Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Communication Breakdown

At the risk of sounding like 'an auld fart' I would like to talk about the lack of communication these days especially given the range we have to choose from:
 texting, mobile (cell) phones, landlines, twitter, facebook, email, letters (remember them?), 
to name but seven.

Earlier this year I was interviewed for a post with the Scottish Drug Forum.

I asked for, and was reassured that if I was unsuccessful I would get feedback.

Long story short; I ended up emailing a few times and phoning on eight separate occasions, all to no joy.
The way I look at it however, is that I 'dodged a bullet' there; I mean would you want to work for an organisation where the HR Department was as incompetent as this?

Nowadays my experience has been that unsuccessful applications for jobs are routinely ignored, not even a 'thanks but no thanks'.

At least when I was younger receiving the mail (that was the stuff that came in paper form and stuffed through a letterbox) and opening the letter only to read I was unsuccessful at least had an element of excitement in it just before the disappointment.

 For some reason, these rejection letters became known as 'Dear John' letters.

 "Did you hear about that job you applied for?" "Aye, ah got a Dear John." 

Being the type of person that would rather shop locally, would rather give my money to
the 'wee man' rather than the big corporation I searched the internet for independent bookshops.
I found very few in Scotland. I did, however, email eight shops introducing myself, asking whether they would be interested in my book and explaining that I could supply marketing materials too.
I did not receive a single reply. I now have little guilt when walking through the doors of a 

I entered 'Death of a King' for the New York Book Festival and duly paid the fee; I sent off
my book and yet, nothing. I don't know if the book was received and emailing seems a waste 
of time. I know not if the 'Festival' even took place. I even asked the question of some Americans 
on a Google+ Community; not a single reply; and these were contemporaries: aspiring authors.

 Mental note to self* never pay to have a book entered into a book festival!

So, onto the Edinburgh Book Festival. I filled in the form online, I posted my book for entry
for the Anobii First Book award and once again, nothing. A disclaimer on the website states
that correspondance can't be entered into so just another occasion where I don't even know
if the book was received, read or reviewed. No feedback. Nothing.

The first I knew that 'Death of a King' was not being considered was when I went onto the 
website and found a list of 42 authors that the public were invited to choose from and vote
for as winner.

Maybe it is just me and the way I was brought up.

Still, I would have thought that even if you have 100 people to reply to a 'standard' rejection 
email sent out to everyone isn't too difficult (or time-consuming) to do? 

After all, each one of those 100 is a potential customer. Or to look at it another way a potential 'bad mouther'.

Do organisations really not care anymore?

Friday, 16 August 2013

Massan Gow and the Hounds of St Andrew - Volume Two - The Brother - Cover News

With over 5,000 words written for Vol II of the Massan Gow and the Hounds of St Andrew series the title has now been chosen; it will be called The Brother.

I have no intention of giving the plot away just now, however, but can say plenty of research has been done and plots and twists worked out.

What I will say is that the action takes place five years after Death of a King which took place in 1286.

Many characters are obviously returning along with some excellent and surprising new ones.

I am interested and would welcome any comments on the new book cover that I have chosen from those submitted by my designer, Kit Foster.

Cover design for The Brother

Kit came up with some great designs around the theme used on Death of a King and it has been a difficult choice because, as always, they were all so good. However, my feelings are that it is best to keep it relatively simple and straightforward.

I love this particular cover and would like to hear your thoughts on it.

Kit Foster is a Scottish based designer who specialises in book covers; he has done covers for many well known, and award-winning books. 

As Kit's website says 'Professional design for authors...because we all judge a book by its cover.'

Please have a look at his website for more details and to see some of his fantastic work.

Cover design for Death of a King

The ISBN number for the paperback is 978-0-9573899-0-8

The ISBN for e-book is  978-0-9573899-1-5


Paperback copies of Death of a King - Massan Gow and the Hounds of St Andrew - Volume One can be purchased from any good bookshop or online, however, our preferred supplier is Hanselled Books (the link is below) based in Burntisland, Fife. It is also available to download onto a Kindle device.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Do You 'Think Before You Speak'?

I went to Balwearie High School in Kirkcaldy, Fife in the 1970s and to get there from my home six miles away in Burntisland I got a school bus. 

This journey took me past the King Alexander III (r1249 – 1286) monument which, to be honest, I never really paid much attention to. 

I knew it was in memory to a King of Scots and did wonder why it was never mentioned at History lessons at school. So, I guess you could say in more ways than one I had no more than a 'passing' interest...

 Alexander III Monument

History bored me at school; it seemed to be simply about writing down dates and never seemed to be remotely relevant to life then as it was. 

Of course, perhaps another reason was that History consisted of the Tudors, Sir Francis Drake, Battle of Trafalgar, Henry VIII, the Elizabethans with some World War I and World War II thrown in. 

I don’t remember ever getting any Scottish history; we got ‘British’ history which inevitably was ‘English’ history. 

As I say, it bored me. It is something I would love to be able to go back in time to remedy; I didn’t know it then but there was a tiny ‘history flame’ struggling to ignite into something more powerful and my even noticing the Alexander III monument was possibly the start.

British History

Many moons later I looked more into King Alexander III and was amazed this important king had escaped the history agenda almost completely. There are two occasions in his life which particularly impressed me. 

Perhaps I am impressed because as a youngster I was often prone to ‘speaking first and thinking later’.

Alexander  was seven years old when he was inaugurated as King of Scots on 13th July 1249; his father had died a week earlier.

Magnus Magnusson Book - Highly Recommended

According to Magnus Magnusson in his book Scotland: The Story of a Nation – 

In December 1251, at the age of ten, the boy-king was taken by his court to York to be knighted by Henry III before being married to Henry’s daughter Margaret. It gave the English king an immediate opportunity to raise the dormant question of Scotland’s subjugation to England: according to the contemporary St Albans Chronicle, Alexander was then asked to do homage for the kingdom of Scotland…the boy replied gravely that he had come to marry, not to answer so difficult a question.

Alexander III  King of Scots

At age 36 I was still unable to always ‘think things through’; I could still be impetuous; I would still react rather than respond. King Alexander III seemed to have no such problem.


In October 1278 Alexander III was again careful with his reply when Edward I pressed for homage. According to Marion Campbell in her superb book Alexander III: King of Scots – 

‘I become your man for lands which I hold of you in the realm of England for which I owe you homage, reserving my kingdom’. Then the Bishop of Norwich said, ‘And let it be reserved to the King of England, if he should have right to your homage for the kingdom’. The King answered him publicly at once, saying, ‘Nobody but God Himself has the right to homage for my realm of Scotland, and I hold it of nobody but God Himself’.  

Marion Campbell's Book on Alexander III - Highly Recommended

King Alexander III grasped the basics of diplomacy and assertiveness from an early age and displayed courage in his dealings with other rulers and kings throughout his reign.

I'm happy to say that nowadays I have managed to overcome the 'feet first' approach. I am now able to think, think, think and then respond. However, I’m afraid I would never have managed to reign in such a mature way as Alexander III even with a plethora of advisors. How about you?

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Perils of a Homemade Commercial

There are some fantastic commercials out there, old and new; indeed some are like mini movies.

Others have spawned directors who have gone on to actual movie success.

One such director is Jonathan Glazer. He directed the excellent movie Sexy Beast in 2000 starring Ray Winstone and Sir Ben Kingsley and was at the helm of the multi award-winning 'Surfer' ad in 1999 for  Guinness Draught. I was working for Diageo at Park Royal Brewery, London at that time and when it was first shown to employees it received tumultuous applause. It blew me away, and in fairness I always believed the Guinness Draught commercials were some of the best. 

'Surfer', however seemed to be extra special and I suppose vindication of this is that it was voted 'Best Ad of All Time' in a combined Channel 4/Sunday Times poll.

For those that haven't seen it or can't quite remember (Really? How could you forget?) here it is...

Excellent eh? Professionally done. And that is the poor self-published author's problem you see.
I certainly can't afford to have a professional commercial done for my book(s) so I thought I would make one myself. I mean, what could possibly go wrong? I have an artistic bent. An ideas man. And...I live by the beach so have a perfect location for a commercial.

My first attempt took about 40 minutes of preparation; I waited for the Edinburgh train to pass (clever thinking), I lay posters down on the sand every eight feet or so from the waterline up to the sand dunes. I had some props: a longbow (which I strung), a miniature copy of the St Margaret stained glass window at Edinburgh Castle, a pile of leaflets advertising 'Death of a King' which I spread atop a sand dune and finally the piece de la resistance - my tall banner which I had to spend some time on weighing it down and tying it up so it didn't blow over in the wind. I made sure there was no litter or any modern 'stuff' on show. Realism is what I want. All done in bare feet. I woudn't want to have any nasty boot-prints in the sand would I? That would be so un-medieval.

Finally, I was ready. Starting at the surfs edge I stooped to film the water before moving slowly up the beach filming the sand as I went and look! a poster, then another one snuggling in the sand with the odd sea-shell strategically placed. Then, the longbow, the little framed St Margaret 'window' and finally up the little dune to reveal leaflets and the wonderful banner.

My plan was to then talk through the book 'blurb' (the bit on the back) but then there was something my meticulous planning had missed. I had spent so long doing all this that as I started to speak I found I could barely speak. I was out of breath, gasping for air and stuttering on some of the words as I read from the banner. I gave up.

For the next attempt I would forgo all the posters and the gliding up the beach. I would start up on the dune by the banner. I would make it short and sweet. 

And then something happened...

So, I certainly ain't no 'Jonathan Glazer' and my homemade commercial attempt ain't no 'Surfer'.


Friday, 31 May 2013

Death of a King - What's it all about?

Death of a King – Massan Gow and the Hounds of St Andrew

Volume I

18th March, 1286 AD. King Alexander III, King of Scots heads to Fife ignoring all advice to wait until a violent snow storm subsides; he yearns to see his beautiful, pregnant wife. He never makes it. His crumpled body is eventually found along with that of his horse suggesting they stumbled in the white-out and crashed to the rocks below the coastline’s cliffs.

A young local lad, Massan Gow, is found wandering along the beach by the search party out looking for the king and soon he becomes embroiled in a deadly game of cat and mouse accused of regicide.
He is held by the Earl of Fife and decides he has to take his destiny into his own hands but that may be more complicated than it seems. His mother becomes accused of witchcraft by the secretive society known as the Hounds of St Andrew. So, not only does the death of a king throw the country into chaos but a young boy’s family too; and Massan now has to fight to clear his and his family’s name.

Double-dealing, hidden agendas, personal tragedies and raw action sweep across medieval Scotland, southern Spain and the Welsh Marches in England. Death of a King is the first enthralling novel of the Massan Gow and the Hounds of St Andrew series.