Biting The Bulot

The torments of the juicy fishy flesh!

So, the party’s over. The Bloggers Book Fair has ended. I hope all you guys out there enjoyed the breath of new air on these pages. My thanks to all the contributors.

While all that was going on I have been moving myself back to France. Oh – the endless torment of wine, 400 cheeses, moules marinieres and not forgetting kilos of bulots. These wonderful sea molluscs are sold as whelks in the UK and USA but you sure can’t buy them in Walmart in England.  Oooh – You just can’t beat a nice bit of firm flesh and juice. 

An amazingly non photo shopped pic de famille

As all you historians out there will know, the French dealt with their issues of class, wage differentials and royal deference by inventing the guillotine. Ever since then they have been inventing media to borrow everyone else’s royals. Michelle and Barack count equally: (the dog buying story played well here).  Everyone in France wants to know how excited I am by the birth of THE Royal babe. Every French magazine headlines royal baby stories. The UK press has reverted to sensational stories about Killer Heat Waves (three days without rain) and JK Rowling pen names. In my little village there are racks of royal baby mags with William and Kate souvenir oyster knives. The little soul’s third name is Louis which might please them I guess, although we did fight wars with many French kings of that name. I know from an inside source that the Queen has read “Knockout!” and wanted him named after Joe Louis, the great American boxer but you’ll never convince the French. 

Smile though your legs are breaking. No photo shop here!


Nursing my wounded knee,I mounted the tandem yesterday and knocked out 51 kilometres (about 30 miles). It wasn’t too bad. I think the old Sparrow is still smiling a bit but poets have to have gravitas he tells me!

And finally, the Love In A hopeless Place Collection launched. I’ll be frank – even though I’m emma. These are literary stories and I had no hopes of sales or even interest. They are part of my own history and experience and I wanted to write them. Two reviewers have picked them up and been most generous. The reviews are here and I just want to say that readers make this quest so wonderful. Both these guys spotted what this was all about and took the trouble to reward me. Gentlemen you do most genuinely have my heart. I love you as fellow literati. 


Emma Thinx: You’ll never get up off your knees if you can’t get down on them. 












Anti-Diluvian

Water Garden

In just a few days I will be home in France. Oh please my dear sweet Aeolus – please let me see the sun just once more. I hope I have lit (lighted) my incense stick to the right deity. According to my book on Greek Myths (otherwise known as a creative accountant’s guide to Euro membership), dear old Aeolus controlled the winds. It’s not that I’m educated, I looked him up in a book. Yes! a book. I did not even give Google a chance.


And so it rains and rains. Serena Williams dodged the deluge to win at Wimbledon, the F1 Grand Prix at Silverstone is a quagmire of mud. I took a photo of a bead of water on the leaf of a plant. Look how it has form and shape. I know two things of this world. It is beautiful and it is not what we think it is at first second or third sight.


All this semi religious pondering has an origin of course. Today I have finished reading Stephen Woodfin’s novel, “The Next Best Hope“. I have posted a thoroughly merited 5 star review. It’s a good pacey read looking at the course of a fundamentalist rebellion in the USA. You kinda feel it could happen anywhere, with any kind of belief or religion. If you like action laced with insight into politics, greed and the human quest for what is right you will love this book. Here is the review:
                                             *************
As an Anglo-Franco the first thing that engaged me in this book was just how American it is. The characters’ names, the distances they drive, the names of places and the cultural references all work together to hold the reader authentically in the action. It’s one of those books where you know the make of the gun and the type of car that a character is using. Perhaps these are technical points but to me it makes it real. More important really is the broad philosophical theme that directs the course of the story. The enemy is not religion per se, but fundamentalism. When tracts or texts allow for violence to enforce any concept, civilisation has to take note and stand up. The scenario is disturbingly plausible. Fundamentalists seek to seize power by armed rebellion against the state. I will not say any more than that because you will want to read it for yourself. The writer adopts an all seeing viewpoint, allowing many characters and threads to intersect, tangle, unravel and conflict. The result is a powerful story which you always feel could be happening outside your window. Characters are drawn from the well of life, politics and ambition. Everyone knows characters like these or has seen them in history. This is the second book in the author’s “Revelation Trilogy”. I’m waiting for the third – and keeping my eye on CNN – just in case.
                      *****************

Oh – by the way – it’s still raining.





Emma Thinx: Cometh the hour – Cometh the book.





Beached Wail

It is that insecure first Wednesday. All in all life is good since I am alive and in France. As for the writing – well, I wish I could claim great success. These days it is very important for me to try to remember that I have been at this game since my teens. Sadly that is about 35 years. I also try to remember that the “writer” is someone other than my whole being. In here there is a woman who goes to work, talks to neighbours, shares lives with children and grandchildren etc etc. Once again I find myself  hammered by remarkably spiteful critics – all of whom arise from free book days. I do pose the question to myself that if I am that bad, would I be worth attacking with such vehemence? It  is all very much of a puzzlement to me. Why are there no readers who just kinda find a book OK, not bad, quite entertaining, undemanding but not life changing? If a free book is so bad that you can only face a few pages, why would you spend half an hour pounding it when it has not cost you anything and, by your own admission, you have not read it?


This problem of the free book critical wave appears to strike many writers. Dotting around the forums I find writers who were doing well until they went free but now have had to pull their books, change their names and titles. So far I still have more likes than not but it is something I am watching carefully. The real problem is that I do not think anyone involved in publishing knows where to go. I often feel like a complete innocent longing for those simple days when I typed out stories for magazines, sent them off and sold about one in five. At least dealing with editors meant that they made sense and knew their readers tastes. If they did not like the story they did not buy it. They did not waste time telling you how bad you were.  The internet and celebrity mags largely killed the print market for stories. The affairs of the stars trumped any invention of the old story hacks. 


And finally about reviews, recently I checked out Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” on Amazon because I was going to buy a copy for a young student of history. A guy had done a puffed up (Aren’t I clever) review stating the grammar was incorrect in the translation from German and had accorded the one star of his lofty judgement. The truth is that the the translation does a brilliant interpretation of Hitler’s atrocious grammar. The guy was a murdering dictator – not a budding author likely to be grateful for a grammar lesson from the underlings who transcribed his rantings. I must be one of the only people ever to have been cheered up by Adolph Hitler.

Figures in an unwritten book



I still want to write but the writing always gets shuffled to the bottom of the pile both by the business of life and to some extent the discouragement of it all. The same story wanders about in my head but will not form. They are like strangers on a huge beach, unknown to me, always walking away with backs turned. They have a life and a story in their faces. I took a picture of them on my local beach….


Emma thinx: Relax: all the sand will run out long before the time.

With A Cast of 50,000 – The Valley Of The Trolls

I’m a troll

We’ve been together for a year now – just you and me. Well, it’s better than drinking alone I guess. One year ago I was certain I knew nothing. Today I know everything there is to know about uncertainty. I had just launched “Knockout” – my genre Romance pulsating with animal lust, lusty animals and International Locations. To some extent I have come in a complete circle. At that distant time I realised that I was saying goodbye to 35 years of serious writing. The slush piles of the Great Gatekeepers had felt the weight of my A4 gravitas. The bin-men of south London had kept pace with my output and the scorn of editors. Employers had failed to appreciate my creative day dreaming. The dog shampoo sales stats from Manchester got lost in the post modernist white thrusting buttocks of yet another dystopian philosophical tract. My writing career had arrived at the genre milestone simply because I was too poor even to starve in the attic. Perhaps – just perhaps, one could actually make some kind of income as a writer?


At first it was all about blogging and networking. That is how we met. The book went out onto all the platforms and we struggled with different formatting and “American” grammar. A few dozen kind souls looked at the blog. Now and then someone bought a book. We were priced at 99 cents. Each sale was like a birth. Now and then a kind soul would enjoy the book and give me a decent review. At that time I was able to write and live in France. I was a humble little mouse, building my literary burrow.


Firstly then the blog. I regard this as something of a success story because the readership has grown without any corporate stunts. The help and support of indie writers has boosted the readership to a total of 2,500 per month. For the first 6 months I set myself the goal of blogging every day.  Although I’m ever popular with Russian males, most of the traffic is random hits from people clicking on photographs. The fact is that the blog has sold very few books.


I arrived in the digital budget hotel with just 2 items of luggage. One was a short story “Sub Prime” and the other a genre “supermarket” book about cops and slobbers. I had decided a few years before to ditch everything of the previous period – i.e. my life. We used to live in a Capitalist system. Now life is Capitalism. Every single thing is commercial. Everything is bottom line. This is a born poor/stay poor world unless you can pull off the deal and get your hook to hold up in the sky. Dear old “Sub Prime” is the last footprint of the way I wanted to write. 


“Knockout” bumped along the bottom all through 2011. It was so far on the sea bed that only flat fish and readers fitted with sonar could detect it.  I believe we were at about number 60,000 in the Amazonian Ocean of a million digital books. This appalling figure means that 900,000 books have no significant sales at all. 

Course of the Amazon

Then came KDP Select. We knew that other writers had gained visibility by offering free books. This was our chance to get a hook up into the blue sky. We hurled it up – and it stuck behind a fast moving cloud. We topped several categories and reached the top 300 of all books. So far we have given away 50,000 books. A success story perhaps? Well – it rather depends on what happened next. 


Our first free run in January 2012 led to a sustained sales period over weeks. People were buying and enjoying the book. Reviewers on the whole were very positive and we were beginning to see some hope of some income after months and months of day and night  promo work through every conceivable media and cyber hang-out. I had also returned to the UK, grateful to get work as a bus driver.  I must also add that my actual book and story writing had stopped. Quite simply the endless jingle jangle of click this and check that has destroyed my inner calm. I tell Gilles that I am going through the Zenopause. 


Our second free run in early March was a similar success with a sustained sales afterglow. I began to notice hits by very negative reviewers as the book went back for sale. I have a policy of not commenting on reviews but surely if you are going to criticise a book – you should have read it properly or indeed, merely have read it to some extent.


Our third free run was in mid April. Clearly things had changed. Now, I’m not much of a musician – but I do have a natural sense of algorithm. Amazon have changed the deal so that you need to do ten times the traffic of free sales to get the same advancement up the sales charts. Visibility means sales. Sales means visibility. Almost the minute we came off the free deal, the negative reviews came in. Perhaps I am paranoid but can you really slam a book on the basis that in “real life” a woman would not risk her career for forbidden love? Come on guys! The book is a light sex infused escapist Romance, not a career development manual. 


So – 50,000 potential readers have the book. On the basis of the last free run we gave away about 5,000 books in order to sell about 50. It is quite clear  that in the current format KDP Select is not for me and I will not do any more free days. I know people only grab the book because it is free, but if I had sold one tenth of those books, I would not be working all day driving a bus – at least for a few months. I also think there is a great difference between the free reader and the person who looks at your book, samples it and then actually buys it. In the long term it is probably counter-productive  to put your book into the hands of people who would never like it or choose it. 


Here is the problem though. During my last free run, I was one of 15,000 free books on that day. There are now so many free books that no one is ever gonna have to buy one again. Soon there will be a plug in external memory for e-readers and all free books will be scooped as they come out. One day our unfortunate children will receive only our digital libraries of unread free books as their inheritance. Well, they won’t have jobs to keep them busy.

Emma at the Oracle

I am not an Amazon hater. They have enabled me to publish at little cost. The lending library feature provides some income, albeit small. All the same, I feel like a supplicant at the feet of the priestess of Apollo as she interprets the gas emissions at the Oracle of Delphi. No one knows what is going on. Each time the oracle pronounces, the mob charges off to the latest Klondike. Each time a Romance novelist writes a blog, the historical imagery becomes more tangled. Soon there will be Amazon soothsayers and experts. Amazon lobbyists will offer special insights. And they will all be right – until the oracle emits gas again.


Oooh – I do go on. Thank you all my lovely readers who have sustained me during the last year. How was it for you? Please dear friends – let me know how you are getting on with KDP Select?  My own future is gonna be a lot more proactive. I want to get to the readers who want to read me and will pay a few cents to do so.


In the teeming millions of creatures being swept down the Amazon to the sea, I will no longer be  a speck in the universe washed onto the shifting sands of broken metaphors. Who said I was a purple crap writer? I really do love you guys out there.


Emma thinx: Don’t big yourself up. Big yourself within.