Stephen King Made Me An Author

I have been writing stories since I was a kid. I can still remember lying on the floor in front of the TV with my new Ghostbusters notebook and pencil and writing a story about how Slimer became a Ghostbuster. That would have been when I was around seven years old.

It was all just for fun, but that was all it needed to be.

Many years later, I was still writing, although school and socializing meant I didn’t have as much time for it as I used to. I wasn’t reading so much either. Honestly, if things had carried on the way they were, I probably would have given up on the whole writing business.

Then I read The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition.

If you’ve read it, you know it’s a big book. Certainly the biggest I’d read up to that point. I went through the whole thing in a single weekend, and I was hooked.

From that point on, I read every Stephen King book I could get my hands on. There were a lot. I raced through them all. Some I loved more than others, but every one of them had something special about it. I started reading interviews, and then tracking down the books that he loved, and reading them as well.

And a funny thing happened along the way. It wasn’t just a love of reading that returned; it was writing as well. Suddenly, I was taking the idea of becoming a professional writer seriously.

After that I was buying the writers digest, submitting stories to magazines and following King’s advice from On Writing. I was on the journey that would lead me to where I am today and wherever I will be in the future. None of it would have happened if it wasn’t for Stephen King.

Long days, and pleasant nights to you all

Giving Up A Book

My son Oscar is seven years old and just starting his reading career. Until now, most of the books he has read have been single-sitting stories. He’s an excellent reader though and at school they are getting him started on longer books with fewer pictures. However, since he went back to school at the start of the month, he has been carrying the same school book around with him and doesn’t make any progress on it.

This morning I asked him if he was enjoying the book and he admitted he wasn’t. So I told him to stop reading it and ask his teacher for another one.

When we are young, there are too many people who tell us we should finish every book that we start. I used to think that way as well. But it makes little sense. There are far more books in the world than anyone could read in a lifetime. You couldn’t even hope to read a fraction of the books that you might love in your life. So why waste time on stories that you don’t like?

I should really start keeping a list of all the books that I start and abandon. At a guess, it’s probably as long as the list of books that I finish.

As Oscar grows up, there are going to be books he has to read for school, which he won’t like very much. I remember brute-forcing my way through Tess of the d’Urbervilles at secondary school. If I never read another description of rolling fields, I will be happy. I then studied for an English Literature degree and there were plenty of books there that I didn’t enjoy, but read because I needed to for my course.

The school book Oscar is reading isn’t because he is going to have to write an essay about it. The book he is reading is not high literature, and it’s not because he finds it difficult that he’s not enjoying it. He is reading it for pleasure and for that purpose, there are plenty of other books he could read and enjoy.

So really, what I’m saying is give up on the books you don’t enjoy reading. Every book we read which we don’t enjoy, is one less book that we would enjoy.

On Digital Books

I was born in 1983 and for more than half my life, reading books has meant paper. The first ebook reader I ever saw was in Waterstones book shop. It was one of the old Sony Reader ones, which means it can’t have been earlier than 2006 when they were released. Probably more like 2007. This was the first time I had seen an e-ink screen, and I was immediately interested. Unfortunately, I was a student at the time and the £500 that it would have cost to buy put it well outside of my price range.

The first ebook reader I owned was the Kindle Keyboard, which was the third-generation device, and the first at a price I could justify. Amazon released it in 2010, which means I would have been 27 years old when I started buying eBooks.

In the 13 years since I bought my first digital book, I have never not owned an eBook reader. Most of the time, that has been a Kindle, but I have also owned a Kobo and an Onyx Boox. They have always been e-ink devices.

I have bought paper books as well during that time, but reading that way no longer feels right. Although I love the aesthetics of a paper book, and I enjoy seeing them on my shelves, nothing can really beat the ease and convenience of reading an eBook.

Regardless of how many pages the book is, when it’s the eBook edition, it is comfortable to hold and read. I can carry around an epic fantasy novel with the same ease of a novella.

When I have tried going back to paper books (from time to time I get nostalgic for them) I have found I read much less. It’s difficult to hold a paper book open in one hand while stroking a cat. Paper books close themselves when putting them on the table to read while eating.

With a digital book, I can also read on my phone if I have forgotten to bring my eBook reader with me, or if I have been delayed unexpectedly somewhere. If I want to, I can buy the audiobook version as well and split my reading between audio and visual.

I have never been one to take notes in actual books. Something about writing in a book has always felt wrong to me. But I can do that with a digital book and not feel any sense of guilt. When I sync those notes and highlights up with a digital service like Obsidian, I can carry my book notes around wherever I am. As well as back them up, so I don’t have to worry about losing the book.

Last year I started wearing glasses for reading. With a digital book reader, I can adjust the size of the text so that I can still read myself to sleep without needing to wear them. That’s a convenience for me, but there are millions of people who need larger text books to read at all. With paper they are reliant on publishers putting out a large print edition, but with a digital reader they can make any book large print.

Digital books are not without their shortcomings. I have bought paper editions that feature illustrations, for example. But advances in color e-ink and increasing screen sizes of digital book readers are likely to eliminate those limitations in the next few years.

I also owe my career to digital books. While it’s now possible for independent creators to publish both paperback and hardback editions, it’s hard to imagine print-on-demand existing without the independent author movement being fueled by digital books.

I have nothing against paper books and expect to continue buying them from time to time. I will certainly continue publishing my own books on paper, because I love having a physical copy of them. But I love digital books most of all, and cannot foresee a time when they won’t be my primary reading method.

JRV Press

As of last night I officially own the domain name

This is the name for the company that I will be using to publish my books going forward.

The name stands for Jude Robert Victor. This is the name of my oldest son.

Jude was born on 12th July 2013 and he died suddenly and unexpectedly on 1st June 2021.

I haven’t written about Jude’s death here yet and now does not feel like the time to do so. What I will say is that Jude loved books. He devoured them, both metaphorically and literally. We have dozens (hundreds?) of books that still have his tooth marks in them.

It seems like a suitable name for a publishing company. I think he would have appreciated it.

The War Against Distraction

There is a lot of money in distraction. A lot of time and effort goes in to ways to make us spend more time on social media, browsing websites, checking our messages. There is a lot of money on the table for the companies that can convince us to spend the most time on their products and services.

I struggle a lot with distraction.

Last week when I was sick, I spent a lot of time online. Enough to make me sick of checking the same websites repeatedly. Enough that I felt as if I’d read everything worth reading (and plenty of things that weren’t) on Reddit. I didn’t have the energy to do much more. I was distracting myself because I felt unwell.

On Monday, I went out for lunch with my mum. We were talking about reading and she told me she used to read two or three books a week but now can’t concentrate for long enough to read books at all. I told her it was because she had Facebook on her phone. She then told me she’d read they were going to charge for Facebook, which I explained would never happen, but I realized she was waiting for something like that to save her from the distraction.

When the Reddit blackout was happening to protest the API changes, I saw a few posts of a similar nature. People saying it was a good thing because if they couldn’t use their favorite app, they wouldn’t want to use the service at all. There seems to be a similar sentiment regarding the destruction of Twitter / X that is currently happening.

We recognize that these services, and the way we are using them, are problematic, but we are also waiting for someone else to come along and save us from them. Whether that be the hoax of Facebook charging users for the service, or a service becoming less appealing. I don’t see many people taking a stand and making changes because they know it is beneficial for them.

Like I said at the start, there’s a lot of money at stake for these companies. Even if the current ones became unusable, there will be others to take their place. Distraction is big business, and it’s going to be even bigger once companies convince us to walk around with headsets strapped to us all day long. I just don’t see a world in which someone else comes along and saves us from these distractions.

If businesses are going to put in so much money and effort into keeping us distracted, it seems reasonable that we might need to do the same to avoid or escape from them. That’s where I have ended up. It has meant getting over the nagging voice in my mind that says things like ‘just stop using it’ and ‘that’s overkill for avoiding looking at your phone too much’. It has meant accepting that I have to invest a fraction of the time and effort being used to distract me, to escape.

I am typing this blog post (at least the first draft) on an e-ink screen. The first draft fiction that I wrote this morning way typed on the same screen. It is not as quick as a computer monitor, and everything is in black and white, but it doesn’t distract me. There is no part of me that thinks I could do a quick command-tab over to check Reddit, or whatever. My phone (an iPhone, for now) has nothing much on it. If I am at home and want to listen to music, I will use my record player. If I am out and about, then I have an old MP3 player.

There are other things as well, but I think you get the point.

I do not think this is a one and done situation. Technology keeps changing, more money keeps being invested and new systems for distraction keep coming. There will be temptations ahead, and it may cost me more money, and more convenience, to fight back against it. I do not think there is anyone else coming to save me from these distractions, so I am going to have to keep saving myself.

Another Day in Isolation

It’s no fun being sick. It’s even less fun not feeling sick but not being able to do anything because you might still be infectious.

I woke up yesterday feeling a lot better but when I took a Covid test it quickly showed that I am still positive and that meant back to my chamber of isolation. It came up so quickly and the line was so strong that I think I have a lot of the virus still in my system.

So here I am, sitting in my office while Tamzin and Oscar are out doing something fun in town and I can’t join them.

I don’t think I’m totally recovered yet. Still have that virus feeling of hot skin and I don’t have a lot of energy, but I’m sick of being on my own. Yesterday I watched a couple more films and lots of The Simpsons and Family Guy episodes.

It’s the last full week of Oscar’s summer holiday and I haven’t been able to enjoy it with him.

On the bright side though, neither he nor Tamzin seem to have gotten Covid. That’s good. Also no reports from the people who I saw at the weekend coming down with it. I guess I have taken this one for the team. But it’s still frustrating.