Saturday, 19 September 2015

A Decent Bomber


Back in February, I glibly declared here on da blog, A Simple Irish Farmer was finished. This turns out to have been deeply premature as today, the 19th September, I actually finished it.

In the meantime I have wailed, gnashed and generally hooned around wearing sack cloth. I have written another book (a psychological thriller called Birdkill) and spent a lot of time not working on the book about an IRA bomber pulled out of retirement which I have come to title A Decent Bomber after someone in publishing who knows that she's talking about told me ASIF was the pantsest title she had ever heard for a book.

Beta reader feedback, together with the need to fix some things in the book that simply didn't work that well and which made it a weaker and less enjoyable read than it should be, meant I had quite a bit to do. In fact, this has generally been my experience with my books so far - Olives is a markedly different book to the one I finished back in 2004, while Beirut needed a total restructure following its reader's report and Shemlan lost 30,000 words to that slash-happy servant of evil, editor Gary Smailes.

So now A Decent Bomber has gone out to a bunch of agents in the US, mainly because the UK bunch have an aversion to Irish books. And, depending on what happens with them, it'll likely be publishing in December.

In the meantime, both A Decent Bomber and Birdkill's covers are gracing my lovely website as I phase out my various book websites and consolidate all there.

So now you know.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Dubai Foodie Fashionistas Unite!

Mr. Dress Up (album)
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I got an email this week from somebody announcing they were a 'Dubai-based foodie fashionista' and letting me know they were starting a blog if I needed any publicity.

I get a lot of random emails from people wanting publicity because I'm on a list operated by a company called Cision, which offers a subscription based service to PR people. Cision is quite a powerful tool, but often lazily used by PRs, who just blanket mail everyone they can find, rather than using Cision's segmentation tools. So, although I'm on Cision as a 'blogger', I'll frequently get 'Dear Editor' emails or invitations to 'cover' someone's event, job move or new self-adjusting dimplex.

Actually, I also often get 'Dear,' emails. And now and then, in moments of solid gold, 'Dear blogger'.

What, dear flak?

I also get emails hoping I've had a lovely weekend from people I don't know who don't seem to think that strangers hoping you've had a good weekend - or are having a great day - sound perhaps just the teeniest, tiniest tad bit insincere.

Don't get me wrong, I don't have an issue with this email thing. It's occasionally quite interesting. I get emails telling me about new wireless routers, carwashing 'solutions', touristic events in Abu Dhabi and hotel launches. I get a large number of press releases written by people who are clearly witless, drooling clowns on behalf of clients who are wasting good money with bad marketing, poor targeting and communications that shouldn't be tolerated beyond primary school. I am often amused by these, in the dark way that the Darwin Awards are amusing, or someone dying horribly while using a selfie stick. I know, I know. You couldn't make it up, could you?

But a Dubai foodie fashionista trolling me for freebies (which is what 'foodie fashionista' is secret code for) is a new departure. The very idea of a bloated Mr Creosote in a rose-patterned tea dress is enjoyment enough. Not, you understand, that my idea of fashion is a rose-patterned tea dress. My concept of fashion, as Sarah would gleefully inform you, is far, far worse than that.

That someone would self-identify as a Dubai-based foodie fashionista is glorious. What do you do, then, Bill? Oh, I'm a welder. Why, what do you get up to? Oh, I'm a Dubai-based foodie fashionista. Oh, right. Nice, if you can get the work...

Anyway, I deleted the email.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Of Migrants And Emigrants

English: US President Barack Obama and British...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It's interesting to see the pictures on our screens showing the masses swarming Europe's borders. The proportion of women and children is tiny - the vast majority of  migrants would appear to be able bodied men.

I'm probably not allowed to say that, this week.

It's amazing how fickle we've become. Public opinion is now capable of turn and change at remarkable speeds as we all get caught up in it all; the mood of the mob has never been so unpredictable nor so quick to whip up. And the mob has never been so large.

A week ago Katie Hopkins, the somewhat egregious voice of Right Wing Reason, wasn't so out of step. The Sun has even been deleting Tweets promoting the infamous Katie column urging 'gunships to stop migrants' as it tries to get with the new mood of its readership. This is entirely different to last week's Mood Of The Readership, which would likely have cheered our Katie on to new heights of silliness.

This week, you're on a fast track to grovelling apologies if you so much as suggest that migrants aren't lovely and your home is open to as many as it can hold.

The haunting image of a Syrian 3-year-old lying face down on a beach has a lot to do with it, helping to do what 'father of PR' Edward Bernays called 'crystallising public opinion'. Governments found themselves neatly caught out, too. Our very own David Cameron was still fighting them on the beaches, missing the sudden and drastic public mood swing until (apparently) his wife tugged his sleeve and said 'Dave, I think you'd better take a look at this...'

I'd like to think this was all human compassion at its best, but I suspect it's just a mob. Mobs form online fast, and they dissipate just as quickly - and unpredictably. They're like clear air turbulence: even the best weather radar can easily miss them. Sometimes they fizzle out, sometimes they catch on and woe betide anyone who's not following the tide of public opinion with split second precision. The media these days aren't driving the mood, they're just amplifying it because they're getting on the bandwagon.

Mobs don't think very much, they just express themselves, whipping each other up in a frenzy of encouragement until it all gets out of hand and the monster's house is afire. Then they sort of look around a bit, a little dazed, before shuffling off home for tea.

We, the British, were dragged into war in Iraq by our leadership - rather against the desire of the majority of the people one suspects - a US-led war, and bloody aftermath, that destroyed the physical and moral infrastructure of Iraq so completely that it created a vacuum for the lunacy that is Islamic State to fill. We bombarded Libya in the name of regime change and swiftly spent not one penny on supporting the foundation of a new state in place of the one we helped destroy so expensively. I'm guessing the Syrian uprising had more than a little covert support from Langley and Millbank from the get-go. And let us not forget Afghanistan...

The UK is now to 'fulfil its moral responsibility', even if the US has been keeping its head down and Not Getting Involved. You wonder how much simpler it would have been if we hadn't been so glib about supporting the high-handed destruction of these countries' systems of governance and civil infrastructure with no plan - or appetite - for getting involved in the aftermath.

Now the 'War on Terror' is coming home...

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Telco Fail Special. Etisalat WINS Challenge.

The Etisalat Tower in Dubai. Based in Abu Dhab...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I know quite a bit about telcos. Back in 1991, strangely enough as allied forces started the air and ground assault to liberate Kuwait (great timing, I know), I launched a magazine called Communications Middle East Africa, or Comms MEA as it became known. Then, in the late 90s, I was involved in the communications strategy, planning and rollout of privatised Egyptian mobile operator Mobinil. I subsequently worked with France Telecom, Jordan Telecom, Jordan's Mobilecom, Fastlink, Zain, Wataniya in Kuwait, Algeria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Batelco, Nawras, MTN (in its Saudi license bid) and others in the Middle East and further afield. I've worked on communications strategy, marketing campaigns and capacity building programmes in telecommunications and ICT for regulators, telcos, manufacturers and governments.

I've got telco form, in short.

I knows me telcos.

So it is with considerable confidence I can assert that never in my life have I ever encountered a telco as woefully useless as the UK's EE. We're not talking just averagely bad, we're talking organisationally dysfunctional to an extraordinary degree. We're talking spectacularly bad in a sort of massive display of really bad fireworks of badness bad. I wonder they remain a viable business, so awed am I by the symphonic virtuosity of their badness.

It's truly incredible, a Harvard Business School case study in how an organisation can remain profitable whilst exhibiting a stellar disregard for its customers. If you're in the customer service business, give up. Go home. You're wasting your time. That EE is still trading demonstrates for all time that the customer really doesn't matter.

I'm not going to bore you with the whole story. But you'll get an idea of how awfully bad they are when I tell you that I finally gave up and walked into one of their stores to get help fixing my issues with their awful service, blitheringly incompetent UX and heart-attack inducing IVR-driven call centre.

"I know," said the chap in the shop. "We're really, really bad. And there's nothing I can do about it, they don't trust us to get access to anything here in the shops, you'll have to talk to the call centre. It's frustrating, I know, but there's nothing I can do for you."

"But there's no way you can ever speak to a human at the call centre. You're just stuck in the system and when you eventually find your way to the option to talk to a representative it hangs up in your face."

"Yup. I know. Everyone hates us."

It's an interesting customer service technique. My frustration and anger were instantly defused. If it's so bad their own people have given up, what chance do I have? I eventually managed to find a way around my issue, albeit an inelegant one, but then found their iPhone app crashing every time you tried to invoke it. Reboot mobile, no change. I went to another EE store.

The bloke in the store grimaced. "Yes our app does crash. It does it on my iPhone, too. Look, I'll show you. There. Crashes every time.  Bad, isn't it?"

"But a telco in the smartphone era whose app crashes on the world's most iconic smartphone platform is surely on a one way ticket? It's almost unbelievably incompetent."

"I know. But what can we do? We just work in a shop."

In fact, EE's service is so bad, it got fined £1 million by UK regulator OFCOM. Googling 'EE customer service' gets you access to a very deep bucket of ordure indeed. It's the UK's most complained about mobile operator, as it turns out. And that seems to be quite an achievement in itself given the tone of debate around the other operators.

Which is why, coming back to the UAE from leave, I found myself looking at Gerard Butler gurning at me from a green-tinged billboard and thought, almost fondly, 'You know what? It might still be running the dumbest, most ill-advised campaign in the history of telco promotion, but Etisalat isn't all that bad.'

Yup, you heard it here first. Challenge accepted. Etisalat vs EE? I'll take the home team any day...

Friday, 14 August 2015

Fitzpatrick's Pub in Carlingford

English: An Irish coffee. Español: Un café irl...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I had reason to dip into that long-defunct food blog, The Fat Expat, this evening. I found my recipe alright, but I also found an old review of Fiztpatrick's fine public house near Carlingford.

And it made me wonder for how much time I managed to make - back in the day - for posting things to blogs: my way of compensating for the journalism I was no longer doing and the book writing I had paused as I worked out what the hell it was that publishers actually wanted (something I still, clearly, find challenging).

Anyway, this is the review I wrote of Fitzpatrick's back in 2009 - just as valid today as it was six years ago...

Eating in Ireland is truly a roller-coaster ride that lurches easily from (if you’ll excuse the term) feast to famine. When it’s good, it’s very, very good but when it’s bad it’s usually so bad that it’s an experience in itself. Sometimes the simplest things delight – bacon, cabbage and potatoes, the national dish, sounds awfully plain, but at its best it’s a revelation: a golden ‘floury’ spud, tranches of steaming pink, tender bacon and a pile of slightly crunchy, slightly salty cabbage cooked in the bacon water and running every gamut of green from the pastel light green of sun shining through winter surf to the deep green of the fresh fields in the spring.

Parsley sauce is a love it or hate it experience, but I love it, curly parsley chiffonaded into a butter-rich creamy thick sauce that drops rather than pours.

And then there are the awful disasters – these days from Irish chefs treading the same well-worn paths of wretchedness that the Brits have already blundered along - stupid cack-handed melanges of ‘Thai-style’ spices imposed on ingredients that deserve more respect, awful attempts at food with ‘molecular’ influences and, unforgivably, ‘nouveau Irish’ food – piss-poor attempts to serve classic Irish dishes in plates of clashing flavours and colours that revolt rather than delight.

This, then, is the gastronomic wilderness that is Ireland post ‘Celtic Tiger’ - it’s a dangerous place, people, a country in transition... You will always find Cork’s Ballymalloe, the mother-lode of Irish cookery, a place of wonder.

But I found an almost equally wonderous thing near Carlingford – a pub that looks so cod-Irish from the road that anyone but an American would shudder and pass it by. And yet the locals flock there in their hundreds, Les Routiers has slapped its mark on the place and so many awards decorate its walls you can almost see them in the sea of mad memorabilia that covers every surface – horizontal and vertical alike. And I include the ceiling – you have to duck at times to avoid being brained by low-hanging beams festooned in brass pumps, irons, cameras and, well, just stuff really.

Fitzpatrick’s pub should be a disaster. It’s famous, bang on the tourist trail and decorated outside with flowerbed jokes, bicycles, baths and bedsteads. They pour Guinness with a flourish of shamrock on the ‘head’, for God’s sake. Eat there. It’s expensive (you’d better be ready to shell out €30 for a main) but I loved it. When food makes me laugh, I know I’ve ‘arrived’ – and I laughed my way through dinner at Fitzpatrick’s.

We ate in the restaurant (a small area to the back of the huge, labrynthine pub) which has its own separate kitchen and a ‘local’ chef. The main kitchen had a chef from Newry, but we decided not to take the foreign food. Service to begin with was a bit patchy – our Sancerre came warm and with a lot of mucking about with the glasses, but eventually things settled down and the Fleurie that followed was a delight. The wine list is basic, smartly compiled and good.

Breads were offered around, Irish brown, white, garlic and others – and then the kitchen sent out a tiny bowl of vegetable soup as an ‘amuse geule’ – a little taste of warm, mushroom-dominated thickness that was just right for the rainy night. I took a starter of pan-fried scallops and black pudding, purposefully courting disaster. I have always hated ‘surf and turf’ dishes, believing (perhaps perversely) that if God had intended beef and shrimps to be in the same place he’d have arranged things that way rather than separating the two environments quite so effectively.

It was really good. It would have been stunning and world-class if the scallops had been slightly less cooked, had spent a couple of minutes less on the pass under lamps. But the black pudding was rich, crumbly and served with a creamy slightly sharp sauce that did it proud, almost a béarnaise but not quite. I was grinning by now, and it wasn’t the excellent Sancerre alone. Other starters taken included breaded mushrooms with garlic mayonnaise, which were pronounced good but would have been better fried and served dry rather than buttered as they were. Odd that you could get a black pudding scallop starter right and muff a breaded mushroom dish, but there you go.

My main was classic stuff – an 8oz fillet steak served on a celeriac mash (note no horseradish addition to the mash, thank God. Horseradish mashes are an invention of the devil) with a black truffle sauce and foie gras. I thought I’d go for the light option, obviously. It was impeccably executed – a delight. The steak beautifully done and the little decorations of foie gras were fried off so they were crisp outside and yet wobbled, the sauce was rich and dark, pungently contrasting the rich, buttery mash and it was all topped with crisp onion rings in a light batter. The fries that came along with it were fat, crisp and floury when cut. A bowl of crisp, green spring vegetables with a rich cream sauce and another of new potatoes in butter arrived for each pair of diners. Others had sirloin steaks, a plainer serving of huge and beautifully cooked steak and then there were plates of fresh sea-bass.

Desserts came with an attendant cardiologist. I passed and selflessly ordered an Irish coffee (yup, a shamrock of brown sugar was dusted on it. I forgave them) but others took silly things like a walnut and banana crumble tart: rich, warm and gloopy, swimming in a crème Anglais, apple tart and ice cream and the ‘special’, organic strawberries and strawberry ice cream served in a little brass bucket alongside strawberry compote and cream. It looked outré, chi-chi and crass and tasted divine.

We went off to the bar for icy glasses of Tyrconnell (Ireland’s finest single malt and a whisky that eclipses much that Scotland offers, IMHO) afterwards. Because if you’re going to be this indulgent, you might as well go mad. Good wine, outstanding food and our insanely opinionated waitress, Carrie - part entertainment and part expert guide to the menu, women's hurling and the delights of working in a restaurant with the boyfriend (‘the boyfriend’, the barman, was of course stopped and shown off to us, to his horror) meant that we all agreed our evening in Fitzpatrick’s was a one-off, a memorable evening of excellence in a convivial, warm place filled with laughter, cheer and delight.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Woah. Leave. Back. Ouch.

Español: ouch...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
No post for almost a month. Golly, poor blog!

Dubai, London, Liverpool, Haverfordwest, London, Copenhagen, Belfast, Newry, London, Dubai.

What was that? That was your leave, mate. Welcome back 'in station'.

Looking back on the whirlwind that was, the start of it seems like months ago. Copenhagen was our annual attempt to spend some time together away from work and the hustle and bustle of the annual tour of the UK.

Funny place.

The Danes seem to make quite a deal about how free and easy and just, well, downright cool and inclusive and right on they are, but they'll stand on the margins of a totally empty road, yawning blacktop trailing endlessly into the horizon either side of them, waiting for the green light before they'll move. You can freewheel as much as you like, as long as you obey the  rules.

The hotel we finally selected (after weeks of clicking and mulling) was overpriced and packed with American tourists starting out on their Baltic cruises. Actually, all of central Copenhagen was packed with American tourists starting out on their Baltic cruises. Dinner wherever we went was inevitably taken next to Hank and Wilma yelling at each other as if they were still out on the prairie rather than in a cosy and intimate Yerpean restaurant.

We ate well, especially at funky new eatery Almanak at The Standard (a converted old ferry terminus) which we randomly discovered when sheltering from a sudden downpour. It isn't, despite the sound of the name, a Lebanese joint, but a new 'contemporary Danish' place staffed by people who've run away from working in Noma (the best restaurant in the world yadayada) and the food was grin-inducingly stunning. I laughed my way through the meal, my usual reaction to glorious food. And glorious it most certainly was.

We went back for a treat on our last night and watched in dismay as the service fell apart in a Hell's Kitchen sort of way, stacks of plates waiting on the pass, comped drinks all around as the floor staff tried to make sense of it all and failed. It was like the Keystone Cops of food. All it lacked was Gordon Ramsay screaming expletive-laden abuse at them as they tottered around getting everything horribly wrong. The food was still great, it just took three hours for them to get it all out to us. A shame, really.

We visited things. We walked a lot. We learned that cyclists are the new superpower and own both cars and pedestrians. Watching them beasting bewildered Japanese tourists who have wandered unknowingly into the cycle lane was astounding. The Danes don't talk about the Second World War very much, it's sort of missing from the historical narrative which we found generally to be patchy outside of the Christiansborg Palace, which is all very palatial.

We spent quite a lot of time trying to convince people that living in the UAE doesn't mean you have three heads, a close affinity with ISIS and a wife kept in purdah. We've never before been quite so keenly aware of how deeply ignorant people in general are about this place. Maybe it's us.

As for the rest of it, a whirlwind of nieces from both Heaven and Hell, the occasional nephew and many in-laws; friends, family, places and things. We bought a house, as you do. And then we found ourselves sitting in The Oriel at Terminal Three, waiting for the flight and wondering quite where the last three weeks had gone.

It was almost a relief to be back, except it is - as always - very strange to suddenly be plonked with a bump into our real life away from real life. Petrol's gone up, I hear. Other than that, we don't appear to have missed much. In a few days it'll feel as if we've never been away; it always does.

Hey ho...

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Press Release: The Fear Returns

English: Sign “ Coca-Cola ” in the mountains o...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The #UAEPR hashtag on Twitter was started by @theregos back in the days of yore, as he and I were swapping tales of woe from our experiences at the hands of the UAE's public relations practitioners. I had forgotten and thought it was me, @mrtompaye or @dxbmaven wot done the dirty deed first - but it would appear not.

#UAEPR is amusing; a sustained howl of pain from various media and bloggy types sharing the abuse we are all subjected to by the sort of drooling idiots who think sending breathless blipverts about car washing 'solutions' to people with absolutely no interest in car washing is a beezer scheme. That businesses are actually paying these clots to irritate an audience that buys its ink by the barrel is a source of never ending, childish wonderment to me.

It is from this stable that this week's highly popular press release about Bapsy's Brilliant Books came, a communication that ticks every box in the multi-layered mixed metaphor that is the Mille-Feuille Of Wrong.

And it is from this - gloriously Augean - stable also we are gifted with the following, sent to me on Monday of last week.
Dear Alexander,
I hope you are having a lovely week.   
It is with great excitement that we share the news of Coca-Cola Egypt's  Ramadan Charity Campaign #ثانية_تفرق, set to dominate social media platforms in Egypt and beyond.
This festive season Coca Cola is giving back to the Egyptian community by replacing their always hotly-anticipated television ads with a unique campaign against prejudice rolling out exclusively on digital media. Their TV ad budget is instead being poured into their  project of developing 100 villages. In recent days they have also galvanised Egypt's digital population, pledging that for every post featuring a finger raised against prejudice (symbolising one extra second) they will donate one additional pound to their project.
Kindly find below the press release for your reference. Please do let me know if you need imagery or any additional information as it would be a pleasure to assist.   I look forward to hearing your thoughts!   
Warm regards,  
Fascinating, indeed. A press release - naturally packed with highly assertive language - that begs more questions than it answers. The 'press release below' was just an Arabic version of the above text and some YouTube links to Arabic language videos about people with disabilities drinking brown stuff. I naturally shared my thoughts with Kristina in the form of some questions about Coca Cola Egypt which her email to me raised:
1) How will the campaign dominate social media platforms in Egypt and beyond? What sort of metrics are you using for this goal and what will success look like for you? 
2) How are Coca Cola's TV ads hotly anticipated? Do you have any statistics regarding consumer reaction to the ads and how anticipated they are? 
3) What is Coca Cola's Ramadan TV ad budget for 2015? Is this the same as 2014? Can you confirm this is all being spent on social good programmes this year? 
4) I'm not aware of Coca Cola's programme to develop 100 villages? When did it launch? With what goals? What form has it taken in the past? What has it achieved so far? What villages, in which regions of Egypt, are being assisted? 
5) What will Coca Cola be doing for these villages in 2015? 
6) How has Egypt's social media population been galvanised? Do you have figures of posts, engagement, reach to substantiate that? 
7) The raised finger in a selfie signifies one extra second of what? 
8) A finger raised against prejudice in Egypt is interesting. Which prejudice in particular, or all prejudice? Can you confirm that Coca Cola's definition of prejudice includes prejudice against gay and Lesbian people? 
9) What is Coca Cola's existing donation for Ramadan 2015? Is there a cap on how much it is willing to donate as part of this campaign? What is the maximum Coca Cola will donate? 
10) How does Coca Cola think this campaign will benefit its brand image as a purveyor of soft drinks?
It's nearly a week now and I haven't heard back from her. I'm sure the team has been beavering away gathering proof points that will back up the bold assertions in her email. Or perhaps I got caught in her spam filter, which will be doubtless more efficient than mine - which appears to have ceased to work for some reason.

Mind you, it's possible she wasn't being sincere when she said she was looking forward to hearing my thoughts. But I can't quite believe that.

It was clearly such a sincere email representing such a sincere campaign...

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Press Release

I was sent this press release today. After some reflection, I thought it best to share, verbatim and - necessarily - without comment.


A Star Called Lucky By Bestselling Author Bapsy Jain

The beloved, spirited Lucky Boyce from the novel Lucky Everyday returns in the sequel A Star Called Lucky to solve a captivating mystery of global corruption, deceit blackmail and revenge. 

Bapsy Jain’s newest novel, A Star Called Luckypicks up in present day New York City, where Lucky Boyce has reinvented herself as an unconventional yoga instructor following the lessons learned in Lucky Everyday.  She is on a mission to change the lives of prison inmates through an innovative education program when her life takes a sudden turn.

Lucky is catapulted from her peaceful, balanced routine into a chaotic, transcontinental pursuit to bring down a corrupt businessman and politician. He blackmails Lucky into using her talents and connections in India to bring him the mysterious ice mushroom to boost immunity and increasing longevity. Once Lucky realizes his desires are evil and based purely on personal gain, she embarks on a mission risking her life both in India and the US.  A young, awkward computer savant and mysterious Buddhist monk add to Lucky’s bag of tricks as she tries to combat the power of corrupt politics.

The novel poses important questions about the inherent goodness of human nature. To maintain balance, Lucky continually turns to yoga and the voice of her friend to stay centered, recalling teachings like, “When the world goes upside down, you need to stand on your head.”
Jain’s prose Lucky Everyday has been heralded as a “must-read and a bestseller.”  This sequel once again captures the heart of fans as they follow the latest adventures of Lucky Boyce, whose name is an ironic reflection of what luck really means in today’s chaotic world.”

“I want everyone in the world to read this masterpiece!”  Bikram Choudhury, founder of Bikram Yoga.  

“The prescience of this novel is stunning, when you consider that it must have been at press before the most recent Ebola pandemic and ensuing medical controversies,” commented Alesa Lightbourne, Ph.D, author of award-winning The SALSA Solution and named in Who's Who of International Writers and Who's Who of American Women.  "I was also fascinated by the way the author wove together plot elements from genetics, computer science and yoga — an ambitious undertaking.  It’s a very unique book, as was its predecessor, and represents an interesting intersection between genres. You have to marvel at the author’s continuing inventiveness.”

“As a computer enthusiast, I found the plot of A Star Called Lucky to be chillingly real. We watch characters confront jaded politicians, a terrifying disease, and computer viruses that leave you wondering what your co-workers might really be typing into their keyboard,” said Kurt Ramin, MBA, CPA/CFE and internationally recognized author of books on technology, business and accounting.

Bapsy Jain is a master at combining the exotic and curious traditions of India with the fast-paced reality of the United States, making readers look at the world more holistically and question daily coincidences,” said James T. Vallas, an avid reader of mystery books.

“This captivating story encourages us to find hope in life’s biggest mysteries,” noted Dr. J. Anthony Gomes, author of Mirrored Reflections, Professor of Medicine and Director of Electrophysiology /Cardiovascular Services at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. 

“I was inspired watching the story unfold,” said Raymond Lavoie, retired senior vice president of Medtronic.  “Seeing a yoga instructor struggle to solve a life-threatening mystery and still finding a way to trust the universe makes me believe.”

The latest Lucky novel prompts thoughts of hope and trust by reminding readers to look beyond the challenges of the moment. If Lucky Boyce can overcome the traumatic events that spiral her life into a whirlwind of deceit and corruption, we can all look a little deeper to find the strength in our own inherent nature.

A Star Called Lucky is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iBooks.  For more information, please visit

Media Contact : Liann Correia | ( 971) 4 429 1234 ext. 147 | 

About the Author
Bapsy Jain is a best-selling mystery author noted for the international success of her debut novel, Lucky Everyday (Penguin, 2009). Originally from Calcutta, she graduated from the Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics in Mumbai, and continued her studies in finance in the UK.  She is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants (England and Wales) and serves on the Board of Trustees for many international charitable organizations. She and her husband established the S P Jain School of Global Management (Dubai, Singapore and Sydney). She is passionate about yoga and spirituality. 

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Blow Up Planes

English: Balloon seller works on the beach at ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The NSA are going to love the title of this one, aren't they?

Being married to a teacher can have its odd effects on life, not the least of which was a recent dash to try and find inflatable aeroplanes. It's a long story, but the theme of the week in class was transport and Sarah had created a rather fabulous little role play area for the kids which let them check in at the airport, shop at duty free and hang around in the café before boarding their flight. There was even a wee plane with a pilot's cockpit, portholes and chairs with seatbelts and overhead lockers.

If they'd been role playing this weekend at Dubai International, incidentally, they'd have been coming to school three hours early to avoid the huge crowds milling to exit the country at the start of the schools' summer holiday.

By any standard, it was a cool role play. But Miss Jean Brodie wanted some inflatable planes to hang above it. So one fine day, I found myself stopping at the local cold stores, most of which sell a range of wild and wacky inflatables (being as wot we live near the sea, see?), from 'Milka' branded cows through to beach balls, zebras and virtually any other imaginable inflatable. And you can stop that filthy minded stuff right now; this is Sharjah, Bub.

Did any of them have an inflatable plane? They did not. A raft of uncomprehending faces met my enquiries as I tried to find every possible permutation of the words 'inflatable aeroplane', even reduced to holding out my arms and whizzing around the darkened, pungent interior of one shop, to the bewilderment of the small and mildly wizened Malabari gentleman in charge.

It started to become an obsession. We remembered places we'd definitely seen planes hanging up, but all professed complete ignorance. We quartered the area, tracking down cold stores like stars of the History Channel reality series 'Inflatable Hunters'.

Not one of them had an inflatable plane of any sort.

And then we remembered seeing them hanging from the shops as you leave Dhaid towards Masafi. Dhaid is Sharjah's inland oasis town, about 60km from the coast. Finally, driven by the mission to get those damn blow-up planes by hook or by crook, we launched ourselves onto the desert road past Sharjah airport and the Wildlife Centre, into the wilds of mysterious Dhaid and there, in a moment of glorious epiphany, we found inflatable planes. Seas of them. Millions of them. It was like a view of FlightRadar24's display of Heathrow out there.

It was also Friday and just gone 11.30am. They were all closed. The next day I went back solo and bought up their stocks, paying prices that could only have inflated the market for inflatables in a massively inflationary way. I didn't care. We'd done it. Tadaaaa! The role play area was little less than glorious and there, in the skies above the airport, hung on nylon threads, were inflatable planes flying against the backdrop of azure skies.

Well, textured ceiling tiles. But we can imagine, no?

Talking of imagining, I can only imagine what happened next, but it goes something like this. A few weeks later, the chap from the specialist distributor who's cornered the Sharjah inflatables market goes on his rounds to the cold stores around the corniche areas of Sharjah and Ajman. And in each call he makes, he's asked if he has any inflatable aircraft? There is being too much demand for these in the European market demographic which is, we all agree, sought after due to its delightful propensity to accept the 'first price' no matter how insane the sum postulated may be.

But of course, says Mr Inflatable Distribution Specialist. I am having these aircraft wery much in stock. They are with Emirates liwery only. And, he adds, I can assure you they have been selling like hot dosas in Dhaid, where the market for them is like masala.

This is the only explanation I can come up with for the fact that every single cold store in my area is now festooned with displays of bloody inflatable aeroplanes, bobbing mockingly in the warm breeze coming in off the sea.

Seriously. Blow up aeroplanes, everywhere the eye can see...

Monday, 22 June 2015

Olives - A Violent Cover

This is the new cover for Olives - A Violent Romance. You can go here to buy it, as well as my other books. No, no need to thank me. It's a pleasure.

Why on earth would I want to change the cover, five years after publishing the book in the first place?

It seems more like a million years than five, I must say. A great deal has changed since then for me, personally and professionally. If you'd asked me back then if I thought I'd end up writing six books, I'd have laughed at you, hollowly. 'Ha ha', or something like that. Maybe just 'Ha.'

I'd turned my back on the endless round of submissions and rejections that had characterised my life as a writer up until then, finally accepting if I was going to go anywhere with this writing thing moving forwards, it was going to have to be on my own two feet.

I started looking at publishing platforms, stumbled upon Smashwords, wrangled with Amazon's strange idea of HTML to get a Kindle edition up and running and downloaded Createspace templates and started playing with book formatting.

Before long, I realised I needed a cover and I lost no time turning to Lebanese designer and graphic artist Naeema Zarif, whose clever and compelling work I had long enjoyed and who had also provided the 'visual identity' for GeekFest (although it was brother in law @deholyterror who came up with the initial logo for GeekFest 1.0, just to give credit where it's due!). Sadly, her website appears to be no more.

Naeema created that blue and beige cover, a superimposition of the Mediterranean sea and sky, the soil the olives grow from, a peace treaty and the edges of leaves. It's how her art rolls, layers of imagery super-imposed to create a series of visual 'jokes'. There's a bit of Amman's Citadel in there, too. It was just the ticket and I was pleased and proud to have her art illustrate the cover.

But that was then, this is now. The old cover is much admired, but is very, well, Arabesque. And my other covers have taken a very different direction, tending towards that very stark white space with a single illustrative element; Beirut's lipstickbullet, Shemlan's pillskull and now the two new books look like they'll have iconic emblems on the covers.

You can see all my book covers arrayed together tastefully here.

Olives ended up just looking odd and out of place, so I decided a long while back to update it. That's the lovely thing about publishing online, you can do that sort of thing. The UAE print edition, clearly, was going to stick with the old cover!

I've cast around for an image for Olives, to no avail. It's a very bad title for a book (I've had it confirmed by a top professional that my book titles suck lemons. That's sort of okay, it's the way things have ended up and I probably wouldn't have it any other way) at the best of times and a cover image is hard to think up. What do you do? Some olives? A crushed olive? I found a nice image of some olives and a skull, but it wasn't quite right. I've asked artist/designer friends, but nobody seems to have been able to come up with an image that 'does the trick', so I've finally invested a few days in finding some things that might work. The result is certainly impactful.

Amazon et al have been updated. So if you bought the book with the old cover, you now hold a limited edition print in your hands, one of about 2,500. There'll never be another one. I rather think, and hope, that'll amuse Naeema.

The old cover. A limited edition of 2,500 prints with a free book.

So there we have it. A new website, new cover and two new books. Golly, it's all change around here these days, isn't it?