Friday, 2 December 2011

Steve Coogan, Alexi Sayle, Willy Russell and now Jack Barrow

I was browsing around trying to find which eBook retailers are now listing the Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil and I found this web page.

I don't know who posted this but I think it goes back to when the paperback was on sale. Whatever the case I'm grateful to whoever it was for the association.

Here's the promotional video on You Tube

Friday, 25 November 2011

The hunt for The Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil

Okay, so a week on from Smashwords premium catalogue approval I've discovered that there is a delay between the Smashwords catalogue being shipped and the book appearing on the web sites.

So here's the thing.

The book is slowly due to appear on retailer web sites in the coming weeks. I've been checking the sites recently to see if the book appears but there are a few sites to check and the process is a bit repetitive. Therefore I'm offering a prize for each site.

For the first person to post a link to a retailer site where The Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil is on sale I will give a free download of the book from Smashwords.

Post the links in the comment section below. The download will be in the format of your choice (see the list of formats in my post from last week). I will email you a voucher code to download a copy direct from Smashwords.

If you want to know what you stand to win you can read about it here.

Here's the promotional video on You Tube

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The Hidden Masters and The Unspeakable Evil available worldwide

This just a quick update that The Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil has now gone into the Smashwords premium catalogue which means that it will be available on the major retailers' web sites worldwide. The Smashwords web site says this:

Kindle (.mobi for Kindle devices and Kindle apps)Download
Epub (Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and most e-reading apps including Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital Editions, others)Download
LRF (Use only for older model Sony Readers that don't support .epub)Download

They say the catalogue ships at the end of the week but I don't know how long it takes for the files to appear on the relevant web sites. If anybody sees the book on any of these sites I'd be interested to hear about it.

One final note although Smashwords sell books formatted for the Kindle they don't actually distribute to Amazon yet. Apparently that may be on the way soon. I'm told it's something to do with them having an ability to upload the files to Amazon so it's a technical matter. Until that is sorted out Kindle readers can buy the Kindle version of the Hidden Masters from other sellers and direct from Smashwords themselves.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

The Hidden Masters and The Unspeakable Evil out in eBook format

Today I am available to read as an ebook.

The Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil is now on

It's just a first step as the book needs to be approved for formatting before it gets into the Premium Catalogue and then onto the various retailer's web sites. That process might take a couple of weeks.

Keep watching.

Friday, 21 October 2011

New dialogue for Hidden Masters - Chapter 1

The old Chapter 1 was a bit narrative heavy so I came to the conclusion that it needed some dialogue to perk it up. The trouble is the opening scene was a single character getting ready for his friends to arrive for the esbat. However the saving grace was a reported phone call that he later describes. So this is what I've added.

"Oh hi Geoff, how's things?"
"… …"
"Uh huh."
"… … … … …"
"Uh huh."
"… … …"
"Uh huh."
"… … … … … … …"
"Good grief!"
"… … … … …"
"Uh huh."
"… … …"
"Your model village?"
"… … … … …"
"Uh huh."
"… … … … … … …"
"… … …"
"… … … … …"
"Uh huh."
"… … …"
"… … …"
"… … … … …"
"Uh huh."
"… … … … …"
"Indians? What, with war paint and all that?"
"… … … … …"
"Uh huh."
"… … … … …"
"Chain Mart! You mean the little everything-shop where you buy your beer?"
"… … … … …"
"Uh huh."
"… … …"
"Uh huh."
"… … … … …"
"Uh huh."
"… …"
"… … …"
"… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …"
"Are you stoned?"


It's currently available on Kindle and in paperback (check the links in the sidebar). Here's the You Tube promo video.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Passing on the stairs

When I was younger we used to pass on the stairs. I remember this because we had a relative from Canada come to live with us and she made a point of telling us that she wouldn’t pass on the stairs. She thought it was bad luck or she thought she was too wide or something. I remember it making no sense at the time. She used to make a point of lots of things and she was generally annoying like that but hey, what can you do when you are eleven? Anyway, that’s how I remember that the rest of us didn't mind passing on the stairs, because she was different.

I’ve recently finished working in an office where we worked upstairs with the kitchen downstairs. All day we’d be up and down to the kitchen and frequently I’d meet someone coming the other way. The stairs weren’t nearly as narrow as those in a house, although they were not quite as wide as a double width staircase. Colleagues would always wait when someone was on the stairs, often forcing some delay. This seemed strange to me, there was plenty of room.

Is there some change in people that I've not noticed? Over all these years of working at home have I lost touch with the etiquette of stairway traffic? Are people more sensitive about personal space? Did I grow up in a family where we were happier to share out stair space? Or was I so small at eleven that I could get past anybody? Hang on…?

It's just a notion and I thought I'd share.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Does gravity push?

Many years ago a friend in a pub suggested that gravity pushes and it's only the existence of a planet beneath our feet that creates a shadow that stops us being pushed away from the planet. If gravity pushes could it explain inflation and, at the same time, the increased expansion of the universe in the later part of cosmological history?

If gravity pushes and it is merely the effect of large masses shielding other masses from the gravity of the rest of the universe that pushes the whole universe apart, inflation could have occurred during a period when there was little or no matter to shield the universe from gravity thus pushing it apart at an extreme rate. Then when matter appeared inflation would have stopped dramatically because the sudden shielding effect.

Now, 14Bn years later the universe appears to be speeding up, thus the invention of dark energy to explain where this expansion is coming from. However, gravity pushing could explain this by the fact that the universe is so expanded by now that it's so far apart the shielding effect is weakened and another period of rapid expansion could be taking place. In other words gravity pushing would only have a cohesive effect on a dense universe but a universe that is sparse (or widely distributed) its shielding effect would be very weak.

Thus we can explain inflation and dark energy, which has always seemed a bit rubbish otherwise. All we need to do is wrap up dark matter in this and we might have a hat trick which could become the new standard model of cosmology.

Friday, 23 September 2011

How complicated is Facebook going to get?

As a struggling author, relying on word of mouth to get people to hear about my work, I’ve been counting on the opportunity to get some key people (people who are in my target demographic and have lots of friends) to ‘like’ my Jack Barrow page. The idea is that people who ‘like’ my page will be seen to do so and their friends will be curious enough to look. I’ve always thought that this was what the like feature is all about. At the same time I'll buy some Facebook ads, do other promiotions, generally put in some effort. (I've got a list somewehere of what I need to do when the time comes.)

Now they’ve introduced the new makeover with subscriptions, conditional news feeds, features that only work on a Tuesday when there is an R in the month, etc., it’s just so complicated I despair at anyone ever understanding how this all works. I might actually manage to set up my options so that people see what I want them to see, but if I have to rely on my key people having their settings right then have I really got a hope?

I’m finally getting close to the situation where I can do a re-launch of my career. Soon, very soon I hope, my books will be on sale again, but with a broken Facebook (Twitter simply isn’t enough) then I can’t see where to go next.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Is Amazon messing up the chances of small publishers?

This weekend I met a fan of my novel The Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil. Apparently she read the book a couple of years ago and it was quickly circulated amongst all her friends. (I suspect there is a large streak of hedonism running through her social circle, part of my target audience.) Smelling an easy solution to her prezzie problem she decided to buy a copy for each of them for Christmas.

Unfortunately Amazon have been listing the book as difficult to source, out of stock or out of print pretty much ever since it was published in 2006. This has always been disingenuous at best if not a blatant lie. The book is print on demand so it is always available, it just takes a week or so to deliver.

So when she wanted to buy eight copies she had to buy them all second hand. Why is Amazon doing this?

Online sales are one of the few things publishers will take as a recommendation to publish a self published author. Alan Rinzler wrote a blog saying exactly this, yet Amazon is blocking our chances. This is a scandal that really ought to be brought to the attention of the industry.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Excuse me for my lack of output - formerly self published authors are a hard working bunch

So things have been busy since the last post some six weeks ago. Most of my time, and more importantly energy, has been spent on writing more manuals for a laboratory incubator that detects E.coli. Still it seems it's a growing business. (See what I did there, biology joke?)

In the mean time I've almost completed the move to my new publisher, which has turned out to be a challenging experience including a few sleepless nights, especially on a Sunday before I'm due to go back to writing about the bloody incubators.

Ever since I decided to go down the self publishing route in 2006 I've been using a distributor called Gardners Books and a printer called Antony Rowe, both in Eastbourne. Antony Rowe seem to be okay, offering a proper print on demand service (they print the books as readers order them so it's never out of stock). Their printing costs are good and everybody should be happy.

Value chain

Think of it a bit like the value chain that Evan Davis likes to talk about on his business programmes. It starts with the printer or in fact the author. When the book is ordered the author pays the printer £3.00 and adds his profit bringing it up to £5.00; the distributor then sells it to the retailer for £8.00 who then sell it to you for £10.00. With sensible print on demand the distributor takes the order (and the money) from the retailer, pays the printer, and just sends the author the profit. The payment sequence and the numbers might be a bit different but this is basically it.

However, Gardners Books like to make life overly complicated. Instead of sending the author their profit every time someone orders some books Gardners send the author an invoice for the printing and invite the author to send them an invoice for the cost of the printing plus the profit. So they sell one book and invoice the author for the cost of the printing at £3.00. The author then invoices them for the cost of the printing at £3.00 and adds his profit (+£2.00) selling it to them at £5.00. They then send it to the retailer at £8.00. Worse than that they require payment in one month but they insist on paying after three months. I've had late payments from them that took up to a year.

Are you following this? There's going to be a test at the end.

What the hell's going on?

Now I'm a writer not a businessman. (See my blog in response to Alan Rinzler's about me being an arse.) So excuse me for not being on top of this but each time an invoice came in I'd put it to one side just because of the time it would take to pay their invoice, write the cheque, write my own invoice, ensure they are all properly cross referenced and recorded in the accounts so that my account wouldn't later charge me £108 per hour to figure out what the hell's going on.

So I'd put it off and get stressed and put it off some more, all while being knackered from writing about E.coli incubators and commuting for two hours a day on top. Not to mention dealing with the lodgers, forgetting to do the laundry and generally keeping life on the go. Anyway, I try not to whine because modern life is like this for all of us but it's much easier if you don't have ambitions to become a successful novelist.

So last month they threatened to take me to court over a late payment of £7.71. Now you can see the pointlessness of this as if I have not paid them the 7.71 then I have not invoiced them for the same sum plus my profit. If I don't pay they actually end up with more money! Don't forget this is their day job while I'm writing about bloody incubators.

New publisher

In the mean time I've been slowly working towards getting my books moved out to my new publisher, but he busy as well so it's not been easy. See my last couple of blogs for the prospective cover designs.

So my response was to write Gardners a long letter telling them to get stuffed, pointing out the irrationality of their approach and suggesting that the complexity of their business model actually increases the number of late payments. I went on to accuse them of bullying tactics suggesting that, perhaps, some on-line retailers, or God, or whoever had bent them over and made them sign a deal so that they don't get paid by the retailer until way after the event. Of course being bullied they then bully whoever they can and that's the poor bloody author.

Well this isn't ethical business if you ask me. Anyway, I didn't send them the letter that started out with a suggestion that they go stuff themselves. Instead I just paid them off and told them to cancel my account in the most businesslike way possible.

Don't get me started on Amazon

I'm only able to do this as while this has all being going on, while writing about incubators, I've been working with my new publisher on getting the first of my books out. So, for the moment, my books aren't available from any retailers. The Hidden Masters (not quite) Pocket Book of Tarot is now listed on Amazon (don't get me started on Amazon) but I'm hoping to work with the new publisher to sort out some glitches before I start to promote it properly. (You could order it now if you wanted to and you'd end up with one of the rare early copies before the formatting is finally sorted.)

In the mean time people keep asking where the next novel is. Well apart from the first three chapters, which are pretty good, it’s still in my head. If I can ever get rid of this admin nightmare and perhaps stop writing about incubators I'll manage to get it written so that you can read it.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The Hidden Masters' (not quite) Pocket Book of Tarot

I'm in the process of moving my books over to a new publisher. We're starting with the Pocket Book of Tarot. The new printer can't do the tiny format (90 x 140mm) the old printer was able to do so the new version is known as the Hidden Masters' not quite Pocket Book of Tarot.

Here's the cover art for the new edition.

Possibly the World's only Tarot book with jokes.

You can expect to see this available on Amazon some time in the next few weeks, in the mean time the original (soon to be collectible version) is still available.

More about the book here

You can still buy the first edition here - buy it while it's still small enough for your pocket! Just £3.99

Friday, 22 April 2011

More cover designs for the second edition of the Hidden Masters

After the series of very dark covers for the second edition posted in March, a reader commented that it looked like Stalag Coronation Street or something, a friend has been enthusiastically working on some ideas. Let us know what you think. They are only rough at the moment so they'll have to be developed properly if one is chosen.

1. First of all he was just playing with ideas from the classic Las Vegas design

2. Then he adjusted it after a bit of feedback about the plane and the text

3. Then a yellow one just to see how it looked with a brighter cover

4. Then trying to combine the elements with the earlier designs

5. This was an attempt at the classic blockbuster novel front cover with the author's name writ large

6. And again combining some of the Vegas elements

7. Finally a combination of the Vegas elements, the image from the 3D model and blockbuster text

Do tell us what you think.


If you want to know more about the Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil here are some extracts:

Chapter two on astral travel

Chapter three on breaking down on the M6

Until the second edition comes out you can still get the first edition, complete with the original typos, from Blackwells

Thursday, 14 April 2011

First paragraph from the Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil

In sheer terror Geoff bit down hard on his meerschaum pipe carved in the shape of the god Pan. He would have closed his eyes as the enormous double-decker bus bore down on him, but he couldn’t because his eyes were painted on. Meanwhile, the engine of the twelfth-scale biplane screamed as it carried him toward an almost certain and horrible death. It was at this very point that just one thought dominated Geoff’s mind: "Why does this sort of thing only ever happen to me when I get involved with these guys?"

Chapter two on astral travel

Chapter three on breaking down on the M6

Until the second edition comes out you can still get the first edition, complete with the original typos, from Blackwells

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Megadeath singer might prefer The Old Rugged Cross

There's currently a story on the web about Dave Mustaine, of the bands Megadeth and Metallica. I'm not a particular fan of metal so I don't really know their music but apparently he used to do a song called The Conjuring. He's now refusing to perform the song because it contains instruction for hexes. Word is he's now found religion and doesn't want to sing a song about what, we can only assume, he sees as the opposition. Or some bollox like that.

To be honest there are more complete instructions for a magickal ritual in Chapter 23 of The Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil if you are feeling so inclined. A bit of vague guidance on placing the parchment and lighting candles with a reminder to use the eyelash from a black cat and a straw from a broom isn't really going to get you banned from heaven. But that would be because heaven is as fictitious as my novel. (Oops, sorry, did I lead some people to believe that Nigel, Clint and Wayne are real?) I don't fancy fighting anyone's cat for one of its eyelashes, I know who'd come off worse, and I've never seen a broom made of straw!

In a complete reversal of the situation, in my early days of hanging out with occultists (as we used to call ourselves) a friend of mine had been a singer in the folk clubs during the sixties and seventies. He had a massive repertoire because he had to be prepared to perform almost any request from the audience. He used to do a fantastic rendition of The Old Rugged Cross that he hammed up in such a schmultzy style that is was a real pleasure to hear. It's not about the song, it's about the singer.

Then we would go in the back room and conjure Lucifer. ;o)


If you want to know more about the Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil here are some extracts:

Chapter two on astral travel

Chapter three on breaking down on the M6

Until the second edition comes out you can still get the first edition, complete with the original typos, from Blackwells

Friday, 18 March 2011

Cover designs for the second edition of the Hidden Masters

Here are some visuals for the cover design of the Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil (second edition). I'd welcome your input. I've knocked these up in Photoshop, these are to give the designer a brief. The final art will include spine details and all the bumph about price and ISBN etc.

Remember, this is still the first book in the series that many of you guys have already read in the old green cover. This is for the move to my new publisher. The second book in the series will follow when the transfer to the new publisher is complete.

Cover A

Cover B

Cover C

Cover D

Cover E

Cover F

Cover G

The images are taken from the 3D model that was adapted from the set for the animation. (The animation has been shelved until all the books are moved over to the new publisher.) Because the model was only ever meant to be seen from the alley side of the buildings the windows on the front of the houses haven't been painted in. Once we know which image we'll be using the image will be tidied up and finished off. The model as used in these images has streets going off into the distance but most of these are close into the houses so not much of the background shows.

The blurb is just a draft at the moment. If you've got any thoughts then please feel free to comment on this post or my post discussing future marketing.

And finally if you want to know what all the fuss is about here are some extracts:

Chapter two on astral travel

Chapter three on breaking down on the M6

Until the second edition comes out you can still get the first edition, complete with the original typos, from Blackwells

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Are we being kept in the dark?

Is the presentation of data to the public hindering our democracy?

Ask yourself what was the state of the national debt before the credit crunch. Remember the credit crunch? That's what we called the crisis before we called it a recession, which was before we called it the deficit.

Dear Prudence

Okay, so you could be excused for not knowing what the national debt was before the credit crunch because it wasn't big news. In fact, as far as I understand, it was news, just not big news, because I seem to remember that Gordon Brown was well on the way to paying it off. (These days they refer to the deficit but deficit is just the shortfall in money available to a government in any one year whereas the debt is the accumulation of those deficits over years, so they are different ways of expressing the amount of money the country owes.) They used to refer to Gordon Brown's famous war chest and he would talk about prudence in government spending. I'm interested in this because I get a bit tired of the current government saying that the previous government is responsible for the financial crisis due to of profligate spending. I'd like some figures to back up my admittedly alcohol befuddled memories. (See my blog for my thoughts on responsibility for the financial crisis.) But can I find any figures on this? Before the May 2010 UK election I looked on the UK Office of National Statistics web site and I could find nothing.

Okay, here's something else. A little over twenty years ago my father retired. Ever since I was a child he worked as an electrical fitter in a factory that made aircraft components. However, he had always been interested in the stock market and finance. Over the decades he built up a substantial portfolio. He  also paid into his pension during the high growth years from the sixties to the eighties until his retirement just before the turn of the decade. He died a few years later in 1993 enjoying just a few years of his hard earned retirement.

At some point during his short retirement I remember a conversation when he described how the pension funds of large businesses, in the early nineties, were massively in surplus. From what he told me the boom times of the eighties, various market crashes notwithstanding, had left many large company pension funds with huge sums of money that seemed to be far more than they required to fund the pensions of the members of the schemes. From what I understood the payments into the funds had been so wisely invested that the members would be very well provided for in their retirement.

Raids on pension funds

However, he then went on to explain that the companies that ran these schemes, on behalf of their employees, had persuaded the government to change the rules so that the companies were able to claw back substantial amounts of the pension surplus to be spent by the company. Weather that money went into investment in the company or was handed out to shareholders is something I don't know but I'm pretty sure my father had an opinion on the matter.

If company pension surpluses were raided in the early nineties then that is something that should be pointed out for we are now being told that pension schemes are all in massive deficit and that we should take a cut in our future pensions. It may be true that there is a demographic time bomb in pensions but we should probably know how it came about. If this is the case we have all been robbed by the government headed by John Major. (Remember him? No few people do.)

So I've looked on various web sites to try to find the truth of the matter but can I find anything about this? Can I fuck! Of course my father may have been wrong but I'd like to check his facts myself.

What does it cost our government to borrow money?

So today I read an interesting article by Paul Krugman about how the economic debate is dumbed down in the US. (No surprise there then.) He says '...the nation is not, in fact, “broke.” The federal government is having no trouble raising money, and the price of that money — the interest rate on federal borrowing — is very low by historical standards.'

So I wondered what the case is with UK borrowing and I dutifully went to the Office of National Statistics web site. I've searched and I've browsed and I've searched some more. I've searched on 'cost of borrowing', 'cost of national borrowing', 'historical interest rates' and many more terms. Of course I'm not an expert, I don't even have an economics degree. But I do have a vote and I have an opinion that I'd like to check instead of behaving like some jumped up fundamentalist who doesn't care if he is right, wrong or just an ignorant twat!

In a world where we are all connected, where we are tweeting and blogging, facbooking or just talking down the pub, we should be entitled to know the truth. I know, I can hear you all laughing as you read this but that shows what a crappy situation we are now in. The truth is out there but we should not have to be an expert in economics just to be able to ask the right questions.

I'm not asking for a total dumbing down of data for that would be ironic in the light of Krugman's article. However, an averagely intelligent and enquiring individual should have access to information to check what we are being told by those that have their own agendas.

A graph paints a thousand words

I don't know how we do this because economics is an arcane and difficult art. However, a first step might be for official statistical compilers to present data in a way that an averagely intelligent individual can find, without having to read a dozen esoteric reports that may not turn out to contain the piece of data required, anything less is obfuscation. Further, if the government is repeatedly telling us that the last government created the deficit through its economic mismanagement perhaps we should be able to find some data on this. That information needs to be presented in a way that it can easily be found, perhaps with multiple key words pre-empting the sort of questions people will search for. That means not presenting the visitor with bewildering numbers of links and multi page reports that the average Joe can't understand. A simple graph displaying the deficit or the national debt for the past few decades would suffice, perhaps sets of well presented and easily found data for the items currently in the news. I'm not an idiot, no really I'm not, but I'd like an idiots guide to the data rather than what we have now.

I'm brighter than a mushroom and I don't like the taste of bullshit. Basically I'd like to check my facts please. I'd like to have access to the truth.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The Robin Hood Tax - Just who is responsible for the financial crisis?

Apparently the EU, yesterday (Tuesday 8th March), voted to support the idea of a Financial Transactions Tax (popularly known as the Robin Hood Tax) that would be Europe wide. The vote is not binding but it is a step forward because the argument that banks would move out of a jurisdiction that taxes transactions would be unlikely to apply to an area as large as the EU. Were such a tax created in the UK the banks might argue that the banks would move to Germany or some other European financial centre. However, one would imagine that they need a trading operation in Europe so they would not be able to move anywhere else.

And here's one of the excellent videos they have produced:

So the Robin Hood Tax Facebook page posted this news today and it's unleashed the most incredible argument. I say incredible argument because one would imagine that anybody who has pressed 'Like' on the Facebook page for the Robin Hood Tax would largely be in favour of this.  A little bit of debate might be expected but this debate has been almost vitriolic. It makes me wonder if we are witnessing a little bit of astroturfing, effectively the existence of fifth columnists. Of course it's possible to become paranoid but the reaction does seem to be extreme and the banks certainly have the resources and the guile to do this sort of thing.

Some people on the Facbook page seemed to be arguing that perhaps a Robin Hood Tax was not such a great idea. They then went on to repeat the line that the current government continually feed us that the Labour government was responsible for banking deregulation. That is a blatant lie and the most significant thing the last government was responsible for was that they had a leader who was unable to smile on camera without looking scary. Neil Kinnock was mostly berated for being ginger so we've not moved on in nearly twenty years.

This has led me to write something on the financial situation we are in at the moment

The Labour government didn't deregulate the banks. They were deregulated on October 27 1986 (Big Bang Day) by Margaret Thatcher's government. (Further UK deregulation followed throughout the eighties and the nineties but it was largely complete by the Millennium.) In the US the Banking Act of 1933 (Glass–Steagall Act) was steadily repealed starting in 1980 and finally in 1999.

This series of deregulations allowed high street banks to become involved in speculation. Massive amounts of cash, previously held in deposit (or reserve against hard times and bad debt) was freed up to speculate on the global markets. Those that got involved with the markets during this time made massive profits and those profits fuelled the unprecedented growth from the mid eighties to a few years ago. We all benefited from the boom time with the occasional recession, as is normal, but nothing like we have witnessed recently. During that speculation banks became involved in loans that were so obscure that the decision makers (top managers and directors) often didn't know what was going on. (Often these financial arrangements could only be understood by highly qualified mathematicians.) Many more recent loans were risky but were at high rates of interest which meant that if they paid off they would make further great profits. In an attempt to hedge their bets they passed on those risks to other institutions around the world to the point where it was impossible tell which banks were safe and which were not.

Too big to fail

This would have been fine if the banks had only been involved in speculation. However, the repeal of regulations meant that this risk was spread to individuals like every one of us. Our savings and the finance of our employers were exposed to this risk. This is the origin of the concept of being too big to fail. Had the banks only been involved in speculation rather than high street banking then they could have been allowed to go to the wall. Instead, when their risks turned into massive failure we had to bail them out and now we have the massive deficits that we are trying to pay off.

Let's all try to remember the recent past and try to be informed about what went before. If we want an opinion we have to be aware of the news. Don't say, "It's boring I'd rather watch X Factor." None of us can have an opinion if we are not informed.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Building virtual Blackpool

Click on the image to see the (lack of) detail
Using the 3D model of the Victorian alleyway, created for the animation, I'm trying to create some art for the book cover for the second edition of The Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil. Unfortunately copying and pasting something like 1000 houses, each individually defined right down to the window frames and chimneys is proving a bit of a stretch for the PC. (See the previous post on viral marketing for how it should render including the brickwork texture.) Even with a spanky fast machine it's proving too much. It's not rendered any of the textures or the small details such as the red chimney pots. It hasn't even bothered with the houses in the distance, showing whole terraces as wire frames. Notice the top of the image shows Google SketchUp as 'Not Responding'. At the time of writing it's been like that for over an hour, every few minutes becoming active then locking up again for a similar time.

The grey windows of the further streets are deliberate as the model was never intended to be seen from this angle. (All the action in the viral animation takes place within a single alleyway so the houses are only seen from the rear. Read chapter 7 for the details.) For the book cover these windows will have to be painted in individually. Also the wide screen format of modern monitors doesn't suit the portrait format of a book jacket so chunks of the landscape image will probably be chopped away. The distant houses, if SketchUp can ever be persuaded to render the middle distance, will probably have to be painted in later.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

What is Paganism? - as told by a Christian

I found this post recently, an American minister describing paganism. He does talk a little slow but his point is well made when he gets to it.

Follow this link: Demystifying Paganism

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

How many pagans does it take to fill in the census?

Counting pagans is like herding cats, it's just about impossible.

At the last UK census in 2001 it was the first time that people were given the opportunity to describe their religion as 'other'. Many pagans chose to register their religious affiliation on the census, yet pagan didn't really make an impact on the figures.


The reason for this was because pagans are a varied bunch of people. They don't have a single leadership, doctrine or even a single set of beliefs. Paganism is an individualistic approach to life that has many common characteristics but many variations too.

So Druids described themselves as Druids, Wiccans described themselves as Wiccans, Thelemites described themselves as Thelemites. (I think you get the picture by now.) Pagans are people who like to describe themselves as they see fit, not as others might like to describe them. Pagans are very individualistic.

So the 2001 census results led to considerable under reporting of pagans in the UK. It's thought that pagans are the seventh largest faith group on the country but because of the variation amongst all the flavours of paganism our numbers didn't add up to much.

So the solution is to retain our individuality while banding together. The term pagan has become the most popular description of who we are as a community. Not everybody prefers it but without it we wouldn't have the recognition we deserve. Without standing up to be counted we would also face much greater prejudice in the wider social sphere.

The PaganDash campaign is urging us to describe ourselves as Pagan with an extra entry for our own chosen path. So you might express yourself thus:


That way the census people can count pagans as a group or as subgroups according to the desires of each individual.

The simplest ideas are often the best.  :o)

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Should I move on from Men Behaving Badly?

Okay, so I need your help. If you've read The Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil you will have your own opinions of it, hopefully positive. You may even be able to make comparisons between my style and that of other writers. However, those who have not read it won't know what to expect, and this is my problem.

In the past I've tried to give readers an idea what to expect by sharing the comparisons that other people made about the book. At book signings and readings people have pointed out similarities to Robert Rankin and Douglas Adams. I'm a huge fan of both these writers and I'm very flattered by the association. Other people have said it's a bit like Terry Pratchett which, to be honest, is probably a bit too much as he sets the bar so high. Some people have even said that it sounds like the English comic absurdity of Tom Sharpe but I think this is from people who have read about it but not actually read the book. I'm very flattered by that possibility.

Those comparisons are on the comic fiction aspect but other parallels are with fantasy and sorcery writers. I'm now using the term urban fantasy as there is magic in my stories, admittedly much of it implied, but the stories are set in the contemporary world of England in the 21st Century. So the genres here are likened to Harry Potter and Dan Brown, although I don't write children's books and I don't write about the supernatural in the way that Dan Brown does.

Based on this feedback I've pitched my marketing material at fans of these authors mentioning them, hopefully subtly enough, to give a hint of what readers will find. Sometimes I worry that readers won't believe me though, as some of these comparisons are pretty staggering. I would tend not to believe a bloke down the pub who said that his small press published books are a bit like these luminaries.

So the phrase that grew up was that The Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil is a bit like Harry Potter meets Men Behaving Badly. Men Behaving Badly because the characters in the book drink far too much dark rum, smoke too many cigarettes and indulge in the occasional Moroccan woodbine, actually more than occasional.

Now I'm in the process of moving all my books to a new publisher, a small press similar to my current publisher but in a position to allow me to concentrate on writing. So it's an opportunity to make some changes in the marketing blurb.

I'm concerned that some of these comparisons are a little too strong, almost unbelievable. Others are a bit out of date or just not very well known. The Harry Potter connection was interesting because that series is now finished and readers might be looking for something new. But there are no broomsticks in my stories and no sparks flying from the ends of wands. In fact the Hidden Masters only contains a couple of events that are clearly supernatural so Harry Potter may not be that appropriate. Also some people don't like Harry Potter because they say it's derivative and unoriginal and stuff like that. However, my point is that Potter is popular and I'm only interested in comparisons that I can use to get my message across to new readers. So if you hate Harry Potter and can't put down your vitriol then I probably don't need your input. At the same time I'm wondering if the Men Behaving Badly connection is now a bit dated so should I stop using that?

So my request is this. If you have read The Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil, and you enjoyed it, please tell me how I should be marketing it. What comparisons with other authors can I use to tell new readers what to expect? This naturally has to be from successful, popular, published authors but I can't help that. Of course if you can think of a way to describe the book without comparing it to published works then that would be great. My new publisher is waiting for the marketing text and I can't write it without your help.

If you want to know what all the fuss is about read the publisher's blurb here

If you don't want to wait for the new edition don't bother with Amazon, they are listing it as out of print. It's never out of print as it's print on demand. It's best to buy it from Blackwells here or order it via your local book shop on the ISBN 978-0-9515329-1-1

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Hidden Masters' Pocket Book of Tarot

The first edition before resizing
I've just reformatted the Hidden Masters' Pocket Book of Tarot. I'm in the process of moving my books over to a new small press which will allow me to be much more hands off and concentrate on just writing. The current format of the Pocket Book of Tarot is 90 x 140mm.

The blurb describes it thus: "Everything you ever wanted to know about Tarot but couldn't be bothered to ask. Well bother no more as this book gives it to you straight and simple in handy reference form, ideal for the beginner of the forgetful expert alike. Keep it with you when you are impressing your friends, so that when ignorance strikes you can just nip off to the loo or sneak under the table for that elusive definition." I suspect it's the world's only Tarot book with jokes.

However, the new publisher can't do books as small as that so it's going to be 127 x 203mm, about half again as wide and tall and almost twice the area. It was about 80 pages with all the front and back blurb but now it'll be about 50 pages.

So the question is can I still legitimately call it the Hidden Masters' Pocket Book of Tarot? It'll certainly be thin enough to go in a pocket but it'll have to be a bigger pocket than on the back of my jeans. I'm wondering if I should call it the Hidden Masters Little Pamphlet of Tarot and Joke Book. Not so snappy eh?

More about the book here

You can still buy the first edition here - buy it while it's still small enough for your pocket! Just £3.99

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Chapter Titles from the Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil

1      The Esbat
2      Elastic
3      Ritual Mechanicians
4      It’s a Beer Thing
5      More Beer
6      The Devil’s Legs
7      Illuminating Experiences
8      Dodgy Characters
9      Chocks Away!
10    The Taste of Dragons
11    Elementals My Dear Wayne
12    Creatures of the Night
13    Vortex
14    Board of Enquiry
15    The Return of The Devil’s Legs
16    Just The One Then
17    Mission Improbable
18    Dubious Infidelity
19    Death By Sword
20    Black
21    Escape to New York
22    How Many Magicians Does It Take?
23    My Number Which is 300
24    Stake
25    Trouser Negotiations
26    Round Table
27    Hit it!
28    Enheavyment

If you want more click here for an extract from Chapter 2: Jack Barrow on astral travel

And click here for the whole of Chapter 3.

Publisher's blurb here

Don't forget Amazon aren't selling this and list it out of print. It's never out of print as it's print on demand. It's best to buy it from Blackwells here or order it via your local book shop on the ISBN 978-0-9515329-1-1

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Save Our Forests - What would be the reason for buying a forest?

The UK government are talking about selling off the publicly own forests. If I had the money to buy a public forest what possible reason could I have for doing so? I have access to such land now and, I suppose, I can use it for whatever purpose I choose so long as it's not destructive. That must therefore mean dog walking, taking the kids out, nature rambling, etc.

So why spend a large amount of my own personal wealth on such a project? The only reason that I can imagine would be to restrict access so that I alone can use it. Anybody who wishes to buy our national forests should not be allowed to do so because of that very possibility.

Sign the petition here

Monday, 24 January 2011

Danger of publisher's offer going down the pan

Back in the autumn I submitted a couple of proposals to publishers that were accepting submissions from unagented writers. I spent weeks writing a suitable proposal with the help of a consultant who knows about these things because it's more of an arcane art than the occult practices that I write about.

Then I waited...

And I'm still waiting.

The afore mentioned publishers said that they don't enter into correspondence. I'm sure they got the text for that disclaimer from the small print of competitions on the back of cereal packets from when I was too small to sit on a chair and touch the floor. You had to read the competitions because there was nothing else to do while eating a bowl of Wheataflakes with milk and enough sugar to give you cancer.

So I find myself wondering what happens if they actually do like a submission and how much trouble they go to when they get back to you? Will they send one email or will they try to find a phone number? Or will they even try to track down your blog or even your book?

My greatest fear is that someone will reply to me and the message will end up in the spam trap only to get deleted amidst all the ads for fake Rolex watches, erectile dysfunction drugs (if you are lucky pellets of chalk that wont kill you) and special offers for septic tanks.