Friday, 28 June 2013

Post Title Deleted - Explanation Below

I was going to use a couple of lyrics from a song as the title of my post this morning, but now I'm not.
You see, I should have spent this morning and yesterday morning doing some more writing, coming up with various theories about the universe for inclusion in a particularly critical (and thought-provoking) part of 'The Book That IT...'
Instead, I found myself going through the three parts of 'The Book That THEY...', checking that I hadn't used any song lyrics.
Well, it's all to do with an article by Blake Morrison in the Guardian which was highlighted by my publisher, regarding the use of copyrighted lyrics within novels and the costs associated in doing so.
Here's an extract (which I'm hoping is not, itself, copyrighted!)
I still have the invoices. For one line of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”: £500. For one line of Oasis’s “Wonderwall”: £535. For one line of “When I’m Sixty-four”: £735. For two lines of “I Shot the Sheriff” (words and music by Bob Marley, though in my head it was the Eric Clapton version): £1,000. Plus several more, of which only George Michael’s “Fastlove” came in under £200. Plus VAT. Total cost: £4,401.75. 

And what did I discover, after reading through my work...?
Well, it appears that I have, on one occasion, used a few lyrics and as a result, said lyrics are being savagely culled from the Part 3 because they are not critical to the plot and the book will be re-published. Annoying, but there you go. It's better than an invoice for £500 landing on the doormat!

Looking on the bright side, I am, in a way, glad that I found this out now before I got into writing the detail of the last few Diary Entries in 'The Book That IT...' because I had planned to use some of the words from Simon and Garfunkel's 'I am a Rock' - well, seeing as I'd probably be charged a couple of thousand quid for the privilege, I think they can all just bloody well 'Garfunkel-Off'!
Instead, I think I'll use 'The Owl and the Pussycat.'

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Edward Snowden reads my blog!

One of the great things about blogging on Blogger is that there is a Stats page where I can see the location of everyone who's looked at my blog in the last hour, day, week or month.
This week's list looks like this:
Now, those of you who have been following the misadventures of Edward Snowden will know that he has recently been rumoured to be in both Hong Kong and Russia, both of which figure highly on my list of pageviews.
If we assume that some of the views from Hong Kong and Russia are Snowden himself, then should we also assume that some of the UK and USA views are from GCHQ and the NSA respectively.
Based on that logic, Edward Snowden must now be in Latvia!
Drop me a comment if you are in Hong Kong, Russia or Latvia, just so we can assure the security agencies in the UK and USA that none of us are Edward Snowden...or are we?

(By the way, Edward Snowden may or may not be following my blog, but he hasn't bought my book - to date, the only overseas sale I've had (that I'm aware of) is super-Magnus over there in Sweden! If you are one of the fantastic people who read my blog in Russia, Hong Kong, Latvia, Canada, etc. and you want to avail yourself of the dubious distinction of being the first person in your respective nation to download my book, let me know when you've downloaded it and I shall add you to my roll of honour. Remember, for each country, there can be only one!)

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Support your local, no

I guess at the outset of this post it is important to make clear that, in spite of the fact that 'The Book That THEY...' is perhaps the most fantastically inventive and brilliantly-written book of this and maybe every other century, I should not expect anything other than the slow maturation of global recognition of its superb-ness, like a giant stonking oak forming from the tiniest of acorns.
However, what I could have perhaps expected was a little bit more support from those around me...and by that, I definitely do not mean friends and family and likers and followers and buyers, all of whom have been really, really supportive to the point beyond brilliance (and I love you all), what I mean is those potential avenues that could (and in my humble opinion, perhaps should) do more to promote what is a book by a local author (born-and-bred), featuring a very Lancastrian hero and set (for Part 1 at least) in and around the local area that is Darwen and Horwich and Manchester.
Yes, I'm talking about my 'local' promotional vehicles and outlets.
Like all books by anyone other than Dan Brown or J.K.Rowling, there is a need for the author to do their bit to promote their work, which is fair enough and I have no problem with that. One of the areas where such promotion usually bears fruit is the author's own geographical backyard, their local patch where their achievement can be lauded, celebrated and, yes, promoted by their own; I approached this opportunity with much enthusiasm.
Alas, the balloon of local expectation has been very quickly deflated by the forces of rejection and indifference.
For example:
  • On the publication of Part 1, I e-mailed a certain free magazine about life in Blackburn with Darwen, asking whether it would be an article of interest - no response.
  • I also e-mailed the local Blackburn newspaper (which shall, of course, remain nameless) - again, no response (it's the failure to respond which really narks)
  • I contacted my local bookstore (you know, the one with the well-known brand of coffee shop inside it) to ask if, seeing as they sell my e-book on their web-site, they'd be willing to put a small notice up next to their Kindles highlighting the work of a local author - the manager responded (which is a positive) to say that they can't do anything like that unless told to by head-office; end of debate.
  • Local book clubs - some have responded (thanks, Daniel), but most have not.
  • There are other examples, but I won't bore you with them.
You see, my friends, what I find just a bit galling (and I don't want to sound all whiney here) is that so many of the possible avenues I have explored actually promote their own 'local-ness' as a virtue, as something that they are proud of and should be celebrated and, more importantly, supported; and yet, when something of genuine local interest comes along (as I think someone writing a sci-fi book set in Lancashire is), they are simply not interested.
To the raging cynic in me, it would appear that they flaunt their 'local-ness' only when it suits them, but ignore it if they see no benefit in it for them.
The worst example of 'not supporting your local author' comes from Lancashire Magazine (yes, I will name them). I contacted them to ask if they'd be interested in doing a piece about a book with a local hero written by someone who has lived in Lancashire all their life; their response was to say, possibly, but only if I took out a quarter-page advertisement at a cost of £395.
Naturally, my response was 'fuck that!' (though I was too nice to put that in the e-mail!)

The only silver lining I can provide on what, in my eyes at least, is a damning indictment of those who claim to be 'local' failing to support something genuinely 'local', is a potential interview in another local newspaper - however, the interview itself did happen five weeks ago and, as yet, nothing has made it into print.
I do, however, remain eternally hopeful and my positivity is undimmed.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Riots - Who's are the best?

I'm not sure if any of you were aware, but there is now in place an unspoken international agreement that any country which hosts a major global sporting event must, in the preceding year, also host the World Riot Championships.
The 2013 World Riot Championships are currently taking place in Brazil in preparation for the 2014 World Cup, and, in a strange twist, that same country will be hosting the WRC again in 2015 in prelude to the 2016 Olympics.
Of course, many people following this blog in the UK will remember the London riots of 2011, which was the first occasion for a number of years that the WRC had been able to achieve the prominence which its 'world championship' status supposedly warrants; after all, the WRC in South Africa in 2009 went largely unnoticed and unreported (many people claim that this was because it was difficult to differentiate the WRC from the perennial urban discontent in that country), whilst the WRC in China 2007 really failed to get off the ground because the Chinese authorities were worried that such an event may resurrect memories of Tienanmen Square and young men in white shirts standing in front of tanks.
There is also, I understand, already preliminary discussions taking place in Doha regarding the 2017 WRC, where a request has been made that the riots take place in the cooler winter, rather than the raging heat of summer. No agreement on this has been reached.
It should also be noted that the WRC have filed an injunction against the rival Riot World Championship, claiming that its current championship in Turkey is illegal, a view (bizarrely) shared by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Finally, both the WRC and the RWC have welcomed the demise of the rival World Rioting Association, which had previously organised its riots to coincide with G8 summits; a spokesman for the WRC claimed that the WRA had 'failed to recognise the rioting ability of developing nations, and had paid the price for its elitism'.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

'The Book That IT...' is born

When I finished writing 'The Book That THEY Do Not Want You To Read' in early 2011, I was very, very excited. I was convinced (naively perhaps) that I had written something unusual, something funny, something thought-provoking and, perhaps most importantly, something which I was pretty sure other people would enjoy reading.
Of course, by the end of 2011, my enthusiasm had all but evaporated under the disappointing weight of rejection letters that fell with disheartening regularity through the letter-box.
Clearly, even though I thought what I had written was good, nobody else did.
And so, as time drifted merrily on into 2012, I decided to hang-up my quill and ink-pot, place my one hard copy of 'The Book That THEY...' on a shelf in my office and leave it there to gather dust and become nothing more than a personal dream unfulfilled.
But then, shazam! Along came e-books and e-publishing and the super-duper people at Autharium and the opportunity to resurrect that dream and make it real.
And now, in mid-2013, all three parts of 'The Book That THEY...' are available on the interweb - a source of immense satisfaction (if not immense riches).
But, a source of greater satisfaction is the feedback that I've received, much of which has been very positive, even from those for whom sci-fi is not normal reading. Not only is the story of Jethro Postlethwaite being well received, but also my style of writing is...and that, my friends, is uber-satisfying indeed.
In all honesty, if I'd have been told by my peers that the story was good but my writing was shit, I'd have snapped my quill and vowed never to scribe another word again.
If I'd've been told that the writing's okay but the story is rubbish, then I'd've drawn a line under the misadventures of Jethro Postlethwaite and moved on to something new.
It's because I've had such positive feedback about both writing and storyline that I've decided (much to my wife's chagrin, no doubt, because there are DIY jobs to do and they will get done, I promise) to press on with the sequel to 'The Book That THEY...', which I have imaginatively entitled 'The Book That IT Does Not Want You To Read.' Clever, eh?
Now this is going to disappoint my mother who has read the first few draft pages of 'The Peculiar Case of God vs Pratt' and thinks that has real mileage, but that, I think, can wait.

So, it's been a weekend of scene planning, of pulling together all my notes on 'IT', of realising that I'm going to have to study things like spectral-phase-shift, melancholia and string theory...
...and I'm very, very excited again!

Let the scribing begin!!

Friday, 14 June 2013

Sorry, but you don't look like a 'classy lady'...

I have a firm belief that my cynicism of the world in general, coupled with my, at times, out-of-control imagination, provide me with the capacity to come up with scenarios about our society which sit happily on that thin line between 'bizarre but believeable' and 'never-in-a-month-of-Sundays'.
However, more often than not, reality is able to trump my efforts with a story that has you shaking your head in utter bewilderment.

Man calls Solihull police to complain about prostitute's looks

To be honest, after reading it, I'm not sure what more I can add...
Nope, nothing comes to mind that your own imaginations won't already have come up with as you read the article...and I'm not going to get into any sort of debate about prostitution, about what sort of society we must be living in that results in women having to prostitute themselves, or about the sort of men who get involved with prostitutes, worthy and necessary though it is to have such debates. Just not here and not now.
Instead, I prefer to just to sit in quiet amusement for a while...

...before being left with this final question:
If the man had actually been satisfied with the prostitute's looks and subsequently engaged in coitus, but found that experience to be less satisfying than he had expected/been led to believe it would be, would he have rung 999 and complained about that?

Thursday, 13 June 2013

I know it's not about the money, but...

Well, the day has finally arrived!
All three parts of my magnum opus are now available on the world-wide-web for the delectation of discerning readers everywhere - links to the right, folks!
Initial feedback has been very positive, even from those for whom sci-fi is not normally a genre into which they would venture.

But, if I'm honest, the gloss of my success has been besmearched just a little by the antics of those 'nice' people at Amazon (the non-corporation-tax-paying commercial behemoth).
Put simply, Amazon are the only retailer of e-books that levy a charge for the download of an e-book. That charge is based, apparently, on the size (in kilobyte terms) of the e-book. Now, because Part 3 of 'The Book That THEY...' contains a lot of appendices which have tables and graphs and stuff like that, it is fairly hefty in size, to the point that, if I am to sit in Amazon's 70% royalty bracket, they will charge £2.38 for the download. It doesn't take a mathematical genius to work out the following:

£2.99 - 20% VAT - £2.38 download charge - 30% Amazon cut = fuck all for the author or the publisher.

As a result of this, my publisher has had to put Part 3 in a different royalty bracket where there is no download charge - unfortunately, this particularly bracket only pays 30%, which gives us the following equation:

£2.99 - 20% VAT - £0.00 download charge - 70% Amazon cut = £1.12, of which I get 85%.

Not exactly a fortune, is it?
But, then again, it's never really been about the money, has it?
I mean, let's face facts - if I wanted to find a time-effective way of making oddles of dosh, spending countless hours writing a novel that has little chance (in spite of the fact that it is fucking brilliant!) of becoming an international bestseller (which is the only time the author actually gets oodles of dosh) would not be high on your list.
It would certainly be below:
  • dealing drugs
  • becoming a gigolo
  • robbing a bank
  • working in the financial services sector
No, my writing is about something more than money.
It's about experiencing the satisfaction of being able to look at one's own creation and, yes, it is about enjoying the warm glow that comes with positive feedback from my peers.
It's about realising an ambition.
So, I guess I shouldn't let those bastards at Amazon dim the glow of triumph that I should feel as I bask in the knowledge that something which I have written is being read (and, by all accounts, enjoyed) by people all over the world.

A bit of extra dosh wouldn't go amiss though...

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Sorry...but not all men are idiots! Part 2

Back after a few day's absence - it wasn't that I didn't have anything to say, it was actually finding the opportunity to say it, especially with my mind so alive with cracking some of the plot challenges for 'The Book That IT Does Not Want You To Read'...which I have, for the most part, achieved (lol, smiley face)

So, what to talk about?
Well, the faithful may recall a post I did on the 1st May entitled 'Sorry...but not all men are idiots!' in which I bemaoned the way advertisers tend to always portray men as idiots (the link is below if you wish to refresh your memory):
Anyway, it appears I am not alone in my view (barometer of the nation, I appear to be).
As this article in the Telegraph (which mirrors the article in The Times that I read this morning over breakfast, because I'm sophisticated and can do that sort of thing) demonstrates, there is a growing frustration generally at the way Dads are portrayed, particularly in films and cartoons, as well as adverts as I have previously observed.
In the Times article (which I can't find online, unfortunately) they also highlighted the 'Dads' in My Family and Outnumbered as re-inforcing this unwelcome stereotype that Dads are lazy, stupid, misogynistic and generally crap at anything they do.
Whilst I'm not against the role of Dad being portrayed every now and again as a muppet, this should be balanced by portrayals of Dads as strong, caring individuals striving to do the best they can; sadly, examples of the latter in film and television are few and far between. Script-writers who go for the 'idiot Dad' option are now, in my opinion, just being lazy.
I'd also like to draw your attention to the comment in the Telegraph article, echoed in the Times:
'there would be an outcry if jokes aimed at Dads were aimed at women, ethnic minorities or religious groups'
Point made, methinks.

Friday, 7 June 2013

And into societal madness we descend...

I came across this in one of Lord Packham of Cheam's tweets yesterday (All Hail Lord Packham!!):

It would be interesting if this same philosophy was applied to other aspects of our society. Some examples are as follows:
  • a person with a criminal record of child abuse applying for a licence to run a nursery
  • a person with a record of embezzlement applying to be a chartered accountant
  • a former mass murderer applying for a shotgun licence
It would have been nice if Natural England had responded to the enquiries made by concerned parties in relation to this particular licence application in the following manner:
'Yes, we did take into account the fact that this applicant has a conviction for using banned poisons, so we just laughed, tore up his application and threw it back in his face.'
Sadly, it seems that that is not going to be the case, particularly when Natural England seem willing to state how much store they place in the applicant's argument about why they should get a licence.

So, there you have it folks.
Society has gone mad.
We have programmes on TV like Springwatch in which they plead with us to do all we can to help the populations of species like buzzards and red kites and kestrels recover after decades of persecution, and yet, at the same time, we have a DEFRA authorised body seemingly willing to hand out a licence to 'control' buzzards to someone with a criminal record for using banned poisons.

Can someone book me a ticket on the first ride out of here!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

A writing dilemma

A fairly introspective blog this morning as I wrestle with a writing dilemma.
With the impending publication of Part 3 of 'The Book That THEY Do Not Want You to Read', and following my recent visit to Knoydart where I intend to set a portion of the sequel ('The Book That IT...'), my creative juices for scribing the further adventures/misadventures of Jethro Postlethwaite are now well-and-truly flowing again.
And yet, I have been seriously enjoying the early stages of writing 'The Peculiar Case of God vs Pratt' and am equally excited by the prospect of this piece of work.
But I don;t have the time nor the mental capacity to write both at the same time!
So which do I choose?

Oh God!!!

Several minutes of deep thinking later...
I think what I'm going to do is write up the diary entries for JP's time in Knoydart whilst those memories are still fresh in my head and then see how things progress from there...


That's what I'll do...

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The Wind In The Willows - Revisited

It was a bright morning in the early part of summer; the river had resumed its wonted banks and its accustomed pace, and a hot sun seemed to be pulling everything green and bushy and spiky up out of the earth towards him, as if by strings. The Mole and the Water Rat had been up since dawn, very busy on matters connected with boats and the opening of the boating season; painting and varnishing, mending paddles, repairing cushions, hunting for missing boat-hooks, and so on; and were finishing breakfast in their little parlour and eagerly discussing their plans for the day, when a heavy knock sounded at the door.
'Bother!' said the Rat, all over egg. 'See who it is, Mole, like a good chap, since you're finished.'
The Mole went to attend the summons, and the Rat heard him utter a cry of horror.
The Rat let his egg-spoon fall on the table-cloth as he jumped up from the table and dashed through the parlour door.
In the bright sunlight, the Rat could see, slumped at the threshold of the front door, the body of the Badger. Badger's left eye stared unseeingly at him whilst the right side of the face was completely missing; the Rat suspected that the congealed mass of fur, brains and blood that now covered the door had moments previously been an integral part of Badger's features.
As both The Mole and the Water Rat surveyed the scene before them, the Badger's front left paw twitched spasmodically; it was at this point that Mole vomited egg all over the floor.
'What the fuck...?' was all the Rat was able to say before they heard the booming approach of heavy human boots. In a flash, a huge, human hand reached down from the sky outside and, momentarily blotting out the bright morning light, it grabbed Badger's bloody carcass and hauled it away.
The last thing the Rat and the Mole heard, as the human strode off into the distance, was the human shouting to a distant colleague:
'Straight through the head, Frank, cracking shot. Let's see how many more of these bovine TB carrying-vermin we can get culled today, eh?'

Monday, 3 June 2013

Misogyny...sadly alive and well in the world of SF

The following was brought to my attention by Mr Ian Sales (author of the great little novella 'Adrift on the Sea of Rains') through one of his tweets. It was a link to a blog by an SF writer called Ann Aguirre, who has written a lot of SF novels and has a healthy (and believeable) average rating on Goodreads of 3.92.

In her blog, Ann comments on how she has been treated as a woman in what is a very male-dominated genre, and it makes uncomfortable reading.
However, what is truly shocking are the comments which were made in response to her blog - talk about vile.
I am with many who have called for those who sent the disgusting comments to be named and shamed, though I do like Ian's somewhat radical and forthright alternative proposal:
the men who sent hate mail to the writer of that blog post deserve to have their cocks cut off in public. without anaesthetic.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Bradburys...not in my lifetime!

It came to me in a nightmarish vision.

I'm supping a well-earned pint in the bar at the Dungeon Ghyll Hotel in Langdale when I overhear a conversation :
' yes, now that we've done Crinkle Crags and Bowfell today, we'll only have to do Catbells tomorrow and we'll have ticked off all the Bradburys...'
I intercede:
'I'm sorry, but what are 'Bradburys'?'
The room is suddenly quiet - unnaturally so. Puzzled faces turn towards me, some scowling, others regarding me as some kind of moron. Eventually, someone speaks:
'The Bradburys. They are the 11 most important mountains in the Lake District.'
I feel my expression frown:
'You mean the Wainwrights...and there's 214 of them...'
Faces turn to each other in confusion.
'Wainwright...? Who is Wainwright?' they ask in unison.
I reply, trying to keep the incredulity from my voice:
'Why, he's the guy who walked up and catalogued all the hills in the Lake District...wrote his Pictorial Guides...'
Blank expressions on their faces...then the dawning of realisation on one:
'Oh, you mean that old dude that Julia mentions every now and again on her DVDs, the one that people used to associate with Lake District mountains before the most important mountains in the Lakes were renamed 'Bradburys' in honour of the magnificence of Julia Bradbury...Christ, I'd forgotten about him...'
That's when I begin to scream...and awaken, covered in sweat, shaking uncontrollably.

Yes, my friends, we must be ever-vigilant lest the monstrous Bradbury-PR machine should ever attempt to 'summarise' the Lake District's incredible variety and splendour in just those 11 hills that she could be arsed to have a camera crew follow her to the top of:
Scafell Pike
Castle Crag
High Street
Helm Crag
Crinkle Crags & Bowfell

So if, whilst in the Lakes, you ever hear anyone mention the name 'Bradbury' in the same sentence as either 'tick' or 'list', then it will be your moral duty to walk slowly up behind them and shout in their right ear at the top of your voice:
'Begone, Bradbury-demon, and leave alone this innocent soul. There is no place for your annoying, self-obsessed egotism here, or anywhere else for that matter!'
Then, having spun the possessed person around, grab their walking poles, make the sign of the cross in front of them and chant 5 times:
'All hail, Wainwright!'