A Good Start.

A Dog's Life Final (Medium)

Writer’s diary: stardate: 11.04.2014

A Dog’s Life (R&M#4) was released last week. So far, so good. Sales have gone well. For a few days it hovered around the top twenty for the ‘British Detective’ category. (Nothing to get over-excited about. As Amazon categories go, it’s a very distant, mentally deficient, locked in the attic, bastard cousin twice removed of the ‘Police Procedural’ category.) And there’s been a ripple of benefit for the other three in the series.

Sales of my R&M Files always, every single month, without fail (to stress a point), outsell my other three books by a long way. I don’t think that the R&M Files are better than Acer or B&C. I just think that the ‘Police Procedural’ genre attracts more interest from more readers. It makes me think that if I concentrated on just churning out R&Ms I could make half-a-living. But that’s not me. I’m writing different characters in different series because I enjoy writing different characters in different series. Last night I was looking for something and I came across my ‘False Starts’ folder. I’ve got the first two or three chapters of five books that I’ve started and left to cool. I ended up reading them all (of course) and each one I finished I wanted to put everything else aside and crack on with it. They’re not bad. Really.

Amazon uploaded A Dog’s Life very quickly – it took about two hours instead of the scheduled twelve. That saw the book in the store and available for download on Monday evening. (I wanted to get it out April 1st.) After I’d wrestled the ipad off the screaming-in-protest infant when I woke up Tuesday morning I discovered to my great amazement that there was already a review! I was staggered. Since then I’ve had a few more reviews. These are from readers who have taken an interest in the series and were obviously looking out for the release of the next in it. (Once again, that makes me almost want to pinch myself. This time last year I was an absolute no one on Amazon. Now, readers are anticipating a new release. Not in their trillions, of course. JKR, I’m not, but still…) All reviews received thus far have been favourable, very kind and positive. I would like to express my sincere and heartfelt thanks to all who have downloaded a copy, thereby demonstrating their continuing support for my writing. I mean it. Thanks a lot. Readers are to writers what horse is to carriage; what butter is to bread and what Romney is to Marsh (the place, not the duo. I’m quite sure Tom could function just fine without Joy.)

I had a comment on Amazon.com from a reader who believed I’d made a mistake in R&M#4. In it Romney is moved to discuss his dead mother. In R&M#3, Romney told DS Marsh that his mum and dad were sunning themselves in the Algarve. It was my intention with the Algarve remark that Romney just made it up off the cuff, so to speak, to make Marsh feel a little foolish for her remarks after ‘that’ interview and to deflect further discussion of, and to slam the door shut on, an aspect of his personal life – Tom doesn’t like talking about his personal life with his subordinates (not unless he’s drunk). This is the way I saw it. And it didn’t occur to me that readers might not have taken it that way, or at least questioned the veracity of his remarks. But I can see now how the confusion has arisen. It’s bothered me.

Now that the book is out and it’s been read I think I will indulge myself by saying that there was only one scene in it that I worried slightly over whether to include. I feared readers might think it was too much. And I’ve not heard a peep about it. That surprises me. I won’t spoil my own book for anyone who hasn’t had the ‘pleasure’ yet. Suffice it to say, it’s the last very last scene. Did DI Romney go too far for anyone, I wonder?

I’m still writing – Acer #3. He’s certainly getting about in this one.

I’m also reading. A book I discovered in our school library. I’m having a job putting it down. It’s making me hoot and I’m simply relishing the language therein. It’s called the Oxford Book of Humorous Prose, edited by Frank Muir, who was quite a wit himself, I seem to remember. It’s a weighty tome. Probably why it was being used to keep the fire door open. It’s filled with absolute gems of amusing writing by the great and good of writers in the English language. And it’s made me want to hunt them out in their fullest forms. I think this book will end up in my book rescue centre. They’ll have to find something else to wedge the fire door open. That big useless lump from 2D, perhaps.



Here it is.

Here it is.

Writer’s diary: stardate: 01.04.2014

(Amazon were supposed to take twelve hours to process the book. That would have been tomorrow morning. It took an hour. So I might as well get cracking now and then I can go to bed. It’s nearly April 1st in my time zone.)

As Roy Wood might be tempted to sing, were he into self-publishing novels these days (although why would he be? With the abundance of seasonal gravy he spoons up every year off that Christmas turkey of a song he probably spends most of his time fishing. Git!)

Well here it is merry release day everybody’s grabbing one! Look to the future now it’s only just begu…u…uuu…uuuun.

Just before you rush off to download your copy of A Dog’s Life (The Fourth Romney and Marsh File) to give it its full and proper title (links to Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com at the end of this post) allow me to share something with you.

A virtual acquaintance of mine recently related to me something the late and great Truman Capote claimed about writing. (I have since confirmed his words with my own Internet research, so there is no need for you to doubt me…this time.)

Mr Capote is reported to have said: Finishing a book is like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it.

Let me tell you this is not true. It is my experience that shooting a child in the back yard involves a lot more police and media attention. It was also a lot messier than uploading a simple ebook, although I’d have to admit to similar levels of anguish when both tasks were completed.

Anyway, here’s hoping that the newsworthiness of my little experiment encourages a healthy impact on sales figures. Who knows, it might even catch on as a form of self-promotion, something all us aspiring wanna-bes are constantly trying to be innovative regarding. I’m just pushing the boundaries. It’s what innovators do.

Please buy my book because my legal fees look like being quite high for this one and I’m already getting a strong sense that my defence is not going to be as sympathetically received as I might have expected. Let’s just hope that the jury has at least seven people on it who’ve self-published a book on Amazon. Actually, looking at the number of self-published books on Amazon these days I’d be surprised if there weren’t…at least.

Here’s to a speedy acquittal.

Dear reader,

The R&M Files now number four. They don’t have to be read in order. They do all work as stand-alone novels. However, to get the most out of each it is recommended that they are consumed in the sequence in which they were prepared, a bit like the courses of a good meal. (Who wants to eat ice-cream before a bowl of soup?)

The first Romney and Marsh File Rope Enough is perma-free to download here on Amazon and other major ebook outlets across the globe as a try before you buy.

So, to the blurb for this one:

He’s alive! Oh, in the name of God! Now I know what it feels like to be God!

Contrary to vicious Internet rumours, DI Romney is not dead. He returns in this, the fourth Romney and Marsh File, to lead his team of Dover detectives in the hunt for doers of dirty deeds. He’s also looking for answers to more personal mysteries.

The wind of change is blowing through this town. Whether we like it or not, this growth of local crime is a complete fiction.

Broken homes, broken dreams and broken bodies are just some of the cheerier aspects of the R&M Files that goes to show sometimes it’s a dog’s life.

Full money back guarantee if you don’t enjoy this book. (T&C apply)




A Dog’s Life (part 4…enough already)

Out April 1st (maybe).

Out April 1st (maybe).

Writer’s diary: stardate: 28.03.2014

I figure that everyone who needs to know/cares that A Dog’s Life (R&M#4) will be out on (hopefully) April 1st is aware of that by now. Probably sick of me saying it. So, lets talk about something else.

Last week I wrote about my ongoing struggle with alcoholism.

Sorry, I mean, last week I wrote about my ongoing struggle with writing the third Acer Sansom novel. (It just felt like that kind of battle.) This week I feel a great deal better about it.

I was thirty thousand words in and not loving it as much as I should have been. I thought that the biggest problem I had to contend with was my ignorance regarding the geographical issues of the corner of the world I’d painted myself into. I have since realised that this was not my biggest problem. My biggest problem was that thirty thousand words in and I still wasn’t thinking like Acer. I wasn’t inside his head. He was doing stuff that wasn’t typical of him. He’s a different character. And I’d forgotten that.

I write three series and I like to think that they are all written differently to each other. Not just the characters but the style of my writing. I enjoy this challenge but it means that I have to adjust my thinking for the characters involved.

So at the weekend I printed off a copy of how far I’d got, bought myself a new red pen and went to town on it. The result is I’m much, much happier about things. I hacked three thousand words out of it, which is about as painful for a writer who is constantly monitoring the word count as removing one’s own appendix…with a spoon.

But because of how much better I then felt about things, more comfortable and familiar, I rattled off another five thousand words in pretty quick time.

I suppose that if I had any friends, I would liken writing another book in a series that I hadn’t been near for a good while to meeting up with one of them after having not seen them for a couple of years. It’s a bit awkward to start with while you’re trying to remember how you once were with each other, and then memories are prompted, you start to relax, and you’re reminded of why you’ve avoided them for so long (surely, back in your relationship groove? ed).

Something I’ve learned recently about writing out of one’s geographical comfort zone is this: the Internet is flipping amazing. Well, I didn’t learn that. We all know it already. All the Google options (satellite, maps, web, images) are particularly amazing resources for a lazy bastard author (surely, struggling self-publisher with work and family commitments and no money? ed.) But what I’ve also found to be a rich source of information to draw upon has been ordinary peoples’ travel blogs. Wherever you want to learn about in the world, ten people have been there, done that and written a blog-post on it. Digest a few of these and you can really begin to get a feel for a place, warts an’ all. Much better than official websites. You learn stuff too.

I hate writers like Dan Brownstain because when they set themselves a book to write they just get someone to book them a ‘holiday’ there. They pack themselves off with a notebook or digital voice recorder, stay in some fancy hotel and have a fine old time of it for a couple of weeks wandering around the streets soaking up the ambience and the cultures of Europe’s more interesting capitals, taking notes and sipping regional drinks on pavements. Gits.

As a struggling self-publisher with work and family commitments and no money (didn’t we just have that sob story? ed) scribbling about far flung places, you have to be able to fool most of the readers most of the time into believing that how you tell it is how it is. If you don’t have the time, money or opportunity to go there yourself because you are a struggling self-publisher with work and family commitments and no money (time to stop that. ed) you have to make it up. One final thought on that subject: no wonder Dan Brownstain always sets his books in ‘safe’, ‘comfortable’ locations. I bet he doesn’t fancy a fortnight in Iran researching Da’Ayatollah Code, for example. Lightweight.

There is one good thing to be said for writing about Iran: I’m willing to bet that not too many of my readers will have been there. So as long as I can paint a believable picture of the place, something that people can buy into then does it matter whether it’s entirely accurate or not? I realise that this is going to be a potentially sticky issue with readers, but I reckon there has to be a compromise. Struggling self-publishers with work and family commitments and no money (!!!) should do their best to find out everything they can if they can’t visit, and readers must be prepared to cut the writer a bit of slack.

With that in mind I’m hoping that faithful readers of the Acer Sansom novels are going to be able to suspend just a little bit of disbelief when Acer has to visit Disneyland Tehran during the Islam-world-wide Easter celebrations in search of Father Christmas who is rumoured to be plotting a terrorist outrage. Ahem.

A Dog’s Life (part 3)

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the bathroom...

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the bathroom…

Writer’s diary: stardate: 21.03.2014

I thought I’d kick off this week by sharing a true story.

As part of my job, teaching English as a foreign language to young learners, I do a phonics lesson each week. This week it was the ‘ch’ sound.

When I teach a phoneme I like to complement my lesson with a Power Point presentation using appropriate and useful vocabulary and pictures to inform and consolidate understanding. In my experience, using PPT also acts as something of a technological sedative for the little blighters. Great when they come in from killing each other for fifteen minutes at break-time.

As part of this week’s vocabulary bank I chose the word ‘rich’. I accompanied the word on the PPT slide with a Google image of piles of cash. I explained as best I could that having lots of money is one way of being ‘rich’. (No good talking to this lot about how having great friends and cultural interests makes one ‘rich’. Just appeal to their basic interests.) I joked with them about how rich I am thanks to the money their parents give me each week for teaching them. Just a little harmless banter I thought. Until this seven year old girl, who is normally so sweet and respectful, sprang up out of her chair, pointed at me and shouted ‘Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!’

I was quite taken aback by this outburst. I was also quite disappointed to note that several of her colleagues started laughing and took up the chanting and pointing. ‘Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!’

What was I to do? I couldn’t ignore it. I mean, where would we all be? This is the kind of thing I left my kindergarten job in the UK over.

Sensing that my authority was being challenged and that to let it go would see my reputation as ‘school tough guy’ irrecoverably damaged, I acted. I was also a bit cross. I had her out of the chair by her pigtails and on the tips of her toes down to the Vice-Principal’s office quick enough to make her cry. Good. One to me. I thumped on the VP’s door. Two minutes later she opened it wiping the sleep from her eyes with one hand and smoothing down her bed-hair with the other. (A quick scan of the interior showed the tell-tale signs of recent horizontal occupation of her ‘meeting sofa’.)

I propelled the girl into the office and proceeded to explain events that had led us to this point.

A flurry of gabbled Turkish followed, of which I understood nothing. Par for the course. (It’s only been five years. These things take time.) A few more tears. And the girl was dismissed. The VP shut the door and turned to me. She then patiently explained to me that ‘fakir’ in Turkish, which sounds very much like ‘fuck you’ when pronounced by a native, means ‘poor’ as in the opposite to ‘rich’. The little girl had been calling me ‘poor’ for a joke, not inviting me to go and fuck myself, she said.

Live and learn.

I always thought build-ups to a book’s publication day were supposed to create a buzz of positive excitement and feverish anticipation. Churn out a couple of titillating blog-posts, engage in a Facebook frenzy, tweet like a summer dawn chorus and readers will be queuing round the virtual block with all their mates to snap up a copy. All I’ve got this week is grief – messages telling me to stop idling, pull my finger out, bloody well get on with it and release the thing.

I came across an interesting gimmick this week for increasing revenue via a new book release. Chap called Andrew Gross released his thriller in three parts on to Amazon. He might have even pulled this stroke more than once. Readers had to pay for each instalment. At first I thought that was a bit too cheeky of him. Then I realised it’s nothing new – Dickens and Conan Doyle, to mention but two, sold stories in instalments in weekly newspapers. And more recently, Stephen King did something virtually similar (or should that be similarly virtual?) with his story The Plant. I began to toy with the idea of releasing A Dog’s Life chapter by chapter to be made available weekly on Amazon as a download. There are twenty-one chapters in the book. I thought I could release them one a week at a mere £0.77 per chapter. That would net me an incredible £5.25 in Amazon royalties per whole book sold. I distinctly remember licking my lips at this realisation. I remember thinking that if I could shift ten copies that way it would pay for me to go out on the lash for the evening. Then I realised I’d have to wait twenty-one weeks to see the full profit from such a scam (surely business initiative? Ed) actually make that eighty weeks – Amazon don’t see monthly royalty payments as something to fall over themselves about.

Then I thought to have a look at Mr Gross’s feedback on Amazon, see how things went for him. And I quickly abandoned the idea. Readers were not impressed with his jolly japes. I almost felt sorry for him. He’s probably changed his name and has had cosmetic surgery by now. A Dog’s Life will be released in its entirety at the ridiculously low price of £1.99.

Every now and again, I manage to claw my way up the Amazon free charts with Rope Enough and just when I feel on the cusp of a whiff of an inkling of breaking into the Amazon top one hundred free books chart  (the promised land for self-published authors) Amazon go and make the book £1.99. I think they do it deliberately. No rhyme or reason for it. It’s like playing snakes and ladders and getting to ninety-nine and finding myself on a snake’s head whose tail is on two. Two days later they put it back to free and there I am teetering around the ten thousand mark in the  free charts once again.

I’m writing Acer #3. It’s not easy. When I write, I like to sit and let the bilge flow through my fingertips, but I’m spending more time on Google maps, Google satellite, Google images and Google normal than I am writing. It’s killing my creativity. I haven’t sworn on this blog for a while but fucking hell…Iran…what was I fucking thinking? If it wasn’t Iran, I’d go there and try to soak up some of the ambience of the place. Maybe take a week to go where Acer has to go so that I get it right. Actually, no I wouldn’t because it’s not like I’d ever even make the bus fare back in sales. I’ve got half a mind to make it a short story and have Acer stoned to death by an angry mob. The End. Move on. Get back to a location that I have a vague idea about.

Acer#3 – Page 2:

The UN inspectors’ convoy came to an abrupt halt on the outskirts of Tehran. They were still lost. ‘Fuck this shit,’ said Acer. He adjusted his Raybans, stepped out of the vehicle and hailed a gaggle of old men taking their ease in the shade of a cafe awning. ‘Oi, where do you hide your WMDs?’

‘Didn’t you lot learn anything from Iraq?’ answered one of them who, judging from his accent, had been educated at an English private school. His cronies laughed. Maybe they were all old Etonians.

A nearby group of young men in traditional Iranian dress turned their attention to the exchange. Sensing a rare opportunity to strike a blow for his country, one of them bent down to pick up a pebble. He weighed it in his hand, never taking his eyes off the white man who had come as part of an international delegation to discredit the country that he would give his life for…I’d better stop now. I’m beginning to like the idea too much.

Oh yeah, I’m aiming for a release date of April 1st for A Dog’s Life. Is that symbolic? Time will tell.

A Dog’s Life (part 2)

Yes, it's the same image as last week's blog, but I am trying sell a book here.

Yes, it’s the same image as last week’s blog, but I am trying sell a book here.

Writer’s diary: stardate: 14.03.2014

Did I mention that A Dog’s Life (The Fourth Romney and Marsh File) is on its way? I have the smell of the expectant first time father about me. The chemical cocktail of hopeful anticipation, anxiety, fretfulness, worry, concern (not much positivity is there?) is seeping out of my pores to coat me with a fragrant musky scent. People who’ve strayed into my orbit this week have been wrinkling their noses.

I’ve got the Amazon blurb ready, which I see no harm in sharing here.

He’s alive! Oh, in the name of God! Now I know what it feels like to be God!

Contrary to vicious Internet rumours, DI Romney is not dead. He returns in this, the fourth Romney and Marsh File, to lead his team of Dover detectives in the hunt for doers of dastardly deeds. He’s also looking for answers to more personal mysteries.

The wind of change is blowing through this town. Whether we like it or not, this growth of local crime is a complete fiction.

Broken homes, broken dreams and broken bodies are just some of the cheerier aspects of the R&M File that goes to show it’s a dog’s life.

Full money back guarantee if you don’t enjoy this book. (T&C Apply)

A few of you might wonder at my exceedingly generous offer to refund the purchase price in the event readers are disappointed with this offering. Lots of the big guns have done something similar over the years. It’s a sales gimmick, of course, but it just might encourage a few fence-sitters to topple my way.

I’m reminded of a despicable episode from my book-buying past. I will share it here by way of seeking absolution through my confession. I would one day like to be able to express my sincerest apologies to the author in question.

When Karin Slaughter brought out her debut novel Indelible it came with a wrap around band offering the reader that if you didn’t enjoy the book simply return the till receipt to a given address and you’ll get your money back. I reckon there was probably more than just me who did this (I did it at least three times in various family names) because the next time I saw a similar offer they wanted the book back as well. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the book. I still haven’t read it. It’s that I was then well into my book-collecting phase and the chance of getting debut crime novels (first editions, first impressions in mint condition) for nothing was just too tempting for a bibliophile with a problem and not much disposable income.

I have wondered over the years whether my cheapness had any real effect on Ms Slaughter’s writing career. I’m a bit ashamed of myself for what I did.

Anyway, stable doors and all that. I too have learned from her publisher’s rather rash (IMHO) offer. Yes, I will offer to refund the purchase price but you’ll notice I have bracketed those pesky T&Cs.

I need to formalise and finalise these, but roughly speaking they’ll be as follows:

1) Call at my home for a cash refund. (That’s my Istanbul home). There is no postal/electronic payment alternative.

2) Refunds will be given in Turkish lire calculated at that day’s rate of exchange.

3) Proof of purchase must be provided.

That’s it.

There is just one piece of advice I’ll offer those who travel here to take me up on my offer: make sure you’re wearing running shoes ‘cos my Dobermans are quite quick. (I keep them hungry). And it’s a long way from my front door to my ten foot, razor-wire topped entrance gates, which I can close remotely from the house (oh and they’re usually electrified).

A Dog’s Life – The Fourth Romney and Marsh File – is coming soon to a Kindle near you.

A Dog’s Life – Romney and Marsh File #4

A Dog's Life Final (Medium)

Writer’s diary: Stardate: 07.03.2014

There’s only one thing on my mind this week: A Dog’s Life – The Fourth Romney and Marsh File.

As you can see, I have the cover – I like it a lot. Slots right in with the rest of the series – and the emanuscript is with the gentleman who does my proofreading these days.

I am terrifically excited and excitedly terrified in equal and opposite measure.

I feel a weight of expectation for this title unlike anything I felt for my two Acer Sansom books and the Booker and Cash title. They were new directions – virgin territory for me as a writer. Romney and Marsh are semi-established, like a Russian military presence in Ukraine without the laughs.

I understand that the R&M Files have a small fan base (this knowledge makes me so proud). There are readers who are looking forward to the next in the series – they’ve told me so. It is inevitable that readers of the series are going to judge it against the others. It’s what we do when we’re into characters and a series of books. Nothing wrong with that. It’s natural. It’s the way of things.

I’m a student of Amazon charts, readers’ comments, other crime writers’ feedback. All the big guns who have a decent crime series going attract a large number of comments that often have something to say on a particular title’s merits when compared to what’s gone before. But now I’m the other side of the inkwell, I can tell you, it makes me nervous.

Even with only the three R&M Files that are out, I’ve had a fair few comments comparing them. Readers have their favourites. A few readers have voiced disappointment when comparing one title (usually the third) to others. I didn’t have a problem with those comments because I took the series in a direction that was not planned from the start and if one was reading the books in order, I can accept that one might feel the difference and not warm to it.

Let me explain. I never set out to write a series of crime books. It just happened. I wrote Rope Enough and when I finished I thought that there might be another book in those characters. I enjoyed the writing experience. It was about halfway through writing Making A Killing that I realised the direction I wanted to take the characters in. Followers of this blog will know that I think I’m funny sometimes. Halfway through Making A Killing I serendipitously arrived at an opportunity to try a bit of humour. I liked it. I enjoyed it. I tried a bit more and then I went back and looked for anywhere I could fish for a smirk from my reader. In Joint Enterprise I went looking for funny with a net. It was a large part of my thinking whenever I sat down to write. That first one, Rope Enough, was altogether more serious, although I do remember just one or two very small occurrences that cropped up and made me smile. But I kept a lid on it. It was a crime novel after all, a police procedural. They’re not supposed to be humorous.

Humour is such a personal thing. It’s dangerous to try in a crime book. Risky. But for me it’s utterly worth it if it can be pulled off. However, as a series goes on it must become more and more difficult to be originally funny with the same characters and the same locations.

And then there’s the crime and it’s solving. Crime writing has a rich and illustrious history. It must be one of the most popular reading and writing genres. There are so many great classic crime novels and contemporary ones and then there are thousands that are still very good. And what they must all have is a good crime that is well solved. If that criterion isn’t fulfilled readers are going to get tetchy. When readers of crime pick up a crime book it’s like a contract has been entered into. They have a right to their expectations regarding the writer’s ability to craft a believable criminal yarn. Everything else is secondary.

The Romney and Marsh Files are not great police procedural novels. I do not have the background or the knowledge or the time and energy to make them totally authentic and detailed by deep research or driving around in the back of my local police patrol car as an observer. (Wouldn’t work here anyway because Istanbul’s nothing like Dover. They drive on the wrong side of the road for a start.) So what I try to do is skate around the minutiae of the procedure. My R&M Files are about my characters. They are about how I imagine a bunch of local detectives might go about trying to solve crime. One comment that really sticks in my mind is from a lady who said Dover CID in my books is how she’d like all CIDs to be. Me too (unless I was a victim of crime. Then I wouldn’t  want Dover CID anywhere near it.)

I’m hoping A Dog’s Life can be out in a month or so. But don’t hold me to it. Things happen. Price – £1.99, just like #2 & #3 after my try before you buy offer of £0.00 for Rope Enough.