”

When I challenge the author to tell me how it’s different, I get little by way of a response. The reason is that if you write an erotic book about a domineering, super-rich handsome guy seducing a naive and sexually-inexperienced girl presented in the first person, then you’ve just written “Fifty Shades”. Congratulations are due for the many who actually wrote a book far better than the one that inspired it. Condemnation is also due, however. When I ask the author why they bothered to write the story, the answer is invariably one of two: “Because I wanted to” or “Because it will sell.”

If you work for the latter reason, good for you. You’ve found an industry. Sadly it’s the arse-end of the doomed publishing industry, which produces only the most banal and saleable fiction as a result of the lasting economic downturn, lack of interest in worthwhile literature, and the advent of online stores and ebooks. This is what I call the shitmill, and if you want to be part of it, good luck to you. It’s possible to make a lot of money in exchange for your sub-literary offal.

If you work for the former reason, “because you want to”, then this is more admirable. it also promotes a mindset that is not conducive to writing a successful novel, because chances are you haven’t considered originality. You’ve just written (I’ll add that this is no less of an achievement). Who wants to read the same book over and over again? How are you innovating to stay fresh and needed in the current market? What are you bringing to the table, besides more of the same – a flavour that loses its appeal with every new sub-standard e-novel that is released?

The vast amounts of so-called erotic fiction available through self-publishing platforms, by its nature, obscures original talent by drowning it in unoriginal pap. There may well be some excellent bits of erotic fiction out there, but how can we find them amongst the derivative stuff? E.L. James has managed to create a whole sub-genre of erotica, casually called ‘billionaire romance’. It’s a sad revelation that so many women fantasize about being subjugated by a violent male whilst being ‘looked after’ and showered with lavish gifts. I may well write a separate post about how erotica is devastating to equality and gender expectations.

Unoriginality is a sign of poor imagination, which often comes with lack of talent. Even if this is only a perception, do you want to be perceived this way? Would you really happy being a rich but derided author? Before you answer, remember that your chances of becoming rich writing trash are far lower than you might even think.

The second angle of attack is something that I shouldn’t even have to point out. James is being unoriginal even within her own body of work. Why should “Grey”, which tells the “Fifty Shades” trilogy from the male protagonist’s perspective, even exist? What is it showing us that’s new? I can only assume that it will reproduce slightly summarized scenes shared by Christian and Ana, plus a few extra scenes in which Christian privately broods privately over his awful childhood and the false dilemma of whether he can have a meaningful relationship with this vapid little girl.

I’m sure fans can’t wait to speculate that there is more of Christian’s disgracefully cliché ‘dark past’ to be revealed, which raises another issue: If it takes you four novels to tell us what your main character is about, you have failed. Authors, you can take that away as a bonus lesson on how to fail at writing a novel.

Originality is the life and soul of literature. Without it, the publishing industry would have decayed long ago into a skeleton of its former self, catering only for readers of text books and biographies. If you want to be ‘a writer’, then this should be at the front of your mind every time you brainstorm. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have I read this story before?
  • Is my character behaving predictably?
  • How can I differentiate this from other novels? Is that differentiation convincing?
  • Did the story come to me without having to think much about it?
  • Have I just reproduced this character from somewhere else, and simply renamed him/her?

A simple exercise can be to reverse everything. Let’s say you’ve just accidentally rewritten “Fifty Shades”. You should hopefully by now realise why it feels staid and boring. But what if you swapped Christian and Ana’s characters around? What if the man is the sexually-inexperienced goofball and the woman is the S&M master? Already you’re far more interesting than the rest of the derivative stuff out there. What if your Christian is actually desperately poor instead of unrealistically wealthy? How could he ever entice a young girl into his life of depravity and violence then? What if Ana were ten years older than Christian and experienced in relationships? What if Christian is the one who wants to adjust, and Ana is the one enamored with his domineering sexual preferences.

As a final note, if you really must regurgitate another author’s material, why regurgitate something that was diabolically awful in the first place?

I beg authors to strive for originality. If for nothing else, remember that publishers and agents are looking for something fresh, something that they’ve never seen before. They will undoubtedly prioritise you over someone else in your genre who was ‘inspired’ by existing fiction.

Keep reading, keep writing, never surrender!

—db

Welcome

Featured

Welcome to Mr Brookes Abroad,
the official website of freelance writer and editor David Brookes.

This site deals primarily with my travels abroad. If you would like to read about my ghostwriting and editorial services, view my portfolio and feedback, and follow my regular blog, you can visit my professional site at STPediting.wordpress.com.
Thanks for visiting!

David Brookes

New Releases: the Gas Giant Sequence

As part of my current Kindle Store experiment, I’m happy to announce the start of a new fiction series beginning on Amazon and Smashwords today.

I wrote the “Gas Giant Sequence” a few years ago and have been coming back to it frequently.  I always imagined releasing this completed series of four short stories as a paperback collection at some point.  The last year I’ve been concentrating on literary fiction, but I’m really excited to release these four science fiction stories as ebooks.

The first two stories are available to download now:


Krill Split Omnibus coverOMNIBUS EDITION: TWO FOR ONE
Parts 1 & 2 of the Gas Giant Sequence
————————————————————-
KRILL:
Leuk “Krill” Nayokpuk, descendant of the Inuit, is used to cold climates. But this is not the wasteland of the Arctic, but the deadly frozen surface of Europa, Jupiter’s icy moon.

As part of the long-term expedition sent to Europa to search for signs of life, Leuk is the “little man” amongst his larger-than-life team-mates: a genetically altered scientist; the world’s brightest mind in astrophysics; a resourceful engineer with mechanical arms; and the cloned entrepreneur with a huge ego who is funding the whole endeavor.

Together they should be able to handle any situation on the quiet, desolate moon. But there are colossal mysteries within the prehistoric ice, and Jupiter’s eye is ever watching...
————————————————————-

SPLIT:
One of Jupiter’s moons is dead, fragmented into a ring of debris around the enormous gas giant. Aboard a space station within Jupiter’s first ring, it is the job of Ashley and Sinda to observe and investigate the mystery. But their personal lives are distracting them from the apocalyptic problem of the moon’s destruction.

What is hiding within the eternal winds of Jupiter? And can the body survive where the heart cannot? Jupiter’s eye is ever watching…


The two-story omnibus ebook edition is available to read for Kindle via Amazon here, and via Smashwords here.  Lucky Smashwords users can download the second story, SPLIT, for FREE, right here!  Now if only Amazon would allow ebooks to be released for free, then Kindle users could have the same offer…

There are two more installments to the Gas Giant sequence including the big finale, and they’ll be arriving in online stores within the coming months.  If you’re lucky, there may even be that collection I mentioned, with some extras thrown in…

I encourage each and every one of you to give my little stories a shot and perform what I like to call The Three Rs…

Read, Review, Recommend!

My eternal thanks to the hundreds of people who downloaded the first Professor Arnustace story (see my last blog post for details) – please don’t forget to review, so that everyone else can share your joy!

Write to me here if you would like to subscribe to my news feed: hear about new releases, as well as exclusive previews and offers.  Otherwise, join me back here for the next post where I’ll fill you in on even more news and one or two big surprises…!

–db

Dispute

I had to be up at 6:30 for a medical the University wanted me to take for insurance purposes.  After finally getting to sleep at 3:30, I was roused by the numerous and loud alarms I had set for myself to avoid oversleeping again.

The medical was interesting.  I was very anxious that the health centre would turn out to be some dodgy back-alley affair, but thankfully it took place at an international health centre.  The impressive building and wide open interiors were sparkling clean.  It made me jealous on behalf of my shithole apartment.  The usual queueless rabble crowded the front desk and my guide did the appropriate shoving and waving to get me seen to.  I watched the people behind the desk: one man in a lab coat stood up from his computer, opened an official looking locker, and took out an encrusted saucepan to drink from.  Soup, hopefully.

Sleep-deprived and anxious, I was led through a battery of tests.  The first was a dreaded blood sample.  I was horrified to see that I would have to sit on a stool and stick my arm through a window in a pane of glass for the nurse.  I have an embarrassing habit of going grey and falling over when I have blood taken.  I warned my guide, went through the painless sampling, and draped myself over two chairs to wait for the tunnel vision and cold chills to dissipate.  The other tests seemed odd or excessive: an x-ray (alarming), an ultrasound on my stomach (“He should work out more,” the doctor told my guide), blood pressure and some kind of body water/conduction test with electrodes.

By the time I was dropped back off at the University, it was only 09:30.  I was starved and shaky, so resorted to McDonalds again, my oasis of Westerness.  I was still experiencing what I assumed was culture shock.  Nevertheless, I had plenty of time before a meeting with the Assistant Director of Studies at 17:00, so I went home for a nap.

Unfortunately the meeting was not a success.  I had already discovered that the school was not part of the University, but a private school renting office space.  I’d already had clues that they wanted me to teach IT as well as English, which wasn’t what I was there fore.  Before the meeting I was taken to a room to sign the contracts.  It seems typical that the employment contracts school are required to send to the government are different to the contracts that the employer-employee have.  “Which one is legally binding?” I asked. “They both are,” was the spurious reply.

The government’s version of the contract omitted a schedule of amendments, which included all my negotiated changes as well as my salary.  The government caps the limit of a foreign teacher’s salary, presumably to keep China self reliant – at half my agreed wage.  It’s to my benefit, but the dishonesty was off-putting.  Apparently I was also to be put on a three month probation at a reduced wage.  Payday is the 10th of each month. “So on 10th of December, I’ll be paid for six weeks?” I asked. “No, just four,” was the reply.  So was I to work for free?  The questions was to go to the accountant, and meanwhile I was to sign…

The meeting took things a step further.  It transpired that now I was to be hired as an IT teacher, not to teach English.  The responsibility was pawned off on me by my predecessor, who hadn’t wanted it either.  I had also been promised that I would teach adults, but all the students I’d seen so far were undergraduates.

I asked the ADOS to reconsider the changes to the agreement.  She would take it to the Director, but any compromise seemed unlikely.

I had gotten in touch with another teacher who had worked with the school.  He had nothing but nightmares to report: refusal of personal leave, lengthy enforced overtime, sly games with his housing agreement, being screamed at by the Chinese staff.

I’d done plenty of research about the pitfalls of accepting teaching jobs in China, and had rejected a dozen offers before settling for what I thought had been a trustworthy company, a University school.  Now, I’d learned that I’d been lied to about the nature of the school, its students, the job and the salary.

These practical things are easy to describe.  Harder to expound upon are the nebulous emotions and thoughts that fueled my decision to walk away from the job.  I’d felt ill at ease – at best – since I arrived.

Two fortuitous things happened that same day.  The first was that my lost luggage had been found, abandoned at Heathrow by Virgin Atlantic.  It was battered and there were some damaged contents, but nothing serious.  I tipped the delivery guy generously for reuniting me with 80% of my worldly possessions.  The second thing was that I’d been given my passport back by the school.

I booked a night at a hostel in Xi’an’s tourist-friendly old town, then started looking for flights home.

—db

“Phony careers and meaningless lives”

This week comedian and writer Jerry Seinfeld won a Clio award, intended to “reward innovation and creative excellence in advertising, design and communication”.  I don’t know why he won the award (indeed, he didn’t seem to know either), and I don’t really care: advertising and marketing are aspects of the modern consumerist world that make me feel ill if I think about them for too long.

“I love advertising because I love lying.”

Seinfeld comes close to illustrating my sentiment when it comes to advertising, and did this whilst on stage accepting his Clio (named after the Greek goddess and muse, not the Renault).  With the trophy in hand, he tore into the world of advertising:

He goes on to support materialism with such subtle irony that most of the audience, presumably made up of execs there hoping to win one of these awards for themselves, applauds and cheers apparently in a delighted state of ignorance.  Jerry also talks about the 1991 Clio debacle, in which the presenting company suffered so poorly from mismanagement that it had run itself into the ground and its employees had walked out, leaving the award show to be run by the caterer and a few drunken volunteers.  It doesn’t support what I’m saying here, but it’s a grimly amusing anecdote that you can read about on the Wiki page.

I’m writing this blog not because I thought Seinfeld was particularly funny or insightful – in fact, accepting an award only to ridicule its sponsors is a bit of a dick move, when he could have simply refused – but having worked in the world of corporate marketing and sales I hope it might go some way towards explaining why I chose to abandon Western business and take up teaching in the East.

“In advertising everything is the way you wish it was.  I don’t care that it won’t be like that when I actually get the product being advertised … We all believe that ‘Hey, maybe this one won’t stink!’  We are happy in that moment between the commercial and the purchase.”

Advertising has become inherently dishonest and manipulative.  It doesn’t need to be this way: an ad in the paper advertising a car with its specs and price is something that you still see from time to time.  This is all an advert needs, and the product will speak for itself.  But as businesses produce shoddier products, their advertising must become proportionately deceptive in order to make it seem appealing.  I spent over a year writing sales material for a global company and felt unclean the entire time.

“I think spending your lives trying to dupe innocent people out of hard-won earnings to buy useless, low-quality, misrepresented items and services is an excellent use of your energy.”

I spent most of my down-time avoiding television.  I don’t listen to radio, either.  Advertisements bother me to the extent that I don’t even go to where they might appear.  I’m tired of seeing TV ads with misleading charts and statistics, where spurious data is manipulated to appear legitimate.  Anyone who looks closely can see through these ruses, but many do not look, and others accept that deception is a part of advertising.

I look forward to the day when the only marketing I see is in incomprehensible Chinese hieroglyphs.

— db

CHALLENGE COMPLETED

Freedom!

After four weeks of lessons, teaching practice, planning for teaching practice, reading, studying and assignments, we’ve finally completed the CELTA training course.

It was not easy.  Sleep deprivation, prolonged stress and total absence of down-time made it tough for everyone on the course.  There were arguments.  There were tears.  There were moments of genuine stage-fright.  There were penguins.  But somehow we all pulled through and aced that sucker!

It’s amazing how quickly bonds of friendship are formed when you’re trapped in the same room as a dozen people every day for a month.  It almost becomes a survival story.  By the end of week three we were one step away from madness and cannibalism.

I owe my pass grade to my awesome teammates, Kat and Palwasha; to my five tutors at the ELTC who made things as simple as possible for our weary brains; and to the class in general, who made it a much more enjoyable time than it ever needed to be.

So, what now for David?  Task 1 is getting a job.  I’m in talks with one promising looking school in Xi’an, Shaanxi province of China.  More on that later.  For now I’m going to put my feet up, drink unhealthy amounts of tea, and try to remember what it feels like to relax.

It’s coming back to me quite quickly!

—db

9 reasons to STOP AVOIDING Learning English

AIYSHAH'S ENGLISH PAGE

lazy personIf you know someone who you think desperately needs to learn English, here are 10 convincing ideas to share with them

1. English is the most commonly used language in the world. Throughout the world, when people with different languages come together they commonly use English to communicate.

2. English makes you more employable. These days employers want staff who not only do the job but enhance the company. English will do exactly that.

3. English is the language of choice in all professions. Despite there being many countries teaching professional subjects, in the end all the readings and documentation is based in English

4. English is not just for England. Over 30 other countries in the world use English either as their first language or second language. (If you live in Europe the new generation tend to be totally bilingual)

5. English is the language of Science. To excel…

View original post 176 more words

Getting out of Skid Row

I’m about seven years old.  After school, my little brother Chris and I spend two or three hours at a child minder’s nearby until Mum can pick us up after work.  Our minder, Maureen, is a large smiling women with two dogs, two cats, at least two grown-up kids and a grandchild.  She also minds between two and four other kids like us.

Amongst her various methods for keeping us all entertained is the obvious modern choice: the TV.  Back then there are no flatscreens and no DVDs.  We have beautiful, lovely VHS tapes.  We little ones scour the cupboard for the film we want to watch.  We invariably fall on either of two favourites, depending on the boy-girl ratio in the group: Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” or the 80s comedy musical “The Little Shop of Horrors”.

“Little Shop” has been one of my favourite films for the last twenty-odd years.  It came out during that brief period in Hollywood when Rick Moranis was in everything.  The film is equal parts cheesy, exciting, gruesome and hilarious.  I still love it.

Why am I telling you this?

I originally was going to write a post about why I’ve finally given up on finding decent, honest, fulfilling work in the UK.  I was going to describe the drudgery of getting in an office, switching on a computer, saying ‘morning’ to similarly depressed co-workers, and getting down to the usual tiresome crap in the usual context of office politics, management bullshit, and corporate moneymaking.  I’m so tired of it I barely care anymore whether I perform as expected, get any kind of good reference, or whether my CV looks like shit.  It does not suit me at all.

 

Most mornings, I’m reminded of the opening song from “Little Shop”–

Cue a downtown New York street: filthy, stagnant with rainwater and litter, gloomy in the early morning where the sunlight can’t make it down into the alleyways.  A lone woman carrying heavy bags walks with obvious weariness down an alley, through startled pigeons and overturned trash cans.  Her soulful voice echoes out across the grimy streets of Skid Row:

 

          Alarm goes off at seven

          And you start uptown

          You put in your eight hours

          For the powers

          That have always been

          ‘Til it’s five PM

 

Slow applause for the last ten years of my life.

The rest of the song is about the hopelessness of living in that downtrodden, god-forsaken ghetto in NYC.  I can hardly claim that my life is terrible, but even in the exaggerated misery of that tune I can still relate to the feelings of despair and worthlessness the characters belt out (in admittedly camp Broadway fashion – I make no excuses).  Corporate life is soul-destroying, and office life is demeaning.

Worse, the people you meet in such places turn into caricatures: the sharply dressed Capitalist businessman (secretly hiding a shrinking spirit and a desperate fear of being discovered as a fraud), or the downtrodden admin staff who are so convinced of their inferiority that they grovel at their office superiors.  As someone who studied psychology at college, it’s fascinating to witness.  As an aspiring writer and someone who lets his feelings get away from him too often, it’s hideously depressing that these are the social structures that we have in place and refuse to dismantle.

The life of a teacher is far from perfect, but it’s something that’s been at the back of my mind for a few years.  Funding in the UK for English teachers is desperately low, and places for teaching qualifications reduce year on year.  At this point I’d like to thank the right honourable Michael Gove for his stellar work as Secretary of State for Education the last few years.  Here’s hoping his recently appointed successor  can make some small progress repairing his damage, rather than making things even worse.

And so off I go, to be called Mr Brookes by overseas students.  It will be as much of a challenge as it will be an adventure, but that’s no bad thing.

—db