Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I think I'm finally ready.

I was born in 1948 and finished writing my first novel in 1984 when I was thirty-six years old. Even back then I was conscious of being a failure. I had wanted to be the next Scott Fitzgerald but he had published his first novel in his early twenties and was dead when he was forty.

I needn't have worried anyway because I never got the book published.

I sent it out to Jonathan Cape, Chatto & Windus, Hamish Hamilton, Faber & Faber, The Bodley Head and half a dozen others. It must have been a different world back then because most of them took the trouble to read the book and sent back individual rejection slips. Some of them were even quite encouraging and urged me not to give up but to try other publishers more suited to my work.

I re-read the book for the first time earlier this week. It's not very good. A lot of it is downright bad. About twenty-five per cent shows some promise.

But it got me thinking. There's a story in there that I still want to tell. After years of dicking around I've finally found something I want to write about. Something important. Something I can believe in after years in the wilderness.

I'm going to start today.

Good news from Penguin?

Pearson, the owner of Penguin, announced its results today. Penguin turned over £804 million and made an operating profit of £60million for the year, which is so-so.

The good news appears to be that the publishing company is to double the number of new authors it publishes to 250 a year.

It's also going to cut back on big-time advances. But I don't think that should bother us unduly.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Another Entry for the Blookreader Award

Here's the entry from Cliffdweller. "The Circle of Ceridwen" by Octavia Randolph can be found here. Remember the closing date for entries to the competition is 31st March.

Cliffdweller's entry:

Meticulously researched, lovingly composed, "The Circle Of Ceridwen" breathes life into those who have long turned to dust--9th century Anglo-Saxons. Forgotten warriors, kings & maidens stand & walk across the page--they tell you of their hopes & fears & you ride with them through peril & victory. You hear the rustling of a maiden's gown as she opens a chamber door, trembling. You hear the ring of iron sword smashing into iron helmet.

This tells the story of Ceridwen, a pagan by birth, a Christian by circumstance, as she steps into a world wracked by war & dread & she discovers the only true strength: the strength within oneself. She steps gingerly at first, then boldly, then she runs headlong into the most daunting adversity, only to find the deepest joy imaginable--lasting love & respect. Ceridwen is gifted in letters, she is perceptive, she is intelligent, she is compassionate. These gifts bring her rewards beyond her wildest imaginings.

As will this story to the reader. This book is a gem, a prayer stone, a banner waving in the Britannic sunshine. Come see what people did in the First Millennium. Are we really so different?

Miracles Do Happen

The purpose behind this blog is to act as a shop window for my free online novel A Half Life Of One but the truth is that this is a flawed business model.

People will happily visit this blog for amusement or entertainment without ever taking a look at my book. If they're writers themselves they may be keeping a watchful eye on the success or otherwise of my project, again without ever wishing to read the book.

In essence, the problem is that it's very difficult to attract potential readers. People who are actually looking for a book to read.

Unless of course you have a blog which is designed specifically with this one aim in view. Like Free Online Novels. A blog which does exactly what it says on the tin. I've mentioned the blog before in relation to the International Blookreader Awards. If you want to find an online novel to review Free Online Novels is the place to go.

Well, over the weekend, Jennifer Armstrong, who runs the blog, kindly put up a link to A Half Life Of One on the site. As a result, more people have taken a look at my book in the last twenty-four hours than have done in the whole of the previous three months.

Jennifer has obviously put a lot of work into her site. And there's no catch either. It's all very altruistic. Which means we all owe Jennifer a whole bunch of thanks.

Despite my weary cynicism, it appears that miracles can happen.

Friday, February 24, 2006


I'm still wrestling with myself over the ending of A Half Life Of One. Maybe I should have one more go at re-writing the ending; putting in a twist, making it more upbeat; making it more attractive to a publisher.

Then I could start submitting it again to a traditional publisher.

I dunno. Both courses of action feel like selling out somehow. I'm beginning to enjoy peaceful obscurity.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Why you?

My previous post is a distillation of my motives for writing.

But I'm equally interested in your motives for reading. Why do you read blogs? Why this one in particular?

If you don't want to post, drop me an e-mail.

I need to get to know you better.

What writing means to me

I've had a serious compulsion to write since I was about fourteen.

The usual thing. An unhappy childhood, the need to connect, wanting to be liked, loved even. The stories I wrote were essentially about me and my unhappiness. Still are, I guess. Later, when I was in my teens, I wanted to be a famous writer, glamorous and successful like my hero Scott Fitzgerald. Who died alone, broke, believing himself a failure.

Now, more than forty years later, I've returned to my writing roots. To connect. Only connect. Whenever someone reads my novel A Half Life of One I feel I've been successful, wildly so. Money and fame don't enter my equation. You don't have to like me or love my book either. If we've shared any kind of feelings while you read my book, however briefly, I've succeeded. We've succeeded. There really is no higher aim in life than to share yourself honestly with another human being.

Up until now this need to write has been a curse. To write something and fail to have it published is an exquisitely cruel form of punishment. In that respect blogging has set me free.

At last I can say, We've connected. And that's all that matters.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Another blook

I'm grateful to Carla Nayland for bringing to my attention the story of James Aach's struggle to publish his techno-thriller Rad Decision. In the end James decided to publish his book for free on his own blog and you can read it here.

Online novels

Octavia Randolph has a pretty amazing site which showcases some of her free historical fiction. It's definitely worth a look, indeed you might well find yourself drawn in for more than one brief visit. In fact, I would urge some caution - that place could be addictive.

Octavia also has an interesting link to Starry's Free Online Novels which has a shedload of free books, mostly contemporary fiction.

Not quite the new paradign then

One of the things you notice when you start up a blog like this is how few people leave Comments. Even as your readership builds the Comments section reminds largely neglected.

Except if you're Pete Townshend. The veteran Who rock musician has published a blook called The Boy Who Heard Music on one of his blogs. I haven't read it all but there's no question that the guy can write. Some of his Chapters have attracted over a thousand comments, nearly all of them favourable. Who said celebrity doesn't sell?

My own blook A Half Life Of One has attracted barely a handful of readers. I'm not sure what conclusion to draw from this. Maybe I need to re-invent myself as a rock musician.

Does go to show though that there is a readership out there ready and waiting if you can provide them with the proper product in the right package.

More oysters

A few posts back I asked in a whimsical sort of way how you would know if you were dead.

Well, if you've eaten half a dozen bad oysters let me tell you that you'll shortly afterwards get a pretty fair insight into what it's like to suffer in Hell.

I'm still a bit groggy right now, so bear with me if some of these posts lack my usual joie de vivre.

Monday, February 20, 2006


Laid low by oysters today. Back tomorrow.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Waugh and Peace

I was thinking the other day about the funniest literary joke I've ever read.

It's a scene in an Evelyn Waugh novel but for the life of me I can't remember which one. It might be Brideshead Revisited. To paraphrase very loosely it goes something like this:

Sebastian, a dashing young blade, is sitting with his Uncle Basil, an old and very confirmed bachelor, in some ancient country retreat somewhere. Sebastian loves and admires his uncle but considers him very unworldly.

"Uncle Basil?"
"Have you ever had a woman?"
Basil looks surprised. He thinks for a moment. "Yes," he says, a pleased, almost boastful expression spreading across his face.
It's Sebastian's turn to look surprised. "Really, uncle? When?"
Basil thinks for several seconds. "Once in 1913 and once in 1938."
"Good grief!" exclaims Sebastian, utterly amazed. "Who on earth were they?"
Basil hesitates. "It was the same woman," he says eventually, looking a little less pleased with himself.

If any of you out there have ever read any Waugh please put me out of my misery and tell me which book this scene appears in. Then I can rest in peace (Pretty poor when you've got to justify a punning title, but there you go, it is Friday after all).

Z-listers are revolting

Reading through some of the comments on a previous post "A Confederacy of Pundits" do I sniff the slightest hint of revolution in the air?

Can you sense it too? Taste it? Smell it? Touch it? Is your pulse quickening?

I'm old enough to remember the student riots in Paris in the sixties. Heady times. But I'm also young enough to join the revolution that's about to erupt in the blogosphere.

Z-listers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your isolation!

Hm. Not much of a rallying cry, though, is it? Come on guys, give me something that will get them fighting in the streets, or at least on the info superhighway!!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

International Book Reading Competition

I've had several enquiries from readers living abroad, especially in America, as to whether or not they can enterthe Blookreader Awards (see sidebar for details).

Rest assured, if you can read - and write - you can enter.

If you are a lucky winner but live in a country that doesn't do book tokens don't worry. I will buy you the equivalent value in books of your choice from Amazon or, if you prefer, your local bookseller.

A Confederacy of Pundits

I discussed in my previous post the hurdles facing anyone trying to break into the A-list of bloggers who dominate their particular segment of the blogosphere.

In my case I wanted to build up readership of the Pundy House as a kind of shop window for my novel A Half Life of One. Although the big blogs readerships reside in the fields of sex, computer geekery, politics and humour these were of limited interest to me. I've already admitted that being a happily married man of long standing I know next to nothing about sex. Computers for me are simply a means to an end (writing, in case you're making the wrong connection here). Politics depresses me too much to want to write about it. In other words, the typical geeky, sex-mad young politico who patronised these wildly-popular blogs was unlikely to be interested in a serious, downbeat novel with a loser for a hero.

If I wanted to attract potential readers I needed to attack the literary blogosphere.

I drew up my own hit list of A-listers who might just possibly give my book a mention if I packaged the proposition with enough humour to tickle their interest.

The list included Maud Newton, Blog of a Bookslut, Miss Snark, Agent 007 and The Grumpy Old Bookman. I started out by sending them jokey e-mails announcing the birth of my literary sensation. Most people saw the joke (although be warned - don't try such a technique on Robot Wisdom) and responded with sceptical good humour to what was, after all, pretty much a spam campaign. Only one, however, mentioned me in their blog and that was the GOB, in whose debt I shall ever remain. As a result of his good-humoured indulgence I received my first small tidal wave of visitors.

Someone dropping in from his blog even read A Half Life of One. A result!

Sadly, to date, the big prize eludes me. None of these A-listers has yet put me on their Link List. But why should they? I'm new to the scene (started in October), unproven, worryingly lightweight and jokey. The truth is, I've yet to earn my bones.

All in all though I remain optimistic. Visitor numbers are slowly rising. People are reading A Half Life of One. And I'm making new friends. It could be a lot worse, couldn't it?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Why you'll never have an A-list blog

Kent Newsome has been participating in an interesting discussion about why it's impossible to build a successful new blog in 2006.

Kent's a techno geek and he would like his blog to build up the kind of numbers achieved by Doc Searl, or Boing Boing for example. These guys get thousands of visitors every day and they're part of a cabal called the A-list. The rest of us are mostly Z-listers and are to be pitied, even despised. Oh, and excluded too. We're on the outside looking in.

There appear to be a number of reasons why this situation has developed but for brevity's sake I'll confine myself to the most plausible explanations.

Primarily these guys are popular because they have first mover advantage. In other words, they have been around longest. As they've grown they've built up their own momentum and now inhabit a different universe from the rest of us. I should say at this point that it's a given that they produce regular, quality content, although so do a lot of bloggers who labour in obscurity.

Kent has given this invidious situation a lot of thought and he also argues that these A-listers receive help from other established bloggers, either formally, or informally via links and interblog conversations. So far so good. The problem arises with the implication that A-listers are perfectly happy to maintain the status quo, indeed actively encourage it. So much so that they have become gatekeepers, excluding the rest of us from their party. You try and link to them but they ignore you, for example.

Assuming that most bloggers actually want a decent readership, this is a pretty depressing scenario if it's true. What's to be done? Kent suggests that you should try making friends with other bloggers. In other words form your own z-list cabal from amongst the long tail of anonymous toilers in the blogosphere. Actually, this is not a bad idea, and it has the laws of physics on its side as far as building momentum goes.

The other strategem he suggests is leaving comments on popular blogs. Friendly, informed and witty comments that is. Keep your spleen and envy well-hidden if you want to dine, however briefly, at the top table.

In my next post I'll describe my own treatment at the hands of the A-listers of the literary firmament.

Dick Cheney

He calls himself a dick, right?

What else do you need to know?

The curious incident of the cat in the night-time

We live out in the country with our two cats. A mother and her daughter, they go in and out the house at will through the catflap. Unfortunately, so too does the occasional feline visitor.

This morning at three o'clock I was wakened by the most terrifying racket. Honestly, I thought it was a burglar falling down the stairs.

Immediately afterwards I lay wide awake listening to what sounded like someone being strangled. My first thought was that the burglar had got his head caught in the bannister and was choking to death. My second was, Gee, are we insured for that?

At this point my wife pushed me out of bed, rather roughly I thought. "Find out what the hell's happening!" she hissed.

I hardly had time to wonder Why me? as I grabbed my dressing gown and stumbled out onto the landing. At that moment the house was filled with what sounded like the death rattlings of some unimaginable, unearthly creature. I felt the hairs standing up on the back of my neck. It took me several frantic minutes to track down the whereabouts of this wailing banshee. The source of the commotion turned out to be our eldest cat, hiding behind the curtains on the upper landing. She was absolutely terrified, shaking like a leaf.

There was no sign of any visitor. Our youngest cat, a born coward, had disappeared. She was probably hightailing it to the next county.

We both tried to comfort the cat but to no avail. Eventually we went back to bed but it was impossible to sleep as the cat persisted with her attempts to summon her ancestors from the spirit world.

Anyway, the net result is that I'm exhausted. I'm also late for work and this is the last post for the time being.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Erotic Fiction

I've said before that I don't know much about sex.

I don't think you could level the same charge at W.S. Cross who has a blog called Beyond You And Me. In it he has posted several chapters from his blook of the same name which features a rather fetching young lady called Cassie who appears to lead a pretty liberated life. On the cover of the book she isn't wearing much in the way of clothing, which can't be much fun at this time of the year.

The blog is something of a portal into the eye-opening world of erotic fiction and as such has obviously proved pretty popular. Mr/Ms Cross (it's not clear which) has received 93859 hits since March 2005.

This site obviously deserves a lot more research on my part and I'll report further once the steam has cleared from my glasses.

Declaring war on adverbs

Today I finished the first draft of my submission for the Scotsman Orange Short Story Competition. First prize is a staggering £7,500. Closing date for entries is 10th March.

What I have to do now are the re-writes. First priority is to remove ALL adverbs. Then try and strengthen the verbs. After that flesh out the two main characters. Finally, pep up the dialogue.

Actually, I enjoy revision. When it goes well you can feel the story developing depth, the characters coming alive . I'll probably re-write ten or a dozen times in total.

It's good practice before I start my next novel which I plan to do at the end of March.

Future Blook

For a look at what can be done with the form take a look at No Dead Trees, a truly innovative interactive blook.

The other good thing...

The other good thing about publishing your novel on your own blog is that you don't have to worry about editors forcing changes upon you. Word for word your masterpiece will be reproduced exactly how you want it.

Which may not be a good thing of course. Even James Joyce may secretly have regretted not submitting Finnegan's Wake to a bit of judicious independent editing. Certainly many of his readers must have wished he had.

Thanks, Carla

The nice thing about being a blogger is the way people make a real effort to help you.

Carla Nayland, who writes historical fiction, has a blog called Carla Nayland Historical Fiction. She had a look at my novel A Half Life of One and immediately noted that it was difficult to read as I had adopted a template with white text on a dark background. Novels are generally printed black on white for a very good reason.

Thanks for the advice, Carla. I've changed the template and now there's absolutely nothing standing between me and literary immortality.

Except a few million readers, that is.

Monday, February 13, 2006

In Praise of Blogging

The advice from the publisher of A Story Blook that I discussed in the previous post started me thinking of the many ways a book published via a blog differs from a traditionally-published book.

For a start there's the obvious difference whereby the reader can contact the author at any time in the reading process. Which is a somewhat more dynamic than the old way of sending fan/hate mail via the author's publisher and waiting months for a reply.

Even more novel is the way the author can immediately respond to the reader's comments.

But it's what happens after that where the new medium really gets interesting. Take the observation by the guy who publishes A Story Blook that the ending is the weak part of A Half Life of One. Assuming I accept that proposition what can I do about it?

Obviously I can write a different ending. Or maybe a series of endings. For example, a happy ending, a surprising ending, a romantic ending etc etc. And then the reader can choose one or more as they wish. Or I could even turn the book over to my critic and let him/her write an alternative ending. It doesn't have to be just endings either. The reader could intervene at any point in the process.

Or I could write several versions of the same book based on readers suggestions. Sounds crazy? Probably. But I seem to remember that many years ago what were then called avant garde writers tried to do this sort of thing but were constrained by the medium in which they operated. B.S. Johnson attempted to get round this by publishing one of his novels in a box where the readers could rearrange the chapters to suit themselves.

Being somewhat old-fashioned I think that for the time being I'll stick to the old way of doing things whereby I author the book myself. That doesn't mean to say though that I don't welcome suggestions. I do. Receiving readers' advice and feedback is definitely one of the biggest benefits of the new way of doing things.

Limp ending

Here's a Comment that was posted the other day by the gentleman who publishes A Story Blook blog. His post has subsequently given me a lot of food for thought. I'd like to respond in two posts, this one addressing his particular observations as they relate to A Half Life Of One; and then more generally with regard to blog publishing in a wider context. If you haven't yet read A Half Life of One you might want to skip this post.

In an earlier post I had mentioned that my novel was somewhat "flabby". Here's how the Story Blook publisher responded:

Flabby? Don't know but....First, I loved your blook as I said. You wove the story very well. You take the reader through the inner torment of the protagonist and down into the depths of depravity along with him. You have talent for that character development - you even developed some of the characters around him.However, the story itself ended up falling short and I'll bet that publishers would say the same thing. Let's look at it. So he leaves her locked in the cottage and comes back the next day. He doesn't go inside, but he hears this buzzing. So we (the readers) are left to assume that the combination of cold and terror killed her and buzzing was a swarm of dreadful vermin chewing away at her body or something.Then we fast forward a year. We find a little about his guilt over his father and see the correlation between that and the recent incident. And we get a bit of "Oh well what's done is done and uh oh .. that DNA cloud!". And that's it! That really makes the story fall limp. The story has no twist, no "turn of the screw". Granted the events in the story form twists, but there is no final turn of events in the story. It almost needs another chapter or two. Maybe she got out of the cabin? You leave that possibility open but don't do anything with it. Maybe there was a loose board on a window or something he had not noticed but that she found. A woman who achieves that level of wealth must have some inner courage and resourceful qualities. The possibilities for a final twist from there are .. well endless.Want to have a better shot at getting it published? Put some 'twist & spin' at the end.All the best--- A Story Blook

Right. First off let me say that I am uncomfortably aware that the ending may well be limp. From a literary perspective I might be able to improve it. So, I'll take this observation on board and give it some serious thought. And I may end up changing the ending.

Before I do though, let me give you some background about what I was trying to achieve with this story. I have to be careful here because I'm going to refer to certain momentous historical events and in doing so I risk trivialising them while at the same time inflating the importance of the book.

As I have alluded to in a number of previous posts, just like the hero in the book, when I wrote the book I was under enormous pressure because my business was going bust Like him I had personal guarantees and had put my house up as security for the borrowings I had undertaken. That background was the starting point for the book. But I wanted the book to have a wider historical resonance if possible.

As I have hinted at in previous posts, since I was a child I have been haunted by various images and books that I have read concerning the holocaust and Nazi Germany. (I should point out here that I am not Jewish and that the book is in no way allegorical). As a result, I have often found myself wondering what I would have done if I had been a young man with a family in Germany when Hitler was in power. Would I have collaborated? Would I have joined the army in order to promulgate Hitler's obscene ideology? What if I'd been a concentration camp guard? Would I have still remained a human being or would I have been as brutal and inhuman as the rest of them?

You know, when I look into my heart I really don't know the answer to these questions.

While I was writing my book I drew certain parallels in my mind between the pressure my hero was under and the pressure a decent young man would experience in Nazi Germany. Obviously my hero fails the test, although I think you could argue in mitigation that he does the wrong thing for the right reasons, namely to save his family. I fear that's what I would have done if I'd been a young German back then. That's a nightmare that's haunted me for years.

The buzzing our hero hears when he returns to the cottage is important. Like him, I, the autor, don't know what unspeakble horrors are going on inside that cottage. What is the buzzing sound? As I wrote this scene n the back of my mind was a report I read when I was a kid. In it prison guards reported that in the gas chambers they could hear a buzzing noise, like a swarm of bees, for a few seconds after the Zylon B gas was introduced. The buzzing sound in the cottage is a faint echo of the unspeakable horrors enacted fifty years before. A folk memory of the evil within us all.

Finally, the ending. Nick, our hero, finds that life goes on much as normal after he has committed his dreadful crime. He acts and behaves like any decent human being. He even reverts to being a rather moral individual. Just as thousands must have done in Germany after the war. Maybe these people, no matter how hideous the crimes they committed, did become normal people afterwards. If they did I find this thought truly shocking. Because if they were normal people before and afterwards...

That's why the ending is weak It's as if nothing had happened. It's not right, is it? The reader feels cheated, shocked even at the lack of natural justice. But that's the effect I was aiming at.

On the other hand...maybe I need to look deeper. Maybe things never are the same again and I'm just not seeing it.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Don't judge a blook by its author

I've been reading this blog (well, someone's got to do it) and I have to confess that I'm somewhat taken aback by the superficial, incessantly jokey, childish and trivial nature of most of the posts. I just don't sound like a serious author to me, and that's worrying.

The thing is, I set up this blog as a vehicle to promote my blook A Half Life of One. By promote I mean I am trying to lure a few readers here who will eventually click through to my literary masterpiece over on my other blog.

It well known that to attract readers you basically have to do two things:

1 Post regularly
2 Say something interesting every time

Apart from a short hiatus over Christmas and New Year when I suffered an acute attack of writer's block I have managed to post regularly. Mainly by writing down the first thing that comes into my head and then trying to give it a "humorous" twist. Hence the relentlessly facetious tone of the blog.

You can't imagine Hemingway or Fitzgerald doing the same thing though, can you?

The problem is accentuated if you actually go and read my blook. There isn't a joke in it. It's a deeply serious, dark book that sets out to shock and, hopefully, provoke some serious thoughts about the precariousness of our existence. Judging by this blog you would never guess in a million years that I was the author. As a result, I've probably deterred as many people from reading the book as I attracted.

The other strange thing is that in real life - inasmuch as I lead a "real" life - I'm a deeply serious, driven person who shares his sense of humour only with a very close circle of friends. In sustaining this blog for as long as I have I've been forced to develop completely new opersonality. Which is quite an interesting byproduct of my marketing drive I guess.

When I wrote A Half Life Of One, incidentally, I was under the same intense pressure as the main protagonist. Oil was down at 10 dollars a barrel, work in the oil industry had dried up, and my highly-geared business was rapidly going bust. Just like the guy in the book I was trapped and staring ruin in the face. In retrospect I was pretty close to cracking up completely. The only thing that kept me sane was my sense of humour. Things were so bad you had to laugh, even if it was gallows humour. It's odd now, looking back, that none of this humour appears in the book. Maybe that's why I didn't resort to the solution that went so badly wrong for my fictional hero, or should that be villain.

That being the case, I'd ask you to tolerate all the bad puns and feeble jokes. The thing is, if I lose my sense of humour I'm in trouble.

Well, we all are, aren't we?

Hope for us all

Here's a blook which has actually been picked up by a traditional publisher in the way we all dream about.

Friday, February 10, 2006

A Long Post

My ambition is one day to write a long post. The trouble is I have the attentio

Post Intercourse Depression

I don't suffer from P.I.D.

Honestly. It really doesn't bother me if no-one wants to post a comment on my blog. People have got better things to do with their time. Especially when they're at work.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Shallow Grave

If I'd known how shallow I was I'd never have started this blog.

It took me four days to plumb the depths of my own ignorance.

Me and the Kaiser Chiefs

Me and the Kaiser Chiefs have adopted the same revolutionary business model.

Put your stuff up on the web for free (cf A Half Life Of One) and let the people come. Then commercialise your masterwork and let the people come again with money in their hand.

So far though, the Kaiser Chiefs have the edge on me. Just.

The paradox of white van man

Can anyone explain the paradox of white van man?

Namely, when he's in front of you he's holding you up.

And when he's behind you he's tailgating you.

On Death

I wonder how you know you're dead?


When I started this blog a few months back I used to get lots of spammers. No visitors, just lots of spammers. I didn't mind them, incidentally. We're all selling something after all.

Now they rarely drop by.

Why is that? Is it something I've done, or has somebody improved the filtering mechanism or something.

Gee, I hope it's not something I've done.

Never out of print

The other good thing about Blookland in the Blogosphere is that your book never goes out of print. Doesn't get remaindered either, come to that.

It just sits there. Lurking. Forever.

Kinda scary isn't it.

Readership doubles in a month

Combining the feedback I've received with a forensic examination of my visitor stats I can confidently assert that the number of readers of my blook A Half Life of One has doubled in the past month.

Or to put it another way, two people have read the book.

Now, I know what you're thinking. If I was Stephen King or Dan Brown, for example, I might be a tad disappointed with my monthly sales returns. A bit of a dip, I would be thinking, as my masterpiece slid down the Amazon rankings.

But actually I'm ecstatic. That's two people more than would have read it if I'd left it to languish in a drawer somewhere.

Even better, one of my readers (the guy who authors A Story Blook blog) actually took the trouble to say he enjoyed it.

Which makes me think that all the effort I put into this blog is worth it after all.

Now, if I can just think of some wheeze to ensnare another reader...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Pete Townshend

Who? Exactly. The rock icon has a blook over at his blog The Boy Who Heard Music. Worth a look too.

Closing date for the Blookreader Awards

Don't forget the closing date for the inaugural Blookreader Awards is 31st Match. Scroll down for more information.

Another interesting blook

Another interesting blook here. Okay, I can't kid you, this one's by me.

Interesting Blook

An interesting blook being written by a guy living in Japan here.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Five things I wish I'd done...

Here's five things I wish I'd done before I died (I'm 57 after all, as good as dead already):

1 Gone out with that blonde girl in fourth year at school

2 Published a novel the traditional way

3 Gone out with that black-haired girl at University

4 Gone to Paris when I was young and pretended to be a writer

5 Met Brigitte Bardot while I was slumming it in Paris

Doesn't really amount to a hill of beans, does it? Maybe if I'd had more ambition there be a lot more things I could feel regretful about. Okay then, one more thing:

6 Been more ambitious

So what would you have done if you weren't such a slob?


I was in my local bookstore this morning. On my way out a small paperback (maybe "manual" is a more appropriate description) called "The Little Book of Wanking" caught my eye.

Geez. Amazing how standards have declined in the last twenty years.

In my day it would have been called "The Little Book of Masturbation".

Today it rained...

Today it rained. Nothing unusual in that, you might say. Except that we're in the depths of winter in northern Scotland. This is the first rain we have seen for weeks. January was just about the driest since records began. Right now it's 10 degrees centrigrade. I look out of the window at the mountains and they are devoid of snow.

When I first moved out her twenty years ago you expected to be snowed in ever winter. We all dreaded February, the cruellest month in this part of the world. Whole houses regularly got buried in snow at this time of the year. Villages were cut off.

On Sunday I worked in the garden in my shirt sleeves. Every winter seems to get milder. Something is happening. Shouldn't we all be doing something, instead of just talking about it?

Something for nothing

I love it when something is created out of nothing. Especially if it's money.

In 1964 Sports Illustrated published its first Swimsuit Issue. Some bright spark in the company soon noticed that whenever they published a Swimsuit Issue circulation rose. Amongst the young male population in the country quite literally so.

The magazine began to exploit this phenomenon and devoted more space to their Swimsuit Issues. Circulation continued to climb. Somebody had another bright idea and the company brought out a Calendar based on the Swimwear Issue. The calendar sold like hot cakes and became very profitable. The company had created added value simply by building on its core product.

So far so good.

But then a real genius within the organisation thought "Hey, why don't we make a video of the photoshoots and sell that too." The videos went on to become huge best sellers, amassing a fortune for the company at virtually no extra cost. Now I believe there are even television shows based around the event.

Nor did the core product suffer. Today the magazine is read by an astonishing 18 million males each week, 19% of the adult male population in the country.

And that, my friends, is how you create something out of nothing.

So my advice to you is to go take a closer look at your existing product. With a little lateral thinking you may discover that you're sitting on a fortune.

Monday, February 06, 2006

She said I'm a nasty person

Many, many years ago when I was a student I met a young lady at a dance and managed to attract her back to my flat for a "coffee". As I recall it, in those days I was a hopeless romantic and spent most of the time talking about poetry (and myself of course). However, being of a certain age, I guess my motives weren't entirely confined to the exchange of loftly ideals concerning courtly love.

Despite my best efforts to ingratiate myself into her affections the lady in question was having none of it. As she left she turned and looked me straight in the eye. "I think you're basically a nasty person trying to be nice," she declared.

To say I was shocked is an understatement. In the years that have passed I've often thought of her observation. Sometimes, in my darker moments, I even think she might be right. To make matters worse, despite my best efforts most of my lead characters exhibit the same flawed characteristic. Even in the short story I'm writing right now for example.

Which is really worrying because most of my heroes are really just me in disguise.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Just like Hamlet

Somebody made the point while reading my blook (as I must now call it) A Half Life of One that it was fine but a bit flabby in places. Which it is. My excuse is that the main character continually procrastinates and wriggles when confronted with his moral dilemma. He is, I guess, a weak character (or maybe he's a strong character brought to his knees by events) and I needed to reflect that indecision, that inner turmoil.

A bit like Hamlet. Except of course the writing's nothing like as good.

And then again, that's only my defence. Probably the writing is flabby. Very few books won't benefit from some judicious editing and my is unlikely to be any exception.

Tension mounting

Okay, right now I'm kinda busy writing the first draft of my short story for the Scotsman competition in March. I've got the two principal characters set up in a conflict situation but at this stage I don't exactly know how the story is going to pan out. My main aim is just to get it down on paper before Monday. Then I'll start editing etc. At the moment there's too much dialogue and it rambles to no good purpose. I find myself thinking, Geez, I wish these guys would get to the point.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Blooks to read

dotHill Press has an interesting list of blooks you might like to take a look at. Let me know of any other blooks you think readers might be interested in.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Cindy Sheehan

Cindy Sheehan was arrested last night for "protesting" at President Bush's State of the Union address. You should read her account here and then make up your own mind about the real state of the Union.

Plunging head first

Okay, that's it. Finally started the short story for the Scotsman competion today. Written 500 words. Do some more tonight hopefully. Try and get the first draft finished this week leaving me plenty of time to reflect and revise before the March deadline.

I must admit it's a relief to be writing again. Just hope this isn't a false start.

Dark Night at the Circus

I read a review of the stage adaptation of Angela Carter's "Nights at the Circus" in the Observer at the weekend which left me stunned.

The bit that got me was the revelation that the lead character in the book, Fevvers, is huge and battered with a face "as broad and oval as a meat dish". In the play this part is played by Natalia Tena, 21, who appears from her photo to be the exact opposite. By way of explanation Emma Rice, the adaptation's director, states that fat actresses have been "drummed out of the business years ago".

My God. I don't know where to begin here. For a start Angela Carter was a famous feminist. Would she really have condoned this traducing of her book's lead character in order to pander to some kind of fascist stereotype?

And what sort of profession is it where people are routinely selected on their body types. We all know it goes on in Hollywood but shouldn't other, less overtly commercial dramatic genres have a few more principles? Isn't that what radical theatre is all about?

I could imagine if I hired people in my own business according to the way they looked, or their body mass index, what a furore I would provoke. Not only that, I'd probably be breaking the law. How do theatres get away with it?

I could go on and on here but I won't. You can work it out for yourselves.

The thing is, it's all so upsetting. What's the moral to this sad tale? I don't know, but I would suggest that if you're a young, plain, overweight aspiring actress you don't go into the theatre.

They don't want you.