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Vanity and beyond

Some years ago I did some research  on a Vanity Publisher who operated from premises in Bognor Regis and was close to hand. I think I had a vague idea that he might make an interesting subject for a short story. It was certainly a revealing experience.

His HQ was a single storey building packed with piles of books so, while I was waiting for him to emerge from  his office and talk  to me, I turned some of them over and read the titles. ‘My life as a Brigadier’ ‘A Country Parson’ ‘My years in the Kasbah.’ ‘My life on the stage’, written by someone I’d never heard of, ‘Me and the Arab Sheik’. !!!  Time passed and the great man still hadn’t put in an appearance, so I opened some of them and read the first few paragraphs because that’s what I  always do when I’ve found a book I think I might want to read.  They were all, without exception, badly written, poorly spelled, full of cliches and excruciatingly boring.

But having started out on my charade, I decided to go on with it and when he finally arrived to shake my hand and usher me into his office, which was as dusty as his storeroom, and asked me how he could help me, I gave him a false name and wondered if he would be prepared to publish a book I had written. He didn’t ask to see it but said of course he would and proceeded to detail his terms. It soon became clear that it was going to cost me a great deal of money and that I would have to market the thing myself. No wonder he had so many books lying around in that storeroom. I thought of all those poor things who had fancied themselves as writers and hadn’t been able to sell their books. It all seemed very sad. I told him  I would think about it and get back to him if I was interested and drove home, feeling sorry for all those poor vain wannabees.

But it was certainly making a living for the dusty gentleman. I’d learnt enough about the cost of print to know that the price he was charging to print his books was exorbitant, even if you allowed for the rent he would have to pay for his seedy premises.

I haven’t thought about the gentleman or his dubious business for years, but this week I have discovered the latest twist in vanity publishing which has taken a further step into exploitation which I find deeply unpleasant.

I met a would-be writer at a local authors meeting who introduced herself to me, told me she’d written a book and that she wanted to have it published and, despite my attempts to deter her, insisted on telling me the entire story of the book blow by boring blow. But that was not all, worse was still to come. This week the lady sent me an email to remind me of her novel and to explain that she is hoping that SWWJ, Scriptora will take it on and publish it. But there was a snag, which she explained. ‘They require me to get, from two persons of literary standing, an endorsement stating that my work is worthy of publication. I have already got one such approval. Would you be willing to look at my manuscript and give it your consideration?’ 

Now I don’t know about you but I call that presumption. It would take me a considerable time to wade through a book I don’t particularly want to read and now that I am 86 my time is very precious to me. And I do wonder at the presumption of the vanity publisher who wants a ‘person of literary standing’ to read  through one of their proposed scripts and give it their blessing. That is the work of a sub-editor whom they should be employing and paying. from my point of view, I see it as the deliberate exploitation of a hardworking professional.

What do you think, all you professional writers out there?

 

 

This entry was posted on August 16, 2017. 2 Comments

Is bullying in our genes?

I found a story on Twitter this morning about some new scientific research which is examining bullies and victims and has discovered that bullies very rarely suffer from depression and that victims suffer from it a great deal. It wasn’t a surprise, I have to say. A bully shoves other people around in order to get his own way and once he’s got it he feels mighty pleased with himself and on top of the world.

 

Victims on the other hand are always having to give way to the bullies, even when they know that it isn’t sensible or safe to do so. Is it any surprise that they have very little sense of their own value and if they’re being heavily and frequently bullied have little or no sense of their worth at all. All of which leads to depression.

But sadly the research doesn’t seem to suggest any solutions. And we are now under the rule of some pretty formidable and dangerous bullies, Trump being the most powerful and therefore the worst of all. So what can any of us, non-bullying, ‘ordinary’, compassionate and loving people do to prevent the worst of their abuse or even – if only – find some way to stop it before it even begins.

 

 

I have met and watched the actions of several, formidable bullies during my long life-time and I’ve been asking myself this question for years. Three of them are pictured here. But there were and are plenty of others. The one answer that has always come into my mind is that the bully should be opposed and that in order to do it there need to be a great many of us and we need to be organised, determined and prepared to be hurt when we take action. It’s a very high price to pay.

Mahatma Gandhi led the way and he called the technique that he was asking his followers to use ‘non violent action’ or ‘Satyagraha’. In one terrifying and shameful incident in India his followers sat in the road, in front of well armed and determined British soldiers, to protest against the salt tax which they all felt was blatantly unfair and punitive.

The first row of the protesters were clubbed mercilessly until they were bloody and unconscious. Then their friends removed their bodies and the second row took over and were beaten in their turn. It was a terrible test of gentle protest against bullying brutality, but in the end the gentle protesters prevailed. The soldiers had beaten and bullied until their consciences began to worry them and eventually they stopped. The event was photographed by an American reporter and published in the American press. It caused an international stir and was a turning point in the long struggle for Indian independence which was eventually and inevitably granted in 1947.

Could we use Satyagraha now do you think?

I take my hat off to my new publishers.

They’re so quick they take my breathe away. I can’t keep up with them.

I’ve been working on ‘Citizen Armies’, which is the sequel to ‘Everybody’s Somebody’, off and on since five o’clock this morning – mostly on – and I was just thinking I would take time off for the pork pie that’s waiting for me in the fridge when I had an e-mail from my publisher to say  that Endeavour Press are putting  ‘Everybody’s Somebody’ up as an e-book today and to suggest that I might like to give it publicity on this blog.

I must confess that I sloped off to demolish the pork pie first because my mouth was watering for it and I was in parlously need of sustenance, but here  I  am back at my desk again and with my publicist’s hat on.

So here goes. As from August 2nd, anyone who doesn’t want to wait until the paperback of my new book comes out on September 1st, can buy it as an e-book. And while I’ve got my silly hat on, could I also ask you to do me a special favour and, if you’ve enjoyed it when you’ve read it, could you rate it and write a review? I’ve just found out that Amazon not only count reviews but take books and their authors more seriously the more 5 star ratings and reviews they are given.

In addition to the latest news on Everybody’s Somebody’, may I also tell  you that anyone who hasn’t yet read ‘Girl on the Orlop Deck’ and/or  ‘Francesca’s Mermaid’ and would like to, can buy them on Kindle for £2.99 or as paperbacks for £7.99.

End of commercial!!

 

This entry was posted on August 1, 2017. 4 Comments

Thoughts on predators

This blog has grown out of a conversation I had yesterday with a very old friend and fellow teacher. We were considering our garden birds and cats and it wasn’t long before we were saying how beautiful our local sparrowhawk was, even if it did kill our song birds. It is, as we said, a predator who needs to eat. And none of the natural predators we could think of, ever kill for the hell of killing. They kill to feed themselves and their young and they are all, almost without exception, extraordinarily beautiful. So here is a gorgeous tiger, a splendid lion, a streamlined shark and our local sparrowhawk to delight your eye and prove my point.

But it set me wondering about the human predators who are now even more predatory and powerful than they were when I was young. All of the ones in my childhood were killers and to my childish eyes, they were frighteningly ugly. I’ve picked out two historical monsters to make my point but there are plenty of others.

It’s something about their mouths I think. They look discontented, down-turned or pouting and very rarely smiling. To say nothing of those terrible, cold eyes. They look at other people as if they hate them. And we know from our experience, that their hatred was exponential. They certainly didn’t kill to eat like the tigers. Their hunger was for wealth and power. No-one was to be allowed to disagree with them. The rest of us existed to do as we were told.

It seems to me that our present day predators are out of the same mold. Full of anger, hatred, greed for power, wealth, rich foods, gold, oil and anything and everything that will put them at the top of the social tree. They are a type. Trump pouts in exactly the same way as Mussolini. Boris Johnson wears the same tattered floor-mop on his head, as Donald Trump. None of them are handsome, none have the beauty and grace of a natural predator. And considering them as a type, makes me wonder why they should be so very different. Is it perhaps because a natural predator is NATURAL and a human predator is totally UNNATURAL?

 

 

 

We humans are not predators, we are social animals. We exist in tribe and families. In our natural state we do not snatch all the goodies for ourselves, we share them out. We look after our young, we work in families and teams. It is natural for us to be carers. We only have to look at the way ordinary people rallied round to help after the Grenfell fire to see that. While the greedy rich looked the other way and were quite unable to comfort or help the victims.

But of course my interpretation could be wrong. What do you think?

 

This entry was posted on July 26, 2017. 2 Comments

Meeting the authors

I’m now so old that when an annual event comes round again, like this one in Selsey which I attend every year, my first reaction to it is, ‘but we only had one of those last week.’ Then my second reaction has to be to check the calendar.

So here we really are again, on Wednesday the 9th of August, kicking off at 1pm in the Selsey Centre in Manor Road, Selsey.

Any of you who are thinking of coming are sure of an afternoon of cheerful idiocy. Joan Moules, the organiser, who has been a friend of mine for more years than I can count, always arranges tea and biscuits and lays on a whole variety of entertainments, year after year, I don’t know how she does it.

This event will kick off a summer of publicity occasions to promote my new book Everybody’s Somebody and the two back-list titles that have either have been or soon will be published by my new publisher, Endeavour Press.

I’m afraid I shan’t have any copies of Everybody’s Somebody for the Selsey event because it isn’t due for publication until September the 1st. But not to worry, the main thing about Selsey is that people come as much to meet the author as to buy their books. It’s a great occasion for greeting old friends and making new ones and I’m all for that.

Other events are in the pipeline, but I’ll tell you about them nearer the time.

 

This entry was posted on July 21, 2017. 1 Comment

I’m afraid I’m turning into a spoilt brat

 I do like having visitors and just recently I’ve had so many and they’ve been such good company there were days when I felt like cheering or singing or being otherwise happily ridiculous.

This weekend my visitor was my lovely little sister Carole, whom I love to bits. We had two days of non-stop talk and good food and a giggling attempt to find a putter, because she’d lost hers. We didn’t find one but it  didn’t worry us, because instead of a successful shop, we had an even more successful walk down our own particular memory lane.

 

 

 

And now I’ve got another visitor coming to see me this weekend. She’s an old friend and fellow Blake expert called Josie McQuail and she lives in America so actual time spent with her is precious. We are going to see the Freida Hughes exhibition in Chichester and I’ve no doubt we shall talk books, because we have so many authors we enjoy and study, in common. The welcome mat is ready for you Josie.

 

 

And then, just to spoil me rotten, the little black cat called Dixie is coming to spend a week with me in a fortnight’s time, I must lay in stocks of salmon and cods roe, because he’s such a sweetie, he deserves the odd treat now and then. It will be lovely to have a cat sleeping alongside me at night and sitting on the dining table as we eat our meals together.

 

 

Then, of course, there are all my feathered visitors, who fight one another for tit-bits from the bird table and sing to me beautifully in the morning, led by my blackbird and are generally a delight. It’s always a surprise to look out into the garden and suddenly see part of the lawn move and realise that the woodpecker is back.

And is if all that weren’t riches enough, the novel of which I had despaired, even to the point of accepting that it would never see a bookshelf, is going to be published on September the 1st. Way-hey!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on July 19, 2017. 1 Comment

A happy evening at Felpham Community College

I had a treat yesterday evening when I went to Felpham Community College to see their Summer arts display. I go every year and I’m never disappointed, the quality of the work is always high, the art adventurous and inventive, the music well played and well chosen.

This year they put on an excerpt from a musical they had staged earlier in the year and that was great fun. The four girls in the chorus line whom you can see in this picture in their spotted skirts, sang in a splendid, punchy way, obviously happy to be entertaining their audience so well, secure in their own sexuality and using it but not flaunting it. And the two leading men, who danced a tango together and turned it into high comedy, were admirable. In short, the whole evening was lively, often unexpected, and showed the school at the top of it’s form.

So respec’ to you, all you artists and musicians, I salute you.

 

This entry was posted on July 14, 2017. 3 Comments