Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Reading the Obituaries



It's been a while since I posted a blog. So, let's talk about something cheerful. Like death, for instance.

Occasionally, I find it interesting to comb through the obituary columns to see who has died recently. Some may consider this a morbid pastime, but for me it is the modern-day equivalent of the old Buddhist practice of spending nights in a charnel house. First, it reminds me how lucky I am to be alive; and secondly, it is a reminder of those folks who have in some way influenced me during my half-century-plus on this spinning rock. (It is also much more pleasant, and less stinky than spending a night in an actual charnel house. The only contact I allow myself with deceased bones is when I'm giving one to my dog. Otherwise, things gets a bit complicated, and the police tend to get involved. Trust me on this.)

So which persons of note have shuffled off their mortal coil in 2015 thus far? By the way, this list excludes all politicians, since I can't think of a single one during my lifetime that has made a positive contribution to my existence - except insofar as they provide a behavioural model not to be followed.

Here is my list, and what the individuals concerned taught me...

Terry Pratchett (66) - author of the Discworld novels - "Sometimes fantasy is more real than reality"
Dave Mackay (80) - Scottish footballer - "You can eat pork pies and still be a professional athlete"
Alan Howard (77) - English actor - "Shakespeare can be sexy"
Louis Jourdan (93) - French actor - "Not all French people are bad, and some of them can act"
Colleen McCullough (69) - author of The Thorn Birds - "Crying at a book is OK"
Leonard Nimoy (83) - American actor - "If you live long enough, you prosper"
Anita Ekberg (83) - Swedish-Italian actress - "Busty ladies look great in fountains"
Demis Roussos (68) - Egyptian-born Greek singer - "Anybody can sing, even when they can't"
Geraldine McEwan (82) - British actress - "Style never goes out of fashion"

OK, and now a word from our sponsor. Well, from me.

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*** except in China, where they think I'm a dick, allegedly.

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Friday, January 30, 2015

Vaginas


Being a resident of the Land of Ladyboys - i.e. Thailand - I guess it was inevitable that sooner or later I was going to write a blog post about vaginas.

Well, maybe not inevitable, but likely.

Now for you guys who think, "Clitoris = A Roman General", there is not going to be much in this post to give you much assistance in finding the G-spot (which is not something to do with the velocity required to escape the Earth's atmosphere, by the way).

Science. This week I'm being scientific. Sort of.

My weary eyes were recently taken with the following headline:

ADVANCEMENTS IN REGENERATIVE MEDICINE HAVE MADE ARTIFICIAL VAGINAS A POSSIBILITY

We're talking prosthetics. Apparently. Here's how you make one, just in case you're stuck for something to do this weekend.

"You take cells from external genitalia and you ... create this scaffolding that you place the cells on, and then you implant it to actually create the cavity, and the body takes to it. Two of the the four women that have undergone this procedure at Wake Forest [University] were able to menstruate."

So, gentlemen, there you have it. Easy. Women are now officially redundant. Make one and keep it in your fridge - not in your freezer, obviously - for those evenings when there is nothing much on the TV. Buying dinner in expensive restaurants just to get laid is now a thing of the past. Plus, no mother-in-law, aggravation at forgetting birthdays, etc.

I gather Hollywood is going to make a film about it, entitled "Field of [Wet] Dreams II". The best line will no doubt be, "If you build it, they will come."

Isn't progress wonderful? Sort of.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Guess What?



Guess what?
"What?" I hear you reply, somewhat grumpily.
Well, I'll tell you.
"Get on with it, then," you say, "I have things to do."
The first book in my 'Time, Blood and Karma' series is free on Amazon from 16-20 January.
"And you expect me to download a copy, I suppose."
That would be nice.
You sigh in resignation. "OK, what's the damn thing called?"
It's called 'Everyone Burns' and it's about this English detective who's hiding out in Thailand ---
"Spare me the sales pitch, just give me the links so I can get on with my day."
OK, here they are:-

Amazon USA http://www.amazon.com/Everyone-Burns-Time-Blood-Karma-ebook/dp/B008I6GXM2/ref=la_B008IIERF0_1_1_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1421396128&sr=1-1

Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Everyone-Burns-Time-Blood-Karma-ebook/dp/B008I6GXM2/ref=sr_1_1_twi_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1421390847&sr=1-1&keywords=everyone+burns

"Right, got it."
It's also available on all other Amazon sites worldwide.
You curl your lip. "Fascinating. Are we finished here now?"
Well, you know that twenty quid I loaned you ---?
"Don't push your luck."
Right then, we're finished.


Friday, November 28, 2014

My Publisher is a Git. But I Can See His Point of View




Here's a conversation I had recently with my publisher. He has insisted I remove all numbers from our dialogue on the basis of some dodgy confidentiality clause in our publishing agreement; so you'll just have to use your imagination as to those.

But you'll get the gist of his argument.


Pub: John, it's that time of the year when we need to review our publishing agreement.

Me: I can't wait.

Pub: OK. Here it is. First of all, your responsibilities. You write the books, proofread and edit them, and design a cover. If you want to use editors, proofreaders and designers, that's up to you, but you have to pay for them. I get exclusive worldwide rights over your books in whatever form they are published, and I determine the prices of them.

Me: And what do you do?

Pub: I supply the ISBN number and pay out of my own pocket for lodging the copies with the various libraries.

Me: The total cost of which is less than fifty quid per book, right?

Pub: Right.

Me: And what else?

Pub: I load up your books onto Amazon as soon as they are ready. At the start of each year, I agree with you a budget to spend on marketing and advertising, and I organise that. This year the budget will be X pounds. I will also I spend Y hours every week doing tweeting, retweeting and other social media stuff for you.

Me: And how is the money split once the retailer and printer have had their cuts?

Pub: First, the money will be used to pay for the marketing and advertising costs. Then there is my cut. Since I am spending Y hours every week, and my hourly rate is Z, the cash next goes to pay me. You get whatever is left.

Me: Your hourly rate seems a bit steep!

Pub: It's the opportunity cost of my time. If I wasn't doing this for you, I'd be spending those hours as a management consultant and that's the rate I'd be earning. Sorry, no discount. I have a wife and kids to support. And a dog.

Me: Just a minute. When I look at your sales projections and the average earnings from my books, the marketing and advertising costs plus your cut will account for everything. There'll be nothing left for me.

Pub: True. And your point is?

Me: What the hell do I get out of all this?

Pub: Look, John, it's very simple. You get to enjoy writing the books; and the pleasure of meeting fellow writers and readers on social networks; and of reading all those glowing reviews on Amazon. 

Me: And the lousy ones.

Pub: Well, if you wrote better books, maybe there wouldn't be any lousy ones. Plus, if your books get made into movies or a TV series, you get to keep all the money from that - I don't get ANY.

Me: So I'm basically writing all these books for no financial reward, other than the remote possibility of their getting picked up by a TV company or movie studio?

Pub: You've got it. Without me as your publisher/marketer/advertising guru, your books are worthless. Your books might be the most amazing works of literature ever produced (although I doubt that), but if nobody knows they exist you won't sell a single copy. Well, except maybe the one to your mum. You see, John, you're essentially an amateur writer - in the true sense of the word 'amateur' - and I'm a professional publisher, and this is how I make my money. End of story. Sorry, that last sentence makes me sound like a writer **shudders**

Me: Where do I sign?

Pub: At the bottom of the page, in blood.


Now you may well ask, "Why don't you change your publisher?" And the answer is simple: I am my publisher. And my/his logic is sound. The part of me that writes does it because he loves it, and because he loves the interactions with like-minded folks, and he loves it when people enjoy his books. The part of me that sells books does it for business reasons - and he has to be compensated for his time. So the businessman pockets the cash, and the writer enjoys his art.

And do you know what? My publisher might be a git, but at least he's my git.

Happy writing, starvelings.


If you want to read about someone else who has conversations in his head, you might like to pick up a copy of my latest book, 'Chaos is Come Again'. I am sure my publisher would be suitably grateful.




For Amazon.com click HERE
For Amazon.co.uk click HERE
Also available at all other Amazon sites worldwide
If you don't want it, don't click anywhere. Just go and have a nice cup of tea instead.




Saturday, November 22, 2014

Why Be Normal When You Can Be Damaged?


Normal is safe.
Normal is comforting.
Normal is predictable.
And normal is very, very, very boring.

How many of you would want to spend time at a party talking to an actuary?
(Unless of course you are an actuary, in which case, go right ahead. That keeps both of you away from the rest of us.)

Be damaged.
Be interesting.
Be the nutter on the bus.
Make mistakes.
Wear a funny hat.
Flount your flaws.
(And if you are a high-rise building, flount your floors.)

Take a few risks in your life.
Not crazy, unnecessary ones.
Always wash your fruit before sex, and wear condoms before eating. Nobody needs THOSE type of risks.
But live a little.

Which brings me on to today's good news.

One of my favourite damaged writers - well, he writes about damaged characters, but you know that old saying about smoke and fire... - is having a superfasticallydelicious BARGAIN MOMENT!

B.R. Snow's complete 'Damaged Po$$e' series, comprising four full-length novels, is on sale soon for less than four bucks. If you haven't read any of the redoubtable Mr. Snow's work, your entire life to date has been wasted. But there is still time to put that right. Winter is coming, but Snow is HERE 

Now take out those eccentric shoes from the back of the wardrobe, drape something inappropriate around your neck, cry Havoc, and let those puppies swing. Demand the unusual. Venerate the odd.

Have a great day. And have it TODAY. You never know, it might be your last.

PS Go buy all my books too, while you're about it *scary cackle* Now, where did I put my meds?



Saturday, November 15, 2014

Everyone Loves an Underdog


Everyone loves an underdog, right? Well, maybe not if you're the favourite. But otherwise, we like to root for the little guy going up against the corporate machine, the rebel sticking up two fingers at the forces of the all-powerful state, the woman raising her metaphorical fists against the chauvinistic establishment. 

But what exactly is an 'underdog'? The dictionary will tell us that he or she is a person who is expected to lose in a conflict or contest; or a victim of social or political injustice. Someone, in other words, against whom the cards are stacked.

The classic 'top dog' vs. 'underdog' contest from antiquity is David vs. Goliath. The shepherd boy vs. the gigantic armoured warrior. David was the underdog, yes? Well, no.

In Malcolm Gladwell's fascinating treatise on underdogs and misfits, 'David & Goliath', the ever-intriguing Mr. Gladwell challenges some common assumptions - and in so doing, produces a provocative and inspirational piece of work.


But first, that famous duel in the valley of Elah. To understand why actually Goliath was the underdog, we have to know a little about ancient armies. They contained three types of combatants: cavalry, infantry, and projectile warriors - artillery, in modern parlance. The projectile warriors included 'slingers', who had a leather pouch attached on two sides by a strand of rope. The slinger would put a lead ball or rock into the pouch, swing it, then release with devastating force. The Romans even had a special set of tongs to remove rocks and balls that had become embedded in some poor soldier's body by a sling.

So there is Goliath, a heavy infantryman, weighed down by over a hundred pounds of armour, expecting a battle at close quarters (which he must surely win). Enter David who, sans armour, can run rings around the giant from a safe distance until one of his slingshots hits his opponent's vulnerable head. And so it proves. David has changed the rules of single combat.

"Goliath had as much chance against David," writes the historian Robert Dohrenwend, "as any Bronze Age warrior with a sword would have against an opponent armed with a .45 automatic pistol." FYI, a typical-size stone hurled by an expert slinger at a distance of thirty-five metres would have the stopping power equivalent to a fair-size modern handgun - a velocity of around thirty-four metres per second.

So... underdogs. Want to rethink your definitions?

Gladwell's book is packed with interesting examples of how strengths can beget weaknesses, and vice versa - and some canny observations on the limits of power.

It is well worth an afternoon of anyone's time.

Anyone for single combat?