Beyond Family and Friends

Over 1700 people entered the Goodreads.com giveaway for The Last Observer and more than 700 have added it. Wouldn’t it be nice if 10% of those actually purchased the book? The two lucky winners were sent their copies today. One in the UK and one in the USA.

Is it selling? I’m not sure. Lots of people tell me they have it or they plan to get it but the Amazon site suggests they aren’t buying it there as its not very highly ranked and few copies appear to have sold there. I guess I will see more end of next month when the publisher sends a report. It should sell. The reviews are all good to great. Its not over priced. I am just not sure how to get beyond family and friends.

I guess it needs family and friends to pass it on to their family and friends. If this happened several times, it might take off. But I don’t know if I have any influence at all on this except to ask people to be kind and recommend it to their family and friends.

The Kindle version is now available for pre-order which may help too. Take a look.

The Last Observer: A Magical Battle for Reality Critic Rating by idreambooks.com

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Nova Scotian Fieldwork

I was lucky enough to visit Nova Scotia three years running for 6-weeks at a time between 1981 and 1983 to do geological fieldwork there. Actually, I spent most of my time on Cape Breton Island in and around Sydney – a coal mining region as well as a little time in Joggins of which more later. I also managed to get to Montreal on one trip and Ottawa on another ostensibly to visit museums and examine specimens there.

The trip in 1981 will always stay in my memory. I had to hurriedly pass my driving test in the UK to go because I would need a rental car to get around. With just 3-weeks to take off, I failed. For undue hesitation I recall! The instructor might have considered my hesitation undue but the Mark 1 Ford Cortina I was driving simply didn’t go very fast and the hesitation wasn’t mine but my vehicles. Luckily, I got another test two-weeks later and passed no problem wisely renting my instructors car for the test.

The train journey to London Heathrow was exciting enough never mind my first flight in a plane. I was nervous. At Kings Cross, I jumped the underground out to LHR – it seemed to take forever and I did start worrying I would miss the flight. As the plane took off I didn’t quite know what to expect but within seconds of take off, we all lit up on our cigarettes and shortly sucked on our gin and tonics and all was well. I don’t recall the kind of plane it was but it did have a stand up bar with circular tables you could stand at and smoke and drink. How times have changed!

On landing, I was met by Professor McDuff, my supervisor and head of Applied Geology at Strathclyde University. We spent a week together looking at cliffs and beaches and hammering out fossils. I was then on my own for five-weeks..bliss. All of the work I was doing was so new it was more or less publishable and publish I did. Here is an example if anyone is interested. By the time I wrote up my thesis, I had published so much of it that no one would refuse granting me a PhD as it had already been ‘peer-reviewed’.

Cape Breton is amazingly beautiful. It has a sort of Scottish coal mining heritage mixed somewhat bizarely with north American culture. An interesting mix. Hamburgers and beer at the ceilidh! People were friendly and interested and the girls were bedazzled by the accent and the ‘look’. In those days, I dressed a lot like the Police. Spikey blond hair, tight leather or denim trousers, tight white T-shirt, ear ring in one ear. Sydney had seen nothing like it. They thought I was a pop star! I had a great time.

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My visit to Joggins is also worthy of a mention as there they have the most amazing tides. Literally, the tide would come in as a standing two-foot or higher wave. For people like me who clambered about remote areas of coast line looking at rocks it meant that you really had to be vigilant or you could be in some trouble and danger.

The bus from Sydney to halifax airport took almost 6-hours meandering around and stopping everywhere. When I finally got to the airport and through check in (I don’t recall any security whatsoever come to think about it), I sat at the bar with several hours to wait. I soon got talking to another student also waiting for the flight and we got talking about all things occult and esoteric. We sat together on the plane and talked and talked all the way home. We swapped phone numbers and I duly never heard a thing from him. A year later, having taken the same bus and sitting in the same bar to our mutual amazement we saw each other again. Same routine but this time discussing what a coincidence it was….

My time in Nova Scotia created many ripples in my life. The biggest one was that I was in awe of that American culture. There was something magical about the place compared to Hull, Birmingham and Glasgow. I knew that one day, I wanted to return to north America and live there.

The Ride

The flight into Halifax was late and, as a result, I had missed the bus to Sydney on Cape Breton Island. It would be all day before there was another. As a PhD student on a tight budget, I could not afford to do anything but take the bus so what could I do? The answer was stand in the doorway of the airport periodically asking people if they were headed in that direction and if so, might they give me a ride?

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I stood there for about 30 minutes before two gentlemen approached and told me they may have a ride for me. Not them but a colleague was heading to Cape Breton in a rental car and he may be inclined to give me that ride. Eventually their colleague appeared and he readily agreed to help out a young British student trying to get to Sydney. But he wasn’t going to Sydney and would drop me on reaching Cape Breton.

I walked with him to the rental and jumped in. He had picked out a sporty rental. Something a bit up market.

As we drove he explained to me that they were all members of a delegation of the Progressive Conservative party returning from their annual convention. He had party business in Cape Breton but wasn’t from there. He asked me a lot of questions about Mrs Thatcher and her policies. What I thought about them. What others thought in the UK. I don’t recall the details but he was extremely interested in British politics. He explained that the Liberals were about to be defeated in the next general election in Canada and so there was a great deal of interest in the Thatcher model within the Progressive Conservative party.

It was a good ride and interesting as I learned a good deal about Canadian history and politics. He dropped me on the highway and I started to hitchhike. I got another ride in the back of a truck and arrived in Sydney before the bus would have later that day.

Mr. Brain Mulrooney my driver, went on to be elected the MP for that part of Cape Breton and then, after a landslide win, became PM in Canada.

School Days

After posting the story of how I was nearly became a member of the rock group The Police, my best friend from those days – Steve – and I compared notes. He pointed out that not only was my memory correct but they also offered him a job as a roadie! And they did too….

However, posting that story got me to thinking. What a hell of a life I have had! Really, very few complaints – well, more money would always be useful but other than that…. So, my next few posts will deal with some events from my life and how I became me….

I couldn’t wait to leave home and Hull. Wolfreton School did me well in that I got a good education – 9 “O” levels, 2 “A” levels and distinction on my Geology special paper. Not quite good enough to get me to University and I literally wrote by hand to every geology department in the country begging for a place. Frankly, I simply could not stand another year of A level resits at Wolfreton. I was lucky, Hull, Sheffield and Aston all replied to my heartfelt handwritten plea positively and I chose Aston because….. well, it was the furthest distance away from Hull. Good enough reason right? It proved to be a good decision as I graduated three-years later with a first class honours degree and a Ph.D. spot at Strathclyde University north of the border! But, I digress.

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My chemistry teacher at Wolfreton was one Mr. Holroyd. He walked with a limp and gathered white stuff on his lips as he spoke. Other than that, he was an OK sort of bloke. He was my chemistry teacher and I am pretty sure he hated me with a vengeance. Could it be my walking around his class singing “I love the sound of breaking glass” I wonder? Or was I just a horrible kid? Who knows and who cares. The fact is I recall visiting the school after getting my B.Sc. from Aston. As luck would have it Mr. Holroyd was the first teacher I bumped in to.

“Hello Gary,” said he actually looking pleased to see me, “How are you?”
“Great thanks, you?” I quipped.
“So, how did you do?” he asks…..
“OK actually thanks. I got a first class honours and am going to start my PhD with a trip to Nova Scotia to do some fieldwork in August,” said I.
I then watch as Mr. Holroyd collapses in hysterical laughter slapping his knee and producing spittle around his mouth. It was comical to watch as he began to understand I wasn’t laughing too. It wasn’t a joke then? He blushed.
“Sorry, I thought you were joking…….. that’s great, just great,” said he as he darted off down the corridor.
“You bastard,” I thought. “Thanks for the bloody confidence.”

My Geology master believed. He had always known. He was chuffed Dougie was. Well chuffed. I was chuffed for him. He deserved success because he was a bloody good teacher. The best I ever had.

Yep, I was well shot of Wolfreton. It was full of over confident teenagers who somehow put me in the category of not quite trendy or worse. I was, shall we say, an outsider in many respects. I liked the wrong music, was useless at sport, was interested in magic and occult and other strange things and I played guitar and sang in a band. I was trying to be above my station. Other than the guy I vaguely knew in my year who went on to co-write and play sax and guitar on all of Sades stuff, I think I probably did much much better than expected.

Free of Wolfreton. Free of my past. Free of people who thought they knew me. Free of teachers like Mr. Holroyd, I rather excelled.

Nearly Famous

Today, as I work, I have been listening to older music. The kind of stuff I listened to growing up – Its nostalgic. But it reminded me of another time and place…..

The location – Aston University
The time – circa 1978

I was stage manager for ACE – Aston Campus Entertainment at the students union. The job involved organizing the social events from a logistics point of view. Making sure sound checks were done, making sure the bands had their contracted for beverages, making sure their equipment was set up and dismantled etc. Frankly, it was super fun.

I met a lot of people as you may imagine. There was one local band we rather enjoyed having called Streetband. I think we had them 4-5 times performing at the SU. I don’t recall the name of the manager but he was a fun character. They had a hit single some of you may recall called ‘Toast’. It was a gimmicky song and involved a stage performance with lots of toast. The singer was especially good. He was quite shy but I talked to him quite a bit and had a feeling he might make it. Paul Young went on to have quite a decent career as a solo artist.

I met an American singer on the Stiff record tour (‘If it ain’t stiff, it ain’t worth a f##k’ was the brand tagline as I recall). The tour had Wreckless Eric, Lene Lovitch and several others including the very very lovely Rachel Sweet.

In a crazy couple of hours, I fell for Rachel and I must say she fell for me. We were cuddling before we she went on and after she came off I got some very sweet kisses – and she dedicated her rendition of Elvis Costello’s “Alison” to me live on stage pointing to me as she sang ‘My aim is true’. Of course, she was dashed away by management and I never saw her again (other than a phone number, there was no way to stay in touch back then….).

I met Generation X one night too. I hated them. Billy Idol was so drugged up he couldn’t stand and quite frankly, I think he is the most over rated singer anyway.

There were many others. I can say that I did not meet Paul McCartney and I am glad. At that time, he and his wife were trying to get Wings going and they chose a low key University stage to do it walking in unexpectedly at colleges across the country and asking to play. Well, Paul walked into our SU one day and asked our VP of Entertainment (One Dick Whittington would you believe) if they could play. Dick didn’t recognize them apparently and told them what they could do with themselves…..

The biggest night though was the night that Albertos played. They had one hit single and that was it and we got them right on cue as their single was in the charts. But the talk was all about their support band. We paid 50GPB for the support band I recall. They were late showing up, late soundchecking and generally followed around by a posse of music journalists. Their manager was a pain in the backside wanting his sound check even though we had to delay opening doors and it was they that were late! But as The Police hit the stage and soundchecked with a song called Roxanne, I died and went to heaven. F**king amazing.

But it got better. After the soundcheck I joined them in their dressing room. I got talking to them and their manager – who was of course the drummer’s brother Murray Copeland. I told them that that reggae rock thing they had going was something I had stumbled on and I borrowed a guitar and played them a song of mine (She’s Out There actually was the song).

They were all blond with spikey hair and tight pants. So was I.

As the show started, there was no one in the hall – everyone was still in the bar of course drinking 10p a pint bitter. Murray had me go out on stage and play so I played Roxanne rather cheekily – just the opening chords…..

You can imagine the Police blew albertos away. They were amazing. They got an encore. We went back to the dressing room and continued talking.

That’s when in another life and another place I would have been famous. Yes, they asked if I might be interested in being the second guitar player…..

I said “No, I need to finish my degree”.

Oh boy! What an idiot.

We partied all night, followed them to their next gig. I played on stage with them briefly. And then lost contact.

A couple of years later I bumped into Sting on the King’s Road in London but have never seen them since.

To be honest, I sometimes question my recollection of events but then I have my old buddy Steve to remind me
“You were nearly famous…..”

Astral Messages

My next book is already ready to hit the presses. It’s called Astral Messages and it is a collection of poetry interspersed with blog articles from Asteroth’s Domain. The collection of poems is deliberately matched with blog articles in the same theme so what you get is a good look at what was going on in my mind at the time the material was written. Topics covered range from esoteric and philosophical discussions regarding reality and magic to a discourse about my old socks!

Astral Messages

Astral Messages uses poems and blog articles from my long standing blog – Asteroth’s Domain – in a discussion of reality and magic. We are all magicians willfully creating our realities and this selection demonstrates how this touches all aspects of our lives – yes, even our socks!

For this book, I decided to self publish and am using Amazon’s self publishing vehicle as it gets good distribution. The book will also be available in Kindle format as well.

Meanwhile, I am plotting my next novel to follow The Last Observer. It may well be a prequel and, not to give anything away, it will likely be about Edward and his nemesis – the evil Zeltan…….

At the same time, I have a start on a book about The Fool in magic which is based on material directly from Asteroth herself…. I just need to find some time as I also have around 9 books waiting to be read on my desk as well including what looks like a really good story by Gordon Strong just out titled Doorway into Darkness.

Looking for a Break is Tough Work

Writing – it’s a tough business. For small time authors such as myself, we rely on the ‘friends and family’ concept since we lack what is called a ‘platform’. Let me translate what I just said….Small time writers rely on their friends and family to purchase their books as they don’t have a brand name like say JK Rowling that will guarantee thousands of anonymous buyers for their writing product. Hopefully, friends and family will not just BUY the book but also support it by writing short reviews on Amazon or Goodreads and mentioning it to their friends. The hope is that either, one of these friends of friends and family is extremely influential and can influence the broader public to buy the book (a stroke of good luck) or, more likely, small concentric circles of friends of friends continually buy the book through time.

For the last 4+ months I have been promoting The Last Observer now published by Roundfire Books. I, like all other authors no doubt, think that this book is pretty good and deserves broader appeal. The problem is I have no platform. I can reach out to about 500 friends and family via Facebook and Linked In and hope that if 10% of them buy it, I will sell 50 copies. Maybe 10% of those will result in another sale in their group of friends making a total of 55 copies. Hardly makes for a best seller.

So how to reach a broader market? Well, the publisher is supposed to help with that and to be fair, they have, but my book isn’t likely to be a best seller statistically and so they hedge their bets and budgets and will only do a little. They will do a little more if the books sells say 500 copies. But that is it folks.

So what is required is to find a broader market and develop a platform. To do this, I heave reached out to bloggers with some success and had a hand full of posts and reviews of the book as reward for my efforts. I have also reached out to reviewers and built competitions for give aways on Goodreads and Facebook.

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I need some luck too.

But most of all, I need my friends and family to pull through for me….. please, buy the book and post a review. Tell your friends. I would be much obliged.

Because you see here is the funny thing. I know a few celebrities. I have reached out to these people too. After all, if a celeb liked the book, tweeted about it etc. that would make a big difference don’t you think? I do. But, I have been disappointed and disillusioned here. It seems that celebs have made it and they don’t have time to help. They are too busy building on their success. I hate to say this but I have found it to be true. The more successful someone becomes the less willing they appear to be to help others perhaps, they are too busy being successful.

If I ever build a platform, I swear I will use it to also help my friends and family.