Lifting the curse!

It has come to my eagle eyed attention that today is 31/1/13 (except for people in America who don’t get the delights of palindromic dates like we do here!) and so I declare that the CURSE OF 13 must be lifted at the end of today.

I don’t like to indulge in counting how many things can go wrong in one month but here’s my personal highlights for January.

Always an early starter, I broke a tooth on Hogmanay.  The first time I’ve ever cursed Scotland for having 2 days off at new year. Couldn’t get to the dentist (or eat solids)  for 3 days. Nice start.

This was swiftly followed by Central Heating ‘issues’ and about 3 days with no CH. Well, of course we have halogen heaters and an open fire but it’s amazing how cold the house can get to in 3 days. Temperature outside was competing with temperature indoors and I was a regular at 7 degrees!  George was happy to get off to work for once!  Dogs were just UNHAPPY and when they are unhappy there’s NO peace in the world.  Possibly the cause of the great CH ‘issue’ (which we are fervently hoping DOESN’T mean a new boiler) was revealed the day the snow started to fall. Water pump knackered. Yes, the shiny new water pump we’ve only had for 18months.  Leaking.  10 days of no running water was the consequence. It’s a tale of snow and being snowed in and the repair man NOT making it up the drive but coming twice none the less… and the washing machine taking umbridge at the whole thing.   Normally I love snow but it was really in the way this time.  And after the snow comes the ice which makes getting out not just difficult and dangerous but actually IMPOSSIBLE at times. Unless you are in a bobsleigh. We have 4×4 and ATV but no bob sleigh. It’s a thought!

The washing machine is nearly fixed though it’s still having ‘issues’ with the system. As long as we clean the filter every 3 washes… which means hauling out the machine – I await the hernia!  But no, think positive, the curse will be lifted if we only survive till tonight!

THEN the tale of woe doesn’t stop because we had 24 hours of the worst gales since living here – and we’ve had some gales.  So inevitably some of the roof we got repaired last winter  wouldn’t make it through.

A tally up of costs suggests that nearly all money in this month will go straight out to tradesmen. This is our way of stopping the economy staying in a triple dip recession. No thanks necessary all.

Please note that when I say money in, I don’t mean MY money. I sold precisely 15 ebooks in January. That’s not too impressive for someone with 11 titles out there really is it?

Oh, and then I forgot. My virtual friend Dennis gave me an early present – the ‘HI’ virus. Apologies to anyone I’ve passed it on to through emails. I’m still cleaning my system as I type!  I never did like surprise presents (but I have a good idea for pressies for my 50th, so watch this space!)

But after all this tale of woe, what can you do? Well, me, I think positive, and wait for the curse to lift. And have a plan.

Tomorrow is 1st February and will be the start of 50 days of celebration – I  turn 50 on 14th and hey, I’m not intending to reach a whole century so this may be the biggest celebration I ever have.  And everyone’s invited.

My plan is to BE around online here and on goodreads and on facebook (not sure I can promise to twitter) for 50 days making new friends and chatting about things that interest me – mainly writing, reading and digital publishing – though of course I’m up for other conversation too.   But lets save something for tomorrow when THE CELEBRATIONS COMMENCE.

So. Gird your loins. It’s going to be a long long party. Longer than my 21st and that went on (as I vaguely remember) for about 10 days. What a lightweight I was then! But then of course, I was doing it FOR REAL  and this time it’s only virtual.

I look forward to meeting up with you all friends old and new over the next 50 days.  Be virtually there or be a triangle (purple) – only my closest of friends will get that reference!

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Hot off the Press…

I seem to have gone review crazy this month – well, I’ve had some time to read during the great water/snow/gale crisis so I’ve been unable to do much writing and this is the result.  Also, to show that with the demise/evolution of IEBR there is still life in the old reviewer yet.  Things will settle down to a more regular pattern in February but with a group of other avid writer/readers you can guarantee that you won’t get withdrawal symptoms when IEBR closes its doors on 21st Feb.  

Today, hot off the press is a review I wrote in anticipation of the publication of Mark Frankland’s latest offering:  

King Kenny’s Revolution. 

kennyYou say you want a revolution? Mark Frankland’s latest football story set in Liverpool may be just what you’ve been looking for.

I’ve read most of Mark’s football stories/novellas/novels (the man does have a passion for Liverpool FC unmatched among writers and greater than Nick Hornby for Arsenal) In fact maybe t’North should reclaim Mark as ‘our Nick Hornby’ Though apparently Nick brought football to the middle classes. In King Kenny’s Revolution I think that Frankland makes the case for football for the working classes (as well!) in this short but passionate story which makes the case for a revolution in the way football clubs are ‘owned’ and ‘managed.’

Historically of course professional football started with industrialisation. Mid to late 19th century urban workers were given (luxury of luxuries) a half day on a Saturday.  Professional football started as a way of giving them something to do (and spend their money on) so that they’d avoid the drink!  If you were an urban worker in mid to late 19th century Britain you worked all week, went to the footie on a Saturday and church most of the day Sunday. No time to idle around in them days!  No time (or money) for retail therapy.  In checking my ‘facts’ for this review I was amazed to discover that Liverpool FC was originally part of Everton. The impact of the split in 1892 which brought Liverpool into being must have been every bit as important to the ‘fans’ as the religious ‘Disruption’ some years earlier in Scottish Church history and indeed it turns out that from the very inception of Liverpool FC there’s a lot of interesting ‘ownership’ issues. The history of the club is inextricably linked with social history.

But enough of history.

In short, here’s what I can tell you about King Kenny’s Revolution of which I’ve been privileged to have a pre-publication read.

If you’re a Liverpool fan you’ll cheer.

If you’re a football fan at all, it’ll make you think twice about the price of tickets.

If you’re an ‘average’ wage earner things will start adding up at last.

If you’re a banker it’ll give you nightmares.

Because this clever little story is so fanciful and yet so plausible at the same time. It’s a dream, a wish fulfilment if you like  BUT if you get into the nitty gritty and crunch the numbers and look at the possibilities you can see not only that it could happen but that maybe it should happen.  I personally think that several Scottish football clubs could employ Mark Frankland to sort out their finances for them.  Mark shows a way that Liverpool FC could achieve something that Rangers FC haven’t managed – simply by looking at the club ‘ownership’ issue from a diametrically opposed view.  Instead of exploiting the little man as ‘shareholder’ his story suggests a whole new way in which fans can take ‘ownership’ and stick one in the eye to the bankers and big corporations too. What’s not to love?

Typically for Frankland, his story takes hold of you so fast that you are sucked into the ‘themes’ or the ‘angle’ of his socio-political stance. He makes you believe and that’s no bad thing in this modern world! And does it through a simple, story with real characters living ordinary lives – something that certainly anyone with an interest in football can relate to and enjoy.  And I reckon anyone with a dislike of the current global corporation version of capitalism too!

I feel I should also add that the worst script I ever read in my time reading scripts for Channel 4 (halcyon days!) was about golf.  I have steered clear of anything written about golf ever since, though late in life I’ve become something of a golf fan (watching not playing). And so it surprised and pleased me to find that the golf sections of Frankland’s book were well written, funny and as compelling as everything else he writes. So it is possible to write a good story with golf in it!  I no longer need to squirm at the thought of ‘The Back Nine.’

In conclusion – with a final Beatles title in mind: Imagine this – Mark Frankland may be a dreamer, but he’s not the only one. This fantasy COULD become reality. It just needs a few million people to come on board.  Why not invest in the ebook as a first revolutionary step?  It could give you an insight into more than the world of Liverpool FC!

You can get your hands on this little gem from Amazon in Kindle formatminiamazon

 

 

Gothic Horror is the new black!

quickening Review of  The Quickening By Mari Biella. 

I’d avoided novel when it came into my reading radar previously because I don’t like HORROR (either as a genre or a feature of my life!) Despite a great review from a fellow writer I respect (Dennis Hamley) who raves about it as a psychological thriller (which I can JUST about handle) I never got round to it. Until Mari came into my view commenting on a blog. At that point I put my theory of reciprocity (or just nosiness) to the test. What happens with me is that when I hear/connect or find out something about a writer I rush to read what they’ve written because I have this belief that one way to connect with a writer is by reading their work. And Mari had downloaded one of my books so I thought it only fair to download one of hers. It’s not a cynical review exchange system. But as a writer I’m curious about other writers and if someone has ‘got’ my work then it seems worth while seeking out their work. I know that I rarely find what I want to read from the bestsellers list and so I have to take action myself to FIND work that I want to read.  And one way of doing this is by looking at the work of those who have read my work.  It’s not a cynical ploy on my part, it just seems to be a place to start finding work from.  If I’d hated it of course that would be as far as it went.  I wouldn’t buy and certainly wouldn’t review anything I really didn’t like the look of. I’m long enough in the tooth to have a pretty good idea of what writing appeals to me from a ‘search inside’ facilty.  Nearly 50 years of constant and avid reading will do that for you I guess.  So I looked at The Quickening and decided to give it a go. Time to step outside of the comfort zone. Sometimes that pays dividends if one does it with the right spirit.

And this time it paid off for me. From the very beginning of the novel I felt like I was reading a classic Gothic Horror which is a genre I taught myself to love in my twenties (when not DOING horror made me seem far too uncool amongst my peers!)  And The Quickening is written in a style and language which I found seriously reminiscent (in a good way) of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  I revelled in the language. It was tight and all the way through didn’t slip. It’s not hard to write in the style of the 19th century with any consistency. It’s something I’ve tried and failed. You have to remain so aware of the change of use of language and syntax etc. It’s hard work frankly. But Mari Biella never makes it seem hard. I found myself thinking – if Mary Shelley had written this I wouldn’t be surprised. For those of you who don’t know that Mary Shelley wrote more books than Frankenstein, she did, but she didn’t write ENOUGH books!  And here Biella has filled a gap for me. Something of the quality of Shelley because there’s only so many times I can re-read the originals.

Now, I’m splitting hairs because I know The Quickening is set in the late 19th century not the early 19th century when Shelley was writing. But it’s of a piece. And the late 19th century is a place I’m also very familiar with (and happy in).  I taught ‘classic’ novels at A level for nearly a decade and I’m currently deeply engaged in republishing a lot of 19th century Scottish novels so I’m quite ‘into’ the period.  The fin de siècle obsession with séances and the mysterious and the way rationality and spirituality were the great conflict of the age is absolutely key to this historical period and Biella has taken themes which match to her story perfectly.

I’ll let you into a secret. The way I managed to get into Gothic horror was because I in no way believe in ghosts and I have always been able to give myself the ‘rational’ explanation (which stops the fear factor I don’t like in life) and I lose myself in the psychology of the thing. And Gothic horror allows you to do this –focus on human psychology rather than spirituality  – if you wish. What is so good about The Quickening is that whether you have my approach to these matters – the rational psychologist – or the more emotional, ghost, horror, there are more things in heaven and earth  approach – you’ll find the novel equally engrossing.  Because centrally the story is indeed about the conflict between these two views and you come up with the conclusion that you believe in. I’m sure it has as much to offer those who like the ‘spooky’ in terms of ghost stories of M.R.James and Henry James and Edgar Allan Poe as much as those who prefer their horror more psychologically gothic like Shelley.

All in all, this is a very accomplished novel which has the feel of a modern day classic gothic horror story and believe me, that’s quite something to pull off  – especially for a first novel. I can only applaud Mari Biella for the hard work that must have gone into writing this AND say that when you read it it’s like ice dancing – you don’t see that hard work, you just revel in the moment of the writing.

You can get The Quickening from Amazon HERE

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Cally is part of the Reading Between the Lines Review Collective a group of professional writers committed to writing good reviews about great books!

The Island of Whispers by Brendan Gisby

whispersI hate rats.  I’m with George Orwell on that one. It’s room 101 to me. So I was reluctant to read this novel at first. I only did it because I love Gisby’s work and by now I’ve  read near on everything else he’s written so I needed to ‘fill in the gaps.’ An amazing thing happened. As I read through the book I found myself empathising with the plight of the rats and while I won’t say I loved them, I began at least to look at these rats in a totally different light. Because this book is cut out of the same cloth as Orwell’s Animal Farm and Richard Adams’ Watership Down.  But it’s even more clever in my opinion. Because it’s darker. And rats are just the right animal for what is essentially an examination of society and the politics that governs it. On one reading I know I haven’t fully plumbed the depths of this aspect but I do know there is a depth to be plumbed. If you want to. If you don’t, there’s still a cracking dark story of the way society works.  If you were to anthropomorphise rats they wouldn’t be like rabbits now would they? No, and that’s what’s so clever about the story.  You never feel like you want to pick them up and cuddle them. You feel like you’re in the middle of some Stalinist pogrom for much of the time and that sense of unease is quite important to the story. Gisby plays with our emotions in order to make us think not just about rats but about ourselves and our own social relations. The story also explores the relationship between man and rat. On the surface there’s an inoffensive little story of people celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Bridge across the Forth. In the background, is what happens ‘under’ the bridge.  In the process of which the tables are turned and the background becomes the foreground. The ‘anniversary’ is essentially unimportant (to the rats at least!)  I like this clever repositioning of priorities. It shows up so clearly that this is a story of what goes on underneath, behind the scenes, in the background. Which of course is why rats are so appropriate. I hate the ‘fact’ that we are all supposed to be no more than five feet away from a rat  at any time. I’ve had two houses infested by rats. One was an old farm house so you’d ‘expect’ that would you? The other was a new build – cunningly newly built on land that had ‘belonged’ to rats and which it seems they weren’t that keen to give up.  And maybe that experience gives me enough insight to actually engage with the lives of the rat colony on the Island of Inchgarvie. Not to like them you understand, but to accept that they exist, or even co-exist with me in the world. Whether I like them or not. As a child we occasionally picnicked on Inchcolm Island in the Forth.  I’m glad we never went to Inchgarvie. Strangely however, in the process of  reading this book I became quite keen for Twisted Foot and his crew to ‘make it’ to a place of safety, I’m not sure I want to meet them face to face. But I cared about them in the way that a great book makes you care about characters.  If Twisted Foot wasn’t a rat I’d be his friend! And so maybe in reading this story I’ve learned something about the importance of live and let live.  There’s a further clue in the dedication! Gisby dedicates this book ‘to all good rats everywhere’ and that insight suggests to me that maybe we all need to think a bit more carefully about  what it means to be a rat. And what it means to be good.

miniamazonYou can get The Island of Whispers on Amazon as an ebook  OR as a paperbackminiwhiteamazon

Or visit Brendan Gisby’s author page for MORE OF HIS WORK

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Cally is a member of the Reading Between the Lines review collective 

Silence is frozen…

I’ve been keeping quiet mainly because I didn’t want to give the world a blow by blow account of the current LIVING WITHOUT RUNNING WATER SAGA.  I understand that on the one hand this is precisely the sort of gold dust that blogs thrive on. But it’s been a kind of long boring story for me and I don’t see how it will be anything other than a long boring story for anyone else (by proxy) Suffice it to say it’s been very hard to focus on work while dealing with the combination of central heating boiler issues, water pump leaks, washing machine blowing up, and snow all of which has led to the 10 days without running water fiasco which I’m NOT telling you about here.

That’s my excuses out the way. I’m adapting to circumstances and since there seems to be no evident sign of anyone coming to FIX the problem (again) in the near future I’m settling down to some small bits and pieces of work. Today I actually achieved the writing of 3 reviews and so I’m going to post one here in a minute – but deserving of a separate post because I don’t want to blight it with the curse of this post!

Life goes on. And on. And on. And it’s all just a distraction from WORK.

So. Normal(ish) service will be resumed within the hour with my latest review from Reading Between  the Lines.  I hope you like it.

Reasons to be cheerful…

2013 didn’t start that propitiously for me. I broke a tooth on Hogmanay and had to wait 3 days to see the dentist. Having a pathological fear of dentists isn’t a good thing in that situation. But that’s in the past now. Tooth repaired. Sanity restored. Fear abated (for a while) And now I have quite a few reasons to be cheerful (Ian Dury only had 3 and I have 4 at least today) so I thought I’d share the joy. Note: stylistically I’m working up from the least to the best.

1. It’s snowed at last. Which means I can look out onto a white vista and everything is bright rather than dull and I can start worrying about whether the bamboo will survive rather than all the other things in life one has to worry about. (I’ve misplaced my camera under a pile of books so I can’t take a picture!)
2. At the moment my ‘day’ job is excellent. Because it means I spend half my life in the nineteenth century with a few wee forays into the eighteenth century. Great.
3. I’ve just had a short story published on McStorytellers. I love the whole concept of McStorytellers. I’ve never been a true fan of ‘the short story’ it seems a bit like ‘the sonnet’ with rules and regulations designed to stifle your creativity. But McStorytellers is Scottish short stories. By that I mean that you have rants and havers and as long as it’s below 5000 words (and is thought provoking, interesting or entertaining) pretty much anything goes. And it’s FREE. It’s a great place to put all those short pieces one couldn’t ever think what to do with, or try out new stuff before compiling a collection. And it’s the brainchild of one Mr Brendan Gisby or Bimbo Geesby or… (you need to read his book The Five Sons of Charlie Gisby to get that joke) I don’t know how he does it. As someone who ‘tinkers’ with blogsites and the like and who has been driven half demented by IEBR in the past year, I would take every hat I have off to Brendan if I was wearing one. But I’m not because even though it’s 11 degrees in here just now, I’m indoors and it’s rude to wear a hat indoors. Everyone knows that. Anyway, my NYR (not that I make them) is to submit one short to McStorytellers each month. NO, I’ve just changed that. It’s to get one short ACCEPTED every month. So I will have to keep my quality UP! And the first on JANUARY BLUES is up there RIGHT NOW. Read it and weep.
4. I’ve just had a mention and review by Mark Frankland for my collection It Wisnae Me. I’ve been helping (uh, if you call bamboozling him and virtually hitting him over the head very hard with a very big stick saying ‘you have to do it THIS WAY’ helping!) lose his Amazon freebie virginity. He rocked it to #1 in the political section US and I think in UK too. What I like about Mark is that he’s a man who tells the truth (calls spade and all that) and his blog today tells of his experience. And gives me a mention which is nice. A person you know to be honest telling you they like your work is worth any number of anything from anyone else in my book.

So that was my treat for my coffee break. Now I need to get back to that joyous Day Job – let me tell you that copyediting 19th century work is INTERESTING. Especially in Scots.

 

Guerrilla Midgie Publishing

Update on what’s going on with Guerrilla Midgie Press in the first quarter of 2013.

Jack’s Back – the irresistible rise and rise of the Bard of DrumTumshie. 

moretales2On the first 13th day of the year 13 we are happy to publish Jack MacRoary’s second collection MORE TALES FROM TATTYBOGLE. Jack was a runaway success at the inaugural Edinburgh eBook Festival with his wry commentary on contemporary culture which we published as  TALES FROM TATTTYBOGLE. Now Jack has done it again. His concerns are more domestic this time and you can be sure you’ll get to know more about the boy, his family, and daily life in rural DrumTumshie.

jack macBoth eBooks are available in Kindle and epub format for a mere 77p.

BUY TALES FROM TATTYBOGLE  – Kindle / epub

BUY MORE TALES FROM TATTYBOGLE Kindle / epub

 

‘Labels are for Tins not for people’ goes…

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Is there anybody out there…

(Sorry, just felt like a bit of a Pink Floyd moment there!)

After yesterdays wee ‘rant in the disguise of promoting another’s work’ which developed off site into a bizarre short story which I’m about to submit to McStorytellers (we’ll see if they accept it!) I got a couple of responses. A sale of Men in White Suits (thank you Catherine) and a sale of Brand Loyalty (buyer unknown – I’d like to think it was whoever returned it feeling a pang of conscience, but I know life isn’t like that. I don’t have THAT MUCH POWER!)

AND finally a review (which because it’s from Italy means it goes on US site as well as UK site) from one Mari Biella whose work has been reviewed by Dennis Hamley on IEBR.  With my new almost learned skill of reblogging you can find the link to this by scrolling down to the blog post before this (I think!)

It’s a good review.  By which I mean, one which seems to a) have enjoyed and b) understood the novel. Thank you Mari.

You can read her review here (oh, I just realised I was so happy to read the review I never even looked to see how many STARS she gave it. I don’t care. I know that stars are the way into a lot of other places for visibility but I find it all too childish or indeed ULTIMATE to bother with)

And to kind of prove my pay it forward, reciprocity view of the world I’ve linked above to all those nice people who prove to me that ULTIMATE have NOT completely taken our souls yet.

 

And of course, even though it’s out of my comfort zone I will be rushing off to download THE QUICKENING right now so that Mari has a nice wee moment of joy at another sale complete (though maybe she sells more than 1 a month and doesn’t obsessively look at stats!)  I will read it. I have read The Turning of the Screw (though it makes me break out in a cold sweat just thinking about it) and I have been brave enough to read Island of Whispers by Brendan Gisby recently so I shall just gird my loins and hope not to be scared witless.  Though I suppose being scared witless would be the proof that it’s doing its job. I can report thus far that while I started reading Island of Whispers HATING and being scared of rats, before the end they had gained my sympathy and I was rooting for them. Don’t let any of the REAL ones who might lurk nearby get any ideas by that though. I don’t want to MEET a rat or have on in my floorboards EVER AGAIN!!!!  (Sorry Dan Holloway, rat lover extraordinarie)

Now. I need to download that book… send that short story to McStorytellers… get on with my fair trade research and work out the finer details of my great big birthday gift (coming in February!!!) It’s all go here folks. Won’t even have time to check stats!

 

 

indie e-book review

From the very first page of this absorbing psychological, supernatural, highly atmospheric thriller I knew exactly the territory I was treading.  I recognised the calm, reasonable narrative tone: the voice of an educated, thinking, rational person, bookish even, who was about to experience terror fit to shrivel the blood.   The book starts with the narrator’s unambiguous statement of the sort of story he is about to tell.  This is the style and technique of Edgar Allan Poe, MR James, Henry James in The Turn of the Screw, and in our own day, Susan Hill in The Woman in Black, The Mist in the Mirror and The Small Hand: even Kate Mosse in such a book as The Summer Ghosts.  And it is done extremely well – as well as Poe, the two Jameses and Hill: better, I have to say, than Mosse.

Lawrence Fairweather, an amateur botanist with a private…

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There’s no accounting for tastes…

I have to admit I’ve not done any sort of promotional activity for my work since before the madness of Christmas set in. I figured there were plenty more ‘popular’ writers than me who would be hogging the limelight.  I have long realised that I don’t have what it takes to ‘cut it’ in the hard nosed world of marketing and selling and promoting work (especially my own) I am much happier as a teacher,facilitator or innovator. So I just got on with my work – writing, editing and reviewing.  In splendid isolation in my rural ‘idyll.’

And so far this year my promotional activities thus far have been in trying to get folks to take notice of Mark Frankland’s great wee novella Brief Encounter. And trying to show Mark the how’s and why’s of getting yourself visible on Amazon. I have been helping him navigate the shark infested waters of how to give your work away for free and get SOMETHING back in return and I’m happy to say that as of this morning he’s #1 in America on Kindle’s free POLITICAL bestsellers list and #2 in UK.  I’m confident that before he resumes pricing the work at a ridiculous 77p he’ll have hit #1 on both sides of the Atlantic. That’s some small comfort for giving your work away for free. Mark is a sanguine fellow. He writes because he has something important to say (which is one of the reasons I love his work) and his passion has real consequences from time to time. He’s not a man to blow his own trumpet so I’ll tell you what he recently told me (abbreviated) in an email.  He has written several short novels which are to do with drugs A Christmas Carroll and The Roads to Down  are the ones I’m talking about here. Anyway, he says that occasionally he gets stopped in the local supermarket by people who tell him that they were going down ‘the wrong track’ and on finding themselves locked in the local cells waiting trial, the police chucked them a copy of one of his books, and with nothing else to do, they read them and it changed their lives. Now THAT’S the power of fiction. And I have to say my respect for the local bobbies has gone up immensely.  But that’s the kind of man Mark is. He’ll have probably suggested it to the police, given them free copies and hoped against hope that he will ‘reach’ some people.

When I first met Mark he was struggling to maintain a cafe ‘The Artists Cafe’  You’d have thought with such an appealling name it would be a go-er right? But no. What did he do? He used the premises to set up a charity FirstBase which is still going 10 years down the line. There’s more need for food parcels and help and a listening ear than there is for a nice place for nice people to sit and chat culture it seems.  I could talk about Mark for ages (I can see him blushing!) because he is an inspiration. He’s bluff, he smokes FAR too much and he has an unhealthy obsession with Liverpool FC BUT he is one of the REALLY GOOD GUYS and I’ve been more than happy to try and help him with his first foray into ebooks. He’s now got all this back catalogue (I think it runs to 19) up as ebooks and I hope they sell. People should read his stories. And when he blogs about Liverpool FC people read his blog! 

Back in the day, I helped Mark fill out an application for writer support from SAC (note Marks still here and they aren’t!) and I may have termed him ‘a modern Dickens’ because that’s what I think he is. He writes fast and he writes with passion. There is the odd editing glitch and typo (get over it folks) but the stories are what it’s all about and they grip you firmly from beginning to end.

Mark’s work THE CULL was the one I first read, followed swiftly by ONE MAN’S MEAT.  Living in Dumfries and Galloway it was hard not to be touched by the Foot and Mouth crisis. I wrote MEN IN WHITE SUITS  around that time. It was given a staged reading in Lockerbie Town Hall to mark the 1st anniversary of the ‘crisis’ and it was given a rehearsed reading at The Traverse later in 2002.  The urban response was interestingly different to that of the rural one. First of all the notion of the urban ‘rude mechanicals’ was not appreciated and the director wanted it left out.  It kind of tied one arm behind the back of the play and though the review I’ve had for the ebook suggests that the ‘urban’ intervention in the play is a weakness, I can tell you, without it the play loses something  vital – particularly for rural folk.  Where I feel this has a connection with Mark Frankland is that it’s a play which seeks to convey something important – an important event and something important about relationships of the rural working class.

At its heart its a love story.  Of what you do when you can’t do anything but watch your love as it is beaten to death in front of your eyes.  I’ve recently published it as an ebook (to the usual rapturous silence.)  I think Julia Jones may be the only person who has read it thus far!!!  ( on the up side, she liked it and was kind enough to review it. She is ANOTHER of the GOOD PEOPLE in my book. ) Of course I’d recommend it, I wrote it. I think it has something valuable to say and explores important ground. And I think it’s a moving, good read. But what do I know?  The resounding silence at its publication  leads  me to conclude that I have NO IDEA what people want to read. Or how to find people who might like my writing. Life’s too short to ‘friend’ them one by one!

I looked at my ‘sales’ for Amazon for 2013.  Yesterday it was GRIM reading.  You’d think there was nothing worse than selling NO ebooks worldwide for 10 days but YES there is.  I had ONE copy of Brand Loyalty RETURNED.  I have no idea why.  I think that there’s enough information with blurbs and links and reviews and the free sample to let people know what they are potentially buying and so of course it makes me upset to think that someone has wanted to return it.  It’s about the fourth return I’ve had lately (it seems to be a spate) and my paranoia makes me wonder if there are just millions of incompetent clickers out there or if there’s more people realising you can download for free, read for a week and then ‘RETURN’ the goods.  Yes, you CAN do that people. You need never pay for an ebook, just read and return. But DON’T. Please DON’T.   You wouldn’t take a physical book back to a shop would you? Because you don’t like the ending?  For me, I get maybe £1 for each copy downloaded so it’s not about the money, it’s about the whole morality of the thing. What kind of person is so cheap that they return an ebook once they’ve read it or part read it?  Don’t flipping download it in the first place would be my advice.

However, today, maybe things looked up. I checked the sales figures again (why?) and someone has downloaded a copy of FIVE FAIR PLAY DRAMAS.  I nearly took that off sale last week because I’m heavily into rewriting them as fiction for the next Fair Trade Fortnight coming up in February.  I relented at the last minute thinking that it might as well be out there gathering dust as not. But someone, for some reason, has bought it. I hope they don’t return it within the week!

I carry on, because what else can I do? I’m a writer. I write. It’s what I do. Okay I’m not a popular writer (I’m not that popular as a person come to think of it) but I do my best and I have a lot of work out there which I’m sure SOME PEOPLE might like. If only I can find them.  But the cloak of invisibility is my regular garb.   We’ll see whether THIS post has any impact on the world, or if it’s true that mostly we are blogging as a sort of reflective journal exercise.

When I first published my first novel THE THREADS OF TIME in 2003 I realised something important. I didn’t just want to SELL it, I wanted people to read and enjoy it.  At my book launch I felt like I was selling puppies. I wanted to ‘vet’ potential readers. I’m afraid 10 years on I still feel the same. I don’t want people to download and not read my books. I certianly don’t want them to download and then RETURN them (or at least if they do, please could they tell me WHY they did that!) I don’t expect everyone to like what I write but I do try and give enough of a flavour of what it’s about so that people can make a judgement before purchase. I want happy readers.  I want my ebooks (or books) to go to good and loving homes. The amount of ebooks I sell means that I can more or less work out the names, addresses and inside leg measurements of my ‘customers.’  I certainly don’t sell only to friends and family. They don’t buy either!  So here, from the land where no one buys, I leave you with the thought – when you finish filling your boots with any old rubbish JUST BECAUSE ITS FREE or you download something thinking ‘I can return it if I don’t like it’ think again.   For those  of us who take the responsibility to publish independently, without the buffer of a mainstream publisher, we are all too painfully aware of the success or otherwise of our work and each sale is something we relish. Each return sends us into a depression. And no one buying books… well… how would you feel if everyone ignored you all the time because they wanted to play with the POPULAR kids?

(The tone of this post is pathos/humour for those who find tone hard to read. The subtext is: the writer/reader relationship in the e-revolution is a new one and there are responsibilities on both sides. The moral of the story is: if you love someone – tell them. If you know a writer why not read their work. you might even enjoy it! And give feedback! Even bad feedback is better than a deafening silence.  Tell them you love them before it’s too late eh? There are always more calls on your time, but life is about PRIORITIES folks and I believe it’s important to give credit where it’s due. That’s why I’ve said my piece (again) about Mark Frankland. I’m only glad that we live 300 miles apart now so that he can’t come round and tell me off for embarrassing him!

In conclusion. I have a lot of ebooks out there, easily downloadable and pretty cheap.  If you read one and like it (or even if you don’t) why don’t you TELL me.  Write a quick comment or email me and let me know you are out there and reading. It’s a symbiotic relationship folks.  I want to engage with you, but you have to meet me half way!  Writers are real people too!

Oh and I nearly forgot to say. The links are for Amazon BUT all my work is available as ebpub from Kobo too.  I have 11 titles there and I’ve sold ONE (and that was for my alter ego Jack MacRoary) in the past six months.  So even though Amazon sales may be poor, I’d say they’re more popular than Kobo, right? Which is a shame because Kobo Touch is such a good ereader!  However, maybe Kobo is my natural home. They seem to be incapable of reaching readers too!

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