Wednesday, 20 August 2014

From puff the magic dragon to the magic fountain

My wife and I desperately wanted to see the famous Gaudi dragon while in Barcelona. Turns out that Park Guell where it's located isn't entirely free to walk around. To see the amazing architecture and statues up close you need to book in advance and pay.

Our first trip to the park was a rather dry, exhausting and disapointing trip. However we went back, having booked our tickets and took the tour round a stunning display of Gaudi's work.

I'm not going to comment any more except to say if you like beauty, there is a lot of it to be found in Barcelona.

The magic fountain...? If you've never seen it yourself, you'll get an idea at the end. Google it. The display is quite something...

Sunday, 17 August 2014

From Catalonia to Caledonia

After completing book two of The Great Scottish Land Grab I promised my wife a holiday.

We got cheap flights out to Barcelona for a week and I tried to put the novel out of my head. Didn't work but at least I had left the laptop at home...

We were staying in an apartment hotel, one of the better ones with a reasonable kitchen and a fantastic pool on the roof. Managed to sunburn myself on day one... Shouldn't let Scots like me into hot countries...

Everywhere we went I noticed these colourful flags, yellow with four red stripes. Some with a blue triangle and white star.

Kind of hard to see unless you zoom in really close...

I assumed football colours. Lot of football supporters in Barcelona then.

Always dangerous to assume. I google searched and found the flag is a symbol of Catalonia independence, the Estelada.

No, I couldn't escape the referendum debate on holiday...

It is a beautiful flag, bright colours... at least when new. Some of the flags had obviously been in the sun a loooong time.

Once I knew what the flag represented, I found myself comparing it to the Yes and No Thanks posters and stickers that I've seen around Scotland.

Nowhere near as bright or colourful but still a barometer of how Scotland feels about independence.


There are clusters of Yes. Clusters of No Thanks. There is definitely a rich and poor divide. I've seen far more No Thanks posters in affluent areas. Conversely, More Yes posters and stickers in what I would class as less well off areas, including my own.

But nothing is never as clear cut as one would like. Why is it that only one house in these three has Yes posters up?Why is it that in many affluent areas there are no No Thanks posters to be seen?

In Barcelona, while I had initially thought there were hundreds of these colourful flags, I quickly began to notice the large gaps between them. Whole streets with not a single flag in sight.

If you're interested in comparing the Catalonia independence call to that of Scotland's, Debating Europe has a handy beginners guide to some of the issues: Arguments for and against Catalonia independence. However, as an outsider who is only starting to learn about Catalan, I'm wary of assuming this is an unbiased site. published this in April: Catalonia to forge ahead with referendum on independence. The comments section revealing for the views in English about proposed independence.

Wars of Spanish secession was also an interesting read while I was away.

I'm back in sometimes sunny, sometimes drizzly Scotland. I met one gentleman this week who was adamant he would leave Scotland and take his business with him if Scotland votes Yes. I contrast this with the only man who offered an opinion on Catalonian independence while I was away. He was against it.

Yet for every person I meet in Scotland I meet who is against independence I am meeting an equal number who are for it. Who are looking to a brighter future, a more colourful future, one where maybe we won't need any more food banks, maybe even job centres...

I'll leave you with my Estelada, something to remember Barcelona by...

Saturday, 2 August 2014

AJCWordsmith - A name in vain

a name in vain
profane and vulgar-
yet I sit while you sin

MY Lord's Name
carries weight and strength-
it carries my soul

His name is no trite obscenity-
speak those two words with joy
and know power eternal

By Alexander Cunningham

It's not often as a blogger that someone says a blog post has inspired them to write a poem. Absolutely fantastic to read the powerful result.

I introduced myself to a new Facebook group - Christian Bloggers UK - last week, shared one of my posts from 2012 and within a day Alexander Cunningham had contacted me with the above poem.

You can view Alexander Cunningham's Facebook page here:

Alexander has been asking people for three words which he has been using to write a linked, three verse haiku. If you'd like to help him with his project, contact him at his Facebook page:

I couldn't copy and paste the text giving the full explanation of the project but (as I TwitFaced last week) fortunately my daughter has shown me how to take screenshots:

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The Great Scottish Land Grab Book Two published!

What a ride!

Book two of The Great Scottish Land Grab went live on Amazon Kindle today:

The First Minister is missing... Scotland is divided… The referendum is in crisis...

Only one man has a vision for Scotland that could unite both sides in the independence debate.

News that the First Minister of Scotland is missing, with only four months until the referendum on Scottish independence, challenges Robert Castle to decide whether he will fight for Scotland’s future.

Sensing that the theft of Scotland’s land over many centuries has robbed the people of their opportunity to be independent, Castle fights for a modern day land grab - to reverse the clearances that stole Scotland’s land from the people.

But if the First Minister is not found, it will not just be the referendum at stake but the government of Scotland.

Will Castle’s determination to win this battle drive him and his wife apart? Will it cost him more than he can bear to lose?

Praise for book one of The Great Scottish Land Grab:

“Power to the people! I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in current events in Scotland, though I know a fair few who would be shouting at the screen. Look forward to the next instalment if only to find out what he has done to Eck”

“Great debut story! Really enjoyed this story and can’t wait for the second part. Left readers with a real cliff hanger of an ending. Whether you intend to vote yes, no or couldn't care less this book will be of interest.”

“Can't wait until the next book is issued in July!”

The final book will be released in August 2014

Now available worldwide in the following Kindle stores:

Also, I've finally released book one in an ePub format. You can buy book one from Hopefully over the next fortnight Lulu will distribute book one to Apple, Kobo and Nook.

Book two will be released in ePub in August. I need to check with Neilsen about using the ISBN before I release it

I've already had one review of book two on a friend's Facebook page: "Thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm fascinated by the history and politics behind the Scottish referendum, and interested to see what happens, both in the real referendum and in Book 3. I did suggest to the author that he sends the hero to Southern Africa to research how not to do land redistribution I wonder if he'll take my advice?"

I'm now starting to wonder if that would be a twist in the tale worth following...

Book three is starting to take shape but I've still a lot of writing to do. I'm not likely to be blogging much over August but I will still be using TwitFace - as my wife lovingly refers to it. You can follow me @my100goals

I'd love to hear your feedback on book two. Comment below, on Amazon, Lulu, my Facebook page... Or just stop me on the street!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

My #indy journey - 57 days to go

As I travel round Scotland (and the UK) promoting my Scottish Independence novel, I'm meeting hundreds of people with their own stories.

This morning I fly South (I'm writing this from the airport ) and needed a taxi to get to Glasgow Airport.

Before we reached the airport I "casually" mentioned I'd published a novel. This led onto the inevitable question: which way am I planning to vote?

I shared that I'm a marginal Yes which allowed me to follow up with: How about you?

Taxi drivers are sometimes wary of professing strong opinions but with only two options on the table and with the subject breached, he shared he was - as he put it - coming round to Alex Salmond's view.

I wish I'd mentioned my novel earlier. He was as keen to quiz me on my views about independence as I was to find out his.

There is a desire in many Scots to discuss our future. Long may that desire continue!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Lessons in marketing

The first book of my novel - The Great Scottish Land Grab - has been on sale for over a month now and I've been spending a lot of time trying to market it. (in between completing book two!)

As I've blown my budget for this book on solicitor's fees (more about that in another post), I'm limiting my marketing to £100 in total and am finding what a lot of self-published authors seem to find - marketing is a tough world.

I've emailed every member of the Scottish parliament asking if they would give a review or feedback. Six have requested a free proof copy. Less than five percent.

I've lost count of the number of emails I've sent out to newspapers, TV and radio stations offering free copies. The Shetland Times did interview me using the former local boy angle. Apart from that, not a peep. However, one media encounter I had - naming no names - did reveal the pressure the media are under due to the referendum. They can and will be fined if they fail to give unbiased coverage - something certain Yes and No supporters will deny and claim there is clear evidence of bias. As a result many media outlets are nervous about what they produce.

I had a T-Shirt made up. The book cover with text above it asking: Yes? No? Vote for...

I've worn that while handing out those business cards.

I had 750 business cards printed up. I asked for feedback through my author Facebook page and you can view the design there. Front had the book cover and the back gives details of how to buy the book.I've given out over 400 of these cards since they arrived. 300 individually. Through Amazon KDP's wonderful reports I can see exactly how much impact giving out 300 business cards individually has had... I've sold ten books!  Three percent return on investment.

Here's where I'm really struggling. I can't afford to buy advertising space on bill boards and in newspapers or on TV or radio. There are over four million potential readers in Scotland, forty million in the UK. The novels premise is of decreasing interest the further away from Scotland one goes. But there will be people throughout Scotland and the world that will enjoy this book so how do I reach them?

There have been a couple of interesting articles on the subject of marketing and investment over the last week.

Ian Hallett wrote an amazingly inciteful post on how many people your marketing efforts reach: 0.005% is the magic number. It begs the question whether the time I spend on Facebook or Twitter engaging with people is worth the effort. I do enjoy it though. Discussing, asking, answering, commenting, sharing... These are all things I want to do as a writer anyway and I absolutely want to be involved and engaged in the lead up to the referendum on Scottish independence.

The BBC also had an interesting article: The dos and don'ts of pitching for business investment. There are probably three things writers can take from this article:
  • Being recommended is the best possible way to sell a book.
  • Having written a previously good book will make it more likely someone will buy your new book.
  • Continuing to write and publish good books over time will convince people you are worth investing their time and money in by buying your latest book.
It will help when I've published book two. The story is far closer to being complete and questions I couldn't answer when I was marketing book one will be a lot easier to answer.

But going back to those 300 business cards I've given out. I've done this three times at events round Scotland, from Cumbernauld to Tarbert in Argyll and as far North as Unst in Shetland. I've also handed out cards to people on trains going from Glasgow to Edinburgh. Interrupted conversations and readers deeply engrossed in stories on their Kindles. I've been seen in supermarkets handing cards to check out staff and embarrased my kids on several occasions with my willingness to speak to complete strangers.

But... I'm not naturally confident at talking to strangers. I've left many encounters thinking, I really didn't handle that well.

I came across the book Body Language by James Borg. It's made for painful reading!

I don't want to manipulate people or deceive them but the books premise is that body language is a skill like any other. I can learn to interact better with strangers, to become a better salesperson.

Going back to Ian Hallett's post. He refers to Kevin Kelly's article on having 1,000 True Fans - a fascinating read for anyone wanting to make a living from creative work.

I'm on a marketing journey. These have been some of my experience so far. Are you marketing something? Would you like to share some advice? I'd love to hear from you ;)

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Rewriting the blurb

One of the great things about self-publishing is that if something isn't working, you can change it relatively quickly.

Another great thing is that we don't have to do it all ourselves. Our friends, family and sometimes complete strangers will offer valuable advice and help.

I tried this out last month through my author FaceBook page:, asking people for their views on my proposed book cover. I received some great advice and actually, the act of asking for help forced me to come up with an alternative image to use that ended up being perfect to convey a sense of Scotland's land.

I'm hoping some of you out there will be willing to help me rewrite the book blurb: the description that you either read on a book's back jacket or online.

The original blurb/description (at time of writing) can be seen on Amazon: The Great Scottish Land Grab: Book One -

Product Description - current

Can one man turn the Scottish Referendum into a revolution?

Threatened while walking across a Scottish estate, Robert Castle tries to find justice but neither the police nor courts will help him. His quest to find justice will bring him into conflict with the highest powers in the land. Facing off against politicians and judges, Castle fights to reverse centuries of corruption that has seen Scotland's land stolen from the people. With the Scottish independence referendum fast approaching, he calls on Scotland to reject the politicians lie there can only be a Yes or No vote; and to reclaim the right to decide their own future.

The Great Scottish Land Grab will be split over three books to be published in the months leading up to the Scottish referendum on independence. Book one to be published in June, book two in July and the final book released in August.

I'm wondering about changing it.

The book description is maybe the second or third (or fourth...) thing people look at online. Book title and cover maybe being joint first, or split; reviews and description vying for next place.

Product Description - proposed

The fight for freedom starts here…

Threatened while walking across a Scottish estate, Robert Castle tries to find justice but neither the police nor courts will help him.

With the Scottish independence referendum fast approaching, Castle has to decide which side of the fence he will support. Initially a passionate supporter of the UK union he has become disillusioned with a political system that ignores the very people it is supposed to serve.

A tragic accident derails the Yes campaign but could this be the opportunity Scotland needs to recognise true independence and achieve freedom?

Robert Castle’s quest for justice will bring him into conflict with the highest powers in the land. Facing off against politicians and judges, Castle fights to reverse centuries of corruption that has seen Scotland's land stolen from the people. Castle calls on Scotland to see beyond a Yes or No vote; and to reclaim the right to decide their own future.

The Great Scottish Land Grab: Book One – Undecided? Vote to stop sitting on the fence.

The Great Scottish Land Grab: Book Two (July 2014) – Decided? Vote to tear down the fence and build a bonfire.

The Great Scottish Land Grab: Book Three (August 2014) – Committed? Vote to pour fuel on the fire of freedom.

I have to admit, I'm struggling to know how much detail to put in. I don't want to spoil the cliff hanger ending of book one, or give too much away about book two or three. Yet if I don't give enough detail, will people be willing to give the book a chance?

I don't mention Robert's wife Helen who is a main character, don't mention any of the sub plots I'm working in. But is that important?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on whether either of the above blurbs would (or have ;) encouraged you to buy book one, either in the comments below, or on my FaceBook page.