Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Kindle number six

Shorter than my previous novels and written faster, Milly Molly Mayhem was intended from the outset in December for publication this month. There's a certain satisfaction in having met that self-imposed deadline. That makes my sixth Kindle Edition uploaded and begging for readers!

A winter story, told with the chilling headlines of December 2014 through February 2015 in the back of the writer's mind, and set in those months against the background of hybrid warfare, 'non-state actors' and developments leaving the world’s politicians and security experts flailing when confronted with perils not previously imagined. The perspective is that of Milly McLeod, a young British Army Intelligence Officer with plenty of reasons of her own to be confused.

The narrative avoids wallowing in dystopianism. The parallel referencing of books written for children in the early twentieth-century reminds of a world very different from the one we have inherited. Swallows and Amazons, Biggles, The Prisoner of Zenda and even Milly Molly Mandy on the one hand, Dai’esh, Boko Haram and Wikileaks on the other.

Joyous mockery of pseudo-academic techno-babble provides a level of light relief.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Ciao, Andreas

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Here comes the sun!

This year for once the vernal equinox will be noted by many who otherwise might be oblivious to the Ostara festival celebrated by Druids, Wiccans and neo-Pagans. Tomorrow's solar eclipse will be hard to ignore, even here in Munich where only two-thirds of the sun will be in the moon's shadow. While I am by no means in thrall to any school of esoteric thought, I have always seen the date on which the days become longer than the nights as a cause for quiet rejoicing. I shall preempt Easter, ignore the seasonal wares piled high in the supermarket, and order my eggs with beans, bacon and toast!  


Picture me unimpressed. As on the 11th of August 1999 in Cologne, I waited this morning for any hint of a darkening of the sky. Again there was nothing of any consequence to report. Perhaps two-thirds of the sunlight obscured was not sufficient to make any appreciable difference? 

Oh well, the 1999 snapshot reminds me that I should maybe wear my kilt to celebrate the arrival of spring? 

Sunday, March 08, 2015

What a wonderful app it would be!

An email from my sister on the 2nd of December last year provided the trigger for my latest storytelling project. It was the passing mention of a trivial item of family news. My niece, a Warrant Officer in the British Army Intelligence Corps, was on her way to Bahrain for a week of exercises. She had packed a swimsuit and was determined to enjoy weather far different from the winter now starting to chill us in Europe.

My opening scene was instantly clear in my mind… St. Nikolaus Day at poolside of a hotel in the fictitious Emirate al Markaziyah. I began a new document, entered a working title and, with improbable ambition, claimed that the finished novel would be published in March 2015!

It was inevitably going to be very different from anything I have written before. The action moves from the sunny Gulf back to cold Germany, Switzerland and England. For once there is no subtle advocacy of social nudism, gymnosophy or heliotherapy! In this case the sub-text is less frivolous. The three months of writing have also been months during which the real-time headlines have described a world dangerous in ways which appear to leave the politicians and the intelligence community on the back foot. This helplessness finds its indirect reflection in my narrative.

Not that I have wallowed in trendy dystopianism. A contrasting leitmotif references books written for children in the early twentieth-century, portraying a world very different from the one we have inherited. “Swallows and Amazons”, “Biggles” and “The Prisoner of Zenda” on the one hand, Dai’esh, Boko Haram and Wikileaks on the other.

There is joyous mockery of pseudo-academic techno-babble, there are driverless cars and a reclusive arch-villain too! I had plenty of fun during the short, dark day of the winter season.

Somewhat to my surprise I completed the first draft last week, meeting the deadline I whimsically imagined back in early December. In a first edit, glaring plotting inconsistencies have been corrected, adverbs culled (although in moderation) and 'weasel words' (a recurring embarrassment) purged.

I imagined the app illustrated above!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

4 March 2015

No shit!

Spring has sprung!

My routine features a thrice-weekly... Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays... outing, a huffing-and-puffing half-kilometre walk to the market for the shopping neccessities. Usually I allow myself a break for an espresso or a beer before trudging back to my flat. But last Monday I returned smiling broadly, having discovered that Café Venezia had re-opened on the 1st of March. The implication is that the worst of winter is over. That is surely a reason for rejoicing!

As readers may recall, last year I was faced with the closure of Café Schwabing, the establishment which had been my out-of-home 'living room' for many a year. At the time, pending renovation, the icecream emporium I saw as a tolerable alternative. Gradually, however, I warmed to the friendliness of the Italian crew, the affordability of their offering and the fact that the location provides a great view of the comings and goings on busy Kurfürstenplatz.

Now we have Brasserie Schwabing replacing the café seen in the photo. It is very chic and very expensive and, frankly, I don't need it any more.

Forza Italia! 

Monday, March 02, 2015

Just desserts?

We split our sides, rolling in merriment. Or we sob, weep and gnash our teeth. We shall watch the latest Kindle royalty payment go up in the smoke of the nine or ten cigarettes that it pays for.

It is all the more galling given that writing my novels has in effect become my 'day job', in the light of ever diminishing demand for my services as translator or voicer.

Disruptive change does not arrive with a handy operating manual in that enticing shiny box. Nor does it come without victims. The irreversible disruption may only sunder a single link in what had been hitherto a well-established and widely respected procedural, relational or transactional chain. The wondrous novum, the change superseding or at least casting into doubt the formerly unquestioned linkages may not bring with it an end-to-end alternative solution. On the contrary, it may exacerbate the problem.

Such is the case with digital self-publishing. It is shockingly disruptive in the context of a chain forged soon after Gutenberg issued redundancy notices to the monastery scribes.

Self-publishing no doubt lightens the burden of the under-paid interns condemned to labour as ‘slush pile’ readers. The author is spared the glib cant of the literary agent and also the reproofs and suggestions of an editor… the writer enjoys untrammelled authonomy. His or her manuscript is ‘out there’, published and on sale for a reasonable price, accessible on a wide range of electronic reader devices.

The writer should not feel lonely… thanks to Kindle, millions share the same fate. And when the earnings are so laughable, one is reminded of the Dunning-Kruger effect, defined by Wiki as “a  metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude.”

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A timely riposte

Listening as I do to so much of the output of BBC Radio 4, I find myself inclined to scream back when there are the interminable discussions on the topic of 'home ownership'. This English obsession, from my expatriate perspective, seems utterly absurd.

For this reason I was pleased to read an article in The Guardian this morning, which included the following paragraph:
"If we managed to import a German royal family, why is it not possible for us to also import the German housing system – slowly, bit by bit, along with their Christms trees and mulled wine? In Germany tenants cannot be evicted on a whim. Often landlords have to bribe them out if they want control of the property back before the agreed date. Property is of good quality, well soundproofed, spacious and well insulated. Pension companies often hold it, so you know where your rent is going: it is paying for your parents’ generation’s old age."

Full article here.

Reading costs matter

Since my circumstances oblige me to track my expenditures... to count my pennies... I have break-out statistics with regard to the cost of my reading. Over a ninety-day period I have downloaded 22 Kindle books at a cost of EUR 55, or EUR 2.50 per title.

How fortunate I am to read mainly English-language titles! The infographic above shows that German ebooks are on average more than twice as expensive, largely on account of the inhibiting 'fixed book price law'.