Friday, November 28, 2014

My Publisher is a Git. But I Can See His Point of View




Here's a conversation I had recently with my publisher. He has insisted I remove all numbers from our dialogue on the basis of some dodgy confidentiality clause in our publishing agreement; so you'll just have to use your imagination as to those.

But you'll get the gist of his argument.


Pub: John, it's that time of the year when we need to review our publishing agreement.

Me: I can't wait.

Pub: OK. Here it is. First of all, your responsibilities. You write the books, proofread and edit them, and design a cover. If you want to use editors, proofreaders and designers, that's up to you, but you have to pay for them. I get exclusive worldwide rights over your books in whatever form they are published, and I determine the prices of them.

Me: And what do you do?

Pub: I supply the ISBN number and pay out of my own pocket for lodging the copies with the various libraries.

Me: The total cost of which is less than fifty quid per book, right?

Pub: Right.

Me: And what else?

Pub: I load up your books onto Amazon as soon as they are ready. At the start of each year, I agree with you a budget to spend on marketing and advertising, and I organise that. This year the budget will be X pounds. I will also I spend Y hours every week doing tweeting, retweeting and other social media stuff for you.

Me: And how is the money split once the retailer and printer have had their cuts?

Pub: First, the money will be used to pay for the marketing and advertising costs. Then there is my cut. Since I am spending Y hours every week, and my hourly rate is Z, the cash next goes to pay me. You get whatever is left.

Me: Your hourly rate seems a bit steep!

Pub: It's the opportunity cost of my time. If I wasn't doing this for you, I'd be spending those hours as a management consultant and that's the rate I'd be earning. Sorry, no discount. I have a wife and kids to support. And a dog.

Me: Just a minute. When I look at your sales projections and the average earnings from my books, the marketing and advertising costs plus your cut will account for everything. There'll be nothing left for me.

Pub: True. And your point is?

Me: What the hell do I get out of all this?

Pub: Look, John, it's very simple. You get to enjoy writing the books; and the pleasure of meeting fellow writers and readers on social networks; and of reading all those glowing reviews on Amazon. 

Me: And the lousy ones.

Pub: Well, if you wrote better books, maybe there wouldn't be any lousy ones. Plus, if your books get made into movies or a TV series, you get to keep all the money from that - I don't get ANY.

Me: So I'm basically writing all these books for no financial reward, other than the remote possibility of their getting picked up by a TV company or movie studio?

Pub: You've got it. Without me as your publisher/marketer/advertising guru, your books are worthless. Your books might be the most amazing works of literature ever produced (although I doubt that), but if nobody knows they exist you won't sell a single copy. Well, except maybe the one to your mum. You see, John, you're essentially an amateur writer - in the true sense of the word 'amateur' - and I'm a professional publisher, and this is how I make my money. End of story. Sorry, that last sentence makes me sound like a writer **shudders**

Me: Where do I sign?

Pub: At the bottom of the page, in blood.


Now you may well ask, "Why don't you change your publisher?" And the answer is simple: I am my publisher. And my/his logic is sound. The part of me that writes does it because he loves it, and because he loves the interactions with like-minded folks, and he loves it when people enjoy his books. The part of me that sells books does it for business reasons - and he has to be compensated for his time. So the businessman pockets the cash, and the writer enjoys his art.

And do you know what? My publisher might be a git, but at least he's my git.

Happy writing, starvelings.


If you want to read about someone else who has conversations in his head, you might like to pick up a copy of my latest book, 'Chaos is Come Again'. I am sure my publisher would be suitably grateful.




For Amazon.com click HERE
For Amazon.co.uk click HERE
Also available at all other Amazon sites worldwide
If you don't want it, don't click anywhere. Just go and have a nice cup of tea instead.




Saturday, November 22, 2014

Why Be Normal When You Can Be Damaged?


Normal is safe.
Normal is comforting.
Normal is predictable.
And normal is very, very, very boring.

How many of you would want to spend time at a party talking to an actuary?
(Unless of course you are an actuary, in which case, go right ahead. That keeps both of you away from the rest of us.)

Be damaged.
Be interesting.
Be the nutter on the bus.
Make mistakes.
Wear a funny hat.
Flount your flaws.
(And if you are a high-rise building, flount your floors.)

Take a few risks in your life.
Not crazy, unnecessary ones.
Always wash your fruit before sex, and wear condoms before eating. Nobody needs THOSE type of risks.
But live a little.

Which brings me on to today's good news.

One of my favourite damaged writers - well, he writes about damaged characters, but you know that old saying about smoke and fire... - is having a superfasticallydelicious BARGAIN MOMENT!

B.R. Snow's complete 'Damaged Po$$e' series, comprising four full-length novels, is on sale soon for less than four bucks. If you haven't read any of the redoubtable Mr. Snow's work, your entire life to date has been wasted. But there is still time to put that right. Winter is coming, but Snow is HERE 

Now take out those eccentric shoes from the back of the wardrobe, drape something inappropriate around your neck, cry Havoc, and let those puppies swing. Demand the unusual. Venerate the odd.

Have a great day. And have it TODAY. You never know, it might be your last.

PS Go buy all my books too, while you're about it *scary cackle* Now, where did I put my meds?



Saturday, November 15, 2014

Everyone Loves an Underdog


Everyone loves an underdog, right? Well, maybe not if you're the favourite. But otherwise, we like to root for the little guy going up against the corporate machine, the rebel sticking up two fingers at the forces of the all-powerful state, the woman raising her metaphorical fists against the chauvinistic establishment. 

But what exactly is an 'underdog'? The dictionary will tell us that he or she is a person who is expected to lose in a conflict or contest; or a victim of social or political injustice. Someone, in other words, against whom the cards are stacked.

The classic 'top dog' vs. 'underdog' contest from antiquity is David vs. Goliath. The shepherd boy vs. the gigantic armoured warrior. David was the underdog, yes? Well, no.

In Malcolm Gladwell's fascinating treatise on underdogs and misfits, 'David & Goliath', the ever-intriguing Mr. Gladwell challenges some common assumptions - and in so doing, produces a provocative and inspirational piece of work.


But first, that famous duel in the valley of Elah. To understand why actually Goliath was the underdog, we have to know a little about ancient armies. They contained three types of combatants: cavalry, infantry, and projectile warriors - artillery, in modern parlance. The projectile warriors included 'slingers', who had a leather pouch attached on two sides by a strand of rope. The slinger would put a lead ball or rock into the pouch, swing it, then release with devastating force. The Romans even had a special set of tongs to remove rocks and balls that had become embedded in some poor soldier's body by a sling.

So there is Goliath, a heavy infantryman, weighed down by over a hundred pounds of armour, expecting a battle at close quarters (which he must surely win). Enter David who, sans armour, can run rings around the giant from a safe distance until one of his slingshots hits his opponent's vulnerable head. And so it proves. David has changed the rules of single combat.

"Goliath had as much chance against David," writes the historian Robert Dohrenwend, "as any Bronze Age warrior with a sword would have against an opponent armed with a .45 automatic pistol." FYI, a typical-size stone hurled by an expert slinger at a distance of thirty-five metres would have the stopping power equivalent to a fair-size modern handgun - a velocity of around thirty-four metres per second.

So... underdogs. Want to rethink your definitions?

Gladwell's book is packed with interesting examples of how strengths can beget weaknesses, and vice versa - and some canny observations on the limits of power.

It is well worth an afternoon of anyone's time.

Anyone for single combat?



Sunday, November 9, 2014

Chaos, of One Sort or Another



It's out! Oh, yes!

'Chaos Is Come Again' is a rather loony experiment of mine.

Nothing new there, I hear you mutter.

About eighteen months ago, I tripped over a fellow writer by the name of Fiona Quinn while I was working in Dubai. Of course, I didn't literally trip over her. She wasn't lying on the street like a Sleeping Policeman or a discarded prophylactic. No, I found her purely by chance one evening while I was looking on the Internet for some half-decent pornography to download.

OK, 'half-decent pornography' is a contradiction in terms.

Are you going to shut up and let me get on with this story?

(Voices in your head can be so annoying, don't you think? Oh. You don't have them. Ah.)

Anyway.

Fiona and I got chatting and somehow agreed to co-author a novel, despite the fact that we had never met in person and were never likely to before the book was published. (She claims to have evidence this nutty idea was mine, but I have my doubts.)

So, eighteen months later, here we are. The start of writing of 'Chaos' was delayed until May this year due to other commitments on both our parts, but once we divided up the workload and knuckled down, there was no stopping us.

Now the book's out and we still haven't met. Maybe that's a good thing. If we did, we might irritate the crap out of each other. As it is we can each still entertain whimsical literary fantasies about our writing partner.

Whatever.

Go take a look at this monstrous collaboration, a psychological suspense like no other, in my humble opinion. Laced with irreverent humour (most of which is VERY un-PC and some of it is rather blasphemous), stuffed to the gills with weird and wacky characters, 'Chaos' is quite unlike anything that either Fiona or I have written before.

Make up your own mind about this writing experiment. Blurb and buy links are set out below. And don't forget, on Amazon you can 'Look Inside' for a taster of the book before you part with your hard-earned (or possibly embezzled) cash.


Sean hears voices in his head.
Travis snorts cocaine.
Teagan thinks she's the next Lady Gaga.
Avery has the boss from Hell, and a mother with dementia.
And Goose thinks he can catch a serial killer.

'Chaos Is Come Again' is a psychological suspense, a mystery, and a love story - laced with irreverent humour and viewed through the lens of obsession.

WARNING: Contains references to Judas Iscariot, a dwarf, and a performing monkey.


To buy or read an extract on Amazon click HERE for USA or HERE for UK. It's also available on all other Amazon sites worldwide.



Sunday, November 2, 2014

Why You Don't Need to Worry About the End of the World


I got a bit depressed last week after reading an article in a science magazine. Apparently, our galaxy - the Milky Way - is just about to get swallowed up by Andromeda. Of course, 'just about to' in cosmic terms means in another 5 billion years. A scientist friend of mine then reassured me that our own sun would already have gone super nova by then anyway. So unless we've found a way to transfer human consciousness into a body more suited for interstellar travel by then, we'll already be cinders.

I decided to undertake a straw poll of Armageddon countdown scenarios for our species.

A philosopher says civilisation will have disintegrated by the end of this century, and cannibalism will be rife among the animalistic survivors.

The environmentalists say global warming will screw us by 2050.

Some medical folks believe antibiotics will prove ineffective against a worldwide super bug within 20 years.

My wife tells me I don't need to worry about any of these things because if I don't get the outside wall painted in the next few days, she is going to kill me. 

Strangely enough, the brand label on the paint tin is 'Andromeda'.

Funny how things connect, isn't it?



Saturday, October 11, 2014

And Now a Word from Our Sponsor. Not.




Of course I don't have a sponsor, even though I've long dreamed of being a toyboy to some rich, eighty-year old woman with a heart condition and no dependants. Maybe if I were an athlete I could get the ACME Steroid Corporation to fund my frivolous excesses. But no. So instead please humour me awhile while I blow my own (slightly dented) bugle.

I promise I won't try to sell you one of my books, OK? (See note at foot of post)

Get to the point, Dolan, I hear you mutter impatiently.

Now here's the thing. Last year I signed up to a literary suicide pact with a writer based in Virginia by the name of Fiona Quinn. 

Anyway.

Yes, I'm getting there. Stop sighing. And put that gun away. It might be loaded.

Well, Fiona and I decided in a moment of madness to co-author a novel. This was in spite of the fact that we had never met - and still haven't - and we had the inconvenience of eleven hours of time-difference between us. (The scientists among you may wish to point out that if the Earth were not in fact spinning, we'd all float off into space like that handsome grey-haired guy in the film Gravity; so maybe time zones are a good thing. Having sat through two hours of Sandra Bullock's acting, I remain torn on this point.)

After several months of Skyping and whizzing chapter drafts back and forth across the crackly ether, I can announce that the love child of this unusual union will soon see the light of day. How soon? I hear you ask. On this, for the moment my lips must remain more firmly pressed together than the knees of a nun at a Michael Buble concert. But soon, all right?

Fiona and I are, however, sufficiently confident that our offspring will not be born with two heads to start bleeding out some details of our endeavour. Starting with a cover reveal.


If it makes your eyeballs rotate, it's working. Here's the blurb which hopefully will make the rest of you rotate.


Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul
But I do love thee! And when I love thee not
Chaos is come again.

Sean hears voices in his head.
Travis snorts cocaine.
Teagan thinks she’s the next Lady Gaga.
Avery has the boss from Hell and a mother with dementia.
And Goose thinks he can catch a serial killer.

‘Chaos is Come Again’ is a psychological suspense, a mystery, and a love story – loaded with irreverent humour, and viewed through the lens of obsession.

WARNING: This book contains references to Judas, a dwarf and a performing monkey.


Now, as the saying goes, Watch This Space.

Come to think of it, that sounds like a good summary of Gravity. Over to you, Sandra.


NOTE: This doesn't count as trying to sell you one of my books. Not according to my lawyer.



Monday, October 6, 2014

Tight Trousers and Asteriods (Not Hemorrhoids)



OK, let me confess. I'm a fan of Liv Tyler.

As if that weren't shameful enough, I like Aerosmith too - a group of not-so-gracefully-ageing rockers who feature Liv's dad on vocals.

These are the only two reasons I watched 'Armageddon', a ludicrous Bruce Willis/Ben Affleck action movie about an asteriod on collision course with Earth. Liv was in it and Aerosmith provided the theme song.

It works for me. Does it work for you?

If so, feel free to sing along. If nothing else, it will embarrass your kids. And that's never a bad thing.

Click below and feel the love. Or something, anyway.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9o4kvBI5A98&list=PLCIJPOEg-cXOChe1sfjjXGP_dU4gQRY-R&index=63


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

No Free Lunches, But Free Murders


There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but just occasionally there is a free murder.

And here it is.


After a sudden rush of blood to the brain - an unusual happening, since my blood usually heads in a southerly direction when I get excited - I decided to offer A POISON TREE free on Amazon Kindle from 30 September to 4 October. This is called the Drug Dealer Strategy. You know the game. I get you hooked on this one and you rush out and buy all the other books in the 'Time, Blood and Karma' series.

At least that's the theory.

Here's the blurb to bait the hook.


“You kill my wife and I’ll kill yours.” You must admit, as a proposition, it has an alluring symmetry to it. 

It is 1999, and as the Millennium approaches, old certainties wither. For family man, David Braddock, his hitherto predictable world is undergoing a slow collapse. The people closest to him seem suddenly different. As desires and aspirations tangle around each other like parasite stems, betrayal is in the air. 
And so is murder. 


If you're tempted, just click on the appropriate link below and one click later it's yours free, gratis, and for nothing.

Sounds too good to be true? Yeah, it probably is.

Want a cigarette, by the way? Anything else I can do for you?

Amazon US click HERE

Amazon UK click HERE

It's also available free on all Amazon's other worldwide sites in case you happen to live somewhere exotic. Lucky you.


Friday, September 26, 2014

New Answers to Life's Ultimate Questions? Hell, No



'The Grand Design', by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow (a physicist at Caltech and sometime writer for Star Trek, in case you were wondering), promises much. Specifically the blurb proudly announces new answers to the ultimate questions of life.

Hmm. OK. Well, leaving aside the fact that I'm no nearer to understanding women after reading this - which for me is one of the ultimate questions of life - I'm also still somewhat in the Dark Matter on other stuff too. Maybe this is not surprising. Professor Hawking's first foray into popular science writing was 'A Brief History of Time', an international phenomenon, which tons of people bought, some read, and maybe a few understood. I personally found the experience of reading ABHOT like fishing - my line was out there, but I only caught sprats, not the big ones. They all got away.

However, inspired by the author's cameo appearances on the US sitcom 'The Big Bang Theory', I thought I'd give the wheelchair-bound genius another go.

TGD is certainly written in a more accessible style. Maybe Hawking's Star Trek co-writer had something to do with this. In fact, it was a wee bit too accessible; too many weak puns and asides, and a rather superficial skim over the profundities of quantum mechanics for my taste. Hey, I'm no genius (except at making excuses maybe), but like Oliver Twist I wanted ... well ... more. For me, it read like 'Quarks for Dummies'.

The book kicked off with the three major questions troubling humanity, or at least those of us who aren't worrying about where our next meal is coming from or whether we're going to get short or blown up today.

Why is there something rather than nothing?
Why do we exist?
Why this particular set of laws and not some other?

Here's the answer to the first two questions: "Because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing [in the manner described in Chapter 6]. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist." Are you convinced yet? You'd better be because that's all the authors have to say.

As to the third question, the answer is that that there is an infinite number of universes, each with different laws and we just happen to live in this one. (This is just a theory, by the way, as impossible to prove as the existence of God)

Perhaps I'm doing the authors something of a disservice. The mathematics sitting behind much of today's theoretical postulates is hideously complicated, and certainly well outside the scope of a book of this nature.

I'm just left with an unsatisfactory feeling, like I'd expected to go out with the Prom Queen and instead ended up with her rather plain friend who wasn't much of a talker. Not only that, but we didn't even go to the Prom. We just ate pizza and watched a couple of science fiction movies.

Don't misunderstand me. There are some excellent popular science books out there that will leave you in awe. This, alas, isn't one of them.

Now where shall I put this pizza box?



Sunday, September 21, 2014

Looking for an Honest Man


Ever feel like the bottom is dropping out of your world?

(By the way, if the world is dropping out of your bottom, that is an altogether different situation, and one best addressed through pharmaceutical means or through the purchase of a substantial cork bung.)

You need PHILOSOPHY.

Yup, the stuff those old Greeks used to dish out.

Aristotle, Plato and Socrates tend to get most of the top billing - maybe they had a good agent - but of all the miserable old bastards of the Hellenic World, I think my favourite is Diogenes.

Diogenes of Sinope was a strange bugger, whose original writings unfortunately have not survived the centuries, but his ideas have, courtesy of his fans and followers.

Diogenes was kicked out of his home town for adulterating and debasing the currency, and at one stage he got himself kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery. While living in Athens, he made a virtue of his poverty by begging and sleeping in a large ceramic jar in the marketplace. He was probably the first 'cosmopolitan', declaring himself a man of no country, rather a citizen of the world. Diogenes is most famous for wandering around during the daytime with a lamp, claiming he was looking for an honest man.

 In later life, he became a tutor in Corinth, where his philosophy of Cynicism became one of the foundations of the Stoic School.

These days, 'cynics' tend to get a bad press, but ask yourself: When was the last time you met a truly honest man?

Today's blog has been brought to you by Curmudgeons International. Free membership is available to all Miserable Old Gits, excluding politicians or anyone who thinks Miley Cyrus is pretty cool (or even pretty).



Saturday, September 6, 2014

Kilts and Ballot Boxes



So.

Only a few days before the people of Scotland vote on independence from the UK.

They have my sympathy. From my vantage point in South East Asia, it seems to me that our cousins north of the border have no more information now about what independence would mean than they had when this whole campaign started. From the Nationalist (“Yes”) side, they have appeals to Scottish pride and tradition, and statements about how Westminster is squandering the oil money; while from the Union (“No”) side they have veiled threats about currency and economic meltdown. But very few facts on which to base a rational decision.

The 1707 Act of Union glued England and Scotland together. It was supposed to end hundreds of years of bloodshed between the two countries, and was pushed through at a time of hardship for the Scots following the disaster of the Darien Scheme – a ‘get rich quick’ scam based on Panamanian trade, which wiped out a huge proportion of Scottish capital. From the English side, it was meant to secure a Protestant succession in perpetuity: Albion would give Scotland a financial bailout and access to colonial markets, and in return there would be no more Catholic kings.

So much for history.

Frankly, I don’t care how the vote goes. It won’t stop me – an Englishman from the North East – from celebrating Burns Night or from buying whisky. It won’t stop me having Scottish friends (with whom, btw, I generally have more in common than I do with those soft, wimpy Southerners). My general opinion is that nobody should belong to a club in which they no longer want to be a member. But what of the Scottish people who want to be part of the UK, but instead find themselves citizens of a new country? (An acquaintance of mine has a girlfriend who hails from the Crimea. He jokes that recently he went to bed with a Ukrainian and woke up beside a Russian.)

So how will the vote go?

If I want to find out how any event is likely to pan out, I always ignore the ‘experts’ and commentators, and instead have a look at the William Hill betting odds. These guys are pretty shrewd, and their business depends on their getting things right (usually). They currently think there is a two in five chance of the Scots voting for independence.

I might put a tenner on it. It’s a better return than the Bank of England is offering.



Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Only Two Kinds of Love Song


In my humble opinion ... there are only two kinds of love song.

There's, "I love you and you love me," and it's kinda boring. It doesn't go anywhere.

And then there's the kind of song that is, "I love you, but you love somebody else." Now that's interesting. It's painful, but it's interesting.

Thus begins Sting's introduction to When We Dance.

Can you listen to this without tearing up? You big GIRL.

Click HERE


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Tale of Percival, the Very Special Pig



Once upon a time, on the Holland family farm, there lived a pig called Percival.

Percival was a very special pig, and the Holland family held him in great affection.

One sunny, hot day in August, a visitor came to the farm. He was an old school friend of Farmer Holland and, as they had not seen each other in years, the two men embraced warmly. As I mentioned, it was a very hot day, so it would have been difficult for them to embrace any other way.

The farmer's friend - whose name was Peter - was given a tour of the farm, and it was then he encountered the very special pig, Percival, for the first time.

"That pig," said Peter, pointing at Percival. "He only has one eye and three legs. Moreover, I see his back is wreathed in bandages."

"Aha!" exclaimed the farmer. "That is Percival. He is a very special pig. Let me tell you all about him.
"Some years ago, my youngest daughter fell in the river, and he jumped into the flowing water, and pulled her to safety."

"That was a very special thing to do," said Peter, impressed.

"And not only that, but when we had a fire in the farmhouse, it was Percival that raised the alarm, and saved us all from perishing in our beds."

"Wow!" said Peter.

"And on yet another occasion, he scared away some burglars by leaping on them in the barn and emitting terrifying oinks."

"You must be so proud of him," said the visitor, and the farmer nodded.

"But tell me, why does he only have one eye and three legs? And why is his back swathed in bandages?"

"Ah," replied the farmer, touching the side of his nose with his finger. "A special pig like Percival, you do not eat him all at once."



Sunday, August 10, 2014

Meet My Main Character Blog Tour: David Braddock

The novelist, Billy Ray Chitwood, who I thought was my friend - but more of that in a minute - has tagged me in one of these blogger-passes-baton-to-blogger Internet wotsits.

The 'wotsit', as students of the Oxford English Dictionary will know, is the virtual equivalent of the thingumybob. For those of you old enough to remember the days when the postman brought your mail (and your dog bit him for his trouble), think 'chain letter'. Yup, that's right. When we writers have a dip in morale, we round up a gaggle of fellow delusional penmen and corral them into writing a post about something-or-other. It's a bit like a farmer's dog herding sheep into an ink-soaked coffin.

At this point, I'd like to write some clever literary metaphor about the Field of Wet Dreams, but after two beers, I'm not big on invention today. So, before the Plain English campaigners start hurling abuse in my direction, let me explain this in words that even a politician would understand.

The redoubtable Mr. Chitwood has nominated me and four other victims (sorry, I mean human sacrifices) to answer seven questions about a main character in one of our novels. Each one of us in turn then thinks of five people we don't like, and so the whole shameful saga continues until the world is plunged into anarchy and despair.

For my part, I'll deal with the questions with the same alacrity and enthusiasm a tree sloth would demonstrate when presented with the opportunity to go Jello wrestling in an Arizona cat-house. My conscience, however, prohibits me from passing on this poison chalice further. OK, I exaggerate slightly. Anyone who knows me will be well aware of the fact that I don't have a conscience, while the rest of you will be wondering when the hell I will just get on with it and answer the damn questions.

I should warn you first, however, that not all the answers will be truthful. If they were, nobody would buy my books and I'd be trapped in Blogger Hell for the rest of my life.

OK, OK, I'm getting to it. Sheesh, you guys are tetchy. Here's a cute picture of a cat to calm you down. And no, it's not my cat. I don't know whose cat it is. Neither do I care much.


My character is David Braddock, the protagonist in my mystery novel, Everyone Burns.

1. Tell us a little about this main character. Is he fictional or a historical person?
Well, duh. It's a novel, so he's fictional. Who makes these questions up (if anyone)?

2. When and where is the story in Everyone Burns set?
It's set in Thailand in 2005, just after the tsunami. For those who don't know, Thailand is in South East Asia - although if you don't know that it's pretty unlikely you will have read this far anyway. You'll be off chasing butterflies or wondering if the rocks in your cave are edible.

3. What should we know about him?
He's a burned-out private detective who has fled to Thailand for reasons I can't disclose without having to kill you afterwards. His inside leg is 32" and his favourite colour is black - like his lungs. (Yes, he's a heavy smoker. Shoot me.)

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?
Everything. You name it, it messes up his life.

5. What is his personal goal?
To make sure the Police Chief doesn't find out he's sleeping with his wife. And maybe solve some grisly murders along the way.

6. What are the titles of your novels and where can we read more about them?
Ah, now you're talking!
The first three books in the Time, Blood and Karma series are Everyone Burns, Hungry Ghosts and A Poison Tree. Braddock features in all of them. You can find them (and me) on Amazon by clicking here. If you're with Amazon Prime or Amazon Unlimited, you can download them for free. How cool is that?
If you live in the UK, you can still grab a freebie short story, Jim Fosse's Expense Claim, by clicking here. It won't make up for the lousy weather, but it might make you chuckle for ten minutes. Longer if you're a slow reader.
If you're a real glutton for punishment, you can go to my website and learn all about my series and my unsavoury lifestyle in the Land of Smiles. Click - yes, you've guessed it - here.

7. When can we expect your next book to be published?
I have a novel that I'm co-authoring with thriller writer, Fiona Quinn, coming out in the autumn. It's entitled Chaos is Come Again, and I'm very excited about it. I do get excited about some things. Honestly. It's a noir comedy with elements of gothic and just downright crazy.
Book four in my mystery series - Running on Emptiness - will be out in 2015.


Phew! Have we done? Time for another beer.

And, Billy Ray? I do love you really, buddy.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism


Ha-Joon Chang's iconoclastic book on the follies of untrammelled free-market economics was published shortly after the financial meltdown of 2008, but its messages remain relevant today: we still live in a world that teeters on the brink of monetary collapse. The damage wrought by the global crash was second only to the Great Depression, and its legacy - in terms of poverty, social stability and the impact on economic growth - may last for decades.

The author's premise is that thirty years of free-market ideology was at the root of the catastrophe and that, worryingly, the world has not learned from the experience. The next disaster may be just around the corner.

In spite of what the title suggests, "23 Things" is not a rabid attack on capitalism itself. There is much here to anger those from both the Political Left and the Political Right. It is more a thoughtful analysis of some of the underlying assumptions relating to the American 'brand' of capitalism, how they have spread across the globe and how such underpinning philosophies can be short-sighted and dangerous.

Ha-Joon Chang (who teaches at the Faculty of Economics at Cambridge, if you're interested) slices and dices economic statistics from the 1960s to the present day to show us that many of our deeply-held beliefs about education, the world's poor and the so-called 'post-industrial age' contain fatal flaws. Tellingly, he points out that the very free-market policies being forced on the developing nations are precisely NOT the policies pursued by the developed countries of the world while they were building their wealth.

The author is an economist who kinows the limitations of economics as a means of building a world fit for people to live in. He echoes Winston Churchill's view on democracy by asserting, "Capitalism is the worst economic system except for all the others", but unlike many merchants of doom he offers eight concrete suggestions on how to rebuild the world economy.

All in all, "23 Things" is a thought-provoking book and one which is written in a style that makes it accessible to the general reader not just to the disciples of the 'dismal science' of economics.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sleeping The Big Sleep




Every now and again, you just have to re-read a classic to remind yourself what great writing is like.

So being about to embark on my fourth mystery/noir offering, I figured it was time to pull 'The Big Sleep' off my bookshelves. Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe is, after all, the grandaddy of all private eyes - or 'private dicks' to use the vernacular (though I must confess that conjures up entirely different images for me).

Well, it's every bit as good as I remember it, possibly the definitive hardboiled detective story. The cynical protagonist, hard-bitten and world weary, pursues his investigations through the lowlife of LA guided by his own moral compass and sustained by wise-cracks and whisky. Secrets and corruption abound, illuminated by Chandler's incomparable one-liners: "He wore a blue uniform coat that fitted him the way a stall fits a horse."

There is something of Shakespeare's 'King Lear' about the plot line. Marlowe's client, General Sternwood - like Lear - is betrayed by his daughters' extravagant and self-serving ways, and violence is never far below the surface. Chandler himself once described the American crime novel as being 'dark and full of blood'.

"What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a dirty sump or in a marble tower on top of a high hill? You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that."

But although 'The Big Sleep' gives you much food for thought about human behaviour and motivations, it is above all a fun read. Femme fatales, sleezeballs and tough guys leap out at you from the pages. The dialogue sparkles like diamonds in a drain.

Grab it, light up a cigarette and read. You know you want to, doll-face.



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Billy Ray Chitwood's Latest Novel is Out!





Billy Ray Chitwood's final novel in his Bailey Crane mystery series, A Common Evil, launches this week.

If you haven't yet sampled his writing, you really should!

My review is set out below, followed by book links and ways you can contact the author.




FUN AND GAMES SOUTH OF THE BORDER


‘A Common Evil’ is the sixth book in Billy Ray Chitwood’s mystery series. It is also the first of the series I have read – but I WILL be back for more.

Chitwood’s detective, Bailey Crane, has moved to Mexico with his wife, Wendy, hoping for a quiet retirement by the Sea of Cortez. But fate intervenes and Crane finds himself caught up in a shootout with members of a Mexican drugs cartel. So much for a quiet life. From then on, things go from bad to worse for the ex-detective…

One of the things I enjoy about Chitwood’s books – apart from the absorbing passages of reflection on life and purpose – is that his characters possess a moral ambivalence. Tales about two-dimensional ‘good’ and ‘bad’ guys bore me to tears. Not only does this approach strike me as lazy writing, but it also patronises the reader. Chitwood’s protagonists, on the other hand, face tough choices and the decisions they make are not always good ones.

Not just a crime/adventure tale, this novel is a treatise on what it means to grow old, to have secrets and to recognize the things that bind us and the things that fulfill us.

‘A Common Evil’ is a quick read, but a satisfying one. Now I need to go back and start the series at book one to see what I’ve missed.





Click HERE to read a sample of A Common Evil (and to buy a copy if you have any sense!) 

Connect with Billy Ray:

On Twitter  @brchitwood

On his blog  thefinalcurtain1

On his website  billyraychitwood



Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mapping Stranger Desires


It has been a great last couple of months for new Indie books, and one of my favourite writers - Eden Baylee - launches her first full-length novel today. Read my review below, then grab a copy! Click HERE to take you to Amazon.com (though it is also available on all Amazon sites worldwide). Read the first few pages on Amazon's 'Look Inside' feature and I guarantee you will be hooked.

* * * * *

I first encountered Eden Baylee in late 2012 when I read her collection of poems and flash fiction, entitled 'Hot Flash'. The literary quality of her writing and her wit encouraged me to dip into the erotic novellas in her 'Spring into Summer' collection. I have been a fan ever since.

So when I discovered she was writing a full-length mystery/thriller novel, I was intrigued.

'Stranger at Sunset' is a great piece of fiction writing with engaging characters, many of whom - in the fine mystery tradition - have embarrassing and potentially lethal secrets. The novel opens with a fine noir scene, which could have been straight out of Dashiel Hammett, and then Ms. Baylee's dark lens pans back to give us a view of the various people assembling for a holiday at Sunset Villa in Jamaica.

The backdrop of the Caribbean island in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy gives 'Stranger' an exotic feel, and the author treats the reader to the sights, sounds and smells of that wonderful island. The cast of this drama is well-drawn and diverse, displaying a variety of psychological types well-suited to a whodunnit. Humour, feisty encounters and a hint of romance make for a heady cocktail.

Some mysteries are so plot-driven, that the characters come over as two-dimensional, mere grist for the plot, but Ms. Baylee knows how to avoid this. The events grow organically out of human interactions, rivalries and grievances.

For me, Eden Baylee remains 'the cartographer of desire', although she demonstrates here her skills include mapping not only sexual attraction, but many of the other emotions that haunt us.

I look forward to the next of Dr. Kate Hampton's adventures. An excerpt of the second book in the series - 'A Fragile Truce' - is included at the end of the novel. Bring it on!




Connect with Eden and find out more about her and her writing!

Twitter   @edenbaylee

Website   http://www.edenbayleebooks.com/

Facebook   https://www.facebook.com/edenbaylee



Sunday, May 18, 2014

Anatomy of a Free Book Promotion


Monday 12th May marked the official publication date of A Poison Tree, the third book in my Time, Blood and Karma series.

To give the launch party a bit of a kick-start, I decided to offer the first book in the series - Everyone Burns - free on Amazon worldwide for five days from 12th to 16th May.

In the run-up to the launch, I went to a whole bunch of websites specialising in mailing lists etc to promote free books (most of them are featured in the Author Marketing Club website: click HERE). None of these were paid advertisements, so in many cases there is no guarantee your book will feature - in the event most did,  some didn't. I also paid for an advertisement on BookBub for 13th May, which cost me a hefty $310, but BookBub has a mailing list of over a million readers of mysteries. Last time I used them I got a good result but achtung, it's not easy to get on there since they only accept a limited number of books per day. Be persistent if this is the route you want to go down.

As the free promo started I tweeted like a maniac, and used various retweet groups as well as Facebook and a Goodreads event. If you're short of time, you might want to skip the Goodreads event. I've always found the results to be disappointing, and sometimes I think we authors might just be p*ssing off the 'genuine' readers on there. I digress.

The first day of the free promo was mildly disappointing, but on the second day when BookBub kicked in the downloads soared, taking the book up to No. 4 in Amazon.com free bestsellers, and to No. 1 in the categories of Crime Fiction and International Mystery and Crime. The fame is short-lived, however, so celebrate quickly. 24 hours later the next BookBub mailshot hit the ether and Everyone Burns dropped down to No. 13, where it clung on tenaciously for another 24 hours, before sliding to a still-honourable No. 23. It ended its promo at No. 37, and No. 2 in Crime Fiction and International Mystery and Crime.

Total downloads over the five days ran out at just over 36,900. Here's a day-by-day graph for the geeks among us.

BookBub made a big difference on Tuesday!

If you are interested in how that equates to velocity of downloads, here is how frequently a book was being downloaded (daily average - of course this varies a lot depending on the time of day).

On average over the five days (120 hours),
5 books were being downloaded every minute.

SO WAS THIS A SUCCESSFUL PROMOTION?

Well, that's not so obvious as it might seem, my friends. Sure, around 37,000 downloads gives you some bragging rights - and allows you to boast about it on your tweets etc - but being a guy for the financial numbers, I always do a cold analysis of how the dollars stack up.

As an exercise, this is not so easy. You have to make some judgement calls. So let me share with you how I do this. You might not agree with my analysis, but that doesn't matter since you can easily insert your own assumptions once you know how I carry out the assessment.

Author warning: this might depress you. A lot.

I see the financial benefits as being of two types: (1) the 'bounce', and (2) further sales.


1. THE 'BOUNCE'

A free promo creates visibility for your book(s) - something we Indies need. When I've run free promos in the past, a 'halo' effect emerges. In the aftermath of the promo, you will sell more of that book than you would otherwise have done; and furthermore you will sell more of your other books too, both during and after the promo. In my experience, this phenomenon lasts about four weeks. Then you're back into obscurity again.

So my 'bounce ' impact I determine by the following formula:

(TOTAL UNITS OF ALL BOOKS SOLD DURING PROMO AND THE FOUR WEEKS AFTERWARDS MINUS BOOKS I WOULD HAVE SOLD DURING THIS PERIOD WITHOUT THE PROMO) TIMES THE NET ROYALTY EARNED = 'GROSS BOUNCE'

FROM THE GROSS BOUNCE DEDUCT THE COST OF ADVERTISING

THIS THEN EQUALS THE (NET) 'BOUNCE

So for example, suppose I sold a total of 1,000 books during this period, and I estimate I would have sold 500 regardless. Let's also assume my net royalty per book averages $1.50. If my BookBub advert cost $310, then my net 'Bounce' is:

(500 x 1.50) - 310 = $440.

Yippee!

In case you are wondering how I arrive at the figure for 'books I would have sold anyway' over this period, I take the average daily sales of  my books during the month immediately before the promo and then adjust it by whatever black magic factors seem appropriate (e.g. if I've just had a new book launch). I told you this wasn't scientific, but it gives you some kind of idea. Cause and effect is a dodgy phenomenon, and a slippery one.


2. FURTHER SALES

This is where it gets really subjective, but what the hell. Disagree if you like.

Free book downloads are largely an impulse thing, and Amazon has made it so easy to do that for the reader if they think they MIGHT want to read the free book, it's better just to download it anyway then worry later about whether they want to read it.

The consequence of this is: THE VAST MAJORITY OF YOUR BOOK DOWNLOADS WILL PROBABLY NEVER BE READ. They will sit on Kindles and laptops feeling sorry for themselves, lost among all the other free and paid downloads, forever. Now then, if somebody doesn't read your book, how likely is it that it will spur them on to buy another one of your books? Not likely at all - in fact, forget it.

My approach to quantifying the unit and financial impacts of this is to make the following assumptions:

a) Only 5% of my downloads will ever get read at all. Yup. Only 1 in 20. Does this sound pessimistic? If so, think about how many downloads you personally have made in the last 12 months - and how many of those have you actually read? If you haven't read a book within 12 months of downloading it, the chances are that you never will read it. How fast is your personal TBR list growing?

b) Of the downloads that ARE read, only 1 in 3 readers will like my book enough to put their hands in their pockets and buy another one. Btw, forget your four and five star reviews on Amazon. They are NOT an indication of how well your writing is perceived, since only a very tiny proportion of your readers will write a review. If readers in general only 'quite' like your book, the chances are they won't part with their hard-earned cash to 'quite' like another one. They have to LOVE it. We should always remember this, so we don't get carried away.

So, for my Everyone Burns 'further sales' my calculation runs as follows:

Free downloads (say)    36,900 
Downloads that will actually be read = 5% (say)    1,845
Further sales over next 12 months = 1/3 of this (say)    600
Extra sales per month over say next 12 months average units    50
FURTHER SALES Revenue at say $1.50 per book    $900


SUMMARY: given factors a) and b) above,  36,900 downloads will translate into 1,100 extra paid book sales over the following 12 month period. If I'm lucky.


OK, that's enough for now. My brain hurts.

You can, of course, get rather more sophisticated in your analysis if you want, and substitute your own assumptions and percentages for mine. But remember: all this is rather subjective. It just gives you an idea of how you are doing. If you review your actual sales for the six months after the promo, it might give you a better idea of what percentages etc you should be using, but be mindful that other factors - seasonal, pricing, competition, blog posts, change in the number of social media followers etc, further promos and book launches - will all muddy the waters of knowing.

Happy promoting! And ... um ... don't forget to keep writing too. Good books only, please :-)



Friday, May 16, 2014

Indie Book Release Fest: Electa Graham


Boy, it's a busy week for Indie book releases!

First, Christoph Fischer's wonderful Time to Let Go, and now Electa Graham's third instalment in her Cassandra Myles Witch Series. Plus keep reading for news of a FREEBIE. We all love freebies, don't we?

Hey, it's worth buying just for the cover!
(Although I am reliably informed that the
author is MUCH better looking than this)

Blood and Reign – Cassandra Myles Witch Series Book Three

Release – 16th May

Cassandra Myles has killed the Queen of the Dark Fae. Now she is their queen and she must bring peace to and unite the Light and the Dark Fae a job she feels grossly unqualified for. To make matters worse, someone is trying to kill her. Not many fae want a human queen, and fewer still are interested in peace, the list of suspects is long and the people she can trust are few. If that isn’t enough for a human witch to deal with, the man she loves has professed his love for her. This would be great if she didn’t feel it couldn’t possibly work, and would only cause grief and heart ache to them both. She has to find a way to convince him to move on, not to mention find her own tenuous resolve to do so. 

Can Cassandra do the impossible and unite the warring fae before they erase themselves from existence? Will she be able to send the man she loves away? Never underestimate a witch with her back against the wall. 

Click HERE to go to Amazon and buy a copy immediately! (And no, I'm not getting any commission for this, in case you were wondering. My reward will be in Heaven. At least, I hope so.)



And now for the freebie!


To celebrate the launch of book three in her epic series, the author is giving away FREE, GRATIS AND FOR NOTHING copies of the first book in the series from 16-18 May.

Yes, you heard me right, Blood and Loss can be yours for just a couple of clicks. No catches, no phuquerie, and no salesman will call. Simply click HERE

There, now wasn't that easy?


You can find Electa on Twitter @ElectaGraham

... And on her website  www.electagraham.com


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Introducing Christoph Fischer...

I had the extreme good fortune to bump into Christoph Fischer in the writers' support group ASMSG, to which we both belong. No, ASMSG don't make hernia belts, in case you were wondering.


Christoph writes literary, human stories, and his The Three Nations Trilogy series is set in a historical context, namely a Europe riven by twentieth century warfare. I have already read and reviewed Sebastian and The Black Eagle Inn and I was blown away. My 5-star reviews are on Amazon under the handle of 'Diogenes'.

Well, now Christoph has a new novel launching this week - on 15th May to be exact (though for a few quid more, I can probably get you a black market copy) - Time to Let Go. Read all about it below, and see Christoph's links. He is definitely an author to watch!


Time to Let Go is a contemporary family drama set in Britain.
Following a traumatic incident at work Stewardess Hanna Korhonen decides to take time off work and leaves her home in London to spend quality time with her elderly parents in rural England. There she finds that neither can she run away from her problems, nor does her family provide the easy getaway place that she has hoped for. Her mother suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and, while being confronted with the consequences of her issues at work, she and her entire family are forced to reassess their lives.
The book takes a close look at family dynamics and at human nature in a time of a crisis. Their challenges, individual and shared, take the Korhonens on a journey of self-discovery and redemption.

Quotes from the first reviews:
“A moving and insightful tale”
“An engaging story of how life can get in the way of the things that should really matter and the things that your heart should hold on to”
“A must read for anyone that has dealt with Alzheimer’s”
“Have kleenex on hand and know that this emotional story will stay with you, but it is worth the tears”
“Having once worked in a hospital dedicated to the care of Alzheimer's patients, I found was a heart-felt and realistic story”
“I cried when I read the book, but I also smiled at the ability of the author to capture the essence of human nature so beautifully. I can't recommend this book highly enough! Treat yourself.”
“This is a heartbreaking story but at the same time it has some wonderful moments.”
“This is a book with great insight, written with understanding and feeling.”
“Christoph Fischer has done an amazing job with a difficult subject. He shows a lot of understanding of human nature and a great deal of insight.”
“A fabulous, thought-provoking read,”
“This achingly beautiful swan song is honest, poignant, and ultimately uplifting.”

Links:

Amazon US  Time to Let Go

Amazon UK  Time to Let Go

Christoph on Twitter  @CFFBooks

Christoph's Website  http://www.christophfischerbooks.com/

Christoph's Amazon Author Page