Tag Archives: Lyonnesse Tales

How do you deal with bad reviews?

I find myself on tenterhooks, waiting for the first review to go up for Quest in Time: A Beginning. I have also just finished reading a book by another independent author, and have to write a review for that. So, book reviews are up there at the moment, vying for attention, along with, how do I pay the rent this month? Are we going to get another dog? And, where is my coffee?

Firstly, it is impossible to overstress how important reviews are for the indie author. We are unknowns. We do not have the backing and publicity machines associated with the big publishing houses. Our books do not get sent FOC to newspapers and other organisations for critic. WH Smiths do not have our books on the shelves or huge cardboard cut-outs of our front covers in the window. A press release for us is a write-up in the local paper, if we are lucky. Therefore, reviews of our books on Amazon, Goodreads and social media are the only way potential readers can get an idea of whether or not to part with their hard earned cash for our works.

So far I have been lucky; Bubble of Time hasn’t had any particularly bad reviews. The worst has been a two star review which was critical of the Devonian accent of several of my main characters. Otherwise, they have all had something nice to say and mostly been five star reviews. Therefore, it could be said, that I have not had to deal with a bad review. However, it doesn’t stop me worrying that the first review for QIT:AB will rip it to pieces, and will put off other people from buying it. I know my books won’t appeal to everyone; even the great STP had his critics and dissenters. But the first review…

I know the book I have to write a review for has had some shocking reviews. I don’t understand why. Perhaps they were expecting something else? True, the book is hardly a JRRT work, but it is an interesting fantasy story that has been told well. Yes, it is simplistic, but why does that matter? Surely the enjoyment is in the story itself and not in deciphering some huge political back-story or some complicated, multi-generational character angst? And since it is the second in a trilogy, why, when they have trashed the first volume, have they even bothered to read the second book, only to trash that one as well?

I do not pretend to understand the human psyche, and therefore, to me, a bad review is something I’ll take on the chin. As long as the majority of reviews are five star, I won’t worry too much about the odd bad one. I know my work will not appeal to everyone, no author ever does. But the first review…

So, please, please, PLEASE post a review.

Ride Safe

Rick

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Why do I set my books in Lyonnesse?

Yes, it’s another one of the questions that comes up in the author interviews, “why did you chose the setting that you did for the book?” or some such. “Why there? And what was the reason behind it?”
In my case it is simple, because my Lyonnesse is the world I would very much like to inhabit. It is a place where life is simpler and where magic and mystery still exist, and on the whole people are kinder to one another. Money isn’t the be all and end all and life is respected and held sacred. Not just the people, but everything that lives there, animal, plant and fungus. Things aren’t done quickly because it saves a few pennies (or cents). Things are done properly with love and attention.
I have been criticised as being anti-establishment and anti-capitalist. Not true, well not in the conventional sense anyway. Probably because I make a big thing out of everyone bartering in Lyonnesse. I fully understand that money is the ultimate, and in some ways, logical tool for bartering with. However I do object to the way it is used in our society. It is used to coerce the poor into unfulfilling and mind-numbing jobs, whilst the gap between rich and poor grows ever larger. The mathematics is simple, if everyone gets a 10% pay rise then the man at the bottom earning ten thousand a year get an extra thousand to take home. However, boardroom man earning one hundred thousand gets an extra ten thousand a year, the equivalent of an extra man doing the work at the bottom. I could go on and I know that this is simplistic but it is still true.
Also, because boardroom man is keen to meet targets and because labour and wages are the single greatest expenditure for most companies, if a few seconds can be shaved off of the time it take to do something, so much the better. As a result everything becomes just good enough at best, and pride in the work you do goes out the window. Take roads for example. Yes, alright, I have a bugbear about roads, but they make a good example. Years ago councils used to have their own road building/maintenance departments to look after the roads. And for the most part they did a good job and took pride in their work. They had to because their foreman of works would come along during and after the job to make sure it was being done properly.
Then, in an effort to save a few pennies, it was decreed that all works commissioned by councils had to go out to tender, and council work gangs were laid off. Many of the recently laid off workers organised themselves into small companies, often with the same managers they had had before. They still did a good job of repairing the roads and the council saved a little money because the small company didn’t have to support tiers of management and could therefore do it cheaper. The councils still had to pay someone to inspect the work after, but all was well, and the men still had pride in their work.
Enter big business. Why? Because the contracts for road repairs are very lucrative and there is money to be made. So many of the small business either had to reduce their prices to compete for the tenders or they were bought out by bigger firms. Since the costs of the materials used were fixed the only way to reduce the price was to do the job quick and therefore with less care. This reduced the number of companies vying for the tenders, seen as a good thing because it generates competition. The councils are still happy because they are still saving money, and they can save even more money by nor replacing their inspectors as they retire or leave because they are confident that a good job will be done because it was last year. The workers aren’t as happy because they no longer have the time to do the job to the standard they are used to.
Years pass as they have a habit of doing. All the small companies that were started when the work first went out to tender have now either gone out of business or been bought out by big business. This reduces the number of companies bidding for the tenders. The council is still under pressure to save money and goes for the lowest bid. (Yes, I’m not going to say anything about the backhanders that go on to get contracts.) The big companies have to save money, somewhere because they have the tiers of management to support that the small companies didn’t. But that’s ok because the old work gangs are getting to retirement age and are fed-up with the half arsed job they were doing. Instead of having the expense of hiring and paying wages, all new recruits are taken on as self-employed subcontractors. This not only saves the expense of employing staff but also means they don’t have to pay them if there is no work for them to do. The workers are only happy in the fact that they have a job and are earning a wage. The council still haven’t hired any more inspectors because they can’t afford it. Big business realises this and starts cutting corner in the work they do. This saves them even more money.
A short time later big business is happy because they are making lots of money. There is no one left in the gangs who knows how to repair the roads properly because they have all gone. Instead, the workers have to work to a tick box minimum standard and do it as quickly as possible using the least amount of materials as possible. They have no job satisfaction because not only are they self-employed and have no rights in the company and no say, but also they know they are doing a half arsed and how much the management is getting paid.
In the end the workers have no job satisfaction, council is paying more for the job that it would if it was doing the work itself, and the roads are in a terrible state because they have been poorly maintained and work is no longer inspected.
Big business is happy because there is an endless supply of work repairing roads that they didn’t repair properly before, and they are still getting paid for it.
Alright, alright, this is highly simplistic, but it is still true, and not just for roads, for everything that was subcontracted out and put to tender. Everything is now done to a tick box minimum standard. Excellence and pride in a job well done have become too expensive because there is no profit in it. Communism does not work because there is always someone who wants a larger slice of the pie. However, capitalism can only exist where there is a poorly paid underclass.
As usual please feel free to comment or rant at my rantings.

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What drives you to write? By R.J.Trivett Author of the Lyonnesse Tales fantasy books

Since the release of Bubble of Time I have done a number of author interviews and inevitably I get asked “what drives you to write?” or something very similar. And each time my answer has been basically along the same lines but limited by the amount of time I’ve had to think about it, a few minutes for a web post or split seconds for radio interviews. So for me and many other authors it has become the focus for navel gazing along with other important philosophical questions like “who am I?” “why am I here?” and “why have I just spilt cold coffee all down my front?”

So, having given it some serious thought, what does drive me to write? A need to express myself? A need to be heard in a crowd? A desire to entertain others? It’s certainly not for fame and fortune. Whilst success stories of indie writers making it big are common, they are in a very small minority. True, my aim is to make a living out of writing… eventually…hopefully, but that is not it either. I have found that my desire to write comes from a much more fundamental and arguably the greatest gift that mankind has, our imagination.

“Greatest gift!” I hear you scoff. “Surely that is the arts, literature, music, learning, science, our technology, our faith in god or gods [delete as appropriate] or simply our capacity to love?”

No, it is our imagination. Imagination features heavily in my second book, Quest in Time, so it is something I have thought a lot about. Without our imagination all our great works of art, be they from the impressionist, the cubists or even graffiti artists would look like photographs. It is the imagination which drives everything from the interpretation of what the artist sees and the style in which he or she paints to the very colours and brushstrokes that they use. It is the imagination of the artist that fills countless galleries and adorns our walls, from the cave paintings of our ancestors to a Banksy mural. [Love him or hate him, I particularly like his “Follow your Dreams” picture.]The same arguments apply to all of the creative arts, including music and literature. No? Then why dose a piece of classical music come alive when played by orchestra ‘A’ by conductor ‘B’ but not when conductor ‘C’ is leading the same orchestra? Why is a story sometimes dull and boring when read from the page but brought to life when read to you by the right person? Why is Shakespeare so dull until you learn how to listen to and interpret it?

So what about science, learning and technology? Surely they are based in hard facts and reality? Imagination can play no part in them. Just think about it for a moment, the very basis for science is the scientific method. The Collins English Dictionary defines the scientific method as “a method of investigation in which a problem is first identified and observations, experiments, or other relevant data are then used to construct or test hypotheses that purport to solve it”. It is our imagination that identifies the problem, derives the experiments and allows us to form a hypothesis. And we learn from these hypotheses and trial and error driven by our ability to imagine a way around a problem. As for technology, well how often have you heard “were waiting for someone to dream up the next big thing”? Every single piece of technology and science was imagined by someone before it became fact or reality.

Religion? I think that more or less answers itself, and I don’t want to debate too much on whose imaginary friend is best. I acknowledge that I am not religiously minded now though I once was, and I understand the deep need to believe in something greater than ourselves and do not wish to convert others to my way of thinking. However, all religion is based on belief and faith. We imagine there to be a divine being or beings [again delete as appropriate], some greater power and or ultimate plan for us all which allows us to believe as strongly as many do.

And lastly, although perhaps fundamentally, love. Perhaps my thoughts on this will cause even more arguments than my brief musings on religion. Love is perhaps the single most difficult thing to describe. Partly because one word describes so many different kinds of love. I think this is where the Inuit have the advantage with their three hundred words to describe snow [alright I excaudate but you get my point]. There is love for a partner, for a sibling, a parent, an offspring, a friend etc. etc. etc.

But these are all based on our desire to be in a world where that person exists. We subconsciously imagine how much better life is when we are with that person. Then once we are in orbit around that person we then subconsciously imagine how bad life would be without them and that drives our longing to be with them always. If we are away from them then we imagine how good it will be when they return. Yes I’m oversimplifying but this could go on for pages and pages.

To sum up, everything we do or feel is derived from our imagination, which is why I think it is so important and strongly dislike anything that tries to take it away from us. It is our most powerful tool and our greatest asset. So far I have been lucky, I have never sat staring at a blank page and had nothing to fill it with. True, I may write a page of drivel [as many of you will think this is] or be in the wrong head state to be able to write what I want to write, but I allow my imagination to take me where ever it wants and try and share the best bits in my writing. I write to fire my own imagination and, by extension, hopefully other peoples.

As always I am genuinely interested to hear your thoughts and comments.

Be safe and let your imagination be free,

Rick

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Extrapolation of the “Captain Samuel Vimes Boots theory of socio-economic unfairness”.

In 1993 Sir Terry Pratchett published Men at Arms and with it the Sam Vimes Boots theory. It goes something like this:
A really good pair of boots costs the equivalent of more than a month’s wages, and an ok pair cost about 1/5th of the price. And whilst the ok pair may last for six months if you are lucky, the good pair will last for years. Thus the poor man who buys the ok boots will, in the long run spend more on boots and still have wet feet.
Whilst in the most general of terms it is probably one of the truisms of life, I believe it misses out a few points that need to be considered. Also, because I am a motorcyclist who actually uses a bike for the daily commute in all weathers and because I have been employed for most of my adult life in one workshop or another, I have been wearing boots rather than shoes since before I left school. Thus I have a soft spot for boots. Particularly ones that don’t leak and last for a more than a few weeks. Oh, and don’t cost the earth.
Now, if you are not already fed up and have read thus far then there is probably not a lot of point in asking for your permission to continue.
So, first let us consider the boots. Here I’d like to re-categorise slightly. Now have boots “A” the really good boots, handmade and tailored to fit your feet by craftsman, using only the best materials. The real cherry on the top type boots, that will not only last for years but also, provided they are looked after, can be re-soled and heeled ad infinitum.
Next we have boots “O” the good boots. These are well made on a produced basis with good materials. These boots generally have an all in one sole and heel that can be replaced perhaps once or twice before the rest of the boots gives up.
And at the bottom of the pile we have boots “X” the mass market, mass produced boot. It is made from the cheapest of material in poorly equipped workshops, by hard pressed workers trying to scratch a living in whichever country currently has the lowest wages. These boots either tend to fall off of your feet after three days, or if you are lucky, will last six months. They are often sprayed with a rubber polymer that seals them and makes them waterproof but also makes polishing them a waste of time. However, once they get the slightest scratch the floodgates will open and you’ll have wet feet all day at work.
Boots “A” cost £1000 and last 10 years
Boots “O” cost £250 and last 2 years
Boots “X” cost £75 and last ½ a year
Thus as stated in Sir Terry’s well-grounded theory, in the 10 year life span of boots “A”, you will have spent £1250 on boots “O” or £1500 on boots “X”. Clearly the poor security guard on £12,000 a year will have to spend half as much again as the man in the boardroom earning £1,000,000 a year plus bonuses…
Buts life isn’t that simple. Boardroom man is all too aware of this fact. And since everything he owns falls under the boots “A” category, he is able to save all these savings and buy up the high-street chain that sells boots “X”. Now because boardroom man very quickly becomes the largest retailer for said boots, he is either able to demand an exclusivity clause from the Far East producer of boots “X”, and/or demand a lower wholesale price. He has Far East producer over a barrel because if he takes his business elsewhere then Far East producer will have no one to buy his boots and he will go out of business. Unfortunately, Far East producer now has no option but to reduce his cost. He already pays the lowest wages, and his factory has seen better days so he has no option except to use even cheaper materials.
Now boots “X” still look like boots “X”. They still cost security guard man £75 but fall apart in 1/3rd of a year so he has to buy even more boots or, if he can afford it, save his pennies and buy boots “O”.
Boardroom man is happy to start with because he is selling more boots “X” to begin with. Then starts getting complains from his customers and, more importantly to him, his sales begin falling. Therefore he needs a way to hide the fact that the boots are rubbish. How can he get customers to want to replace their boots every few months? Enter the idea of fashion, a la mode, the in thing, the where it’s at now.
Boardroom man now gets far east producer to change the style every three months, add a line of stitching here, a sequin there, coloured laces etc. etc. He then carefully advertises to the masses that he has the latest style in his shops. His new fashionable boots become popular, the must have for the season. All he has to do is sits back as the money rolls in.
Poor old security guard isn’t part of the masses and just wants the plain old boots he has bought for years. His need isn’t influenced by fashion and he is now forced to save up and buy boots “O”.
This is fine to start with, as boardroom man’s empire grows, people stop buying boots “O” because they want the cheaper fashionable boots “X”. Soon the factories making and the shops selling boots “O” become fewer in number. They either have to adapt and start producing and selling cheaper and more fashionable boots or they will go out of business.
Boardroom man is happy because he can still buy boots “A” and have dry feet, oh and he has made lots of money in the process as well. But poor old security guard is stuffed because not only is he a lot poorer having spent more on boots, he now can’t buy the boots he needs and has wet feet.
Confused? So am I. I realise that this is a highly simplistic view of things and someone will usually fill in any gaps in the market, but only if the gap is large enough. And it is only a matter of time before Far East producer’s prices become too high and he is replaced with South American producer and eventually African producer. But what happens when there is no new cheap labour force? We will all be buying boots “X” but at boots “O” prices except for boardroom man who will always be able to buy boots “A” because quality never goes out of fashion.
Please feel free to comment or rant. Your thoughts and opinions have as much right to exist as mine. I may not agree with them but that is what makes the world what it is.
If you are interested in my further musings then please visit my website http://www.lyonnessetales.co.uk or read my book first book, Bubble of Time which is available from Amazon at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00BNWH4KI.
R.J.Trivett

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