Monday, 31 December 2012

'The Checkout Boy' on Amazon

My new short story, 'The Checkout Boy' is a humorous tale of drug-induced paranoia and available for download now.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Saturday, 22 December 2012

The Girls Who Saved Christmas!

My new Children's story 'The Girls Who Saved Christmas' uses duel psychology it will scare kids to death, so don't buy it!   Amazon UK     Amazon US

'The Girls Who Saved Christmas' Available Now!

My new Children's fairytale, 'The Girls Who Saved Christmas,' is now available for download from Amazon.   Amazon UK   Amazon US

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

2 days to Story launch!

My new children's Christmas fairytale 'The Seven girls who saved Christmas' will be released in 2 days. December 21st 2012!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

3 days until my Christmas Fairytale launch

My new children's Christmas fairytale 'The Seven girls who saved Christmas' will be released in 3 days. December 21st 2012!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Christmas Fairytale

My new Children's Christmas fairytale entitled 'The Seven girls who saved Christmas' is available for download Friday 21st December on Amazon!

Friday, 14 December 2012

Author Interview with Susan Scott

Welcome to my author interview and many thanks to Susan Scott, 

Author - Susan Scott 
(In Praise of Lilith, Eve & the Serpent in the Garden of Eden & Other Stories)

1/  Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I'm a South African living in Johannesburg. I am married to Neil an ENT surgeon (self-employed) and we have 2 adult sons, Mike and David. Mike is an animator, Dave a musician, both also self-employed and following their bliss and on my side it is a joy to witness. I have an honours degree in Clin Psych. I love travel, reading, writing, hiking and walking. In spite of having quite a wide circle of friends, I lead a pretty introspective and quiet life though I place high value on my friendships.

2/  When and what made you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I've always kept journals and diaries. I've written newsletters for various organizations over the years. My interest in psychology (Jungian in the main) spurred 
me to putting some of those ideas out there.

3/  Can you tell us something about your books, genre?

My only published book is very psychological. Two of the essays are quasi-academic, 5 are very personal stories. The quasi-academic ones are on the myth of Lilith (first wife of Adam in the Garden of Eden according to the Midrash) which has relevance for us all in our contemporary world; the 2nd is on 'Dreams' and highlights the reality and value of our inner world. The other 5 essays/stories are personal as mentioned, yet they have universality I believe. 'The Opposites' is my experience of the opposites contained within me ... we each have a Mother Theresa and Medusa within, we each have a sinner and a saint, light and dark etc. We need to recognize those inner opposites and hold hem in balance or in a tension; we do not to act upon them but to give them their due. 'Gardening' tells of my experience in creating a secret garden at the bottom of my garden and getting rid of dead wood inter alia, and for me was analogous to clearing my mind, weeding out the dead wood and my ego attitude about many things and allowing space for creativity by unblocking. 'Mt Kilimanjaro' is about climbing and summitting it as both an inner and outward journey. 'Beyond Duty' tells of my picking up trash on the beach and elsewhere and how this led me to believe that there is life beyond duty and yet duty is a necessary something to uphold in our lives. 'Death's Beauty' recounts the extraordinary synchronicities around my mother's death which went beyond. 

4/  Where do you get your ideas from? 

Pretty much from everyday life as well as my own dreams. I carry a small moleskin notebook around with me and often jot down ideas even while driving. Or I hear something on the radio while at my computer and make a note. Daydreaming is productive. Walking in my garden and letting my ego take a back seat is productive.
5/  Are you working on a new book at the moment?

Yes, I am ... a novel.

6/  What are your ambitions concerning your writing career?

Well, I guess all writers hope and wish to be recognized for their writing. It is hard to say what my ambitions are. I am not ambition-less. I am extremely pleased about the reviews posted on about my book which I found enormously gratifying. It would be great if my books sold well and some lovely lolly came in.

7/  Which writers inspire you?

I love many writers and genres .. but off the top of my head I enjoy Margaret Atwood, Ayn Rand, Pat Conroy, William Horwood, post Jungian writers such as the late James Hillman.

8/  What book are you reading at present?

Cosmos & Psyche: Intimations of a New World by Richard Tarnas.

9/  What are your thoughts on reviews, good and bad?

Always great to get good reviews; I would probably sweat over a lousy one.

10/  What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Just write ... if that is what you love to do, then follow your bliss. It is hard I know, to get it down on paper or on the computer. I think it was Wilbur Smith who said writing is 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration. If necessary, join a writers' group, or make your own group with others who want to write, and encourage each other that way. Try to keep to a schedule of writing. If this seems impossible, aim for 100 words a day, then 200 and so on. Take your notebook or laptop with you on your lunch break and sit somewhere. Write about your surroundings if nothing else. Get into the flow - make a habit of writing. 

11/ Do you have any advice on how to market your books?

I wish I did. I am so not good about putting myself out there or doing any self promotion. Also I am still a bit of a technophobe but it seems there are good and useful ways of using the social media to market. Perhaps an idea would be to build up a blog and use that format to list one's book. This interview with you is an opportunity and I am grateful for it, thank you!

12/  What would you consider to be the worst thing about being an indie author?

The difficulty of using the social media effectively I guess? The hard and committed work that this would no doubt entail?

13/  What do you like to do when you're not writing, hobbies etc?

I love reading and getting involved in the plot. I like to take a walk around the block time permitting. I love my yoga classes. I sometimes pop into my secret garden and meditate.

14/  How long on average does it take you to write a book, what is your schedule?

I've written only one (published) book and it took me a long time. From start to finish I reckon 5 years. The novel that I'm currently working on and my schedule? I wish I could say I have a schedule .. I still have to incorporate that good habit into my life-style. It's all well and (not so)good to give that advice as I did earlier and not live by it myself, but I work on it when I can, snatching a moment here and there.

15/  What is your favourite positive saying?

Harm no one or thing ... a good tenet to live by.

16/  Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your books?

Who could play the daemon/demon i.e. Lilith? Jodie Foster, Salma Hayek? Our own (South African) Charlize Theron?

17/  Who did your fabulous book cover?

My son Mike did the cover.

18/  What is your favourite movie and why?

I didn't want to see the film 'The Prince of Tides' as I had read the book by Pat Conroy. I was convinced that the film would not do credit to the book but I was very pleasantly surprised. I loved the film even though many segments of the book were not included.

19/  Where can you see yourself in 5 years time?

Hard to imagine! Who knows? Maybe down in Plettenberg Bay on the south-west coast of the Cape of South Africa, one of the most beautiful spots in the world.

20/  Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?

Unquestionably Mr. Nelson Mandela, South Africa's past president. He was a beacon of hope and inspiration for us all following the death of apartheid 20 years ago. He is very elderly now, 94, and not in the best of health but he continues to inspire us all. His legacy will never be forgotten, not just here in South Africa but around the world. In his book 'A Long Walk to Freedom' he writes that if you want to change the world, start with yourself. This is so wise and what all wise philosophers in aeons past and contemporary wise people have always said. Start with yourself .. which is of course, the hardest of all but by no means impossible. Change yourself, your attitude, your own way of being in the world. Be kinder, do what you can when you can. Be compassionate towards yourself and you will find compassion towards others, easier.
21/ What is your favourite takeaway food?

Nothing like a good Thai chicken curry or chicken korma.

Thank you Tom I have enjoyed this.
Where can you be reached?
Facebook page:

Susan Scott

My thanks to Susan for a wonderful and insightful interview.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Agatha Christie, The queen of Crime

Outsold only by the Bible and the Koran, she is quite literally a publishing phenomenon. Her books have been translated into sixty-four languages worldwide and to date she has sold an estimated 200,000,000 books.

Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born on the 15th September 1890. She was the third child of Frederick Alvah Miller, an American and Clara Margaret his English wife. She grew up in Torquay and was educated at home by her mother. At the age of fifty-five her father died, she was just eleven years old and found herself living with just her mother. Her brother Monty was in india with the army and her sister Madge was married with a family of her own. At fifteen she was sent to finishing school in France where she developed a talent for singing and playing the piano. For a while she harboured a wish to be a concert pianist. At seventeen she returned home from finishing school and went to Cairo with her mother for the winter. This trip to Egypt opened her eyes and gave her an appetite for travel, especially the Middle East, where many of her novels were based.

In 1914 Agatha met her first husband, Captain Archibald Christie. Three months before they met he had applied  to join the Royal Flying Corps. Once he had been accepted he asked Agatha to marry him. Her mother encouraged her though to wait but in the summer war broke out.
Agatha went to work in a hospital in Torquay, firstly as a nurse and later moving on to the newly opened dispensary. She was quick to learn and completed the examination of Apothecaries in London. Here she learned about the the different kinds of poisons, which she would use as the murder weapon in many of her books.

Working in the hospital had a disturbing effect on her, she feared for her beloved Archie fighting over in France and when he returned on leave for Christmas. The two were married by special licence on Christmas Eve 1914 in Bristol. On Boxing day Archie returned to France. The war years were a great strain on her, she worked tirelessly as a nurse in a surgical ward tending the wounded sent back from the front.

In the Autumn of 1918 Archie returned from France and was posted to the Air Ministry in London. He had returned a hero and was awarded the C.M.G and D.S.O, along with a promotion to Colonel. After the war the couple stayed in London and rented a small flat. Archie secured a job in the city and in late 1919 the couples only child was born Rosalind. The war had not been kind to Archie's health, he had developed sinus trouble and a nervous stomach, but the couple calmly built their life together and Agatha developed a career of her own. In 1916 she wrote her first Detective story, 'THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES'. Though it wasn't until 1920 that it came to the attention of publisher John Lane, when it did, it sold extremely well and Agatha signed a contract to write five more books. 'THE SECRET ADVERSARY' was published in 1922 followed by 'MURDER ON THE LINKS' in 1923.

In 1924 Archie accepted an offer of a job from one of his former schoolmasters Major Belcher. The job was as financial adviser on a ten month trip to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa to drum up support for the British Empire Expedition. Agatha would accompany her husband on the trip with all her travelling and hotel expenses covered.

By the end of the trip, Agatha had completed five books and acquired a literary agent. The couple decided to move from London and bought a property near the golf course in Sunningdale. Archie took up the game with gusto. Working long hours during the week and playing golf all weekend. At the end of 1924, the couple moved again. This time to a larger grander house which they named 'STYLES'. Agatha didn't care too much for golf but she did take out a subscription to nearby Wentworth golf club. In 1926, her mother died and Archie became more preoccupied with golf and his golfing friends. One of these friends was Nancy Neele, the attraction was mutual. At the beginning of August he confessed to Agatha that he was in love with Nancy. Agatha was inconsolable. Archie moved out of the house and Agatha slipped into a deep depression. In the middle of the night she got into her car and drove away from 'Styles'. The next ten days are like a plot from one of her books, a complete mystery. She was found at a hotel in Harrogate suffering from amnesia. When she recovered some time later she agreed to the divorce. The marriage ended in 1928.

In 1929 Agatha took a trip to Baghdad, where she met the famous Archaeologist Leonard Woolley and his wife Katherine. They introduced her to an archaeologist friend of theirs, Max Mallowan. The courtship was quick and the couple were married on September 11th 1930 in Edinburgh. By the same year and despite her earlier problems, Agatha had written thirteen books. John Lane, who Agatha had not had a very good relationship with, had published the first six books. She felt they had taken advantage of her ignorance in business matters. So from 1926 onwards Agatha's British publisher was now William Collins. 'THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD' being the first published title.

After Agatha and Max's marriage, she accompanied him annually on his trips to the Middle East, notably Iraq and Syria, where Agatha gathered material and wrote the books, 'MURDER IN MESOPOTAMIA' 1936, 'DEATH ON THE NILE' 1937, 'APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH' 1938 and 'THEY CAME TO BAGHDAD' 1951.

Mary Westmacott was a pseudonym used by and kept secret for some fifteen years by Agatha Christie. She wrote six books. All described as romantic novels. The name Mary was her second name and Westmacott was some distant relative. The books never got the same recognition as her crime books and were only modestly successful. She wrote the first as early 1930, 'GIANTS BREAD' published by Collins. 'UNFINISHED PORTRAIT' 1934, Collins. 'ABSENT IN THE SPRING' 1944, Collins. 'THE ROSE AND THE YEW TREE' 1948, Heinemann. 'A DAUGHTER'S A DAUGHTER' 1952, Heinemann and 'THE BURDEN' 1956, Heinemann.

In 1946, Agatha wrote the Autobiographical 'COME TELL ME HOW YOU LIVE' published by Collins and under her married name Agatha Christie Mallowan. The book was a record of her travels with Max to the Middle East. Extremely rare to find today, especially in its distinctive dust jacket.

Agatha Christie created probably the two most recognised Detectives of all time. Hercule Poirot first appeared in Christie's very first novel, 'THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES'. The little Belgian Detective always immaculately dressed and with the catchphrase 'The little grey cells', appeared in thirty-three full-length novels and fifty-five short stories. Before Christie killed him off in her novel, 'CURTAIN, POIROT'S LAST CASE' 1975, Collins. She also created Miss Jane Marple and was said to have based the character on her own grandmother. Miss Marple first appeared in the book, 'MURDER AT THE VICARAGE' 1930, Collins. The character lived in the fictional village of St. Mary Mead. Christie described her as "Dear, old and fluffy with a sweet and gentle appearance and her passions in life were knitting and gossip." Miss Marple appeared in twelve books and over twenty short stories.

Agatha Christie's work of course has not only been about writing books. She has written numerous plays for television, theatre and the cinema. She holds the world record for the longest running theatre play, 'THE MOUSETRAP' which premiered on the 25th November 1952 at the Ambassadors theatre, London and is still running today. Twenty-five of her books have been made into feature length movies. Her television work is too numerous to mention. The series Poirot being a notable highlight.

Max Mallowan was Knighted in 1968 for his Archaeological work. Agatha Christie was made an honorary Dame of the United Kingdom in 1971. Agatha Christie died peacefully in 1976 aged eighty-six. The couple shared forty-six years together. She died a year after killing off arguably her greatest creation, Hercule Poirot.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Author Interview with Eric Dontigney

Welcome to my author interview and many thanks to Eric Dontigney for being the first, Eric is the author of fantasy novel, 'Falls' and 'Falls: Revised and Expanded'

1/  Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I grew up in Western New York, in a small community where family farms were still pretty common. I’ve earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy and I’m working a graduate degree. I’ve had a lot of truly awful jobs, including a stint doing telemarketing, working in restaurants, and being part of the cleaning staff at a major retail outlet. At present, I make my living as freelance writer, which is the very best job I’ve ever worked. I currently live in Memphis, TN, which is a place everyone should make a point to visit.

2/  When and what made you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I’m pretty sure that what made me decide I wanted to be a writer was the first time someone gave me money to write. It’s a life-altering experience when you realize that it’s not just a myth that you can get paid to puts words down on paper. It probably sounds a little crass to put it that way, but being a writer is as much a job as a calling. Of course, I also write because it’s arguably the thing I have the most talent for, and it’s an ugly thing to waste talent. Lastly, but not least, I decided I wanted to be a writer because I love writing. If you don’t love writing, you really should find something else to do with your time.
3/  Can you tell us something about your books, genre?

My books fall pretty squarely into the realm of contemporary fantasy, but share enough elements with urban fantasy that they probably also qualify as part of that sub-genre. I suppose the defining element of a contemporary/urban fantasy is that it borrow heavily from the real world in terms of setting and lays a fantastical patina over it. I certainly find that the more you can limit the fantastical elements in a book, the easier it is for readers to buy into the world you build. By making the timeframe more or less current and setting the story in a city, albeit a fictional one, it lets readers draw on their own experiences in building the mental landscape.
At their core, the Sam Branch novels are designed to be fun reading, not something that looks to rewrite your world view or provide stunning insight into the human condition. They’re adventure tales and I did my best to keep the stories focused on the adventure.

4/  Where do you get your ideas from?

I don’t know that I have a better answer to this than any other writer. To some extent, the idea for my Sam Branch books stems out of my background in philosophy. A big part of philosophy is analyzing structures. So, I analyzed some of the structures you commonly see in fantasy novels. What I came up with was that there is almost always some kind of council or informal government that sets rules for magic users in fantasy novels. Then I asked myself, what happens if you have a portion of the population that can wield magic, but no formal hierarchy for controlling those people?
I’m also fascinated by the question of how people deal with having power, in any form. In a fantasy novel, magic stands as the analogue for all other kinds of power. Some people have a lot of it and some people don’t, but what happens when you give a lot of power to someone that doesn’t want it? Will they be as susceptible to corruption as anyone else or will they go down a different road?
In the big picture, I think my ideas come from my unconscious filtering new information through my own particular fixations, like power and structure. 

5/  Are you working on a new book at the moment?

I’m actually in the home stretch of editing and revising a new novel in the Samuel Branch universe. I took some time to clean up and expand the first Branch novel, Falls, and then re-released it as a lead-in for the new book, Turns. Once the chaos of releasing and promoting Turns dies down a little, I’ll be getting to work on the third, as yet untitled, Branch novel. I’m also developing a short story set in the same universe, but told from the viewpoint Carmichael, one of the other characters in the first and second books.

6/  What are your ambitions concerning your writing career?

Oh, the usual, I expect. Fame. Glory. Hordes of fans mobbing bookstores at midnight on release dates. Christopher Nolan and Peter Jackson engaged in a bidding war for the movie rights to my books. Mostly, though, I’d like to get to that place where I can write novels full-time and tell stories that are compelling enough that people want to come back for the next book.

7/  Which writers inspire you?

I think the writers I find most inspiring are Neil Gaiman and Harlan Ellison. I think what I find so amazing about both of those writers is the skill with which they transition between different forms of writing. While I have no doubt they make it look easier than it is, both seem to shift effortlessly from straight prose narratives to screenplays and essays. Any one of those forms can take a lifetime to really master and both Gaiman and Ellison do them all with an unnatural level of skill.

8/  What book are you reading at present?

I’m usually reading 4-10 books. At present, I’m working on a hilarious novel called “Life Knocks” by Craig Stone. I’m also reading a fascinating book called “A Creator’s Guide To Transmedia Storytelling” by Andrea Philips and a book about special obligations in ethics called “Boundaries and Allegiances” by Samuel Scheffler.

9/  What are your thoughts on reviews, good and bad?

For the most part, I think reviews are a good thing. Most reviewers seem to write reviews out of a genuine love for the written word and a desire to share that love in some way. I think where reviews become a bad thing is when the reviewer has prejudged the work based on genre. Some of the big name reviewers seem to see it as their calling to denigrate anything that is not “literary fiction.” I see little value in that, since not every writer aspires to write “Literature” and much of the work that is considered literary genius is boring, overwrought crap.  
10/  What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Do you mean what advice would I offer other than write every single day, including weekends and holidays? Read books outside of the genre you want to write. If all you read are thrillers and you want to write thrillers, then you’re probably going to end up writing something painfully derivative. Give your imagination other material with which to work. Develop an obsession with 3rd Century pottery techniques or genetically modified crops or the House of Romanov and you’ll probably find your writing takes new and interesting turns.
11/ Do you have any advice on how to market your books?

Be persistent, but don’t be relentless. I sometimes see indie writers that post links to their Amazon pages via social media sites up to 20 times a day. That kind of relentless marketing has actually turned me off to books I might otherwise have purchased and read. Also, in this day and age, you’re never just marketing a book; you’re marketing yourself as a public figure. It seems to me that you need to build up something of a cult of personality, at least if you want to make it as an indie author. Doing that means watching what appears on your social networking profiles, twitter feeds, and your own blog. If being controversial is part of what you’re selling, than be controversial, but be ready to defend every single statement and image you’ve ever made public. I think it also means you have to engage in what I call “limited disclosure.” You have to be willing share a portion of your personal life or inner mental world with the public at large. For the sake of every relationship in your life, though, don’t talk about your friends, family or lovers without asking them first.

12/  What would you consider to be the worst thing about being an indie author?

You have to manage every element of the publishing process. There are so many things that need to happen, from finding a decent editor and procuring cover art to formatting files in a way that the publisher’s software can read it. It’s very easy to miss an important detail and that is all before you ever get to the issue of actually marketing the book.
13/  What do you like to do when you’re not writing, hobbies etc?

There are times when I’m not writing? There isn’t a lot of free time in my world at present. Working on the Sam Branch universe is, essentially, my hobby. When I’m not working on Branch-related material, or writing for clients, or working on coursework for my Masters degree, I like to cook. When time permits, I also like to dabble in painting and I do try to build time into my schedule for pleasure reading. There are rumors that I’ve been spotted at local restaurants and pubs, but they, like the Loch Ness Monster, remain unsubstantiated.

14/  How long on average does it take you to write a book, what is your schedule?

Having only written two books to completion, I don’t have a good sense of how long it takes me to write a book. The first one was written over the course of about six months, give or take. The second one was written over the course of about 2-3 years. I tend to write in fits and starts because I have other obligations, like paying work and graduate school. I’m hoping to buckle down a little more on the third book and have it on the market within 12-18 months.
15/  What is your favourite positive saying?

“Eighty percent of success is showing up.” ~Woody Allen
I’ve found that to be very true. You may not be in top form every single day, but you can still accomplish a lot just by showing up.

16/  Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your books?

If I was going to pick an actor to play Sam Branch, it would probably be Ryan Reynolds. I think he’s got just enough of the everyman quality, along with a near-perfect deadpan, to play Branch the way I wrote him. As for the other two central characters in the book, Jean and Carmichael, I think I would cast Anne Hathaway and Matt Bomer. Anne Hathaway has enough gravitas to give Jean the depth she needs. Matt Bomer has controlled smooth down to a fine art and that is Carmichael through and through.
17/  Who did your fabulous book covers?

The cover art for Falls was painted by the very talented Heather Ketcham. The cover art for Turns, the new Sam Branch novel, was painted by me.

18/  What is your favourite movie and why?

What an impossible question to answer. If I had to pick just one movie, it would probably be the 1952 film, The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. As to why, I think that film is one of John Wayne’s best performances. The movie had a great script. Also, who doesn’t love Maureen O’Hara?

19/  Where can you see yourself in 5 years time?

I really couldn’t even guess. In an ideal world, I’d be writing novels full-time.

20/  Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?

I’d love to meet Neil Gaiman. He wrote American Gods. That man is my writing hero.
21/ What is your favourite takeaway food?

Does pizza qualify? If so, then I’d say pizza. Generally, though, I prefer to cook my own meals.
Where can you be reached?

Facebook page:

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Monday, 19 November 2012

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

'No Write To Die' Re-edited...

I have just re-edited 'No Write To Die' and relaunched it on Amazon as a 2nd Edition. The reason for this is, as a writer, I rely on feedback and reviews from my readers. I have had a few reviews commenting on the grammatical errors and typos within the book. I wholeheartedly hold my hands up to this. Originally when the book was ready to publish. My proofreader advised me that it wasn't ready, she had only skimmed over it and needed to thoroughly go through it again. I ignored her and went ahead and published. A lesson well learnt, so for that I apologise. The majority of comments that I have received have not been critical of the story or plot or characters, but solely on the errors contained within. Personally as a writer, I get lost in what I am doing. I enter a zone where all I do is pound away at the keyboard like a man possessed. The typos and grammatical mistakes are obviously evident. I then pass it over to my proofreader, (bless her) and say "Sort this out".
Fellow scribes can probably identify with this process, hey we can't all be perfect.
So to sum up, I admit my mistakes, I thank my readers for the justified criticism and hopefully, I have learnt a valuable lesson. Amazon US. Amazon UK.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Alzheimers and the insurance man

I have not personally had any dealings with sufferers of Alzheimer's. Nobody in my family has ever contracted this terrible disease nor any personal friends that I am aware of. So I am not writing this post with any degree of expertise or like I said experience, but I have come into contact with people who have been affected by it. On two separate occasions and both work related. I will start with my most recent engagement, which came about through my job and hobby as a gardener. (Yes I am not only a brilliant writer, I also cut lawns!)
Now firstly, may I add that I do tend to inject humour into most of my ramblings, but assure you that I am not being flippant in any way, it is just the way I am and I mean no offence or bad taste what so ever. So I would just like to apologise beforehand if I say something untoward.
Anyway in my capacity as a gardener, alot of my customers are elderly, which I always find quite sad in itself. Most of them are very proud of their gardens, have tended them for years and because of age or illness or forms of incapacitation, cannot do now what they have done most of their lives. The look of helplessness and frustration on their faces can be most upsetting. Before I tar every geriatric with the same brush, may I add that I do have 3 customers who are well into their nineties and are still very able bodied and possess wit as sharp as a tack, so I hope you can see that I am not generalising here.
My first story centres on a client called Janet, who is not elderly at all. She is in her mid-fifties and works as a school-teacher. She has a very small garden and rings me maybe twice a year to come and basically give her tiny patch a spring/autumn cut-back. In my role as a garden tidier, it is written in the handbook that I must drink copious amounts of tea and chomp on as many biscuits as is physically possible. Not my rules, it is clearly written in black and white in the 'Gardeners Handbook' by Ivor Mower, page 8, chapter 3, paragraph 4, subsection 2.
So when Janet brought out said tray with tea and biscuit items a plenty, I had to stop and partake. Including the usual passing of the time via meaningless conversation, which included the weather, (we are so English) work related topics, how well the garden looks and the price of bread. (it's shocking).
During our workman/customer ramblings we touched on the subject of families, to which Janet mentioned that her mother had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Now as I have gotten older, I have become the typical male, that thinks every time I get an ache or a pain anywhere about my person, I am due to keel over, be struck down by an incurable or rush to the nearest solicitors (spit), to make out my last will and testament. So when she mentioned that her mother had suddenly been affected by severe memory loss. My ears pricked up and I tried to remember everything that had happened to me during my life, becoming increasingly more worried when I could not remember anything before last Wednesday.
Now on a more serious note, Janet's mother lived in Dorset, a round trip of approximately 6 hours every weekend, which was taking its toll on the poor woman. She had no other family and the sole responsibility of care, had suddenly been thrust upon her. She had enlisted the help of local social services to go into her mother's house three times a day to make sure she was ok, eating and taking care of herself. Just because she had suddenly been struck down by Alzheimer's, it didn't ultimately mean that she had become an invalid overnight. On the contrary, the woman still kept a nice clean home, looked after herself and even still maintained her own garden. The worrying aspect of it all according to Janet, was the short term memory loss which occurred on a daily basis. Things like, leaving saucepans on gas rings, putting objects in the wrong place, example being, she would fold towels and tea towels and place them in the oven. Newspapers piled up in the fridge. Television remote control found in the garden. The next problem which occurred only days later was the confusion with money. Too much and not enough. After the window cleaner had cleaned the windows, he was offered £100 for his trouble in £20 notes. Luckily he had been a family friend for many years and after declining the offer, got straight on the phone to Janet to report the incident. The poor woman had also had a conversation on the phone with Janet and was convinced that her house was being sold from under her and that an offer of £200 would be fair and she wouldn't accept a penny less. In context farcical and sadly comical examples, but the real hurt came when she began to forget members of her own family.
The previous weekend Janet had gone to see her mother as usual and arrived around lunchtime. She let herself in and looked around the house. There was no sign of the old woman. She searched every room and took a saucepan, which had been boiling off the stove; incident number one. She wandered out to the garden and looked around. Walking down the path she headed for the potting shed at the bottom of the garden. The door was slightly open. Peering inside she was alarmed to see her mother sitting in her nightdress on an old stool. The old woman looked at her vacantly.
"I'm not coming out," she said indignantly. "not 'til Graham gets home."
Graham was Janet's late father. He had been dead over 20 years. Janet stood in silence for a second. The shock leaving her numb.
She started talking to her mother in a soothing manner and managed to walk her back to the house. Janet sat down with her and they talked. Her long term memory was fine, she recalled her childhood, brothers, sisters and her life with Janet's father, but yesterday was a blur. She eventually recognised her daughter but according to Janet, a few minutes out of her sight and she was forgotten once more.
I found this to be an incredibly sad story and felt deep sympathy for Janet. She is the person who is having to cope with her mother's illness, more so in a way than her mother is. Physically the old woman is fine, apart from thinking it's 1950. The woman is not a danger to anyone else, only to herself. She needs constant care in case she forgets things, boiling pans, naked flames. It is often said not to grieve for the ones who are gone, but to grieve for the ones who are left. I can see the relevance in this statement now.
This was some weeks ago and I have not spoken to Janet since and so I don't know what her next course of action was. She did mention to me at the time, that a nursing home seemed to be the only option and I would hazard a guess that was the route she took. I believe that medical solutions are limited in the case of Alzheimer's and very rarely, if at all patients recover or get any better, which unfortunately doesn't make it any easier for the people they mentally leave behind.

My second meeting with Alzheimer's happened many years ago, in fact more years than I care to remember (no pun intended). I had taken on a job as an insurance collections man. Now before technology took over and everybody paid things with direct debits, credit cards and the Internet, alot of Insurance companies would send agents out door to door to collect premiums. I remember as a child, every Friday night around the same time, two knocks on the door, one from the rent man and another from the insurance man. The only other knock came on a Tuesday night and that was from the catalogue man. Even as a child, I couldn't work out why he came on a Tuesday, it was obvious to me then that everyone got paid on Friday and people were always skint by Monday, no wonder he never got paid. I quickly understood when my mother used to shout,
'Everybody get behind the settee and be quiet,"
How I fell into my collections job now, I can't really recall, I think it may have been through a friend of a friend or a neighbour. I only remember turning up one wet Monday morning, wearing an ill-fitting suit outside a big glass office in the centre of town. The training was sparse, basically here's a book, go to these addresses, ask for money and write it down again on a card. How times have changed. The first few occasions, I was not allowed to go out alone. I was accompanied by an older man called Bernie. A good Company man who had been with the firm thirty-five years man and boy.
"Be strong with them, young man," he would say, "no excuses, Friday is payday."
Even at that age, I didn't understand the concept of life insurance, but when your 18, you think that you are going to live forever anyway.
Whilst out with Bernie, I was not allowed to speak,
"Watch and learn, young man." He would be forever saying. Watch and learn! What I thought? Knock on the door, say your lines, collect the money and write it on the card. That seemed to be the whole job in a nutshell. After a couple of weeks I was allowed out on my own. I was given a list of clients and told to go and collect their premiums. It was a completely new round to the one I had accompanied Bernie on. The first two collections were fine, money taken, card signed. The third door I knocked on was a bit different. After a short wait, I decided to walk away and on to the next. I opened my book and was about to write down, no answer. When the door creaked open, a little old man stood there, unshaven and dressed in pyjamas.
"Mr Davis?" I enquired.
"Yes!" he whispered
"Alliance Victoria, I have come to collect your Insurance premiums?"
He rubbed his chin and scratched his head before inviting me into his front room.
"Wait here young man," he said, "I will go and get the money."
With that he disappeared into the next room. I stood tapping my book on my leg and looking aimlessly around.
A few seconds later, he walked back into the room, looked at me and gave an almighty scream..."Who are you? What are you doing in my house?"
I looked at him, bewilderment written all over my face, "Mr Davis, I am from Alliance Victoria, I have come to collect your Insurance premiums?"
His expression changed, he reached over and took my hand tapping it slowly, "I know, wait here young man, I will go and get the money."
A few seconds later, he returned again, "Aaahhh!" he screamed "Who are you? What are you doing in my house?"
By this time, I knew things weren't quite right. He stared at me with a vacant look, as if he was trying to picture who I was. I thought I would try once more.
"Mr Davis, Alliance Victoria, I have come to collect your premiums?" This time I showed him my book with the Company logo on.
"I know who you are!" he smiled, "I have been with you for years, now wait here, I will go and get your money."
He walked to the door and stopped, turning back around he looked at me hard for a second. "Who did you say you were again?" he quizzed.
I took him by the hand and walked him through the door, "I'm from Alliance Victoria," I kept repeating. "Come to collect your Insurance premiums for Alliance Victoria."
"Yes, I know..." he whispered.
I eventually collected his money and signed his card, leaving the old man sitting in his chair. I was just left with a feeling of sadness. Back at the office, various enquiries about Mr Davis just fell on deaf ears. Nobody seemed to know or care about the old man just as long as he paid his £1.04 every week. It left me thinking that maybe the £1.04 he spent should be used now to look after him rather than when he was dead.
The next week, Mr Davis house was in darkness and his curtains were closed. I gave a feeble knock to his door, not really wanting or expecting him to answer...he didn't.
I left the Company the following week, I felt I needed a reason to do a job and for the life of me, I could not think of one for this.
I know care for this particular illness is alot better now and I applaud that, it just reminds me of something my father used to say, "Son look after the young and the old and let the ones in the middle take care of themselves."
Maybe they should teach that in schools.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Free Promo weekend

FREE BOOK PROMOTION: No Write To Die, the 1st Sam Lucas thriller, I will be giving my 1st book away free this weekend on Amazon 15th & 16th September, have a good read on me. Amazon US. Amazon UK.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Released today on Amazon, 'CZECH MATE' The 2nd Sam Lucas Thriller  Amazon UK   Amazon US

Monday, 3 September 2012

Czech Mate book cover, work in progress...

Working on new cover for 'CZECH MATE' the start pic, gonna change a bit me thinks...

Saturday, 4 August 2012

How many books do I need on Amazon!

I listed my 1st book, 'No Write To Die' on Amazon a month ago. I thought "Great, look at me, I'm a self-published author, everybody wants to buy my fantastic super duper riviting earth shattering absolutely definately next best selling out of this world book." I wrote a few tweets, told a few jokes, built a blog and opened a facebook page. "Phew" I thought, "I have worked really hard!" I then sat back and waited and waited and waited. The odd sale here and there, (Thank you friends) but where was the avalanche? Why wasn't I inundated with back-patting reviews? Why hadn't I climbed the Amazon ladder of success? Why wasn't my ranking within the top 10, instead of 32 thousand and something. So I thought, "Hey wait a minute, maybe I need to do something more here!"
You've read all of these success stories of guys and gals who have written a book, threw it on Amazon and within a fortnight are knocking on the door of ranking #1.
What I have noticed though, is that the secret is either being sold in another £4.99 Amazon novella or is being drip-fed on various web-sites and blogs, wrapped in marketing jargon and technical bullshit. Now, all my techy bull was used up building this blog and trying to get my followers into double figures on twitter. So all I wanted was a hold-my-hand and lead me through the marketing minefield A-Z guide. If I have got to put a 'Whizz-bang' counter on my blog, that wakes all readers up at the book buying witching hour, then I want a join the dot guide to show me how to do it. Surely that's not a lot to ask.
Ok, calm down, rant over. Afterall why should anybody tell me for free how to generate thousands of sales. So I thought right, I will get out my comfy armchair and do a bit of surfing and wait for it... I hate it...but here it is....Marketing!!

So first things first, my number one discovery and top of the bleeding obvious chart, was the number of books I actually have for sale on Amazon. This throws up several conundrums. If someone buys a book by a first time author, the author is unknown, has no cred, could be a one book only writer, a one time major winner. So this could leave the reader either wanting more and being frustrated by this literary genius, who hasn't got another book in them or isn't willing to take the risk in the first place.
So what's the answer Mr Clever Clogs Tom, I hear you call. My father always told me to do the 'What comes natural, what would you do? And the bleeding obvious (I love that saying)' path of choice.
STICK MORE BOOKS ON, eek I can hear you all squeal, "You mean write another book Tom?"
Yes, write another book, show the great book buying public that you're not a one-book-wonder, that you can write another masterpiece, tell a great story, invent fantastic characters. You did it once, so do it again. The top sellers on Amazon invariably have a catalogue of titles to choose from and that is why they stay at the top; because they build a list of loyal followers who are eager to read and ultimately, buy from their FAVOURITE author.
In the last month to six weeks, my volume of sales has been steady, I have made some great friends, spoke to some lovely people, who undoubtedly love my 1st book and rate it very highly, (Many thanks) but the one question I keep getting asked again and again is, "WHEN DOES YOUR NEXT BOOK COME OUT".
Luckily enough for me, my next 2 books are due out within the next two weeks and I will hopefully keep my small but ever expanding group of loyal followers, but to be honest, if I could not deliver to them, I would expect them to move on and find another author to follow.
A Final word: Keep Writing!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012


The 1st Sam Lucas thriller will be available for download in one weeks time and counting.

Friday, 22 June 2012

2 weeks and counting

The 1st Sam Lucas thriller will be available for download in two weeks time and counting.