Jianna’s Fight *update*

Ten days or so ago I shared the story of a wonderful young woman with an interest in publishing, writers and in particular the indie writing scene, how she managed through the generosity of her nature to give a little much-needed confidence to a writer (me) who had just published his first book back in late October 2015. A young woman who since November 2015  has been fighting cancer. That original post, for anyone who missed it can be found here. A young woman who, due to being an American, is having to crowd fund her fight against cancer, because of the American medical system, or lack of it.

That post has been one of the most read posts on the blog in the days that followed, a few friends who read my blogs have spoken to me privately about it, and I know several of my readers have generously gone to Jianna’s Gofundme page and given a little money to her cause. I am, it has to be said, incredibly gratified by this response. I don’t generally put up causes, or links to charities or anything like that. When I give to charity, be it my time or money I do so both privately and anonymously as a rule. I have no intention fo changing that approach and doing fundraising through my blog as a rule, but all the same, it was good to see a post as close to my heart as this one generating a response that was more than just the odd like and the occasional comment. I would like to thank those who were moved to give and could afford to do so. I know at least a couple of people who read the post and wished they had the money to contribute, and I thank them also for their compassion and caring. This has all restored a little of my ever flagging faith in human nature.

What follows is a post form Jianna herself on Facebook, by way of an update, as I feel the original post needs one, and good news is always worth passing on.

I woke up this morning in quite a bit of pain, having slept really terribly. I was also having a hard time breathing, my heart already overworked, my lungs not strong enough to get a solid breath of air.

I closed my eyes tightly and thanked god for answering my prayers from the night before. I prayed to wake up, and I did. All of the other stuff, that didn’t matter.

Eventually, I caught my breath, my heart slowed down and my medications kicked in.

Then, for the first time in eight years, I had a meal with my two brothers. I honestly didn’t think my day could get any better.

Then, my phone rang and I was told that the donation campaign had reached its goal thanks to an extremely generous contribution!

That one contribution wasn’t the reason we hit the goal however, because it was all of you who joined together and shared the post and made donations that made it able to add up to all it was, plus the large donation. No single snowflake ever feels responsible for the avalanche.

I’m so grateful, not just for the donations but for all of you who have showed me that I am very loved and cared about, for all of you who have sent your prayers to heaven on my behalf.

This campaign has relieved so much of my stress. In all honesty, I’ve never felt financially secure in my life. Always having jobs where we’re living paycheck to paycheck, never having anywhere close to $5,000 in my account. My entire income for last year was just under six grand! I can’t even begin to explain how much I value this amount.

Jordan (my wonderful friend who organized this campaign) raised the goal to $10k, seeing as we have so much time remaining. My deductible is $9k. Reaching that amount would cover all out of pocket costs for all of 2019 for me, making it the first year in 3 years where I haven’t accumulated the entire deductible debt into my personal credit.

The remaining 1k would be used to pay off some of the credit card debt I accumulated by going back and fourth to the mayo clinic each month.

Right now however, I’m no longer worried about affording my prescriptions and bottles for this month!!! That’s such a huge deal.

I thank god, I thank all of you, I’m still in awe. I still can’t believe this! Thank you all so much, and I do love you all! I feel like I have such a huge family supporting me, rooting for me. You all give me strength ❤

Jianna’s original very conservative goal has been surpassed, and that has made a huge difference already to her, but a little more would also make a huge difference to her and her family. You can click on the banner below if you wish to know more, or read the original post with the link above.

In any regards, I felt it was important I pass on her thanks to you readers on to my own little part of the internet and my for that matter my own as this is a cause that is close to my cynical rusty Yorkshire heart.

with thank s,  Mark



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Covers and Tassels…

I don’t normally do WIP updates as such, and certainly not when I am still writing the first draft. But at the same time, I am not normally writing the second book of a series and doing so a week after releasing the first book in the series, writing a series is different in this regard, not least because in this case a good half of ‘From Russia with Tassels’  one was written at the same time as ‘A Spider In The Eye’.

The two books are closely tied together, as a series should be. Indeed I was halfway through what had become the second book before I reached the decision to split them. Once I did it the books became both more manageable and better for it but I was left with a good 60% of book two already written (including the ending) long before I got book 1 back from my editor. So I am in a strange position ( for me) of now been about three chapters short of a full manuscript for From Russia with Tassels, and been reasonably sure that Summer 2019 is a reasonable guess at when it will be published.

Indeed, I am hoping to have the full first draft on my hard drive by the end of next week.

As such, I needed a cover, of sorts, as a place holder for the website, a bit of ongoing hype, and something to hang my hat on, figuratively speaking. Not to mention when I have a cover, even a tempory one, it helps focus my mind as a book seems a little bit closer and a little bit more real. (yer, I don’t understand why that is the case either, it just is okay.)

So anyway, here for the first time is the cover (subject to faffing on, change and possable complete change) of my next novel…

from russia with tassels


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Not Ignoring Canada

Canada, it has become one of my current obsessions. This may seem an odd thing to suddenly develop an obsession about but there is a reason, which is to do with another obsession, one I wish I could avoid but having finally got A Spider in the Eye published and out there in the big bad world I think it is forgivable that I find it hard to resist checking the Amazon sales chart far more often than is probably healthy. But sue me, I am a writer, I write for many reasons but not least in the hope of readers, so wanting to know how sales are going is natural. I want people to read my stuff and the easiest way to gauge if people are doing so is to see how well books are selling. Which by the way is a little better than I expected, though perhaps not as well as I would hope. But then we always hope, no matter how vain it may be, that sales are going to rocket off unexpectedly well. Let’s just say I am happy with them so far and leave it at that. with the exception of Canada.

I had never to my knowledge sold a book in Canada before last week, certainly not via amazon.ca, and while I put an amazon.ca link up on the scar of avarice post a couple of weeks ago I never really expected that to generate any sales, I just felt that perhaps Canadians get tired of other people (Americans and British people in particular) assuming they shop at amazon.com, and why should they not have a link up for their own site. Besides which, and perhaps not surprisingly considering the size of the place, my blog has always done reasonably well in Canada, it is the third biggest chunk of the blog’s readership. Therefore I felt I should make an effort, even if it was symbolic and put up the Canadian link.

Now it is perfectly possible that putting that link up had zero impact. It’s possible none of my Canadian blog readers even saw that post, but that wasn’t entirely the point of the exercise, it was more just in case they did. What I do know is this, for some reason, perhaps the cold weather encouraging log fires and curling up with a good book, perhaps because steampunk is bigger in Canada than I would have expected or perhaps just by pure fluke I am actually getting book sales in Canada all of a sudden. Not many, but then its early days for Spider still and not many sales is more or less a description I could use for all my sales, but what I am getting is more KENP pages (kindle unlimited and prime reads) in Canada than anywhere else, along with several normal kindle sales. Not just spider too, but Scar of avarice has done better in Canada than I expected as well. I am in fact doing remarkably well in the Canadian marketplace, considering I had never sold a book there before. I am almost, perhaps, maybe, unlikely as it may seem, having a little bit of a hit on my hands in the north of the North American continent.

So what’re the conclusions should I and other authors draw from all this, well it simple enough. If your a writer, don’t ignore Canada, it’s the third biggest English speaking market in the world, and yes I know a fair proportion of Canadians speak French, but even if you discount the French speakers (the majority of whom probably speak English far better than I do French), Canada is still the third biggest market for English books in the worlds, so if your doing a little publicity, having the common decency to put up some Canadian links now and again isn’t going to do you any harm. And also, and I think this is very important to say, much love to my Canadian readers, please keep on reading, and thank you so much for doing so.

Perhaps one day, If sales go far better than I have any right to expect, I’ll even one day make my way across the north Atlantic to something like this and take some books with me to sign and get to say thank you to some readers in person. (hey its a vain hope but vain hopes are better than none, and it’s not like I got to Whitby last year but one can dream)


edit.   It occurred to me this morning, that in a post about not ignore Canadian readers, I never thought to include a link for Canadian readers. Possibly I am an idiot, or because I posted this in the early hours I did not think it through entirely. With that in mind let me rectify this now…


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Oh so quotable…

Not done a quote-post for a while, and so to address that error here is a quote-post on a subject close to my heart, that of books… Those wonderful things made of paper that can hold whole universes within them or a microcosm of humanity laid bare… And the houses that keep them.

So let’s start off with an old favourite and Mr Gaimens thoughts on the matter at hand.

A book is a dream that you hold in your hand ~ Neil Gaimen

Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again ~ C.S.Lewis

Books are a uniquely portable magic ~ Stephen King

Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren't very new at all. (Abraham Lincoln) #quotes #quote #quotations #AbrahamLincoln

One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is a voyage through time.  ~ Carl Sagan

A man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them ~ Mark Twain

All good books have one thing in common- they are truer than if they had really happened ~ Ernest Hemingway

A house that has a library in it has a soul ~ Plato


To build up a library is to create life. It’s never just a random collection of books ~ Carlos Marta Dominguez

I never understood people who don’t have bookshelves ~ George Plimpton

A good library will never be too neat, or too dusty, because somebody will always be in it, taking books off the shelves and staying up late reading them.  ~ Lemony Snicket

Never put off till tomorrow the book you can read today ~ Holbrook Jackson


And finally, a little self-nepotism on my part…

When I was young I wanted a house with a library in it, now I am older I want a library with a house in it ~ Mark Hayes

newbanner for blog

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Passing Place sale

To Celebrate the release of A Spider In The Eye, the Kindle edition of Passing Place is at the sale price of only 99p/99c this week

Welcome to Esqwith’s the bar where reality is flexible and no one is ever what they seem

For those upon the shores of old Albion 
For those beyond the isles


pp sale promo

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The Question of Genre…

I got asked a question a day or so ago on my Goodreads authors page


As I don’t get asked too many questions on Goodreads (this is the first time ever), I took my time trying to answer it, and did so probably a little more fully than was expected by Mr Dewar. I know it will come as a shock to anyone who reads these blogs that I gave a longwinded answer… But its a complex little question to me.

As it seemed somewhat wasteful to just answer the question on Goodreads where only a few people would ever be likely to see it, let alone read it I decided I may as well answer its again here. Though by the time I finished posting it over it had got a little longer and been tidied up a little… But anyway, what follows is the answer to James’s question…

Hi James

At the end of the day its all down to the stories I want to tell. I don’t, and never have, actually write in one specific genre. Fantasy or speculative fiction makes up a large portion of my bookshelves as does science fiction. But I read extensively in all genres because it is stories that interest me.

Stories explain the human experience, as such, humanity has been telling itself stories since long before they invented the written word. I like all the fantasy genre’s and like to write in them, simply because they enable you to tell more interesting stories and explore the human experience in ways that other genres just don’t allow. Vampires, dragons, werewolfs dwarves, elves, and the myriad of other strange creatures give you plenty of scope to play with, as does genres themselves be they steampunk, dieselpunk, hard sci-fi, horror, westerns, alternative futures, dystopias, time travel, high fantasy, grimdark etc. But more importantly from my perspective they also allow you to explore that strangest of creatures in all creation, humanity, and the darkness, light and so many shades of grey at its core.

My view on fantasy is much the same as Terry Pratchett’s in that regard. He once said, and I paraphrase slightly. ‘I wrote a story about the struggles of a man against his inner doubts and struggles with his flaws against the desire to do what is right, rather than just what everyone expects him to do. Then I put one damn dragon in it and they told me it was fantasy’

At the end of the day, I can never resist an impossible bar, a good dragon or an airship or two for that matter. I just don’t let them get in the way of the important stuff, the story.

I hope that makes sense


To explain a little further, for those who have never read my novels, and briefly.


Cider Lane is a contemporary novel, if you want to tie it down to a genre it is possibly a thriller or a romance. It doesn’t really fit neatly in either of those. At its heart, it is a love story set around two broken individuals who have fallen off the fringes of society, helping each other back from the brink

Passing Place is part sci-fi, part fantasy, part horror, occasionally time travel, or perhaps alternative history, but mostly it is the story of one man’s journey through grief, and his quest to find the answer to an impossible question, which leads him to a job as a piano player in a very strange bar. So pick a genre for that if you can.

A Scar of Avarice is a passing place story wrapped around a steampunk tale, and hammered into a novella. With a few extra short stories thrown. It is in exactly the same genre as passing place for the most part so is by its nature both many genres and none.

A Spider in the Eye, my latest novel, is a pure steampunk genre novel. Mostly. Though unlike ‘traditional’; steampunk it is set in a close approximation of modernity, as someone has tampered with the timelines and history followed a new and heavily steam base course when queen Victoria neglected to die.

None of these is traditional genre fiction, though Spider comes closest. I don’t want to write traditional genre stories because once you set walls around something, you tame the wild. I like the wild.

There is nothing wrong in writing in a set genre, many fabulous authors spend their whole careers in a single one. I just never want to be constrained to writing in a single genre myself. Stories are everywhere, after all.

From Russia with Tassels, which is hopefully going to be finished by summer is the second Hannibal novel so will also be steampunk. But I won’t be staying in the genre alone from now on, there will be more passing place stories to come, and I still have evolving plans for a return to cider land one day, and I have not even mentioned Maybe’s Daughter, though she briefly passed through the passing place when no one was paying attention, because I like to plan ahead…


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Social ‘media’ Issues…

I am, some may be surprised to learn, others less so, a bit rubbish at social media. I try, God *or fictional sky dweller of your choice*  knows I try, but I tend to fall down the rabbit hole half the time. I’ll post a few things here and there, and then I’ll utterly fail to remember to post something I really need to two days later. But even that’s not really the problem, the problem is that social media is a tool I need to use effectively for purposes other than just sharing pictures of my cat, what I am planning to eat for dinner and which group of friends I am out with having a drink, all of those whom would be interested in this news being the same group of friends I am out with having a drink, so I am not sure why we are posting that we are out having a drink with them, they know, they are there… You know, the usual reasons for using social media… Oh, I am perfectly fine at that.

But I also use social media to inform people of my work. Not the thing I do for a living, that’s a job not work, but my novels, and this I am very bad at, in a downpour or drought kind of way. Which is to say I will flood the cyber world with posts that link to my latest novel for a couple of days, to the point people become blind to it at best, and/or sick to death of it in the space of a few hours. Or alternatively, I will not post a single thing about it for months on end, and utterly forget some of the social media outlets I am using.

This form a man who wrote a blog guide to social media strategies a couple of years ago… But then practising what I preach is not always my strong suit.

There are reasons why I and plenty of other creative types are just a bit rubbish at this. Not least of which is we tend to have a narrow focus when it comes to our ‘work’. If I am writing, I am writing. The times this blog is quiet are generally the ones when I am at my most creative, to give one obvious example. If you don’t see much of this blog for a month or so I am probably knee deep in plottings and elegant sentences. And if I am quiet here, I am just as quiet on social media as an author. This may come as a relief to some people, mostly my friends who would probably far sooner know I was in the pub with them, just in case they had not noticed when I bought the last round…

Image result for social media humour]

Anyway, that rambling out of the way here is the reason for this post, it is a little bit in the way of advice, and a lot in the way don’t make the same mistakes I make… Because social media is not just Faceache and Twittering, there are other avenues that a wise man ( which I am clearly not I notice) should try to keep a little more on top of that I have managed. there is no point using social media, if you don’t keep up to some very basic housekeeping on it…

I had to go on Goodreads earlier, as I remember I needed to add ‘A Spider In The Eye’ to the list of books there. Which is, of course, a wise and sensible thing to do as an author. Goodreads is popular with your audience, after all, you know them as readers… It was however while adding Spider I realised I had not got around to changing my blog link on there. yes, I have another blog on Goodreads, again the audience is there… But just so I don’t post blogs in several different places my Goodreads authors blog has always been linked to this one. Or it was when this one was hosted at blogger, before I moved it a little over two years ago to the WordPress blog you all know and possibly even mildly like…

Two years and the followers of my Goodreads blog have not had a single update ( lucky them I hear you cry… ). Now its only 30-odd people, but it is 30-odd people who don’t see any of these posts, and anyone who has looked me up on Goodreads for the last two years and been interested enough to look at my blog posts there.

There were other issues as well, old profile information,  and a dozen other little tweaks I could have done. Stuff that is just there but should have been kept up to date…

Then there is linkin, a site I don’t use a great deal but is linked to this blog. Linkin is a site I use for job purposes not work, but still, I have followers on it who may actually be interested in novels. As well as colleagues from different jobs I have had over the years, who may be interested in reading what the old tech guy has written…  Which is fine except my profile information on there is woefully out of date, it lists Cider lane as ‘my forthcoming novel for example…

These two are not the only examples. I have a presence on quite a few social media style sites I seldom visit. But here is the thing every one of them is a point of contact, and if one of them is just plain rubbish because I sorted it out five years ago when I had no idea what I was doing then I am not just missing out on potential readers, I am actively pushing them away.

So tonight I am going to go through them all, every misbegotten site I have ever used and get them all up to date, linked together and behaving themselves… there may be a need to open that bottle of gin on the kitchen window ledge… Hold on to your hats boys and girls, I am going in….


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