Monday, 22 May 2017


Feria: The May Fair. This year's poster might be a rather more sexy Hepburn in Almodóvar's remake of "My Fair Lady". Every year, during the last week of May, our town lets its hair down. The Fairground rides open with a half-price afternoon for the children. The Recinto Ferial transforms from a dowdy market square to a cacophonous pageant of calliope music, the latest download hits from "Eye Tu-nés", the barkers' calls and the screams from those who will go faster.

Later, at night, "por la tarde" - around 10 P.M - the marquees will be full of local "personajes". The Recinto is right next to El Bajondillo, the town's Gypsy Quarter. The night will be full of the glint of gold teeth and raucous laughter as cousins two and three times removed meet for the only time this year.

Bankers, builders and boys pretending to be grown up will rub shoulders on the terraces of the bars and cafés. The bankers and builders will seal deals that may not cross the urban planning desk at the town-council. Boys will look at girls - and women - and won't drink much. They never do. I often think how this might turn out if this small town fair were in Altrincham instead of Alhaurín. This first day, the day for the children, leaks into the night, all but the smallest children will still be around at midnight. Even then, young parents may be seen with a sleeping tot in a pushchair.

The weather has turned. There will be no temperatures below 25 degrees C until the end of August now. Despite this, the Guiris are easy to spot, in their shorts and flip-flops in the dark of the night and the neon of the rides. The locals will be in their near-best clothes.

Friday and Saturday are the best days. On Friday, most will abandon the office, building site or avocado field by 1 or 2 p.m. There are smiles for everyone, even La Suegra - the mother-in-law - a friend once told me. He was a bachelor though, so he may have been demonstrating an unjustified optimism. The streets will seethe. Cars will stop on corners, roundabouts and pedestrian crosses, windows wound down for the conversations family members and one-time friends have been meaning to have for - well, 12 months.

On Saturday, the colour and the clothes paint the white backdrop of the town's buildings with vibrant reds,yellows, blues, greens and - of course - thanks to the other of the town's Hermandades - purple. I am surprised every year at the number of people who are in traditional dress. The men with their impossibly tight trousers and bum-freezer jackets and the women with their tight-waisted dresses which their sister or best friend has helped them get into. No-one could resist smiling when the May Queen of 1972 walks arm in arm with her sister along the street. The sparkle in her eyes is a clue to why she won the accolade all those years ago.

¡Disfrutanlo, Todos!

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Multum in Parvo*

I came across Dan Malikin on twitter. I'd tagged a link to some nonsense I'd written myself with #FlashFiction. Dan gave it a retweet. I found Dan had a book on Amazon. Since I live outside the UK I couldn't download the Kindle version. I contacted Dan and he sent me a copy via e-mail. I'm glad he did.

Smiling Exercises by Dan Malakin consists of 30 small but perfectly formed pieces of flash-fiction. I am put in mind of some of Aliyah Whiteley’s terrific work as Dan manages to imbue the truly bizarre with just enough of the mundane to make his tales entirely believable. The collection kicks off with “Plugs” - a tale of incompatibility displaced and discovered - and passes through some truly memorable writing with an economy of language which is refreshing to see. I found “Mirror” particularly intriguing, but I expect everyone will find their own favourite.

Several of the stories in this collection won prizes or were singled out for special mention in competitions, Dan’s work has been short-listed twice for the Bridport Prize.

At the end of the book there are some chapters from Dan’s novel in progress, The Vaccine Slaves, which whetted my own appetite for the day when it is published. 

Originally from the wetlands of Manchester, Dan now lives in the beautiful village of Holloway in North London, right next to the prison, with his wife, daughter, and Boddington the PBGV.
In the ten years he’s been writing seriously, he’s had over a hundred stories published, and been shortlisted twice for both the Bridport Prize and science fiction’s Aeon Award. He is also an Editor at The Forge Literary Magazine.
In 2013, he completed an MA in Creative Writing at Brunel University, and since then has been working on a novel, a thriller called The Vaccine Slaves.
You can download Smiling Exercises from Amazon here
Dan's web-site is here 

* Much in Little  

Friday, 12 May 2017

We Are Not Alone...

Having just read a blog-post entitled "Why Bother to Blog?", I felt shamed into writing another post myself. It is a question I have often asked myself. As you can see I am most desultory in putting anything out there. However, I believe it's a grave mistake to keep banging on about your latest meisterwerk. I mean, everybody you know has bought a copy, your two regular blog-followers have thought about it, but are waiting to see it at number one in Amazon's Books About Off-Grid Survivalist Romance list and - yes - your sarcastic, ironic, thoroughly-British nature prevents you from waxing enthusiastic about your OWN work. I mean, it's so frightfully "infra-dig", is it not?

In spite of the foregoing, I just thought I'd share this. 

My novel was crowd-funded (don't panic! I'm not asking for your money, it's published and on sale at all good virtual and even some real book-stores, though not necessarily near you). This does not mean it was any kind of vanity project. Nor was it self-published. In fact, it was very like being published by a "real" publisher. Why? Because Unbound is a"real" publisher: Pitch, synopsis, outline, Thanks/No Thanks, manuscript, structural edit, rewrites, copy-edit, cover-design, type-setting, and finally, publication. That makes it sound easy, but it isn't.

My own experience was a little different. Through no-one's fault - something to do with a change of personnel - my book was en-route to the type-setter before someone (thank goodness) realised that it couldn't be published as it was. Another year's work was required on the manuscript both from me and my very generous Editor Rachael Kerr, Unbound's Editor-at-large. Here's the thing: that very serious problem meant that my book cost twice as much to produce.

Did I have to raise more money? No. Think about that. Unbound have taken twice the risk on me and my book. Support this unusual and, I believe, principled publisher, buy my book, or pledge for someone else's book, Unbound deserve your support.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

A Very Important Bookshop

I came across this bookshop on a random blog-post that I stumbled across thanks to someone's twitter feed. The post is well worth a read. It draws a parallel between the upsurge in vinyl sales and those of "real" books. It's aimed at indie authors. I'm not sure that I fall into that category. Is Unbound an independent publisher or not? It has a distribution deal with PRH, but they have no curatorial/editorial input into what Unbound publish, I believe.
Anyhow, if you look at the lollipop-cum-bookmark in the photo, I'd really like the Pipe and Thimble Bookstore to stock my book, even if SOCAL isn't a likely source of hundreds - or even dozens - of buyers for Gibbous House.

I haven't read IVSage (the blog-post's author)'s, book, but I'll be looking it up on Amazon and, if I like what I see, I'll be buying a copy. 

Only thing is, I'll be missing out on a lollipop. If you're ever out SOCAL way, buy a book in the Pipe and Thimble and tell them you want two lollipops, yours and mine.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

The 19% Solution

Just to keep you all abreast* of the life and times of Gibbous House, a debut novel from a nonentity author. (That's me, by the way). Unbound- or PenguinRH who handle distribution - managed to get a physical manifestation of my book in a total of 5 branches of Foyles (Yaay!) in the London area (Booo!). If you click through PRH's Gibbous House page using the "Buy From" button, you will see that GH can be ordered from Waterstones,Hive,WH Smith and Leviathan - I mean Amazon -  on-line.

Now, an optimistic estimate of how many books have been sold since publication is about 20. Yes, twenty. I know of five or six here in Spain and the other 14 are an attempt to make sense of Amazon rankings, in the absence of sales figures. This number does not include all the special editions that the generous people who supported the novel on its journey to being a physical book are lucky enough to own. Well, obviously, I'm a writer without an agent, I have no PR team and, yes, let's be honest I am just one of Unbound's authors, who must now number in the hundreds, if not, they soon will. If you have any other Unbound books check the spine for a number, it will tell you what number book it is in Unbound's catalogue, (I think). Gibbous House is number 89.

Neither do I have a generous trust fund to finance appearances at Hay-On-Wye or Frankfurt Book Fair, even if I could get invited to such a thing. So I promote Gibbous House on line. I have a page on Facebook dedicated to my writing. Unfortunately,  I think the sarcasm from Please Allow Me may put off more than it encourages, I find the daft posts of my alter-ego very therapeutic in what is a really frustrating business. I tweet occasionally and like to retweet authors I know and the posts of fellow Unbounders, especially those still in the long funding process. I join book review groups and promise to review others books in the hope that they'll review mine. Of course, I am a book snob. I want what I review to be well-written, free from solipsism and dangling participles. This doesn't help my efforts to get Gibbous House reviewed. If you are an author and you'd like an honest review for your book, send me a final proof or an e-book and I'd be pleased to look at it. My only condition is that you have worked with (and listened to) a competent editor. Contact me here

Notwithstanding the above, my Facebook followers and twitter audience do not increase and therefore the echo chamber effect is noticeable. Many have already bought the book, in fact. Not many people share or retweet, usually it's the same people and grateful though I am, it would probably more effective if more people shared or retweeted one thing about the book per week. Or so I am told, who knows?  

Anyway, regarding the 19% solution, that's the discounted price for Gibbous House on Amazon today. I don't think it will promote sales, somehow.  I am looking into some local radio here in Spain, but, I doubt they'll be very keen since Gibbous House's only connection to Spain is the fact that I live here. Even the local free English press aren't prepared to do a review, although I offered them a hard copy to do so. (Can't imagine why they weren't tempted!)

Well, that's a lot of my chest. Never mind, I'll post something more positive later in the week!

*Ooer missus, have you noticed how the BBC prefers "across" plus a direct object? What are we, nine years old?

Monday, 17 April 2017

Everything Must Go! (Amazon's Marketing Strategy)

I was stunned to learn this morning that Amazon is heavily discounting Gibbous House... by 9p! Seriously, is this really going to garner any more sales? What are they thinking? I've had 3 months at full price, so I get it, only 8 reviews and my sales must be under a certain number (who knows what?) so the algorithm kicks in and... Eight pounds 90 p vice 8.99.

I was hoping I'd get six months to a year at full price, but you know, without knowing how many sales there actually are, it hardly seems to matter. Oh well, live and learn.

Anyway, those of you out there who have read it, I would be so grateful for a review. 10 words or a 110 both equally welcome.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Well, I Never...

A picture of me holding a copy of Gibbous House was posted on one of those "What's on in..." Facebook pages. It got me 3 sales on the day it was posted. I'm pretty sure that it's a one off opportunity, though. I am thinking of holding an event in the local area. I have about 15 copies that a reviewer is never going to see, so I could take along a lap-top and convince people to buy a copy on-line when I run out of these too. Ha! Ha!

Anyway, I think it may have achieved more than Please Allow Me's efforts on my behalf. However, it's hard to tell because Amazon don't release any sales figures, not even to publishers.

Reviews help, of course, I've had a good one from a Blog-based reviewer here. What I particularly liked were the headings like the one below, if you've seen the cover of Gibbous House you'll realise why.

A nice touch from the blogger, no? They are different for every book reviewed. Many thanks to Little Bookness Lane. Amazon rating had a twitch on the 30th March too, it's no coincidence that this was the date the review appeared.

Well that's all folks, except to say, do keep a look out for more nonsense from Please Allow Me, he's sure to come up with something less fit for purpose than Boris Johnson. However, in the meantime this is the most fun so far for my money... ("What money?" says PAM)