Thursday, 29 December 2011


I have just returned from a great break in Bruges.  Imagine being in a country where they brew 1130 different beers, make the most exquisite fries served with curry mayonnaise, and delicious chocolate shops are on every corner.  I thought I had died and gone to Heaven!  Seriously though, for a writer of medieval stories, Bruges is a fascinating place, which has barely changed in hundreds of years.  Due to their conservative nature, the residents of Bruges eschewed the Protestant revolution, and so became a backwater after once being the centre of the cloth trade.  Beautiful old buildings abound, including a complete "beguinage" - the residence of an order of women who chose to live a life in a female community without taking vows as a nun.  Even now, the enclosed district is only available for women to rent.
I also visited Ypres and Ghent, and on Christmas Day made a side trip to a World War One cemetery. It was very sobering to see thousands of small white headstones, many of which had no name on them - simply "A soldier of the Great War".  It was saddening to see all those young men who lost their chance of a life, and reminded me of John Lennon's words - "War is over, if you want it".  I recalled that incident when at Christmas 1914, soldiers from both sides emerged from the trenches and sang songs and played football, only to return to killing each other.  "War is over, if you want it".  If only.

Friday, 2 December 2011


I seem to have written an awful lot recently about matters publishing, so I will provide some personal news.  I have been living in Cyprus for the last seven years, coming originally for the good weather and low cost of living, which stretched my money a little farther.  Since joining the EU, Cyprus costs have been escalating, and although the tax system places a smaller burden on my funds, the benefits are consequently equally small.  I have also come to dislike the summer weather, which is humid and enervating.  It also seems to last longer now than it used to.  I have decided to return to the UK therefore.
My wife and I have had a flat in Hastings for a couple of years, and we are now going to use it as our home base.  The town is lively and full of opportunities, and lies close to Gatwick airport, and London.  It will be a good jumping-off point for other places, when the English weather does not suit.  I will miss a lot of friends in Cyprus, particularly the ones I made through Stage One - the drama group that was my mainstay on the island.  But I have other drama groups to occupy my time in Hastings, and I will return to Cyprus and see the plays that Stage One put while we have our villa there.
As for writing, I am now beginning what I think will be the final Falconer story.  I want to give him a fitting send-off, as he has been my companion for nearly twenty years.  Who knows, though?  Sherlock Holmes came back from the brink (not that I am comparing my meagre talents with Conan Doyle's), so Falconer might also.  The thing is, I made the mistake in the early Falconers of adding a final section that told the readers what happened eventually to the principal characters.  And now I am stuck with it!  Oh well, here goes.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Alternative publishing again

Now another possibility for new (and existing) writers has cropped up.  National TV in the UK has highlighted the website Unbound.  The concept is that authors and readers can cut out the middle men - the publisher, or I should say the traditional publisher - and get together direct.  The author tells you what he/she wants to write, you take part in funding it, and derive some benefits if the book reaches its financial target and is published, albeit in a limited edition.
The problem for naturally reticent authors, who do not like having to promote their own books in the traditional world as it is now, is that they have to 'pitch' their idea by way of a video clip.  I guess the more professional an author is at this stage, the better his/her chances.  But how good is an author at using the visual medium?  And isn't the likelihood that potential 'angels' (to use a theatrical term) will go for big names?  Terry Jones is already the flagship author trailing the site.
I wouldn't knock it though.  Any means of getting a work published that does not rely on the traditional process through major publishers, who are controlled by accountants, has got to be good.  Could this be another nail the big publishers' coffin?

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Alternative publishing 2

My friend and fellow Medieval Murderer, Mike Jecks, has recently had some strong opinions to express about publishers.  He thinks they are on a self-destruct course as they are pushed into ever bigger discounts by the likes of Amazon.  All well and good, you might think, as more books are sold.  But as the publisher's margin per copy decreases, so does the author's, and increases in sales do not compensate.  Mike believes as authors we would be fools to continue using a middle man, like a publisher, when direct internet selling is possible.  Of course, we are all aware that places the onus on us writers to market our own books, as there is a huge slush pile of titles on Amazon, some good, some indifferent, most awful.  Most authors just want to write, and marketing is an uphill struggle.  I don't know what the solution is, but I am going to give it a try, so watch this space.
Oh, and go read Mike's blog - "writerlywitterings".

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Alternative publishing

I have been looking into alternative ways of publishing recently.  There was a time when the only alternative to traditional publishing was so-called vanity publishing, and no self-respecting writer would travel that route if he or she wanted to be taken seriously.  Of course, things have changed radically.  Vanity publishing still exists as a way forward for people who want to see their book in hard-copy, and who can't get a publisher any other way.  But why bother with that route, expending your own money, when you can publish in the virtual world now?  Naturally, there are e-books, but they originally tended to come after a book had been published in hard-copy.  And print on demand is a route I have taken to get my older books republished.  All publishing systems piggy-backing on traditional publishing.
Now, though, the world of publishing has broken wide open with online publishing companies and self-publishing.  In the early days this would have merely been seen as a form of vanity publishing.  But no longer.  Manuscripts can be formatted and sold through Amazon now.  The problem remains the quality and quantity of self-published books.  Without sifting for quality and editing, many books available in this way can be dire, and the author of a good book can find his/her work lost in a sea of dross.  In the end, self-publishing presupposes self-marketing, and this is an area that many writers have had to undertake in the sphere of traditional publishing, but few actually relish.  Enter Facebook, Twitter, and author websites.  Oh, and author blogs, of course!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Book rights - part one

I am now back in Cyprus, where it's very hot and humid still.  Especially compared to England.  I was looking again at the Waterstones Bookshop site, and confirming that it is impossible to purchase and download e-books when in another country.  When I first bought my Sony E-Reader, it was for the very reason that I wanted access to new English publications while in Cyprus.  It all worked out fine at first, but then Waterstones (as other bookshops did) put an embargo on downloading outside of the UK.  It seems that there is uncertainty about territorial rights.
Now, I can buy a physical book (let's call it a p-book as opposed to an e-book) in a bookshop in the UK - the real world - and carry it abroad and read it.  That seems perfectly acceptable with a p-book.  But I can't go into a virtual bookshop online but based in the UK, buy and download an e-book - thereby 'carrying' it abroad - and read it in another country.  I could, however, buy it and download it on my computer in the UK, and then carry it physically abroad on my E-Reader!  Tell me where the common sense is in that.
I thought the Web was there to make access to information, culture, knowledge, news, and yes, books easier and better.  Here is a way of making books more widely available.  Of course, being a writer, I know the importance to my earnings of defining rights, both territorial and format.  But this needs to be sorted out.
I will have more on this subject I am sure.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Making a start

OK.  This is just a preliminary blog to see how things go.  I want to link this to my website to replace the Latest News section, which I didn't manage to keep up with regularly.  I hope things will change now.  i am just starting my new William Falconer novel, which is called "Rain of Blood" for the moment, but don't quote me on that.  When I announced a working title before, and then changed it for the actual book, the working title haunted me for years.  People were trying to track it down, little knowing it didn't exist.  Or rather, it did, but by another name.
Anyway, "Rain of Blood" takes its name from part of Merlin's prophecies, and the book uses the prophecies as a theme throughout.  Someone is murdering people in Oxford, and noone can escape because the constable, Peter Bullock, has locked all the town gates.  The red plague - small pox - is in the town, and he is trying to prevent its spread beyond the walls.  However, not everyone applauds his altruistic efforts, and with a murderer on the loose as well as a plague, panic is spreading.
I hope the book will appear next year, if I can stick to my schedule.  I am working in Hastings at the moment, but need to go to Cyprus to sell my house there.  Any reasonable offer accepted!