Why We Need Superheroes

 

Black Panther_Marvel comics
Black Panther: Source – Marvel Comics

The Superhero film genre is in overdrive at the moment, with at least one new movie every year. This year’s second superhero movie is ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ in a franchise that started in 2012 with ‘The Avengers’, bringing Marvel comic characters to life. This follows the quirky and successful ‘Black Panther’ (2018) that cleverly introduces a sub-genre element by showcasing mainly non-white actors, thus broadening the superhero genre appeal to different ethnic groups.

The recurring theme in this genre is not new – mankind is under threat from a terrifying external power and need heroes with superhuman powers to defend it. This storyline goes back to early human society when primitive man had an intuitive way of interpreting the awesome and incomprehensible power of nature. The animistic gods of the Ancients are often part-human/part-animal incarnations that represent the main elements – earth, water, air and fire, or aspects thereof. These were feared, revered and appeased with offerings and sacrifices in the hope of favourable outcomes or protection from the uncontrollable power of Nature.

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Thor – source: Marvel Comics

It is no surprise that some ancient gods, most notably Thor from Norse mythology, have been incorporated into Marvel’s superhero stories. Although Thor is a god, he has human form and is the defender of mankind against ‘foreign’ enemies. They evoke familiar tribalistic defence mechanisms in an audience primed to circle the wagons at the first signs of danger from an unknown or unfamiliar predatory enemy.

The earliest human societies, pre-dating and including the recorded tales from Ancient Greece, invented creation stories that often involved superhuman god-like creatures who created the world and ruled over it in an age before the coming of Mankind. These gods became invisible forces to be invoked and appeased in ritual ceremonies as humans inherited the earth. It filled a powerful need in early Man’s consciousness to make sense of his surroundings, and pre-dates our Age of Science and Reason approach to understanding our world and beyond.

The blurb for the new superheroes movie reads, “’Avengers: Infinity War’ brings to the screen the ultimate, deadliest showdown of all time. As the Avengers and their allies have continued to protect the world from threats too large for any one hero to handle, a new danger has emerged from the cosmic shadows: Thanos. A despot of intergalactic infamy, his goal is to collect all six Infinity Stones, artifacts of unimaginable power, and use them to inflict his twisted will on all of reality. Everything the Avengers have fought for has led up to this moment – the fate of Earth and existence itself has never been more uncertain.”

The plot of this film centres on the concept of infinity or timelessness, through the infinity stones, or gems (six immensely powerful gems that appear in Marvel Comic stories known as the Mind, Soul, Space, Power, Time and Reality). This representation of attributes in physical objects harks back to ancient societies – objects to be revered or deified in the belief that they can affect desired outcomes. The stones are ancient artefacts, thus connecting the story to early human history and invoking the theme of the continuum of time.

Teenagers/Young Adults are the core target audience for this repeated narrative of humans with superpowers battling unknown or alien forces whose intentions are always hostile to human society. A show of destructive power by an evil character usually sets up the story, whereby one or more superhero will do battle, like gladiators, on behalf of a frightened and powerless population. Often the stakes are the highest imaginable – the fate of Planet Earth.

Charly_and_the_super_heroes group pic
Charly & The Superheroes

It is no surprise, then, that my own teenage daughter, Cathy, is thoroughly transfixed by superhero movies. She becomes engrossed in the latest story of heroic figures fighting on her behalf against external forces of evil who would destroy her home and family. She has no problem identifying with the ‘goodies’ – often male and female characters who represent ‘the best’ of humankind. When I asked her what our character, Charly Holmes’ next adventure should be, she quickly replied, “let’s make up a superhero story!”

And so, we have now completed our story – ‘Charly & The Superheroes’, based on Cathy’s idea that Charly, whilst on a film studio tour, is invited to substitute for a child actor in a superhero movie. The rest of the story developed from there. Our superheroes represent the four elements – earth, air, fire and water – but when a real disaster strikes, the actors are challenged to use their own knowledge and skills to help the group through a series of dangerous situations.

Charly paperback coverOur own homage to the superhero genre, ‘Charly & The Superheroes’, is available from 19th September in e-book and paperback formats from Amazon and other online stores. Suitable for children aged 10+, juveniles, young adults, teachers and parents:

Paperback (UK):

Paperback (USA/World):

Kindle

i-books, Kobo, Nook, Playster, Tolino and other platforms…

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The Skids – Gig Review

On the evening of 7th June 2018, I joined a couple of mates at Reading Sub89 Club to see the reformed Skids take to the stage. For me, this was a trip down memory lane as I had seen the Scottish punk rockers perform at Eric’s Club in Liverpool in March 1979. That’s a gap of 39 years…

I had relatively low expectations of the evening but was warmed up by the buzz of a large (possibly sell-out) crowd who enthusiastically sang along to support act TV Smith’s rendition of his classic single (with The Adverts), ‘Looking Through Gary Gilmore’s Eyes’.

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The Skids, Reading Sub89, 07/06/18

The Skids took to the stage with hoots and applause, Richard Jobson beaming his pleasure and showing off remarkably youthful looks and a muscular torso that clearly spends much time in a gym. With him was fellow founder members Bruce Watson and Bill Simpson, now supplemented by the youthful addition of Mike Baillie and Jamie Watson. A tribute was given during the set to deceased founder member and co-writer of many of the songs, Stuart Adamson, who tragically died in 2001.

The performance was simply astounding – the band were tight and energetic from start to finish and, apart from a couple of minor slip-ups, were bang on the money – or the Yankee Dollar, if you prefer. Richard Jobson’s banter between songs oozed with the charm and polish of the seasoned TV presenter he became after splitting from the Skids in the 80s. I was transported back in time when they finished their set with fan’s favourite ‘Into the Valley’, teased in by that memorable bass line that sent the crowd wild. After a short breather they re-emerged to give us three more songs.

During the set they covered the full sweep of their musical career, from singles and tracks dating from 1977 to 1982 when they first split, to tracks from a new album, Burning Cities, recorded 35 years after their last album, that stood up well with the old material. Old favourites played with gusto and that distinctive Adamson-esque Scottish guitar style included: The Saints are Coming; Masquerade; Circus Games; Charade; Working for the Yankee Dollar; Animation; Goodbye Civilian and Woman in Winter.

the-skids-into-the-valley-virgin-3-sI’m pleased I made the effort, as it is all too easy to let these opportunities to see your old favourites pass by. Their performance was tight, energetic and a lot of fun – I thoroughly recommend seeing them to all you post-punk music fans.

Changes Made to Futuristic Novel

I’ve taken on board some useful feedback following the release of my first novel, Devil Gate Dawn, in April 2016, and as a result have made a few changes:

  • The cover has been changed to have a shadow figure standing at the gate
  • The quote on the front has been changed to, ‘Mild-mannered George must face his nemesis’
  • The start of chapter one now has George reflecting on an accident at work, indicating that such traumatic moments contributed to his decision to take early retirement.  Other work-related inner thoughts have been added through the early chapters, showing he is still haunted by past events.  These reflections stop when new events come to dominate his thoughts and actions.

DevilGateDawnModifiedCover_Aug_2016All in all, I’m proud of my achievement in pasting together this story from blogs and new material, and am thankful for the input of my copyeditor, Sinead Fitzgibbon, in helping to shape it into a structured story with sub-plots and suitably developed support characters.

George battles his way through problems with a calm, stoic approach, often bewildered by the extreme methods and actions of others.  In many ways, his pragmatic approach has mirrored my own problems with battling health issues whilst writing it.

I’ve made notes for a follow-up, and have pored over the 10,000 words of my abandoned novel, The Langley Leopard (submitted to the Richard and Judy novel competition three years ago!) that preceded this one, looking to salvage bits.

I’ve temporarily dropped the price to 99p and equivalent in other currencies to attract new readers.

In the meantime, I’m immersed in the mid-fifth century, ploughing on with researching and writing my next historical fiction novel, Ambrosius: Last of the Romans.

http://hyperurl.co/ii7gpl

Amazon Scout Campaign Review

Amazon Kindle Scout (https://kindlescout.amazon.com) is a promotional platform for new authors wanting to promote their e-book (and try and garner ‘reads’ of your 5,000 word opening extract and nominations from those with amazon accounts) prior to launch, provided you are willing to commit to it being published exclusively on Amazon Kindle for a minimum period of 75 days. Phew!  there’s always conditions….

Their blurb says: “Kindle Scout is reader-powered publishing for new, never-before-published books. It’s a place where readers help decide if a book gets published. Selected books will be published by Kindle Press and receive 5-year renewable terms, a $1,500 advance, 50% eBook royalty rate, easy rights reversions and featured Amazon marketing.”

Devil Gate Dawn coverI submitted my entire manuscript (which just crept over the 50,000 word minimum requirement, and further qualified as having been professionally proof-read and copy edited, although no proof of this was asked for – they must make their own assessment).  I selected the category as ‘Mystery/Thriller’.

Also, you must have a decent book cover.  I designed my own but sent it to a graphic designer through fiverr.com to give it a more ‘professional’ look, and ensure the cover image used is copyright paid.  I’m happy with it, although it perhaps is a little too much dark, brooding and foreboding for a novel with plenty of tongue-in-cheek humour!

I was accepted, whoopee! and my promotional exposure period on their site ran from 9th March – 9th April 2016.  It has just ended and they have emailed the following message:

“Dear Tim Walker,

Thank you for submitting DEVIL GATE DAWN to Kindle Scout. The nomination period for your campaign has just ended and we are reviewing your book for possible selection.

Here’s what happens next:

    • You will receive an email from us in the next few business days notifying you whether your book has been selected for publication by Kindle Press.
    • Each Kindle Scout reader who nominated your book will also receive an email from us with the result, along with the following thank you message you submitted with your campaign:

“Dear Reader, many thanks for taking the time to read and nominate my book, Devil Gate Dawn. I hope you were suitably entertained by my storytelling, my attempts at raising tension and alleviating it with some humour. I sincerely hope you were engaged and enjoyed the ride. Thanks again, and look out for the return of George!”

  • We will list all books selected for publication on the Kindle Scout website a few days after the selections are made.”

Yeah, forgot to mention that when you fill in the application form at the start, you also put in a ‘thank you’ message to all who nominated you.  Also, Amazon will email them when your book is up on Kindle – something useful, even if you don’t win a deal and put the book up yourself, they will still do this.

Now, my campaign did not break any records!  I could moan about being up against US authors with huge social media followings, but I won’t!

I amassed a total of 320 page views over the 30 days, and 0 (yes, zero) hours in ‘Hot and Trending’.  Totally stuffed by the Chick Litters and heavy-weight Yanks!…

But consider this…I was always going to put the book on Kindle, and this has given me greater exposure, plus those who nominated will get an email with the link once it goes ‘live’.  Fine by me.

THANKS EVERYONE! WATCH OUT FOR IT ON AMAZON KINDLE IN A WEEK OR TWO…AND I’M PLANNING TO MAKE IT A FREE DOWNLOAD FOR THE FIRST SEVEN DAYS…PLEASE READ AND REVIEW!

Please Nominate My Book!

My first novel, Devil Gate Dawn, has been selected for the Amazon Scout scheme (it has been professionally proof-read and copyedited and they have approved my manuscript).  This means I am competing with other debut novelists for an Amazon Kindle publishing deal.

Their stats record how many reads I have of my 5,000 word opening extract, and I have an encouraging 200+ reads after the first week – the promotion period runs for 30 days and ends on 9th April.  When they first put up my opening 5,000 words I carefully read through it and yes, spotted a couple of minor errors and things I’d like to change, but also notice, with horror, that my first dramatic moment comes just after the cut-off!

I got in touch with them (amazon.com in the USA) and requested a re-submit.  After a couple of days they agreed, and I did some editing and re-submitted.  The new version went ‘live’ on Friday evening, and it now reads much better (in my view) and ends on a dramatic high…

Please read my extract and if you feel it is worthy, please nominate it.  After the 9th April, the book with the most nominations wins a publishing deal…help make it me!

https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/3AC6627K4Q0B2

 

A Mouse Squeaking

mouse and mouseSo, I’m now touting myself as an indie author.  The world is my lobster.  I can write at my leisure, agonise, review, and get a second opinion from a copyeditor.  I juggle my writing windows around essential life maintenance, medical appointments, and when I feel the vibe.  Blogging, research, planning and writing together form a pleasurable, solitary home-based activity that suits me just fine at this stage of my life.

 

Amazon kindle is a gateway to low-cost independent self-publishing, and suits a whole raft of ‘amateur’ writers who are unwilling or unable to make a commitment of time and money to pursue the Holy Grail of a publishing contract.  Why bother?  You can put your work out there and let the World come to you.  To date, about 100,000 authors have done so, and there are approximately 2 million titles in the English language floating around in cyber space.

 

Sales of my first e-book, Thames Valley Tales, have been flat-lining following the initial surge of downloads from family, friends and fellow writers.  I don’t like the idea of giving my work away for free.  It has a value – my time, thoughts, experiences and creative ability.  That’s worth at least £1.99 of anyone’s money.  I’m also finding out that most of my publicity efforts have been met with a wall of indifference.  Most people don’t read books.  Of those that do, only a small number have become e-book readers.  Casual readers can find plenty of free e-books to download and read, and may even stumble on something that will engage them.  This wall of low-level interest or just plain indifference can drive any writer insane.

 

Readers are heavily courted by e-book sellers who try to bully authors into discounting their titles in FREE promotions.  A loss-leader with a high number of reads can help an author build up a following, the marketing guys tell you.  Well, maybe, but it’s still a scam to sucker authors into giving their work away for free.  It de-values the effort that has gone into it, and becomes a product of the internet’s insatiable appetite for free and cheap offers that are aimed at getting more visits to websites, in the hope that other products can be sold to the unsuspecting browser.  Amazon are experts at this.  We have been unwittingly sucked into this world of free online information and cheap cyber deals, a kind of sweat shop for star-struck authors.

 

My efforts to direct people to my e-book through social media – Twitter, WordPress and Face Book in my case – are like a mouse squeaking in the Albert Hall, a weedy noise lost amidst all the incessant chatter and sales pitches.  Everyone’s talking and no one’s listening.  So, why bother?

 

Well, to answer my own question, I bother because I’ve got something to say, whether anyone wants to hear it or not!  I’m alive and kicking, and have amassed some interesting and varied life experience.  I am participating in a number of ‘live’ social experiments, including the National Health Service, the Multicultural Society, Western consumerism, being a remote single parent and supporting a struggling football team (it’s the hope that kills you!); all of which provide me with a series of different coloured prisms through which to gaze on our insane world defined by the extremes of capitalist greed and crushing poverty.

 

I’m not discouraged and working on my next book… This mouse is still squeaking.