Friday, 13 December 2013

Update to 'Writing Stuff' tab - see above.

My latest 'Beginners' page in Writing Magazine... and a plug for my book 'Write On! - The Writer's Help Book' - available as an ebook or paperback.

For details, see here

STOP PRESS! If ordering the Kindle version, you get it at A BARGAIN PRICE!!!

 UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B008HHVELM/
US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008HHVELM/
AUS: http://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B008HHVELM/
Canada: http://www.amazon.ca/dp/B008HHVELM/
France: http://www.amazon.fr/dp/B008HHVELM/
Germany: http://www.amazon.de/dp/B008HHVELM/
Spain: http://www.amazon.es/dp/B008HHVELM/
Italy: http://www.amazon.it/dp/B008HHVELM/
Japan: http://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B008HHVELM/
India: http://www.amazon.in/dp/B008HHVELM/


Saturday, 7 December 2013

BBC Radio interview

A lovely, fun interview by BBC Radio Northampton's John Griff in connection with their Book Club Book of the Month, 'Death on the Marais'.


In the studio is the charming Ahlam Yussef, of Northants Libraries, who is one of the volunteers (!) charged with reading and talking about the book each month.

You can listen to the entire interview here (go to about 1hr 16mins on the slider at the bottom for the beginning intro), which is available for the next 6 days.

John Griff was his usual engaging, supportive and witty self, and conducted a terrific interview with great humour and obvious interest in his subjects.

If you like the sound of  'Death on the Marais', it's available in hardback, paperback, audio and ebook. It might also be in your local library. If it's not - ask them to get a copy!

'Death on the Marais' - the first Inspector Lucas Rocco novel (there are now 4).

Synopsis

She was going to die. She could feel it, her life ebbing away as surely as fine sand through fingers.
France, 1963. It’s a time of great change, not least for Inspector Lucas Rocco. As part of a nationwide ‘initiative’ to broaden police operations, he finds himself moved from the Paris metropolis to a small village. His new patch might be rural, but it’s certainly not uneventful: on his first day, he finds a murdered woman wearing a Gestapo uniform lying in a British military cemetery. When the body is removed by order of a magistrate from the police mortuary before Rocco can finish his investigation, he realises he’s up against a formidable enemy. An enemy who will go to any lengths – even murder – to stop his investigation.
~~~~~~~~~~~

"Deserves to be ranked with the best." - (Daily Mail)

"France's answer to Jack Reacher!" - (CrimeSquad.com)

"...a brilliant debut, a great read and terrific fun. Excellent!" (Books Monthly)

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Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Review of 'Death at the Clos du Lac'

It's always lovely to get a nice surprise for Christmas, and never more so than when a book receives an excellent review. In this case it's 'Death at the Clos du Lac', my 4th Inspector Lucas Rocco novel,  which is available NOW (in case  your Christmas stockings have a spare space in them, or you know somebody who would like a copy in hardback or ebook). The paperback will be out in April 2014.

The lovely review comes from Linda Wilson in Crime Review, and I am indebted to her for such kind words about Lucas, the French cop in the 1960s.

To quote her: " my firm favourite amongst fictional French detectives."

Synopsis
Picardie, France 1964. The exclusive Clos du Lac sanitarium. A man is discovered standing in the therapy pool. But he's not there for his health; someone has chained him to the bottom and left him to die very, very slowly.

Inspector Lucas Rocco believes it's an unusual and elaborate method of execution. But nobody seems to have heard or seen anything, the staff are resolutely unhelpful - or dead - and ministry officials sent from Paris to 'assist' attempt to impede Rocco's efforts to find answers.

It is soon clear the Clos du Lac is no ordinary sanitarium, and holds secrets that the authorities feel are better left hidden. And a high-level kidnapping mounted in an attempt to derail France's new trade agreements with China means Rocco now faces threats from more than one quarter ...one of them a rogue government assassin.

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Signed H/B copies available from Goldsboro Books, London

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Update to 'Why I Wrote...' tab (see above)

'No Tears for the Lost' - Gavin & Palmer 4

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Update to the 'Why I Wrote...' tab (see above)

'Retribution' - the 4th Harry Tate spy thriller.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Adderbury Literary Festival - 22 - 24 November 2013

I'm delighted to have been asked to speak at the Adderbury Literary Festival (near Banbury, Oxfordshire). on Saturday, 23rd November at 2.00pm.

I'll be talking Murder, Espionage and Criminal Intent, so if any or all of those are your thing (or even if you simply love books and writing) you'll be very welcome. There are plenty of authors on the schedule, including Mark Mills and Linda Newbery among others, so take a look at the website for more information.

Authors' Books will be available before, during and after the event, and tickets are on sale at the delightful Indie bookshop, Books & Ink, of Banbury. (I was in there today, and I promise you, this is a delightful source of new and second-hand titles with a real book-ish atmosphere. You'll love it).

Small local festivals like this are a great way to connect authors and readers, and of introducing new readers without scaring them.

Why not give it a try? Friday 22nd through to Sunday 24th November - Adderbury nr Banbury.

With Christmas coming, why not buy someone a book?

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Wednesday, 13 November 2013

G'day Aussie readers!

(Actually, it's g'night for most of them (if my time-zone converter is working correctly). But hey - somebody's bound to be up and trawling the net, so this is well worth a mention).

The news is that Australia has now been added to Amazon with a website priced in Australian dollars. I'm sure there are some who will view this development with a certain cynicism, but for working authors, it's not a bad thing if readers can have ready access to our books.

If you want to read more about it, why not check right here?

As for you readers out there... well, jump right in! MY books are at this link right here.

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Saturday, 9 November 2013

Daily Mail review of 'Death at the Clos du Lac'

It's always great to receive a nice review of a book; actually, it better than that - it's fantastic. It's a huge boost after all the effort, and shows at least one person who likes what you've done and has been generous enough to say so. (OK, and especially nice in a national newspaper!)

The Daily Mail's Barry Turner has certainly done that in his Classic Crime review column, about my latest Inspector Lucas Rocco book (the 4th in the series) - 'Death at the Clos du Lac'.


I'll leave you to read it via the above link and make up your own minds, of course, but I have to include here his final line:

"The result is a pure joy, a crime novel that deserves to be ranked with the best."

(The Italics are mine. Sorry. But huge thanks to Barry for the words).

'Death at the Clos du Lac' - Allison & Busby - available in h/b and ebook - p/b to follow in April

Signed h/b copies from Goldsboro Books, London - others available from all the usual outlets.

Give Rocco a try. He's different.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Friday, 8 November 2013

I've been hacked... but learned something.

 Duh, who hasn’t been hacked? I can hear the chorus already. Well, I hadn’t, not until now. And it was an unsettling experience to rival being told by Penny Johnson that my breath smelled of onions (I was 6 at the time - what did I know?)

Anyway, the first I knew about it was a phone call from a friend asking me if I was really stuck in the Ukraine. I opened my email and was surprised to see that ‘I’ had indeed told people at some length and colour that I was stranded sans passport or money in some God-forsaken hotel being held at gunpoint by the manager. (OK, a slight exaggeration, but it’s hardly a friendly part of the world, is it?) But it was couched as a tug at the heart-strings, guaranteed to have my closest and mostest dropping their Marmite soldiers and rushing to their banks to help ‘me’ get back home to the bosoms of my family. Not.

(Actually, as a marketing exercise, I was almost impressed. The hacker had been kind enough to include at the bottom of the email details of my latest books, which I thought was showing a touching sense of initiative on my behalf: ‘Help, I’m up to my b******* in the back-of-beyond – but hey – wanna buy my latest book?!’)

There followed a steady stream of friends, family and acquaintances, phoning, tweeting, emailing and Facebooking, all asking for the latest sitrep. Some offered advice, others told me how broke they were (sorry, pal, you’re on your own). Most expressed how they knew it wasn’t really me because the hacker had used a small ‘i’ as a personal pronoun and a capital ‘P’ following a comma, something I would never do. Aw. I was quite touched by that one.

Looking on the down side, though, never before have I had so many people so eager to imply that I was unclean. Bubonic plague? A mere rash. Leprosy? Pretty much cured now, innit? Being hacked? YUKKK!

Some of the advice I received was brilliant and technical – so thank you everyone for that. Some was verging on the illegal, but scary, too, especially since I knew the people offering it. (The lady suggesting garden shears and a blender? You need to speak to a health professional, dear; the relish in your voice was just a bit too blood-sucky for that early in the morning).

To be fair, my wife was just as outraged. She was all for buying a ticket to the Ukraine and hunting down the hacker like a rabid dog (her words, not mine) and pinning them by their dangly bits to the nearest pine tree for the buzzards to feed on. (And I’m the crime writer in the family??) But good sense – and the cost of Christmas coming up – prevailed, and we settled down to a hefty and prolonged bout of swearing instead, which was cathartic but rough on the cats, who went outside until we’d finished.

I did start to assemble a clay effigy labelled ‘Hacking Bastard’, into which I was going to insert 6-inch nails, but its head kept falling off so I figured maybe I’d better stop. I didn’t want the Ukrainian cops finding headless corpses scattered all over the country with their lifeless fingers frozen to their keyboards.

So what did I learn from this experience? Well, to start with, change my bloody password. Second, I was touched by the number of caring messages I received, even those tinged with blood-letting.

On a practical level, however, came a call from my daughter, ringing me at 10.30 at night to see if I was actually at home. (I spent years travelling all over Europe on business, and she harbours vivid images of me living a far more colourful and dashing life than I actually did).

Her call, while welcome, was useful in one important aspect: she raised the question of what ‘safe’ word would we use if ever I really was in peril, and wanted to show that I was being pressured into speaking. (A topic mentioned in my current project, spookily enough). The idea would be that if we agreed the words limbo dancer, for example, as a ‘safe’ signal, I could feed it into the email or conversation to show I was speaking under duress. (On reflection, not so good for the Ukraine, but a belter if I was in the Caribbean being held by Yardie drug lords).

The problem was, I’d always thought my idea of a safe signal would be to litter any communication with typos and bad English, which would show everyone I was acting under duress. Based on that idea, the email ALL my friends received (and dismissed as a scam), proves that I’m not at home after all, but I’m stuck in the Ukraine sans passport or money, being held at gunpoint…

And not one bugger’s going to do a thing about it.
 
Have a great weekend.
~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Update to 'Why I Wrote'... tab

'Deception' - Harry Tate No 3 (see tab above).

Thursday, 31 October 2013

FREE EBOOK!

'Smart Moves' - FREE download from Kindle for just 5 days from tomorrow, Friday, November 1 to Tuesday, November 5.

Get yourself a book: it's cheaper than fireworks and lasts a lot longer.

Synopsis:

For international trouble-shooter Jake Foreman, losing his job, house and wife all in one day is the kind of problem he can't solve. And when an impulsive move lands him in even deeper water - the kind that could lose him his life - he decides it's time to make some smart decisions.

The trouble is, knowing the right moves and making them is a whole different game. And Jake, who has been happily rubbing along in a job he always suspected was just a shade away from being questionable, finds it too easy to go with the flow.

Now he's got to start learning otherwise - and fast. If he doesn't, he could end up dead.

Dark humour, dubious activities, beautiful women and a flurry of sex: an explosive mix. What more could anyone want?


*     *     *     *

Get your copy of 'Smart Moves' from these links, starting tomorrow:
UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00E1LF2IY/
US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00E1LF2IY/
Canada: http://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00E1LF2IY/
France: http://www.amazon.fr/dp/B00E1LF2IY/
Germany: http://www.amazon.de/dp/B00E1LF2IY/
Spain: http://www.amazon.es/dp/B00E1LF2IY/
Italy: http://www.amazon.it/dp/B00E1LF2IY/
Japan: http://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B00E1LF2IY/
India: http://www.amazon.in/dp/B00E1LF2IY/

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Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Book review - 'Touching Distance' - by Graham Hurley

Now up on the excellent SHOTS magazine website is my review of Graham Hurley's  'Touching Distance', the latest DS Jimmy Suttle novel.


It's not often I find myself thinking about a theme or backstory long after finishing a book. But I have with this one, perhaps because the plight and dangers of traumatised ex-soldiers is rather more with us than, say, the average fictional super-criminal seeking world domination while stroking his pet iguana (and no, that's not a euphemism).

Anyway, read my review via the above link, and you'll see what I mean about 'Touching Distance'. It's very good indeed. In fact, I recommend it.

(The book, that is, not my review. Well, that, too, of course...)

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Saturday, 26 October 2013

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Interview and review - J B Turner

J B Turner is the author of a tough, fast-moving thriller - 'Hard Road' - the first in a series featuring ex-Delta Force operative, Jon Reznick. Here is my review on the SHOTS Magazine website.

It was also a pleasure to interview the author, and the result can be seen here.

You can read more about JB on his website

I really enjoyed this one. A great addition to the genre, with more to come.

While you're at it, check out and favourite the SHOTS website. Well worth the time.


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Wednesday, 16 October 2013

'The Watchman' - cover image

It's always a buzz to see the cover image for a forthcoming book.

After all the research and writing, the plot cul-de-sacs, the name changes and editing, the very least any writer can hope for is a cover that rings all the bells.

It doesn't have to do exactly the 'what it says on the tin' thing, in my view... but it has to catch the attention and imagination of readers in a crowded world. And if it conveys at least some kind of hint about what's inside, all the better.

And in my opinion this image for 'The Watchman', (out in the UK January, US in May) fresh from the publisher and now up on Amazon, does that in spades.

This, I have to say, is NOT a Harry Tate novel. It's a Portman novel. It's in the same genre - spy thrillers - and just as current, but darker.

~~~~

Portman. He’s a professional shadow. A watcher who provides protection in potentially hostile situations. He works in the background, stays off the record. Often the people he’s guarding have no idea he’s there.

When two British intelligence agents are despatched to negotiate the release of a group of western hostages in Somalia, veteran MI6 operator Tom Vane realizes that something about this operation doesn’t stack up. Unwilling to see two promising officers sacrificed in what he believes to be a suicide mission, he covertly hires deep cover specialist Marc Portman to protect them.

Hiding out in the wild, lawless land on the Kenyan/Somali border, Portman soon realizes the British intelligence services have been double-crossed. Can he survive long enough to keep his charges alive and prevent a catastrophe?
 
~~~~
 
I enjoy writing every one of my books. I think that's essential for any writer, otherwise you might as well not bother. But I really enjoyed writing this one.
 
I hope it shows in the finished product.
 
'The Watchman' - signed hardback copies available in January from Goldsboro Books, and all Amazon sites thereafter.
 
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Monday, 14 October 2013

Update to 'Why I Wrote This' tab (see above)

Why I Wrote 'No Sleep for the Dead'.

It's predecessor, 'No Help for the Dying' is available FREE on Kindle until Tuesday. Get it now.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

FREE EBOOK

For just 5 days starting tomorrow, Friday 11th October, 'No Help for the Dying' - is available as a FREE download on Amazon Kindle.

This is the 2nd in the Gavin & Palmer mystery series (see also the latest update to the 'Why I Wrote' tab above, in which I talk about how it came about).


You've read the why, now you can read the book.

Synopsis:
Tough investigative reporter Riley Gavin has always been haunted by the baffling disappearance of young Katie Pyle. It was her first assignment – and her greatest failure. So when Katie turns up murdered a decade later, Riley knows she must find out what happened to her. What made this young girl disappear in the first place – and why has she now been murdered?

When her probing uncovers more dead runaways, Riley realises that there are all manner of dangers lurking in the dark city streets, quite apart from drugs and deprivation. There are predators, too.

What, for example, is the Church of Flowing Light? And why does it employ sinister characters like Quine? When she suddenly attracts the attentions of two silent watchers, and a former journalist colleague goes missing in bloody circumstances, she knows it's time to dig deeper.

Helped by former military cop Frank Palmer, Riley follows the trail into the lethal subways of London’s street life, in an effort to find the truth.

'No Help for the Dying'. FREE for 5 days. Step up and take a ride. Right here.

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Friday, 4 October 2013

Book reviews - Analdur Indridason and Michael Robotham

Now up on the Shots website (click on Book Reviews), are two new books.

'Strange Shores' by Arnaldur Indridason. The last case for Detective Erlendur, taking him on a journey through the moody landscape and minds of Iceland, where secrets are long-held and as deep and cold as the legendary fjords. Grim and darkly atmospheric.
Dig out your warmest clothing.










'Watching You' by Michael Robotham. The return of psychologist Joe O'Loughlin, trying to find out just who is watching Marnie Logan... and why her missing husband put together a book about her life shortly before he disappeared. Spooky stuff. Check any holes in your ceiling.

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Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Let's have some colour!

It's probably got something to do with the down-turn in the weather. Currently looking out of my window is like peering through muslin. Yuk grey is the general colour, and before the mood matches it, I decided it was about time to give Riley Gavin & Frank Palmer a make-over (well, the five covers in the series, anyway).



It's always a gamble doing this, because what attracts one reader might well put off another. But nothing ventured, nothing gained; if you don't try, you never find out... and all those other wise old sayings.

Anyway, I had fun choosing them, so it at least kept me out of trouble for a short while. And that's always a good thing.

I hope you like them.

Now, if the weather outside could only pretend it wasn't October...

(I'm indebted to Lem at Canstock Photo for the excellent images).

Gavin & Palmer series - currently available on Kindle here (UK) and here (.com)
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Monday, 30 September 2013

Slowwww.... burn

I remember some years ago a gentleman who discovered he was going to be raided, suspected of 'activities incompatible with diplomatic status'. This was bureaucratic long-hand for spying, and the diplomat in question was thought to have been at it for some time before he got careless and attracted the attention of the security authorities.

It was at a time when spies who got caught with their fingers in the Top Secret information jar usually spent only a short term in prison followed by an exchange (one of ours for one of theirs). The logic was that anything they might have learned would be soon out of date, so why hold onto them?

It was also at a time when failure by members of certain intelligence gathering networks further east meant they did not receive a warm welcome on their return home. After being drained of everything they might have retained, they simply disappeared off the radar. If they were lucky.

This spy panicked, no doubt thinking of his next destination being somewhere very cold and inhospitable compared with the delights of London, and began setting fire to every scrap of paper he had amassed during the course of his activities. No proof equals no charge.

Two hours later he was still desperately trying to get rid of them when a knock at the door announced the arrival of Special Branch.

I was reminded of this today, after having a blitz on some 25 years of paperwork, none of which I felt able to consign to the nearest landfill site. There wasn't that much - about 2 boxes - but I duly carted them down to the bottom of the garden, and began to burn the contents. (I didn't use accelerant - a neighbour recently lost his eyebrows doing that - but took the patient route, piling on a few pages at a time.

Two hours later was still at it and wondering if the paper I'd been using had been treated with a fire retardant.

All this made me think about the unhappy spy - and about the films and books where a miscreant burns a ton of paper - usually on the open fire inside the house - in very short order before the heavy mob arrives.

It just ain't possible, people, not unless you have a huge bonfire to increase the burn (I used a standard family-size barbecue) and are prepared to go ballistic with a can of petrol (I wasn't - have you seen the price of the stuff here in the UK?) I also have respect for my neighbours, and didn't want to cover their washing with charred bits of my personal notes and stuff.

Although I suppose if I were a foreign spy, and wanted top get rid at any cost, I'd go all out. I'd burn down the house - it would be a lot quicker.

Still, I learned a lot today. Don't hoard stuff. Choose a non-windy day to burn it. Have the patience of a Bhuddist monk. Torching confidential documents is nowhere near as much fun as incinerating slabs of meat and chicken legs, because all you get to eat is dry ash.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

I don't mind at all...

... my work being compared to other writers. It's not necessarily that a reader finds similarities in style or content between two authors; nor that a character one has created resembles another. I prefer to think (perhaps fooling myself into the bargain) that the reader has been equally captured by the enjoyment of my book to want to make such a comparison.

Whatever the reason, Karen Kleckner Keefe, posting on Booklist Online, clearly has enormous style and taste, as well as unbounded generosity of spirit, by listing my latest Harry Tate book, 'Execution' as comparable with Lee Child's Jack Reacher books - and a great list of others.

As she says (of the Reacher series): 'In an uncertain world, there is something supremely rewarding about reading this justice-dispensing series.'

I have to say, there's something supremely rewarding about writing them, too! If an author doesn't enjoy writing, I firmly believe it will show in the finished work.

Anyway, thank you, Karen, for this comparison - and for including me in such august company. I'd be delighted to find myself on this list any day!

'Execution' (Seven House Pubs). The 5th in the Harry Tate spy thriller series.

Reviewed here by Emily Melton.

Also discussed in my podcast with Publishers Weekly - listen here.

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Friday, 20 September 2013

Guest blogging with Lloyd Paige

I was surprised but delighted when I received an email from Lloyd Paige asking me to contribute a guest interview piece to his blog. You can read this and other blog posts here.

As you'll see, Lloyd gets me talking about my writing, where it comes from and how it began... and also about current projects, such as the Harry Tate contemporary spy thriller series and the 1960s-based Lucas Rocco police series (set in France), and the new series, the first book of which is called 'The Watchman', due out in February, I believe (watch this space, as they say).

It was great being asked these questions, because while some called for instinctive answers, many made me think back about everything that has happened since I penned my first story. I can't recall exactly how I felt before I wrote the first one (while at school - got first prize in a competition), but I know it must have seemed like a very, very long reach at the time - and was, unknown to me, the first step in my career as a writer.

Anyway, enough about that. Thank you very much, Lloyd, for this opportunity to blather, and for your carefully considered questions. (And yes, he really did his homework. Stellar stuff!)

Harry Tate spy thriller series (Severn House)
Inspector Lucas Rocco police series (Allison & Busby)

Available here (UK), here (US), here (Can) and all other Amazon sites and good bookshops.

Signed hardback copies (where issued) are available through Goldsboro Books, London.

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Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Talking about Harry Tate et al with Publishers Weekly...

I was recently delighted to be invited by Publishers Weekly in the US to take part in one of their litcast interviews, where they discuss with authors general writing matters and their latest work (in my case, the 5th Harry Tate novel, 'Execution' (Severn House). There was also mention of comparisons between writing this series and my French-based 1960s police series featuring Inspector Lucas Rocco, when the kind of technology available now to intelligence agencies simply didn't exist.


You can listen here to the interview run by Lenny Picker, PW's gentle Torquemada (and if you listen carefully, hear the faint squeal of the wheels turning on the rack in the cellar). Of course, I jest - he was a real gentleman and coaxed responses from this tongue-tied British author with great ease and no pain.

I was interviewed in a cellar, however, owned by my agent, the urbane David Headley, who helped set up the Skype interview when my own equipment decided to play electronic hookie only minutes before the timed broadcast. Ah, the fun we had - it was like playing spies broadcasting from secret underground locations with seconds to spare before discovery. Not that I would know anything about that, of course...

Anyway, if you have the inclination, please drop by and listen.

Review:
"Top-notch for all fans of the spy-action genre and another outstanding effort from an underrated but highly talented author. Fans of Joseph Finder and David Ignatius should start reading Magson right now; he will also appeal to the pure-adrenaline crowd who love Lee Child and Gregg Hurwitz."
Booklist Reviews

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Thursday, 12 September 2013

Hush my mouth

I was asked just recently at a book festival whether I was ever required to make changes to a manuscript. I said, 'Hardly ever.' And it's true - other than the normal editing amendments, there has only been an occasional timeline issue or something needing some clarification or expansion, which I've been very happy to do.

Any suggestions for improvement are welcome, in my opinion.

After submitting my latest manuscript - 'The Watchman' - recently to the publishers of the Harry Tate spy thriller series (this one is a new character and storyline, somewhat darker in tone and body-count to Harry), it was pointed out that I'd included a short chapter near the end which slowed down the pace of the narrative.

Wha-? Surely not! Hell on a skateboard, lemme see that...

And you know what? They were absolutely right. I'd put a chapter of blah in the middle of a series of action scenes, which was like taking a pot off the boil at a critical moment. Result: a hiccup in the story and the threat of skimming pages.

I suppose it must have seemed important to me at the time of writing, because I put it in there. But writers can often get too close to a story and need an outside view to point out when something doesn't quite work. Like a hiccup.

And if there's something a thriller can't afford to have, it's a loss of pace. A bit like a ski jumper slowing down just before lift-off: they'll go face down over the lip and drop like a bag of wet spaghetti.

Fortunately, I learned long ago not to get precious about my writing. That's a quick way of annoying people you work with and on whom you rely to bring your work to market. So, if someone comes up with a logical argument for changing something, I'll change it, no problem. (If they don't, of course, I'll fight my corner).

This was one of those times when I'm glad to say they were right. It took me some reading and a day or so to correct (checking that I wasn't causing a domino effect elsewhere in the story), and the job was done.

So, when the next person asks me if I ever change anything, I'll say, 'Yes, sometimes...'





Monday, 9 September 2013

Saintly memories

In a serious nod to the amazingly prolific and successful Leslie Charteris, creator of The Saint back in 1928 (which was almost before my parents were a glimmer, let alone me), Mulholland Books/Hodder have been re-issuing the books in very attractive covers, so that new readers (and those not-so-new) may enjoy the stories.

I was delighted to be invited by Ian Dickerson, the series editor, to write a foreword to one of the books - 'Follow the Saint' - which I remember well, even though I was about 8 or 9 when I first stumbled on it. Like the others, it got thumbed to bits with re-reading.

At that age, I have to admit most of the longer words, along with a few of the concepts in the storylines, like war, honour, politics and the beastly activities of the criminal element so ruthlessly roughed up by Simon Templar - aka 'the Saint' - went right over my head or flew by my ears without settling, and disappeared into the ether. But the idea of this modern-ish Robin Hood fighting criminals (or the ungodly, as he used to refer to them), with a band of like-minded souls, caught my imagination, and I hoovered the books up as rapidly as my parents could get them.

They were only trying to get me to read, while no doubt hoping I'd become too absorbed to get into trouble outside. Well, it worked after a fashion, but perhaps not as they intended; I soon began to fantasise about what a brilliant job it must be to write books for a living, and make up stuff involving guns and crooks and mayhem.

It took me many years to get my own first book into print, although I wrote a great deal over the years in between (mostly short fiction and features), and the dream never died.

And that was all thanks to my parents... and Leslie Charteris.

The story styles have changed a little, as have the times. But they were so brilliantly written then and are still great reads, chock full of characters who jump right off the page.

Available in paperback and ebook formats. (I wonder what Leslie Charteris would have thought about ebooks?)

There are two great sites devoted to the books and Leslie Charteris here and here.

There are far worse characters to follow than the Saint...

Friday, 6 September 2013

Story... house. House... story

House hunting this week. Exciting, nerve-wracking, tiring, interesting... and reminded me a lot of writing a new book, in a weird kind of way. Come up with an interesting idea (property), check it out, see if it hangs together and if not, look at ways of improving, amending, making it different. Framework a little spongy? Groundwork creaky? Location not quite right? Overall structure sagging in the middle like an old carthorse?

With a house, you can call in a gang of men with hammers to put it right. With a storyline, not quite so much.

Decide the (lengthy) job of re-working will be (a) doubtful in outcome (b) dangerous to pocket, life, relationship and pride, and (c) likely to end in disaster on so many levels. So suck in cheeks and shake head. Walk away, uncork a bottle and think of something else.

Just like writing. Except that deciding why I'm not happy with a story idea before completion is my decision alone. There's a certain pride in doing that.

On the house side, saw some interesting properties;  some good, one scary, one beyond salvation... and most lacking the indefinable wow factor that makes you salivate and reach for the chequebook and oxygen.

But there was one... now that's a keeper. Lost sleep over that.

A little like the idea that eventually makes it past all the doubts and pitfalls to fruition and lands on my agent's desk as a completed project with a 'hope you like this!' message attached.

Just have to hope nobody along the line decides to play wrecker's ball and smash it to pieces.

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Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Guest blogging

I was recently invited by Pauline Rendall of Wivenhoe Writers to guest blog on the subject of writing crime and thriller novels and the different approach I take to the two - currently the Inspector Lucas Rocco and Harry Tate series. It made me think a bit, because like most working writers, I just do it, without necessarily considering the nuts and bolts of the process in detail. But that's not a bad thing, so my thanks to Pauline and her kind invitation for making me ruminate on the whys and wherefores of the job I do.

Essentially - for me, at least - It all comes down to pace, and the explanation is through the link above or here.

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Before I forget, this is the final day for getting your hands on 'Death on the Pont Noir' (Lucas Rocco No 3) for a paltry £0.99 or $1.53 - or Euro 1.09 in Rocco money (or whatever the  francs and centimes equivalents would have been back in his day). It's a steal in any money, be honest.

It'll be a nice warm-up for 'Death at the Clos du Lac' - which is out.......................................... ......................... now. Signed copies are available through Goldsboro Books, who ship wherever readers read.

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Saturday, 31 August 2013

Update...

... to 'Why I Wrote This' tab (see above).

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Get Rocco...

A reminder that 'Death on the Pont Noir' (Rocco 3) is available in the Kindle Big Summer Reading Promotion here (UK) and here (US) at an amazing steal price of £0.99 or $1.55 - but only until September 5.

After that it's back to full price. So why not get it now while you can? This could be the only chance you'll have of buying a French cop at this price.

Also, 'Death at the Clos du Lac', the latest in the series, is out now in hardback and ebook.

Signed h/b copies are available from Goldsboro Books in London

Picardie, France 1964. The exclusive Clos du Lac sanitarium. A man is discovered standing in the therapy pool. But he's not there for his health; someone has chained him to the bottom and left him to die very, very slowly.

Inspector Lucas Rocco believes it's an unusual and elaborate method of execution. But nobody seems to have heard or seen anything. The staff are resolutely unhelpful - or dead - and ministry officials sent from Paris to 'assist' attempt to impede Rocco's efforts to find answers.

It is soon clear the Clos du Lac is no ordinary sanitarium, and holds secrets that the authorities feel are better left hidden. And a high-level kidnapping mounted in an attempt to derail France's new trade agreements with China means Rocco now faces threats from more than one quarter... one of them a rogue government assassin.

Inspector Lucas Rocco. A French cop with attitude.

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Saturday, 24 August 2013

Update...

... to 'Writing Stuff' tab - see above.

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And tomorrow, Sunday 25th, I will be at the Bookmarks Literary Festival in Helmdon, Northants, alongside fellow authors Alison McQueen and Garry O'Connor, talking about our writing, our books and other related subjects.

This is a free event with all proceeds going to the charity Hand in Hand for Syria, and if ever a place deserved some help, that is one. So please do pop by and show your support.

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Thursday, 22 August 2013

Update

'Writing Stuff' tab - see above.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Book review - 'Screwed' by Eoin Colfer

I should be promoting my own books really, but every now and then a book comes along and you just have to give it a shout. (Not that Mr Colfer needs any help from me... )

Anyway, go to the inestimable Shots Magazine review page here and you'll see what I'm talking about.


'Screwed'. Great title, too.

PS: this is for adults, by the way.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

I love radio

It’s always a huge pleasure to be interviewed by BBC Radio Northampton’s John Griff. He’s enthusiastic and interested and actually lets you answer his questions – and he has a great sense of fun – which all goes to make a grilling from him something worth shouting about.

And that’s what I was doing on Friday afternoon just after 3pm, gagging on about Harry Tate, Lucas Rocco and others to come - and about the Bookmarks Literary Festival, which I’m in next Sunday, 25th August, in case you're in the area.

So, go here and have a listen – the link is operable for another 6 days. (And if you’re short of time, push the slider at the bottom of the screen to 1:14.50 or thereabouts, and you’ll hear John making the introduction. But there are other interesting interviewees as well, so don't let me steal their thunder).

 Thank you, John. Most enjoyable.

 

Monday, 12 August 2013

A good news day.


In February last year, during a meeting with my agent, David Headley and publishers Severn House, I was asked if I could write an alternative to my Harry Tate thrillers.

As actors do at auditions when asked if they can ride a horse, I said, ‘Of course,’ and worried about falling off later. What the heck, I like a challenge, and the idea of trying out something new is always intriguing.

So a few months later, when I’d cleared the then current projects, I set to work. One dark and stormy-

It was a great relief when my beta reader (my wife, Ann) gave my latest manuscript the thumbs-up. It meant I was on the right track and hadn't taken leave of my senses in a flush of writerly madness.

It was even better when David Headley subsequently endorsed that view; he’s a professional and I rely on his take for the first industry opinion. He’s also an experienced bookseller and knows what will appeal ‘on the shelf’.

Then there was the response we were all waiting for: that of the publisher.

And today I was delighted to receive a glowing acceptance from Kate Lyall Grant of Severn House Publishers to my latest spy thriller, The Watchman’, couched in such terms I’m still blushing behind my kneecaps.

This book is darker in tone and content than the Harry Tate books, and faster-paced - something I'd been wanting to try for a while. It’s also written in the 1st and 3rd person. And the main character, Portman – a covert bodyguard for spies on dangerous missions in hostile territory (so covert even they don’t know he’s there), is enigmatic, mysterious… and entirely ruthless when called for.

I had a lot of fun writing this book. I hope it shows.

‘The Watchman’ – due for publication February 2014.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

'Execution' - ebook worldwide and H/B in US

I'm pleased to remind readers that 'Execution' - the 5th in the Harry Tate series, will be out as an ebook on the 1st September, here (UK), here (US), here (Can), along with everywhere else ebooks and hardbacks can be found.

Story:

When a Russian hit team catches up with Roman Tobinskiy, political opponent of Moscow and former FSB colleague of Alexander Litvinenko (murdered by polonium poisoning in 2006), it's an easy kill; he's lying helpless in a hospital bed.

Too late they realise that in an adjacent room is Clare Jardine, ex-MI6 officer, recovering from wounds while saving Harry Tate's life.

When Clare goes on the run, Harry is ordered to track her down before the Russians reach her. It's one of his toughest challenges yet. For not only is Clare as adept at covering her tracks as Harry is himself, but the Russians are not the only ones chasing her. Harry is about to come up against an old enemy from his past.

And if he is to save Clare's life - as she saved his - he must seek help from a most unlikely source.

'Execution' - signed hardback copies available from Goldsboro Books, London.

Get yourself a taste of Tate.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Lucas Rocco in Kindle Big Summer Reading Promotion

 'Death on the Pont Noir' has been chosen for Amazon's Big Summer Kindle Reading promotion at the special price of £0.99 or $1.52, to run from July 26 to September 5. I'm not saying there's any hurry, but if you're about to launch into your summer vacation, you might like to load up your Kindle with this, the 3rd in the Inspector Lucas Rocco series, set in France in the 1960s.

1963 - Picardie, northern France. Following an inexplicable ramming and gun attack on a Citroen DS in the middle of open countryside, and a bar brawl involving a group of drunken Englishmen, Inspector Lucas Rocco finds himself drawn into what has all the hallmarks of yet another plot to assassinate President Charles de Gaulle - one of many made on the French leader's life. But why are Englishmen working for a well-known pair of London gangland twins involved? And who set fire to an ex-army truck with a body inside? Rocco finds himself once more pulled several ways while attempting to investigate events. Only this time, he's accused of taking bribes and even suspected of being part of the assassination plot himself. Suspended from duty, he has very little time to intervene and stop what could be a cataclysmic event for France... and for his own continued freedom.

And there's more! What timing!

'Death at the Clos du Lac' - the 4th in the series, will be out in hardback and ebook on the 26th August.


Picardie, France 1964. The exclusive Clos du Lac sanitarium. A man is discovered standing in the therapy pool. But he's not there for his health; someone has chained him to the bottom and left him to die very, very slowly. Inspector Lucas Rocco believes it's an unusual and elaborate method of execution. But nobody seems to have heard or seen anything, the staff are resolutely unhelpful - or dead - and ministry officials sent from Paris to 'assist' merely attempt to impede Rocco's efforts to find answers.
 It is soon clear the Clos du Lac is no ordinary sanitarium, and holds secrets the authorities feel are better left hidden. And a high-level kidnapping mounted in an attempt to derail France's new trade agreements with China means Rocco now faces threats from more than one quarter ...one of them a rogue government assassin.
Signed copies of the book will be available (as are copies of my other hardbacks) from David Headley's Goldsboro Books in London's West End. Please check here for stock prior to visiting.

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Monday, 22 July 2013

Update to 'Writing Stuff' tab

For item re: the latest Writing Magazine content (August) - 'Beginners' and 'New Author' pages - please go to Writing Stuff tab above.

It's all good. Promise.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

But in case you weren't looking on the weekend, don't forget 'Smart Moves', my new novel out on Kindle here (UK) and here (US) and here (Can).

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Saturday, 20 July 2013

New Ebook

'SMART MOVES' - now available on Kindle here (UK) and here (US) and here (Can).

Synopsis:

For international troubleshooter Jake Foreman, losing his job, house and wife all in one day is not the kind of problem he can solve. And when an impulsive move lands him in even deeper water - the kind that could lose him his life - he decides it's time to make some smart decisions for once.

The problem is, knowing the right moves and making them is a whole different game. And Jake, who's been happily rubbing along in a job he always suspected was just a shade away from being legal, finds it too easy to go with the flow. Now he's got to start learning otherwise - and fast.

If he doesn't, he could end up dead.

Dark humour, dubious activities, beautiful women and a flurry of sex: a potent mix.

What more could anyone want?

'Smart Moves' - a morality tale... sort of.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Review of 'Execution'

Another lovely review of 'Execution' (Severn House) - this one in Publishers Weekly and noting the tradecraft aspect of the story.

"Magson’s exciting fifth Harry Tate thriller... Focused on action and tradecraft, this straightforward entry bypasses the usual cross, double-cross, and triple-cross of most spy fiction as it builds to a highly satisfying conclusion."
 
Publishers Weekly - July 2013
 
Signed h/b copies available at Goldsboro Books.
@severnhouse @goldsborobooks

Synopsis:

When a Russian hit team catches up with Roman Tobinskiy, political opponent of Moscow and former FSB colleague of Alexander Litvinenko (murdered by polonium poisoning in 2006), it's an easy kill; he's lying helpless in a hospital bed.
But they realise too late that in an adjacent room is Clare Jardine, ex-MI6 officer, recovering from wounds while saving Harry Tate's life.
When Clare goes on the run, Harry is ordered to track her down before the Russians reach her. It's one of his toughest challenges yet. For not only is Clare as adept at covering her tracks as Harry is himself, but the Russians are not the only ones chasing her. Harry is about to come up against an old enemy from his past. And if he is to save Clare's life - as she saved his - he must seek help from a most unlikely source.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Cuckoo's the Word

Ah, me, what a puzzling world we live in. Great excitement is ensuing at the revelation that a certain debut author, previously unknown (for reasons that are blindingly obvious - he doesn't exist) Robert Galbraith, is none other than JK Rowling, of interstellar, nay cosmic fame (whichever is the greater).

Now that the news has broken (or been broken, I should say cynically) publishers, agents, industry watchers and others are all wondering who knew, when, how and why. Others are speculating on how many million more copies will now sell than the 490 or so sold up to last week (about average for debut authors...

... that is, debut authors who aren't having their real ID kept under covers by a wily publisher - in this case until the similarity in style with JKR's writing was spotted. Really? Spotted?

At least one brave editor has admitted turning down the book, thereby joining a stream of others who also turned down JKR's first effort in the 90s. Points for honour there, I think.

Now, I don't blame JK one bit. Good luck to her. If we're honest, all authors would love to be there. And she had plainly decided that she wanted to test the crime writing genre without the dubious drag of her Harry Potter name distorting opinions. Good on her. She worked damned hard to plan, write and execute the HP books, so I begrudge her nothing.

However, I'm not so forgiving of the publisher's apparent deceit. On their website, they have a bio for 'Robert Galbraith': "Born in 1968, Robert Galbraith is married with two sons. After several years with the Royal Military Police, he was attached to the SIB (Special Investigation Branch), the plain-clothes branch of the RMP. He left the military in 2003 and has been working since then in the civilian security industry. The idea for protagonist Cormoran Strike grew directly out of his own experiences and those of his military friends who have returned to the civilian world. 'Robert Galbraith' is a pseudonym."

Now, giving a fictitious author a bio like this is one thing. To give it knowingly to a mother of three children (not a man, let alone a male military cop or security contractor), plus the bit about his 'experiences and those of his military friends' smacks to me of over-egging in the extreme.

In fact, my mother would have said it was outright lying.

Then there's the 'after the event' reaction by others. The Bookseller's reviewer admits not getting past page 18 back in December 2012 ("irritating" was one word used)... yet now the news is out, she has come up with the following volte face:  "Having just finished The Cuckoo’s Calling by J K Rowling (Sphere), I can report that it is a cracking read with great characters, and I turned the pages with increasing eagerness through to its very satisfying ending."

Duh? What? Right. That should help sales a bit.

The obvious bleedin' question is, would she have bothered had the author not been subsequently outed as JKR? Answer: un-bloody-likely.

One could go on, but one won't. The flurry of belated reviews it will now get (which other debuts don't, won't and wouldn't, dear reader) will help it achieve greatness. And maybe that's the right result. I haven't read it. But I just hope those in the industry who have contributed to this deceit (in which I don't include the author), whether knowingly or by a wink, wink, 'this one is, you know - a bit special...' will pause next time they give a less-than-glowing or even dismissive reaction to a genuine debut author.



Sunday, 14 July 2013

Book festivals rule

I'm delighted to have been asked to take part in the Bookmarks Festival 2013, which takes place in Helmdon in Northants on Sunday, 25th August and is run by Peter and Maddi. I'll be on with Alison McQueen and Garry O’Connor, and we'll be reading from our books and answering questions in a joint session afterwards.

As I'm sure Alison and Gary have, I've been on many of these sessions in other parts of the country, and it's always great fun because it allows us to talk about what we do (most authors love it) and allows readers to throw questions at us and find out how we go about producing a book. That usually involves questions about the various elements involved, from ideas, to research, to planning (not a heck of a lot in my case), to characterisation, pace, tension, bum-on-seat writing... and editing.

Editing is the hardest, but one I find enjoyable because it's where the book really starts to take shape. From the initial rush of getting the words on the page, it's where you begin to fine-tune everything. This usually means throwing out the unnecessary and finding that you've got a bit of a hole in the plot. But that's good, because it's far better to find it then than have somebody point it out afterwards.

Anyway, if you fancy a day out at a FREE festival (I'll repeat that - FREE!) - then get yourself aimed at the south midlands near Silverstone and come visit Helmdon. We'll all be delighted to see you - and even more delighted to have you ask questions. And if you fancy your hand at writing, there are even TWO free competitions (see here for details).

Helmdon, Northants - 25th August. Make it a date.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Review of 'Death on the Pont Noir'

It's always a delight to hear of a favourable review of one of my books, and none better than this one from The Good Book Guide's learned, erudite and elegant Barry Forshaw, who knows more than a thing or two about crime fiction. Here he talks about 'Death on the Pont Noir' - the 3rd Insp Lucas Rocco novel.

"It is particularly refreshing to see the writing of Adrian Magson -- who has been paying his dues in the crime fiction stakes for quite some time -- finally achieving something of the acclaim that he deserves.  The sense of period here (1963) is only one of the virtues of this tautly constructed piece."

1963 - Picardie, northern France. Following an inexplicable ramming and gun attack on a Citroen DS in the middle of open countryside, and a bar brawl involving a group of drunken Englishmen, Inspector Lucas Rocco finds himself drawn into what has all the hallmarks of yet another plot to assassinate President Charles de Gaulle - one of many made on the French leader's life.

But why are Englishmen working for a well-known pair of London gangland twins involved? And who has set fire to an ex-army truck with a body inside? And why have those who made a previous abortive attack suddenly vanished? Rocco finds himself once more pulled several ways while attempting to investigate events.

Only this time, he's accused of taking bribes and even suspected of being part of the assassination plot himself. Suspended from duty, he has very little time to intervene and stop what could be a cataclysmic event for France... and for his own continued freedom.

'Death on the Pont Noir' - available in hardback (signed copies) from here - or paperback or ebooks from here or other retailers

Thank you, Barry, for such kind words.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Playing with Prices


I’m making ‘No Tears for the Lost’ – No 4 in the Riley Gavin/Frank Palmer London-based crime series – available on Kindle at $0.99 or £.077, depending on where you are.
 
Why such largesse? Because I’m feeling rebellious and want to see if I can bring down the entire industry. Here's why.

“Discounting is bad for publishing.” I forget which so-called legacy-publishing mouthpiece suggested this a while back (I paraphrase), but it was part of a broadside aimed squarely at the Kindle self-publishing army for not playing fair by undermining the free world with special offers. The comment was a warning that if this evil practice didn’t cease and desist forthwith and even sooner, by the cringe, we’d all be dragged screaming into a gutter of literary ignorance and that reading itself would be a thing of the past.

How this earth-bound representative of the Collective kept a straight face I don’t know; as if paper book publishers have never discounted a single thing in the history of printing! (Or paid for space in bookshops).

To be honest, I haven’t noticed any drop-off in reading. In fact, I hear it’s on the increase, and in a variety of forms. With the proliferation of e-readers, books of all genres are now more available than ever, easier to find, quicker to obtain and more practical to carry. (I just got back from a holiday in Menorca, and there were enough e-readers around the hotel pool to light up a small town. And I doubt they were only carrying just one book. Given the airlines’ baggage allowance these days, you simply can’t carry too many paper books without taking out a mortgage on the excess).

However, the latest shot across the bows against Kindle's owners is a demand by a bookshop in Warwickshire England that authors should cut out the heinous and barbaric practice of linking their websites to Amazon, since it disadvantages independent bookshops. (This is all part of a concerted effort to get Amazon to pay their fair share of tax – which I agree with – but it kind of uses a blunderbuss approach in that it’s now authors who are being put up as part of the problem, which is silly).

I’ve been in plenty of independent (and chain) bookshops over the years, and often seen neither hide nor hair of my books being supported by them (even in some instances a couple of days after doing promotional gigs there), so I find such protests a little weak, even hypocritical.

The thing is, I fully understand why bookshops prioritise on books they know they can sell, even if it doesn’t include some of mine. It’s called business. And, as with all businesses, if you want to survive, you have to make decisions based on what you know will work for you. And that includes taking note of local practice, offers, deals, discounts, packaging, special events – call it what you will.

However, what works for the goose and so forth…

I currently have 16 books which are traditionally-published – ie: in paper form. I've also got a few which I’ve put on Kindle myself, either because I retained the electronic rights when they were first published or because I’ve decided that was the way I wanted to go because I didn’t think they’d ever be published ‘traditionally’ (these are short story anthologies).  However, compared with some, I’ve done relatively little in the way of price reductions or deals.

Call me a slow learner.

 So, in the spirit of modern business practice, I’ve decided to hell with it, which is why I’m letting ‘No Tears for the Lost’ go for a paltry $0.99 or £0.77. And if this causes the utter collapse of the entire publishing industry as we know it, I’m really, really sorry. May the Borg and everybody else forgive me.

Frankly, though, I’m not holding my breath.