Saturday, 28 November 2015

Reviewing A Decent Bomber

Bomber (album)
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Quick post, just to share that 'Talking of Books' radio show from last week...

They quite liked A Decent Bomber, which is nice. Because of Paris and events around it, they reached the perfectly understandable decision not to refer to terrorism or fundamentalism in the programme in an attempt to be sensitive to events taking place in Europe. This left them with the interesting task of reviewing a book about a former terrorist who used to make bombs for a terrorist organisation who is coerced into resuming his old trade by a bunch of Somali and Arab terrorists. Without using the 'T' word...

Have a listen, it's quite fun...

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Talking Of Books Reviews A Decent Bomber

Lopez speaking! Vincent Lopez at radio microph...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In a little under half an hour, Dubai Eye Radio's 'Talking of Books' program will review A Decent Bomber. Half an hour after that, they'll be interviewing me about the book.

I can't pretend I'm not a little nervous. For a start, this isn't really a great time to be talking about terrorism in your novel. But beyond that, it's a very public grilling for the book. Will they love it? Hate it? Be 'meh'?

I can't get a thing done. I'm just marking time. *sigh*

Time. Ulp. Listening in. Here we go. Oh golly, they liked it...

A book of real quality. Sensitively drawn characters. A book of real style and you find yourself experiencing, smelling Ireland. This is tangibly plausible. I love the complexity of the character of Pat. What I liked particularly about the book was that the plot never stopped to explain characters, the dialogue and plot carry their development. The dialogue is very natural, he has a very fine ear, McNabb. It was real and honest, the dialogue was true to the characters. They're frightening, the characters. It's a white-knuckle ride and a real page-turner.

This isn't a light book. It's a line-up of misery and pain. There's no plot humour, but the dialogue has lovely touches of gentle irony, very Irish humour. This is an extremely good book, more than a thriller, you could draw parallels with Le Carré.

Clearly a book to buy, people... :)

The interview was fun. They didn't like Boyle and Mary's shenanigans and I explained I wasn't so happy myself, two of my characters just ran away and did stuff they weren't supposed to.

Did I pick the name Pat O'Carolan for a reason? As it happens, yes, the troubador was a knowing reference and Pat was Sarah's Uncle Pat, whose wee farm up in Cummermore started the whole scheme going. Orla wasn't supposed to have the romantic involvements she ended up with, either.

How come conventional publishing hadn't picked me up? Dunno, these days don't really care that much either. I explained how Shemlan, my last book, had been about a man dying of cancer whose life is revealed to have been utterly pointless to him, about how I'm cruel to my characters. And about how that - or a book about an ex-IRA man - might not gel with what a risk-averse publisher's idea of a self-marketing book was.

Why thrillers, there are elements of literary fiction in here? That was nice of them to say, but I like to think I write a smart thriller. thrillers are fun, although Birdkill - my next book - is a little more complicated on a psychological level and perhaps a little more screwed up generally.

I told about how my developmental editor/reader for Beirut had told me to put more 'gunplay' into the book and how I regret having taken that advice, now preferring to rebel rather than produce formulaic books that are 'on genre'. They liked the interplay between Driscoll and MacNamara, the politicians in A Decent Bomber who are trying to pretend this stuff isn't happening. I confessed I had enjoyed playing with the idea that they are conflicting with the PSNI where before they had fought the RUC, but this time they were denying themselves rather than last time when they had been asserting themselves.

It's amazing how quickly half an hour can pass when you're talking about your books, but pass it did. I'll post the podcast when it comes around. So far I've sold a tad over sixty books in all. We're hardly troubling the NYT list here, people...

Monday, 16 November 2015

End Of Snickets

A view of the desert landscape on the outskirt...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My first short-cut into Dubai from Sharjah was a wee desert track which ran through low dunes and camel camps, snaking its way down into the outskirts of the big city behind the Dubai abbatoir. These days it's called Beirut Street.

My second was a little further out, again a desert track and a fun drive each morning and night, a little dune bash to settle the mind. I've long said, if I had to sit on the Ittihad Road and that jostling, snarling line of cars I couldn't live in Sharjah. But I never have, so we've continued to embrace the joys of the Cultured Emirate. Time and progress eclipsed my second snicket, which is called the Mohammed bin Zayed Road now.

A few years ago, my current snicket was blocked by faceless forces. Well, Dubai's RTA. A running battle developed between JCBs laying an insane barrier of concrete blocks across the desert dividing Dubai and Sharjah. The Orcs were clearly intent on forcing the little band of 4WDs, who daily bumped their way over the short sandy stretch, onto the roads. For a time, to my great amusement, cars would dart around the lumbering yellow earth-movers, blocks would be pulled aside when the baddies weren't looking and we'd continue our merry way across the snicket. This went on for a while and The Man clearly gave up and left us to it.

Quite right.

But, of course, we always find a way to ruin things and word started to leak out about the snicket which slowly developed from a couple of holes in the barrier to great multi-laned super-snickets. We obviously reached Peak Snicket, because the other day, someone in authority clearly decided enough was enough. The JCBs came back in force, great fresh concrete barriers laid right the way along the border, earth-movers piled up huge sandy berms and the forces of Mordor kept at it relentlessly, quickly repairing any breaches that would appear. Their work is complete. The whole thing is now functionally impassable.

That's it. End of snicket.

And so this morning we went to school on the 611, the Emirates Road. It's a nasty, aggressive little high speed drive, the road at times seeming close to capacity and clogging slightly but it moved freely for the most part.

I was highly amused to find it took about the same time to get there as going across the snicket...

Saturday, 14 November 2015

The Expat Woman Festive Fair Live Blog

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Selling books at the ExpatWoman Festive Family Fair along with winsome authorettes Rachel Hamilton and Annabel Kantaria today. Signing them, too, because people like their books signed. I've never been able to work out why, but always perfectly happy to comply!!!

I'm live blogging the day. Well, why not?

Coffee. Decided to sell my small stock of shop soiled Olives first editions, so have knocked up a quick sign to that effect. Running late now. Microsoft hates me. Light clothes, expecting a hot day. Shouldn't really be posting this, tempus fugits. Books are heavy.

We're set up. Things are looking good. Hot, but good. Classical music, polo club. It's all rather a posh way to sell books. Hamilton is already causing trouble and having fights with Annabel. We've got two tables to fill with books and the girls are embarking on spirited land grabs on each others' space. Hamilton has brought a cuddly Santa in a cynical bid to capitalise on Yuletide good feeling. People have started circulating. We're off!

It's busy here! We've been happily flogging books. Gotta go, someone's looking at me covers!

Hamilton is, as usual, shifting great tottering piles of books in the direction of small children with glazed over eyes who push money at her in their thousands. Grinning, cackling and bouncing around like a madly animated marionette, she's pushing money into her Tardis-like cash tin faster than the mint can mint it. It's awful to watch. I hate her.

It's calmed down generally. Beirut's been selling well, A Decent Bomber has flown, which is nice. Annabel and Hamilton are cramming chips into their faces. Annabel has been steadily selling, wondering why she's here flogging books  and not her publisher. People ask funny questions. A small boy wanted to know how many words are in my books. He was wonderfully wide-eyed at the answers. The crowd tends to ebb and flow and quiet periods suddenly become quite manic. I love the sound of books being sold. I wish I had a 'kerching' sound on my wee cash box.

Consensus. The people are no longer buying. Time to pack up and slink off. Hamilton has a skateboard on a rope to use as a trolley. The day ends with her walking her books off to the car.

Annabel and I have agreed the psychological effect of small children stopping, going all glazed-looking and then being drawn inexorably to colourful books about poo and brains will now be called 'The Hamilton Effect'.

At one point Hamilton wandered off to have a look around the other stalls and a small child popped up and started looking at her books. I swear to God, she came from nowhere, just appeared and embraced the child, leaching it of its money. She reminded us of the child snatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

The live blog thing didn't really work. Every time I whipped out the laptop, someone pitched up and started looking at my books and I had to cut and go sell a book.

A nice day, in all. It amazes me how hard you have to work to sell a book sometimes. And how much selling work the blurb on the back does...

Monday, 9 November 2015

A Decent Festive Family Fair

Yo ho ho! It's that time of year again. Deranged writer of childrens' books Rachel Hamilton and I shared a table at last year's Family Fair and we had a lot of fun and sold some books. Well, I sold some books, Rachel pushed hers like narcotics at eager-eyed children who, bless them, knew no better. Honestly, it's awful to watch the way she dances and coos around them as she steals up to whip the money out of those damp little hands.

This year, we're being joined by sensible author Annabel Kantaria, who will hopefully curb the worst excesses of Hamilton's unstable and mercurial personality. Annabel is the author of psychological thriller Coming Home, dubbed by Judy Finnegan as 'An utterly compelling story of loss and betrayal.'

So we've got Rachel and her books for kids, Annabel and her book for mum and me with my big boy's toys. A proper little family offering we make. All down at the Arabian Ranches Polo Club...

I've got copies of A Decent Bomber, natch. And I have Olives with its new cover as well as Beirut. I forgot to order copies of the new, unexpurgated Shemlan on time, but hopefully they'll make it before the weekend. All, of course, the ideal Christmas present for that loved one or, depending on your view of my books, your worst enemy.

See you there!

Saturday, 7 November 2015

A Decent Bomber And Terrifying Terrorists...

This is nice. Produced by vendor to the US military Albert's Gifts, it's a roll of toilet paper inviting you 
to wipe your arse on Osama Bin Laden. I have another with Saddam on it. 
Because America is better than the bad guys, right?

Róisín handed the joint to Orla, who shook her head. ‘No thanks. Not my thing.’ She waved her glass. ‘Are you a student too?’
‘Sure, I am.’
‘What you studying?’
‘Terrorists. You?’
Orla searched Róisín’s face, but it was without guile. ‘Animal husbandry. How do you mean, terrorists?’
‘Just that. Terror studies.’
‘You’re kidding me. That’s a course?’
Róisín laughed, shaking her head. ‘What’s so odd about it? You look like someone just slapped your arse.’
‘I suppose it seems strange that someone would want to… well, that. Oh, I don’t know. Don’t we see enough about them every day?’
‘This nation was founded on terrorism. If it wasn’t for Michael Collins, Dan Breen and the likes of them there’d be no Ireland. We’d still be a British colony.’
‘Ah, come on. That’s ancient history.’
The spark at the end of the reefer stabbed at Orla, the features behind its glow knit in fury. ‘The fuck it is. What’s a freedom fighter? What’s an insurgent? What’s a terrorist? That’s what I want to know. We let ourselves be governed by old men who tell us what’s good for us and what we need and the second we question it we’re hauled off to face their idea of justice. You know what democracy is? Say you what you like, do what you’re told. And we slap the label of terrorist on anyone who happens not to agree with us and doesn’t conform to the restrictions we impose on them.’
‘Jesus. You’re best off studying anarchy studies, you.’
Róisín’s angry expression softened and she flicked the butt of her joint over the fence, a spinning ember flying through the cold darkness. ‘Fuck it. Let’s get a drink.’

Eman Hussein is a friend of mine. We used to work together. She has been with me in some of the key moments of my booky journey, from long lunches at Shemlan's Al Sakhra restaurant to meandering walks through Beirut and Amman, strange encounters in the night-time heart of Aleppo's Al Madina souk and liquorice-strong coffees at Uncle Deek's. She's Palestinian, passionately so. It's because of her that Olives has that quote from Mahmoud Darwish in it, "If the Olive Trees knew the hands that planted them, their oil would become tears."

Many, many years ago a colleague left - for some mad reason - a toy gun lying around in the office. And - for some mad reason - I thought it was really funny to grab said gun, jab it in Eman's face and scream 'Remember the Achille Lauro, Palestinian bitch?'

She looked at me calmly up the barrel of a plastic pistol, all serious brown eyes. And she said, 'Alexander. You will never work in UK again. Trust me in this.'

Recently she's started using the 'Your knife is freedom' logo as her Twitter AV. This is a grass roots reaction supporting the recent stabbings of Israeli settlers by Palestinians. I thought it might be interesting to get her idea about terrorism and what it means to her. Given the focus on the whole retired terrorist vs terrifying terrorist theme in A Decent Bomber...

How would you define terrorism? 
Terrorism is the act of inflicting a constant state of terror/fear among a certain group of people.

Do you think terror - or let's say violent forms of legitimate resistance - works? 
It works to a certain degree. History tells us that terror makes you heard but not necessarily accepted. When the Palestinian Front of Liberation Organisation (PFLO) started hijacking flights, it made the world listen, but not care for the “cause”. And that’s what we missed back then, we did not know that gaining public opinion is a game changer while the Israelis knew that early on.

You've adopted the 'your knife is freedom' logo. Would you do it? 
If I am living in constant oppression, denied basic human rights, watching my land stolen, and seeing that there’s no future for the young generation of my country, I would carve my way to liberation with a knife, yes.

Do you think that the campaign has improved the image of Palestinians internationally? 
Luckily, the world has become more aware, at the same time Palestinians have become more media savvy. I haven’t gauged international public opinion regarding the “knife intifada” but I haven’t seen strong opposition from world wide public figures, especially that the Israeli settlers haven’t mastered the “Victim” game yet.

If you protest peacefully, you're not heard. If you throw stones, you're shot. What is the way forwards? Is there one, or is the danger of a new intifada purely because of this frustration? 
The solution is in a balanced approach: Sit on the table to negotiate peace, but keep your fists clenched tight on that stone/knife. One person could master that, Abou Ammar - Yasser Arafat.

Why did the IRA get peace and the PLO didn't? 
Don’t know.

What can people elsewhere do to help the Palestinians? Is it as simple as BDS? 
BDS is not a simple movement. I strongly believe in it. It is the optimum of all soft power coming together to form a strong force. It speaks volumes about the illegal existence of Israel and raises awareness among young people worldwide, especially through cultural boycott, about the atrocities of Zionism.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Bonfire Night

Anonymous with Guy Fawkes masks at Scientology...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Guy Fawkes converted to Catholicism following his Protestant mother's remarriage to a Catholic gentleman. He was likely 'radicalised' during his time at school, his stepfather and various senior figures at the school being recusants - Catholics who refused, illegally, to join Church of England services. The law was passed in the reign of Elizabeth 1, whose dad invented the Church of England so he could marry loads of birds and have them killed off.

Fawkes travelled to Spain to fight for the Catholic King Phillip III, a seventeenth century version of nipping off to join ISIS, I suppose. On his return, he encountered a group of like-minded activists led by landed Catholic called Robert Catesby. By no means the last person in Britain to want to do this, Catesby had a plan for blowing up the Houses of Parliament. A cellar was procured and rented underneath the houses and a number of barrels of gunpowder laid down there waiting for Parliament to sit in July 1605. Delayed by the plague, it eventually was to open on the 5th of November.

In the early hours of the 5th, a search of the cellars beneath Parliament took place, sparked by an anonymous warning given to Catholic peer William Parker. This wasn't a terribly good idea as Parker was busily trying to ingratiate himself with the King and expiate the stain of his Catholicism in a pretty Protestant polity.

Fawkes was discovered, packet of Swan Vestas in hand. He was systematically tortured, James apparently impressed by his stoicism. It's not known quite how the torture progressed, although the rack and thumb screws were involved. Neither are particularly pleasant experiences. The rack is used to stretch a man, tethered by the hands and feet to rollers which are used to pull him apart. Thumb screws are simply a wee vice, oddly reminiscent of early printing presses, which is used to crush the thumbs. The C17th lexicon of torture is clearly much greater than that, and Fawkes probably took a pretty comprehensive tour around it, breaking and confessing all - including his co-conspirators' names, over the 72 hours or so he was tortured. His signature on his confession is a barely legible scrawl.

He was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. This is not generally considered to be pleasant. Fawkes escaped the worst of his painful death when his neck broke on hanging, likely because the hangman had messed up the 'drop'.

The event was commemorated annually all over Britain by the lighting of bonfires to celebrate Parliament's survival. I know, it's odd, isn't it? Some bright person came up with the idea of adding an effigy of the Pope to the fire, although this later became generally accepted as an effigy of Guy Fawkes himself. The event quickly became an excuse for the setting off of fireworks and so it was, when I was a kid. Bonfire night was a much-anticipated event on the calender when my dad used to take me to the local NewsConTob and pretend he wasn't having as much fun as I was pointing to small packets, tubes, wraps and twists of colourfully-wrapped explosive and shouting, 'That one!' as we selected our fireworks from the array set out before us. Later on we were relegated to having to buy pre-packed boxes of display fireworks as part of a range of increasingly restrictive laws governing the sale and use of fireworks and the thrill was, essentially, gone.

The publication of A Decent Bomber today was, sadly, not a brilliantly orchestrated stunt to coincide with the anniversary of Fawkes and his early act of sectarian terrorism to protest a sectarian oppressor. It was purely a fluke.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

This Post Is Not About Books

Promotional image featuring Wile E. Coyote
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The relief out there must be palpable.

Driving along the other day in Sharjah, doing bang on 99kph in an 80kph area. The guy in front of me's doing the same. We come up to a forward-facing radar (ie: it's facing away from us as we approach it.). These are a good thing, sportsmanlike and all that. You can see 'em, the game's fair, like. Not quite as sportsmanlike as the UK's stripy 'I'M A RADAR' decoration, but one takes what one can get.

Digression. What's not sportsmanlike is the Wile E. Coyote type who's taken to infesting the 'Middle Road' outside the new Islamic institutions that have been built on the brown field land that was Formerly The Sharjah Landfill. He's got a wee super-slim portable radar and he likes to slide it in behind sprinklers, discarded plastic barriers or road signs, then sit in his plain 4WD on the slip road and cackle insanely to himself as he waits to trap unwary motorists like a particularly obnoxious spider. Bad form, that man.

Anyway back to our 99kph drive. Guy in front comes abreast of radar and moves across into the slow lane and BLAM he's flashed. I drive past the radar at the same speed, and I'm good. I got to thinking about that as I've been flashed before doing under the limit but changing lanes. And I think I might be on to a bit of relativity in action here.

If you move away from the radar by changing lanes, you're compounding your speed relative to the radar by the speed of your lateral movement. That plus the speed of your forward movement means that although you are moving forwards at under the speed limit, you are moving away from the radar at beyond the speed limit. You'd have to be relatively unlucky, because the beam is reasonably tight for a radar working in what they call 'across the road' configuration. But travelling along that beam as well as across it means that, for the 0.2 seconds or so that the radar is sampling your speed, you're adding a couple of metres of travel at least. Even a metre of travel is equivalent to five metres per second, or 300 metres per minute. Or 18,000 metres per hour - 18 kph.

So by changing lanes in front of that radar, it's likely my buddy was actually doing something like 110 kph relative to the radar.

Einstein would have been proud of me, I'm sure...

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

A Decent Bomber And Old Wounds

An IRA mural in Belfast
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cavanagh sighed. ‘No. Go on ahead. What do you want to know?’
‘It’s about your time as a prison officer in the Maze—’
The laugh was more a bark. ‘Well, I didn’t think it was going to be about my time as an ice cream man, now.’
Boyle forced a smile so Cavanagh would hear it. ‘Right enough. Fair play. I’m interested in a prisoner, name of O’Carolan. With you between seventy-eight and eighty-nine.’
‘Swan? I remember him right enough. Big man. Provo.’
‘That’ll be the one.’
‘Bomber, he was. By trade.’
‘You called him Swan?’
‘We did. He used to fold little origami swans. We’d clear them away from his cell every day and give him new paper. We withdrew the privilege when he joined the dirty protest.’
‘How did he react to that?’
‘Nothing. Not a thing. Never said a word about it. He was a strong man, quiet, like.’
‘Any known associates?’
‘You mean was he thick with anyone? They all were. They kept to themselves, right enough. I suppose Cathal Burke, if anyone. Brian MacNamara, for the brief time he was in. They came in together. I’d see them chat a lot on exercise, when that was allowed. It was stopped on account of the protests.’
‘He got full parole, didn’t he? Despite joining the dirty protest?’
‘We recommended that after he came off the protest. He never gave us a moment’s bother, did Swan. Always quiet, always polite. You’d not have him down as a common criminal, a murderer, at all, except that’s just what he was, wasn’t he?’
‘The dirty protest was about changing that status.’
‘You can put any label you like on murder. But he was a killer, right enough.’
‘Thank you Mr Cavanagh.’
‘Any time, Inspector.’

The Northern Irish peace was concluded, you could argue, in 1998 with the Good Friday Peace Agreement, but it wasn't to be until 28 July 2005 the IRA would commit to exclusively non-violent means.

There were any manner of steps towards 1998, and any number of steps after, too. I posted a few days ago about the Good Friday agreement, and Mo Mowlam's heroic role in bringing it to be. It wasn't an easy peace, by any means. Even today, the North - Northern Ireland - has its annual parades, marches and demonstrations. Each one is a potential flash point. Memories run deep and feelings can run high. People still feel and remember pain and communities remain parted along sectarian lines. There are red white and blue towns; there are green white and gold towns. But the twain would tend not to meet.

That's changing, albeit slowly. The 'peace walls' are coming down, they'll all be gone by 2023. It's still fresh ground, the shoots are fragile yet. But - and you must remember I am an incurable optimist - there is enormous hope for the future. Young people who don't remember the bitterness of the past, who can forge new friendships and romances without worrying about which community the other comes from, are increasingly common. Yet there remains a strong strain of Montague and Capulet facing young Romeos and Juliets who want to marry across communities. Even when Sarah and I were married, back in 1991, there was an awful lot of fuss about the fact we were a 'mixed marriage' - and that was in the South.

So is it too soon to open up a can of worms like A Decent Bomber? A novel about a man who was an IRA bomber in his youth - he could hardly be called decent, after all? A friend from a strong Protestant, Unionist tradition walked out on me when she found I had interviewed a former IRA man and current 'Shinner' in researching the book. Walked out leaving me stunned, I have to say.

If feelings run as high over this book as they did with Olives - A Violent Romance, I'd be concerned (Olives led to much silliness and a daft, but nevertheless momentarily disconcerting, death threat). Frankly, the financial benefits even if the book were a runaway bestseller wouldn't be worth having to worry about someone from the extreme edges taking exception to my IRA man or my Unionist copper. Let alone as a self-published marginal little effort. It kept me up at nights while I was writing the book, I have to say. I mean, did I even want to go there? And that thought, in itself, was enough to say to me, yes.

I tried to bring balance to it, to show sides to the story (an Irish saying, 'There are three sides to every story; yours, mine and the right one) and bring my conflicted characters together to face a common enemy that, if anything, brought them together. Remember the old Arab phrase, 'My brother against my cousin, my cousin against the stranger'? Oddly enough, a shared challenge can speed reconciliation.

I dearly wish the book is widely enjoyed by people from both sides of the fence, perhaps even with the odd wry smile. We can only wait and see, can't we?

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Book Marketing And McNabb's Theory Of Multitouch

Bookshop in Much Wenlock, UK
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I clearly want to tell the world about A Decent Bomber. This is perfectly natural, it's my latest book and took two years to write, in all. It's taken a lot to get it 'right'. A little shouting from the rooftops is therefore perfectly in order.

I would dearly like people to buy it, read it and - ideally - enjoy it. And then I would like them to pester their friends to buy it, read it and enjoy it. By repeating this process, a number of happy people will, in turn, make me happy. It's a virtuous cycle.

There is, however, a large, green-skinned and particularly gnarly troll-thing in the way. Book Marketing.

How do you get people to buy books? It's a problem I don't have a single, elegant solution to. This has surprised me a little, because marketing and communications are very much a part of the day job, so you'd have thought I'd have some clue. And I don't. Any more than publishing companies do. And, believe me, they're pretty much utterly clueless. It used to be nice and easy, but their world has changed. The seasonal catalogues and sales reps thing is no longer the force it once was. I'd shed a tear for 'em, but you know how it is...

Over the years, I have come to realise that books aren't sold with a single 'touch'. Rarely do we see a review of a book and go 'Gosh, I really must have that book right now!' In fact, I can trace the immediate results of reviews reflected directly in my Amazon sales the day they 'break' and I can assure you positive reviews in national media or on popular book review websites result in not one direct book sale. Dittoes for interviews. As for 'book blog tours' I shudder at the very thought of the device, let alone would I consider undertaking one. Like promoting books on writer's sites, it's the blind screaming at the blind.

So all is lost, then? Well, not quite. It's not that reviews are useless per se. They're part of the wider picture. A reader sees a good review, then hears about that same book from a friend, gets caught by another mention of the book and then, ideally, either is persuaded to click on a link or views the book in a physical location. That could be a bookshop or another book-buying opportunity such as an author event - a signing or some such. I have come to believe that three to five 'touches' are needed, ideally one having some form of call to action, before a book sale takes place. I have often said, the last 'touch' should ideally be from me in your ear as you're standing in a bookshop wondering what to do next.

This is not easy to accomplish. Believe me, I've thought about ways you could do it and, reluctantly, drawn a blank. A halfway house would be ensuring that I 'feed' that positive review back into my marketing channels. What you may find depressing is that if you are in any way connected with me, you have just become a 'marketing channel'. So if I haven't stolen your runaway nasal hair or braying laugh to use in one of my characters, I've abused you at the marketing end of the process. One way or another, if you know me, I'm going to use you. And the fact I have not lost one wink of sleep over this tells you what an irredeemable shit this whole book writing thing has made me become.

So, existentialist angst apart, how do you scream 'buy my book!' at someone five times without them punching you?

That's the million dollar question. Clearly, I've been following a 'content strategy' in building awareness of A Decent Bomber. I've done this to a degree with all four books, although Olives got far more attention, including a 'blog of the book'. While this was enormously time consuming, it did have an impact on overall awareness and therefore a smaller but discernible impact on sales. The amount of effort invested vs returns in terms of sales was ridiculous, one aspect of occupying a small market where scale doesn't really count. And McNabb's Law of Clicks applies, depressingly.

So we have reviews out with reviewers (the first one's already in, in fact: "The plot is complex. You must pay attention. You will reap a lot of enjoyment if you do. This is a great story... I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Most readers will jump on the thrill train and get the ride of their lives. In this genre, who could ask for anything more?") and posts about the book and its 'book hooks' (Bombs, the IRA, things Irish, new terror vs old terror. That kind of thing) have been appearing here on the blog. Occasional reminders have gone out to the mailing list and we're building up towards launch. Blog posts get pimped across to Facebook and Google+, Twitter is, as always, a great link-pointing machine.

We are, in short, ticking all the boxes, using a content-led approach to gain your permission to witter at you and wear you down until you resignedly pop off to Amazon and click on that A Decent Bomber pre-order link. Once that pre-order date is past, the book has to generate buzz and recommendation from people - it has, in short, to stand on its own two feet.

What amazes me, to be honest, is how I've found the energy to do all this again. It's Sisyphean, it really is. But found it I have and as a consequence you, you poor thing, are being subjected to new levels of outrageous book pluggery...