Setting Sail For New Seas ~ Exploring The Uncharted Territories

Setting sails for new seas ~ exploring the uncharted territories

In my Twitter bio I set out to sum myself up in as few words as possible and managed to get it down to only four: Writer, Poet, Explorer, Mystic. To some degree all of these are slightly tongue in cheek but the one that needs most explanation is Explorer.

The word conjures up an image of a man in a pith helmet, wielding a machete and followed by native(of where ever) guides bearing parcels on their heads or on poles. Or possibly Ray Mears. It certainly
doesn’t conjure up a slightly overweight, forty-something English
teacher with slight tendencies to agoraphobia and a big problem with
depression and anxiety. To be an explorer requires courage, curiosity
and a fair measure of recklessness. People in real life would say the
only one of the three I have in abundance is curiosity. I’m one of
life’s natural wimps. I don’t even like travelling. But as fate(ha!)
would have it, I’ve ended up in not one but two jobs that require me
to travel. For the non teaching job I often travel to places I’ve
never been before, and show other people around. I discovered (to my surprise) I have a good sense of direction, and if you drop me in a foreign town I can usually find my way round quite quickly.

That’s not to say that going somewhere totally new doesn’t fill me with sudden and almost paralysing dread; it does. But I get through that. Preparation is the key, not to mention dear old Google.

But that’s just one aspect of exploration. These days, exploration of the physical world is a tame thing, filled with Rough Guides and blogs.
There aren’t many people who hack through unknown jungles to get to lost tribes; the lost tribes are usually wearing Reboks by the time
you get there. The physical world has shrunk; exploration is not the
same. Good job I was never aiming to be a real explorer; I’d be
weeping for more worlds to conquer by now.

Research has shown that our tastes in music, food, experiences have fossilised before the age of around thirty. It explains why parents seldom like their children’s music. We stick to what we know, what we’ve already tried, in so many things. But me, I’d got bored of books. Really, really bored.

Anyone who has ever visited my home will be shocked at that because apart from dust and cat fluff, books is what I have the very most of. Every available wall is covered with bookshelves, often double parked. The only rooms without permanent books are the bathroom and kitchen and then only for obvious practical reasons. I love books. I love everything about them (but the need to dust occasionally). So people were a bit surprised when I asked for a Kindle for my birthday. I was a bit surprised by it myself, to be honest. After three months, I am convinced it was an excellent move.

Let me tell you why.

I’d stopped buying books.

Yes, this book lover had been walking into bookshops that ten years ago I’d have come out of laden with books. For the last few years, it had become a rare event that I bought books. Or even borrowed them. Don’t get me wrong, I bought a few. And was almost universally disappointed.

Books had stopped thrilling me, surprising and delighting me. They gave me a sense of ennui beyond mere boredom. I was actually sick of them.The Kindle has changed all that.

One of the things I noticed quickly was that the books by my previously favourite authors were still often almost as expensive as the hard copies. There is no reason why this should be so. An e-book costs virtually nothing to distribute. As an independent author myself I have opinions about the whole sea-change in the publishing world, but basically the e-book means that authors can now reach readers without the intervening publisher getting in the way. They’re not subject to anyone saying “You can’t do that,” or “That doesn’t sell” or
“That’s not what readers want.” I had a novel rejected almost at
the last stage because the editor felt that there needed to be
payback for the baddies(I simplify) for what they did to the heroine.
I disagreed. Real life  rarely provides neat solutions and
resolutions; closure is seldom forthcoming.  Mark Twain once said
that truth is stranger than fiction and he was so right. Real life is
so strange and unpredictable and the fiction I’d been reading was
just that: predictable. It had become formulaic, to the point that
even if I didn’t guess the ending, I knew all the stages. It followed
the fads and fashions of the literary world to such an extent that
even reading the blurb was making me nauseous.

Where oh where was originality and daring? Where was risk-taking and being controversial? I’m not talking about the now-endless books about child abuse and rape. I’m talking about simply letting a story take you where it wants to go, not where the dictates of literary mores would have it go. I’m talking about Story as a living, breathing
symbiont of the writer, where templates, character outlines plot
conventions and other cookie cutters are instruments of vivisection
and torture.

Welcome to the world of the independents. Welcome to a whole new universe of possibilities. Sure, some will be rubbish. But so is James Patterson.

I’m going to be reviewing books I discover, and sharing my favourites. By and large they won’t be about already famous authors (except in a few cases) even though in terms of blog hits, those would bring me many. My post about Susan Howatch is my highest hitting post of all time. No, that’s not what this blog is about. I want to showcase those brilliant and brave authors who don’t have a Juggernaut of a publishing house behind them, or a phalanx of marketing experts whispering advice at every turn.

So coming soon(in no particular order of merit) will be:

Anomaly” by Thea Atkinson (the very first book on Kindle I actually paid for, having got hooked by the sample.)

The Butchered Man” by Harriet Smart

The Company of Fellows” by Dan Holloway

Those are just my starters. If you have an suggestions for must-read
indies, please let me know. Being semi-fossilised already, I really
REALLY dislike romance, not keen on fantasy(though I have
enjoyed some) and classic chick-lit (of the shopping, shoes and sex
variety) generally has me reaching for the razor blades.

Anyway, I hope you will set sail for new seas and start exploring a strange new world of literature that didn’t exist even a few years ago. This kind of exploring doesn’t involve insect repellent, native guides or
Montezuma’s revenge (or Delhi belly even) but it has a risk all of
its own that you might not like:

It may open your mind.        

10 thoughts on “Setting Sail For New Seas ~ Exploring The Uncharted Territories

  1. Interesting post, Viv, and full of Explorer energy. Invigorating just to read it. Look forward to reading these (your reviews if not the books!)

    It sounds like your job, with its unavoidable element of travel, takes you deep into your shadow – funny how life gives these opportunities. Have I said this before? Somehow I feel I’m repeating myself………


    • ha you sounded like some lines from Four Quartets at the end there.
      I’m intending to write a few and schedule them for when the season means I’m finding it hard to get any writing time.


  2. Thank you!
    No books in the bathroom? Really? I suppose come to think about it, we don’t – but there’s a humungous stack on the landing outside the bathroom door ready for reading in The bath. Talking of which, if you go on the Amazon Kindle forums there are whole threads about how to keep your Kindle dry (see – it really is like Ray Mears! I’m sure he’s always going on about that!). Apparently a sandwich bag will do the job nicely!

    There are so many wonderful books out there by indie authors. These are the ones I would put top of my personal list – but that’s just my taste. I also run a column interviewing indie thriller writers at and am part of a wonderful group of indie kindle writers at

    Neil Schiller – Oblivious, The Haiku Diary
    James Everington – The Other Room, Feed The Enemy
    Marion Stein – Loisaida
    Larry Harrison – Glimpses of a Floating World
    Ali Cooper – The Girl on the Swing
    Billie Hinton – Claire-Obscure
    Russell Bittner – Trompe L’oeil
    Steve Gaskin – Make a Move
    Moxie Mezcal – Concrete Underground

    And the books I publish at eight cuts gallery press, which I genuinely believe are the 3 best books on Kindle
    The Dead Beat by Cody James
    The Zoom Zoom by Penny Goring
    Verruca Music by Stuart Estell


  3. I love seeing indies get some recognition. I’m an avid reader too and am finding the indie world is offering me much more of what I want.

    Larry Enright’s Four years from Home was a special read for many reasons
    LK Rigel’s Space Junque for scifi

    oh, too many to name. but there is a spot on FB where there is a list of new indie authors…summer moonshine deals. some great indie authors there.


  4. I meant to add how honored I ma to be mentioned but I got thinking about a few authors I might recommend and got sidetracked. But many many thanks It has just made my week!


  5. I know I would love a Kindle – I will get there one day. However, I loved Susan Howatch’s books. I devoured them and breathed the aftertaste to many subsequent devotees. I understand she was a lawyer…oy…I’m fussing. I wonder if it would be easy to find the link to your post about her.


  6. Glad you’re reading Dan Holloway – he’s a super author. Lots of his suggestions in his comment are good, although modesty forbids me to recommend his second…

    I’d also throw into the mix:

    Pulling Teeth – Alan Ryker
    His Story – Zabrina Way
    Anything by Iain Rowan
    Oblivious – Neil Schiller


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