Saturday 31 May 2014

Self Publishing claims by Smashwords founder

Smashwords founder, Mark Coker recently made bold claims that the self publishing market will capture 50% of the eBook market by 2020. In an article for the Huffington Post, Coker wrote -" By my estimates, self-published ebooks will account for 50 percent of ebook sales by 2020."

He then went onto set out a point by point explanation of why he believed this to be the case. The full article can be read HERE
  1. Print will decline as a book-reading format -- More readers will continue transitioning from print to screens. The transition to screens will be driven by the low prices, selection, exceptional discoverability and instant reading pleasure delivered by ebooks.
  2. Brick and mortar bookstores are disappearing -- Physical bookstores will continue their march into the sunset with more store closures in the years ahead. I'm not happy about this, but I don't see the trend reversing unless bookstores start serving wine and pot brownies in their cafes.
  3. The perceived value of publishers will decline in the eyes of writers -- As the importance of print distribution declines, the importance of publishers will decline. Prior to the rise of ebooks, publishing was a print-centric game. Publishers controlled the printing press and the all-important access to retail stores. Print distribution remains an important glue that holds many writers to their traditional publishers. When publisher stickiness decreases, writers will be tempted to explore the indie author camp.

Amazon's fight with publisher affects customers

Amazon are once again flexing their muscles and the company which is in dispute over eBook pricing with publisher, Hatchette have told customers to buy Hatchette titles from other companies as they are not keeping Hatchette titles in stock. The eCommerce giant said it has been ordering less stock from Hachette and stopped letting customers pre-order books by Hachette authors, which include JK Rowling, James Patterson and Michael Connelley. Hachette said the changes affect about 5,000 titles. The changes had been widely reported but Amazon had not commented on them previously.

This is not the first time the online giant have fought publishers in such an aggressive manner, but this time many bestselling authors have become involved and Amazon are very clearly being seen as the bad guy.
Amazon and Hachette are reportedly at odds over terms for eBook prices, at a time when Amazon is in a position of strength and vulnerability. The Seattle-based company is the most powerful force in the book market, believed to have a share of more than 60% of eBook sales and at least a third of book sales overall. Rivals have struggled to compete with Amazon's discounts and customer service.But recent earnings reports have been disappointing and Amazon's stock prices, which surged for years despite narrow profits, have dropped sharply in 2014.

Numerous Hachette authors have criticised Amazon in recent weeks, including Sherman Alexie and James Patterson, who on his Facebook page noted that the purchase of books written by him, Malcolm Gladwell, Nicholas Sparks and others had been made more difficult. Some author's have also charged Amazon with a large drop in their royalties and Amazon have responded with a pool of money set aside to compensate affected authors.

Friday 30 May 2014

A Love Story

My new eBook is a tender love story told amongst a backdrop of great political power with weapons of mass destruction as the MacGuffin.

Extract - Tony glanced across the table and suddenly felt himself become entranced by those brown eyes peering back at him. He felt his heart lift, a subtle tremor that soon became a stirring in his loins.

'I love you,' Tony said.
'Aw shucks,' Bush smiled, his eyes sparkling. 'I bet you say that to all of the most powerful men in the world.'

'Well I do have a Cowbridge postcode,' Tony said, giggling at his suggestive remark.

Bush reached a hand across the table and briefly brushed Tony's midriff before allowing it to linger on his lap. The president knew he had now activated Tony's weapon. There was no going back

.Buy the book and we can launch it to you in 45 minutes

Thursday 29 May 2014

Western Movie Review - Law and Order 1953

It's kinda' weird watching a Ronald Regan movie - here in the UK Reagan was portrayed as a buffonish President by the satirical puppet show, Spitting Image and every time I here Reagan talk I get a mental image of his puppet cuddled up with Margaret Thatcher. It took a little while to shake that image from my mind but when I did I found that I quite enjoyed this action packed western.

In a story that owes much to the legend of Wyatt Earp, Reagan plays Frame Johnson a sharp shooting Marshall who brings The Durango Kid into Tombstone for a fair trial, however when he has to fend off a lynch mob, which includes his own deputy he decides enough is enough and hands in his badge. He decides he wants to start a new life as a rancher in the town of Cottonwood and together with his two brothers he leaves Tombstone. The love of Frame's life, saloon girl Jeannie (Dorothy Malone) is to join Frame at a later date when he has his ranch up and running.

However Frame discovers that Cottonwood is every bit as deadly as Tombstone. The town is run by Kurt Darling, an old enemy of Frame's who hold the town sheriff in the palm of his hand. Soon there is conflict and the town judge offers the job of Marshall to Frame but he declines. Frame's younger brother Lute takes the job but is soon gunned down - there is only one thing for it and the future President of the United States does what a man has to do, and cleans up town.

This is a great western which whilst not up there with the classics of the genre, it is a pretty good movie - straightforward, predictable but entertaining enough. The colour photography is stunning and the action scenes are very well handled. It's a remake of an 1932 western of the same title which starred Walter Houston in the role of Frame Johnson and I can't compare the two because I've never seen the earlier version.

Director Nathan Juran is better known for such cult classics as, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman and the 7th Voyage of Sinbad, but he certainly seems at home in the western genre and he keeps this movie moving at a fine pace. The climax is real stirring stuff and of course we have the then obligatory Hollywood happy ending.

Not a classic but no turkey either...I rather enjoyed this one. It's just a pity the DVD is basically a vanilla release with nothing in the way of special features, not even a trailer.

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 19 May - 25 May 2014


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits14412112512012911297848121
First Time Visits13411812011311510594799114
Returning Visits103571473497

Thursday 22 May 2014

That old racist Ian Fleming

The text here is from my Goodreads review of the Ian Fleming novel, Live and Let Die.

To charge this book with racism, as many reviews have done so, is absurd. The book and attitudes were of the time and obviously these views are expressed within the pages. The same charges could be aimed at Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, Bulldog Drummond and any classic character.Or what about Shakespeare - could we call the bard homophobic for not representing gay characters in his plays? Do we start judging classic works by modern standards? The book uses the word Negro a lot but at the time this was not considered a racial slur. It also uses the word gay in its true meaning - damn Ian Fleming for living during the period and writing what is probably the best series of thrillers in history. Didn't he realise that in the future the PC brigade, those same people who airbrushed the cigar from a famous poster of Winston Churchill, would be judging him by standards of the next century? How small minded of him!

Monday 19 May 2014

eBooks Today - The Kindle

"The eBook world is seeing new developments by the second but the biggest concern at the moment is the format wars currently being fought. This can be confusing and leaves people understandably dubious about buying a reader that will be obsolete in a few short months" 

I wrote the above here on this blog back in 2009, and looking back it doesn't seem that I was ahead of the game at all. I warned about buying eReaders that would be obsolete in a short while as the technology moved on at a tremendous rate. I warned against the Kindle, feeling that it was useless because it tied you into the Amazon store and didn't support ePub - then listening to my own advice I went to Borders (remember them) and bought a shiny new Elonex eReader.As it turned out this device would be the Betamax of eReaders - but I didn't know that at the time.

"On 28th of August 2009 I boasted - "I've taken the leap and gone and got myself one of those new fangled e-book readers. I was going to go for the new UK version of The Kindle but it's up in the air as of when it will actually go on sale. And so I've opted for the Elonex which is exclusive to Borders."

And in the review of the now defunct reader I wrote:

"Now when I first started reading on it I found myself unable to get into the story - Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, with the total immersion I manage with printed books but this was to do with having to get used to the way it worked rather than the experience itself. And after a few hours I'd forgotten that I had a piece of cutting edge technology in my hand and I was in a world of white washed fences and wild adventures on the river."

However a few months later I'd grown tired of the Elonex and, still avoiding the Kindle, I'm moved to...well this comes from October 2009 -  

"The basic Elonex eReader was the first device I owned and whilst it did the job it did seem a bit basic and these days my eReader of choice is my Sony PS300 Pocket Reader, which gives a much better reading experience. In fact, to my mind, the Sony trumps the Kindle merely because it uses the ePub format. The Kindle is a mighty fine machine but it ties you down to Amazon's eBook store and whilst I'm a big fan of Amazon's service I don't want to be tied to the one supplier".

The Sony was a fine machine and I used it for a couple of years before finally taking the plunge and getting a Kindle. These days I swear by my Kindle Paperwhite and take it everywhere and in terms of fiction I don't read too many physical books - these days I consume more than 90% of my fiction on my Paperwhite. The Elonex and Sony both went on eBay and I didn't lose any money in the deals and I've gone from one Kindle version to the next. The Paperwhite is actually my fourth Kindle. Yep love them or loathe them Amazon now domnate the eBook market and I don't see that changing for a long long time.

In my initial review of my first Kindle, the Kindle 3, I wrote back in 2011:

"Thanks to Amazon I now have a gleaming new Kindle in my sweaty hands - and after road testing it I can say that it is not for nothing is the Kindle considered the best eReader on the market. It's a pity the device still doesn't support the ePub format, but given the strength of the Amazon store I am willing to overlook this small niggle.
The single most important thing with any eReader is the display screen, and the Kindle's is quite brilliant. The eInk Pearl screen really does look like paper. The background in a nice clean white and the text standing out clearly- you can also increase the size of the text, which makes reading as comfortable as a traditional book.

The controls are quite straight forward, though I did find that having the pages forward and back controls on the same side of the device a little clunky, but when you get used to this it becomes second nature. It is also a nice touch to be able to re-orientate the display to landscape. Pictures are reproduced with clarity, though only, as with most dedicated eReaders, in black and white"

So what was it that finally made me switch to the Kindle? Well the Elonex and Sony were fine machines, the Sony especially, but buying and loading books to the devices was often a pain. And the industry was in a state of flux and eBook stores were closing seeming by the hour, before new stores opened up forcing the user to go through an annoying sequence of button presses to register with new stores. I bought the device to enjoy books not to tap in my email and password every other day. Amazon on the other hand made things simple and once the device was registered with your Amazon account it was easy to buy books. There was also the fact that Amazon's eBook store was second to none in terms of the range of eBook available.

And now we find ourselves in 2014 and the Elonex has been forgotten, become a footnote in eReader history,  while the Sony has lost most of its market share. Devices such as the Kobo came along and for a short period seriously challenged the Kindle's dominance, but Amazon's Kindle remains the market leader - this has been achieved by continuing to improve the device, keeping the price low and building an eBook store that is second to none.

Yep - love Amazon or hate Amazon you can't deny the Kindle is a great device that offers an excellent user experience.

 It was not until  2012 I took the plunge and moved up to the Kindle Paperwhite, this is my current eReader of choice - whilst I may not love it quite as much as my wife and kids and dogs it certainly comes a close second. In my initial review of the Paperwhite I wrote:

"The UK finally got the latest addition to the Kindle family this last month and I've had mine since Christmas day so I've had a chance to fully test the device. I was eager to get the Paperwhite and although I already own a third generation Kindle and a Kindle Fire, it was the Paperwhite I'd been waiting for. Firstly unlike the Kindle Fire which is a tablet device the Paperwhite is a dedicated eInk eReader. And while I love my Kindle Fire I use it for watching movies and reading graphic novels rather than standard novels - eInk is so much easier on the eyes for reading and actually does replicate the reading on paper experience.

The biggest addition to the Paperwhite is of course the front-lit screen but Amazon have also increased the contrast and display itself so  this is the best Kindle eInk screen yet. The touch screen is also more responsive than previous Kindles and the cleaned up interface, there is only one button the the device, is a massive improvement - you can swipe through pages or simply tap the screen. The device also allows the brightness of the light to be customized - a nice touch this and surprisingly having the brightness on full in daylight improves the display no end, whilst dim works best in a dark environment. The device gets closer to the ideal of black ink on white paper than ever before. A good thing since the Paperwhite is designed to have the light on all the time. Amazon says: "a single charge lasts up to eight weeks, based on half an hour of reading per day with wireless off and the light setting at 10. Only time will tell I suppose but I charged my Paperwhite on Christmas Day and have read more than three hours each day since and the power bar of the battery is still close to a full charge."

And now we are in the second half of 2014 and Amazon have already upgraded the Paperwhite to a second generation, but at the moment I see no reason to upgrade from my beloved original Paperwhite. The improvements on the second generation are minimal so I won't be parting with my original for some time yet.

A recent software update to the eReader added some new options that were previously only available on the second gen Paperwhite and although these don't really change the reading experience they are nice additions -especially the vocabulary builder AP which I find incerdibly useful. I also like it that Good Reads is now tied into the Kindle so you can interact via the device with other readers.

The Kindle really has made social reading a reality.


Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 12 May - 18 May 2014


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits119152133107103105112831119
First Time Visits1101431271019599108783112
Returning Visits9966864487

Saturday 17 May 2014

The Great War

It's been a lot of work, both in terms of research and the actual writing, but other than slight publisher edits my book, Cardiff and the Valleys During the Great War is ready to go and will be published later this year.

 I'm not really what you could call a historian but rather an eager amateur with an interest in history, and I think of myself first and foremost as a fiction writer - the fact that I'm not a professional historian and a fiction writer to boot helped me get the commission for this book.

The publisher, Pen and Sword Books, were looking for writers who were not really historians for a series of books that would concentrate on the home front in specific towns and cities in the United Kingdom. I put in my proposal and a few weeks later I got the contract and then the advance.

 I suppose the theory was that a professional historian would deliver a book more interested in the facts and statistics of the Great War, while a writer used to dealing with characters and plots would be able to find the human story, and present a narrative that pays full justice to these remarkable and terrible times...I hope I've done that. I've read it through recently and do think the narrative reads as smoothly as fiction, that the story almost lives on the page. That was something that I kept in mind when writing the book, and I was conscious to try and develop the mindset of the times, so that I would better understand the way people felt about the war, the way they acted.

I started out the project with only a limited knowledge of the Great War, I knew far more about the second war, but I finished the work with a far more rounded knowledge of the war, regarding both the various theaters of war and on the home front.

 One of the larger sections of the book deals with the 11th Welsh Regiment, the Cardiff Pals and when I concluded their part of the story I had a very real  tear in my eye. I found that section of the book to be particularly emotional - and I know that from now now until the end of my days I will always remember the sacrifices these men made. Indeed the sacrifices that everyone made - for the Great War was truly a people's war and the conflict was, for the first time, brought over into the home front. Prior to the Great War conflicts would often end after only one or two battles, but this war was different, this was the war to end all wars....if only the last were true and of course a couple of decades after the Great War ended the world once again found itself involved in a global conflict.

There'll be a series of books looking at the home front coming out soon from Pen and Sword Books - many of the towns and cities across the country will be covered. So look out for them and please give my own particular title a go. I know it'll appeal mostly to those with an interest in the particular areas covered in the book, but I think the book will be an enjoyable and informative read no matter where you come from.

Friday 16 May 2014

Great for people who don't take life too seriously.

Sales are climbing for my Granny Smith series and I'm loving some of the reviews on Amazon - here are a selection.
"A great easy read which had me giggling out loud in parts. Very well written. Great for people who don't take life too seriously."
For Granny Smith click HERE
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 30 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Granny Smith Investigates (revised edition) (Kindle Edition)
It was well written, suited any age and transported one back in time and to another place. A good read
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Book, 15 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Granny Smith Investigates (revised edition) (Kindle Edition)
Easy to read and keeps you interested.
Silly Granny Smith, she reminds me of my Granny.
A most enjoyable read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read, 24 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Granny Smith Investigates (revised edition) (Kindle Edition)
I've now read two books in this series and found both books entertaining and funny, really made me laugh, suggest people read them
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Delightful & Amusing tale, 24 Feb 2014
Kay (Cheshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Granny Smith Investigates (revised edition) (Kindle Edition)
The eccentric Welsh pensioner gets her teeth (usually gripping a corn-cob pipe) into solving the mysterious murder of a friend in the village. Despite being ignored and warned off by the police, she persists. This delightful short story makes great family reading with plenty of humour. I can just imagine a nice TV comedy series from this.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Cozy With A DIfference, 22 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Granny Smith Investigates (revised edition) (Kindle Edition)
I love Cozy Mysteries, but this book has all the elements of a good cozy, plus a bonus. The main character, Granny Smith, is a real character. Some of her antics will bring more than a smile to your lips. She gets into all sorts of scrapes, but comes out the other side intact - just. Well worth a read.

Tuesday 13 May 2014

The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid

I picked up this DVD at an incredibly low price on Amazon. I'd seen it before, I think on TV, but that had been many years ago and I couldn't really recall it.

This is another telling of the story of the James/Younger gang, or at least a part of the story and depicts the events leading up the infamous raid in Minnesota during 1876 which resulted in the death of several gang members and the capture of most of the others. Only Frank and Jesse James managed to escape after the botched and bloody bank raid.

The movie's got a great cast, headed by Cliff Robertson and Robert Duvall. Robertson plays Cole Younger and he is portrayed as the brains of the bunch, while Duvall's Jessie James is presented as the meanest young psycho this side of Emilio Estevez's Billy the Kid in the Young Gun movies. The films is made in a king of semi documentary style - the Wild West is given the Dragnet treatment, the original advertising boasted. And  this does indeed give the movie the feel of looking in on events as they happened, almost as if this was some news reel footage from a time before news reels were invented.

The film does drag a bit but it's certainly not a bad movie and the detail in recreating the period is quite meticulous. One particular scene where Cole Younger watches a Baseball game - it's the new thing. Everyone's playing it back East - is excellent and the final shoot out is brilliantly staged.

'Anyone can get shot down. It's the getting back up that's the thing.'

Duvall's performance alone makes the film a must see, but the real star is Cliff Robertson who gives us a realistic portrayal of Cole Younger, basically a good man caught up in violent times. The film ends with the immediate aftermath of the botched raid and tells us that Jesse James was killed in 1882 by that coward Bob Ford, while Cole was captured during the raid shown in this movie and ended up in prison. He lived though until 1916 when he died a free man after being paroled in 1901.

Not exceptional but a damn good western all the same.

Barnes & Noble heading the way of Bordersaurus

Industry experts are predicting that Barnes and Noble will be gone by the New Year - B&N has been closing about 20 stores per year since 2012 and has said it will continue to do so for the next several years. But its financial position is bleak. This follows a period of growth where the store moved into areas where private bookshops thrived, but where put out of business by the aggressive pricing of big chains like Barnes & Noble and Borders. Well now the digital revolution has done the same for the big book stores.

According to Focus Magazine there are five reasons why Barnes and Noble are failing and these are:

First, Amazon makes it so easy to buy books.
Second, publishers thrashed B&N by selling best-sellers at deep discounts in non-traditional outlets such as supermarkets, Wal-Mart and Costco, thus removing a key source of revenue for the chain.
Third, the woefully underfunded Nook is competing with Amazon’s Kindle, which is like bringing a knife to a gunfight.
Fourth, the antiquated model of printing books on spec, putting them on trucks, and crossing your fingers that they’ll sell doesn’t work in the internet print-on-demand era.
And fifth, book buyers want decent customer service. At B&N these days, the only way to find a sales clerk is to attempt to shoplift.


Monday 12 May 2014

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 5 May - 11 May 2014


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits13212711112396134100823118
First Time Visits1271191031189213297788113
Returning Visits5885423355

Tuesday 6 May 2014

A Dead Dozen - 12 dead authors you should follow on Twitter

There's a great article HERE that list twelve dead authors you can follow on Twitter - Find out what Edgar Poe's been up to lately or thrill at Hemingway's latest adventures. It's all a bit of fun you know, and often quite witty.

Monday 5 May 2014

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 28 Apr - 4 May 2014


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits134119143137144137131945135
First Time Visits127111129127129129124876125
Returning Visits78141015876910

Friday 2 May 2014

I cried as I typed those final words....

For the best part of a year now I've been working on a non-fiction book, provisionally entitled Cardiff During the Great War which will be published by Pen and Sword Books later this year. I'm getting very close to completing the work now and only minutes ago I wrote the final words in the section detailing the 11the Welsh Battalion, The Cardiff Pals and I literally cried, I still have the moisture from those tears in my eyes as I type this.

The Wiki tells us of the famous Pals battalions - The pals battalions of World War I were specially constituted battalions of the British Army comprising men who had enlisted together in local recruiting drives, with the promise that they would be able to serve alongside their friends, neighbours and work colleagues ("pals"), rather than being arbitrarily allocated to battalions.

Herbert Paine Smith 1914

The center-piece of my section detailing the Pals are the memories of one particular soldier - Herbert Paine Smith. I am deeply in the debt of his son, the late Major Bob Smith who in 1981 sat down with his father and a tape recorder and recorded the priceless memories. Anyone interested can listen to these HERE and I do urge you all to do so. Mr Paine Smith was an intelligent and eloquent man and the recordings he made with his son sum up the experiences of an ordinary man during the Great War, or as we call it these days World War One. I'm also in touch with his granddaughter Gilly Smith who has supplied me many photographs and interesting documents. Gilly has said that both her grandfather and son would be deeply honoured by their inclusion in my book, but in truth it is I who feel honoured to write this story. These are great men who gave more for their fellow man than I could ever hope to do.

Paine Smith survived the war but only because he received serious injuries on the night before the assault which would see the 11th Welsh Battalion annihilated by fierce Bulgar machine gun fire as they attempted to attack the Grand Couronne peak in Macedonia. I started the Pals section by saying that the cream of Cardiff went to war one sunny afternoon in September 1914, and I ended the section with the words, and now four years later most of them lay dead or dying as the blood red dawn started to rise over Grand Couronne.

It was then that the tears came - throughout my period working on this book I have learned much about the Pals, heard many interesting, horrific and funny stories of some of the characters that made up this brave band of men, and I now feel their loss on a very personal level.

 Ah well I've got to get on with completing the rest of the book, my deadline runs out in just over two weeks. The cover's already been designed at the so that it  was ready for this year's  London Book Fair, and I should get a firm publication date very soon. Expect news here soon.


 The UK's new tax on vaping which will come into force in 2026 is not only immoral but patently insane, and will hit those reformed smok...