Saturday, 20 September 2014

The Bookseller is Here!

Hi Folks!
It's been a bit quiet around here lately and for that I apologise. Writing has taken a backseat in my life this year but I'm here to announce that I have finally taken the plunge and published my novel, The Bookseller.

As anyone who has followed this blog will know, The Bookseller has been in the pipeline for several years. I got the original idea in - ooh, must be 2006 - and it's been through a few drafts since then. 

It's a mystery involving two very different characters.  Greg, running a little antiquarian bookshop, begins to make some disturbing discoveries that undermine his world. And Gary, a cynical policeman about to investigate a case that changes his world view. 
Both must solve the mystery of Jedza's Gate before it is too late.

Here is the prologue. I hope it whets your appetite for more. If so you can find the Kindle ebook here.  The paperback version is now available here.

Prologue: June 2004

Killigrew woke with a jolt.  He was aware of that odd murmuring again but it took his befuddled brain several minutes to settle on where it was coming from.   He pinched the bridge of his nose under his wire rimmed spectacles and strained to listen, his eyes closed.  These days it took him a good long time to come to his senses, even after so short a nap.  He squinted at his watch, registering the time with momentary disbelief.  It was after eight; he should have gone home long since.  How had it got to be so late?  Elizabeth’s dinner would be drying up in the oven.  He was surprised she hadn’t already phoned to check up on him.

He felt the weight of the book on his chest and lifted it, scrutinising the kid leather binding.  It had been years since he’d read a whole book at a sitting – no wonder it had sent him to sleep, he mused.  Had it been worth it?  He tried to remember, flicking through the pages for a prompt.  The paper was thicker than normal and silky under his touch in a vaguely erotic fashion.  Like the skin of young virgins, he thought suddenly.  The idea amused him.
The murmuring came and went, like crashing waves on a distant shore.  Right this moment it seemed to emanate from the small corridor leading to the washroom and the cellar.  He craned his neck to hear better, privately dreading the prospect of having to get his arthritic legs down there again.  Once had been enough for one week.  Still, it had netted this remarkable find, he thought, his eyes fixing again on the haunting frontispiece.
To his relief the sound receded again.  Pulling himself to his feet he shuffled along the corridor to the wash room, stopping a moment to listen at the cellar door.  All he could hear now was a dull rustling, like autumn leaves in an eddy or a bird trapped in an enclosed space.  Once, when a boy, he had watched as a servant freed a trapped crow from behind a bricked-up fireplace in his father’s house.  For hours they had all heard the frantic flutter of wings behind the wall, like subterranean rumbling, invisible claws scratching wildly at the brickwork.  After careful chiselling a brick came loose enough to remove and the servant tentatively inserted a gloved hand to pull the frantic bird to freedom.  Even after all these years Killigrew still recalled the wild expression in its soot dulled eye.
All week he had heard it come and go, until at last he’d gone reluctantly down to investigate.  He’d had rats before so he knew it wasn’t an infestation.  A trapped bird would have been obvious.  He had found nothing of any note – apart from the book - and the strain of getting down the stone steps and back up had left him breathless.  Not only with exertion; something had frightened him, although he didn’t like to admit it.
Shuffling along to the washroom he rinsed his face under the cold tap and dried off on a grubby hand towel.  A draught of air caught the back of his neck and he looked up to see the cellar door handle start to turn in the washroom mirror.
He gasped.  Come on, Des.  You can’t be awake yet….
He spun round unsteadily.  Whatever he had seen, or thought he had seen, there was no sign of it now.  The cellar door stood firmly shut, no sign of movement.  He sighed with relief and started back for the office, the prospect of getting home to Elizabeth and dinner more attractive than ever. 
All was silent until he reached the cellar door when the most almighty crash threw him recoiling against the wall.  Something had smashed against the inside of the door with such force he expected to find the wood splintered as he stared aghast.  After a moment another crash made him sink to the floor in terrified anticipation of what was about to burst forth.
“Let me out!”  A furious voice cried, filling Killigrew’s weak heart with ice.  He cowered there transfixed, waiting and listening, his heart pounding in his ears.  After what seemed several minutes he pulled himself up.  All thought of investigation had left him.  He would call the police.
In his hurry his foot caught on something in the gloom, kicking it towards the cellar door.  Without looking he knew it must be the book which has fallen from his grasp.  Desperate to escape, he nevertheless hesitated and forced himself to reach down for it, but as his fingers stretched out it shot away from him into the now open cellar door.  The bony hand of a dark hooded figure caught the book with magical precision.
The last thing Killigrew heard was his own scream as the hood fell from the stranger’s face.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Why Write?

Today is World Book Day. If you haven't heard of it, it's a worldwide celebration of reading and all things related, ie books, authors etc. 

I'm all for celebrations. My good friend and narcissistic publisher Edie Tor is marking the day by having the complete works of ELJames tattooed on her body, but I wouldn't go that far. For one thing, ELJames is hardly my benchmark for literary merit*, even if she has sold cartloads of copies. And for another, I come out in hives when I put transfers on my wrist, so tattoos might just be fatal.

I'm all for reading, however. Far better to stimulate the imagination than pig out on junk telly. And with the advent of ebooks and KSP, the choice of reading material has never been wider. Which begs the question: With an ocean of books out there, should anyone be bothering to write more?

Of course "should" never enters into it, does it? If people feel the need to do something, for whatever obscure and indefinable reason, they tend to just go ahead and do it. And it doesn't really matter how loony it seems to everyone else. Witness the number who die trying to be the zillionth climber of Everest, or walking to the North Pole, or pole-vaulting across the Grand Canyon. The rest of us shake our heads on the sidelines, but it never deterred anyone.

So why do we write? What is the need we're trying to fulfil when we torture ourselves with rewrites, critiques, rejection letters and bad reviews? If it's for glory or riches, we're setting ourselves up for disappointment. Granted a few do win the jackpot - it's an analogy worth emphasising because you're about as likely to win the lottery than hit Harry Potter levels of riches - but the vast majority never see enough to cover the cost of pens and ink. 

But isn't art its own reward? Someone once said art is the purpose of life, and therefore no one should expect to earn from it. Like the poor sod trying to pogo across the Sahara it's one little contribution to the tapestry of life, a little coloured fleck in the midst of all that rich imagery. It's an achievement, of sorts. It's something out of nothing. And that's always worth the effort.

Happy World Book Day! 

*Is she anybody's?

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Hand Knitted Electricity

Just a short post today announcing the publication of Hand Knitted Electricity which I had a hand in.

 I should warn you that this so-called book is not for those of a nervous disposition, or indeed anyone easily offended by the politically incorrect. So don't go buying it for your sweet old granny thinking it's about knitting and stuff because you might precipitate her early demise. The publisher cannot accept any liability for suffering caused, but if  you're willing to take the risk on your own head be it and if she leaves you a sizeable inheritance you might like to chuck a few quid in our direction by way of thanks.

Anyway, if you like a laugh you might enjoy it. It's available from Amazon, or for those of you with Kindle from here.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

When Words Get In The Way (or how not to be Mr Hutchinson)

One thing writers have in common is a love of words. After all, they are our stock in trade. So it would be strange if they didn't hold a certain charm, even fascination. There is something about the sound of the right word, the feel of it in the mouth, the sight of it on the page, that is immensely satisfying. But as with all pleasures it can become an obsession.

Do you enjoy word games like Scrabble? Do you cancel appointments so as not to miss your daily dose of Countdown? Do you sit up late trying to finish the Times crossword? If so, you could be a lexaholic.

Stephen Fry is a famous one and it shows. Robert Robinson was another - remember all that camp delivery on Call My Bluff? The pure joy of words is the greatest spur to a wordsmith, but it can also be their downfall.

Because it's so easy to let your passion get the better of you. Remember, story telling is about communication - it's a two way street, like a conversation. Just as you would bore a listener rigid by spouting great long pompous sentences of obscure and unnecessary words, you lose the reader in much the same way. If you have a propensity to wax lyrical all the more need for critical editing, either from yourself or a sympathetic beta reader.

Otherwise you run the risk of sounding like a pompous bore, as this clip from Fawlty Towers shows:

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Santa Claus touched me up, claims elf.

The world of fictional characters was shaken to its foundations today in the wake of a new ITV documentary, "Kringle the Kiddy Fiddler" in which several underage elves claim the much beloved seasonal benefactor sexually assaulted them.

"I was working late in his workshop at the North Pole," claimed one sobbing elf who wished to remain anonymous. "When I heard the familiar Ho-ho-ho and the next thing he'd yanked off my tights. It was dreadful. I haven't been able to work since, I was so traumatised."  

A spokesman for Christmas said these allegations were completely scurrilous and unfounded. "Santa Claus is the seasonal Father to children everywhere, and there is nothing whatsoever unnatural about an old man in a red suit creeping into children's bedrooms in the dead of night to give them the contents of his sacks. For anyone to say otherwise is pure malice."

But other alleged victims have since come forward to add their sordid stories to the debacle. "He asked me if I wanted to pet his reindeer," said one. "Then we drove around in his Rolls Royce Sleigh drinking eggnog. I started to feel dizzy then the next thing I knew he had his hand up my dress."

Santa Claus, or Kris Kringle as he is known informally, has long been celebrated for his generous gift giving to children and works tirelessly every Christmas Eve to bring presents to every child, near or far. He has been recognised by having his picture on Christmas Cards and in songs like "Santa Claus is Coming To Town".  He has always maintained a wall of strict privacy regarding his private life and consistently refuses media interviews.

"It's just not right," claimed a former reindeer who claimed he was sacked for speaking out about Kringle's activities in 1987. "Something should be done. He's a menace. They should get someone safer who's good with kids. Like that Jimmy Savile bloke."

Santa Claus declined to comment.

Monday, 24 September 2012

...and trolls

As a companion piece to my last blog I thought it pertinent to mention another species of review which gives cause for annoyance or amusement depending on whether you are on the receiving end.

With review sites like Goodreads and all retail sites having customer reviews which are open to anyone regardless of whether the purchase of said item can be verified, the way is clear for trolls to put the boot into any unsuspecting author they deem deserving. I call them trolls because personal attacks on an author can hardly be called reviews. These troll attacks can be the result of many things, but usually it's someone with a grudge for one reason or another.  I've seen spates of negative "reviews" appear after a forum debacle or after an author has received a bad press for whatever reason. Self publishing guru John Locke received a raft of these after the revelation that he had paid for some of his reader reviews. 

You can easily spot these in the one-star or two-star (if they're feeling generous) section. The giveaway is that they contain no specific details about the book, only vague criticisms of style/genre/cover art spiced with digs at the author. They often lead to bitter rows in the comments too which reinforce the vitriolic motive.

As well as these there also is a subset of trolls who fancy themselves as experts on a particular subject and make it their mission to nitpick every detail in a novel in order to write self-aggrandising reviews which are really nothing to do with the book at all but a means to show off their amazing prowess. Historical fiction is particularly prone to this kind of trolling.

These trolls are more interested in boosting their own self image than relaying useful information. Some barely mention the book, instead listing their own (dubious) qualifications. Sadly their lack of knowledge is even more apparent than the gaffes they are uncovering. Some have trouble stringing a coherent sentence together and it is hard to take someone's pompously proclaimed qualifications seriously when they can't even spell.

So there's much entertainment to be had from troll reviews. What do you do if you get one? Have a good laugh and ignore it. The one thing trolls love is to get attention - it's the reason they do it, after all. Don't feed them.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

On Sock Puppets and Reviews

Everybody's doing it. Or so it would seem.

In case you haven't heard - in which case you should come out of that sensory deprivation chamber NOW and get with the programme - there's been a lot of rumpus this week about authors faking rave reviews by creating sock puppet accounts. Go and Google sock puppet if you want all the sordid details, I can't be bothered trawling through the multitude of news items. Not only that but SP guru and Kindle pin-up boy John Locke admitted he'd achieved his jaw dropping sales by paying for five star reviews. 

Well, I'm disillusioned. With each new revelation it seems the world of honest law-abiding authors and reviewers is nothing more than an illusion. And I can't help wondering how long this has been going on. Did the doyens of literature stoop to such disreputable tactics to launch their masterpieces?

Amazon review of:  Oliver Twist by Norbert Cheeseworthy

This is the best of books. It's not the worst of books. Were I a younger man I'd aspire to write such a tome myself.

Was this review helpful to you? YES/NO    78 out of 98 people found this review helpful. 

Amazon review of: Genesis by Old Testament Scribe

And lo! I looked upon the face of the book and saw that it was good. Certainly worthy of five stars.

Was this review helpful to you? YES/NO    8965 out of 98888 people found this review helpful

Amazon review of Emma by Regency Fop

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a discerning reader should shell out a good part of his fortune to gain possession of this book.
                                                      Was this review helpful to you? YES/NO   76 out of 82 people found this review helpful