In The Lap Of The Gods

I know it’s been a long while since I posted anything. I’ve not been entirely idle. The holiday in Ibiza went very well. The weather was fine; the company and the hospitality was excellent as always.
When I returned home the new book was sitting there on Amazon ‘ticking over’. I actually published it before I went on holiday, in the end. The reviews so far have been very favourable; but true to form they’re thin on the ground with a dozen of my ARC’s yet to post their opinions.

I intended to start on Book 5 as soon as I got back. In the end I started on my editing problems. Four weeks later I’ve done everything except my book of short stories. Grammar, punctuation and spelling were dragged screaming into focus earlier in the year (Feb/Mar) and now many more categories that might have antagonised reviewers/readers have been corrected. I don’t profess to have eliminated 100% of the problems, but using Pro Writing Aid (£35 for a year) and grafting for a few hours a day myself is my only option as I couldn’t afford a professional edit on all of my books. (£5000 – £7000 roughly?)

Maybe in a week or two I’ll get cracking on ‘The Price Of Treachery’.

What now? I think I’ll call it a ‘renewal’ rather than a ‘relaunch’. I’ve not promoted the new book at all (apart from a few daily tweets). I need to find a way to kick-start everything from the beginning. Answers on a postcard please! By ‘everything’ I mean from ‘Conception’ to the latest Phoenix title (5 books in total)
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My website crashed while we were away. I hadn’t noticed until someone wrote and told me. It’s still not fully functional. This is the first time in six weeks I’ve tried to use it; so fingers crossed this post will appear. That’s another job on the list – get to grips with WordPress.

Mentioning the ‘black dog’ didn’t have the desired outcome; my daughter’s black Labrador Bailey had to be put to sleep three weeks ago. Very sad. I’m not a pet lover, but even I miss him.
Heart N Soul
For those of you who read the book that started all this back in 2011, last month also saw another of my great friends from the old days die suddenly. We heard after we got home from Ibiza. Merv Osman, our keyboard player was 68. A larger than life character with talent to burn. He lifted us from a run-of-the-mill pop group to one of the top soul bands in the West Country and South Wales. We shared some terrific memories. (Merv is on the right hand end of the photo)

So, look out for some new initiatives on the promotion front. Prepare to be amazed/amused by my Canva designs.
Enjoy June and all things being equal I’ll have some snippets of positive news for you in a month from now. As Bailey and Merv will attest, whatever happens will be in the lap of the Gods.

After The Black Dog

It wouldn’t take a genius to work out that I’ve had some serious thinking to do over the past six to eight weeks. It didn’t help that for a lot of that time I was ill; perhaps that helped to tip me over the edge from ‘mildly disappointed’ to ‘seriously pissed-off’.

After three years of hard graft, I was getting nowhere. I struggled to get reviews, struggled to get sales and since January and the launch of The Phoenix Club, I struggled to get people to sign up to my email list.

It was time for some serious questions to be asked: –

1. Was I still enjoying writing?
2. Did I want to know what might happen next in The Phoenix series?
3. Could I do anything differently to what I had been doing, given the financial strictures that I face?
4. Was there any realistic chance of improvement?

The answer to questions one and two was an unequivocal YES.
I decided that MAYBE was the honest answer to question three.
As for question four, I still have to be brutally honest and say NO.

With the answer to the first two questions ringing in my ears, I shut myself away from March 7th onwards and completed Book 4 in The Phoenix series.

‘In The Lap Of The Gods’ will be published in around two weeks time.

You will recall my earlier post which listed ‘must-have things’ for new titles.
It needs a compelling synopsis; plus a decent cover – so here they are: –
In The Lap Of The Gods

This is the fourth book in the series so far, and it takes the stories featuring the Olympus Project in a new and exciting direction.
From Larcombe Manor, Phoenix and Athena have battles to win against vicious gangsters on home soil and urgently need to identify factions within the organization plotting to take it in a different, far more sinister direction.
The opening scenes at Glastonbury 2013 to the closing chapter cover little more than a month in time. Yet in that short month, the landscape surrounding the Project is altered forever.
The action is non-stop as it switches from the West Country to Windsor, then from England to the Mediterranean. Take a deep breath; once you start you’ll keep turning pages until the end.

Most of all a new title needs reviews, the writer’s lifeblood. So things have to change. The promotion and marketing avenues I’ve pursued so far haven’t worked; so it’s time to ditch them. I’m looking for new ways to get the word out there that my books are worth reading. I’m looking for new reviewers to take a look, to add to my loyal band of ‘first responders’.

The budget is still limited. The odds against success are still astronomical.

As the problem of question 4 is unlikely ever to be resolved, I’ve decided on an exit strategy. After I get home from holiday on Ibiza in early May I’ll continue with ‘The Price Of Treachery’ the next title in the series. (Chapter 1 is written and available as a ‘taster’ at the end of ‘In The Lap Of The Gods’)

If I still enjoy the writing and stories continue to flow into my head then maybe Book 5 won’t be the last; perhaps an even number would be best. If it takes two books to get the story to a satisfactory conclusion – so be it.

Either way, there will be no massive effort from me to promote my writing. I’m going to write, publish, inform and then walk away to find another hobby. It’s the only sane thing to do; beating myself up over every element that makes up the books, the website, and the marketing is driving me nuts.

Apologies for another negative post! Actually, committing it to paper, as it were, is quite liberating. I know what I’m doing now and writing the final books will be a lot easier than if I was undecided about the future. If my mind was still in turmoil I might start writing a few chapters and then stop for six months – thinking why rush? This way it will be done and dusted and as good as I can make it.
The fact that it’s not enough to be successful isn’t anything I appear to be able to do anything about. I just have to be happy with the knowledge that the characters I have created have excited me and held my interest for almost four years. That has to be enough. It’s far more than I imagined I could achieve when I wrote by book of memories just over eight years ago. When I wondered if I could write a novel in December 2012 I was entering totally uncharted waters. I’ve travelled a long way. All journeys have to end somewhere.

Welcome Newsletter

I hope you like the new theme for the website? You’ll have spotted the sign-up area too for my new venture – The Phoenix Club. Many indie authors have an email list of readers. It makes that bond stronger between author and reader, more personal I believe, and as such there are some ground rules that on my part will always be followed.
If you entrust me with a direct contact link, then I will respect that and ensure that what I post to you is appropriate and not overly frequent.


I’m excited to welcome you as a member of my Phoenix Club community. My newsletters focus on what I’m working on, what’s next for the brand, as well as keeping you in the loop about new releases and free/special offers. As soon as we hit 100 members – ALL your names will be entered into a draw; the winner will receive a Kindle Fire (worth £49.99). This draw will be repeated at the end of each quarter. Each month there will be additional gifts (free copies of my titles; perhaps a short story not available elsewhere and other ‘goodies’)

This is just the start of what I hope to offer you as we move forward in 2016 and beyond. A consistent message throughout. One newsletter per month, no more, no less. So like The Phoenix, spread your wings and sign up today. I’d love to have your company.

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Author

I read an on-line article by another author recently and nodded and uttered expletives throughout; this was exactly what I had been going through for almost three years. Initial optimism, followed by many hours of hard graft and no little expense, trying to make a measurable impact. This author had tried pretty much every avenue; had their fingers burned by false gods and as I read further, I was amazed that we hadn’t caught sight of one another in the past as we battled against the odds.

As a pensioner on a fixed income, Return On Investment is more significant for me than it may be for those younger writers looking to make a career out of this game. Every one of my marketing pounds is carefully targeted and wherever possible I look to ‘build my brand’ for free or at least on a shoestring. I’ve looked back at my outlay since I started writing fiction in early 2013. It’s over £2000 on my website, book tours, and third party ads and promotions. In other words, my ‘hobby’ costs me around £15 per week.
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I looked too at some of the features this writer suggested were ‘things you should have’: – a compelling synopsis; a good cover, and a decent quantity of good reviews. 1. Okay, there might be a few flaws in my material, but we’re in the right ball park. 2. My covers aren’t too dusty and 3. Woah! He has well over 400 reviews on the first book in the series… How on earth do you get 400 reviews?

I’ve got 85 reviews across all my titles in 3 years. They average around 4.8*. It’s not that I haven’t tried. I’ve sent about 300 free copies of my books to reviewers. As for the third party promotions and ‘fishing expeditions’ for reviews; whether they were via Reader’s Favorite, Story Cartel, Ask David, or Goodreads plus any of the various book tours I’ve paid for, I haven’t managed to get reviews from more than about half a dozen ‘real’ readers. My reviewers are over 90% ‘book people’ (writers, bloggers, reviewers).

My paid marketing with Books Go Social (largely using Twitter) has certainly got the word out about my name, my books and my brand. My latest book was circulated to BGS members late last month, as a ‘freebie in return for an Amazon review’. Sadly, the take-up was poor and with the best will in the world I can’t see 50 reviews for one of my titles, let alone 400, anytime soon. In fact, 25 is probably a step too far.

I think that a lot of what I’ve experienced is the same as the vast majority of indie authors out there. The difference is ‘visibility’.
I’m a Long Distance Author along with many others; I believe that I’m doing all the right things (within my budget limitations) but I’m so far away from the camera that you have a job to see me!

How do you get a decent quantity of good reviews? The BGS Review initiative is working without a doubt, but they’re pretty much all writers, bloggers and/or reviewers; the real upsurge in numbers can only come from ‘real’ readers. When I look at what reviewers say about my books it’s very gratifying; there are lots of positive comments. It might sound daft, but I’d love to get a dozen one-liners suddenly appear from people I don’t know that say ‘Loved it’, ‘Easy read’, ‘OK; glad it was free’, even ‘It sucks’. That’s what bulks up the ‘decent quantity’ and helps to move you up the rankings.

Fair play to those indie authors that can actually SELL books in large quantities, they obviously have a few more boxes ticked than the majority of us. Statistics show that Amazon (almost 50%) and Friends & Family (35%) were the big influencers on readers picking up on a series, or a new writer to follow. Only perhaps 2-3% is as a result of those third-party promotions. The rest is blind luck. So how on earth do you get your name to stand out from the multitude?

“I’m ready for my close-up Mr. de Mille” as someone once said, but without a miracle I can’t see any chance that he’ll hear my wee, small voice. All writing and book promotion has been suspended, or reduced to a trickle due to illness this month. I haven’t yet recovered enough to have the energy to tackle the problems outlined in this blog post.

The ‘black dog’ of depression that accompanied my illness is still sitting on my shoulder telling me to “Forget it, find another hobby. Nobody will notice if you walk away. You’re invisible. You’re a Long Distance Author.”

It’s hard to argue with the logic. No matter how good your characters and story-lines are, based on the reviews from the couple of dozen people you’ve got the message through to, you’re not reaching the people that count – the real readers. Money wouldn’t guarantee that, if third-party promotion can only influence 3% of the decision anyway. Nothing can guarantee it. So what’s the alternative? You could rely on sheer luck; hope that a few hundred readers suddenly stumble across your books when searching for a similar title or author name.

That’s my best shot I reckon; and it won’t cost me anything.

Welcome to 2016

Happy New Year by the way! This is my first blog post for 2016 and there have been quite a few things happening in the past month, since I wrote to you about ‘Building The Brand’. Many thanks to those that read it and to those that spread the word, far and wide, to point you towards it.

The third book in The Phoenix series escaped on December 23rd.‘Nothing Is Ever Forever’ has a handful of good reviews so far, with several readers still to pronounce their findings. What is it they say about ‘the best laid plans’?
I decided to keep the book on pre-order from late November on Amazon, with around two dozen copies provided for my ‘first responders’ in the hope that on launch day, or very soon after, there would be a glut of favourable comments.

Christmas/New Year is obviously not the best time to plan this type of strategy. No doubt, family and friends, plus an existing list of books to be read, meant that it would be a little while before my book was read. Never mind.

Throughout January there have been several promotions running on Twitter and Facebook that have paid dividends. More ‘likes’ on my Author Page, more visits to my reinvigorated website and lots of support from BooksGoSocial and Independent Author Network. Some new avenues too, with Being Author and Boost My Book running daily tweets.

I hope you like the new theme for the website? You’ll have spotted the sign-up area too for my new venture – The Phoenix Club. Many indie authors have an email list of readers. It makes that bond stronger between author and reader, more personal I believe, and as such there are some ground rules that on my part will always be followed. If you entrust me with a direct contact link, then I should respect that and ensure that what I post to you is appropriate and not overly frequent.


Breaking news: The Olympus Project (Book 1) is now FREE on Amazon, Kobo and Barnes & Noble (Nook) across the US. Gold, Silver & Bombs (Book 2) is at the reduced price of £0.99 ($0.99) now that ‘Nothing Is Ever Forever’ (Book 3) has been released.

In early March I start on ‘In The Lap Of The Gods’ in earnest. Book Four in the series will be available at the end of April. Look out for the next blog post in mid-February and for ALL my titles on Amazon just click on the button!

Building The Brand

BRANDING is just as important for small businesses as it is for big names. So how does an author develop their own brand identity? My approach so far is the subject of this blog chapter.

I write a thriller series featuring a range of characters; but it is The Phoenix who is the main male protagonist in most of the stories. That brand character promotes my books, my website, and my social media presence and I want it to connect with my readers. I want a ‘look’ that differentiates me in the market place from other thriller writers.

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I am endeavouring to build long-term relationships with my readers. My updated website and a landing page for the subscription to my email listings is a new departure. I want to attract subscribers and then I plan to keep them. There won’t be any grandiose offerings that raise expectations and then result in broken promises. I want to create trust with honest branding and stick to my core values throughout.

My posts on Twitter and Facebook; blog chapters and newsletters from my website, will all give a consistent message to my readers. It will help reinforce that bond so subscribers are aware exactly what to expect from me. My PHOENIX CLUB must be just like the advert; you know, the one that says “It does exactly what it says on the tin.”

I’ve discovered very recently that not refreshing your messages on a regular basis is dangerous. Don’t repeat the same message over and over again, even if it was successful the first time. Not only do people ‘switch off’; people at Twitter ‘switch on’ and start believing you’re a robot, not a real person!

New Olympus Cover

The main thing is getting the messages to work to build a comprehensive and recognizable presence. That presence needs to be distinctive. That’s why I opted for a ‘branded’ cover for all the books in the series. As a young man I read Penguin paperbacks ALL the time. The colours distinguished the genre. There were no elaborately designed images; but it worked and it was a spectacularly successful brand.

New GSandB Cover

CHANGE is continuous however and I will have to adapt. When I do, I will need to be bold and perhaps try something ambitious. I won’t get anywhere by being a ‘shrinking violet’.

I have decided on a specific policy for the pricing of my books. The Olympus Project’ is FREE and will remain so; ‘Gold Silver and Bombs’ has been reduced to £0.99 and ‘Nothing Is Ever Forever’ launches at £1.99.

Nothing Is Ever Forever

When ‘In The Lap Of The Gods’ is published in the Spring then I intend to promote sets of the series; offering more, rather than reducing prices further.

I am seriously considering making ‘Conception’ a title that could be given away FREE with every new reader of ‘The Olympus Project’. After all, the story behind the character who became The Phoenix is vital for understanding the motivation of the series.

Conception new cover

This quote about THE FUTURE of branding is apposite:- “the future of branding is fluid and engaging; it respects your customers’ intelligence by not giving everything away up front. Generate some intrigue and allow them to unearth more about your brand for themselves. This is the way to foster ambassadors who revel in telling other people what they have discovered.”

A consistent image backed up with a consistent message; a consistent pricing mechanism that strives to give my readers value for money and stories that encourage people to ‘spread the word.’ That’s my brand.

Well, that’s my mission in 2016 sorted out! A Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year to you and yours.

For ALL my titles on Amazon just visit here!

The Shape Of Things To Come

Extract from CHAPTER 1 – ‘Nothing Is Ever Forever’ (Due Dec.2015)
Monday September 3rd 2012-

On the first Monday of the new month, that time had arrived. Erebus invited Rusty to join him in the orangery alone. He was more than a little surprised; Phoenix was generally selected for these special meetings with the old man. Every now and then, the old gentleman deigned to let the tough ex-SAS sergeant join them. A face-to-face meeting was a privilege not to be sniffed at.
Rusty arrived in the orangery at the appointed time. He had put on a clean t-shirt especially. Erebus was waiting. He nodded at Rusty and noted the slogan across his chest; SAS – Super Army Soldier. He passed no comment.
“Thousands of foreign domestic workers are living as slaves in Britain, being abused sexually, physically and psychologically by their employers, more than fifteen thousand migrant workers come to Britain every year to earn money to send back to their families. Many endure conditions that amount to slavery. They can suffer physical and psychological abuse. Thousands are not allowed out alone, never have a day off, work all the hours God sends and receive a pittance in return.
Foreign diplomats are among the worst offenders. Their workers, unlike those brought in on a domestic worker visa, cannot change their employer and face being homeless or being deported if they run away. It is also extremely difficult to prosecute diplomats for treating their workers as slaves.
Children are also being bought to the UK. One young girl was trafficked from Nigeria to London when she was just twelve years old. Her employer worked as a cultural attaché at the Embassy. The young girl was supposedly employed as a domestic servant, but behind closed doors she was regularly raped and beaten.
When she was fourteen she was thrown out onto the street. What had been her crime? She had asked for a day off. The attaché left her with nothing; terrified and alone, all she could do was to sit in the street, waiting for her abuser to change his mind. He relented in the morning and she was forced to return to the household duties and be at his beck and call whenever he wanted her.
In June of this year she took her own life by drinking bleach. Her employer was adamant that there had been no signs that the girl was unhappy. She had been ‘a good worker, always willing and her smiling face around the house would be sadly missed.’


“There are more servants in the UK now than there were in Victorian times Rusty, because of the growth of childcare and the relatively low cost of employing domestic staff,” said Erebus.
“I’m hoping that folder in front of you holds the identity of the bastard involved? Excuse my language Sir.”
“It’s all there Rusty,” said Erebus “I should like this job carried out immediately. I believe the bastard concerned, as you rightly termed him, has outlived his usefulness as a cultural attaché to these shores. Please arrange for him to be repatriated forthwith.”
“Consider it done boss,” said Rusty grimly, and he picked up the file from the table and left the orangery to return to his quarters to prepare.
Rusty had sat in with Phoenix on many occasions to watch the master planner at work. He had picked up a few tricks of the trade in the past two years. With the amount of training that Rusty had given Phoenix when he first arrived at Larcombe, it seemed only fair that it had finally become a ‘two-way street.’
Solomon Okonkwo was forty-six; he had been with the High Commission for three and a half years. His high-rise apartment was impressive, situated in Marylebone. Rusty had imagined that most of these blokes would have gravitated towards Mayfair or Knightsbridge. After all, their government was picking up the tab. Rusty flicked through some of the information that Giles and his team had put together.
He was interested to learn that five million bought you more space in Marylebone than in the more upmarket areas of central London.
“Who knew” asked Rusty, to nobody in particular “how the other half lives eh?”
He read on. Marylebone had transformed itself into a great destination, with a lovely village feel and, arguably, the best high street in London. Marylebone’s international diversity with Russian, American and African inhabitants was part of its charm.
Rusty checked the easiest route to Northumberland Avenue, so that he could get to the Embassy. He had photographs of his target and could pick him up from there and follow him home. He wanted to get a look around the apartment block itself first, while Solomon was at work. Gaining access was not an issue. Phoenix had about half a dozen methods, all tried and tested, and half a dozen that never failed. One of those would serve his purpose.
Rusty didn’t need much convincing that Solomon Okonkwo deserved to pay the price for his actions, but he went through the data concerning the young girl just the same. Olabisi Promise Chukwu had been just twelve years old when she arrived in the UK on a flight from Lagos. An elderly relative had accompanied her; he was said to be an uncle from her village.
Olabisi had been left at Solomon’s new apartment only days after he had collected the keys from the letting agents. He had been staying at a five-star hotel for the first two months after taking up his new position at the High Commission. Solomon was a single man, with specific needs. Olabisi was to perform all his domestic duties and she soon discovered that she was to provide other more personal ones too.
In addition to Olabisi, Solomon employed an Indonesian woman, Nurul Ruby Pohan, a thirty-nine year old mother of four, who had worked in London for seven years. She came to the flat seven days a week and was Solomon’s cook.
Rusty looked at the photographs of the two desperate women. He looked at the long list of crimes that diplomats were responsible for in the past year. There were robberies, sex attacks, fraud, grievous bodily harm, drink-driving and shoplifting. One suspect had been arrested for making a bomb threat.
“You couldn’t make it up,” muttered Rusty.
International treaty rules give immunity from prosecution to all diplomats and any relatives living with them. Rusty was appalled by the fact that serious offenders were escaping justice. The immunity granted exemption from arrest or detention.
“Well, in my book, that means that Solomon’s immunity doesn’t exempt him from having a nasty accident then.”
Everyone at the Olympus Project were of the same opinion. Serious offenders escaping justice was not an option.


The following morning he was up bright and early. The car arrived outside the stable block at exactly seven fifteen. The seven forty-three from the old Spa station would arrive at Platform Five at Paddington, just before a quarter past ten.
Rusty collected his kitbag and started the journey. As the train sped through the Wiltshire countryside he thought through his initial timetable. Straight ahead to the Tube; then the Bakerloo Line to Northumberland Avenue. He should be outside the Nigerian High Commission before eleven.
The concourse wasn’t especially crowded on this Tuesday morning. He strode through the slow-moving throng of commuters, tourists and students. Why were there always students around, no matter what time of day you travelled? Late for wherever they were supposed to be, he imagined, either that or they had selected a course where lectures were scattered carelessly through each week, making sure they had lots of downtime.
Twenty minutes later Rusty was looking at the front doors of the building. It certainly had plenty of character. His mobile phone vibrated in his pocket. It was a message from Giles. He had hacked into the CCTV in the vicinity and checked that Solomon Okonkwo had arrived for work. He confirmed that Solomon was definitely inside the building. The coast was clear for Rusty to pay a visit to Marylebone.
Another short ride underground via Green Park and he was craning his neck to see the floor on which his target lived. As the crick in his neck increased, Rusty knew that his choice had been perfect. All he needed to do now was gain access. Time to use one of Phoenix’s ruses. He removed a clipboard and hi-viz waistcoat from his kitbag.
He strolled up to the nearest pedestrian crossing , donning his disguise as he went. As he waited for the ‘Walk’ light he kept an eye out for any movement at the front entrance to the apartment block.
There it was! A postie pushing a trolley. Early September and she was in shorts, but then they all tended to wear shorts whatever the weather these days. In her case, it was a mistake. She was almost old enough to be his mother, with legs that should remain hidden by law. The lights changed; the mighty noise of traffic paused and Rusty crossed over.
He hoped that a little charm would win the day. He held back for a second as she searched through her set of keys. She found the one that would allow her entry to the foyer and the post-boxes on the wall.
Rusty sprinted forward.
“Here you go, sweetheart, let me get that for you,” he said, holding the door back in order for her to get her trolley inside.
“Oh thank you my lovely,” the old postie cooed “I’m getting too old for this game.”
“Too old?” said Rusty “don’t be daft. The council have sent me round to check some flats on the top floor, they keep hearing pigeons in the roof spaces. I might have to get rid of some vermin later.”
“Bloody nuisance, pigeons,” the postie agreed. She was dishing out the post. The pile was disappearing fast.
“Nearly done?” asked Rusty “they can wait for me a little longer; I’ll help you get out without scratching those pins.”
She was like putty in his hands. She slotted the last gas bill into No 84 and wheeled her trolley back to the door. Rusty let her out.
“Have a nice day!” he called after her.
“You too, love, you too.” Cried the postwoman.
Rusty was already by the lifts. Floor after floor slipped by silently and then he was there. When the doors opened, all Rusty could hear was his own breathing. It was as quiet as the grave. Perfect.
Getting inside Solomon’s flat presented no problems. Picking a lock was one of many skills that Rusty had acquired over the years. Once inside he moved around quickly and quietly, just in case there were poeple at home in the adjoining apartments. It was unlikely, nearly all the occupants were at work. This wasn’t the sort of flat that a single mum with a nipper could afford on benefits. He wasn’t likely to hear Jeremy Kyle seeping through the walls.
Rusty crept towards the windows. He peered out from behind the curtains to ensure that nobody was watching the flat from across the street, or idly glancing up from street level. It was all clear. He tried to open the sash window. It was stuck, or secured in some way.
“Back to the kitbag,” he muttered “just as well I collected a few bits and pieces from stores.”
Fifteen minutes later the window opened, it slid up and down smoothly in fact, probably as well as it had done for fifty years.
“Job’s a good one,” said Rusty “time for lunch I reckon.”
Taking as much care on the way down as he had done on the way up, Rusty exited the apartment block. He shared the lift for a couple of floors with a Jewish couple and met a lady with sunglasses and a voluminous handbag sashaying into the foyer. Nobody challenged the man with the hi-viz waistcoat and clipboard. Why would they? People who could afford these apartments didn’t talk to ‘the help’ did they?
Rusty removed his waistcoat and stored it along with the clipboard in his bag. He was off to find a decent pub for a pint and some proper nosh. Two hours later he was fed and watered. As he strolled through Regent’s Park he made a mental note to thank Phoenix for telling him to take twice the cash you thought you’d need on a mission. Rusty had thought that was overkill; but a pint and some proper nosh set you back a pretty penny around here.

For ALL my titles on Amazon just click on the button!

The Art of Contemplation

Last month I told you why I considered all the little positives I could muster relating to my writing were signs of progress; regardless of whether actual sales were improving.

This month I’m older and maybe wiser. My wife and I spent a very warm and relaxing week on holiday celebrating my seventieth birthday. I did virtually nothing towards my writing or my social media platform. A few things suffered, but by and large the world kept turning.

In the days before my holiday, while we were abroad and in the days since we returned home, shivering to a chilly autumn in England, I’ve been contemplating what to do next. How do I adjust my strategy in order to improve sales, release more free time for writing and reduce the reliance on massaging social media to make even a modest ‘breakthrough’?

When you step back from the ‘coal face’ you see a different picture. You also question whether it’s worthwhile digging any further. I wrote to a mentor who has helped a lot over the past eighteen months. I was at a crossroads.


Should I finish off the next Phoenix book ‘Nothing Is Ever Forever’ (which I planned to start last Monday!) and wrap up the series as a trilogy. I could chase as many reviews as possible; promote it with adverts on Goodreads and Facebook and use a couple of other Twitter based outlets too. Perhaps maintain my website until the domain name is next up for renewal and gradually reduce the promotion and walk away, leaving nine books on Amazon.

Alternatively, I could stick to my mantra – NEVER GIVE UP – and plough ahead, using different tactics. His initial reaction was not to say ‘Please don’t go!’ nor was it ‘Do what you feel is right for you.’

His opening comment was that having received my email he had looked at my Amazon Central Author Page. He congratulated me on the significant improvement since his appraisal of it several months ago. He reminded me that he didn’t hand out praise lightly. I tried to remember whether that had been one of the little signs of progress I had itemised last month.

Some of his other questions seemed strange at the time. Clearly he didn’t want immediate answers; he was cleverly persuading me to continue to contemplate; to analyse what I was doing and why. In the past seventy-two hours I have arrived at my conclusion.

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The books I write are good enough to be sold in larger numbers. My average of 4.6* across all of my titles suggests that they stand comparison with books that DO sell well.

I write about things that interest me; things that I know and things that a lot of people like to read. I have a character at the heart of five books (including the one I’m about to write) that has similarities to characters created by famous writers. Let’s take one example.

Dexter Morgan (created by Jeff Lindsay) – Dexter is a vigilante serial killer who targets other murderers who have evaded the justice system. He follows a code of ethics which hinges on two principles: Dexter can only kill people after finding conclusive evidence that they are guilty of murder, and he must dispose of all evidence so that he doesn’t get caught.

Colin Bailey (created by Ted Tayler) – The Phoenix targets criminals who have evaded the justice system. He used to work alone, planning his murders meticulously, leaving no clues. He now works for a secret organisation whose aim is the same as his own – to clean our streets of those who appear to be above and beyond the law.

These two anti-heroes have something else in common. We don’t want them to get caught; even though we know that their methods are wrong.

My conclusion is that The Phoenix will continue to right wrongs for several more adventures. There will be significant changes to my website; my book promotion methods and to my social media presence. I’m going to spend the next two years hitting that wall harder than at any time since I started in 2011. I make no apologies. I owe it to The Phoenix to make every effort to get him into the consciousness of many more readers. He deserves nothing less.

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Why Do We Root For The Anti-Hero?

I started to review books as Father Ted in February 2015 in order to increase my digital footprint. Someone told me that the more I spread my name around, the better it would be for my book sales. Sadly, they couldn’t say when.

One book in particular grabbed my attention. It was ‘Closure’ written by Randall Wood. There was a lot to like in the way the story was written; the descriptive passages were superbly handled, and the characterization was terrific, but it was a ‘quirk’ at the head of each chapter that encouraged me to write this piece for my blog.

Randall Wood had posted a big clue to save me checking the chapter index. There had to be at least fifty as he had researched the figures for the prison population by State. In addition, he knew the proportion of recidivists by State too. By the end of the book, I discovered the overall number of prisoners. I also knew that between sixty and seventy percent of them were repeat offenders.

This was in 2009.


In the story Randall Wood exploited the recidivist element. It was a fact that many inmates were in and out of jail all their lives. The prisons were no more than training grounds, turning them into more efficient criminals, rather than returning them to society as reformed citizens.

Killers languished on Death Row, lodging appeal after appeal. Lawyers found all sorts of loopholes to ensure their clients didn’t serve time.

Politicians defended the ‘right to bear arms’ despite all the evidence that the easy availability of firearms has led to thousands of unnecessary deaths.

It is now 2015. Are we any further forward?


My own series featuring ‘The Phoenix’ deals with a stone cold killer, Colin Bailey. He works for a secret organisation ‘The Olympus Project’. The ideals and methods they follow echo those of the terrorist in ‘Closure’.

He targeted people who used every trick in the book to avoid paying the price for their crimes. He gave their victims ‘closure’ and sought it for himself, to make some sense of his own loss.

If the ‘system’ continues to fail us, will there be a real organisation such as ‘The Olympus Project’? Does one exist already? Is a man like ‘The Phoenix’ a necessary evil? Are we in fact all looking for someone to take up the fight on our behalf?

Consider this from a recent review of one of my books featuring Colin Bailey.

Bailey is actually a metaphysical representation of our darkest moments; the moments when we desire retribution for wrongs that are done to us, but unlike Bailey we do not have the ‘special skill set’ to deploy such reprisals. By tapping into this almost primal urge; to eradicate the evil that exists amongst us, Mr. Tayler has embedded subconsciously a connection that makes this book so engrossing. It is why we root for the anti-hero, and why we don’t want to see Bailey captured by the police.

Food for thought? If we take a long hard look around us we see so many injustices that it is difficult not to want someone to stand up and say “No more!”. Someone to then take on the battles we are unwilling to fight.

Everything we’ve been taught since childhood tells us it is wrong to think along those lines. Yet our anti-hero’s actions would bring ‘closure’ to the victims of crime; the recidivist element would be eradicated. Drug dealing, people trafficking, sexual exploitation and many other heinous crimes would be diminished. We have a dilemma; do we turn away from everything we’ve been taught and allow a vigilante killer or killers to clear up the mess. What’s the answer?

The answer, of course, is to fix the system.

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How Do You Measure Progress?

If you have been reading these chapters for a while you will know there are a couple of things that never change for me. Firstly, I never give up. Even when there’s absolutely no chance whatsoever of something happening, however hard I try, and everyone else would have packed in long ago, I never listen. I keep plugging away; searching for that loose brick that will allow me to break down that wall; it doesn’t matter how long it takes, I’ll keep going until I find it!

The second thing is something I’m not particularly proud of, but at least I’m honest enough to admit I suffer from it. When someone annoys or upsets me I’m a little like my anti hero Colin Bailey, but not as extreme! I don’t have a list of people to bump off like him, but there are people for whom a little payback is due. The odd success on that front is always most acceptable. Does that make me a bad person?

In early October, I shall be seventy. The amount of time left to me for activities in both of the paragraphs above, is limited. The wall needs to be weakened very quickly. Karma needs to wake up and heed my call before too long as well, so that I get to enjoy seeing the fruits of that payback.

If progress for an author is measured in book sales alone; then I’m in trouble! For months now I’ve been consoling myself with the other statistics that I can lay claim to; statistics that indicate progress, in some shape or form.

My Goodreads friends list contains 670 names and my Facebook Author Page around 190. How would that compare to a year ago? I’ve added 600 on the first and 150 on the second. Now that I review books as Father Ted I’m in the Top60 reviewers on Goodreads too. On Amazon US I’ve moved from an initial ranking of over 100,000 to just outside the Top 15000. Surely that’s progress of a kind? These statistics certainly indicate that more people are aware of me as a writer and reviewer – see me as ‘a safe pair of hands’ if you like, than a year ago.

My website and blog have received quite a few compliments too. I completely overhauled both in the past year. The visitor numbers have dropped a little this summer, but I haven’t posted as often, nor have I tweeted links to the site as often, and the book promotion site that did that task for me only drives readers there every two months these days. Yet again, the increased presence online and the perceived increase in stature (rightly or wrongly) have led to two new initiatives. The link-up with Channillo for serialization of my short stories was by invitation. Something about my work attracted them to me. The partnership isn’t particularly lucrative as yet, but I count it as a sign of progress.

I was invited (again) in February to join a group of writers in what you might describe as a ‘collective’; we share ideas and encourage one another in any way we can. Some of our number are more established writers and sell in significant numbers; others are just starting out. I’ve learned more in the past six months than I had picked up in the previous three and a half years. That’s progress and it’s immeasurable. Something that I’ve learned since February, could lead to a ‘light bulb’ moment. They may have given me a sharp tool with which I can ease one of those bricks out of the wall.

Keeping tabs on these ‘progressions’ and maintaining or improving them leaves me with a dilemma. If I am going to spend four hours writing per day, I can’t give sufficient time to my blogging, to my tweeting, to posting updates on Facebook and the book advertising campaigns on the three or four sites that I am currently signed up to. Something has to give. I’m taking time out, to step back from the daily tasks I currently take on. Perhaps my faith in the signs of progression that I’ve outlined is misplaced? Is there a better way; always remembering that I can’t afford to buy my way out of trouble?


A holiday around the date of my birthday will give me time to ponder. When I return it will be decision time. The next book must be started. ‘Nothing Is Ever Forever’ is written in my head and now it needs to be committed to paper. Why am I so certain that it’s worth continuing to fight; to keep searching for that loose brick? Take a couple of minutes to read this review of ‘Conception’ – The Birth of ‘The Phoenix’

That’s why we write isn’t it? Just to get that sort of reaction from another human being. Someone didn’t just skip read the book; they got it! All of the pain suffered by honest, hard-working people, the injustices, the arrogance of the legal system, the ineffectual police service and despite all the talk and all the promises, nobody stands up and says – “No more!”

Colin Bailey is the man who stood up and said “If no one else has the guts to do it; I will.”

He is MY character and he got that reaction from another human being. That’s progress isn’t it? Whether the sales figures reflect a significant moment or not is immaterial. I reckon that’s progress.

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