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Friday, 29 June 2012

Bankers. Are They Just Rhyming Slang?


Bankers, solicitors, MPs and doctors always used to be the pillars of society. If you needed someone to countersign a document one of those four profession was considered to be a copper-bottomed guarantee.
Now even doctors stand alone...and even their pillars are swaying slightly in the wind of public opinion.

Solicitors (Lawyers in the States) now advertise on TV their services to get you compensation damages for just about anything , from a lost limb, through to whiplash and in one case I know of where a client broke her finger nails when she tripped on a pavement...and she'd only just spent £20 to have them painted! COMPENSAYSHUN! It's an industry and based on ambulance chasing...and if there's no ambulance they'll come to your house through your TV, or a mass campaign phone call, or even text. As a result of unprovable whiplash claims motor insurance costs have leaped over the past 2 to 3 years so we all suffer. Soliciting in the UK used to mean touting for dubious business on street corners and offering "services" to all and sundry. It's beginning to mean exactly that again. Prostituting a profession.

MPs....The word "expenses" will forever be linked to MPs whether they "want to draw a line under it" as Anthony Blair used to try to say (what a coincidental shame all his records were shredded just before he was going to be asked for them). Much od the expenses claimed would have been considered fraudulent normally, but for some reason things went no further and only a token number were prosecuted. Then there's the MP who allegedly asked his wife to take his speeding fine points by saying she was driving.and then left her to set up home with his mistress. Then there's "cash for honours" where wealthy people could ALLEGEDLY make a donation to the ruling political party and in return they would receive a knighthood, or a peerage, or in one case be allowed to put cigarette advertising on racing cars, something banned in all other sports.

So, Bankers. Walking through London's Bank area the building are Greek and Roman in style with massive columns, great big doors with flunies leading into cathedrals where money can be worshipped. The whole thing was a facade to give the impression of respectability, stability, security and upper class control. It worked too, except that was all it was, was a facade. The marble cladding and stone fronting hid the cheapest brick possible. More recently as banks tried to be more user-friendly, they took away the bullet-proof windows and replaced them with desks in the suburbs, though mostly they've gone back to the windows. Either way customers are made to queue to take out or deposit money in Disney Land-like snaking lines. It's almost as though it's a privilege for us to give them our hard-earned cash!
Looking at the London Canary Wharf skyline it's totally dominated by skyscraper glass and steel buildings that tower over every other edifice. Presumably this is so they can look down on us poor minnows who actually pay for it all. What do we get in return:-
- Cost-cutting at the bottom end with jobs being outsourced to India where salaries are a fraction of those in the UK. The result is job losses over here.
- PPI misselling, where banks and other institutions leant money and included PPI insurance to cover against the loss of a job, income, sickness or death. The trouble was in most cases it didn't actually cover much at all and in some cases the client didn't even know they had it. One indicator is that on a normal insurance transaction the profit margin is in the mid 20% range, whereas PPI margins were in the high 80% bracket. Alarm bells? It'll take the banks years to repay the premiums and add a proportion of interest, meanwhile they'll keep the profits they'd made by investing that money.
- Bonuses. A word that used to be honourable and was a reward for outstanding service. To the man in the street the word is now linked irrevocably to banks and to ridiculous rewards for highly dubious activities. The size of some bank bonuses is mind-boggling, especially in the more murky internal aspects of banking and at the top end management. Multi-million pound bonuses just for doing the job are common-place and in many cases at the top were signed off by remuneration committees made up of their peers from other financial instutions. "You vote me my bonus and I'll vote for yours". Nice.
- The latest banking misdeed / fraud relates to internal gambling on loan rates and looks like costing most UK and overseas banks a multi-million pound fortune in fines. Word is that there's another nasty little misdeed just around the corner.
- Apparently banks are allowed to make up to 4 harassing phone calls to people who fall behind payments particularly on credit cards. These are frequently now from India, are harassing, bullying and ask the same "when are you going to pay us" questions. 4 calls each and every day, and we thought PayDay Loan companies were the leg-breakers. It's no wonder some people consider suicide as a way out, and why debt management companies are inundated with business. Your flexible friend now has his own friend who does the leg breaking!
- A silly thing, but walking round the banking areas of London, the banking community all wear smart suits, white shirts, smart coats, well polished shoes...but no ties. It really looks as though they forgot to finish dressing. I can understand not wearing a tie in the office, and putting it on for client meetings, but not wearing one at all and even keeping the top button done up in many cases looks silly as a fashion statement, and slovenly as a work statement. "Look at me. I'm an individual. I'm not wearing a tie!" Sorry, nobody else is , so you're just one of the banking sheep. Baaa..nking!

Do I feel better for that rant? Not really. The MPs are still the same MPs, the solicitors are still telling me I must have had an accident sometime in my life and can collect a fortune and the bankers are still rewarding themselves outrageous salaries and bonuses.
Luckily my doctor is still my doctor!

Blog on, dudes!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Aren't Blogs Wonderful!


Okay, they're one way and usually one person's thoughts, but if they're interesting they'll gain an audience for a number of reasons:
- Humour
- Controversy
- Invitation to contribute with comments.
- Variety
- Pretty colours!
- A combination of some or all of the above.

I don't have a pretty colours at the moment as Blogger seems to have unilaterally re-templated my blog site. Unless of course you're a Goth in which case Black and White may be your perfect colours! I do however to provide the rest.

I looked at my stats tonight and asides telling me the numbers at a given time, as well as for that day / week and month, it also tells me which countries people are logging in from and how many by location.

I was staggered to see the following:
- UK (no surprise as I live in the UK!)
- USA ( again no real surprise as my publisher is in the States)
- Russia
- Ireland
- Germany
- Netherlands
- Taiwan
- Canada
- Cyprus
- India
The list is in descending order with the greatest number of visitors in the UK. I was amazed that Russia was so high. I was even more amazed at the number of countries!

So what is a blog like or is it unique?
Unlike newspapers blogs have a single topic  for each post. Unlike letters they're instantly available for those who know to access them. Unlike emails they're a commentary and don't have a defined audience. Unlike texts there's no short-hand and unlike Twitter tweets there's no limit on the size.
There's a purpose in a blog!

Keep on blogging, dudes!
Tricks of the Trade!


I remember there used to be a program on TV called "Tricks of the Trade" that lasted for five minutes and had people for different walks of life who would show a trick of their trade. One stayed in my mind and I use it still. When you've used an expensive paint brush with oil-based gloss paint, no matter how much you plunge the brush into cleaning spirits, when it dries there's always a residual of dried paint that more often than not ruins the brush. The alternative is to leave the brush in a jar to soak in the spirit, though this means the hairs on the brush usually become permanently bent. Great for painting round corners!

The Trick of the Trade was to clean as much of the paint off the brush as possible, then still use the jar half full of spirits, but to get two thin pieces of wood and put them crossways either side of the brush handle and secure them with a rubber band. The brush can then be suspended in the jar supported by the two bits of wood and the brush bristles will be cleaned long-term without being compressed or bent. Very simple.

There must have been loads of similarly clever ideas in the series, none of which I remember. However that's not the point of the blog. It's the tricks tradesmen of all kinds use... not necessarily for our benefit!

Supermarkets are past-masters at making us buy what they want to sell, rather than what we need. The Points Loyalty Cards they're so keen to give us as a reward for shopping with them allow supermarkets to very accurately profile over a period of time what we buy, where we buy it, how much we buy, what else we might be interested in buying. That's on an individual basis, but  supermarkets can profile us as groups, by age, by location and socio-economic group. So much for free choice!
Once in the supermarket all the expensive versions of products are put at eye level and less expensive ones are on the top shelves. They make sure their own-brand goods are also highly visible.
Inevitably staple items such a milk, bread and sugar are placed far apart and usually away from the entrance and the tills so that you have every opportunity to buy items on the spur of the moment. On average people spend up to 35% more on a supermarket visit than they intended to, with men being the worst culprits. For instance in America one supermarket found that wives were often telling their husbands to call into the local mart to buy nappies / diapers (especially those that had babies) on their way home from work on Friday evenings. Very cleverly they surrounded the nappies with cans of beer. Needless to say their beer sales went through the roof!
Then there's the checkout. While you wait for the previous customer to bag up their goods and pay there's the "opportunity" to buy magazines, sweets, cut flowers and even financial loans and life insurance as supermarkets move into banking.
Supermarkets don't miss a trick!

Some tradesmen depend on our lack of knowledge of their trade and we all hear about the sucked in breath "who did this for you then?", or the famous "Blimey, you're going to have a problem with this soon. I can sort it no for you, but it's going to cost". The pounds and dollar signs have multiple noughts after them.

And what about writers? Authors have the knack of making you want to read on...just when you've reached the end of a chapter and want to switch the light out and got to sleep!

Comments of Tricks of the Trade, please!

Blog on, dudes!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Amazing inventions.


Progress and inventions are fascinating companions. When you consider that an inventor has to first of all learn everything that has gone before, as the years go by that must take longer and longer so there would logically be a point where people spend all their time relearing previous knowledge, then die before they can take things to their next level. Does this make sense, because if it does then Progress is about to finish!

And yet we do progress and Man does continue to invent new and incredible things. Only a hundred years ago the idea that computers would be in pretty well in everything electronic we own would have been laughable. Actually the concept of a computer, other than in SciFi would have been ridiculous then. Consider that the Apollo spaceship that first landed on the moon had less overall computer power than the most advanced digital watch now has....and who would trust their watch to take them to the moon! Most people don't really trust their GPS systems any more. Too many deep fords and cliffs!

Of course, for every brilliant invention there's been an unsung piece of insanity and those are often more intriguing than those than after for a few years we take for granted. Let's look at a few that shine and were even patended:-
- The combined tricycle and printing press must have thrilled athletic writers everywhere.
- A patent still exists to have a hollow "bullet" that could be dropped from the top of the Eiffel Tower to land in a large pool of water, only to be winched up again. Inside were to be a number of people sitting in padded seats who would pay for the privilege. Luckily it never took off...literally.
- Press a button on the side of your bowler hat an a mini umbrella shoots up. Great idea, so where are they? Maybe it was a windy day.
- The same Mr. Bessemer who invented the Bessemer Converter that revolutionised iron and steel processing, invented the Bessemer Saloon Steamer. The idea being that the entire interior of an ocean-going ship moved on gimbols so that no matter how much the ship rolled in rough seas the interior of the boat and all decks would remain level and stable
- Luckily Alexander Graham Bell had the foresight to invent a second unit when he invented the phone, otherwise he could have been waiting for years for the thing to ring. His other distinction was to be both the first and last person in the telephone directory. Nobody will ever be able to claim that again!
- In 1886 Edison proposed a means of communicating from a fast moving train to the next station. A great idea for reporting ahead any illness, or imminent baby delivery. It was a hundred years before the mobile phone was able to do the job, and even now the signal dives in and out like a nervous mouse. A few years ago I was on a train and one man was constantly using his mobile phone in a very loud voice. Everyone he was a broker because he was talking "sell / buy" ling and mentioned vast sums of money. He was also a pain in the bum! Then someone was taken ill and a doctor asked over the intercom if anyone had a mobile to warn the next station to have an ambulance ready. Everyone pointed the idiot  who had to admit his phone was as much of a dummy as he was. He shrunk to the size of a deflated doll.
- The Americans spent millions to develop ballpoint pens that would write at any angle, including upside-down in outer space. The Russians used pencils.


That's enough to be going on with for the moment, Any volunteers for more examples?


Time for a plug. Come on guys! Have a look at Leap of Faith and buy a copy on http://www.amazon.co.uk/Temporal-Detective-Agency-Series-ebook/dp/B007XYIFO4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1340704472&sr=1-1 and on Amazon.com


Blog on, dudes!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Writing for the American Market.


Having achieved my life-long wish to be a stuggling author (I'm still struggling) and not getting a UK publishing contract after nearly 10 years of trying, both with and without an agent, I metaphorically upped and sold my skills in the States... the land of opportunity.

It took nearly a year before I found Caleb Mason, CEO of Publerati Publishing (www.publerati.com) and we struck an e-book publishing deal. We're now well on our way to my second book coming out. The first book Leap of Faith is doing well.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Temporal-Detective-Agency-Series-ebook/dp/B007XYIFO4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1340619907&sr=8-1
It's also out of course on Amazon.com.

So how difficult was it to change market, because, quite naturally, my publisher wants to target the massive American market first. Differences:-
- Spelling. Everyone knows that English words ending in ...OUR don't have the U in America. We also know that S is often replaced by Z. The letter ZED is also pronounced ZEE in the States. No problem. A good spelling checker will sort most anomalies. However I still tend to write with English spelling and then convert to US spellings as part of the editing process. What many people may not know is that the purer spelling is that used by the States who inherited it from the Elizabethans
- I've already mentioned pronunciation, however apparently the Bostonian accent is far nearer to the English accent of the late Elizabethan period than anything spoken today in the UK. The same can't be said for the deep South, of Californian twangs unfortunately.
- Humour (or Humor). My books are adventure fantasy stories aimed at the teenage market and contain lots of humour. Caleb Mason agreed that the humour was an integral part of the storyline and suggested that we retain all the British humour. It seems that it was the right decision because sales have been good, which leads me to believe the differences between the UK and USA sense of humour are not as diverse as people think. Humour is often dictated by the media moguls (or so they like to believe), and as a result American situation comedies have frequent breaks because supposedly have incredibly short attention spans. They are very formulaic (how many are based in a coffee shop, or bar?) and are converted from UK TV comedies. One of the few that couldn't go across easily was Monty Python's Flying Circus, but that was a very unique institution. Having said that the Pythons toured the States and packed stadiums

The States and the UK are two countries separated by a common language. Most other countries nearer home and the UK are just separated.
Vive la difference!

Blog on, dudes!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Sportsmanship!


Tonight, somewhere in what used to be the Russian Eastern Bloc, England play Italy in the semi qauarter final of the European Cup. For those outside the European backyard, this is a game of football, or as my friends in America call it...Soccer.

Actually that's ideally what we call it over here, because we also have rugby football, which is not unlike American Gridiron football, but without the armour and thick padding. One pundit said that the difference between our two games is that soccer is a game for gentlemen but played by thugs, whereas rugby is a game for thugs played by gentlemen. Which brings me to sportsmanship.


Only in golf can I think of a game where the players will volunteer to penalise themselves for the most minor and silly offense, such as the ball moving a millimeter in a strong wind after the golfer had addressed the ball. A full shot penalty and nobody else spotted it and yet it could be the difference between winning the Masters or coming in as an also-ran!


In Soccer the very idea of a player owning up to an unseen infringement is laughable and would probable be subject to a large behind-the-scenes club fine at the least. Some of the things soccer players do as a matter of course:-
- Claim it's their throw in when they obviously kicked the ball out.
- Take a "dive" in the penalty area without being touched.
- Claim a corner kick when it's a goal kick.
- Roll around in agony until the referee awards a fowl and gives a yellow, or red card to the opponent. Then get up, wink at the cameras and take the free kick as though nothing had happened.
- Make a sliding tackle into an opponent's legs with boot studs uppermost. Many a career has been ended this way.
- Get paid ridiculous sums of money, then spend it on wine, women, fast cars and flash clothes. The rest they waste!


Golfers play a leisurely game of around 4 hours, hitting a little ball with a range of sticks and a lot of thought. The fewer hits they make the better they do and never once do they raise their voices. They dress immaculately and never have long straggly hair, or shaven heads. A complete blunder of a shot costing thousands will be met by a "Gosh!" ans a reprimand.


And yet many top flight soccer players are excellent golfers and I have to presume their behaviour on the golf course is totally different, or we'd have them claiming the ball isn't really in the bunker, that their opponent tripped them with a sand wedge and writhing around on the green in agony if the putt doesn't go in. Who'd be a referee in a golf match. So boring!


Not so many years ago (all right about 80) it was common for a cricket match to be between The Gentlemen and The Players. The gentlemen were wealthy amateurs and on the team sheet they would be called Mister, The Players were professional sportsmen who were not wealthy and they were addressed by their surnames only. The Players were treated as second-class citizens, even though they more often than not won.


It's now half time in the England v Italy match and so far there's been no penalties (claimed, or otherwise), no writhing histrionics and no goals. It's been played in a very sportsman-like way. I wonder what's on the other side!


Enjoy the week and......
Blog on, dudes!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Why Has My Blog Page Changed? It's IT


So, yesterday I had a blog page that had the same design as my web page, mainly because it was designed by the same brilliant woman, Tracey Tucker. Today it looks totally different. No colour, very bland and difficult to move around, let alone find control icons.

I've been in the IT industry for 35 years or more and I can't work out what I've done, or why my blog suddenly looks like it does. I'm not even sure how I'm going to publish this post, let alone share it with Facebook and Twitter. So, we'll see what happens at the end. Gosh, the suspense!

I saw a program on TV today that said that many people will not use a pen in their entire lives. Forms are now filled in online, emails are sent instead of letters and texts instead of phone calls. Yet one of my treasured possessions is a Parker Duofold fountain pen, backed up by an ever faithful Mont Blanc ballpoint. Actually I have two, because I misplaced the first which was a Christmas present from my wife and thinking I'd lost it I bought a replacement from a Heathrow Airport duty free shop. Some months later I happened to walk past my wife as she fiddled in her open bureau and there was my missing Mont Blanc. She's found it on a windowsill and locked it away for safe keeping!

The pen, of course, is symbolic in many cultures. When I was working for an IT company some years ago I concluded a large software deal with a Japanese hardware manufacturer. Although the negotiations were concluded to mutual agreement, it only remained for the document signing ceremony to take place. My MD wanted to be the man to sign on our behalf, which as the Japanese MD was signing for their side was only fair...I suppose. We met up with due pomp and circumstance and the two MD's sat opposite each other with the contract and a duplicate on the table between them. My MD took out his much-loved fountain pan (a Mont Blanc and very expensive) and signed his copies. He then offered the Japanese MD the pen with a flourish so he could sign in turn. The Japanese MD took the pen with a delighted smile, counter-signed the documents, then placing the top oonto the pen carefully placed it in the inside pocket of his immaculate suit.
My MD's mouth dropped open and other mouthing non-words he pointed at the hidden pen with a look of panic. The Japanese MD thanked him profusely and congratulated my MD on knowing that in Japan it's the custom for the second signatory to keep the ceremonial pen as a memento.. We left the office with the contract, but without the pen which had been a wedding anniversary present from my MD's wife.

I actually had coffee with the Japanese MD the next day and wife a cheeky smile he asked me to return the pen with the suggestion that next time my MD use a Bic.

Maybe the program was right then that pens are more trouble than they're worth, even though without them many of the greatest books would never have been written and the sword would be always considered mightier than something that didn't exist. None of which gets me to publishing this blog, which without IT I would have to write out by pen on individual sheets of paper and mail out. So let's hrow caution to the wind and PUBLISH AND BE DAMNED.

Meanwhile Tracey...HELP!

Blog on, dudes!


Friday, 22 June 2012

Feeling In A Good Mood? Me Too!


While the world looks good and I have a great evening in front of me with good friend, a couple of pints of beer, a whiskey and an excellent meal ar ridiculously low prices... time to count blessings and list the wonders of the world as they seem to me. COMMENTS PLEASE!

- Trees swaying in the breeze,,,and I'm indoors writing this as the rain patters on the window.
- My dog's snores because he's happy. He's had two walks and he's been fed.
- I received a bluebird through the post today from my wonderful friend Marit Meredith. Magicians make dead birds come to life. She creates them from old fabrics and they almost tweet. That's so much better!
- It's a weekend!
- On Sunday there's no post and therefore no nasty surprises!
- The phone has rung three times today for a recorded message to tell me I can claim back thousands in PPI misselling from banks. Yipee! Mind you, it did the same yesterday and the day before etc!
- I won two lotteries (and I haven't even bought a ticket), inherited a multi-million pound estate from someone I don't know and am not related to.
- The chairman of HSBC wants to offer me a personal business deal with no risk that will make me millions for doing next to nothing. Strange, becaue I know him and he didn't mention it when we last met!
- England have a 50 : 50 chance of beating (or losing) to Italy when they play them at football on Sunday.
- I spoke to my mother who told me she's read "50 Shades of Grey" and found it remarkably boring and badly written. This from a lady who sat through two screenings of "Deep Throat" in Malmo, Sweden, for something to do on a dreary Sunday afternoon while waiting for the ferry to Copenhagen.
- My daughter is 25 on Tuesday and she's horrified at the quarter century! I wish!
- Sometimes the PPI recorded messages are a welcome break. An author's life can be a lonely one until people start coming home and the dog wakes up.
- I love the ITV 2 hour detective programmes.such as Marple, Poirot, Morse, Lewis, Touch of Frost (does no one have a first name?), Midsomer Murders. The BBC tries to compete, but tends to split a 2 hour show into 2 one hour shows on different nights.
- Quiz shows like Pointless (very amusing as well as interesting), Eggheads (cerebral), Mastermind and University Challenge (the prize is in the winning, not loads of money).
- A CD by The Trains given to me by my daughter and her partner for Father's Day. I listened to it yesterday and it was great. I love trains anyway.
- I actually like Julie Andrews! (These are a few of my favourite things!)

A list from the top of my head and in two minutes I'll think of hundreds more. but it'll be too late by then. So, it's your turn now!
Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012


The Future of Publishing and the e-book
This post is reproduced from an article by my publisher, Caleb Mason of Publerati.
Many years ago I worked in one of the better independent bookstores in Boston, called The Book Exchange, on Charles Street.
Then I went to work up the hill at Little, Brown when they were still in Boston, eventually to head off to be part of a start-up publisher. I ultimately left publishing all together and careened straight into the jaws of death of 35mm photography (and later digital mapping software at the hands of Google’s ad-supported mapping content model.)
Konica was closing down 4300 or so Fotomats in the early 1990s, those funny little drive-thru huts in parking lots that were mostly bought by FedEx. It turned out that even that tiny real estate was too expensive to sustain the standalone photo business. Kodak was scrambling to catch up in digital photo to unexpected West Coast competition while sinking under the weight of all that lost 35mm film, single-use camera, and photographic paper high-margin business. And we know what happened to them.
This begs the question: If something as mainstream as 35mm photography did not warrant a chain of tiny stores in parking lots, why would books warrant huge superstores strewn across our paved land?
I say they do not. In fact, I predict we will see many more closings of chain bookstore locations in the near term as the shift to ebooks accelerates.
But, coming full circle, what I like about this scenario is the ironic survival of the many excellent remaining independent bookstores who outlasted the storm from superstores and the internet. They can distinguish themselves through interesting, eclectic selections and by building trust with readers looking for a local reading guide and an inspiring place to mingle with others. Imagine how their sales will rebound without so many superstores in the mix.
Online bookstores own the hugest selection of books while the independent bookstores stay small enough to own the local market. Superstores are actually trapped in the middle and are, as a result, goners. Possibly they will follow the Wal-Mart model and move into “smaller large” stores, but that is a very expensive proposition. Just look at Circuit City and CompUSA as models for that challenge. Goners.
After attending the Book Expo last week, a trade show that years ago was filled with independent booksellers and independent publishers mostly missing nowadays, I think this may be the likely outcome.

About this post’s author:
Caleb Mason is the founder and publisher of Publerati, an ebook publisher and literary agency specializing in literary fiction. An entrepreneur at heart, Caleb has been part of teams that have launched a start-up book publisher, new digital photography services, and award-winning software and consumer electronics’ products. Caleb began as a bookseller before working at Little, Brown in both marketing and editorial capacities. He left to join the start-up Salem House Publishers, where he acquired and edited many titles and sold rights to the major book clubs. Caleb’s book The Isles of Shoals Remembered was published in 1992 and he also contributed toBOOM, a marketing book. www.publerati.com.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

How to Promote a Book.


Please note I missed the question mark from the post title, and I'm wondering whether I should have put it in. I'm not intending that this should be an instruction kit as to promoting an e-book book, but rather what I've done as a first-time author with the help of my publisher, Publerati.

First there was the thrill of seeing my booK Leap of Faith actually available for sale on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. (Plug) http://www.amazon.co.uk/Temporal-Detective-Agency-Series-ebook/dp/B007XYIFO4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1340102705&sr=1-1
Admittedly a greater thrill would have been to have walked into my local book shop and seen my book physically on the shelf, while a keen fan pulled on my sleeve, asking me to sign his treasured copy.
Wake up time!
Having a book on Amazon is one thing, promoting it so people see it with the opportunity of buying is another.

I already had a Twitter account and made a point of expanding my follower numbers, concentrating on those people who have an interest in books and specifically in my genre and age-group. I built up the number to close on one thousand but have found it very difficult to go beyond there. As I recruit, others seem to drop off in equal numbers. I have to be honest that Twitter seems to be a populated by people who want to promote something (either a business or a product) or they tend to be celebrities keen to Twitter away on banalities. As a marketing tool I have doubts about Twitter unless you tweet constantly. I believe it's called "soap flake advertising", on the basis that a soap flake manufacturer that didn't advertise on TV day in, day out lost their so-called loyal customers in literally days.

Google+ is a relative newcomer and is trying to be the NEW Facebook. I've created an account, but I find it complicated to use and sparsely populated. However some of the people who use it that I've connected with are highly respected authors with big sales under their belts, some of whom are happy to help a novice. Others are more protective and aren't so helpful. I'll maintain the Google+ account, but it will be far from being my main marketing tool.

Facebook is still the king. It's a great place to make friends and they provide facilities such as EVENTS for having book launch parties. I've found Facebook devotees to be very helpful and many have become personal friends. The sense of humour is wonderful, though that depends on who you accept as friends.

Other tools exist such as Google Ads and Google Alerts. Both allow you to choose key words that will either guide an enquirer to wherever you want them to go (you / your publisher's website), or in the case of Alerts will notify you when someone uses one of your key words in Google. The trick is to make the key words precise and not generic,

Some book shops will allow quality cover pictures to be put up with  a link to purchasing, though it's a tremendous favour because they make nothing out of it.
I tries my local library and although they were very nice they had no room to put up any promotional material and the local council said they were looking into the e-book phenomena.

At the end of the day, the book itself may be difficult to write, getting an agent and publisher may be even harder, but the job only starts there. Publicity and dhouting from the roof tops is the only way to sell in any form of volume....and on that note, here's one last plug for Leap of Faith!!!!
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Temporal-Detective-Agency-Series-ebook/dp/B007XYIFO4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1340102705&sr=1-1

I'd love to hear anyone else's experiences and comments on promoting a book, so feel free.

Blog on, Dudes! Oh, and subscribe to this blog!



Monday, 18 June 2012

Things I Love. Things I Hate!


For the past week I've been all over the country, mostly in the south, with so little time to think let alone blog.  Then it was Father's Day on Sunday and of course the Euro football's been on. So, apologies to anyone who logged onto my blog site and found the last blog was a week old. Apologies to me also, because I missed writing them.

I thought for this kick-off I'd do some listing, partly because I like lists, but mostly because it gives other people the chance of jpining in with commented lists of their own. So here goes:

Things I Really Love-
 - Dogs of all ages, especially cocker spaniels.
 - Later Pink Floyd
 - Early Beatles
 - Real ale on a Friday night with a small group of friends
 - Curling up in bed with a really good book (any Bernard Cornwell or Terry Pratchett) with the side light on.
 - Sunday  lunch
 - Reading books new authors (David Robinson, Trevor Shaw, Gina Dickerson, Alison Wells, Mandy Baggot) and too many others to mention, but no less wonderful.
Reading work by unpublished authors (who will be) like Marit Meredith.
 - Walking in the rain with all my wet weather gear on.
 - Nostalgia.
 - Cathedral organ music deep bass nnotes that makes your trousers creep up your legs ....and the hairs follow them.
 - The Gower Peninsular
 - Peru (especially the Sacred Valley and Macchu Pichu)
 - Chilled Sancerre Rouge and raw oysters on the half-shell
 - Pete Green's Fleetwood mac.
 - Father's Day
 - Christmas with all the family.
 - Good malt whiskey.
 - Golf... when I'm playing well, which isn't often.
 - The Queen wearing ear-plugs at rock concerts.
 - My collection of vinyl records... scratches and all.
 - Writing books that people enjoy reading.

Things I Really Hate-
 - The National Lottery telling me "It Could Be You" when I never buy a ticket.
 - Politicians who keep using the word "clear" and mean anything but.
 - Politicians who say "it's time to draw the line" and mean the nasty truth is near the surface.
 - Phone calls to what is meant to be a banned line for marketing, telling me all about PPI.. It;s always a robot and it never listens.
 - Banks who pretend to be "friendly", as they drain every penny from an already empty purse.
 - Chancellors of the Exchequer who levy retrospective income taxes at the end of tax year (the current one did that in April 2011 causing me to have an unexpected PAYE tax bill on self-assessment.
 - Hypocritical people
 - People who write "there" when they mean "their"
 - Drivers who use their mobile phones nwho hold the drvice in their (note spelling!) left hands and put to their right ear, because they think people won't notice.
 - The pig-ignorant rudeness of young teenagers who know you can do nothing back.....or not what you'd like to do.
- Swearing, especially the F and C words in pubs, especially by girls.
 - Bad table manners.
 - London business men who wear suits, white shirts, posh coats, but no ties. Half-dressed to my mind!
 - Restaurants that grossly overcharge for very average food.
 - Restaurants that charge incredible high prices for the "extras" with your main course, like potatos, vegetables. extra gravy (because there's never enough), mushrooms etc.
 - Heights.
 - "Quiet Zone" carriages on trains where mobiles and earphones are banned, but the train company plays constant recorded reminders that we mustn't travel without a ticket (a bit late!) and not to leave our belongings behind. Oh and the next station is....where the platform is too short so everyone has to move to the front of the train, but you can't because the food trolley's in the way.
 - Postmen who leave notes saying "I called but you were out" ....when I definitely wasn't. I watched one guy walk up my drive without anything, put a card through my door and walk away again. I called to him from a window, but "he didn't hear me".
 - The 2012 Olympics. The games will be fine, but the corruption and organisational failures are going to be the same as usual.

That's enough to be going on with.
Let's hear from you with some comments.
Blog on, Dudes!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Oh for a nice quiet pub!


Once or twice a week I like to go to the pub for some locally brewed beer and a chat with friends.
The beer isn't a problem, but finding a pub that allows people to sit down quietly and be heard without shouting is getting ever more hard.
Football is the bane of my life at the moment, not because I dislike the game, but because every pub seems to believe I'm in urgent need of a constant commentary from multiple television screens, strategically placed so that whichever way I turn my head I'll still be in touch with Euro 2012.
We've only just finished the Premier Division championship, then the Championship promotion playoffs, when the Euro 2012 tournament started, though there was a short period when the Englans v West Indies test matches were on. At least they were quieter.
So after the football we'll have two weeks of the Olympics, followed by ....oh yes, another season of football!

But it isn't just mass television sport. So often now there's a pool table placed in the middle of the pub making it impossible to get to the toilet without waiting for some would-be Hurricane Higgins to miss the white after pondering the shot for 5 minutes.
Inevitably there a sound system that used to consist of a Wurlitzer jukebox that played real 45 rpm records for 10p a go. It had its own speakers and the volume was fine for background music.
Then came Muzak. The sort of music you didn't even know was being played until someone mentioned it. After that it's intrusive and annoying. What's worse, none of the music is recognisable and comes for a CD called "Music to be played in lifts, supermarkets and pubs".
Then came MTV and many pubs installed large TV screens that you come play your latest and favourite music track from a vast CD collection, before the current digital selection came on the scene that belts out anything you want (or don't want) from multiple loud speakers.
The beer and chat come very much into second place. Now, you have to be entertained.

Of course, the most entertaining night would be the big battle between pool players, those who want to watch MTV at full volume and the sports fans who obviously own the pub. Once they've all been barred, or taken to hospital, just maybe those like pubs for what they used to be can have a quiet beer and a chat with friends.

Cheers!

Friday, 8 June 2012

How books start: Recipes Through the Ages


Bernard Shaw once said that writing is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration, but just occasionally books almost write themselves, or at least require far less perspiration. Spin-off books is a great example. Not books that continue a series, but books that take you on a tangeant from that series. Great examples by Terry Pratchett are "Where Is My Cow" as a spin-off from "Thud", where the hero reads his young son a book every night called "Where Is My Cow", and "The Book of Poo" as a spin-off from "Snuff". These are not cheap and quickly written rip-offs, but are charmingly written  and add value to the Discworld series.

Having now written the first two books in the Temporal Detective Agency series with the first one published by Publerati (plug!) http://www.amazon.co.uk/Temporal-Detective-Agency-Series-ebook/dp/B007XYIFO4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1339149840&sr=1-1
The fact that one of the characters is rather surprisingly a celebrity chef, who owns and runs restaurants in a number of centuries thanks to Merlin's Time Portal intrigued a friend of mine, Marit Meredith, and she hit on the great idea of writing a book of recipes through the ages, starting in the 5th century and going through to present day. Marit, who incidentally has written recipe books before though usually on vegan foods, is now busy researching some quite revolting concoctions and my first thought was that it's not surprising the life expectancy in past centuries was so short. Royalty ate enough for an army and the ingredients for an average meal would turn your stomach rather than fill it. Nevertheless Marit and I will persevere, as will the unnamed celebrity chef in Leap of Faith and hopefully the book will be out under the Publerati banner later next year.

By the way, Marit is a multi-talented woman who also makes the most amazing animals and figures out of different types of cloth. Check them out on her web site http://www.oldhensnest.co.uk/

Meanwhile Tertia, the main hero in Leap of Faith is writing her own cylepodica (actually encyclopaedia, but it's a long word and she does come from Camelot in the 5th century). She gets fed up with all the errors historians have made and she's determined to put the record straight and I've promised to help her get it into print, with the help of Publerati Publishing, of course.

The rest of the Temporal Detective Agency series may be along the lines that George Bernard Shaw outlined. As he said when he was asked "Are you Shaw" ..."sir, I'm positive!"

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Is There Anybody Out There?


I started posting to my blog on a regular basis 2 1/2/ weeks ago and wasn't sure whether I was writing a form of "thoughts" diary for myself, or a series of comments on life and the universe as we know it for an unseen audience of thousands (or one!). Looking at the stats, I've had over 560 hits on the site over the past 2 1/2 weeks and it's now averaging 50 to 60 a day. Very gratifying and a responsibility....I have to keep on blogging.
I looked at a, internet thought / comment chain on whether a blog should be the random thoughts of the writer, should be consistent and on one theme only and should never deviate from that theme, or should be a Thought for the Day. There was page after page of comments full of angst and after a bit I stopped reading and started thinking.

A Blog can have a number of reasons for being there:-
1. To entertain
2. To provoke thought and comment
3. To irritate (why not? That provokes counter comment)
In my blog I try to put down entertaining thoughts and comments on the events of the day that make people laugh (great if that's achieved), make people think, make people agree or just as likely to disagree.
Luckily every person on this planet is an individual, has reasonable freedom of thought and decision making ability and can decide whether to read my posts, just as they can decide whether to buy my books or not
(Time for a plug!):-
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Temporal-Detective-Agency-Series-ebook/dp/B007XYIFO4/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1339080347&sr=1-1

Most writers I know have a blog in one shape or form and some have a number of blogs for different subjects. Promoting their work  is only to be expected, and yet I've seen posts tearing into bloggers because their books are available on Amazon at such and such a  price. It's like going into a shop and having a hissy fit because someone asked if they can help you. How dare they????

I shall continue to blog about the world in general because that's what interests me and I hope that;s what attracts my blog readers.
I shall be watching the stats!


Wednesday, 6 June 2012


Publerati Publishing (my USA publisher) in the news.


Caleb Mason, the CEO of my USA publisher, Publerati, is at the New York Book Expo this week. On Monday evening he gave a presentation on the impact of the e-book. Please feel free to forward it / copy it.

Publerati Makes the Case at the Book Expo Trade Show

NEW YORKJune 5, 2012 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- Publerati, a new ebook publisher and literary agency focused on literary novels and short-story collections, has launched five new fiction writers at the Book Expo trade show in New York.
Publerati Founder Caleb Mason made the case for how ebooks can play a key role in resurrecting interest in new literary fiction and short-story collections at the International Digital Publishing Forum Ignite! series, held on June 4th at Book Expo. Drawing upon his years of experience witnessing disruptions in publishing, photography, and digital mapping, Mason encouraged the audience of publishing professionals to avoid the pitfalls of companies like Kodak by driving disruptive change themselves or risk losing out to new players.
According to Mason, "The central premise of Publerati is that there are excellent new writers of literary fiction and short-story collections who for many years have had slim hope of being published under the traditional publishing business model.  With hardcover novels priced at $29.95 and trade paperbacks topping the $20 mark, the unknown fiction writer has little chance of getting a start. Publerati aims to find and edit excellent new works and market them as $2.99 ebooks, reopening access for deserving new writers. We will then represent our titles to print publishers and new print-on-demand providers once we prove e-book success."
The five launch ebooks are: Dancing in the Kitchen by Susan Sterling; Marriages are Made in India by Lakshmi Raj Sharma; Normal Family by Don Trowden; Leap of Faith by Richard Hardie, and Journey of the North Star by Douglas Penick.  
Each ebook is available for purchase from Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and others. The launch list includes quirky humorous fiction, literary fiction, historical fiction, young adult fiction, and short stories in serving a variety of reader tastes. Each title's e-cover has been designed using a cohesive Publerati brand look to support the unknown new writers under one banner until they achieve their own unique brands.
About Publerati
Publerati aims to reopen access for new literary fiction and short-story collections by originating them exclusively for ebooks at affordable prices to encourage wide readership.  A hybrid literary agency and ebook publisher, Publerati publishes and represents a highly selective list of well-edited fiction, all with unique voices and story lines. Publerati charges no upfront fees for its writers.  As a new brand with a social conscience, Publerati donates a portion of all proceeds to charities working to promote literacy. Publerati is headquartered in Portland, Maine. Learn more at www.publerati.com.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

What a Weekend!


Only a week ago most of the UK was relishing the hot sunshine and looking forward to a long Bank Holiday weekend full of fun and frolics to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Not too much to ask after 60 years of waiting,  but the English weather took over and the only thing we didn't have was a plague of locusts.
The rain may have poured on street parties, picnics, sightseers, watchers and cheerers along the various procession, but it did nothing to dampen  the enthusiasm of England for the Queen's 60th anniversary.
Actually the only people who seemed depressed were the small groups of Rupublicans and anti-Monarchists that met in a metaphorical telephone box next to the Thames on Sunday and again near St Paul's on Tuesday. They were quickly shouted down, not with anger, but with good-humoured renderings of "God Save The Queen!"..
HM was at her best. She smiled when she wanted to, not because it was expected of her. She gave no speeches, but rather left that side of things to the younger generation - all 64 years of him. For an 86 year-old granny she proved to have more energy and stamina than people half her age.
Charles was perfect, both as the man in the wings during Sunday's pageant, and as the man for the Queen to depend on after his father was taken to hospital.
Nobody does spectacle like the British, but nobody puts on a concert like us either.  I can understand that on a fixed stage with each act doing one or two songs each groupd like the Stones, The Who or Pink Floyd would have taken an age to move on and off. At the Live 8 concert they had  a revolving stage allowing one act to prepare while the previous act was playing. No such chance last night and as a result all the stars, with the exception of the wonderful Madness were solo singers. That's not to criticise them in any way, or sir Gary Barlow who put in 2 years of his time to prepare the whole project and bring together such a galaxy of stars. Having said that, I can't imagine any of them took much persuading.
The fireworks were superb and if the BBC had just put a couple of cameras on them for the 4 minutes and let us enjoy them that would have been great. Instead they decided to give us arty shots, superimposed shots, shots half-masked by an artistically placed guardsman, and shots taken at weird angles.
Overall it was a spectacle to be proud of in honour of a lady to be proud of.

Oh, and could someone let the ranting Republicans out of their telephone box, please!!!!

Sunday, 3 June 2012

A Royalist....MOI?


I once heard of a person who was told to spend their entire working life doing one job with no chance of promotion. There were no options to the job and although the salary was excellent, the hours were long and the duties very repetitive. The person in question (a lady) was allowed to work from home, although most days were territory days.
The board of directors were constantly examining the lady's activities and many looked for any excuse to criticise the poor thing and some even demanded she be given the sack without recourse to an employment tribunal, even though more than 80% agreed she was actually doing a good job. What was worse she was never allowed to answer her critics, let alone use an expletive... though her husband often swore for the pair of them.
Some people said she was a property magnate with houses up and down the country, but she actually lived in a council house where she was frequently forced to hold parties for the benefit of other people.
At the age of 65, when most people think of putting their feet up and taking things easy, she still had a full list of jobs to do every day. In fact having worked more years than many people live there was still no retirement day in sight and her employers made it plain they wanted her to stay in the role for many more years to come, even though a trained apprentice was waiting in the wings.
Some of her fiercest critics want to replace her with a highly paid  alternative, without any prior training, but with the one main qualification of unrivalled ambition. The lady already in the job had little training, except from her parents, no warning that the job was hers, no chance to turn it down, wasn't asked if the pay and perks package was okay. Nevertheless she's not done too bad a job and on 3rd June 2012 a large number of the shareholders gave her a vote of thanks and trip up the Thames on the company.

Here's to the next 60 years!


Friday, 1 June 2012

Does Absence make the Heart grow Fonder?

For those who have tuned into my blog site looking for daily inspiration and sadly found an empty page...my apologies. I was in London all day yesterday in and out of meetings and had to catch up on sediting my second book in the "Temporal Detective Agency" series Trouble with Swords (name dropping advertiser that I am!). By the way it's definitely a series now, because there's two of them! Books that is!
So here I am, back at the blogging keyboard before I have to do some ironing (yes, I do the ironing) and make the tea. What shall we talk about?
Absence? Good idea!
If absence makes the heart grow fonder, what is about the absence that creates the fondness? I can accept that if you expect something to happen or a person to be in a particular place...but there's a big hole then the heart might skip a beat and you miss whatever / whoever should have been there, because they're not. Or maybe it's a feeling of being miffed.
It could also be down to the two types of memory. Short and long term. From experience (unfortunately) as we get older the short term memory seems to be less and less accurate, whereas we can remember what happened 25 years ago as clear a crystal. I can understand therefore why we might increase our fondness the more an absence transfers into our long-term memory. Equally the pain of  recent separation can be acute, but almost always moves from sorrow into a phase of remembering the good times. The longer the absence then the heart does become fonder.
It might explain why young people see potentially minor happenings as major catastrophies. They haven't yet lived enough years for bad events to have passed into the longer-term memory and be filtered, so everything is climactic.
A quick blog post, and again my apologies to those who logged in earlier. I will blog over the weekend as I dodge between street parties and visiting royals.
Have a great Jubilee Weekend holiday!