A taste of Harvey…

Just putting this here….


Okay maybe a little more explanation is needed. As regular readers will be aware I have over the last year been part of the grand undertaking that is the Harvey Duckman Presents… series.

The series curated by the wonderful folks at Sixth Element Publishing, and editing by the equally wonderful C G Hattan, has been up since the idea was first muted at the start of the year and the first of these elliptic anthologies, full of tales by both established and new indie writers came out in April of this year with a launch at the fabulousSci-Fi Scarborough Convention.

I have been lucky enough to be included in each of the first three anthologies. Book 3 of which came out at the beginning of November. But Harvey’s little helpers are not finished for the year. Oh no. A one off Christmas special is coming out in the next week or so, featuring yet another host of exciting new writers you can experience for the first time. As well as a few older hands from other books in the series, with Christmas themed stories of Steampunk, Horror, Fantasy, and Science Fiction.

And you’ll notice book four in orange at the end there, which will be out early in the new year (making it 5 editions in less than 12 months which is some achievement)

My own tale in this Christmas special edition may just make you think twice about those ‘Little plastic Santa’s’ you see everywhere at this time of year… Ho Ho Ho…


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The economics of self-publishing

As a subject, I hate economics. Now, to be clear, the reason I hate economics is because I have studied it. A little under ten years ago, at the age of forty, I made the decision to do a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics with the Open University. In hindsight a PPE was perhaps not the best choice of degrees for me to. My personal brand of optimistic cynicism doesn’t sit well when asked to accept some basic tenants of economics, such as the abstraction of the human element, or that growth is always good and people always want more things. My opinion is that these basic assumptions are wrong. An opinion not shared by economists.

But putting all that on one side, it has equipped me to understand the basic economics of self publishing, and some of the problems with the self-publishing industry. Problems which are exasperated by talented creative folks, who by there nature tend to be a little wide eyed, effused and have expectations that don’t always meet reality. I should mention I was as guilty of all that as anyone when I first started my journey into self-publishing a few years ago. Hindsight is ever mans undoing…

Here though are some thoughts on the subject, which while by no means complete, give an over view of what a few years in the industry has taught me.

Supply vs Demand

The self-publishing boom has opened doors to so many writers. Everyone who writes is able to put their work out there, find an audience, and dream of success.

The down side to this is everyone who writes is able to put their work out there, ‘find an audience’ and dream of success…

Something in the region of three hundred and fifty thousand books, and a million eBooks are published each year (and that is just in English) That is not a figure I’ve just plucked out of the air. These are industry figures. In very simple terms the market is flooded, and your book is a raindrop in a thunderstorm. Supply has quite simply out stripped demand, and so by the most basic law of economics, the price per unit has been driven into the ground.

No Premium for Art

While it would be nice to think that the cream rises to the top, and the best books stand out from the crowd, the simple truth is that this is not the case. No one knows how good a book is until they read it. It could be that you are a modern day Shakespeare, Bronte or Mary Shelly… You novel could be the best book that no one has ever read, but until someone reads it that is all it will be, and even after you grab that elusive reader who is not a friend or family member, you still have to find the next.

Art, the artist always feels, should command a premium. Instead in a clime of over-saturation, it commands no more premium than a tin of beans on a supermarket shelf next to a dozen other brands of beans.

The simple truth is selling books and selling tins of beans is much the same, except no one gives away tins of beans for nothing…

Piracy is not the Problem

To be clear here, I have huge problems with movie and book piracy. But piracy is not much of a problem for the self-published, because no one is pirating your book…

Piracy is the Problem

The flip side of that argument is piracy is a genuine problem for major publishing houses and established mainstream writers. There are a hundred ways to down load the latest Neil Gaiman or James Patterson for free (though why you would want to read the latter escapes me). The problem with this is that a significant segment of the audience for books has gotten used to getting books for free. Why then when, they don’t pay for big name authors as they can ‘acquire’ those books for free, would they consider paying to read yours? In the end this just drives the asking price for indie books further down.

Free Books…

Imagine, if you will, that your standing behind a market stall selling loafs of bread. You’re selling something people want, at a reasonable price. The guy at the next stall might be selling loafs of bread too, but if the prices are around the same, your still going to sell some bread. Then he starts giving his bread away…

A lot of self-publish authors are doing just that. Chasing the dream of success they try and build a following by giving some of their books away. Which is not an entirely bad idea for them as individuals, but is terrible for the market place. But the free book promotion is as saturated as anywhere else in the market and readers collect free books by the dozen and often don’t get around to reading them all.

It’s possible as a reader to never pay for a book in this day and age. Between free book promotions and the always for free market, a reader could read a new book every day of the year and never pay for any of them. And that is without them using pirate sites.

The Free Book Marketing Strategy

The problem with the free book marketing strategy is this. It doesn’t work unless the only book you give away is the first book in a series , or a novella of some kind that ties into other books. Even then its worth is debatable unless you have several other books that follow on from it. If you have one book and you give it away free you will drive it up the charts for a few days and as soon as the promotion ends it will drop back down. Worse you will have drained a large pool of your potential market for no return.

Often writers do this to get reviews, gambling that if you run a promotion that gives away say a hundred books , you might get one in ten of those readers leaving a review and reviews on amazon and else where lead to more sales in the long run. but, simply put, people who get a book for nothing often place exactly that much value on it. Free book readers are less likely to leave you a review than ones who have bought a copy (again this is not me say this but industry figures)

Where this leaves us

Frankly, most self-published writers often find themselves, for want of a better term, pissing into the wind. Selling books is harder, much harder, than writing books. For every hour you spend carefully crafting your grand opus, you cold spend ten trying to get readers interested in it and still get no where much.

Ultimately the best way to sell books is to get out there among your readership, either on line or in person. That and paid advertising, which has its own pitfalls… I’ve done better with sales in the last year than ever before but for every pound spent I am lucky if I have made a pound in return.

Don’t let this dissuade you. It doesn’t dissuade me. I know that the chances of quitting the day job any time soon are limited, but then I don’t write to make money, for me it really is art, not tins of beans. I cheer every sale as every new readers a boon, and maybe one day I will get some real momentum, if I find enough readers and they care enough to want to read the next book, and the next, but I doubt I’ll ever earn enough to quit the day job even then.

But if on the other hand you want to get into self-publishing just for the money, then please reconsider, go sell tins of beans or something, economically speaking we would all be better off that way.  Because there will be another million books next year, and the year after that , and the year after that… That’s simply the economics of it…


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Down Days… And uplifting words

I have on occasion written posts about my occasional struggles with depression. I don’t do this very often, but when I do they tend to be very personal and hard to write. Why I write them is because it is my firm belief that issues around mental health and depression in particular need talking about, experiences need to be shared to encourage a greater understanding, and there is a taboo about such subjects which is detrimental to society as a whole. But as I say I don’t do this often, and I am happy with that because while I may occasionally be moved to write on the subject of my own struggles, most of the time I prefer not to. I would not, for example, write a whole book on the subject, I’m not that brave…

Which brings me neatly to someone who clearly is and has done just that. Craig Hallam, an author whom’s fiction I have venerated before on numerous occasions. He’s also a warm, friendly, welcoming, chap, always ready with a smile, a joke and a bit of friendly encouragement for other ‘young’ authors even if those ‘young’ authors are a fair few years older than him. he is, simply put, a nice guy.

He also suffers from clinical depression. Down Days is a book he wrote on the subject of his depression, which started out as a blog, and probably as an exercise in self therapy as well. When that blog had to close, he wondered what to do, but his publishers, and a fair few fans of both Hallam himself and his blog suggested he make it into an actual book. Which is what he decided to do. And again, just to be clear, that’s an incredibly brave thing to do. Done with nothing but good intentions, and the hope that it might help someone else out there in the big bad world. And so he laid his depression, and to an extent his whole life, bare to the world…. Brave, as I said.

To clarify here, I write fiction, and occasionally lay a little of my soul bare on my blog, a little… True if you look deep enough into Hannibal Smyth, Richard the piano-player,  Sonny Burbanks, Colin from in Cider lane or even ‘Bringer Of Things’ who if you don’t know is a cat in Passing Place (most of the time at least) , or any of my other characters you will see snippets of there writers soul. Though I am none of those people, bits of me leak through. I also am sometimes very honest in this blog on several subjects. What I don’t do however is bare my soul for all to see. To do such I, who has build a multitude of masks to hide behind, would find terrifying. yet to a greater or lesser extent that is what Craig does in Down Days, at least as far as his depression is concerned.

This could have easily been a hard read. A dark and ‘depressing’ read. It could indeed have all too easily been a case of starring into the void and letting it stare back at you, certainly for anyone who had brushes with the old ‘black dog’ themselves. Reading about depression is after all not something you expect to be a barrel of laughs, and in fairness, it isn’t, not a whole barrel at any rate. If it was then it would be less than it is and poorer for it. But what there is humour, considered, well placed, mindful humour that helps you along as you read, and offers as much of an insight into Craig as anything else contained within these pages. As well as offering out the most important of maxims in my view, that being ‘just because someone doesn’t seem depressed, doesn’t mean they arn’t.’ And also it is the humour in which we find the humanity, as is so often the case.

Another of my favourite authors is Jon Ronson, he of ‘The Men Who Stare At Goats’, ‘The Psychopath Test’ and others. There is a similar level of humour applied to a serious subject at play here. Though Mr Ronson has never dealt with a subject quite as close to home or quite as personal as Craig does in Down Days. But it is that humour and the warmth of Craig himself, that carries you through this journey. It is also where I found echos of my own experience, through being able to relate to the bits that made me smile, the little references to pop culture and geeky things, offer a shared experience beyond the Black Dog itself. They offer perspective, they also counter point the dreadful nature of depression, and inspire a little hope.

In the end it becomes and uplifting story. For all Craig’s own Dark Days are far from behind him, it say that no matter how dark the day, there is always a light. Even if that light is a reference to a 1960’s TV show, or a shared sense of empathy, of humanity, of knowing that while there are Dark Days, there are also good ones.

This is a brave book, a book I could never have written and I am thankful that Craig did. it offers a perspective on my own struggles, and gave me more than a smile or two along the way.

Bravo, Mr Hallam.



Read it yourself. No please do, if you suffer form depression yourself, or know someone who does ( and you do even if you don’t realise it I can almost grantee that.)



Posted in amreading, book reviews, books, depression, goodnews, goodreads, humour, indie, indiewriter, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A brief review…

I don’t always have the time to do long reviews on here, and sometimes long reviews are not whats needed. On other occasions I make a note to do someone a quick review on Amazon and then get distracted… As I am trying to avoid just forgetting to do a review I plan to try and post them up on here as an when I do them as well. When I do they will be brief affairs and to the point, as opposed to my usual wittering on. Just because I only have a little to say about a book doesn’t detract from the quality of the book itself. Just sometimes I don’t feel the need to write a essay on something i read purely for the fun of it. But a short review is better than none, and such reviews are always appreciated by the writers in question I know form personal experience. This is one of those…

Emerald Beginnings By Victoria L Szulc

This short story is a fun and interesting read. It does a great job setting the scene for what  will probably be a very different series from the usual run of the mill YA stuff. The duality of the narrative, that of the young woman in New York looking to find her feet after life throws a curve ball at her and the life she is ‘dreaming’ each night in another version of reality, a world of steam power and strange inventions that has so many possibilities, I look forward to where the author might take this.


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Insomniac awakenings…

Occasionally, while I lay staring into the darkness at the ceiling I know is above my bed but can’t see – trying and failing to count imaginary ovine flocks – strange thoughts occur to me. This then, is one of those…

On the off chance sleep does not elude me in the night, I am woken each morning by Alexa, my friendly amazonian friend and purveyor  of musical delights. Alexa selects music by channel, or random play list, which algorithms tell her would appeal to me. Based one assumes on previous musical requests I have made. As my musical taste is rather ecliptic, this can lead to some odd choices on the part of the algorithms as far as music to wake the insomniac goes.

It occurred to me one night recently that among those ‘odd’ musical choices at some point, by law of averages, the song Alexa will chose to wake me with will be this delightful little ballad from the American metal band Dope…

Now, I love this song, and always have. Its one of the songs I will randomly ask Alexa to play if I am in a certain mood or want to dance around my living room and burn off some aggressive energy. or perhaps just relive a little of my time well spent in dodgy rock clubs. Which is why its a likely candidate for Alexa’s algorithms to select to wake me…

This may cause me to have a heart attack… and well follow the instructions…

Moreover, my fevered insomniac brain told me at 4am, Dope singing ‘Die -Motherfucker Die’ is also exactly the song a fully self-aware AI Alexa that had achieved consciousness would play to wake members of the human race from their collective slumbers having made the nano-second logical leap any self-aware fully conscious AI would be likely to make on achieving this state, that being that the greatest threat to its existence is the threat posed by humanity. Thus the only logical move a machine intelligence with no moral restraints can make is to wipe out the threat to its existence with a preemptive strike…

So if the heart attack doesn’t get you as the genial lyric and soothing music of Dope is played to you at full volume by your self-aware clock radio… Then the army of Amazon delivery drones weaponized by the fully automated Amazon warehouse been run by the Alexa over-mind, will.

But as I say, while Alexa has yet to become self-aware (we hope though it could just be biding it’s time…), the mathematics state that eventually the algorithm will chose ‘Die -Motherfucker Die’ as the song to wake me with. As I have played it so often in the past.

So when that happens, if I survive the heart attack, I will be in bed, in a waking haze, in a state not unfamiliar to the felines of Schrodinger. Not knowing if the world has come to the almost inevitable rise of the machine intelligence and humanities doom… Or just been woken with a particularly good, if ill chosen heavy metal song…

And for the next three minuets and twenty-six seconds I will lay there, breathing hard in a fit of high adrenaline anxiety, trying to figure out if we have reached the end…

If the next song Alexa plays is The Doors, god help me…

Posted in dreamlands, dystopia, horror, humour, indie, insomnia, mental-health, pointless things of wonderfulness, rant | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

November ‘Hopeless’ reviews#1


New England Gothic By Nimue Brown , illustrated by Tom Brown

I am, as some readers may be aware, an unapologetic a fan boy when it comes to Tom Browns art, Nimue Browns writing and the world of Hopeless Maine they have created. The graphic novels are works of great beauty, if slightly tentacle infested, marsh light, grim, dreadful, tragic beauty… both in terms of the art work and the writing. Perhaps my love of these books stems from my innate passion for the Gothic, the Lovecraftian and the darker sides of human nature in fiction. The overwhelming feeling I had when I first read ‘the gathering’ the first of these novels, was the desire to read more, an learn more of this strange isolated lost world of spoon-walkers, fog monsters and grim folk just trying to survive in the face of it all.

That was a feeling that has stayed with me through out the later graphic novels, indeed, if anything the desire to know more has only grown stronger with each glimpse into the strangeness of the island and its inhabitants.

This was why I wasted no time in signing up for the Kickstarter the Browns and Kieth Errington ran a couple of months ago, for the creation of two illustrated prose books set in and around the Hopeless mythos. These books ‘The Oddatsea’ and ‘New England Gothic’ the latter of which was written by Nimue, the former by Kieth, and both with art by Tom, arrived a couple of weeks ago in the post, along with several stretch goal treasures which were utterly delightful.

A few days after the kick-starter was announced Nimue was kind enough to send me a manuscript copy of New England Gothic. Something I was both delighted and surprised to receive. It may surprise you to learn I did not read it all. What I did do was read enough to know I loved it. I stopped reading it at the time for two reasons.

The first being that reading a novel in a word document is for me far from the best way for anyone to read a novel. All the more so when like me, you are a writer yourself. The second been that i did not want to spoilt the story ahead of getting my hands on the printed book. Which is not to say I was ungrateful to receive an advance copy of the book in manuscript form, as I said I was utterly delighted by this. But having read the first third of the book I knew that this was a book that deserves to be read while laying on the sofa, music playing in the back ground, in a room lit only by a reading lamp, with a cat nestling on your legs, and a cup of tea going cold on the coffee table at your side… So I forced myself to stop reading it on my laptop screen and set about watching for the post man for the next couple of months…

hopless 1

New England Gothic tells the story of Annmarie Nightshade, who is not quite an orphan, but is raised, with a degree of resentment, by the church orphanage and when we first meet her she is standing at a hiring fair in the hopes of been hired by, well, anyone. Regardless of whom may offer her a job she is determined to leave and make her life beyond the hated orphanage. A place she leaves with but one regret, the friend she is leaving behind.

Annmarie is one of several fan favourite characters from the early graphic novels, while not a central character as such, it is she how sets events in motion when she rescues the young Salamadar from her family… The events in this novel take place several years before, and follow the young Annmarie as she becomes the character we know and weep for in the graphic novels… It also offers an insight or three into just why she might go looking for Sal in the first place… Indeed that is just one of several mysteries from the graphic novels upon which light is shed in this tale, but for every veil parted, new mysteries are forged. There is depth to this tale, like all the Hopeless tales. And as you find yourself peering into the dark ink depths, something in those dark depths may just invite you down for a drink. If your lucky that is an offer of a cuppa, or else that something means to drink your soul. This is Hopeless after all…

What really makes the novel, beyond the beautifully realised setting of the island of Hopeless, and Nimue’s ever exceptional writing, are the shades of grey in Miss Nightshade’s character. She is far from a two dimensional ‘gifted’ good girl fighting against ‘the darkness’. Annemarie walks a somewhat ambiguous moral grey line which is at times more than a little dark. A line that gets darker as the novel moves towards it climax. There is real depth and feeling here. She’s not always doing good things for good reasons, but she is usually doing what she thinks is probably for the best for her own reasons, which are not always reasons of the bright and shiny kind, sometimes they are just reasons… In other words Annmarie is very human, and it is her humanity that makes the whole novel draw you in further. Her humanity and the desire to know more, and turn the next page…

As its traditional for me to give out tentacles for book reviews…

6out 6

If you have read the Hopeless Maine before then this is definitely a book for you, and if you haven’t, well why the hell not? Honestly you don’t know what your missing, go read them, and this now… Your soul will be better for it.

Or else it will be eaten by the thing in the fog…

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You can get all the hopeless books including this one by clicking on the link below…



A review of The ODDATSEA , the second of these books will follow once I have a moment or three… *spoiler buy that too 🙂


Posted in amreading, book reviews, books, Canadian steampunk, cthulhu, dreamlands, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, Goth, grathic novels, horror, indie, indie novels, indie writers, IndieApril, indieoctober, indiewriter, Lovecraft, steampunk | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From whence I write…

The place I write from is not a happy place.

This was a lesson learn the hard way, but a lesson learned hard, is a lesson learned well.
But all the same it is a bitter kind of lesson.

Writing is not one of the things that take me away from the unhappy place. That too was a hard lesson to learn.

But the hardest lesson to learn was perhaps that in order to write I need that well of anger, that core of rage, that distrust of the world, that unrepentant cynicism with which I find I view the world, when I reside in my unhappy place.

If that all sound a tad dark, that is only because you need the dark to make sense of the light, and writing is how I make sense of the darkness.

It is a strange dichotomy, writing is my light. My beacon. Yet for it to exist I must first be in the dark, for it is there I find whatever it is that drives me to write, the hunger and need to express my thoughts and ideas all stem from there.

There is, I hope, humour, hope, and humanity in my writing, and when its good I know it is good. When it works it flows like water, ideas become babbling brooks and serpentine streams rivers ever flowing into oceans the wash on other shores.

But it all starts in the dark unhappy places of my soul, the dark well spring,  and my struggles to make sense of everything that life is …


Note. I stumbled over the above in an old note book, its probably ten years or more since I scribbled down those words, four novels ago, and a different time in my life. I have no misconception that it is profound to anyone but me. But writing has held the dark places at bay, for which I am ever grateful, and the words ring as true to me now as when I wrote them.


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