Bring Out Your Goods & Your Chattels

In an hour, the first people are coming to look at buying my house. And if I’m selling the house, downsizing, I might as well sell the furniture as well. Some of it or all of it. There isn’t anything really valuable. The most we ever paid for anything was probably the sofa, which was about £800 and that was a mistake. Next most was my red Bauhaus wardrobe, which was about half that, along with the church pew. The wardrobe lives near Ampthill and seems at home there. The pew, well like some other bits of furniture here, that’s a long and different story.

 

My partner, significant other, my girlfriend, my ex, my whichever and all of these, lives in flat in a converted church in a Glasgow suburb. We bought the pew together, along with a dainty little chest of drawers and a nice little table. Both of them were pine, nineteenth century, not very valuable but rather nicely, finely done.

 

I still have the big pine cupboard, the pot cupboard and the mahogany table I bought for my first flat in 1986, twenty-seven years ago. The mortgage would have been all paid off now.  It seems like almost a lifetime ago and for some people I supposed it is. It’s enough time to be a grandparent, without any unseemly haste. I bought all three of these things in a tiny shop on the north side of Upper Street in Islington, a bit east of the Slug & Lettuce, where I always meant to have breakfast on a Sunday but couldn’t afford it. It was the kind of shop you’d never see there now, but all of Islington was a different place in those days. I think they had a single light bulb to light the whole shop, the single left-over tiny room crammed full of solid old furniture, all of it exactly what I needed. A pine cupboard that looked as if it came from a French farmhouse and maybe it did. A solid Victorian table, a little on the small side that was my kitchen table once and my computer table now. A pot cupboard that never really worked out, just a little bit not deep enough to work as a set of shelves with doors to hide them.

 

The thing is, these things are mine. It’s not just I’ve had them for years. I found these things. I went to the shop, the little lock-up that was squatting in Upper Street before the rents went sky-high, when impossibly enough the landlord couldn’t get anyone to take the retail space near the King’s Head. I’ve moved them around from my flat to north of the park, to Abbots Langley, to Yoxford and now to here in Tunstall. I think I’ll sell the pot cupboard, not before time. Truthfully, the pine cupboard has always been too big for anywhere I’ve ever lived. I’ve never had a French farmhouse. I don’t think I ever will and I certainly don’t have a big van to get it there. It would look better painted, a deep flat red, off-white for the top, rubbed back with steel wool and furniture wax. But that might be for someone else’s life, someone else’s kitchen. I hope they love it too.

 

That kind of Islington is long gone, the same way I’m long gone from there. I don’t know what happened to those two guys selling really nice furniture, cash only, under their single lightbulb, without a till or even a heater in that tiny windowless shop on Upper Street. Except actually, I do.

 

Any more for any more?

 

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UPS & CreateSpace

I sent off the MS of Not Your Heart Away on Tuesday night. Maybe it was Monday. Either way, I thought their idea of delivering a paper proof copy to me by Friday, today, all the way from America to Suffolk was pretty optimistic. I was right. They didn’t do it.

Instead, they sent it via UPS who delivered it yesterday and it wasn’t their fault I wasn’t in. It was wholly my fault I didn’t answer the door this morning, but I was only wearing a dressing gown and trying to concentrate on a TV script I’ve got to finish to first draft by Wednesday week.

Three days, to publish a book in paperback and deliver it 4,000 miles away. It makes traditional publishing schedules look like a bad joke, one Queen Victoria might have been unamused by.

The other good news today was seeing not only that sales on Kindle have actually started, but I also rather more pressingly got the first royalty payments into my bank account. It’s a start.

If you do buy it – and obviously, you should – please leave a review, whatever you think of it.

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On Kindle Now!

 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Not-Your-Heart-Away-ebook/dp/B00BL0DOJ2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1362056221&sr=8-1

Finally, Not Your Heart Away has gone live on Kindle. I’m still waiting for the proofs for the paper edition, which should be with me tomorrow, March 1st, but until then you’ll just have to be digital like Max Headroom for those old enough to remember him. That’s everyone who might or might not recognise an echo of themselves in the book, of course.

So please, if you don’t want to read something by a ghost-writer, if you do want something which isn’t about Agas, failed marriages, the USA or London, you might give this a go.

Half in love with his girlfriend, wholly besotted with someone who isn’t, half obsessional and wholly out of his depth, Ben’s standing on the edge of a cliff he doesn’t even realise is there. But then, so was Claire. The only difference was, she knew it. Click on the picture to get your copy today.

Cafe bar window

 

 

 

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Self-Publishing, Vanity Publishing, Agents and the Press

Last week all of Facebook was treated to the earth-shattering news that Fleet Street Fox had gone to her own book launch and lots of whisky was drunk. Fleet Street Fox, for those who don’t know, is a woman who has a column in the Daily Mirror, who writes occasionally thought-provoking pieces on who said what and what they might have thought about it and whose latter media career is based on a lie. The central conceit is that She Cannot Be Named because she Knows Too Much.

As any good spy knows, the way to maintain anonymity is to publicise your own press launch and make sure your full-face photos go all over the internet. There isn’t even an attempt to say ‘ok, I had to be anonymous before the book came out’. It was just made-up.

The same week I approached a literary agent, one who specialised in fiction. Not ‘my identity has to be kept secret until it doesn’t’ fiction, but literary fiction, a book that didn’t involve me saying how for example, Fleet Street Fox’s ex went off with someone else and how she dealt with it all, with hilarious consequences, but an actual work of fiction, 110,000 words that comprisse Not Your Heart Away.

 

It’s not in the same league as Jordan’s new work of fiction, obviously, the central fiction there being that Jordan/Katie Price had anything at all to do with writing it. As she said, she doesn’t even read them, let alone hammer the keyboard herself. No, much like AA Gill, who used to claim to be dyslexic, everything said to be written by Katie Price isn’t written by Katie Price. Obviously, post-Blair and the White Queen’s mantra that words mean anything you want them to mean, not actually writing anything doesn’t mean she isn’t an author and shouldn’t be described as one by her agents, publishers and publicists.

The agent I contacted helped explain why traditional print media is dying without mentioning blow-up dolls pretending to write books even once. Have you approached any other agents? Well, you better not have, because we don’t want to waste our time. We want a clear eight weeks to read your stuff. We won’t acknowledge getting your email, because that’s how busy and important we are. In fact, most of our readers are so busy that they aren’t reading anything this year, presumably while they’re finding someone to write Jordan’s stuff for her. If we don’t take your stuff on, we won’t tell you. If we don’t talk to you it means we’re not going to be talking to you.

So let me see if I’ve understood this. I send them my stuff. They don’t say if they’ve got it. If I’ve sent it to anyone else they don’t want to know. If they don’t want to do anything with it they won’t tell me and it’ll be two months before they tell me if they do.

The single word response ‘bollocks’ must spring to many people’s lips. It does beg the question, what are agents for?

The answer isn’t to publish your stuff, because CreateSpace and Kindle and a load of others will do that for you, along with a proper real grown-up ISBN code and a paper proof copy.

There seem to be two Big Questions any aspiring author needs to ask themselves:

Q1) Am I Jordan?

Q2) Have I been on TV lately?

If the answer to both questions is no, don’t bother agents. Meanwhile, does anyone have any ideas why book publishing is suffering? Anyone?

 

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Godspeed

Well, it’s done. Final edits of Not Your Heart Away are all done, the synopsis is written and it’s off to Jenny Brown, the literary agents. I hope they like it. I can watch The Sweeney on TVCatchup now.

Next, I don’t know. I might write the rather odd story about the things that happened writing the book. On the other hand it would make a decent screenplay, with UFOs, car crashes, 1970s music, the National Front, dope and quite a lot of sex and Lebanonism as well.

On the third hand, I’ve still got an idea about a man who worked in the Twin Towers and went out for a coffee just before they came down.  That one’s been gnawing at me. As someone said at the time, they weren’t all heroes. They can’t all have been missed.

 

 

 

 

 

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Not Your Heart Away On Kindle

Just starting to finish editing the Not Your Heart Away MS for Kindle. It’s taking a lot longer than I thought it would. I can’t quite believe I typed that badly. But I also can’t believe Microsoft Word is such a pile of crap that it leaves in things that simply aren’t there on screen. Quite where it gets its ideas about English is something else again.

So what’s it about?

Ben met Claire in the late 1970s, the summer before everyone left for university. And in many ways, that was it. After a magical trip to the theatre Ben discovers she’s about to leave for America, starting a summer job that might just last a lifetime.

After a bohemian week of drifting about London and with the sense of the ice cracking under their feet, Ben comes to realise how much she means to him. And then she disappears.

More than twenty years later Ben thinks he’s found her again, thanks to an old school-friend and a little help from Facebook. But the course of true obsession rarely runs smoothly. Neither does friendship, cars, history, wife-swapping or love. Especially not love.

Haunted by the spires and farms of that summer and the blue remembered hills of Claire’s jeans Ben keeps asking himself the question Bob Marley sang at every party back then. Is this love? Is this love that he’s feeling? He wants to know now. Before it’s too late.

 

Meanwhile, back to putting in the hyperlinks on the Contents page. Is there any coffee going?

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Stuff to do

Busy day today. Dogs and SO and her daughter all cavorting around the flat at 06:00 in various states of undress. Dogs then decide they need a wee so a quick pyjama clad trip to the back garden, slinging Barbour over tracky bottoms and sliding feet into brown Lobbs as first available footwear.

Have to Kindle Not Your Heart Away and get it out there, coming to think more and more that agents and publishers are soon going to be pretty much the same as chain-mail manufacturers, really skiled craftsmen that nobody really needs any more. Maybe a few beery blokes doing historical re-enactments will be into them.

I don’t like the idea of Googleopoly but like everything else, that’s what people want. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t buy it so apart from getting on the Richard & Judy show I can’t see what agents are now for. All it takes is a phone call and you either believe in it or there’s not much point churning it out.

Talking of which also working on TV version of Not Your Heart Away, which appeals to me greatly. There are some hugely visual elements of it, the UFO, the shipwreck, the car crashes, all of which would make a brilliant film or TV play.

I’ve re-installed my key customer-interfacing first cross-platform social media node, or Tweetdeck as we call it. Take the dogs out, go to Poundshop to buy them a towel because we’re having a big muddy walk later on, get some script down and Kindle publish the finished book MS.

I think it’s as ready as it’s going to be. This time my cross-platformness needs to be more interfacey.

 

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Total Horsemeat

For the past three weeks the government has, as usual, asked the companies who contribute to the government’s funding if they wouldn’t mind awfully doing something about the fact that ‘value’ food isn’t what people thought it was. Specifically, it was bits of old horses instead of cows. So if the supermarkets and supply chains could possibly get around to doing something about not breaking the law any more, not advertising falsely and not selling meat that was unfit for human consumption that would be much appreciated. No rush, obviously and equally obviously no hint of anyone being prosecuted for breaking the law, unless they were dreadful foreign types in faraway countries.

Our brave supermarketeers were portrayed as victims, this time of the dastardly Eastern Europeans. Sinister crime rings were dumping horses into the food chewed by plucky Brits. Nothing to do with the fact that the supermarkets didn’t know what was in their food and were breaking the law at all.

What happened was this. Tesco, Findus and other major food producers and retailers were caught red-handed with horse-meat in their burgers. First it was supposed to be ‘trace elements’ of DNA in the burgers, the kind of contamination you might get from picking up a pork chop with bare hands. Next it was 29% horse. Now Findus lasagne has been found to be 100% pure horse meat. Last week the head of the Food Standards Agency decided to lie about it on Radio 4. He said that nobody knew how the horse meat had got into the food chain and there was no danger.

Obviously if he didn’t know how the meat got into the food chain he could not know whether it was fit to eat or not. No-body challenged him that I’ve heard. Because fundamentally, we really don’t care.

We want it cheap. Cheap is good. More is better. We want to watch more and more cookery programmes and eat more and more processed meals. Read any Mintel report you like to check the truth of that. I’ve asked in five-star hotels if the eggs were free range and got asked what that meant and then what difference did it make?

When it comes to food, people want to say they care. But as Tesco almost say every day, very little helps.

 

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The Cult of Cheap

This morning I saw an advert for some writing that needed doing.

“I need six articles for my website.”

Ok, what about?

“Six different medical topics about how nutrition can prevent these six things.”

Go on.

“You’ll need to do the research yourself.’

Uhuh.

“In a week. For $20.”

I saw another ad, for help wanted to do a market research survey. I’ve done these for 20 years. I’ve worked on them all around the world. I sort of know what I’m talking about on this topic, on a good day. But not in web world I don’t.

Someone wanted to survey IT workers. Actually, they didn’t. they wanted to say they had done it. They wanted to survey one company and extrapolate the results for the entire industry. By email, obviously, as that sounds nice and cheap. Yes, I’d have to find 100 people’s email adresses. Didn’t we mention that? Well, that’s officially not a problem and if it is then you’re being negative.

The normal email response rate is well below 3%. To get 100 people that means the company would have to have at least 3000 IT workers. Given that a company is likely to have other workers as well that means the entire ‘survey’ would be skewed towards just the very biggest companies.

Then they wanted ‘inferences’ drawn from the quantitative research. Let’s think about this a minute. We’re measuring how many and using results that say things like 59% t ‘infer’ what people mean. That is what qualitative research is for.

I estimated if this job was done properly it would cost between £5,000 and £10,000, depending how much ‘inference’ you preferred to actually knowing what was going on. But most of all I recommended not even starting it this way, because this excuse for research was just going to produce nonsense. Give me a call, I said. I’ll talk you through it.

Difficult to work with, obviously. They didn’t call. They put the job out to someone else. For £158. Nice and cheap. And a total waste of every one of those pounds.

It is endemic. It is not about the recession. It is about a fundamental attitude shift commoditising life, where cost has to be inversely, perversely correlated with value; the message that cheap is good and more is better.  You cannot get something for nothing. Ask the Daily Mail, or any of the other market champions who use half their space to condemn ‘scroungers’ who want to ‘get something for nothing’ and the other half telling people that’s exactly what they can buy.

And maybe that’s the key word: buy. Better value equals lower price. And anyone who says otherwise is a cheat. Welcome to the brave new world.

 

 

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Total Horse Burgers

Once again the food chain has been shown to be essentially lies. The supermarkets don’t know where their food comes from, nor do the wholesalers. The people who eat it mostly don’t care.

The issue isn’t that the meat isn’t what it says it is. That’s bad enough. The real issue is the barrage of insulting lies the government, every government, feels obliged to trot out to protect contributors to Party funds.

“We don’t know what’s in the food chain,’ said the head of the Food Standards Agency. ‘There is no danger.’

If a corner-shop had been caught selling meat that was unfit for human consumption – all horsemeat in the UK, by definition – they would be shut, immediately.

Have you seen any supermarkets closing?

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