Friday 24 October 2014


A fairly short blog post tonight.

Yesterday, I went up to London with my wife and daughter, to see the ceramic poppies planted in the moat of the Tower of London. The intention was to sell and plant nearly 900,000 poppies by the 11th November. The sale target has now been met and the team of volunteers are working hard to make sure all the poppies are planted in time.

The spectacle is mind-blowing and well worth the trip, though be prepared for the crowds... they'll become larger as we approach Remembrance Day. The concept is brilliant and the organisation behind it is equally brilliant, so if you have the chance to go there, do so.

Purposefully, I haven't posted any photos because you need to see it to appreciate it... amd I promise you will.

Remembrance Day is becoming more poignant every year. When I was a Scout Leader we paraded to the local cenotaph where there would be a small number of WW1 veterans and a slightly larger number of WW2 vets. Now the number of vets is down to a small handful in wheelchairs and it won't be too lomg before the space reserved for those who serbed in the World Wars will be empty.

The ceramic poppies is a perfect reminder of those wo gave their lives, but it's a start, not a finish.

Blog on, Dudes!

Friday 17 October 2014

What makes a good Young Adult story?

So... the hard questions first!

You might as well ask what makes a Young Adult and what makes them tick, as much as what books and stories appeal most to them. The Harry Potter books sold a few copies, as did the totally different Hunger Games. The Lord of the Rings still attracts new fans after many, many years, as do the Narnia stories. Is there a link? Of course there is.... Good versus Evil, with Good winning out after nearly losing.

The one thing none of the above has is any great degree of humour. So does humour sell? Of course it does, because we all like a good laugh no matter how old or young we are. However if you couple Humour with Fantasy, mix in Good v Evil, add a wizard or two with some witches and a magic sword.... you must have an automatic winner. Of course the title would have to be something along the lines of Lord Hungry Harry's Wardrobe.

So why haven't Leap of Faith and Trouble With Swords topped all the book charts and made me a millionaire several times over? The Temporal Detective Agency has everything. I thought about and realised what the reason was... not enough people had bought copies. Stunning, I know, but seemingly true.

But there is a solution!

Follow the link and go to Amazon. When you get there buy a paperback, or eBook copy. You know you want to!

Blog on, Dudes!

Friday 10 October 2014

Books and Bookshops

This has been a week for books for a number of reasons.

1. Tomorrow sees the start of BAMB (Books Are My Bag) an initiative to unite bookshops and authors in order to encourage more buyers and readers to come into member shops. The authors are there to sign books, talk about their work, and generally promote independent bookshops in the UK. Pop along to your local shop and who knows you might be pleasantly surprised at who is there to meet and greet you. Who knows.... it might be me!
In fact BAMB is a month-long initiative so don't give up if you can't make it tomorrow. 
I won't!

2. I popped into my local library and was very pleasantly surprised to see both my books on the Young Adult / Teen shelves. They were beautifully bound in clear plastic and in great company.

3. I had an email from Southampton Civic Center which controls the main 9 city libraries, to say that both my books are now being stocked in the Central Library and will be on the shelves of the other 9 libraries soon. I enrolled in the Public Lending Rights system, so every time someone borrows one of my books I'll make a fraction of a penny..... but it all counts!

4. I finished reading Bernard Cornwell's first non-fiction book, Waterloo. As a novelist he makes a great historian. A wonderful book! I'm now reading his novel about Azincourt. Spelling is correct!

5. Both my Temporal Detective Agency books Leap of Faith and Trouble With Swords) are still available in bookshops, as well as through Amazon on:

Don't be shy. Go and have a look!

Blog on, Dudes!

Friday 3 October 2014

The Writer's Bermuda Triangle

I saw a cartoon on Facebook this week showing the Caribbean and more importantly the area where the Bermuda Triangle.
A triangle had been superimposed and each corner had one of the main social network sites next to it.... Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

The implication was that writers (and presumably authors) sink without trace in the swamp of social networking dependence, and I can understand why.

Once anyone is sucked into the black arts of social networks, especially Facebook and Twitter, anyone whose job depends on sitting in front of a computer screen (an author?) is wide open to the temptation of spending more time with their "friends" than in developing their latest great work. I know this from personal experience.

Twitter seems to be a little less pernicious because it doesn't invite as much interaction. It's more of a noticeboard, just as Pinterest is somewhere to post your photos and see other people's. It's Facebook that is the most powerful point of the Writer's Bermuda Triangle.

Many, if not most authors use Facebook to launch book, advertise themselves on their Author page and promote their books, both on their own pages and those of other people and groups, as well as hope that other authors and fans will "share" any news, or promotion with their "friend" network. It can be a bit like pyramid selling in that many friends have the same friends as their own friends, if you see what I mean. So Facebook can tend to be a bit incestuous with everyone marketing to the same groups of people.... more or less. There's only so many times you could ask people to buy a book before they stop listening to that and other posts you might want them to look at.

I'm definitely not against Facebook and the rest as part of an awareness model, and I know of at least one author who sells very successfully using Facebook, Twitter and a few other social network tools. I know of others who use it as part of their overall marketing plan, but who also maintain that they mention their books in probably only 1 in every 10 of their posts, and even then they mention them merely in passing. These people tend to have a large following on all their chosen network tools, and also operate a blog linked to their website. One friend of mine, Jonathan Gunson, is a successful international author with 116k followers on Twitter and 1,500 Facebook friends. He hardly ever promotes his books, though covers and links are on his blog and details are on his website. Instead he promotes other authors, innovative ideas on authoring and ways to improve book marketing. His name is synonymous with great ideas and his books sell in great numbers.

A first-time author with no fan base and few resources could do far worse than use the free facilities of Facebook and Twitter, building up their following carefully and marketing to it with equal care, so as not to kill it with over-zealous selling and self-promotion.

Personally I still love working with independent bookshops. Seeing my books on a sales shelf and (even more so) signing copies for buyers is a massive thrill that selling online can't provide. Having said that I still have 2 Facebook pages, a Twitter account with more than 1,100 followers, a Google+ account which I admit I hardly ever use, a profile on, a website and (obviously because you're reading it) a blog. It's a marketing combination.

The three Social Networks can definitely be a Writer's Bermuda Triangle if used badly, but used intelligently and as part of an overall marketing strategy, they're great!

Blog on, Dudes!