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Thursday, 7 September 2017

Much the same

What goes around comes, around. Aware of my absence from these pages for quite some time I picked up the threads with a tweet that bounced into an email this morning with a sense of deja-vu.

Amazon and the big publishers apparently having a bit of a barny about ebook pricing. Amazon's VP of Kindle Content, David Naggar, in the Daily Mail suggested the publishers drop their ebook prices to match the 99c price tag offered by the self-published and Independents on Amazon.

It didn't go down well and the Daily Mail and the Bookseller take the story further.

For me, it was like picking up an old chestnut. The shine had gone and the familiar wrinkles and dark tones were there, nestling in the palm of my hand.
A familiar tale and one that could be easily discerned as settled into two halves, Indie Self and Big Pub.

Yes, 99c can sell, and it does. However the danger lurks in the price that the Indie is undervaluing the work.

Stack it high and sell it cheap has lifted more than one supermarket or trader to a dominant place in the market, but that wasn't the thing that made me smile.

Publishing is a game of two halves, Independent and the Big publishing houses. Bill Shankly, the legendary manager of Liverpool once said about football being more serious than a matter of life and death. To paraphrase and shift the context slightly, he was commenting on the dedication needed to succeed.

The analogy can be transferred; Now, there are a handful of major publishing houses, and within their corporate body are the remnants of many smaller publishers, whose names linger like ghosts as imprints of the commercial giants. Consumed in the drive to survive and succeed.

I digress slightly, the analogy that came to mind is occasionally attributed to the early days of sport's coverage on the radio, but may be much older.

Back to square one.

As far back as the Nineteen Thirties, Association football, soccer, was regularly covered by the BBC and a helpful grid was provided in the Radio Times magazine, dividing the pitch into numbered segments, and during the game the announcer would report that play had moved back to square one. Urban legend tagged that as the original of the phrase.

I don't really think Football can take the credit here, although it's a good one for the pub.

The tradition of football commentary and the distortions of language that accompany it have become a part and parcel of the English language. The Plain English Campaign, an organisation focused on the demolition of gobbledygook have a variation of their gobbledygook generator dedicated to the language of the football commentator.

There is a traditional children's favourite that goes back to the late 17th Century that begins and ends on Square One, a much more likely originator.

Hopscotch; the numbered boxes can be chalked, scratched in the dirt or the sand, perhaps painted on to the schoolyard. The player moves along the squares, starting at one and progressing to the highest, which can be either eight or ten, and then returns to number one.

Having been away from the blog for a while - pretty much most of the summer. Coming back to it has a similar feel, of going back to square one,  and the ebook pricing discussion reinforced the feeling.

I may be exaggerating, but it's how I feel right now, so, here we go again.
What is the optimum price for an ebook, assuming it doesn't come free.
How much does the price of an ebook influence your appreciation of the quality of the work?

Something for the experienced and the aspiring independent to weigh in the balance, and I'm not sure their is a wrong answer to either of them.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Grab what you can...


July is here, and The Grange series is enrolled at Smashwords in the Ninth Annual Summer/Winter Sale. 


Whatever the season, wherever you are;  the discounts are lined up, the best sellers of the future waiting to be discovered and enjoyed. Iceline is, as ever, free to grab, and for the duration, Control Escape, What You Ask For and The Obedience of Fools are yours for half price, a 50% discount on their normal retail price, click on the link and enter the code SSW50 when you make the purchase.

Have fun, grab a piece of the action!

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Shameless little plugger!


June is fizzling out, the brief spell of unseasonable weather here in England is ending. The brilliant blue skies, tropical heat are once more sliding into familiar greys and rain speckled pavements, but despite the gloomy weather we still have July to look forward to and the Ninth annual Summer/Winter event at smashwords. Discounted ebooks for the avid reader, From the 1st of July, right through to the end of the month literary treasures will be available on the promotions page.

The entire Grange series will be available. Come back to the series page for the Grange on the first of July and check out the offers. Iceline is entered automatically as a permafree ebook, the rest of the series will be joining the list at a discount.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Heard it before

It came as an email, and the first glance and first reading sounded good.  An interest in "The Obedience of Fools," and invited  me to submit the work to a... competition!

 Hey Martyn Taylor,

Monday, 1 May 2017

Clout casting

Ne'er cast a clout 'til the May is out!  The usual accompaniment to rubbish weather until June. A warning not to get caught out by the variable weather outdoors, and it has nothing to do with the calendar.

The May (Crataegus monogyna) is more familiar as the Hawthorn. The dense thorny bush used as field boundaries that still winds its way across countless miles of the English countryside.

Rich in the folklore and mythology of the countryside, Shakespeare draws on it in Sonnet 18, comparing his beloved to a Summer's day, and the rough winds shaking the darling buds.

H.E. Bates 1958 novel "The Darling Buds of May" takes it's title from the first shoots of the Hawthorn seeking out the warming sun, pointing to the summer months ahead. To watch the buds until they burst open, deck the trees with blossom and herald the change in the season, and not get caught out in the cold by shedding your winter coat too soon.

So what will you catch this May? Back in 1999 the Association of American Publishers picked May as Get Caught Reading month. To celebrate the authors who produce the works, creating the worlds where we lose ourselves.

The idea is simple enough; get caught reading. It doesn't have to be printed, It's not get caught with a book month, it's about reading. Enjoying the seemingly limitless supply of material to grab an old favourite or find a new one.

Load up your bag, or your reader, and see how many times you can get caught!




Sunday, 23 April 2017

My book choice for WBN

Last post I pondered on the book I would give a friend on World Book Night and I had a title in mind. The story is Sir Walter Scott’s “Ivanhoe.”

Why?

The local connection, the first line places it geographically around me. The characters and events occupy that "pleasant district of merry England which is watered by the River Don," specifically the valley between Rotherham and Conisbrough. Familiar territory, albeit with the names changed, but with a little detective work the clues can be followed and the true identities revealed. Scott’s mediaeval romance has inspired numerous film adaptations, both live action and animated.

The tale unfolds in an England that is far from merry, Saxon pitted against Norman, suspicious of each other and of other races. A stark conflicted land, where even fathers and sons are at odds with each other for their choice of allegiance. Ivanhoe is disowned by his father for following Richard on his crusade.

I've had the book on my reader for a while, it tends to be a story I load whenever I change a device and although infrequently read it is familiar. I downloaded the text of Ivanhoe from Project Gutenberg.

If you're not familiar with Project Gutenberg, the site hosts digital versions of thousands of books now out of copyright. Imagine wandering among the shelves of a bookshop of over a century ago, when some we call classics were new releases.

Why Ivanhoe, and why now? A couple of weeks ago when I picked up the book it was a half-remembered thing, an echo of the turbulent times that form the backdrop to the story and as I plunged into Scott’s image of thirteenth Century England, drinking in the words and savouring the flavour of the times the news was full of Article 50.

Scott's imagination conjured a country at odds with itself, turmoil stalked the tracks and byways of the forests and the hills. The masses and the elites wrangled with each other, each trying to come out on top. The order was established. The Normans were top of the heap, but that didn't mean the Saxons were going to lie down and take it. Passive resistance and the polite slight, defiance in the simplest action.

Sir Walter was not intimately familiar with the area, not in the way he knew the landscape behind the Waverley novels and his other Scottish works. Through the dedicatory epistle at the front of the Gutenberg text he explains his desire to reveal an English hero to match Rob Roy and Wallace. The need to reach further back in time for the tensions and a wildness of life and landscape took him to the land of the Lionheart and Robin, the hooded man, his erstwhile ally against the wicked usurper, John.

It is believed that Scott spent less than a week in the area. Travelling from Sheffield he stayed overnight at the village of Sprotborough, near Doncaster. The Ship, the public house by the canal had for many years a chair beside the fireplace known as Sir Walter's chair. The very seat where the literary knight rested from his journey.

The story revolves less around the physical location than the landscape of the characters and how they reflect their times. Actions and reactions, choices and the consequences of those choices.

The valley described by Sir Walter lies east of the M1 at Sheffield, where the River Don winds towards and around the hill of Moorgate. The ancient centre of Rotherham stands at the Northern end of the hill; slightly to the South and perched on the edge overlooking the valley stands the hunting tower of the Earl of Effingham. Testimony to a familiarity with political tension. Boston Castle has been a notable landmark for over two hundred years, named to commemorate to Revolutionary Tea Party and a choice made by the Earl to support the colonists in their desire for representation. An advocacy that had him ejected from the House of Lords for standing against Parliament.

In a cabinet in the Minster Church at Rotherham stands a copy of the King James Bible. On the cover is stamped a date; 1774. The King James Bible was a gift, along with a Book of Common Prayer from the Earl to the church where he was Lay Rector.

In October 1774 people who felt they were being ignored by a distant overbearing government sent a letter outlining their grievances. That situation was not addressed to their satisfaction and two years later in 1776, they declared their independence. I can appreciate the sense of grievance inscribed in that document.

It has been said they were never more English than the moment they chose to go their own way. After years of conflict Congress ratified the preliminary articles bringing the war to an end on the 15th April, 1783. The peace was finally delivered by the King’s acceptance of the Colonies’ independence on the 3rd September 1783 with the Treaty of Paris.

Two hundred and thirty-four years later the Prime Minster of England delivered a letter to the leaders of the European Union and triggered Article 50 of the Treaty for European Union, more familiar as the Lisbon Treaty. Now with a snap general election on the cards, the next date to watch will be the 9th of June, the day after the vote when the results come in. 

All this from picking up Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott?

I shall have to be careful who receives the gift!

Friday, 14 April 2017

Getting closer - World Book Night


We are drawing nearer to the annual celebration of reading and literature on the anniversary of Shakespeare's birth, and death. The Patronal festival of the national saint of England, George, and the day dedicated to the English language by the United Nations - World Book Night.

One of the suggestions for the day is to give a favourite book to someone who is not an avid reader but an occasional visitor to the land of literature, or reads very rarely.

This person could be a work colleague,  friend, a relative, anyone. I seem to recall from a few years ago people leaving books in coffee shops, bus stations on trains, etc. for someone else to pick up, and enjoy.

It could be a bit counter intuitive, a book simply left behind might suggest that it isn't worth reading, that is has been dumped, like an ex-partner. Perhaps a friendly little note tucked inside the cover would be helpful?

I have a well thumbed anthology of poetry; Poems on the Underground,  (Published by Cassell, fourth edition 1994, ISBN 0-304-344449-4). A   collection of poetry displayed on the London Underground for travellers on the tube.   In it is a short piece entitled "London Airport"  by Christopher Logue, about a bin for unwanted literature and the poem he scribbled to drop in.

Not quite the idea of World Book Night. This is a more considered approach. I think the reasoning behind the selection of books available on World Book Night and handed out by relatively anonymous distributors is to take the edge off the gift.

Books,  like music, are the sort of thing we have visible around the home. There for all to see is an impression we want to give. You want to know about someone, examine their bookshelves, the ranked titles will be revealing. Not unlike the choice in music, and like music, giving the gift of a book can say far more than expected.

So which would I choose? The official site has the selection  for this year, my choice isn't on the list, and I do have a book in mind. I'm still unpacking why that one in particular..