Some random stuff I’ve gleaned doing this self-publishing malarkey

* It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything new on this blog. I’ve been busy, but also, paradoxically, I’ve been lazy.

* If somebody had told me when I published The Gamblers properly in 2011 that four and a half years later I would have written, revised, edited and published another six books I would have laughed. Somehow I’ve managed just that with an eighth book on the way.

* This year I’ve sold thousands instead of hundreds of books. Don’t ask me why, because I’ve no idea. However, books with the word Glasgow in the title seem to do rather well. Maybe I should relocate the Stanton brothers from Middlesbrough to Scotland?

* The Glasgow Grin has shifted well over 3,000 copies (not a single one of them free) in its first year of release. Again, I have no idea why: I’m rubbish at marketing.

* However, this puts more pressure on the next novel to sell a decent number of copies. If A Funny Thing Happened… fails to sell at least a 1,000 copies in its first twelve months, this will lead me to believe The Glasgow Grin was a fluke. I’ll also be very disappointed.

* It’s funny how shifting a decent amount of books in a year changes one’s perspective: 2015 was the year I hoped to break the thousand sales barrier for combined book sales. In fact, I managed to sell more than 1,000 books in a month on two separate occasions in 2015. That I now expect A Funny Thing Happened… to sell at least 1,000 copies in its first year shows how drastically my perspective has been altered.

* I think that’s because I want to be a full-time writer and earn my living from it. To do that means I’m going to need to get a better grasp of this marketing malarkey. Random and scattershot no longer cuts it. I also need to learn how to write faster: especially if it becomes my main career.

* My current pace of writing is far too slow. I thought the revision of A Funny Thing Happened would be done by the end of September. We’re now into November. This one isn’t going to land until early 2016, I’m sad to say.

* A Funny Thing Happened has had – by a large margin – the most protracted gestation period of any of my novels. It started life as a short early in 2012, but then I realised it was too dense and needed to be at least a 25,000 word novella. However, once it became a novella I realised that – although it was a decent tale – it needed to expand. As the characters fleshed out and their motivations became crystal clear, I knew what it really wanted to be all along was a novel. By the time I’m finished it’ll probably be over 65,000 words.

* I wish is I was one of those authors who writes quickly. I envy them. My first drafts are nearly always sub-literate, skeletal shit. Second drafts are where the flesh and muscle go on. But the revision is where it really comes to life. The editor then makes it into a fully functioning novel. I still make revisions when it’s being turned into an ebook, hunting sentences that don’t work or typos that have crept into the manuscript. Sadly, this process takes a while.

* This whole democratising of fiction via Kindle and other e-readers has thrown out a lot of opinion. One of the most ubiquitous opinions (one propogated by Big Publishing and some of their writers) suggests that self-publishers (and to a lesser degree smaller Indie publishers) don’t give a damn about their writing. This misconception is that we shit out a fully formed first draft, wipe our arses, and simply say: “Ah, my freshly laid turd is done. Time to upload this shit to Amazon.” As stated above, I never put out a first draft. My work goes through several drafts and revisions before I even dare upload it. My Facebook and Twitter feeds are filled with other writers and many of them are self-publishers. Not a single one of them gets it right in the first draft. They’re nearly always on the lookout for a fresh set of eyes, beta readers, and editors to hunt for mistakes and sharpen their prose or narrative.

* Big publishing and their agents constantly tell us that they are ‘gatekeepers’ protecting readers from the improperly formed and vaguely realised sentences that are the sole responsibility of the self-published masses. Okay, folks, then explain me this: Morrissey’s List of the Lost. Pondering the possibility that maybe the reviews were unfair, I visited Waterstones and pored through the first twenty pages of Morrissey’s, ahem, meisterwerk. It may very well be one of the worst things I’ve ever read. The reviews weren’t unfair; they were downright generous. List is truly abysmal. Hell, it makes EL James seem like Nabokov. So where was the ‘gate keeping’ here? Not protecting the reading public from this, I see? But, then again, you don’t protect the public when it comes to making money, do you? Give me the work of self-published or independently published writers like Ryan Bracha, Paul Brazill, Keith Nixon, Anthony Neil Smith, J David Osborne, Heath Lowrance, Jedidiah Ayres, Tiffany Scandal (to name just a few) any day of the week. They shit all over Morrissey’s inane scribblings from a great height. They destroy the latest ghostwritten YouTuber novel or celebrity memoir you’re attempting to flog to the public. They pack more excitement in one sentence than James Patterson does in the ten novels he’s likely to shit out via proxies this year. Oh, are writers like these what you are protecting us from? These fresh voices with their sharp edges still intact? If so, then you can keep your gate, and then feel free to go fuck yourselves while you’re at it.

* Another thing I like about the indie scene is that for the most part it’s a friendly place to be. Collaboration (be it in the form of beta-reading, contributing to anthologies or novels, editing, or helping with ebook creation or design) is rife; and when other writers do well there doesn’t seem to be an Gore Vidal quote attached to it:

Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies.

They seem to be genuinely pleased that somebody has succeeded. Writing is a difficult enough endeavour without everybody being at each other’s throats, too.

* I’m in the process of creating an author website that will be my main web presence from now on. The Gamblers blog will be assimilated into the new site in due course. I also intend to have a Gumroad store on the new site, where I can sell any work that doesn’t have Amazon exclusivity direct to you at a cheaper price. I will also sell (or make free) exclusive work that might not make it on to Amazon for a while (various pieces of short fiction, possibly including exclusive Stanton brothers shorts). Like I mentioned earlier, I need to be more professional about this stuff from now on.

* I’m going to make all of my work available in paperback over the coming month or two. I’ve let my current version of The Gamblers lapse because Amazon Createspace won’t allow me to alter the size to a 8″ x 5″ paperback (something to do with the ISBN they assign, so that may take a little longer to arrive). This includes The Greatest Show in Town (which in paperback form will also contain The Green-Eyed Monster).

The Glasgow Grin by Martin Stanley

Derrick Horodyski gave The Glasgow Grin an excellent review on his blog. Please feel free to give it a read, and then go and check out the rest of his posts.

Regular Guy Reading Noir

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About a year ago, I took a chance and bought a book called The Hunters by Martin Stanley, an author I was unfamiliar with. I devoured the book in two days and immediately started looking for other books he had written. That is how I stumbled upon the series of short stories and novellas that feature the Stanton Brothers. This accidental discovery of Stanley’s work is one of the top highlights of the past year in my reading life.

To say that the Stanton Brothers’ stories, novellas, and novels will keep you entertained is making too simplistic of a statement. To be accurate, they will entertain you, amaze you, make you laugh, keep you up late at night as you read “just one more chapter” and make you a fan of Martin Stanley forever.

I have been waiting for him to release The Glasgow Grin since I finished his last…

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The Hunters is currently free in the UK & the US…

TheHuntersCover.inddGlasgowGrin2013Heads up, folks. In order to capitalise on the long-awaited release of The Glasgow Grin, the direct sequel to The Hunters, the first book is now currently FREE (Yes, you read that correctly), and the sequel is a very, very reasonable 99p/$0.99. Good deal? Well, the Stanton brothers reckon it’s a steal – and if anybody knows what a steal is it’s those two. So, if that isn’t good enough for you, then I really don’t know how I’m supposed to keep you happy!

Download The Hunters for free here: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Buy The Glasgow Grin here: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Review: The Long Lost Dog Of It by Michael Kazepis

Hello there, dear readers. Sorry I’ve been away for so long. It feels like it’s been ages.

I’ve been quiet for a while, partly because I’ve been writing frantically to get a decent first draft of The Glasgow Grin together, but here I am – back again and ready to plough through my backlog of reviews.

The Long Lost Dog of It is the debut novel by Michael Kazepis, a writer who I hadn’t heard of previously. It’s published by Broken River Books, who are fast becoming one of my favourite indie publishing houses, and is available as both an ebook and a paperback.

It’s set in Athens during one of the anti-austerity protests that brought the city to a halt in 2011. The narrative focuses on the lives of a vagrant who used to be a police officer, a young lesbian couple who are having serious relationship difficulties, and a hitman who has returned home for his father’s funeral. They have nothing in common with the exception of a violent incident that occurs in the latter half of the tale – an incident that impacts on their lives in ways both major and minor.

TLLDOI is quite an original spin on the ensemble cast novel. Usually, these kind of ensemble cast novels are linked by an event that happens at the beginning or first half of the tale, and the characters’ tales develop out of this event. TLLDOI turns this on its head and deals with what happens to these people before the main event. It unfolds at an unhurried pace, taking its time, revelling in the details – the sights, sounds and smells of Athens – and lets the characters breathe a bit before finally tightening its grip on the story.

TLLDOI is superbly written. Kazepis has a poet’s eye for a descriptive turn of phrase. He doesn’t ladle on the metaphors, nor does he waste words in getting to the point. He builds his characters well and brings them to life with some choice dialogue and dramatic moments. Of course, some characters are stronger than others. Maniotis, the hitman, is incredibly strong, as is Varia, the vagrant, and some of the supporting characters like Karras and Mesrine are just as fully realised. The tale of Junesong and Pallas, the lesbian couple, although strong, didn’t hold my attention as well as the other stories, partly because the main focus of the narrative, involving Maniotis, would have worked just as well if they weren’t in it. Still, that’s a minor caveat.

And it also has one of the best action sequences I’ve read in several years. A gunfight between two of the characters that escalates into a wider conflict with the police and ties most of the characters together in one way or another. I doubt very much that I’ll read a more stunning setpiece this year.

TLLDOI is a very confident debut by a writer with real promise. It’s another hit for J. David Osborne’s Broken River Books, and it comes highly recommended.

The Isabel Allende Affair: So Fucking What?

The internet offence machine is in full swing over Isabel Allende’s comments about disliking crime fiction. The fact that she recently released a thriller called Ripper as a “joke”, and that she appears to have little respect for crime fiction or its authors seems to have gone down like a lead balloon. Authors like Val (Rent-A-Gob) McDermid and Mark Billingham lined up to slate her, and a variety of crime and other genre fiction fans did the same. She has been pilloried to such an extent that she was forced to issue an apology.

But here’s the thing: why the fuck should she apologise for her opinion? It’s one person’s opinion, and she’s entitled to it – in much the same way you are entitled to yours. So fucking what? Ultimately, Allende’s opinion doesn’t mean anything. It has affected nothing, with the exception of some delicate sensibilities. The world will continue to turn, people will continue to buy crime fiction, along with any other kinds of fiction, and in a week or so it will all be forgotten.

So she wrote a piece of crime fiction that she considers to be ironic, a joke. So fucking what? If Allende doesn’t like crime fiction, that is her business. If she writes a crime novel as a meta-joke, that is again her business. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. But please spare us all from your whining.

Oh, you were offended? Well, you know what, fuck you. How’s that for offence? That’s right, you read those words correctly.

I’m tired of these wretched, easily-offended souls, who whine about opinions or statements that run counter to their beliefs. Everybody with a computer or smartphone and a sense of indignation feels it necessary to piss and moan when something derogatory is said about their favourite author, pop act, piece of technology, style of fiction, or some other abstract that really doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things.

I’m a fan of crime fiction, and I’ll continue to be a fan of crime fiction regardless of what other people say about it. If you look down on me because of my literary tastes, if you consider me to be your intellectual inferior because I’m reading Jim Thompson or David Goodis rather than David Foster Wallace or Gabriel Garcia Marquez, then that’s your business – I refuse to make it mine.

You know why? Because I simply do not care. Because your opinion changes nothing. In the same way that Allende’s opinion changes nothing. Why do you care what an author or anybody else thinks of your choice of reading? What difference does it make to your life?

I’ll tell you how much difference it makes – none whatsoever.

However, if you don’t like what Isabel Allende says then don’t buy Ripper, or don’t buy any of her other books. But kindly spare us all from your outpourings of outrage. They’re tiresome.

Review: Peckerwood by Jedidiah Ayres

When petty scumbag Terry Hickerson sleeps with the Sheriff Jimmy Mondale’s wayward daughter, he’s inviting trouble. Mondale is very tight with Chowder Thompson, a meth kingpin and ex-biker. So tight, in fact, that they run all the organised crime in their little town in Missouri – and it really wouldn’t take that much for them to make a creep like Terry disappear. But Mondale has more important things on his mind: namely a smarmy DA who’s looking to make a name for himself by taking down Thompson and the Sheriff. But when tragedy strikes, Mondale’s once sound judgement goes out of the window and he hunts down Hickerson with the intention of killing him, and Thompson realises that maybe it’s time to break up their partnership and get out of town once-and-for-all.

Regular readers know how highly I rated Ayres’ Fierce Bitches – a highly ambitious and linguistically stunning novella set mostly in a small Mexican hell-hole. So how do you follow up such a cracker? In a sense, by not following it up at all. Peckerwood is as different from Fierce Bitches as chalk is from cheese. The writing is lighter and looser than the dense, poetic language used in last year’s novella, the tone is funnier, although there’s plenty of darkness in there too, and the characters have a bit more space to live and breathe and bounce off each other.

As the betrayals and blackmails and murders mounted up, Peckerwood began to remind me of a Jim Thompson small-town thriller. In fact, Sheriff Mondale could have been written by Thompson, which is as high a compliment as I can give, because, frankly, the guy wrote brilliant corrupt law officers (read Pop. 1280 and Killer Inside Me, should you have any doubts). But Chowder and Hickerson are both equally well written – Ayres writes very good scumbags, by the way – and the narrative paths that they take feel right. He also has complete mastery over the story and it never feels rushed or forced.

Peckerwood is, in its own way, as impressive a performance as Fierce Bitches, and Jedidiah Ayres is now up there on my small but growing list of new writers whose work I will snap up on the first day of release. Highly recommended.

The Green-eyed Monster

After a couple of months as a free Kindle file (via this blog), for those with the time and patience to download it and put it on the Kindle yourself, The Green-eyed Monster is no longer free to download.

If you want to get your hands on the prequel to Bone Breakers you will have to buy it from Amazon. It is available for 77p from Amazon.co.uk and $0.99 from Amazon.com.