Am I The Only One Who Thinks The Zombie Joke Is Funny?

One thing I don’t like is reading jokes. Gags on paper are never funny for me. Comedy literature is different, but reading ‘this fella went into a bar…’ never raises a smile.

But I’m going to ignore my own rule with this post because there’s no other way of telling you the zombie joke. And when I do tell it no one laughs.

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Who On Earth Thought Insects Were a Good Idea?

They nip, bite, sting, burrow into the flesh, occupy our intestines and eat eyeballs. They spread diseases and those that don’t spread diseases carry the bacteria and viruses that do spread diseases.

In short, they are an unecessary evolutionary sick joke. They weren’t created by a Creator, they were created by the Creator’s morbid teenage son who had seen too many horror films.

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Airfix

Airfix isn’t the only company that makes construction kits, but like Hoover and Biro, the name means the same thing. Before robots took over the world Airfix kits were the go-to hobby for millions of kids.

You could build anything with an Airfix kit (although a lot of the stuff I’ll describe in this post could have been produced by someone else such as Revelle or Tamiya.) Yes, anything: aeroplanes, ships, space ships, cars, bikes, tanks. . . . Between 1972 and 1992 I probably made them all.

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Subjects to Avoid

When writing a blog you need a constant source of ideas and subjects to discuss, and at the moment I’m bone dry when it comes to things to cover. But the irony is I have a list of things I don’t want to write about.

The reasons range from being beheaded to being insulted and I’m not too keen on either of those situations. Call me a coward, but I’m allergic to the following blog subjects.

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Kindlecrites

There was a time when I was a Kindlecrite (Kindle Hypocrite). Criticising Amazon’s e-book reading system whilst selling my books on the platform. In the end, moral pressure became too much and I pulled my books off Amazon. If I relied on the income I’d be a dead man by now.

Tail between the legs I whimpered back to Amazon and started all over again. For all its trillions, Apple don’t hold a candle in terms of ebook sales, Barnes & Noble pathetic minnows, and Smashwords, bless ’em. They try. But over the past year I’ve noticed a curious phenomenon in the world of indie-publishing bloggers.

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What Is Going On At The Kindle Store?

I’ve learned that keywords for books uploaded to Kindle don’t have to be single words, the phrases vampire mystery, paranormal suspense would be counted as two keywords by the system if they’re separated by a comma, so with this in mind I’ve set about changing my keywords.

I’ve also been using a technique which involves typing keywords and phrases into the Kindle Store search box to find  sub-categories with fewer books in them. (Fewer books, but falling under popular keyword phrases.) However, I’ve discovered something that may or may not be, let’s say . . . not quite cricket!

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The Frustrations of Photo Libraries

Here’s a world exclusive for you. You have no idea how lucky you are to witness this, but I’m going to share with you an image from the latest Toten Herzen photoshoot.

And if you’re wondering, yes it is watermarked, so don’t go nicking it for your own blogs, bedroom posters etc.

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2016 Forecast and the Art of Aiming High

Looking back on 2015 I think the one word that best sums up my writing career would be underwhelming. Sales figures could be counted on the fingers of one hand, and not necessarily a healthy hand at that. But part of this could be down the fact that I did virtually no promotion.

Well, what do you expect, you moron, I hear you mutter. I’m hoping that 2016 will be a little more active, so read on to discover what I’m planning to do.

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Do You Dream?

And by that I mean night time dreams, not ambitions. Dreams are one of the most disturbing and fascinating aspects of consciousness and awareness, and I might go so far as to say they are a form of alternative existence.

What do I mean by that? Let me tell you a story. When I was studying at Manchester Polytechnic I headed out one morning and pulled into the petrol station. The station had only recently been upgraded, but on that morning the old petrol pumps had been put back. And so had the price totem at the side of the road.

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Yet Another Author Invite

I’ve done this twice before and on both occasions been overwhelmed by the lack of response. All authors need help, a word in the internet’s ear and I don’t like taking without giving. In the past I have laid down a few rules, the intention being to give authors who write ‘outside the box’ a chance to get their work noticed. There obviously aren’t many authors writing outside the box, and I’m still not prepared to allow romances on a blog predominantly themed towards heavy rock, vampirism, black magic and weirdness!

But in spite of previous attempts I’m going to have another go…

Authors, would you like to have a feature here at The Opening Sentence?

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The Many Species of Author Advice

Inspired by a recent article on Matthew Wright’s blog (‘Why All Who Write Should Think of Themselves as Writers. Period’) I started to think again about advice in the literary world. Advice in the literary world is one of the reasons why I’m metaphorically as bald as an egg; tearing out my hair has become an affliction that shows no sign of getting any better.

As a form of therapy I’ve decided to categorise all the various advisors you’ll come across on the internet, so next time you see a blog post entitled ‘#5 sure fire ways of #increasing your #Kindle #sales’ you’ll be able to get out this handy guide and spot which species of Charlatanus literi purpurea it is.

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Nothing

The keen eyed among you may have noticed a certain erratic quality to this blog. It ebbs and flows like a confused tide, sometimes engulfing the land with a quick succession of articles; sometimes it goes all Southport and retreats to the sea, leaving people wondering if they’ll ever see anything again.

I’m writing this in the Calf’s Head, a pub in the Lancashire village of Worston. I’m waiting for a cappucino to cool down and I’m absolutely filthy. I’ve been jetwashing the flagstones of a stately home all day and there’s a lot of damp blowback from a diesel powered jetwash.

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Query letter sample

I don’t normally do this, get all self-indulgent with post after post about my work, but I had an idea today which I really need to pass by someone. I’m sitting in a cafe wracking my brains to come up with a query letter to literary agents and can’t get beyond the boring standard method of approach. You know the old routine: ‘I’m looking for representation and I saw your website and read about how you’re looking for a fresh voice and strong storytelling…’

Bearing in mind the fact that literary agents might not actually read beyond the first line of a query letter I had a moment of brilliance/madness (delete after you’ve read this post) and I’d like an independent opinion. Without saying any more this is what I thought of using as my query letter: (Let’s assume the agent’s name is Jane Smith.)

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What Scares You?

When I say scared I’m not talking about existential worries about global warming or being made redundant, valid as they are. No, I mean physical sensory fear when faced with the uncanny.

Some people are not afraid of ghosts, but I once knew a person who couldn’t sleep at night because he was convinced his wardrobe was some kind of paranormal hiding place.

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Eternity – The Reality

I don’t want to alarm you, but there’s something going on, something almost beyond human comprehension, a situation so terrifying most people alive are not even aware it’s happening. And what makes it worse: it’s unavoidable.

We’re all on this ride, part of this gig, and no matter what you imagine when you think of horrible situations, none of them compare to this one. I don’t know if I’ll be able to put it into words just how insanely terrifying this condition is, but I’ll try.

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My Very First Job

Do you remember your first proper job? Not the weekend stint in the cake shop, the first post-school full time gig? I remember mine. If you worked for Sherwood Flexibles in Salford between 1983 and 1986 you’d remember it too. (* For legal reasons I’ve changed the names of individuals!)

My school exam results were a disaster, but not bad enough to keep me out of art college. I dropped out after a couple of months and studied for a few more O-levels, eventually leaving college in the teeth of an economic recession. Imagine my amazement then when my brother-in-law got me a job at the company where he worked. Sherwood Flexibles Ltd. The company made printing plates (a printing process known as flexographic) and I was taken on as an apprentice camera operator.

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WordPress Stats

Sorry if you’ve clicked on this post expecting some advice. It’s really about the apparent uselessness of WordPress statistics other than acting as a flannel to massage our egos.

Every day I look at my stats, not the bar chart that shows how many people have clicked the wrong link and ended up at my blog by mistake, but the words and numbers. I mean what is the point?

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Plate Spinning

Men cannot multitask. Or so we’re told, but I have a simple method that allows me to multitask: I do one thing at a time. I call this serial multitasking, as opposed to parallel multitasking, which is what women do. (Allegedly.)

But even I am starting to come unstuck. Serial multitasking has one fundamental flaw: it takes ages to get anything done. It also relies on maintaining enthusiasm so that by the time you get around to doing task number B12-il09887 you still want to do it. (I still have the task of compiling a soundtrack onto CD from nine years ago. Just can’t find the enthusiasm to get on with it.)

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Dragon Award

I’ve been nominated for the Dragon’s Loyalty Award, which is handed out to generally good eggs and top folk who leave comments (not spam) on other people’s blogs. I was nominated by the angelic Princess Kick-ass who, to my knowledge has never held a six foot long machete and burst into a room calling people ‘***ts.’

Princess Kick-ass blog

My thanks to her highness for nominating me.

The Award, like all blogging awards, comes with strings attached. I have to tell you seven things about myself and then nominate up to fifteen bloggers who regularly comment on my blog. Well, I’d be a happy man if fifteen people regularly commented on my blog, so I’ll be pushed to reach about half a dozen. And as Princess K-a has already got the award I can’t nominate her.

I’ll cross that shaky bridge when I come to it, but for now seven incredible things about me:*

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Noise

Some people write in silence. I’m writing this post listening to the bawdy racket that is Unheilig. There is noise and there is noise. Noise we can hear and noise we can ignore. Noise is a weird thing in that it can be deafening and unheard or quiet and infuriating.

I’m suffering from a third type of noise at the moment: a combination of deafening and infuriating and try as I might, I can’t find where the noise is coming from. All I know is that the noise emanates from somewhere near the rear wheel of my car. Continue reading

Helpful advice on SEO ranking

I keep getting some helpful advice from those nice people at SEO Rankings dot com. Now, I’m not the confrontational type and I know that all this SEO spam is automated and it’s a machine that sends it all out, so for the rest of you I thought I’d demonstrate why I don’t need help from SEO Rankings dot com.

Here’s their advice:

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I Don’t Know What To Say.

Check out any site by or about literary agents and one thing you’ll be told is to include a bit about yourself in the query letter. This is the paragraph where you astound the agent by telling them about the competitions you’ve won, the articles printed in the New York Times; and how you met your MP husband/wife.

Some of us haven’t achieved any of that, and some of us (about 0.3% of the population) have never done anything. That part of the paper where the biography is supposed to sit is so blank you can see the watermark.

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The Right WordPress Theme

Remember the Good Ship Author Platform? My attempt to journey on a sea of mixed metaphors in a quest to build the perfect author platform for agents to be thoroughly impressed by. And do you remember that ship crashing into the harbour wall before it hit the open sea?

I’m having another Ed Reardon moment and despairing at my inability to fettle this WordPress business. I look at this theme, Twenty-Fourteen, and its lack of clarity; what we landscape architects describe as legibility of space.’ How do you navigate it. More importantly, where are my books?

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Another (Baffling) Free Ebook Scam

Two authors: one would like to buy my novel, the other says it changed her life. What do they have in common? Their identities were impersonated online by another free ebook scam.

Lee Penney, the author in search of a good rock vampire novel, found himself an unwitting victim of the scam and decided to investigate. Lee is an IT specialist so knew his way around domains and scripts, but even he was left baffled by the online paper trail that led from the Bahamas to Macedonia. You can read his article here: I’m Not A Book Pirate.

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