Where in the world are you?

Or more accurately…  where in the virtual world am I? 

Here I am... as always these days, never far away from a Crockett novel.

Here I am… as always these days, never far away from a Crockett novel.

This site is quiet (verging on the grave) because I’m so busy elsewhere. So where can you catch up with me (should you want to?)

At the moment I’m ‘directing’ the 3rd Edinburgh eBook Festival which runs until 3rd September every day (and night) HERE 

I’m also sometimes to be found blogging at Wee Voices, also at Authors Electric.

I’m on Facebook (hanging on grimly by my toenails at times) as Cally Phillips but more interestingly (perhaps) at the International Picnic Club site.  I am not and have never been a party person, but I’m still in search of the perfect picnic.And  unless you are prepared to shell out money Facebook no longer seems to be a place for serious stuff, so it’s just a bit of fun.

Meanwhile, back in  ‘reality’ I’m still working hard for Ayton Publishing Limited getting out the work of S.R.Crockett – the most obvious manifestation of this is The Galloway Raiders which is a free membership organisation providing a hub for all things S.R.Crockett related.  It’s been variously described as a ‘literary society,’ an ‘appreciation society’ and an ‘online club’ none of which properly describe it and all of which suggest to me a deeper truth in the Daoist saying ‘name is the thief of identity.’  It’s just THE GALLOWAY RAIDERS.  If that title alone doesn’t intrigue and interest you then you may as well pass it by. Here I am (or was) in April, talking about him to Willie Johnston of BBC Scotland (There’s text and video HERE  I work to a budget so can’t afford a full 15 minutes of fame, but Willie did a grand job in getting Crockett mentioned in the meeja!

I’m preparing to talk Crockett at Wigtown Book Festival this September,  HERE and HERE and HERE after which it will be batton down the hatches for winter and get writing…

So. All these various real and virtual places and activities mean that it’s unlikely I’ll be on here very often (indeed I’m favouring disappearing into the virtual mountains like Lao Tzu ) but if you are interested in any of the links above, there’s plenty a trace of me to be found on the internet, even if I’m not actually there/here myself. And there’s still lots of archive stuff on this site to explore (including free downloads!)

Is this a game-changer?

book launch wigtown

Boook launch at Wigtown April 16th 2014

As you’ll all know, (or not) I’ve been down and dirty in the world of publishing the last 18 months and intensively so over the last 3 months getting The Galloway Collection published and launched.  Now that’s done I won’t say I have any spare time, but I do have time to legitimately be looking at ‘the market’ and ‘market trends’ and all that good stuff.

I’ve just come across a couple of things that I think may be game changers in the world of publishing.

First. Blinkbox ebooks from Tesco.  We all know that the publishing market is pretty well sewn up by the big boys.  Amazon has had the unassailable lead for some time now and while we may hate this as indie authors or small publishers (or anyone not ‘in’ the mainstream or ‘elite’ of the publishing work) I’m guessing that most of us cannot help but buy from Amazon a lot of the time.

To re-version Hamlet,  Thus Amazon has made hypocrites of us all.

Of course there are alternatives to Amazon and to Kindle, but to date certainly in the UK these are pretty limited in scope and appeal.  I personally went with Kobo in 2011 (on the basis they were Canadian and I like Canadians- then they were bought out by Japan!) and so got into the whole epub versus Kindle debate.  I joined the Kobo Bookstore in 2012 but it still can’t give me any visibility as an author. After 2 years I’ve sold 2 copies (from a catalogue of 13 ebooks) and this is partially because even if you search for me under my name Cally Phillips you are pushed towards Carly Phillips (who writes a completely different style of book.)  I haven’t managed to get into the istore because they keep  telling me my address (and so myself?) doesn’t exist and there’s only so much time I can devote to going round in circles with computer systems.  And anyway, you can use Kindle for PC/ipad without needing to buy one. And you can use ibooks and download epubs (which is my most favoured option) to read without going near Apple istore.  There are choices. If you can be bothered to look for them.

But what it comes down to is:  everyone buys from Amazon.  I have good proof for this from personal experimentation.  Here’s how it goes. As soon as I could find a relatively easy (and cheap) way to set up an online store that allowed digital downloads as part of it (yes, there’s a monthly fee) I did so. It’s Ayton Publishing Limited’s VIRTUAL BOOKSTORE.  And during the launch period of The Galloway Collection I offered members of The Galloway Raiders (that is people who have actually expressed enough interest in the work of S.R. Crockett and so should be interested in his books), to sign up with a hefty 50% discount on all ebooks from the Virtual Bookstore.  They could also add ‘bundle’ discounts if they bought more than one ebook at a time. with You can only do such ‘promotions’ for a limited time or Amazon will ‘price match’ you at which point I’ll get a big fat ZERO from Amazon sales, however many I sell.

Here’s what happened.  Within 24 hours of being on Reporting Scotland TV and Radio I had sold nearly 100 ebooks via Amazon.  Within the whole 50% discount period I sold 3 ebooks from the virtual bookstore.  This despite the fact that people can download both Kindle and epub versions from the virtual bookstore AND that they were cheaper on it than on Amazon.  Considerably cheaper.  So that does away with the ‘price objection’ then doesn’t it?

The strategy was worth it for me in two respects. Firstly it does show that people DO like to buy from Amazon whatever they say.  Ayton’s Virtual Bookstore is just as secure, it’s only about 2 clicks more to download your Kindle version via ‘sideloading’ to your device – it’s seriously not rocket science’ but it seems that people would rather pay more by going to Amazon than ‘risk’ actually engaging in a purchase from a different store.  Secondly – for me to offer a 50% discount was kind of risky – but with Amazon taking 65% of all my sales in ebooks I would get the same amount from a 50% discount as I would claw back from Amazon (and I wouldn’t have to wait 6 weeks for it).  The experiment showed to my satisfaction that even when offering a blindingly good cheap deal, people will still pay more for perceived ‘security’ or ‘ease’ of Amazon.

This  is a shame for me, because if people buy from my virtual store at a 20% discount (which is what I offer members on an ongoing basis) they pay less and I get more. I’d call that a win win. AND as I point out, they can download the file in both formats and so easily use it on Amazon Kindle AND other tablet/smartphone devices for the price of one ebook.

But – that’s life. Amazon is here to stay.  Or so I thought.

The gamechanger? Well, today I discovered Blinkbox ebook store. It has free ebooks on offer to tempt you in (of course) It looks like halfway house between Amazon and Kobo and probably has learned from both of them.  It seems to have good links once you’ve picked a ‘free’ one to link you on to others – though the ‘free’ I downloaded suggested I might like another ebook (and yes, I might have been interested in it) but the eyewatering price of that other ebook was £19.99.  I struggle to pay that for a physical book. No way would I pay over £5 for an ebook. Sorry.  And Blinkbox has plenty of ebooks over that price – because of course it’s selling for mainstream, and mainstream don’t really like ebooks historically – but I suspect now they’ve seen that they can make buying ebooks a ‘lifestyle choice’ and get people to pay as much for the ebook as the physical book – selling on the ‘convenience’ of downloading to your device rather than having to deal with that old paper stuff.  As I say, things are changing in publishing.  The big boys are moving into the digital marketplace. You’d better believe it. They’d be mad not to – it’s much less costly for them to produce ebooks than print ones.

Maybe I should be worried that Blinkbox doesn’t seem to have any way for a small publisher like me to get onto their lists. But then I can’t get my books into Tesco stores either.  Instead, I take a more sanguine approach. I see a future trend emerging.  I’ve noticed recently that everyone and his cousin seems to be setting up online ebook/book stores: The Guardian have done it,  PrintonDemandWorldwide (who I used to use to print my paper books till they got big and stopped answering my emails – why have an email response system which ignores your customers?) have set up The Great British Bookstore. As I say. Everyone’s at it.  As indeed am I with Ayton Publishing’s Virtual Bookstore.

So instead of wringing my hands at being squeezed out of yet another ‘market place’, I’m banking on the fact that in the future there will be more fracturing of this digital publishing ‘marketplace’ and as people get more savvy some of them will veer towards ‘niche’ publishing stores.

There are people who will only ever download and read free books. There are people who will only ever buy their books from Tesco stores, from Amazon or on the recommendation of bestsellers lists. There are even some who resolutely refuse to do anything other than buy print books from a physical Bookseller.  I can’t service these people. I don’t have the money to compete with printing zillions of copies of physical books, pay the marketing  and advertising to get them hyped and on the shelves.  As I suspected– 2 minutes on Scottish media gave me a short but wagging tale which has seen some 200 purchases in a fortnight (currently 5 from my store, 22 from my Print on Demand and the rest ebooks from Amazon KDP) but I can’t keep up that level of visibility so I’m guessing my ‘tail’ will be short and the ‘spikes’ will be infrequent.

As a micro publisher I know I cannot compete with mainstream publishing. None of us can.  But that doesn’t bother me. I’m not trying to compete with them. I’m trying to create my own niche. I like to think of it as a field rather than a market. A quiet backwater rather than a mighty river.  An artisan place not a superstore. It’s a place people can come IF they are interested or think they might be, and where they can make an informed choice before they buy.  It’s a field but it’s not for sheep.  Sheep buy from Amazon. Sheep follow ‘market’ trends. Sheep only buy bestsellers.  Me, I’m looking for ‘readers’  Real readers who love to explore, experience and see reading as a way to enter a new world either familiar or strange – people for whom reading is part of the fabric of their life, not a ‘lifestyle’ choice or an aspirational goal.  People who don’t need to be told what to read by the media, by book groups or even by me.

I know these people are out there.  Finding them without selling your soul to the god of global capitalism is the key. And that will require a reciprocity.  It’s not so much about me going looking for people as about people coming looking for me (or the likes of me). My future will depend on BEING HERE for the people who are brave enough or pioneering enough or savvy enough or cynical enough to appreciate that the internet is a two way relationship – a tool to be used rather than a Big Brother to tell you what you love. However much you engage with Google algorithms, the only real way for niche to flourish is by proactive , savvy behaviour on the part of the ‘looker’ and by genuine co-operative ‘sharing’ between people who don’t have a herd mentality.

If you are one of these people you can find Ayton Publishing’s Virtual Bookstore here and if you might be interested in S.R.Crockett ‘Scotland’s Forgotten Bestseller’ you can join The Galloway Raiders for free and find out more about him.

Next time I’m going to look at the ‘game-changer’ for the print publishing arena. Because rumours of the death of the print book are, I contend, overstated.


Happy 2014…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s going to be a big year!

With the festive season well and truly over for those who indulge or over indulge and the year having turned for those of us who don’t either celebrate or indulge, I thought I’d post a few of my personal highlights and events for 2014.  I probably won’t be here much as I have a lot to do hanging out other places, but I’ll try and keep a monthly update going – and direct you to the other places I think are  of interest.

January – Chinese New Year. I like to indulge my Eastern leanings by celebrating (in a not very authentic way) everything from beginning to end. I note that this year they seem to be playing around with the dates – mostly it seems to make sure people don’t take too much time off work. My verdict on this – shows that Capitalism is alive and well even in China (perhaps especially in China)

February – The Winter Olympics. Any excuse to take some time off and watch winter sports will be gratefully accepted.  It’s also Fair Trade Fortnight. I may not be too engaged in that this year because of THE BIG project.

March – George turns 65 and so we’ll have our own little retirement celebration.  Note OWN and LITTLE as the operative words here. It’s personal.  I’m only mentioning it here because there’s nothing else in March!

April – At the moment everything is working towards THE calendar date of April 16th – the 100th anniversary of the death of S.R.Crockett.  The place to find out more about this is at micro-publisher AYTON PUBLISHING or the S.R.Crockett site GALLOWAY RAIDERS.  We are becoming party animals but it’ll be a party with quite a difference. Walks, picnics, readings… all the things WE like in life.

Between April and September (when we’ll have another ‘hoolie’ with the Galloway Raiders to celebrate S.R.Crockett’s birthday on Sept 24th.

In the summer of course there’s the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. But I’ll probably be too busy working to engage meaningfully with either because…

August will see the 3rd Edinburgh ebook Festival.  This year it’s running for a month and the theme is History and Homecoming. More announcements soon HERE 

September- The Independence Referendum which will be followed by the biggest party or the biggest hangover known to man. The 17th September is a day I’ve been hoping for for most of my life.  But I’m not confident that it won’t be a typical Scottish picture of snatching Defeat from the jaws of Victory.  Hopefully I’ll be back on track by 24th September whatever way the result goes, but if it’s a NO vote I can guarantee spirits will be considerably dampened for the foreseeable future.  I’d like to say I’d emigrate if we don’t get independence, but I know that at my age no where else would have me, so win or lose, we’ll just have to get on with it.  That’s why my planned year ends in September.  Because life will change substantially depending on the vote and I’m not even going to look into the autumn/winter of 2014 with my grubby crystal ball.

But that’s what I’m up to this year. No resolutions, just a lot of hard work (enjoyable mostly) and lifechanging events (hopefully also enjoyable!) See you around the virtual world!





Avoiding the ‘c’ word PART THREE

Board Games. They are part of the festivities yes?  Or as I see them BORED Games.   Monopoly. I’ve never seen something more able to cause dissent in a group of people. Cheating… naked greed… look no  further.  And then there was Trivial Pursuit.  Well, the clue’s in the title.

Personally I see Trivia versus Integrity as the battle of my time.  I am embarked upon ‘A Life Less Trivial’ and it’s quite a journey.  Trivia is quite easily avoided (for me at any rate) but it has begun to occur to me that integrity itself is sometimes a luxury.  And if you’ve been following thus far you’ll know what I think about luxury!

What do I mean, integrity is a luxury? Well, I am  a pacifist. But I have come to appreciate that this is in part a luxury of my upbringing. I’ve never had to confront the real situation where I am forced to choose about taking life. I consider myself lucky. I hope I would remain with my integrity intact if I had to make the choice. My luxury is that I don’t have to consider ‘the end justifies the means’ in anything other than a theoretical context.  Theory and practice don’t always accord though.  Who we want to be and who we are when tested might well be at great variance. My luxury is that I’ve never been thus tested.  I’ve never had to live my theory in practice.

Theoretically, I don’t believe the end ever justifies the means.  But I think that if pushed, my integrity in this position might be sorely tempted. The best I’ve ever come up with is the hope that  I would remain true (as Che Guevara did) to the position that the end does not justify the means but that sometimes, when circumstances dictate that we have to do BAD things to help others, for a greater cause, we should do them.  This is where personal responsibility kicks in.  If you do have to act thus (as Guevara and many others had to) you need to be prepared to take the full responsibility for the ‘bad’ action.  And be prepared to live with the personal and moral consequences. I hope this would be my position should I face the practical challenge. I hope I wouldn’t just give in. As it is, I’m lucky. I’ve never had to sacrifice my integrity to a cause or a reality. It’s the only luxury I’m prepared to allow myself. And it comes at a price. I know that. I’m lucky to be able to afford it.

But of course in reality I do take lives. I do ‘cost’ lives. We all do. Our luxury. Our want. Our aspiration. Everything we do every day is at the indirect cost of someone else’s life. I find that hard to live with. I do what I can to alleviate it. But it’s never enough. I do, however, feel the responsibility. Keenly. I try not to be wasteful of time, money or my skills. I try to share where I can, give when I can. Because I know it’s just an accident of birth that I’m here living this privileged life and I know there are plenty of other people who, if given the same chance, might make a better fist of it.  So at least my responsibility is not to let them down. I feel a responsibility to make the best I can of my life. It’s a daily commitment. And I never forget ‘words that do not match deeds are unimportant.’ So I’m not just saying that!

So much for theory. What of the practical? What will I be eating next week? No idea. Whatever is in the fridge and the polytunnel. We’ll eat well, believe me.  It will include rice, beans and porridge along the way but through choice not necessity.  Come to think of it I don’t even know what day of the week your ‘c’ day is this year, though I’m sure the TV will start reminding me constantly.  I tend to use this time of year to catch up on work, avoid the TV with all its ‘c’ fest, but there’s always some friend or family member will ring to remind me. Thanks for that.

If you’ve read this far I hope you might actually see that I’m not just a miserable old git. This is a matter of principle for me. I’m just a person who genuinely can’t understand the hypocrisy all around me in my society. And who wishes it would change. We don’t have to ‘do’ ‘c’ at all. So if we do it, we choose to do it. I choose not to. Isn’t that the sort of democratic freedom we all aspire towards? And yet, all of you who try to push ‘c’ upon me, or who berate me for not engaging with it on your terms, are you not denying me a freedom? The freedom to opt out.  Could you at least give me that? For Christmas if you must. After all, I’ve just given you the gift of honest opinion.

In the past decade I transitioned from being ‘anti’ capitalist to being ‘non’capitalist in word and deed and next year I’ll try and become ‘non’ Christmas instead of ‘anti’ Christmas.  I have a thought of eating nothing but porridge, rice and beans for a fortnight and donating the money I’d spend on food to charity so that other people get more than that to eat themselves. Now that would be ‘giving’ wouldn’t it?  I don’t imagine it’s a campaign I’d ever get anyone to join, but I’ll keep chipping away at the ‘c’ word. I’ll do what I can. Of course the delicious irony of that may be that in my actions, I may exhibit more of the real spirit of ‘C’ than most of those who ‘celebrate.’  Irony is perhaps one of life’s other modern little luxuries.

So hopefully for us all this is my first and last public ‘anti’ ‘C’ rant. Roll on 2014.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: If you’ve GOT to buy someone something this festive season how about Oxfam Unwrapped or other charitable gifts? There are plenty you can find online with just a couple of mouse clicks!

Or  even better, give your time or love to someone who doesn’t get enough of either.  And give till it hurts. Give to someone who needs it, not just to someone you want to give to! 

But please. Don’t give me ANYTHING. I have more than enough of everything I need.  You can give my share to someone who needs it more.

Avoiding the ‘c’ word PART TWO

You could of course be forgiven for thinking that ‘c’ time is nothing to do with giving at all. It’s all about the food. It’s all about having the biggest blow out imaginable and feeling sick before you leave the table and then eating more.  I have some issues with this as well (it may not surprise you to hear) and they start with the appropriateness of ‘feasting’ in the modern world.  We have forgotten that food is fuel. Food is now aspirational and as such a perfect adjunct to the unholy ‘c’ trinity.

I don’t like shopping at the best of times. I do it for food (as infrequently as possible since I grow as much as I can myself) but since I don’t keep a cow, I do have to pay rather too regular visits to the emporiums of food heaven.  Other shops I can largely avoid, but food shopping is something that I’ve yet not managed to conquer. But when ‘c’ season begins, I become increasingly uncomfortable. This year, so uncomfortable that I determined to avoid them from the first jingling santa sounds. I did one big stock up mid November and my goal is to avoid large food stores till January.  It’s the only way for me.

While the shops are generally full of too many choices (all of which only serve to remind me how few choices many other people have), come the ‘c’ season they are simply filled with things to make you ‘want’ them. Things you would never otherwise think of and things you certainly don’t need –either to give or be given – but which just beg you to spend money on them. Things which were probably often made by people for whom the ‘C’ word is just another part of the misery of their lives.  Things and food. And more things. And more food. And…  I’m sorry, I find it obscene. The only time I can stand supermarkets is when they have a day where they ask you to buy food for food banks and donate it. They should do this every day.  Of course they should be giving their own out of date stuff away too, but it’s good for us to have the opportunity to give directly.  It’s not so easy to just buy some food and give it to a ‘poor’ person on the street. Though a man I’m proud to call my pal Mark Frankland runs a foodbank as part of his charity in Dumfries and I’m sure he’d be glad of donations.  Direct action is always better than indirect action.

While we’re on the food gravy train, recently, I watched ‘I’m a celebrity get me out of here.’ Food was a big issue. They kept going on about how awful it was to be living (partly) on beans and rice. No one seemed moved to use the opportunity to point out that many people live like this (or worse) every day of their lives. For many people rice, or beans, or maize porridge is their only food. And no one seemed to address the question: How can we sit down at ‘c’ dinner and feast while millions of people are starving? Sorry, make that starving unnecessarily. It’s simple. I can’t. I don’t. And I won’t.  I know that this makes me a total killjoy to my culture. I’m not even sorry about it. I can’t believe how obsessed people are with food these days. The idea that we should gorge ourselves stupid on ‘tasty treats’ or luxury items as a gift to ourselves for putting up with the crap world we live in seems to be more prevalent.  But the realisation that we’re all partially responsible for the world being so crap in the first place seems to escape us.

Why do we need to reward ourselves? And why with food? Why do we all need to be part of aspirational living?  Why do we aspire to be able to go beyond need into luxury? One of my very first online ‘spats’ happened in a forum many years back where someone suggested that ‘we all need a bit of luxury now and again.’ I think it was in the context of taking a holiday to Disneyworld or some such. I pointed out that we NEVER NEED luxury. I wasn’t invited back. I didn’t care. Now this is my blog. And you have the choice not to come back if I’m offending you. I won’t care. If my thoughts on the ‘c’ word offend you, you’re unlikely to want to read anything else I write. So do yourself a favour. Don’t. Because for me, writing is creative communication. And I try to keep it to things that I feel have meaning and/or matter.  You want trivia, go elsewhere.  I believe there are a number of places making a very nice living from the twitbook style of life.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY.  Food is fuel not part of an aspirational lifestyle. Why should some of us be filling ourselves with the highest quality fuel and leaving others without the basics?  We need to redress the balance between want and need. 

Avoiding the ‘c’ word PART ONE

Okay. Usually this time of year I keep my head down and my mouth shut. I don’t want to be the ‘bah humbug’ who spoils everyone else’s good time. But I’m sorry. I’ve had more than a gutful already this year and you don’t have to read it if it’s going to upset you. You have a choice.  For me, the choice to avoid ‘c’ is becoming ever more difficult. I do what I can and I’ve tried very hard over the years to completely eradicate all vestiges but it is absolutely impossible to do. It seems to start earlier every year. This year, long before St Andrews Day happened, the shops were already filled with the jangling that presages what seems now destined to be six weeks of utter indiscriminate c-like behaviour.

Also, of course I’m not having a go at the ‘converted’. It’s a general rant so don’t imagine that the few (happy few) of you who actually read this are the ‘target’.  As always, the people who REALLY need to read this will be the ones who never see it.  Here goes:

What does the ‘c’ word mean to you?  C is for Christmas (Christianity implied) but it’s also part of an unholy trinity in my experience.  C is for Christmas and C is for Capitalism and Consumerism.  I am not a fan of any of these. I don’t participate. That’s why I don’t ‘celebrate’ Christmas.

Following some very unpleasant childhood ‘c’s, I’ve spent all my adult life trying to avoid ‘c’ engagement. I’ve been to many extremes. For example in 2000 I went to China, figuring that in that Communist bastion Christmas (as in Narnia) would be non-existant. Poor foolish me.  It was everywhere. Jangling music in the hotel constantly and all the Chinese I spoke to were just amazed that I wouldn’t be with my family at Christmas.  I got the impression that they saw Christmas as two things. 1) a Western version of Chinese New Year and 2) a cash cow.  Because the economics of  ‘C’ were (and doubtless are) as important to the Chinese as they are to us.  After all, they spend a lot of their time making the things we spend money on for Christmas.

Oh the giving. Or should that be oh the buying?  Because the ‘c’ word seems to have lost its way mightily when we talk of the spirit of giving.  The ‘C’ season is the ultimate orgy of consumerism.  We may ‘give’ things to other people but it seems to me the joy of giving for most people is actually the joy of buying things (whether the recipients want or need them or not). I’ve tried for many years to train my friends and family (such as they are) that if they  really do have to engage with the ‘c’ word and me, I’d prefer that instead of buying me something, they give something. It seems to me that if you have to engage with the spirit of ‘c’ you should really GIVE. Give to someone who needs something. And give them something they need.  I’ve failed pretty spectacularly in this endeavour.

After a period of years of giving others Oxfam Unwrapped (or similar) they have just about got to grips with the idea that I don’t DO Xmas. But I fear this is simply interpreted as a knowledge that they needn’t expect gifts from me that are ‘worth’ anything.  You’d think that would be enough to stop them buying me gifts. No. They still buy things that they want to buy.  It seems that spending money on a ‘gift’ that is actually a charity donation is way beyond their ken. That’s not what money is for at ‘c’ time now is it? No, it’s so that the buyer can enjoy the unholy trinity of ‘c’ness and tell themselves they are doing something nice for someone else. Hollow laugh. Not one of the people who comes into my ‘c’ sphere has got to grips with the fact that actually the thing I’d most like to receive for ‘c’ (if I have to) would be the knowledge that instead of buying something for me they have given money to charity.  Or even given their time to someone less fortunate. It doesn’t have to be a money transaction.  But that’s way too far for people to comprehend, I accept that.  I’m come to realise my idea of ‘giving’ is never going to happen. The best I can hope for is to get nothing (which is good because at least no money has been wasted!) but the more usual scenario is that I get something I don’t need and probably don’t want. That makes me feel bad, so in reparation what I do is give money to charity myself to the value of said unnecessary gift. So I do their giving for them. I don’t know what else to do. But every year I become more bemused by why it’s so difficult for people to ‘give’ rather than ‘buy’.  Why it’s about ‘want’ not ‘need.’

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:   Don’t give to make yourself feel good. Give to make someone else feel better.Give till it hurts. And then give a bit more. 

I’ll be back with part two tomorrow for those of strong stomachs!

Starting tomorrow…

A three part anti festive commentary. With no carols, tinsel or glitter in sight. You have been warned.  But I thought I’d give all my readers the gift of my honest opinion and the opportunity to give me the right to opt out of the whole affair without being accused of being a killjoy!

This will fill the gap while I’m trying to get my Mandela piece written. While it’s nice and easy  to post quickly on a blog,  reflection does take some time and I’m still coming to terms with the last week which I spent in South Africa. Courtesy of the virtual world.

But while you’re waiting, here’s some music. It’s possibly the single most influential piece of music on my life. Enjoy. TURN UP LOUD AND LEARN TO SING ALONG.

Become a Galloway Raider

src cartoon 300Become a Galloway Raider Chief today!

JUST CLICK HERE   or go to http://www.gallowayraiders.co.uk/an-invitation.html

This is your invitation to become a Galloway Raider. It’s FREE to join and membership between December 1st 2013 and March 1st 2014 gets you the status of Raider Chief. You’ll be in at the beginning, able to access the site during development and you’ll be the recipient of special pre-publication offers.

Just fill in your membership form – (your email address) and we’ll send you your password within 24 hours.

Once you have your password you can enter all areas of the site and the one you’ll particularly want to see is the SPECIAL OFFERS which offers you a FREE pre-publication ebook copy of Raiderland (Volume 32)  This will be retailing at £3.99 ebook and £10.99 paperback so it’s a bargain not to be missed.  Described as a ‘garrulous literary companion for Galloway lovers and Galloway travellers’ this miscellany of fiction, non-fiction and autobiography will give you an introduction to S.R.Crockett if you are unfamiliar with him, and whet your appetite for The Galloway Collection fiction titles which will be officially launched on 16th April 2014 (The 100th anniversary of S.R.Crockett’s death.)

We hope you enjoy Raiderland, and getting familiar with the site over the next few months. We’ll be keeping all our Raiders updated with news and information as things progress.src sig small

Keep in touch via the website www.gallowayraiders.co.uk

Or join us on social media platforms Facebook group  and Kiltr group  and Twitter 

Early bird catches ‘wee free’

logoprint 300Not that I’m up to much of a whimper at the moment, never mind a bang, or the bells and whistles of a ticker tape parade style PROMO. But the cat is crawling out of the bag (or out of Schrodingers box at least) and after one one year of hard work in secret, I can today reveal SOMETHING at least.

Tomorrow – 30th November, Ayton Publishing Limited launches itself upon an unsuspecting (and uncaring world). The first full catalogue THE GALLOWAY COLLECTION of 32 books (ebook and POD  paper since you ask) won’t be published till April 16th (though who knows, I may just get some ebooks out there in advance of the publication date for the lucky, desperate or demanding few who want them).

But because FOR YOU it’s a long time till April (for me, believe me it feels frighteningly close) Ayton Publishing is giving things away in advance. We’ve come up with a ‘loose’ collection called ‘Wee Frees’ which, as the name might suggest, are small free ebooks by authors close to our hearts.

test samplerThe first ‘wee free’ is published tomorrow but if you’re reading this you can get your hands on it RIGHT NOW by simply moseying on down to the website and going to the Wee Free page and in a couple of clicks it’ll be right there on your ereader.

It is a St Andrews Sampler – well, it is St Andrews Day tomorrow after all!

More Wee Frees will come between now and April to keep you interested.  And more announcements about theGalloway Raiders coming up soon. We don’t want to deluge you with excitment all in one day after all.

Everyone likes free?

Scotland-flagIt’s Scottish Book Week. I have a slightly cynical attitude to this ‘event’ I have to say. I am somewhat underwhelmed by the Scottish Book Trust if I’m honest. There are many reasons, for discussion at a later date. Suffice it to say I’m not a fan of those who use books in order to promote their own world view – (there will be much, much more from me in the next few months about the Scottish Literature/ Scottish Fiction debate and ‘who says what’s good’)- but what’s sauce for the goose etc, and so today I want to alert you to a FREE ebook for Scottish Book Week.

This is an ebook for anyone and everyone who has any interest in the Scottish Independence issue.

Because yes,

Published today in ebook format, the White Paper ‘Scotland’s Future’ is available free for all.

I tried to download it immediately it came out but it took me an hour to do so – I think the site was overwhelmed (which is a good sign?!) though of course I was worried about it being hacked – and imagining all the nay-sayers giving it ‘they can’t even organise a download, how could they run a country.’  All of which reminded me that perspective is everything.  So I calmed down, and watched Alec Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon take questions from the hungry pack of journalists (all of whom appeared to have been able to read, digest and come up with their ‘spin’ on the document with a frightening speed!! Do you detect the slightest degree of cynicism here?

Then after I’d watched the live streamed ‘launch’ and listened to the questions (the usual questions, the usual media ‘spin’ and ‘soundbite journalism’ through which one has to wade) I went back on the site and downloaded it. And reflected that this is possibly an attitude of mind one might get into in an Independent Scotland.  It’s not all about ‘smooth’ operation. It’s about being US and doing it open and transparently and giving the maximum number of people the opportunity to engage.  Sharing and talking and discussing and engaging. And taking it seriously for once. Taking some responsibility for ourselves.

I have downloaded it, but of course I have yet to READ it.  But I WILL read it. As everyone living in Scotland should. Certainly as anyone with a vote in the Referendum should. This is without doubt the most important White Paper you’ll ever read (or not) in your lifetime after all. And the Scottish Government have done what they can to get us to engage. Now it’s up to us.  Those of an independent spirit will hopefully take up the challenge.

I can’t help but think that at 600+ pages it surely should shut up all those who keep going on about NOT BEING INFORMED.  How much more comprehensive do you want it? How much easier can they make it?  It’s a free ebook for goodness sake (and online and downloadable pdf and doubtless you can front up for a paper copy if you really can’t engage with technology)

Of course there will still be those who complain about what’s in it – already I’ve heard the whining about ‘how can you say what will happen in the future when you may not be the government of the future’… it’s so tedious. The same voices who say BUT YOU HAVEN’T GIVEN US INFORMATION are the ones who cry BUT YOU CAN’T PREDICT THE FUTURE.

No folks, it’s right. No one can say with CERTAINTY what will happen in the next 10 years.  There is NO security in life folks. None.  So you either live in fear or you take some responsibility for life.

For me personally there is one certainty. A country that is afraid to be Independent doesn’t deserve to call itself a country or a nation.  It’s true, if we don’t make our own choices, others will make them for us.  Whether you are SNP or not really doesn’t matter.  The first stage of the argument is simple and beyond party politics. It’s a basic question of how you see your rights as a human being.

Ask yourself

1)     Do I want to be part of an independent country?

Everything else will follow from that.  I am a great believer in MAKE A CHOICE then MAKE IT THE RIGHT CHOICE.  If/When we are independent we will have to work to make Scotland the place we want to live in. All the politics and economics and social policy and constitution and everything that goes to make up a modern society will be up for negotiation and we will ALL have invested in it.  For me it’s a moral and emotional investment NOT just an economic argument. I want to be a proud member of a nation which has ‘backed itself’ enough to be independently self determining.  Even if we all determine to be Labour, or Tory (sorry, you will have spluttered your coffee there I know!)  or Green or whatever. This is so much bigger than party politics. It’s about us. Our society. Which is what we make it. It’s who we are and what we believe in. Beyond politics. Beyond economics.

I for one get very depressed when I think that the ‘settled will’ of people in Scotland might be NOT to be Independent. That’s so far beyond embarrassing it’s scary. And that’s why I’m prepared to stick my head above the parapet on this issue and encourage people to think hard about this. 300 years ago when the Act of Union was put in place MOST people didn’t have the opportunity to vote on the issue. This time WE DO.   The ordinary, average, Scot in the street had independence taken away from them without a by your leave. Maybe with  the promise of ‘better together.’

And we are the generation that has the opportunity to reclaim this independence. Whether you see it as righting a wrong or whether you simply see it as sensible for a country to be self determining doesn’t matter. You shouldn’t be voting on short termism but of course there is no future certainty.  Thinking we’ll be ‘better together’ or better off in the short term is that kind of thinking that set the Union up in the first place. ‘I’m all right Union Jack’ is not a phrase that sits comfortably with me.

‘They can take our lives but they cannot take our freedom’ said that well known Scot Mel William Wallace Gibson.  But they did! And now we have a chance to take it back. Will we take it? Or does being Scottish mean no more than daubing a saltire on your face and singing Flower of Scotland?  Whatever you think about the economic and political ‘benefits’ of the last 300 years, just remember – there is NOTHING better than self-determination. Painting your face bright blue and singing is not the same thing folks.  It’s not ‘real’ independence.

I remember how exciting it was when the Berlin Wall came down. When the Soviet bloc ‘disintegrated’ and the small countries got back their independence. It doesn’t matter whether your country has been part of a communist ‘dictatorship’ or a capitalist ‘democratic union’ – it’s not freedom. It’s not independence.

Independence is about assuming responsibility – about making our own decisions and sticking with them and making them work –  that’s what’s at stake here. This referendum is our chance  to regain some self-respect as a people/country/nation (the word is pretty irrelevant – you either feel this or you don’t) . And it is the legacy we will pass down. I don’t want people 300 years from now to hate me for denying them independence.  And I certainly don’t want to live out the rest of my days in an un-free country however well off I am economically.

So if you feel ill informed, stop complaining. Read the White Paper. It offers the SNP vision of a future Scotland. You don’t have to agree with their ‘vision’ in every respect, but you owe it to yourself to at least get informed about the argument and think seriously about what INDEPENDENCE means to all of us.

And remember as some other independent nation (I think it’s the Australians?) says ‘You’ve got to be in it to win it.’

Happy reading folks. And spread the word.  It’s not Harry Potter or Walter Scott but it’s possibly the most important ebook you’ll ever read.

Download links follow. And remember, your Scots, which means that ‘if at first you don’t succeed’ in downloading you don’t give up and go down the pub. You keep trying.


Read online


EPUB for most e-reader devices and apps (ISBN: 9781784120702)

MOBI for Amazon Kindle (ISBN: 9781784120719)


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