A Bookish Valentine’s Day…blog-post.

 

 

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Say it with simit.

When I went to pick up the morning simit bread today the woman behind the counter popped this little gift into my bag. (I know it looks like a heart-shaped turd, but it’s bread.)

After I stopped panicking that I’d forgotten it was Valentine’s Day, it got me thinking about the occasion (and about how I could rescue myself from the promise of a bad day at home because of my forgetfulness). I could have presented my wife with the heart-shaped simit and pretended that I’d paid for it, but by the time the idea occurred to me on the walk home from the shop I’d already eaten it.

 

A flower in bloom, like first love, is beautiful to behold: fresh, fragrant, perfect. It is no surprise that they are chosen by many a romantic to give to the apple of their eye on Valentine’s Day. But… they wilt. They become ugly and smelly and depressing to look at. A metaphor for our chosen loved one, perhaps? Eventually, we can bear to put up with them no more and they are discarded, thrown away on life’s rubbish heap. It’s one of the reasons I don’t give flowers. (The other reason is, I’m tight.)

 

Chocolates! Mmmm… another safe staple for many a Romeo to fall back on and many a Juliet to get fat on. Remove the cellophane of the packet, lift the lid, inhale the trapped scents of long-sealed  c h o c o l a t e… it’s almost sexual, isn’t it? The box is full, virgin, unspoilt, unmolested, a treasure of tastes and torment, treats and truffles. But wait… chocolates get eaten, they disappear, soon they are all gone, there is nothing left… a bit like love, perhaps? And then, like love, it all turns to shit. Literally. That box of chocolate, that token of love is turned by your insides into poo. You squeeze it out and flush it away. A stinking mass of waste, again, literally. Gone. Forgotten. It’s one of the reasons I don’t give chocloates. (The other reason is, I’m tight.)

Flowers and chocolates: landfill and shit. What a waste in every sense of the word.

This is the speech I made to my wife this morning before she stopped speaking to me and threw something heavy in my direction. It was only half of my intended speech. She didn’t want to hear anymore. I don’t think that she could have over her sobbing behind the locked bathroom door.

Three Short Blasts  (Medium)The rest of it went like this. A book. Is there a more complete, more personal, longer lasting, more multi-sensory pleasure, more multi-layered gift that one civilised person can give to another with whom they experience feelings of deep and enduring love for than a book – new or old? I don’t think so. As well as all of the above a book is a present that can be opened again and again. That’s why I pre-ordered you, my sweet, a copy of my latest book Three Short Blasts.

Her response probably would have gone something like: It’s not even a real book. It’s a crappy electronic file. You only pre-ordered it to get your sales figures and your Amazon chart position up.

Despite marrying me, she’s not completely stupid.

For anyone out there looking for a late Valentine’s Day gift for the love of your life, here are pre-order links. Amazon UK Amazon US

And at £0.99 and $0.99 a copy you won’t find many cheaper presents out there. Say it with an electronic file.

Here’s the Amazon sales page blurb in case you need a little more convincing.

Three Short Blasts is a collection of three original stories that are not to be found anywhere else. There is one story in each of the three series that I write: The Romney and Marsh Files, Acer Sansom and Booker & Cash.

Going on industry standard word count, the three stories range from forty to sixty pages of a paperback novel in length – significantly longer than short stories but not quite novellas.

There’s also an introduction in the book where I explain the motivation behind it. You can skip that bit if you like and get straight into the reads, which I hope you will enjoy.

*

As regular followers of this blog will know, last Sunday Rope Enough (R&M File #1) was the subject of a book promotion excercise that saw it go to #1 in the Amazon free charts. That’s the chart for every single free book on Amazon. Quite amazing. I’m still trying to get my head around that. There must be thousands of free books on Amazon. Maybe tens of thousands. In its first twelve hours it was downloaded nearly 6000 times. I thought it would quickly drop back down the charts but it stayed at #1 for 24 hours (awesome) and then hung around in the top 10 for most of the week. A few thousand more downloads later and today it’s at #20. Still good and a great boost to the book and the R&M Files’ profile for a mere $50.

There have been some good knock-on sales for the other R&M Files. That’s what it was all about.

Hits on my blog were also up. Before the promotion I was averaging about 30 or 40 hits a day. All this week I’ve been averaging over 100 hits a day, presumably from downloaders of Rope Enough checking out my links. Great stuff! Lots of exposure.

Talking of the blog: a small milestone this week: I posted my 200th blog-post. By my calculations that’s quite a lot of CWAP.

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A good week.

UF3

This blog is essentially my writer’s diary. As such I like to record noteworthy events, like the above. Amazon’s British Detective chart is just a sub-genre of a sub-genre… but, as Maureen Lipman might be moved to say, it’s a sub-genre! (I wonder if anyone will actually get that reference or is it just too obscure? [Reading through this prior to clicking publish I thought I’d relive my youth by looking up the Lipman reference I’ve just mentioned. And I had to include a link here. It is very, very funny. Hang on for the last thing she says. Priceless. An ology! The Internet truly is wonderful sometimes. And credit to whoever was behind that ad – decades later I still remember it.]) and for a brief spell this week Unhappy Families (R&M File#6) edged its way up to #3! Many thanks to all involved. You know who you are.

On the subject of Unhappy Families I’ve had lots of positive feedback, which I am very grateful for. I’m not in the habit of quoting feedback on my social-media sites but this week I was tagged in two Tweets that just about summed up what I hoped to encourage readers to feel when they read this book.

The first said: Started reading the latest yesterday couldn’t stop laughing. Should I find it funny??

Definitely, yes.

The second said: I’ve just finished the latest . It had me in floods in places. His best yet.

I’m thrilled to hear it.

*

With Acer #4 Deep State with my gentleman friend for proofreading etc I have been free this week to continue working on my latest project.

Last week I reported that I was currently engaged in writing a Booker & Cash short story to go into a compilation of three short stories (one in each of my series) I was intending to put together.

It was going well. In fact it went a little too well. I got to ten thousand words and realised that actually there could be a full-length story in it. That was both good and bad news. Good because I’ve got ten thousand words of another story – a good start. Bad because then I had to start again with another Booker & Cash short story.

So I did. And Thursday evening I finished the first draft. Its eleven thousand words – about forty pages of a paperback. I’m happy with it. Very happy.

So that’s my three short stories written in their first drafts. And I have a title for the book, Three Short Blasts, and I’ve ordered the cover and I’ve written a rationale for the compilation – something to go in the front of the book to, hopefully, engage readers.

I feel that it’s been a very productive writing week. I am feeling good about this project.

One down, two to go.

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Unhappy Families (Romney and Marsh File #6) is now off my hands. I uploaded the final version to Amazon on Tuesday. For the time being I have to forget it and move on. What better way to do that than by focussing on another writing project?

(Unhappy Families is available for pre-order now here Amazon UK and here Amazon US Release date is 27th December.)

I’m too late to get A White-Knuckle Christmas (Romney and Marsh File #7) out for Christmas. It would have been nice and seasonal but in any case I think it might be wise to have an interval between books #6 & #7.

That means I’m now working on Acer #4 Deep State. I’ve completed one read-through and I still like it. I haven’t felt the need to change anything of the structure.

I do the first read-through on a hard copy with a highlighter pen. Then I update the Word document with the changes. After that I send the new Word document to my Kindle and read the book again on that device. I have the hard copy and a different coloured highlighter pen close by. Anything I want to alter I note it on the hard-copy in the new colour as I go. Then I’ll ping the updated copy to my Kindle and read it again. I’ll usually do this a few times before I’m happy with things and can’t find anything else to change/correct.

Reading the book through using a different means – ie Kindle rather than paper copy – gives me the opportunity to spot things that I seem to not be able to spot otherwise. It always surprises me the number of things I miss on the first read-through. After the initial read of Deep State there wasn’t that much red ink on the manuscript. I’m now half-way through the second using the Kindle and there is more ink on the pages already than there was after the whole of the first read.

When I’m done with these stages I send it off to my gentleman friend for a second opinion.

(When the books come back I get further examples of the limits of my understanding of spelling, punctuation, grammar and making sense. I’m not terrible at these things – no one proofreads my blog-posts and they’re not littered with mistakes of English (?!) – but a full-length novel is something else. Sometimes it’s hard to see the wood for the trees, especially when you are so close to them.)

Anyway, second read-through going well. Still liking it.

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Some of you may know that I run another site at southcoastcrimewriters.co.uk It was conceived as a bit of fun. A couple of weeks ago I had the idea to contact all the authors included on the site who I could find online contact details for and ask them to answer just a couple of questions about their motivations for writing crime fiction set on the south coast. I’m very happy to report that a few did respond and I think that their answers are great. Please go over and have a look.

Thanks to:

Valerie Keogh

Pauline Rowson

Elly Griffiths

Peter Guttridge

Sara Sheridon

If any readers have an author or book to suggest, please take a look at the criteria I’ve devised for inclusion (it’s on the ‘About’ page) and if your suggestion matches do let me know. I want the site to be comprehensive.

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It’s unlikely that I’ll blog again before the 25th and so I would like to take this opportunity to wish each and every reader of my books a very happy Christmas.

 

Vanuatu, Vanuatu, wherefore art thou Vanuatu?

Sunday evening it was with a start that I realised I hadn’t written a blog post last week. I’m still not sure why. (It might have something to do with getting steamed on Friday night and consequently misplacing Saturday.) OK nothing happened in my writer’s life but that’s never stopped me from turning out a thousand words of forgettable ramblings. So that I don’t miss this week’s deadline I’m writing this one early.

Summer seems to have arrived in Istanbul. It’s hot. I’m in T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops when I’m not working. (I could happily live my life in T-shirts, shorts and flip flops.) The Ministry for Education have issued their yearly decree excusing gentleman teachers from wearing neckties. (That’s not something I can subscribe to. Don’t get me wrong I LOATHE NECKTIES but to go into a classroom without one… well I’d feel almost naked. It’s a professional thing. Yawn.)

I have been busy. I’m still wondering (and worrying) why I can’t find anything to change in Particular Stupidities R&M#5. There are only two possible answers to that: 1) It’s as good as it can be. 2) It’s not but I can’t see why. Maybe just one more look.

I blogged a little while ago about writing a ‘thin’ R&M File. (That’s a short story.) Over the last week I’ve made significant changes to it in line with some comments I got from a reader’s feedback. (I know one person who’s going to groan when they read that. No names – M.) But it’s better for the changes. I think. Something else that needs a fortnight in the ‘manuscript drawer’ and then another look. (It’s getting pretty crowded in there.)

Yesterday, Monday, I was struck with an idea for the opening of Booker & Cash #3. And with the idea came a good title: Waifs and Strays. Despite other pressing writing commitments, I couldn’t resist running off three thousand words for the first chapter and I like it. It’s nice to have a start under the belt, something to pick up when the opportunity presents itself. It was also great to get in touch with Jo and David again. I miss them. I miss Acer too. But I have R&M#6 that I must get back to.

Bottom line: it’s R&M that sell. (Hardly anyone seems interested in Booker & Cash or Acer Sansom these days. [Oh God, that seems like such a melodramatic ejaculation of self-pity. It’s honestly not. I’m trying to be objective. And when I say hardly anyone seems interested what I’m referring to is numbers of monthly downloads. It’s a fact that those two series of mine do not currently warrant the investment of my valuable and limited writing time when one considers the potential returns. {Oh double-God, now listen to me! I’m planning my writing according to statistics and financial returns. Aaaaargh!!!!! I’m just off to punch myself in the face of few times and try to remember why I started writing in the first place.}])

But there is a good reason that I now have to consider these evils. Pretty soon I’m going to be writing for more than just because I enjoy it. More on that in a future post.

Now and again my WordPress stats throw up an interesting gobbet of information. Today my blog has been viewed from Vanuatu – another of those far flung territories that I’ve never heard of. And I bet that 99% of people who hear the name will have the same reaction as me.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanuatu

The ground floor of the apartment building next door is occupied by a hairdressers. They have an African Grey parrot. Because the weather is fine the bird is outside in its cage during the day. I feel very sad when I see a caged bird. But there is nothing I can do about it. The bird in question makes a lot of noise. The noise is not unpleasant. It doesn’t screech. It continually mimics the calls of other exotic birds it must have had some significant contact with. (The noises don’t resemble anything I’ve heard in Istanbul.) It’s nice to have the window open behind me as I write. I hope the bird is not terribly unhappy.

On reflection, that final paragraph seems a bit allegorical. Am I a caged bird? Aren’t we all?

Caw caw…

Happy New Screw! (It’s a tax thing.)

 

I’m composing this blog-post sitting in a warm Istanbul coffee shop. I should be at school teaching English as a foreign language but last night, because of the threat of heavy snow in the region, the Ministry for Education made the announcement that all schools will be shut today, as they were yesterday and the day before for the same reason. Some parts of the region got it but the heavy snow has not arrived here although the skies appear heavily laden with it.

I’m sitting next to a window with a view over the Sea of Marmara. It is snowing very lightly. The flakes are like blossom falling at the end of summer. It’s not laying. A little way across the sea are the Princes Islands. They are all but obscured today. I have plans for those and Acer to become acquainted.

Unexpected days off like this are special. I’m being paid to sit in a cafe and live my second life.

Part One:

At midnight on 1st January 2015 an EU taxation law changed making all sales of ebooks now subject to the VAT rate of the country in which the book is sold. (I think I got that right.) The result for me of that stroke of money making genius from some bean-counting git who probably doesn’t read is that every time I now sell an ebook in the UK instead of there being a 3% VAT cherry on top for someone’s government there is now a 20% VAT layer of heavily iced sponge cake for them to gorge themselves on at the trough. Hey! Maybe all that increased revenue from ebook taxes will encourage them to start another unwinnable war somewhere. There’s a cheery thought to kick the New Year off with.

The change doesn’t have to be my loss. I think that the increase is intended to target the end user. (Did I really just refer to readers as ‘end users’? What’s happened to me?!) Nothing new there, I suppose. Kick the consumer on the street right where it hurts most – the pocket. It’s certainly nothing to do with Amazon and the other ebook outlets. But Amazon had to do something about it so they automatically hiked all the prices of my ebooks by 20%. (They did let me know well in advance that they would be doing this if, as the publisher of the ebook, I did nothing about my pricing prior to the changes coming into being.)

So I had a decision to make when I turned on my computer to see that all my books had gone from £1.99 to £2.32: leave it like that and let the reader/customer take the hit if they wanted my books, or reduce my starting price so that the £1.99 that I like to price my books at now includes the 20% VAT. Obviously, that means that now the financial loss becomes mine.

I don’t know that readers wouldn’t buy my books at the new price of £2.32. But I don’t like the look of it. I thought about rounding it up to £2.49, or maybe £2.99. Just for the aesthetics of the numbers. Not long enough to do anything about it, though. They are now back to £1.99 and I feel that’s right. I’m big on feelings. (If anyone I’ve ever had a ‘special’ relationship with sees that they’ll probably be on the floor crying with laughter now, or throwing breakables at walls.)

Part Two:

As many who follow this blog will be aware, over the Christmas period I released the third book in my Acer Sansom series. Please, take it from me that being solely responsible for putting an ebook out into the world is quite a stressful thing. I’d rather have a baby. It would probably be easier, less demanding, less painful. (Mothers: please direct your scathing remarks to my agent.) There are many worries for one’s paranoia to feed upon, and to lose sleep over. I’m deadly serious for a change. Did the formatting survive the transition from my computer to Amazon ebook file? Does the plot have any massive holes or inconsistencies? Did I get all the names right? Does it make sense chronologically? Did the changes I made after getting the book back from proofreading bugger anything up? And the big one, will readers like it?

In the case of Smoke and Mirrors, I was seconds away from pressing the upload-to-Amazon button when I realised that the title page said Smoke & Mirrors and the cover said Smoke and Mirrors. Honestly. As the author/publisher you see something like that and it makes you want to read the whole thing again. Twice. Just to be as sure as you can possibly be.

Pardon my language, but if you fuck up with something you’re going to let yourself and readers down. You’ll destroy something fragile and valuable that’s taken a lot of time and effort to build up even if it’s only in your own mind. There will be no second chance. You can’t get those books back that have been downloaded. Any new readers will probably slate you in the comments and ratings sections.

I’m thrilled/relieved to report that the initial response to Smoke and Mirrors has been wonderfully generous and encouraging. I know that I have readers who look out for new publications (that’s a very special feeling) and I am truly grateful and not a little humbled to have my ‘regulars’ feedback so positively on the read. One of my maxims for this second life of mine is that writers are nothing without readers. I should have it tattooed on my forehead. (Maybe backwards so I could read it in the mirror every time I…looked in the mirror. Actually, maybe not. Might be confusing for people who don’t know me and it would definitely be an unwise career move. Just write it on a sticker and keep it near the laptop, eh?) A massive thank you to each and every one of you.

Part Three:

Booker and Cash #2 He Made Me came back from the gentleman who proofreads my books. One day I should compile a list of the comments he makes in the sidebars and stick it on here. They make me laugh. I know that elements of Booker and Cash #1 didn’t please/convince everyone. I really believe/hope that #2 will help to win those readers over.

Over the last couple of days I’ve had the opportunity to read it through again. I’m happy with it. Just waiting on the cover and I’m going to stick it on Amazon.

I’ve made a start on Romney and Marsh #5. It’s going pretty well and just the other day I had two great ideas for it that did something to my skin.

A seasonal cliché. (sad face)

Ever since I saw this watch was due for release by Omega I’ve wanted one. I could go on and on about why I think I deserve one and why I just want one but I won’t. I think it’s the watch that Acer might choose. (Not that I see myself as Acer in any way, I hasten to add.) The watch became available in November. I’ve been dropping a steady stream of subtle and not so subtle hints to she-who-must-be-dismayed that this would make the perfect Christmas gift for someone extra special.

Because Christmas doesn’t exist where I live the giving of seasonal gifts is made on New Year’s Eve/Day. So it was with great interest and not a little excitement that I noticed a box with my name on it had appeared under the New Year tree yesterday. OK it was a little big but that would just be a good tactic for disguising the contents.

When it was time to unwrap I elbowed my three year old aside and fell on my box. I broke a nail in my haste to tear open the wrapping.

Even now, twelve hours later, it’s hard for my to truly convey my feelings for what awaited me. I don’t think that I should try on a public forum.

(Scroll down to the bottom of this post to see why.)

Other than that, 2014 has been a good year for me as a writer. I’ve written a couple more books and I haven’t run out of ideas or enthusiasm for it. I’ve learned a lot, too. One of my books has been translated into German and hopefully there’ll be more this year. Reviews of my books continue to be mostly positive and encouraging.

What lies ahead for me in 2015? Another book in each of my three series, I hope. And I’m going to seriously investigate creating audiobooks. I want to have a go at that myself. I have that kind of belief that I could do a good job. And I think that I would enjoy the experience. A bit of variety. Lots of authors do read their own stuff. There is so much help and advice online at audible.com that I should at least give it a shot. Maybe I could do a sample and put it on the blog for some reader feedback.

This week I played around with Youtube and created a couple of short book trailer videos. One for the R&M Files and one for Acer. It’s so easy and quite fun. Have a look for yourself.

It just remains for me so say a very big thank you to Martin for his skills and contributions to the books. Anyone who read my early stuff knows how improved the latter books are for his input. I’d also like to say thank you to those people who I hope won’t mind me referring to them as my supporters. (That’s everyone else). I value every download, every comment, every thought and, of course, your ongoing interest in and support of my writing.

Best wishes for a brilliant 2015 to you all.

Yay! Slippers!

Yay! Slippers!

It’s a book!

Smoke and Mirrors 0602 (Medium)

It’s a book!

Name: Smoke and Mirrors

DOB: 18th December 2014

Gender: Mixed

Weight: I think it was worth it.

Should be live on Amazon sometime tomorrow.

Copies will be free to download on Christmas Day. I’d love to think that my regulars will help themselves then, but please remember that Amazon’s Christmas Day starts later than GMT. (Last time I advertised a free give-away the price didn’t drop to £0.00/$0.00 until sometime in the morning. It all got a bit tense.)