Photo Diary

Archive for the ‘Further afield’ Category

Another day, another new book and PHOTOS!

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Well, when I said I would like photos, I was hoping to get a couple of photos back. As it was, there were loads! Sadly, too many to stick into a blog like this – not at the rate my computer uploads, anyway. So often the ruddy thing gets stuck at a slow speed!


Thanks to all of you who sent in pictures. There were some really good ones, especially those of my books in close proximity to writers I admire in bookshelves – I like yours, Susan Marsh, with mine next-door to Sharon Kay Penman, a writer I hugely admire.


But for the main theme, I guess I have to fall back on my own staples. Books and beer. What more joy can the world possess? Well, gin, I suppose, and whisky, but for now, I’ll go with Loren Bell’s photo.

Loren's Photo. Relaxation of the best sort!

Thanks to all for sending me your pictures. If you keep on doing so, I’ll work out another little prize – but the next one will be a little more unique, because it’ll be a copy of Litmus, in which I’ve a short story inspired by Professor Jim al-Khalili, about Einstein. It’s different, and the anthology should be very good from the look of the other authors involved in the project.


A special thanks also to Mary Burke, who sent me a picture of the heart-warming sort: a row of my books on a Borders’ shelf in Seattle. You see, that is the sort of thing an author needs: proof that somewhere his books are there ready to be sold!

Mary Burke's photo - Seattle

And now I have to crack on with work.


Tonight I am dancing in support of Cogs and Wheels Morris, who are dancing for charity, raising money for cancer awareness. Their lovely Sallie Reason died very suddenly early this year at a ridiculously young age. She was a talented artist and illustrated lots of books. I had been hoping to work with her, but the cancer took her away too quickly. So I’ll be dancing, with Tinners’ Morris, at Sticklepath at half five, and then Okehampton at seven or so, just in case there’s a UK, Devon-based fan reading this today.


If you read this Saturday, of course, you’ll be too late! But then there are always new, upcoming events. If you are in the UK, or just want to see what’s happening, take a look at the Tinners’ Morris site at: and you will see the full diary. In future there will be links with music and video too, hopefully.


So, the new book, KING’S GOLD is out, bringing my series to a round thirty titles. Quite a shock, really, to think I’ve written all those words!


In the UK you can buy signed copies from Goldsborough Books in London, and if you’re US-based, you should be able to get them from Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Arizona. However, if you really want an individual copy with some free bookmarks thrown in, you need to contact me. UK books are £20, US £30. Shocking price for the US, I know, but it’s dictated by the cost of packing and postage. Sorry about that.


There is a repeat of the lovely offer from Conway Stewart in that, so if you buy the book or go to you can enter a competition to win one of my special Dartmoor pens. Alternatively, if you go to Simon & Schuster UK’s site, you can find a little blog post about the latest book, and soon on you will find a link to a video interview with me. In a week or so, that will be moved to the Simon & Schuster site as well.


And so back to work. Currently I’m researching the Templars, the German Order and the Leper Knights at the time of the siege of Acre. All good fun. Meanwhile, there is the work on shorts stories and modern books going on apace. Hopefully more news of them before too long.


All best to you, and do keep on commenting via the website and Facebook.


Libraries and Writers

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Last week I went out. It was nice to be allowed out for an evening. This week, I’ll be out again. Both events courtesy of libraries. As a writer, it’s nice to be allowed out occasionally.


Last week’s visit to Tavistock was great. It was a good event, in a packed town hall, which had been paid for by the enormously kind, generous and supportive “Friends” of the library. The Mayor was there, and a councillor, and I couldn’t count all the authors. As well as my friend Bernard Knight, there were Maureen Duffy, Lilian Harry, EV Thompson, and a number of others.


You want to see pictures? It’s called Celebrating History. Look here:


(I have had problems with the link, but if you click on the second set of photos from the left, you’ll be taken to the right page. There is a glitch somewhere, but I think it’s the way the set is created)


A good audience, friends to speak to, enthusiastic supporters of writing – and I came away with a real sour taste in my mouth. Nothing to do with the gig, it was what I had heard during the afternoon on the radio.


A year ago, maybe more, I was invited to chat on the radio. I was asked whether I thought library visitors should pay for the services they used. I thought about it, and, bearing in mind the dreadful state of British finances, I reckoned yes, perhaps a minimal fee for those who could afford it of some 15 pennies or so per loan would not break anyone’s bank. And, importantly, it would go a little way to supporting the Public Lending Right.


This is the system whereby it is agreed that authors who allow their books to be used in libraries are reimbursed. After all, authors are generally badly paid folks. Yes, honestly. The last I saw, three quarters of authors earned less than the national average wage, and two thirds less than the half that. Half earned less than ten thousand a year. Authors are not well paid.


The PLR is a brilliant scheme that pays authors six pence and a bit per loan. It’s not a huge sum of money. And it’s a way of reimbursing authors for their work in writing a book in the first place.


Now, I know some people will begrudge paying anything for reading a book. Just as there are some thieves who enjoy watching films for free by stealing – sorry – downloading them from illegal sites, and there are listeners who steal – no, actually I’m not sorry at all – the work of musicians, so there are also thieves who want to steal my work and the work of other writers.


So, why does it make me and other authors angry? Like others, I have a house and a mortgage. I have a family, dogs, and all the other little trinkets most people want. I like to be able to pay my TV licence, and put petrol in my car. And eat. To do these, I work – usually from sixty to eighty hours a week, for most of the weeks of the year – and the result of my work is a book or two a year. I think it’s sort of fair that after my efforts, if someone likes my work, I ought to be paid for it in some way. Sometimes it’ll mean earning pennies because I am paid a percentage of the price of the book (royalties) and other times it’ll mean I get money for all those library loans.


I am not a charity. I don’t write for fun. I write as a living.


Some people think authors are automatically millionaires as soon as the first book is published. Ha ruddy ha. Even the PLR is capped. An author can only earn a maximum of some six and a half thousand. Nice money, if you get it – but if your total other earnings are less than ten thousand, it only boosts your income to borderline hardship.


I made this suggestion, then, that libraries should start asking for money. Not from pensioners, not from kids, but from the gainfully employed the libraries could have asked for some fifteen pence without trouble.


At the same time, I asked why computers were being installed. I know people like to use email – but why on earth should anyone think that they should be entitled to free use of a computer for emails? The libraries never used to issue free postage stamps in the heyday of the library services. Computers are invariably out of date before they’re installed, and if you want a library as a repository for information, computers tend to be bad sources. They have access to webpages which could be written by a professional – by a professor, even – but how do you tell that it wasn’t put up in a bored moment by a pimply youth from Middle Wallop?


Books: encyclopaedias, dictionaries, all kinds of research material, are tested. They are checked by an author, if he or she is reputable. Then they’re checked by an editor. Then by a copyeditor. Sometimes by fact checkers, and certainly by proofreaders. All these people are there just to ensure that what you see on the page is accurate.


How many websites go through such a rigorous process to ensure that facts are correct?


So, I would always contend that a book is a safer medium for a library to hold. It takes less space, it is reliable technology that is still, I reckon, not out of date, and it is accurate.


Right, rant over.


But only so I can get on to the big one.


Why was I bitter and twisted last week? Because I had heard this.


Now some people may not know Will Self. He is an intelligent man, usually. But in this chat, which was intended to explain his support for libraries, he said that he did not go, never used his local library (except to pick up audio books for his daughter). He said libraries never invited him (that’s probably because since he’s regularly on TV shows, libraries know damn well they cannot afford his appearance fee). He said libraries were supported by “middle brow writers” like Philip Pullman, Jacquie Wilson because they made “a considerable amount” from their library loans.


So, he dismissed two millionaire authors, who are amongst the most successful UK authors (it sounds terribly like bitter jealousy on the part of Self here). Many authors like them don’t bother to claim their PLR, and I’d be interested whether Will does himself. Still, that has nothing to do with it. There are many other authors, like me, who depend on the few thousand pounds we receive from PLR every year. It was crucial to me when I was earning three thousand a year as a new writer. It is plain dumb for him to suggest that PLR is only for wealthy authors. Sorry, “Top borrowed authors” making “a considerable income”. Can you hear me spitting tacks?


And then, he went on in a mean-mouthed way to insult librarians. He called them people with “a jobsworth mentality”.


Words fail me. But I can only assume that Will Self has no interest in libraries whatsoever. Instead of talking in support of them, he denigrated the buildings and their use, then went on to deliberately slight a group of people who will never earn the sort of money he has. It was mean-spirited in the extreme.


I was enormously disappointed. Still, it’s given me the added incentive to do what I can to support libraries.

A Delightful Gentleman

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Just heard the very sad news that HRF Keating has died.

I met him several times when I was at Crime Writers’s Association events. A self-effacing, kindly gentleman, always polite and excellent company, he began his hugely popular inspector Ghote series without having visited India, where they were all based. He always seemed somewhat surprised to learn that so many Indians enjoyed his work.

As well as the Ghote series, he worked on non-fiction, he had a pseudonym (Evelyn Harvey), and other titles. He learned his trade in newspapers, but will be remembered for the more than 20 titles he wrote since 1964. Within the CWA he’ll be remembered mainly for winning two CWA Gold Daggers – a marvellous confirmation of his abilities as a great writer, as was confirmed when he became a member of the Detection Club.

I for one will miss him enormously.

Another Set of Thieving Fraudsters

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Another week, another set of unpleasant people trying to rob others using the Internet.

This morning I was delighted to receive a mail from a friend. It’s been a few months since I have heard from her, and to have a mail item is always good, isn’t it? And then I got the sad message. She’d been robbed.

OK, these things happen. I read that while on holiday in the UK, someone had taken her purse. Ouch. In it was all her money, her passport, everything. Including credit cards, of course.

The US embassy was happy to help her. They’d let her fly home without a passport, but she had to settle her hotel bills and buy a ticket. Naturally the bank (boo, hiss) wouldn’t or couldn’t get a new card to her fast enough, and so had no access to funds. Could I help?

Now, since I live in the UK, there were quite a few points that struck me. Where to start? Well, the telephone number was an intriguing +44 702 402 9894 or +44 702 403 0611 – both intriguing because they are mobiles. Interestingly, they are based on a UK region code, but what’s the betting they’d redirect to a foreign country? Quite high.

Because this fraud is a nice, simple one to recognise.

The story is garbage. Here in the UK, it would be easy and quick to get money from a bank. Even with details like cards gone, over here we’re quite efficient in our banking. And the US embassy is large and helpful as well as efficient. They tend to assist US citizens in trouble. Even expediting passport issues so that, guess what? You can get to the bank and prove your ID.

However, the killer on this was the usual. I checked the email. It was a clever one, this. The reply email looked initially to be my friend’s – there was only one error in it, an extra “I” in the middle of her mail address.

If you have an email like this, just ignore it or, maybe, if you have any doubts, contact your friend at the normal email address from your address book on your computer. And before you even consider replying to the email, for goodness sake reread the mail and ask yourself: does this note actually sound like my friend?

It didn’t to me, so I emailed her. Naturally, she was in the US still, as I expected. She hasn’t been to the UK in years. And being a singer, I would have seen if she was planning a trip. Still, it meant that she was able to email her friends, which is kind of useful.

Ruddy thieves. I’m getting a couple of mails a week which are just as daft as this. If there is one that looks possibly genuine, always check with the actual contact, just to make sure. So far, not one request for funds has been remotely genuine.

Beware. There are lots of folks out there who want your money!