Back Tae Books…

…and the power of networking, friendship and goodwill. In the picture is Gibbous House’s page in the Angus Library catalogue. Ecstatic though I am at the thought of “ma wee book” being available in a real, live library, I thought I’d share the story of how it got there.

One of my former bosses in the Royal Air Force spotted me on Linkedin and dropped me a line to see how I was. I’d bumped into him at a Squadron open-day the year before. We got on remarkably well. This fellow often goes down as everyone’s favourite boss on the famous 51st – and he was and is a genuinely good egg. The thing is, it was me who was the a-hole, for most of my time on the Squadron: I wasn’t a good subordinate and it may be that I had come very close to an overnight posting to somewhere not very nice. However, by the time I left, (March 13th 2005, last day of service, thank you) there weren’t many places left as a punishment posting. Besides, everyone was getting “jiffed*” every couple of years for a detachment in Afghanistan. 51 Sqn was quite lucky, at that time. We just had to fly over these places, but there were “opportunities”, if only temporary, to get rid of the “spanner in the works” or the “square peg”. But they never did in my case and I often wonder why.

Me, centre background with not my favourite boss at a quite different shindig

Anyway at the Squadron shindig, last year, I mentioned to my ex-boss that my book had finally been published and he said he’d give it a read. Just today he let me know that he had convinced Angus and Tayside libraries to acquire 6 copies of GH for the region as I was a “young and aspiring Scottish author”. So here’s one last salute for a really nice man and I’m sorry I was such a pain in the proverbial.

*jiffed=done over, unfairly treated, etc.


Feria: The May Fair. This year’s poster might be a rather more sexy Hepburn in Almodóvar’s remake of “My Fair Lady”. Every year, during the last week of May, our town lets its hair down. The Fairground rides open with a half-price afternoon for the children. The Recinto Ferial transforms from a dowdy market square to a cacophonous pageant of calliope music, the latest download hits from “Eye Tu-nés”, the barkers’ calls and the screams from those who will go faster.

Later, at night, “por la tarde” – around 10 P.M – the marquees will be full of local “personajes”. The Recinto is right next to El Bajondillo, the town’s Gypsy Quarter. The night will be full of the glint of gold teeth and raucous laughter as cousins two and three times removed meet for the only time this year.

Bankers, builders and boys pretending to be grown up will rub shoulders on the terraces of the bars and cafés. The bankers and builders will seal deals that may not cross the urban planning desk at the town-council. Boys will look at girls – and women – and won’t drink much. They never do. I often think how this might turn out if this small town fair were in Altrincham instead of Alhaurín. This first day, the day for the children, leaks into the night, all but the smallest children will still be around at midnight. Even then, young parents may be seen with a sleeping tot in a pushchair.

The weather has turned. There will be no temperatures below 25 degrees C until the end of August now. Despite this, the Guiris are easy to spot, in their shorts and flip-flops in the dark of the night and the neon of the rides. The locals will be in their near-best clothes.

Friday and Saturday are the best days. On Friday, most will abandon the office, building site or avocado field by 1 or 2 p.m. There are smiles for everyone, even La Suegra – the mother-in-law – a friend once told me. He was a bachelor though, so he may have been demonstrating an unjustified optimism. The streets will seethe. Cars will stop on corners, roundabouts and pedestrian crossings, windows wound down for the conversations family members and one-time friends have been meaning to have for – well, 12 months.

On Saturday, the colour and the clothes paint the white backdrop of the town’s buildings with vibrant reds,yellows, blues, greens and – of course – thanks to the other of the town’s Hermandades – purple. I am surprised every year at the number of people who are in traditional dress. The men with their impossibly tight trousers and bum-freezer jackets and the women with their tight-waisted dresses which their sister or best friend has helped them get into. No-one could resist smiling when the May Queen of 1972 walks arm in arm with her sister along the street. The sparkle in her eyes is a clue to why she won the accolade all those years ago.

¡Disfrutadlo, Todos!

Multum in Parvo*

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p { margin-bottom: 0.25cm; line-height: 120%; I came across Dan Malikin on twitter. I’d tagged a link to some nonsense I’d written myself with #FlashFiction. Dan gave it a retweet. I found Dan had a book on Amazon. Since I live outside the UK I couldn’t download the Kindle version. I contacted Dan and he sent me a copy via e-mail. I’m glad he did.

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Smiling Exercises by Dan Malakin consists of 30 small but perfectly formed pieces of flash-fiction. I am put in mind of some of Aliyah Whiteley’s terrific work as Dan manages to imbue the truly bizarre with just enough of the mundane to make his tales entirely believable. The collection kicks off with “Plugs” – a tale of incompatibility displaced and discovered – and passes through some truly memorable writing with an economy of language which is refreshing to see. I found “Mirror” particularly intriguing, but I expect everyone will find their own favourite.
Several of the stories in this collection won prizes or were singled out for special mention in competitions, Dan’s work has been short-listed twice for the Bridport Prize.
At the end of the book there are some chapters from Dan’s novel in progress, The Vaccine Slaves, which whetted my own appetite for the day when it is published. 

Originally from the wetlands of Manchester, Dan now lives in the beautiful village of Holloway in North London, right next to the prison, with his wife, daughter, and Boddington the PBGV.
In the ten years he’s been writing seriously, he’s had over a hundred stories published, and been shortlisted twice for both the Bridport Prize and science fiction’s Aeon Award. He is also an Editor at The Forge Literary Magazine.
In 2013, he completed an MA in Creative Writing at Brunel University, and since then has been working on a novel, a thriller called The Vaccine Slaves.
You can download Smiling Exercises from Amazon here
Dan’s web-site is here 

* Much in Little  

We Are Not Alone…

Having just read a blog-post entitled “Why Bother to Blog?”, I felt shamed into writing another post myself. It is a question I have often asked myself. As you can see I am most desultory in putting anything out there. However, I believe it’s a grave mistake to keep banging on about your latest meisterwerk. I mean, everybody you know has bought a copy, your two regular blog-followers have thought about it, but are waiting to see it at number one in Amazon’s Books About Off-Grid Survivalist Romance list and – yes – your sarcastic, ironic, thoroughly-British nature prevents you from waxing enthusiastic about your OWN work. I mean, it’s so frightfully “infra-dig”, is it not?

In spite of the foregoing, I just thought I’d share this. 

My novel was crowd-funded (don’t panic! I’m not asking for your money, it’s published and on sale at all good virtual and even some real book-stores, though not necessarily near you). This does not mean it was any kind of vanity project. Nor was it self-published. In fact, it was very like being published by a “real” publisher. Why? Because Unbound is a”real” publisher: Pitch, synopsis, outline, Thanks/No Thanks, manuscript, structural edit, rewrites, copy-edit, cover-design, type-setting, and finally, publication. That makes it sound easy, but it isn’t.

My own experience was a little different. Through no-one’s fault – something to do with a change of personnel – my book was en-route to the type-setter before someone (thank goodness) realised that it couldn’t be published as it was. Another year’s work was required on the manuscript both from me and my very generous Editor Rachael Kerr, Unbound’s Editor-at-large. Here’s the thing: that very serious problem meant that my book cost twice as much to produce.

Did I have to raise more money? No. Think about that. Unbound have taken twice the risk on me and my book. Support this unusual and, I believe, principled publisher, buy my book, or pledge for someone else’s book, Unbound deserve your support.

A Very Important Bookshop

I came across this bookshop on a random blog-post that I stumbled across thanks to someone’s twitter feed. The post is well worth a read. It draws a parallel between the upsurge in vinyl sales and those of “real” books. It’s aimed at indie authors. I’m not sure that I fall into that category. Is Unbound an independent publisher or not? It has a distribution deal with PRH, but they have no curatorial/editorial input into what Unbound publish, I believe.
Anyhow, if you look at the lollipop-cum-bookmark in the photo, I’d really like the Pipe and Thimble Bookstore to stock my book, even if SOCAL isn’t a likely source of hundreds – or even dozens – of buyers for Gibbous House.

I haven’t read IVSage (the blog-post’s author)’s, book, but I’ll be looking it up on Amazon and, if I like what I see, I’ll be buying a copy. 

Only thing is, I’ll be missing out on a lollipop. If you’re ever out SOCAL way, buy a book in the Pipe and Thimble and tell them you want two lollipops, yours and mine.