Saturday, 30 January 2010

Are we really like this?

My wife and son are in France visiting her parents this weekend and so I had some time to myself. Ideally, I’d have liked to have gone back up to Wolverhampton and watch Wolves play, but they were playing away this weekend – in Hull of all places, which is far too far to go.

So instead I drove into Milton Keynes. It’s an odd sort of town. For those who don’t know or have never been, it’s unlike any other town in Britain in that it has no “historic” town centre. Most towns in the UK have a very clearly defined central area from which the rest of the town spreads organically. Take Northampton – where I live now – the centre is quite a nice place and the Guild Hall is a very fine building.

But because Milton Keynes is a “New Town” it was designed from the ground up to be car friendly and pedestrian friendly at the same time and it doesn’t have that ‘organic’ feel to it. The planners looked at other towns and decided that since they almost all have a shopping district at their heart, they’d put one in Milton Keynes. But in MK they simply built a shopping mall. The kind of giant indoor shopping mall that you normally see on the edge of most towns, not in the centre. So it has a strange feeling about it. Still, it was warmer in there than traipsing around Northampton or Kettering in the rain, so that’s where I went.

But as I wandered around The Centre:MK (good name for it, huh?) I got quite depressed about the state of our fine country. Why? Let me explain.

I felt a bit out of place as I wandered around, looking in the shops with no intention of buying, taking my time and just enjoying being out of the house. But I wasn’t enjoying it. The people around me made sure of that. Everyone was rushing from one shop to the next, jostling people who dared to want to occupy the same space as them, oblivious to everyone around them, intent on what they wanted.

I couldn’t help but get the impression that everyone, well, almost everyone, was so wrapped up in their own existence and own concerns (such as “Does this top look good on me”) that they wouldn’t noticed if a person not ten feet away from them was having a heart attack. Or they might have noticed but they certainly wouldn’t have offered to help – they might watch the show until they got bored with it, which would probably be a few minutes at most. I can hear it now - “Come on, let’s go get a McD’s, this is boring."

Have we really come to the point where all we care about is ourselves?

And it was people of all ages, not just “the kids”. Hell, I was jostled out of the way by a couple of middle-aged women because I was walking past the entrance to “Next” just as they wanted to go in. I could hear them ‘tut’ because I wasn’t walking fast enough for them.

And whatever happened to holding doors open for the people following you? No one seems to do that any more and people give you a funny look if you do.

Add to that the countless ‘clone’ teenage girls – all of them looking the same and walking around in pairs (threes at the most) with their GHD straightened hair, too much make-up and tight leggings.

I’m sorry, but the whole thing saddened me. It all seemed so… pointless. Hundreds if not thousands of people with such a pointless pursuit of what big business tells them they want.

Still, there were some things to brighten the heart. Like the woman sitting on a bench bouncing her baby on her knee, her face aglow with the unconditional love that only a parent knows. And the look of joy and absolute trust in its mother on the baby’s face. Or the toddler running towards its parents with its arms wide, relief at having ‘found’ them clearly evident.

Perhaps it’s me. Perhaps I’m an old cynic these days. Maybe I’ve forgotten what it’s like to actually care what brand of jeans I’m wearing or which logo is on my t-shirt. Or maybe… maybe it’s not.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Friday Already?

Yes, it appears it is. God, this week’s gone quick. Still, January is nearly over and with all the shit that’s happened this January, that’s something to be thankful for.

I started work last night on updating/re-writing one of my older stories, Bus-stop. I’m over half way done (in just a couple of hours, so that’s not bad going) and I think I could have it done by the weekend if I put my mind to it instead of watching some DVD or playing table tennis on the Wii.

I’ve altered the story from a first to third part narrator and what I’ve written so far adds more details and so is about half as long again as the section it replaced. So at this rate the story could be somewhere between one and a half and twice as long as it was.

I’ve also designed a new cover for the .pdf version and I’ll be creating other e-book formats to complement it. I’m also considering making it a “two-part” story on SOL, posting the second half a few days after the first.

When all that is done I’ll go back to my WIP and write a chapter or so then tackle the second of my free stories. I’m doing them alphabetically, so Claire will be the second story to be rewritten.

Finally, some of you may know that former Prime Minister Tony Blair is appearing at the Iraq Inquiry in London today. He’ll give evidence and defend the decisions he made in taking us into the war. On the radio this morning the presenters asked “What do you want Mr Blair to say”. My answer? “I’d rather he said nothing and just quietly went away.”

Sorry, I know a lot of people have very strong feelings about the war and that the people lost loved ones want ‘answers’. But honestly, what answers can they expect to get? What’s done is done. The past is past and we can’t change it. Dwelling on it or trying to “punish” or “blame” someone for it won’t do anyone any good. And in the end, History will pass judgement and History can be a harsh judge.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Older Stories

Following Monday’s post, I exchanged some correspondence which lead me to ask myself the following question – Should I look again at the stories I have on the StoriesOnline website (and free on my own website) and bring them up to the same sort of standard I’m writing at now?

I don’t hide the fact that the stories I offer for free are older stories and as such are not as ‘good’ as, say, Kissed by a Rose or Eternally & Evermore. In this case by ‘good’ I’m referring not to plotting or characterisation aspects but to technical and stylistic aspects. In these terms stories like Bus-Stop (pdf  SOL), Claire (pdf  SOL), and Sophie (pdf  SOL) are quite naive and amateurish.

But to some extent these stories are my showcase. Because people can read them for free, they are like a loss-leader that you may see in supermarket. The theory is that after reading, say, Reunion (pdf  SOL), people will have enjoyed it enough to give the paid-for books a try. So, if that’s the theory, shouldn’t the stories offered for free be the best that they can be?

Now, the correspondence I had was about catching typos and punctuation errors, but I’ll be honest with you and say that I wouldn’t be satisfied with that. I’d have to re-write the stories. I’d update them stylistically and maybe make changes to the plots and characterisation. Hell, some of the stories may well develop from being shorts to short novellas.

And that’s what’s holding me back right now. Once I start, I know I wouldn’t be able to stop. But it is something I’m considering. I reckon it might take only a couple of months to do them all. If that effort increases sales of the other books, it has to be worth it, surely?

Another plus is that at the same time I could convert the .pdfs that are currently on my website and offer other e-book formats like .prc and .epub so people can pop them on their newly purchased e-readers. And have no doubt – e-readers are going to through the roof over the next couple of years.

So, what sort of task am I looking at. I have 45 stories on the SOL website but 15 of those are ‘Flash’ stories – that is, stories with a 300 or 500 word limit – so I can’t really look at expanding those. Of those that remain 11 were written for Ruthie’s Club so are pretty clean anyway. It may be time to look at them again, but they will be the last I tackle. That leaves me with 2 multipart stories in Reunion (pdf  SOL) and College by the Sea (which is ‘unfinished’ and currently only on SOL and not my website) and 17 shorts. Of those 17, 5 are part of a series with the same characters which I could maybe lump together into a multipart story and expand (these 5 are not on my website – just SOL).

That’s not a horrendous task, is it? Not really. And I’ve always said that I should write more shorts as they are good practice for the novels. So that’s my next task – rewrite and improve my free offerings. I’ll mix it in with my current WIP – one week I’ll work on a short, the next I’ll work on the WIP.

Wish me luck.

For the sake of completeness, my stats on SOL are currently – 45 stories with over 80000 each and averaging around 100 reads per week across all stories. Reunion has the most reads with over 15000 and College by the Sea second with almost 8000. Average base rating (for what it’s worth) is 8.71 or 8,8,8 on the TPA scale. I’m on 100 members’ lists of favourite authors and have over five hundred entries in members’ ‘libraries’. Of course, this pales in comparison to some of the SOL ‘big-hitters’ but it satisfies me given I haven’t posted a story there since November 2008.

Video Blog Ep 1

Here’s the first episode of my video blog on You Tube. Recorded on my way to work, I’m talking about my beard and yesterday’s blog post.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Do the Details Matter?

Let’s say you’ve just picked up that new hardback by your favourite bestselling author, you race home, make yourself a cup of hot chocolate and settle down on the sofa and start to read. On page 57 you find a typo. What’s your reaction? Do you roll your eyes and wonder how the combination of author, editor, publisher and proof reader let it slip through? Do you curse that the book you just paid ten quid (for even twenty if you got it from a proper book shop instead of Tesco) could have been so sloppily produced? Does it spoil your enjoyment of the book? Or do you shrug your shoulders and go, oh well, this book is 500 pages long so it’s hardly surprising the error slipped through and just carry on enjoying the book regardless?

I have to admit that I tend towards the latter. For the last twelve months or so I’ve made a real effort to stop reading books as a critic and start reading them for enjoyment again. For a long time, especially while I was actively involved in The Fishtank, I found myself passing comment in my head on anything I read in the same way I would pass comment on work submitted to the tank. Some would say that’s a good thing because it’s all about learning more, but it started to spoil my enjoyment of the books I was reading and I knew I had to stop it. I think that as a writer it’s still possible to learn from what others have written without re-writing everything in your head. So now, I just try and ignore the typos and misplaced punctuation marks and enjoy the thing. I know they are there, but I don’t let it bother me.

So when it comes to me own work, you’d think my attitude would be the same, right? Wrong. When it comes to my own work I’m something of an obsessive compulsive. I’ll worry over which is the right word of two and which sentences would be better joined and which deserve to strike out alone. When I write, it’s as if a DVD is playing in my head and all I have to do is write down what happens, what’s said and describe the environment. The biggest problem I have is trying to keep up. Sometimes I have to scramble for the remote and hit pause while I catch up. And sometimes the movie in my mind will stay on pause for a long time while I agonise over the best word to use here or the best phrase to use there.

I recently looked over the manuscript for Kissed by a Rose to do a last proof read before it goes to print in March. And I was horrified when I found half a dozen small typos – and I mean small, be it one letter, a comma or a missing word. But seriously, a half a dozen errors in a ninety thousand word novel – is it really that bad? We’re talking 99.98% accuracy here.

But it matters to me. It got my name on it and I want it to be perfect.

So my question is, does it matter to anyone else. If you buy a book with half a dozen errors in ninety thousand words, are you going to resolve never to buy from that author/publisher again? Will it spoil your enjoyment of the book? Or will you even notice if the plot and characters are good enough to keep you absorbed?

As for me, I’ll keep on striving for perfection in my work. I have to – it’s the way I’m wired.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Writing Update

You might remember that a couple of posts ago I mentioned an idea I’d had to kick-start work on a story that had been plaguing me and just not feeling right. At the time I didn’t want to mention what the idea was because I wanted to run it by a couple of my close writing friends first. Well, I’ve done that and they both went, “Damn, I like this.”

Before I go on, I need to tell you something about the story itself. Way, way back – I’m talking over ten years here – I started writing a story which was sort of semi-autobiographical and based on my time during my first year at university. At least, it started out that way. The main character developed into more of ‘this is what I would have loved to have been like’ rather than ‘this is what I was like’ and most of the other characters grew and changed as I wrote the story until they were nothing like the people they were initially based on.

But I never finished the story. What I did finish is up on the StoriesOnline website, but read it at your own risk. It’s about a third of the story I wanted to tell, it rambles at times and feels as if it’s out of control. That said, I got a lot of reader feedback as I posted chapters and what people were telling me about how they felt about the story and characters was, for the most part, what I wanted them to feel when I wrote it.

But his was all before I discovered The Fishtank and all the progress as a writer that I made there and since. Now, I’m going back to the story and trying to look at it afresh. The main character has stayed pretty much the same, as has his ultimate love interest, but many of the other characters have altered and the plot it totally different. In fact, I an starting to think that this story may even be a trilogy – but that’s getting ahead of myself by a long way.


It’s hard to put into words what was quite wrong with the new version of the story I was writing. I guess when it comes down to it, it just didn’t ‘feel’ right. Until I had my Big Idea. And what was that Big Idea?

A First Person narrator.

Okay, so it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but for me, it is. I’ve heavily resisted the first person for the last five or so years because I think it’s very difficult to pull off without sounding ‘amateurish’ and I didn’t think I had the skill to do it. But the more I looked at this story, the more I felt that it was what this story needed. One of my writing friends, my editor actually who reads everything as I write it to keep me on track, said after something like eight or nine chapters that she didn’t have a reason to care abut the hero, or any of the potential heroines. And that’s what was missing – the third person narrator felt… dry? distant? I can’t quite put my finger on it, but when I re-wrote the first chapter with the hero narrating, the story acquired the spark that had been missing.

See what I mean by looking at the two versions of that first chapter. These are downloadable Rich Text Format documents – Third Person   First Person

See the difference? Do you agree with me that the first person version is better? Or do you prefer the third person version?

Either way, I’m setting about rewriting the thirteen chapters I’ve already written in first person, and I’m confident that the rest of the story will flow better as a result.

But, as always, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Stats Overload

Last month I paid out some of my hard earned to move my website from the free hosting space my home ISP provides to a paid-for host, along with a new domain ( instead of .com). One of my reasons for doing this was to get a better idea of who is visiting my site and what they are looking at.

Previously I relied on Google Analytics, which is okay I suppose, and a very simple hit counter which just ticked over by one with each page view. But the new hosts provides three different sets of stats, all good in their own way, which have given me much more detailed information.

So, for the month of January so far, has had over three hundred visits, averaging out at about 18 a day, and those visitors have viewed over 700 pages, just under 40 a day. This is nothing more than Google would have told me and isn’t really a significant change from the past year or so, but here’s where the more detailed info comes in…

The most popular day to look at my site has been Tuesday, closely followed by Wednesday. Thursday is the least popular. The most popular time for visiting the site is 2pm UK time, which is odd, closely followed by 3am, which is even odder. Until you remember that the visitors are coming from all over the world, that is.

Most of my visits have come from, get this, Russia, followed by the US, UK and then Germany someway behind but ahead of Australia and China (which must mean that Marc Nobbs gets through the ‘great firewall’).

But, more importantly, I now know that my most popular pages are the Free Stories page and the e-Books page. Which I should really have expected and isn’t that big a surprise. But at least it confirms that it was worth including the free stories on the site. The most popular free stories this month so far have been Measuring Up, Would Twins Do This? and Divine Interviewwhich I wrote with my friend from across the pond Cassie Exline.

Finally, here are some of the more interesting phrases that people have searched that have lead them to my site - “Twins Snogging”, “do boys have their cocks measured?”, “Nave blue knickers sexstories”, “his cock was enormous twice the size of mine”, “panty worship uk”.

Honestly, I don’t know what to say about that. lol

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Time to Come Clean?

I’ve been quiet on this blog and on Twitter for a while now. I’m not going to apologise for it or make excuses. There is a reason. It’s called Life. I have one and it gets in the way of my online persona sometimes.

Because, let’s face it, Marc Nobbs is a persona – one that I use online to protect my offline persona and, more importantly, my family. I know it’s hard to believe, but some people are small minded enough to consider the type of thing I write to be ‘unsuitable’ or some other equally judgemental label and the sort of people that do that wouldn’t stop at taking out their holier-than-thou high moral judgements on the online persona if they knew who my offline persona was.

The truth is that I’m actually very comfortable with what I write. They way I look at it, they are just novels about relationships – all I do is not look away when things get intimate. So why should I hide? Actually, I don’t consider using an online persona as hiding. I see it more as keeping my online and offline lives separate.


The other day, I updated my Facebook profile since I’ve finally come to the conclusion that MySpace is dying a death and Facebook seems to be the defacto place to go. (This is your own fault MySpace. It’s the little things – like considering a Blogger blog as ‘spam’ and blocking the link. YOUR OWN FAULT. Take note Mr Murdoch. If you try and make your newspapers online presence a similarly ‘closed shop’ as you are threatening to, then they will simply suffer the same fate. The world has changed, and so must the media. But that’s a separate blog post – or several – on it’s own)

After updating the profile I started browsing some other profiles. And I found profiles for a lot of the people I went to school with. Note my choice of words. I didn’t call them ‘school-friends’. Don’t get me wrong, I had a couple of good friends at school but for the most part my classmates were just people I knew because we attended the same institution at the same time. I mean, if they were good friends, I’d still be in contact with them, right?

I actually found it amusing looking at the ‘friends’ list for these profiles since most of the people on there would never have been seen breathing the same air as some of their Facebook ‘friends’ when they were at school together. But it left me thinking, should I ‘make friends’ with some of my old classmates using my current profile? Would they recognise me? Would they care? Obviously they wouldn’t recognise the name, but I could add a message to the friend request explaining who I was. Would they remember me then? And how would they react to me online persona? What would they think of the books I write? Would they buy them to see what they are like? How would they react if we ever met again in person? Is that even likely?

Like I say, I’m not ashamed of what I write, but that’s not to say I want old acquaintances saying to each other “Hey, have you seen what that chap we went to school with is up to?”. I don’t want that because the response will probably be “Yeah, I always knew he was a f*^&^g pervert.”

On the other hand, surely it’s a marketing opportunity even if they only buy my book out of perverse curiosity.

It’s a dilemma. And one I’ll probably wrestle with for some time.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Snow, Snow and More Snow

The United Kingdom has ground to a halt. Why? Snow. One word but it seems that as a country we are completely unequipped to cope with it. Schools shut, idiots abandon their cars in the most ridiculous places after venturing out when clearly they shouldn’t have thinking that they are ace drivers so they’ll be okay but then end up in a bush.

But what I find more frustrating is that we don’t seem to learn from our mistakes. When I was growing up I was taught that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them. I think this is one of the fundamentals of growing up. I mean, even wild animals learn from their mistakes – it’s how we are able to train dogs, horses etc. Not learning from your mistakes is the height of stupidity in my opinion. So the people that run this country and the people that live in it must be very, very stupid indeed.

We had a load of snow last February, yet, not even a full twelve months later, we’re having exactly the same problems. Why? Cause preparing to cope with snow when it comes doesn't win votes and not coping when there is snow doesn’t lose votes, that’s why.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The biggest problem with Democracy is that the people we elect to run our country and our services are primarily concerned with STAYING elected the next time around. So rather than do what is best for the country, they do what is best for their election chances.

Case in point, there is talk again today of the Labour party trying to ditch Gordon Brown. Not for the good of the country, but because he might hurt their electoral chances. For God’s sake! You people have a job to do – running the country – can you please get on with doing it and not worry about ‘fighting the next election’ until the next election is actually called! DO YOUR DAMN JOBS!

I swear, when I come to power, democracy will be the first thing to go.

Sorry. Rant over. To other matters. Do you remember my post a couple of weeks ago about being ‘grabbed by the balls’ by a story? I talked about how I’d been writing a story but wasn’t happy with it and then a new idea struck me and it seemed to be a winner.

Since then, I haven’t been able to work on that new story for one reason and another, but one of the side effects of being ‘grabbed by the balls’ by a story idea is that sometimes it kick-starts the creative juices and other stories also benefit. And the University story I was working on and not getting on with is one of those.

An idea. A thought. I think I’ve worked out what’s wrong with it. It’s just an idea at the moment-one I need to explore-but I think it could enable me to finally finish this story that has been with me for years and then move on. I’ll let you know what happens.

Finally, I’m considering doing a Video-log. I’ve tested a few things and none have them have satisfied me yet, but if I can work it out, you might soon be able to hear me talking crap rather than just read it.


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