December 17, 2012
You may or may not know this but ‘roaching’ is a technical marketing term for people who hijack a newsworthy story as a platform for their own campaigns.
National tragedies, like the Newton CT shooting, naturally bring the roaches out in droves or however we should term a frantic collective movement of roaches.
November 7, 2012
This has been my first US election as an extraterrestial, OK alien, but ‘alien’ means extraterrestial in English-English.
It was all quite exciting for the weeks leading up to the vote as I tried to come to grips with the surprising fact for me, and probably for most non-US citizens, that the US President [...]
September 22, 2012
It is is case little known in Britain but well known in the USA, that on February 16 and 17, 1970, Jeffrey MacDonald’s family – his wife Collette and his daughters Kimberly and Kristen – were virtually butchered. Jeffrey MacDonald claimed their home had been invaded by a band of four drug-crazed hippies going, [...]
August 18, 2012
As someone who has not watched a soccer match for 20 years, and never seen more than extracts from an American football game ever, I cannot claim it is has been a burning question in my life, nevertheless I have been off-and-on intrigued as to why soccer hasn’t become the overwhelming national sport in [...]
August 18, 2012
Once upon a time I used to feel thoroughly left out of US political debates because I was, how do I say this, not living in the US, although US policies affect the entire world.
Well, now I do live in the US, albeit in a very atypical part of the US – San [...]
December 30, 2011
As you may know, Kindle have come up with KDP Select whereby they demand 3 months exclusivity in return for allowing you to run a promotion of a free e-book for 5 days and getting a share of a $500,000 pot when your book is borrowed by Premium Kindle customers who pay a fixed [...]
December 27, 2011
For some time now I have been announcing portentously my belief that art is a communication between man and God.
Actually, I haven’t really had much of an idea as to what I meant by that, but it was one of those stake-in-the-ground statements; it sounded sort of right to me and the details [...]
December 26, 2011
When we started publishing in March 2010, we believed that the way to sell books was to build a lot of background awareness through blogging, word-of-mouth etc. – the classic book marketing model.
All evidence since then is that this is not how you sell books, unless you have a huge budget.
Which actually [...]
November 8, 2011
Just as our sales via Smashwords (primarily via B&N) have increased by 500% and even our paperback sales are up slightly, the Kindle side of the business has crashed – virtually disappeared.
What is going on?
One thing I have learnt over the last 18 months is that when big things happen on Kindle, Amazon / Kindle are always behind them. When you sell 11,000 copies in a day (as we did with ‘Get Some’ and ‘Spoilt’) that was the power of a Kindle promo. When sales disappear, it is because Amazon are doing something.
I have heard rumours for several months that indie publishers are seeing sales disappear from Kindle. At the time ours were up rather than down, but as they say “performance fluctuates”. Continue reading Whoops! Where did Kindle go?
November 5, 2011
How often have you seen people go up to a baby in the street and say to its young mother, “That baby should never have been born’, or worse, “That baby should be put down’, or even, ‘That baby is incredibly ugly‘.
Maybe these things were said with a racial slant years ago, maybe they were said to single mothers about the same time, but I doubt it is a common event nowadays and my guess is that the person saying it would elicit gawping shock or possibly violence. Maybe they themselves would be put down, at least onto the sidewalk.
However, some book readers launch into comparable attacks on authors without hesitation.
I have just read one that accused the author of having no writing skills whatsoever and, in the next breath, of stealing most of her passages from other writers. What? This author was so stupid as to plagiarise the worst writing around? Another, and I suspect related, attack said that somebody should sue her for her portrayal of the hero on the off-chance it might be them. Continue reading Spitting on people’s babies
October 22, 2011
Some very strange things have been happening over at Amazon.
Known facts – Amazon admit to having misreported 50% of our sales this year. They also admitted in September 2011 to making more errors on top of this 50%. Additionally they have admitted to significant EC2 service outages. And then their sales statistics since mid-August have been behaving in very statistically unlikely ways.
All this points, at the very least, to incompetence on a very serious scale, and we are not the only publisher or author who is wondering what is really going on …..
Back a bit – what is EC2?
EC2 stands for Elastic Compute Cloud. Amazon, as any well-run corporation, is always looking for new profitable revenue streams. After all, they are increasingly in the same territory as Microsoft, Apple and Google who are very good at it. Continue reading Does Amazon EC2 spell ruin (not least for Amazon)?
October 21, 2011
Up until now, I have been a big fan of Amazon. They have generally been both efficient and helpful in their day-to-day dealings.
But what has happened to their accounting?
We have now been promised $12,000 in their reports – even in their reports after they have issued the relevant check – which they have subsequently claimed not to owe us.
We haven’t the slightest idea what they owe us beyond their reports. We have no means of corroborating Amazon sales, but we pay our authors according to what Amazon say they have sold on our behalf.
So how is it that Amazon, with total nonchalance, and not a hint of an apology, tell us that they have made accounting errors and that we should just lump it when they say they owe us substantially less than they have officially advised us they owed us several months previously? Continue reading How much of a mess are Amazon in?
October 16, 2011
There is hardly a writer nowadays who places a word on the page without seeing it played out as a movie in her or his head.
Indeed, there is hardly a book which we publish which couldn’t be turned into a movie.
Getting there is horribly tricky – far worse than getting a book published [...]
October 15, 2011
With a new thriller out called ‘Milkshake’ by Matt Hammond, which is about milk being genetically modified to produce ethanol as a bio-fuel for cars, incidentally threatening the sovereignty of a small but beautiful country the other side of the world, I Googled ‘unusual uses for milk’ to see what other strange things can be done with the stuff.
And strangely enough, there are lots of them.
For instance, did you know that milk can be used as a basis for clothing?
It can also be a palliative for sunburn, insect bites and poison ivy.
It is a moisturiser and a soap, and also good for removing make-up.
You can use it to clean your plants and your furniture, and to remove ink stains from clothing.
It enhances the taste of corn and rescues the taste and texture of fish which is going off.
Still, sticking it in your car and smoking it has to be the biggie. Continue reading Milking milk
October 4, 2011
Danny Bent’s ‘You’ve Gone Too Far This Time, Sir!’ was always going to be an engaging book because of the character of the man himself. He just never holds back from enjoying a new experience with new people.
Whereas many of the rest of us would baulk at attempting a classic ritual dance for the first time in front of a packed stadium of 300,000 in Pakistan’s equivalent of the Superbowl, Danny is up for it.
Yep, the guy is completely and utterly mad, but he spreads cheer wherever he goes and he has remarkably little ego.
And he has a huge desire to do good, which is what got him into this mess in the first place, cycling 10,000 miles from London to Southern India.
After a successful but boring career in the City, he first taught in London and then decided he wanted to teach in Chembakolli.
He also has a huge desire to do right.
He had been preaching the gospel of environmentalism to his class in London for a year, so when one of his pupils asked how he was going to get to Southern India, there was only one answer – by bike (it’s lucky he is an international triathlete). Continue reading Going very, very far ……
October 3, 2011
We received this the other day …..
We’re currently experiencing a reporting issue that has caused minor errors in the display of your July sales information on our KDP site. Our engineers are working to resolve this as soon as possible and expect the reports to be corrected next week.
We can assure you that the payment you recently received was for the correct amount you were due, which will also soon be reflected in your reports.
Thanks for your patience and understanding.
Kindle Direct Publishing Team Continue reading Kindle admit to ‘reporting issues’
September 30, 2011
It is very exciting being a marketer (in my case, with 30 years experience) and dealing with Kindle.
First of all, it is a technological revolution. The way Kindle delivers books is completely different from anything that has happened before – not just that they are e-books delivered instantaneously onto a shiny gizmo, but also that the market mindset is completely different. Kindle readers are one-click impulse purchasers – “Looks interesting. 99c. Buy now. Your purchase has been downloaded to your Kindle.”
Secondly, the market is electronic, so changes happen much faster and more fundamentally than they would within a traditional bricks and mortar framework.
Thirdly, Amazon are really smart and always working the angles for both world domination and profit maximisation. Whatever is turning up and could be important, they want a piece of it.
The old game
The old Kindle trick was either to persuade Kindle to promote your e-book themselves or to create a sales spike that would fire you up the Kindle best seller lists and get you noticed. If you were lucky, Kindle readers would spot you on one of their favourite genre best seller lists and buy you.
Kindle’s own promotions would generate thousands and tens of thousands of sales, but usually for free – or free in the US and priced in the UK (or vice versa).
Promotions by Kindle satellite promotions sites, such as Daily Cheap Reads, would create a 30-200 sales spike and make you visible.
We had several books take off this way. A sales spike of 75+ would usually lead on to thousands of sales at 99c. Continue reading All change for the great Kindle sales game – promotion wars
September 17, 2011
We all know the Oscar Wilde witticism about being divided by our common language, but I would guess that there is one word that separates the Brits and the Americans more than most.
To accuse an American of not being a patriot, is virtually to pronounce a declaration of ex-communication. All Americans are required to be patriots.
In Britain, to claim to be a patriot – what we would call a ‘nationalist’ – would be to label ourselves either as a wannabee slimy scoundrel or as a shark-faced proto-Fascist. The British do not like patriotism, Chauvinism, nationalism. Indeed, we are not fond of ‘isms’ period.
What we do like are Americans or, for the connoisseurs, North Americans, to include the lesser known but gentler Canadians, although I suspect that despite your oaths of allegiance, your belief in ‘the American way’ etc., there is no such thing. Continue reading Proud to be British, but not proud of Britain
September 16, 2011
I love writing whereby everything in the composition seems fully achieved, but its complete meaning loiters tantalisingly just beyond my grasp and, even if I think I have managed to capture it, I am never sure that I have.
This is how poetry – beyond ‘Roses are red’ – works. You know there is a message in the poem, but it has been distorted, disguised, scrambled, cloaked and whatever, so that its plain meaning is no longer directly reachable but, in the process, its coded meaning provokes far more inferences than its plain meaning ever could, its resonances stimulating your pre-conscious and sub-conscious without violating your sense of the rational.
This is how books like ‘Alice in Wonderland’ work too – they give you a story that is just rational enough for the carrot of understanding to hover unattainably within reach, while firing messages into the lights-out regions of your mind that satisfy and excite you at a level you cannot identify, using a mechanism you cannot explain.
In essence it harnesses the powers of such techniques as metaphor and gestalt, whereby you can perceive two opposing and irreconcilable concepts at the same time or in rapid sequence. The gestalt trick with the two-faces-or-vase image (Rubin’s vase) is a classic, but metaphor works the same way. “Peter, you are the rock ….” says something about Peter being rock-like – a solid foundation for a movement – while recognising that he isn’t really made out of rock, that he isn’t destined to be the cornerstone of a physical building and, in this case, while inserting a pun on the meaning of ‘Peter’ as the cherry on top. Well, you know, not literally a cherry ….. Continue reading The art of the sleight of carrot ……
September 7, 2011
Our whole lives we struggle to discover the truth and to persuade ourselves and others that we are right. That is our social norm where to be right, to be righteous, to be honest and to tell the truth are all held in the highest regard, and to be wrong, to be a loser, to be dishonest and to be untrustworthy is to consign us to the community dustbin.
Yet, whether we recognise it or not, virtually everything we do is a product of interpretation and assumption.
That is why we are so prickly about our desire to be right – because being wrong in any society on earth is enormously important and we have an uneasy feeling at every moment that we could be wrong.
And in that, at least, we are probably right.
My wife, who is a philosopher, recently had a Eureka moment. She hates academic approaches to the investigation of life, which you may find weird given that she is a philosopher, but her point is that the academic discipline requires that you interpret other people’s work. You are not allowed merely to regurgitate it, you must interpret it and assess it, and people assessing other people’s work nearly always get it wrong. Take how even some philosophers believe that Nietzsche was a fascist. Continue reading I am always wrong and it hurts (other people, usually)
September 6, 2011
About thirty years ago I was surrounded by bunion babes who were nearly always women of a certain age who hobbled around in odd shaped shoes and used those little round die-cut pads that looked like mint Polos, but didn’t taste as nice, to crown the banes of their lives.
But I haven’t heard a peep about bunions, nor seen a bunion pad, in years. What happened?
Well, I have a theory. It may not be a very good theory, but I did make it up all by myself.
Twenty years ago in Britain, you were entitled, even encouraged, to moan to the fullness of your quota. Moaning was a good thing – it showed spunk and gumption in your desire to bite back at an oppressive and cretinously bureaucratic world. There was even a popular comedy character called Mona Lot, from the Goon Show, whose catchphrase was “It’s being so cheerful as keeps me going”.
However, as much as you were permitted to moan, it was considered extremely rude and over-bearing to complain, that is to demand that anything should change as a result of your moaning. That was to presume an undue importance and influence in society, and only late middle-aged women with foghorn voices and more pearls than marbles up top could get away with such behaviour. It was a classic case of “Everyone complains about the weather because nobody can do anything about it”. Continue reading Attack of the bunion babes
September 3, 2011
During the days when almost anybody’s countries were liable to be invaded at any moment – until the 20th century, in fact – being a member of the armed forces was considered honourable, glorious and glamorous. Every girl loved a man in uniform, especially if they had bought a commission to go with it because not only would they be scions of a rich family but, should they prove to be unappealing, war being what it is, there was a very fair chance of separation with maximum prejudice through the medium of sword blade, bullet or shell with a well-healed widowhood stretching out towards an idyllic Indian summer.
The First World War put the first and biggest dent in the prestige associated with being a soldier. Standing in a ditch in Belgium surrounded by mud, shit, brains, guts and rats, and being daily shelled and strafed with machine gun fire, may have been impossibly honourable and heroic, but glorious and glamorous it was not.
While probably one of the few justifiable wars in history – the Second World War – brought back some of the glamour to armed conflict, especially if you were a fighter pilot, Vietnam was more or less fatal to the conceit of war being a good thing.
The people of the West still selectively have their atavistic aberrations but, in general, our attitude to war and warriors is thoroughly ambivalent today – “Visit exotic countries, meet exotic people, and kill them” meets injured armed service personnel as charity cases – burnt to a frazzle, missing a limb or two, and suffering from untreated PTSD. Continue reading Being at war
August 26, 2011
It is a hackneyed complaint among writers that readers assume that they have lived what they have written about in their books, but my guess is that this complaint is more of a smoke-screen than a genuine grievance. After all, aren’t we always advised to write about what we know and isn’t there always an element of life as we know it that leeches into our writing?
It is this interplay between reality and imagination which most fascinates me about writers and their writing, even about myself and my writing where I can at least track the antecedents of any given passage.
But that still leaves me wondering about everyone else.
Take Stephen Sangirardi’s ‘Monday Afternoon’ – the utterly convincing account of an adulterous coup de foudre between two obsessive English teachers. Surely it is too detailed and too ‘true’ to be entirely the outpouring of a creative imagination, however fertile. He must have had at least one steamy affair, mustn’t he? Continue reading Did they or didn’t they?
August 25, 2011
In the great debate that rages forever on among authors, Stephen Sangirardi’s ‘Monday Afternoon’ is something of a cross-dresser.
On the one hand, it is totally and unashamedly a shot at the Great American Novel, but as the work of an intense, craft-precise miniaturist rather than that of an epic, flamboyant landscapist in its recording of the great sweep of American life as it is experienced today. It also celebrates all things literary, the lovers revelling in their tastes and their accumulations of arcane scholastic knowledge as if lasciviously licking chocolate off each other’s willing bodies, driving each other to a frenzy of academic mutual celebration, before they even lay hands on each other.
On the other hand, it is the story of a love affair, of an adultery, and one of the most visceral you will ever read. It captures almost physically those extraordinary, suspended moments of relish as you realise with absolute certainty that you are on a promise, that you will soon be frantically stripping each other naked and gratifying each other’s unbridled sensual desires (could it conceivably turn out any other way, until it does?).
And that, I reckon, is the essence of the ever-popular Romance / chicklit novel that specialises in rehearsing the readers’ barely suppressed, and rarely indulged, sensual yearnings. There you are, in the routine of a boring job and a mundane life, whereas what you crave is for an exotic lover to seduce you, overpower you and reach into your core until every nerve of your mind and body quivers and tingles, something your over-stressed, tetchy, competitive and otherwise self-absorbed partner is beyond even wishing to embark upon, never mind achieve. Continue reading Monday Afternoon – love affair by proxy
August 22, 2011
I love reading literary fiction, however, boy, oh boy, in the stakes of rubbing shoulders with those who damn their own causes, I think I would rather spend time with Christians.
Literary writers are obsessed with being absolutely vicious towards their fellow writers.
Writing is hard. You need the inspiration, you need the perspiration, you need the determination and you need the chutzpah. And then, after all that, you have to be a sales and marketing specialist besides.
But woe betide you should you sell a single copy of your master work – the insatiable Hounds of the Literati will be after you.
I blame school. I blamed it then and I blamed it now. As Jethro Tull sang in ‘My God’ – “When I was young, they packed me off to school, and taught me how not to play the game.”
Schooling is totally useless at teaching you how real life works. It teaches you to parrot what the teacher has just told you. It teaches you that if you appear to be too intelligent and questioning, you will be crucified. It teaches you that there is a right and a wrong, and that there is only one right way to do anything. It teaches you that there is an authority that governs what you do and has the right to judge it. It teaches you that there are marks out of ten.
In the UK at the moment, there are far more applicants for university than there are places. “Don’t worry,” re-assured the top UK employers over the weekend, “we would much rather employ non-graduates with three years’ business experience than university leavers.” So fourteen or more years of education doesn’t even train you to hold down a job. Continue reading The attack of the vicious bastards
August 16, 2011
Yesterday I indulged a hidden competence I haven’t applied for thirty years that, unlike riding a bike, you really don’t forget – punting.
If you don’t know what punting is (except in its betting sense), it is like gondoliering but in leafy England, not sinking Venice, and without the singing.
When I was at university in Cambridge, where the ratio was 24 men to one much-admired and appropriately chased (not necessarily chaste) woman, it represented the best bet for getting a beautiful girl in a floaty summer dress into the same space as you while plying her with champagne and strawberries. Oh, OK, so there were about five other men in the boat with you, but it shortened the odds of male-female contact considerably.
So there you stand, precariously, on the end of a slim boat, long pole in hand, trying to show how effortless it all is. And, if you really want to finesse and display your male prowess, you can always have a punt fight. Continue reading Anyone for an annual regatta?
August 11, 2011
Literary fiction gets some strong reactions, from those who think it is the only type of fiction worth reading – the rest of fiction being relegated to some subterranean swamp known as ‘genre’ writing – to those who think literary fiction writers (and the literary critics who stentoriously encourage them) are sententious pricks whose nether regions should be enthusiastically dipped in boiling first pressing extra virgin olive oil, sourced from an exclusive Italian ‘House’, continually and for all time.
For the most part literary fiction is insouciantly ignored by the mass of readers, but that ‘nether regions dipping thing’ is still the most likely fate for aspiring lit. fic. authors as, let’s face it, afficionados of literary fiction are not usually the nicest of people, often being not only elitists but snobs. There is no sight more pitiful than that of a literary snob but, in literary cloud cuckoo land, they still think they are gods.
So, if you want a miserable life and a lonely and impecunious death, sharpen your quill and prepare to write elegant – or affected – prose. Tragically the last thoughts to linger in your mind as you prepare to wrestle with your final breath will be the words of your unkindest critic who will have suggested, with much relish, that your life has not only been for nought, but had very much better not been lived at all.
Literary fiction has always been elitist. It dates back to the age when few could read and write, and those who could were the wealthy ‘educated’ classes of the sort who wouldn’t need to buy their own furniture. The writing of the time was either portentous or scurrilous – and the concept of lapping up a fun trashy read on the beach in preparation for getting drunk, and then laid, was but a future dream. Continue reading The killing fields of literary fiction
August 7, 2011
Here is where we recommend to you a cheap US / UK Kindle purchase from an author associated with the SpeakWithoutInterruption and Night Reading author communities.
Today’s recommendation is ‘The Bringer’ by Samantha Towle.
‘The Bringer’ is a highly rated romance / fantasy tale from Northern English novelist Samantha Towle, [...]
August 4, 2011
Here is where we recommend to you a cheap US / UK Kindle purchase from an author associated with the SpeakWithoutInterruption and Night Reading author communities.
Today’s recommendation is ‘Toonopolis: Gemini’ by Jeremy Rodden, a contributor to SpeakWithoutInterruption.
Jeremy Rodden is a teacher and religious studies student whose ambition is [...]
August 1, 2011
Today’s recommendation is Drew Cross’ ‘BiteMarks’.
‘BiteMarks’ is the first in the series of crime novels by the electrifying writer Drew Cross about Shane Marks, a cop with a taste for blood and much other ambivalence besides.
He is therefore in the classic mold of the detective who not only [...]
July 31, 2011
Here is where we recommend to you a cheap US / UK Kindle purchase from an author associated with the SpeakWithoutInterruption and Night Reading author communities.
Today’s recommendation is Lily Byrne’s ‘Ragnar the Murderer’.
Lily Byrne is the pen name used by the engagingly elegant writer Catherine Chisnall for [...]
July 28, 2011
You will probably have heard how Abraham Maslow made himself immortal with his taxonimous ‘Hierarchy of Needs’, the idea that we start with eating and mating (a few years later, admittedly) and rise to the giddy heights of ‘self-actualisation’ (emotional and spiritual fulfilment) sometime / never.
Well, I want a bit of that immortality too, so I have created my very own world-beating taxonomy of writers’ needs, originally known as the ’4 Rs’ – Roux’s Ranking of Writers’ Requirements – although anyone who cannot pronounce their Rs can refer to it affectionately as ‘Woo’s Wanking’.
However, that pseudo-intellectual approach is well past its pose-by date, so I have gone for the instant self-help, motivational, hands-on, anyone can do it ’10 Steps to Author Heaven’ instead. People love to have numbers in the title to an article, apparently – you know, ’10 Ways to Peel a Carrot’, that sort of thing – so here goes. And I’ll ignore the fact that the truth is closer to John Buchan’s 39 Steps, because that would look all too exhausting and realistic to contemplate.
Step 1: Getting some words down on a page with intent to complete a work of art
Although this is an intensely private moment between you and your laptop, it feels to any would-be author horribly like you are stripping your soul bare in preparation for a naked dash down Main Street, booed by hecklers and other, possibly psychopathic, ill-wishers.
In my case it took 20 year to get to Step 2, and I am not alone in that one.
Step 2: Completing your work of art to more or less your satisfaction Continue reading 10 steps to author heaven
July 24, 2011
Pheasodilia is a little recognised mental state characterised by the sufferer quickly and reliably moving from a state of near-seduction to imminent threat when their wishes are denied.
As with all psychological paradigms, an element of Pheasodilia is to be found in all of us. We smile sweetly and say ‘Please’ when we want [...]
July 3, 2011
When I was young, they packed me off to school, and taught me how not to play the game (Jethro Tull / ‘My God’).
I was packed off to school in 1962 and in those days Doggy Philosophy was still prevalent – as Harry Potter’s inflatable aunt put it – “If there is something wrong with the bitch, there is something wrong with the pup.”
And anyone who has seen Cindy Anthony in action would have to admit that there is something seriously wrong with the bitch. Just take her latest scam – to claim preposterously to have done those searches on the Internet for ‘chloroform’ and ‘neck breaking’ which had been ascribed to Casey. It was a claim so laughably easy to disprove that you have to ask what the hell she was doing – trying to make herself look protectively maternal while condemning her daughter to death? Par for the course, one might say – self-exculpation and self-elevation at any price.
Then there are all the allegations of sexual abuse – against the father, George, and the brother, Lee. Sexual abuse is the fascination of the age because it does indeed drive dysfunctional behaviour and it is relatively common. Continue reading Casey Anthony – the perfect story?
July 1, 2011
There is a lot of money in pharmaceuticals – a lot of lot of money – and it’s all a crapshoot. It costs billions to develop and license a drug, millions to market it, then it can be destroyed in an instant by an indication that it has a serious unwanted side-effect.
Still, pharmaceutical companies don’t appear to be that poor …..
and they can get pretty nasty.
This is the story of one researcher – Dr. Doug Bremner, Professor of Psychiatry and Radiography at Emory University – and the pressure he was put under by one of the world’s largest corporations to bury his adverse findings on one of their best selling drugs.
They came at him from all directions – legal intimidation, scurrilous professional accusations, peer pressure and media spoiling tactics – and he very nearly cracked under the pressure, taking his wife and his family life with him.
But he didn’t. Instead the drug he researched was withdrawn from the US market two years ago for its association with birth defects, stunted growth, depression and suicide. However, it is still freely available over the Internet should you wish to run the risk of any of these side-effects and more: Continue reading When drugs companies set out to kill
June 23, 2011
- Casey Anthony – faces the death penalty
Writing fiction is generally a relatively leisurely affair, and the more factual the background, the more leisurely it can get as there is a lot of research to do before you even start writing.
Obviously I have been aware that whenever there is a major scandal, issue or event, books are rushed to print, usually written by what anybody would call a ‘hack’, with the cynical aim of capturing a piece of that three-month market window before it closes and the world moves onto the next big thing.
So, it is really exciting to be involved in the real-time work of two excellent writers, Kathleen McKenna and Marti Rulli. These are definitely not hacks, indeed Kathleen McKenna is one of the most gifted and versatile writers I have ever seen (maybe Marti is too, but I am less acquainted with her work). Continue reading Writing fiction in real-time – the Casey Anthony trial
April 24, 2011
Every psychological theory has its place, and for Behaviourism it is Marketing.
Behaviourists, building on ‘Pavlov’s Dog’, believe that we are motivated either by the pursuit of pleasure or by the avoidance of pain.
Marketers believe that too.
The classic ‘fear sells’ are in insurance, health, religion and natural foods.
If you do not buy this insurance package you will be caught short and impoverished by a sudden horrible happening. You will retire without money. You won’t be able to bury your dead.
If you don’t buy this pharmaceutical, that bug will run rampant, eat you up inside and out, and you will die afflicted by the screaming ad-dabs.
If you don’t come to my church and fear God, you will burn in hell eternal.
If you don’t buy this organic product, you will be eating pure chlorine and be chronically sick for all time.
Scary stuff, huh? Must buy.
Two prime examples of the pursuit of pleasure approach are perfumes and chocolate products.
If you wear this perfume, we can guarantee you unlimited wild sex with the hunk of your dreams. Continue reading Hope and fear – the marketing of books
April 14, 2011
One of my strongest beliefs is that many writers write because they have to, therapeutically, to ease a great pain, real or imaginary. It is that Eric Idle Ruttles joke you have probably seen me quote before – “I’ve suffered for my art; now it is your turn.”
Writing brings with it a sense of self-worth, an internal and external validity which I am convinced is critical to our personal welfare as human beings.
When Bruce Essar and I set up Night Publishing one Thursday afternoon a year ago, our primary motivation was that we had both seen some superb books on the HarperCollins site for authors, Authonomy, clearly written from the heart, very few of which would ever be published.
We probably wouldn’t amount to much in any scheme of things – we would probably fail to amount to anything at all – but it was a crying shame verging on a crime for these books not to be published somewhere, somehow. We had (and have) very few resources available to us, but at least we could give it a go. Like the UK Lotto slogan, ‘You can’t win if you don’t play’. Maybe we could even sell a few books, make a few authors a bit of money and, sure, maybe make ourselves a bit of money too – I certainly put that gloss on my activities for Night when I need to obtain permission to continue.
It is possible that the vast majority of our 70 signed and 500 associated authors are ecstatically happy bunnies who have never had a single nimbus cloud cross their horizon, that they are intolerably easy-going, giggly, cheery scribblers who just enjoy writing as a personal pastime preference over bungie jumping, for instance. Continue reading Charitable intent and the business of charity
April 5, 2011
There has been an extremely interesting development in the book world – the prestigious hotel group Radisson Edwardian have set up a book club whereby they give all their guests at their Radisson Edwardian Bloomsbury Street Hotel, London, a courtesy book of the month.
Why Bloomsbury? Well, based on the Bloomsbury literary group of the early 20th century, as you might suspect.
It a bit boggles the mind how the literary editor of the Radisson Edwardian Book Club, Chris Moss of trendy London guide Time Out, chooses a book to meet the tastes of all 14,000 guests who stay there each month, but it has to be a lovely idea for people like us who enjoy a good book and, it has to be said, a good hotel, starving authors that we are.
There you are, you arrive at the hotel tired and in need of instant relaxation, the TV doesn’t appeal, you’ve seen all the movies, what you need is a good book – hey presto, here it is and, if those guests are exceptionally lucky, it will be a Night Publishing book too.
Oh come on, nobody gets that lucky.
Funnily enough, though, that is why Night Publishing is so-called. It was originally set up to supply fun business books to business travellers in hotels – not the stuff that you hang on your wall as a trophy in the unlikely pretence that you have actually read it – all ten pages that matter out of 500 anyway – but really entertaining business-related books like Matt Beaumont’s ‘Company’ or Maxx Barry’s ‘Syrup’. Continue reading Because the night ….
March 29, 2011
I would like to apologise to Jo Ellis as I start this article, given that it is a rather unfortunate topic for her to be involved with.
Sorry, Jo. Hope you are game.
As we all know, most of fiction is about either sex or murder. So how much are you prepared to pay for the fantasy of romanticising another beautiful human being, or even of poking around among their dirty laundry after they have been murdered?
According to the Amazon stats for Christmas 2010, most of us like to get it for free and there are an awful lot of writers prepared to offer their all for free too.
For the first time ever, Amazon ‘sold’ more e-books than paper books, and most of those e-books cost the reader nothing. Free sex. They reckon, therefore, that the top Kindle authors are the fastest selling authors in the world, so as Jo was at Kindle #1 for several weeks in February / March 2011 and will probably sell the 100,000th copy of her ‘Spoilt’ this week, hats definitely off for Jo, eh?
Continue reading The pricing of sex – would you put out for 99c or even offer freebies?
March 24, 2011
If you look at Night Publishing’s top 10 sales performers on Smashwords, one thing is immediately obvious:
1. Romance – ‘Saving Nathaniel’ by Jillian Brookes-Ward – 3,615 downloads
2. Romance / Crime – ‘Spoilt’ by Joanne Ellis – 2,654 downloads
3. Romance – ‘Clawback’ by Gemma Rice – 2,179 downloads
4. Romance – ‘Perhaps …. Perhaps’ by LA Dale - 1,750 downloads (approx)
5. Crime – ‘Little Fingers!’ by Tim Roux – 1,424 downloads
6. Crime – ‘The Really Dreadful Crime Company’ by Robert Adams – 973 downloads
7. Romance – ‘Beyond Nostalgia’ by Tom Winton – 762 downloads
8. Romance – ‘How To Meet A Guy At The Supemarket’ Jessica L Degarmo– 669 downloads
9. Romance – ‘Strike’ by Gemma Rice – 661 downloads
10. Crime- ‘The Dance of the Pheasodile’ by Tim Roux – 658 downloads
41. Literary / Abuse – ‘Exploits’ by Poppet – 100 downloads
…. that either we are a publishing house that specialises in Romance and Crime, or those are the books that sell.
In fact, our books are fairly eclectic, as you will see from our showcase Relax at Night site, so my best guess is that if you cannot slot your book into one of the five or six top book market categories (Romance and Crime being the top two), then you are in for a very tough time.
Any when I say ‘slot’, I mean shoot dead centre. Continue reading The book that dare not speak its name – a book marketing experiment
March 21, 2011
Jane Austen’s parents viewed her as a literary lightweight, focusing as she did on feeble-minded women’s issues such as love and the selection of dress fabrics rather than on what were perceived to be the great military, political and social questions of the day. She died a year after the end of the 25 year long French war, a British Prime Minister had recently been assassinated, and Britain was in the early stages of the socially cataclysmic industrial revolution with its attendant major breakthroughs in science and technology, and massive social upheaval. Then there were the Americas, Ireland, the colonies, slavery, the corn laws, enclosures and Roman Catholic emancipation, none of which is addressed in any depth in any of her work.
So it surprising that her novels emerged into public consciousness at all, and they might not have done had her brother Henry not published them despite virtual literary silence, offset by the royal enthusiasm of the daughter of the Prince Regent.
What is perhaps even more amazing is that her works are read so widely now, two hundred years later, when most other eighteenth and nineteenth century writing is more likely to be watched in TV adaptations than actually read. Continue reading Jane Austen, Chick-Lit lit chick
March 1, 2011
Have you met your …. excuse me, I have to copy and paste this, no way I can remember how to either pronounce it or spell it ….. Epipsychidion?
Yes, it is Karl Kronlage interviewing SWI’s own Stephen Sangirardi about the first book to be published by Night – ‘Monday Afternoon’.
And for (sex [...]
February 28, 2011
I saw a truckload of pigs at a crossroads. They were poking their noses through the slats in restless exploration; seemingly more hopeful than afraid.
Were they headed for the slaughterhouse, I asked myself, or for those individual rental holiday chalets they glory to root around in these coastal parts?
They looked like Jews [...]
February 25, 2011
Sort of a propos of L. Anne Carrington’s posting of yesterday, I am proud (out of sheer hubris) to boast that our very own Joanne Ellis has …….
Rewind a bit.
It is one year ago to the day that we set up Night Reading. The idea was to have a place where authors could meet and support each other in promoting their books – a sort of People’s Indie Authors’ movement.
Of course, we hadn’t a clue if it would work, but both Bruce Essar and I were convinced that indie authors were producing far better writing than the stuff major publishers were stacking knee deep in high street bookshops.
So why not give it a go?
Anyway, it being the first anniversary of the first ever ‘First Chapter / Poem of the Month’ competition Night Reading ever ran, we were getting a little excited that Joanne Ellis’ ‘Spoilt’ had jumped right in at #5 in the Kindle listing, thanks to a Kindle free promo.
If only she could make it to #1 for 25 February 2011, our anniversary date. Continue reading Our first Kindle #1
February 18, 2011
I asked Stacey Danson to tell me the story of what happened after she left the streets (in brief, she was prostituted by her mother from the age of 4, and ran away from home at age 11 – a journey of escape superbly recounted in her autobiography ‘Empty Chairs’).
Within a sentence, I couldn’t see the words for tears.
Which is strange because not only can I read my own writing without crying, but I volunteered for Amnesty International for many years and have read some truly horrific accounts of what man can do to man.
Stacey’s writing does this to me every time, and I don’t think I am alone in this.
It is axiomatic that every age generates explanations for the heretofore unexplained within the framework of the dominant scientific theory and technology of its age. Isaac Newton not only posited the existence of gravity, but also provoked the concept of ‘gravitas’. Sigmund Freud saw all our psychological urges hissing and welling amid the forces of steam and hydraulics. Later cognitive psychological theories leaned heavily on computer science. Nowadays, everything is energy and it vibrates, as dictated by Quantum Physics.
But do words vibrate? Continue reading Do words vibrate?
February 17, 2011
This is an article by a friend and writer, Poppet ,which I thought should appear here (with her permission). And this is it in its original, more colourful, version: http://authorpoppet.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/attraction-is-chemical/
I’m still in my anti-romance* mood. Some of you may think I’m jaded – nah I’m just a realist. And here is the logic behind it: Scientific proof…
okay… step back and put on your *science* hat
A chemical bond is an attraction between atoms that allows the formation of chemical substances that contain two or more atoms. The bond is caused by the electromagnetic force attraction between opposite charges, either between electrons and nuclei, or as the result of a dipole attraction. The strength of chemical bonds varies considerably; there are “strong bonds” such as covalent or ionic bonds and “weak bonds” such as dipole-dipole interactions, the London dispersion force and hydrogen bonding.
Since opposite charges attract via a simple electromagnetic force, the negatively charged electrons orbiting the nucleus and the positively charged protons in the nucleus attract each other. Also, an electron positioned between two nuclei will be attracted to both of them. Thus, the most stable configuration of nuclei and electrons is one in which the electrons spend more time between nuclei, than anywhere else in space. These electrons cause the nuclei to be attracted to each other, and this attraction results in the bond. Continue reading Attraction is chemical
February 17, 2011
I used to have a friend and colleague at work, Eleanor, who had the most mystical eyes I have ever seen. I should have listened to her words of wisdom more carefully, but I do remember one piece of advice she handed out about how to deal with aggressive male managers. “Think of them as small boys in shorts.”
Great advice indeed, but I have another solution. Think of them as depicted by Pablo Picasso.
Imagine that the only artist the cops could ever find to pull together their identikit ‘Most Wanted’ portraits was Pablo Picasso. Would you ever find that guy in the police line-up? The respectful request might be “Stand up straight and face the front,” but it would be of no damn use.
What about if all official portraits of the President, King or Queen of a country had to be commissioned from Pablo Picasso. Wouldn’t that set a different tone? They might have to make crowns somewhat less spiky too.
And military maps …..
In his ‘The Prodigal Prophet’, Charlie Boyd walks into a beautiful Cuban doctor’s surgery in Tenerife and finds a depiction of the Christ after the style of Picasso. What if the Picasso style had been the only icon imagery licensed for production throughout history? Crucifixion would have been the least of the Christ’s problems. They did that to him?!
And car designers, and architects. You could spend a lifetime trying to find the front, or any, door. Actually, I think my trusty 2CV may have been designed by him, which is why I love it so. Better than the VW Beetle as designed by A. Hitler. Continue reading The beneficent curse of Pablo Picasso
February 16, 2011
I am old enough, wise enough and bitter enough to have become totally cynical about which books sell in this world.
Over 50% of book sales are non-fiction, either how-tos (cookery books, for instance) or conversations with the celebs whom we know considerably better than most members of our family, and maybe like more too (more on this later).
Over 50% of fiction sales are labelled Romance, another 25% are Crime, and much of the rest deal with family and social issues.
So how do we explain this?
Well, let’s start with the first marketing season – holidays. Here the typical reader is a youngish woman, totally frustrated with her job, abused by her company’s management, with some compensatory good friends but feeling that she is missing out on the full 4,000 volts of romantic attachment. She decides to go on holiday, lie virtually naked on the beach, and see what happens next.
Have you ever read a chick-lit book where that isn’t the plot, with a few vats of wine thrown in?
So Romance books are basically small-scale billboard advertising. The naked girl, the sun, the beach, the chick-lit book prominently displayed in the hand, or splayed on the sand, wafted with the alluring fragrance of balmy tanning oil. For the boys in the band, stroll along the beach and read the signs. It’s like the A4 near Hammersmith on the way into Central London, except the items for sale are warm bodies not electronic gadgets. Continue reading Holidays, Lust, Christmas and Coffee Mornings – the four seasons of books
February 2, 2011
February 2, 2011 is an extraordinary day for us, being Night Reading, the authors’ community that was set up a year ago to celebrate, publish, promote and even pay great new writing which seems to be teeming down on us like thirst-quenching rain through the sunshine.
Even better, the authors on the site talk to each [...]
February 1, 2011
You must have had the experience that something strikes you like a cat rattling through the cat flap, you are absolutely sure of its truth, you write it down impeccably – tight as a racoon’s left paw – you sit back to glory in the sunshine of mankind, and then some guy says “Yes, but …..”
And, dammit, they are right. Context and perspective change everything.
In Utilitarianism – the doctrine of the ‘greater good’ – there are two forms: rule-based Utilitarianism and action-based Utilitarianism. OK, there are probably forty more, but the dispute between those two is whether you judge the greater good in general or in the specific.
Consultants recognise this issue daily, if they take their eyes off the money for a second, that is (and they do if they do). You walk into the office of a CEO who is, by definition, a dimwit of pole-vaulting proportions, and you expose your gleaming, robust, foolproof titanium-coated theory in all its scripted precision, and he says “Not in this industry, it doesn’t!”
Who do you believe – yourself with all your learning and inter-planetary intelligence, or this razor-toothed corporate piranha who has only slaved in his industry man and boy for 40 years? Real-politik insists that you backtrack. Wisdom does too.
Which brings us to the difference between articles and literature. Continue reading Statements are never right
January 29, 2011
OK, that may sound a bit strange. You can pinch yourself and it will sure feel physical; it will hurt a bit. Ask your neighbour to pinch you, and it will hurt you a lot more.
That’s pretty physical.
Well, actually, no it isn’t. That is mental. There is no mechanical pain process. Pain is a construct of the brain based on intelligent input. It is not hydraulic, it is not even necessarily cause and effect. Hit somebody in exactly the same way under two different circumstances; in one case it will be agony, in the other they won’t feel it at all.
If I cut your head off, you soon won’t be capable of feeling pain. Even more interestingly, you won’t be capable of walking either, and you would think that walking as a process is about as mechanical as you get.
But it isn’t.
The act of walking is controlled not by the muscles and the bones, nor by the skeleton, but by the brain, the sub-conscious brain. Sure, if you have limbs missing, it doesn’t matter too much what the brain wants, you do not have the physical means of walking, but however many limbs you have, you cannot walk either without your brain. If you forget how to walk, you have to learn how to walk again. Continue reading The body is not physical
January 27, 2011
OK, so the real quote is ‘Sales are vanity, profits are sanity, cash is reality’ but, as the great Tom Lehrer once sang “Plagiarize, plagiarize, but always be careful to call it research!”.
Amazon observed recently that paper books have been around for 500 years, yet, within 13 months of Amazon setting up Kindle, its e-book sales had exceeded its paper book sales.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that those e-book sales were more profitable, because I have read elsewhere that 75% of Kindle downloads are for free, however it does strongly suggest that the paperback is going the way of photographic film, however much ‘bibliperverts’ like to sniff the pages.
As a consumer, you have a choice. You can order a paperback for $9.99 and you can wait a couple of weeks, or you can order an e-book for $2.99 (or even at no cost at all) and wait a couple of seconds. Many is the time I have been caught out having to wait unexpectedly somewhere for an uncomfortably long stretch of time without having any reading material to hand other than brochures or sweet packets. With a Kindle (or similar), this problem disappears so long as you carry it around with you at all times. Equally, $2.99 is a purchasing decision of no consequence whereas, being an old skinflint, I think twice about spending $9.99, and then the book I thought I would like begins to bore me and I want another one NOW! Continue reading Paperbacks are vanity, e-books are sanity, promotions are reality
January 23, 2011
Stacey Danson’s horrific story is increasingly well known.
She was prostituted by her mother from the age of 3 (doing hand jobs).
From 5, she was into full-body action, in effect being raped almost daily by the pillars of her society.
By ten, she had had a nipple bitten off entirely and cigarettes stubbed out in her vagina.
By 11, she was on the streets.
At 11, she was more naive street-wise than streetwise. She would have died if she hadn’t joined a gang. She managed to join that gang and became its 15th member because one of its number had recently died.
Of those 15 children, 13 are now dead, and not of old age (they would have been in their fifties).
Stacey decided finally to tell her story because a friend begged her to. She agreed to do it, but that friend committed suicide before she wrote down a single word.
Now she has written the book, a book ultimately of the triumph of courage over adversity – well, a sort of triumph because she carries many wounds and always will. Continue reading Out of 15 that hung together, 13 hung separately
January 17, 2011
When we set up Night Publishing, it was out of frustration that so many ground-breaking writers were going unheard. We weren’t necessarily seeking to publish high literature, merely great books from any genre. However, I have to confess that high literature is the area which excites me the most.
I was sitting editing Brendan Gisby ‘The Bookie’s Runner’ yesterday and it suddenly struck me. Wow! We are getting truly the most exceptional books coming through, one after the other. It is simply explosive. A lot of people declare “It is an honour ….” and I think ‘What a load of scriptwriter’s crap’, but, in truth, publishing these books is an incredible honour and, beyond that, it is an undiluted pleasure. Now, if only we could sell them …..
Brendan’s book is a stunningly cadenced reflection on the short life of his father whom, he has to accept, he knew very little about. It is a sort of confession, a eulogy, a regret, a condemnation, a sigh of despair, and it is absolutely stunning. The wonderful thing about the best of novellas is that they are perfect gems, and this is surely one of them. Continue reading What a month!
January 11, 2011
I was discussing one of our books – Daniel Birch’s ‘Get Some’ – with Paula Haataja of Daily Cheap Reads, a significant Kindle recommendation site, and trying to explain why some people think Danny is a total illiterate (as is his editor – me) and others think he is a brilliantly gifted writer (his editor doesn’t get a mention in the expression of that sentiment, unfortunately).
And what I was explaining (never start a sentence with ‘and’ – yeah, yeah, yeah) was the role of regionalisation in the use of English in Britain.
What most Americans probably don’t know is that someone who follows Standard English notations and expresses them in a Standard English accent in a public space in Britain is marginally more endangered over here than the snow leopard. Somebody is liable to shoot you and stuff your head up on a wall as a trophy ‘bag’ of one of the last known examples of a Hooray Henry. Continue reading You talk funny
January 3, 2011
In the great debate as to whether society is being dumbed down by the media, someone recently pointed out that the average TV soap watcher can handle 35 different plotlines, 50 different characters and still know what is going on having missed 3 consecutive episodes. How dumb is that?
Personally, I would love to run an experiment. I would like to exhume a bunch of people who died in, say, 1950 and have them watch, say, the recent TV soap ‘Damages’, or ‘The Wire’, or even ‘Desperate Housewives’.
My guess is that if they weren’t dead already, and if they didn’t instantly die again of moral shock, they would be so dazed and confused that they would fall under the nearest passing bus. They simply wouldn’t have a clue what was going on.
I don’t suppose we realise how incredibly more sophisticated art has become over the last fifty years. If you watch those documentaries on the making of specific classic rock albums in the 1970s-1990s and compare that process with the making of Elvis Presley’s first album in the 1950s – three people jammed in a broom cupboard, or something – you sort of get the gist. The same is true of every aspect of modern culture.
But soaps, are they the height of our cultural experience?
Well, I cannot claim to be much of a TV soap addict, nor to have learnt a single new and interesting fact while watching 24 Hours or The L-Word or Dallas, but I have always been immensely impressed by how soaps hook you. They are virtually mesmerising. Continue reading The magical use of soap
January 1, 2011
Joe Solo is a prolifically and prodigiously talented Northern England singer-songwriter who since the turn of the millennium has produced a steady flow of stand-out albums. The trouble with ol’ Joe is that he is a dyed-in-the-wool uncompromising old-fashioned Socialist who refuses to ‘tart’ up his songs with ear-candy arrangements, so some day someone will make an absolute fortune covering his songs with sugary flourishes but, as Joe declares with a provocative jut to his chin, “It won’t be me!”.
I bet Joe dreams nights of the outbreak of the Second Spanish Civil War so that he can go off and fight in it, but somewhere along the way he became fascinated by the topic of Word War I, the inhuman waste of it all and the outrage of its having been one bunch of working class lads fighting another, so he wrote ‘Music from Potter’s Field’ which is a collection of truly excellent and revisionist new Great War songs inspired by Graham Rhodes’ play ‘Potter’s Field’ where three scarecrows converse across a Flanders field. Listen to ‘Peace’ – one of my absolute favourites but, to be honest, listen to any of them. Continue reading Not just mud and guts
January 1, 2011
It is sort of a question on the same level as ‘Is suffering necessary to the human condition?’ but after a week of concerted goodwill wishes I have a question. “Should we like each other? Would it even be helpful, optimal or desirable if we were to?”
Jesus obviously thought so in advocating ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself’ (although, see later).
Equally, if you want to win a beauty contest, you won’t stand a chance unless you proclaim a heartfelt desire for world peace.
But is this really what this world requires of us?
If it does, why is it so damn easy to get people to hate each other, especially the religiously inclined who should know better, shouldn’t they?
There is a psychological experiment where a bunch of people are randomly split into two groups and set to complete a competitive task where only one of the teams can win. Within a day, the members of one team reliably start to trade evil thoughts and deeds with members of the other. It is just human nature. Continue reading What if we liked each other?
October 25, 2010
‘How Can You Mend This Purple Heart?’ is not an intrinsically funny book.
It is the story of how a young naval recruit, Jeremy Shoff, is involved in a lethal car crash coming back from a party and finds himself in the U.S. Naval Hospital in Philadelphia among a ward full of mutilated Vietnam veterans who have lost between one and three limbs while stepping on landmines in the war that was considered by many Americans to have brought shame upon their country.
While some of the therapeutic treatment of these wounds is agonising, it is the convalescence which is the most traumatic, not only for the endless pain subdued by massive amounts of pain killers, but also for the physical and psychological adjustments required to face almost an entire life of handicap after having been the fittest of the fittest, and for the horrific flashbacks to the moment when this crippling transition occurred. Continue reading Lose your legs and smile
September 11, 2010
The temptation is to believe that it could all have been different, but of course it couldn’t, could it?
There was a moment when the movie and music industry decided to go digital.
I remember walking into professional video duplication units which had 50-100 video machines all hooked up to a master, recording movies in real time, around 1,000 copies a day.
The music process was faster but more technically complex – pressing vinyl LPs.
Then digital came along - blowing bubbles into plastic at virtually no cost and with few faults. Plus, because the final output was perceived as added-value, you could charge more for CDs and DVDs, couldn’t you? Continue reading The Curse of Free Art
July 21, 2010
As you may have seen in the press, we have just released Carolyn Allen’s book ‘Knifing the Famous!’, one chapter of which is about whether her father, John Watson, who was a top plastic surgeon, operated on Lord Lucan a second time just after the murder of Lucan’s children’s nanny, and just before Lord Lucan disappeared seemingly forever, although there have been many claimed sightings.
If you don’t know the story, the Lucan case is a cause célèbre in the UK in that he was a high living, gambling sort of guy – known as ‘Lucky Lucan’ probably, in the English way, because he wasn’t. He had a difficult relationship with his wife and one night their children’s nanny, Sandra Rivett, was found murdered. The speculation was that Lord Lucan murdered her thinking she was his wife.
After that, Lord Lucan simply disappeared and one theory, discussed in Carolyn’s book, is that he went to John Watson who altered his appearance before he fled the country.
Here is an article by Struggling Authors who forwarded us the book for publication – thank you, kind sirs: http://strugglingauthors.blogspot.com/
You can also vote there on whether you think Lord Lucan murdered Sandra Rivett or not (lefthandside). Continue reading The Disappearing Lord
June 14, 2010
In ‘Invisible Cities’, Italo Calvino, or rather his character, Marco Polo, declares that a port approached from the sea is of a very different character from the same port as approached from the land.
Being brought up in Hull in the 1950s and 1960s, I remember that you could drive into Hull down the Anlaby Road and have no sense of entering anything other than yet another Northern industrial red-bricked city until you either drove onto one of the docks or were assailed across the city centre by the gut-infested cloud from the fish meal factory on days when it was about to rain.
What opened up the general concept of Hull as being a full-blown port to the casual passerby wishing to scurry to Holland or Belgium via North Sea Ferries was the creation of the Clive Sullivan Way, a testament to about the only black person ever to have lived in Hull. Continue reading Review of ‘Old City, New Rumours’ – edited by Ian Gregson and Carol Rumens
June 10, 2010
As you probably know, there are quite a few writers’ sites, like Authonomy and YouWriteOn, where the come-on is that the top books in any given month receive a review from a major publishing house such as HarperCollins and Random House / Orion.
Personally, I cannot imagine any bigger waste of time than to participate in the games you have to play to get into the top 5 or 10, or whatever, but I can just about see why some authors are prepared to abandon all sanity and jump right in.
As I have always thought the basic premise to be pure hokum, I have not until very recently read any of the reviews that have come out of the bottom end of this tiresome process.
I have now, and I can reliably inform you that they really are as you might expect them to be coming out of the bottom end of any process – shit. Continue reading Up their own fundamentals
May 19, 2010
When I was a younger lad, concept albums were all the rage – Jethro Tull, The Who, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Queen, Yes.
The concept of the concept album soon fell into embarrassed disrepute, consigned to the spangly, pretentious, aspiring dustbin of 1970s history, yet those artists who wrote them form a roll call of the greatest and most restless composers of their age. The format of a concept album tended to be constraining to the point of driving artificiality but it also forced those writers to apply their skills in different ways and from a variety of viewpoints and I doubt that many would argue with the contention that a piece of work is at its best when it chimes a perfect inner harmony and integrity.
Novels are nearly always conceptual – they are strung around a central storyline – as are most short stories and drama. Poetry can be so too, whether in Shakespearean plays or epic poems, but most collections of poems are more pot-pourri, even if most poets set out from a central point of departure or vision of the world. Continue reading Review of ‘The Landing Stage’ by Ian Parks
May 13, 2010
Before reading ‘The Blacksmith’s Daughter’, I was already a big fan of Minnette Coleman’s writing. Beneath an eloquent surface rippling lies a keen habit of observation which manifests as both a warmly empathetic understanding of humanity and a careful detailing of its struggles, foibles and follies.
And it was not far into this epic tale that I realised that this was Minnette at her very best.
A black blacksmith from Alabama decides to make a name for himself through hard work, thrift and the relentless acquisition of land in Atlanta, Georgia. He has a loving and mutually supportive relationship with his wife Bira, five beautiful daughters and one son who is handicapped. The household is run according to a strict discipline and timetable, everyone to her or his task. As the daughters grow up, the blacksmith is most particular as to who they consort with and in which order they will eventually marry. Suitors must be educated and on their way to acquiring wealth in order to assure the blacksmith that his daughters will be appropriately provided for in the future.
Then along comes the Piano Man who has been brought up principally in the North and in Europe, who is circumspect and sophisticated, and who is dazzling at the piano and in appearance. Furthermore, he is about to become a professor of music at the local university. This man is a catch worthy of one of the blacksmith’s daughters – of Minnelsa, the eldest – or so the blacksmith decides. Continue reading Review of ‘The Blacksmith’s Daughter’ by Minnette Coleman
April 29, 2010
War and money have always been inter-related.
After all, you need money to fight a war – it has been argued that all world empires have collapsed ultimately economically because they had to protect too much territory with too little money – and conquest often brings in money. In the past, wars have often been fought to seize resources and enrich the conqueror – ask any passing European colonialist – and a short war generally proves a great stimulus to the economy too.
In feudal times, the king mostly fought wars to keep his otherwise revolting and over-mighty robber barons exhausted but happy. According to feudal law, the barons had to raise the army, but they then got to go on a glorified fox hunt in foreign lands and to return with goodies and rights to land far more valuable than both ears and the tail.
When the feudal system collapsed in the face of the rise of mercantilism in the sixteenth century, the king had to go to Parliament to raise taxes to fund his army, but he still managed to keep his greatest adventurers adventuring on someone else’s doorstep and bringing back the loot.
Not that the formula was infallible. Charles I of England seemingly got it wrong when he declared an unpopular war on Scotland and then tried to raise Ship Money to pay for it. He made the even bigger mistake of stockpiling all these expensively purchased armaments in Hull which subsequently declared for the rebel parliamentarians. However, as the Marxist historian Christopher Hill pointed out, the truth may have been a little different from the way it has been traditionally painted. Continue reading Haliburton – a touch of the medievals?
April 26, 2010
Back in ancient Rome, the Emperor typically had one thought that troubled him more than any other – “Who guards you against your own guards?”, referring to the Imperial Praetorian guards, who either made you or croaked you, according to whim and political calculation (“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”).
As authors who ghost write the lives of fictional characters, and the occasional real one, the question that betimes intrigues and troubles us is a matching one: “Who ghost writes for the ghost writers?”
One answer, of course, might be your editor. Some editors have defined the very essence of their clients’ styles. I cannot remember whether it was Raymond Carver or Raymond Chandler whose characteristically terse delivery was largely attributable to the preferences of his editor. It is undeniable, but rarely confessed, that some editors end up rewriting their authors’ books.
My first influence was Lawrence Durrell. Although I wouldn’t claim that he is among my favourite authors, his ‘Alexandrine Quartet’ is right at the top of my favourite books. I could never copy the opulent, sensuous prose style he shared with John Fowles and Truman Capote, but I loved the way that he told the same story from three different angles and then developed it further in the fourth. There is nothing more fascinating than turning characters and storylines inside-out and upside-down in successive books. Continue reading Who are your ghosts, and why are they there?
April 21, 2010
My son asked me this strange question in the car this morning. “Have I ever seen a pig?”
In some moods, as a father with a lot on his mind, I would simply have dismissed the question as ridiculous, as in “Of course, you have”.
However, he caught me in a more ruminative state today and, when I had considered the question increasingly carefully and even started to rack my brains, I realised that the actual answer is probably stranger than the question. “Quite possibly not.”
In my childhood, I saw pigs rooting around in mud enclosures as part of the countryside environment I went to school in. I suspect that in many lesser industrialised countries they turn up and snuffle and snort right next to you.
However, in the industrialised West, they are usually hidden away in factory farm sheds. We have all smelled pigs from time to time, but I am trying to remember the last time I actually saw one myself.
A wild boar conveniently dropped dead on the beach outside our house in France a few years back, and some even wandered around our garden in another house in France, so maybe it is easier to catch a glimpse of a wild boar nowadays than that of a domestic pig. Continue reading Have I ever seen a pig?
April 2, 2010
George Polley sent me an e-mail this morning to thank me for my recently resurrected review of his ‘The Old Man & The Monkey’ and to tell me what a ball he is having – three books and a short story being published – and that it is all down to Bob Grant of Speak Without Interruption really for encouraging him to write and for bringing together people who could help him.
I couldn’t agree more. Bob has recruited some truly outstanding writers to this site.
As a reviewer, it is nice if you brighten up the author’s day and give them some additional publicity, but you are always asking yourself “Am I being fair?” – to the author and to the reader, that is the eternal balancing act. Continue reading Thanks where they are due
April 1, 2010
Review of ‘Get Some’ by Danny Birch
For me at least, and I think it spreads far wider than me judging by the fan club he marches around with, Danny Birch is a phenomenon.
He writes in a style I have never seen before but which I expect to see copied regularly in the future.
He is a sort of Nick Hornby of the Facebook / Twitter generation, a gifted buddy-novelist with a sure-fire grasp of storyline and character and an uncanny way of whispering his words intimately into your ear in a way that keeps you chuckling with the humour and pleasure of it all. Continue reading The Danny Birch phenomenon
March 20, 2010
One of my favourite stories of a reading is that of Lady Redesdale, mother of the Mitford sisters and familiarly known as ‘The Bolter’ for all the men she had run off with in her time, reading George Eliot’s ‘Mill on the Floss’ to her unreconstructedly boorish husband.
When she came to the end of the book, Lord Redesdale burst out into tears.
Lady Redesdale patted him gently. “There, there, Dear, it’s only a story.”
“Only a story?”
“Only a story. It didn’t really happen.”
“What?” cried Lord Redesdale, “you mean the sewer made it up?”
Despite the best efforts of the publishing industry to demarcate the mutual bounds of fiction and non-fiction (primarily to avoid litigation), the two forms insist on getting tangled up and many readers actually believe that fictional characters are real. Continue reading Hey, wait a minute, that’s me
March 16, 2010
Night Reading / Publishing has been publishing and marketing several Speak Without Interruption contributors recently. Here is what has been happening in our drive to publish 5 great books a month regardless of commercial opportunity.
The first three works from outstanding newcomers have been released by Night Publishing this week, all three are Speak Without Interruption contributors.
Continue reading Three outstanding newcomers