Can Everton Jones find out how his father stole Emperor Bokassa’s diamonds and, more importantly, where he hid them; before the world and his brother get there first?
Click on the picture link in the sidebar to read an extract of my first novel, which was published by Paradise Press in August 2012.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Kindle version 1.1 published

The other day I opened my Kindle to see the operating software had been updated. That was surely a good thing, as they said the update improved the way the text was rendered, wasn’t it? Then it crossed my mind that any changes might render my carefully balanced and developed format differently, spoiling my book.

And, surely enough, my worst fears had come horribly true. Well, not seriously but definitely annoyingly. The displayed quotations were now the same size as the main text.

The inability of the device to recognise the margin-right property (or, indeed the margin-top property for that matter) meant that I had decided to represent displayed quotations by setting the font-size property to 0.9em. To my horror, these were now rounded up to 1.0em and were indistinguishable from normal text except for being set-off with white space before and after. Puzzlingly my small-caps solution was working, and that was implemented the same way, or so I thought. Careful examination of the style-sheet revealed that the style for small caps used a font-size of 0.85em. Changing the style for displayed quotations fixed the problem, albeit now showing the quoted material 0.5em smaller than I had originally intended.If I measure it carefully, I suspect I’ll find it’s been rounded down to 0.8em.

Now off to find out how to update the file, now with ‘version 1.1’ on the title page verso. Amazon says to contact them if an updated file is to be provided and they will be able to allow purchasers to update their e-book by going back to their website, but only after a four week delay. I chose the quicker route and just overwrote the file by re-uploading it, as they said. That effectively re-published the file and it is now ‘under review’. Worse, when I clicked the link for further information, it said updating an existing publication would be slower than uploading a new one. However the reality was slightly different. What actually happened was that even though my e-book was showing as ‘under review’, the original listing was still ‘live’ on the Kindlestore. Now after a day everything is fine, the new version 1.1 is live and has seamlessly replaced to old one. Well, Amazon finally got something right!

On a different note, I received notification of two advance orders from Bertrams Book Distributors for no less than THREE copies of the paperback. That perplexed me, as the listing on Nielsens database cleary states it is not published until 20 August. Bertrams tell me it’s not unknown for someone aware of my book’s impending publication to get impatient and place an order for an advance copy. Nice to know there are people out there THAT eager to get their hands on a copy!

Speaking of which, how eager are YOU to get a FREE copy? I just gave away the third free copy to Don Lockwood, who sent me a Facebook friend request. If you have followed me on twitter, thank you, and just a gentle reminder that each time you RETWEET one of my tweets you get ANOTHER chance to win the FOURTH FREE COPY to be given away on Tuesday, 31 July, 2012. Just click on the yellow panel just below the book jacket opposite to find out how.

tinyURL for this post: http://tinyurl.com/c7o4kty

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Ship and Whale

At the far end of Greenland Dock, in Rotherhithe, London, nestling away almost hidden behind the warehouse conversion along a narrow alley called ‘Randal’s Rents’ lies a big pub called the Ship and Whale. And it is one of the most important settings in my novel, Bokassa’s Last Apostle. This pub was the longest continuously gay pub in London, until it was tragically turned straight in the late nineties (if my memory serves me right). According to Dockyard Doris, in a conversation I had with her – inside the Ship and Whale as it turns out – she opened it as a gay venue back in the fifties. Before that it had been a brothel. This was back in the days when ‘the island’ as the area was called was pretty much a no-go area, cut off from the rest of London by the derelict Surrey Commercial Docks and riddled with gangsters.

So it was a natural place for Everton’s father to hide from Bokassa in my novel. I have rather shamelessly modelled a drag queen whom I’ve named ‘Tomatina’ on Dockyard Doris. The boys run into her at a drag club called ‘The Way Out Club’ which is hidden away behind Tower Gateway station, and she tells them all about it. But I won’t spoil the plot by going on about it here. (Incidentally, I have resisted the temptation to use the curious fact I ran across that there is a street ‘festival’ in Spain called ‘Tomatina’, where the participants throw tomatoes at each other.) Apparently, according to Doris, one day she was playing there when a charabang full of pensioners came in, unaware it was a gay pub. Apparently they absolutely loved her act!

The pub was one of my regular hang-outs in the nineties. It benefitted from a late license, staying open until 2am well before the drinking laws were relaxed. It only managed this by closing the doors at midnight. How many times have I had to call them an be sneaked in via the kitchen! My brother lived in one of the docklands apartments a short walk away, and was completely unaware there actually was a pub there. He even took some of his straight friends there, although they were a bit nervous of visiting the gents. I subsequently moved to New Cross and frequently walked back through a back way in the small hours of the morning after the tube had closed down.

The structure of the building was unsound and, eventually, the brewery had to do something about it. In order to offset the enormous cost of the work, they had to convert the roomy upstairs staff accommodation into flats and surrendered their late licence because of the residents upstairs. In the process they decided it would re-open as a straight bar.

It used to be really cruisy, with a central bar across which it was easy to give the eager eye to someone on the other side, whilst you could have a civilised conversation with fellow drinkers just as well. At one side, there was a dance floor. It was a comfortable place to be, and the atmosphere was made more cruisy by the black wooden floor and painted out windows. To further ruin the atmosphere and to ensure the gay clientèle didn’t return, they laid a floral carpet, moved the bar to the side and opened out the windows. The place feel completely dead now. It was an act of cultural vandalism to turn it over to straight people.

More about the Ship and Whale in a forthcoming blog about the Pepys estate.

TinyURL for this poast: http://tinyurl.com/cmtl49x

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Putting an Infinitely Looping Slideshow on your Blogspot Blog

I would never have imagined how difficult it was going to be to get a simple (?) slideshow for my blog to display quotes and marketing information relating to my book, Bokassa’s Last Apostle! As you can see from the colourful banner at the top of my blog, I have finally found one, thanks to http://www.spiceupyourblog.com/2012/03/simple-stylish-jquery-image-slideshow.html.

There are other solutions, but I just wanted this simple facility to infinitely loop through some .jpgs I have made. I have used the facility to customise the gadget to remove the prev/next buttons and the slide numbers. I have also entered empty strings for the captions. The trick is to upload the .jpg files to a draft post. This stores them in blogger’s filespace. Looking at the draft post in HTML view reveals the URL to the images. This needs to be substituted into the code supplied by www.spiceupyourblog.com and, apart from taking care of the size of the images, that is just about it. The HTML view of the post holding the images will also show you the pixel dimensions of the images you just uploaded. Needless to say the original image files should all be the same size. Then you need to customise the code you inserted from spiceupyourblog.com with the pixel dimensions of the images and that is that! Unfortunately you cannot as far as I can see change the transition speed. For my purposes, displaying pithy slogans, this is just perfect.

(Assumes some familiarity with html, but you wouldn’t be able to use this widget without that.) NB Remember to back-up your template BEFORE editing it, or you could be in deep trouble!

Bokassa’s Last Apostle at the Printer!

The files for my novel Bokassa’s Last Apostle is now with the printer, resplendently adorned with seven juicy quotes from my reviewers. In the process of editing it, I managed to tidy up the chapters so they mostly filled the last page with print. This meant making just a few tiny edits to paragraphs with only a few words on the last line. Hidden away in the text there are eight strategically placed hyphens breaking words at the end of a line in which there were large spaces between the words. Without them, the book would be eight pages longer. As it is, I have increased the gutter by 5mm and reduced the length by 16 pages. Choosing different paper and editing out white space makes it almost 5mm thinner as well.

I’m eagerly awaiting the proofs and hope to get my hands on the finished books well before the launch party on the Wibbly Wobbly (20 August 2012).

Just drew the winner of the second free copy of Bokassa’s Last Apostle. The lucky winner is @EDITIONSDUFRIGO. I’m drawing another on Thursday, 26 August, 2012. So &helip; get busy and make friends on Facebook, use the ‘like’ buttons on this blog or re-tweet any of my tweets and EACH TIME you do you get another chance to win the third free copy on the 26th. Read the sample (there’s a like button at the bottom) by clicking on the book jacket or even click through and get the Kindle version and read it through to the end, if you just can’t wait until it appears in the bookshops!

TinyURL for this post: http://tinyurl.com/c8wrm4o

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Book Promotion Changes

As the publication date for Bokassa’s Last Apostle approaches (20 August 2012) I have announced a promotional giveaway of TEN free copies of my book. For details, click on the YELLOW box in the menu panel to the right. I’ve decided that to make this more interesting, I’m going to turn this into TEN SEPARATE draws for one book each, spaced so the draws become more frequent as the 20th approaches. And I’ve awarded the first copy to @LGBTQNation on twitter. They were chosen by a random number generator on an excel spreadsheet. The next draw will be made at midnight on Saturday 21 July.

I have made a new page with details of the ticket holders and draw dates etc. which is here. A very brief look at the list will make it perfectly clear that the overwhelming majority of tickets are as a result of follows on Twitter. Reading the rules you will see that ADDITIONAL TICKETS can be had for EVERY retweet, FRIEND request, LIKE on facebook and GOODREADS review. SO IF you REALLY REALLY want a better chance of getting your hands on a FREE copy of Bokassa’s Last Apostle, retweet a few of my tweets and go right to the front of the queue!

Remember to continue following me on twitter or remaining friends on Facebook until the END of the promotion (20 August 2012) as I need to be able to contact you to send out your book.

tinyURL for this post: http://tinyurl.com/d2vkjcw

Friday, 6 July 2012

Not Quite According to plan...

Just back from my reading on the Heath. To say it didn’t go quite according to plan is a complete understatement! Armed with folding wallpaper-pasting table and a Sainsbury’s ‘bag for life’ packed with wine boxes, nibbles, paper plates, plastic cups, book, flyer, catalogues camping lantern and a handy clip on-reading light, I clambered aboard the 183 bus to Golders Green.

The upstanding black-coated citizens of Golders Green on their way to the Synagogue (it was the Sabbath close to nightfall, after all) alerted me to my impending destination. A short cab ride later (and £5 lighter, this is London, after all, but I sure as hell wasn’t carting my baggage up that hill by myself) and I was down the path and setting-up my illicit stall well before the publicised 9 o'clock start.

It looked deserted, but I managed to attract the attention of some guys out for the night and pressed flyers into their hands and invited them to come back at 9.15 (having already decided I was there too early). Needless to say, none came back, but all were positive about the book and said they would take a look. Let’s see what the ‘click-through’ rate is!

I haven’t had much luck finding a cameraman, and have discovered that the sound quality on the video camera I got on ebay leaves a lot to be desired, so maybe the lack of an audience and technical difficulties weren’t so grave. I decided to change tack and engaged future passers-by with an offer of free wine in return for a chat about my book. Direct, one-to-one contact with customers. Perfect! And, sure enough, as time went by a trickle of people stopped by for a chat and were very positive about the book. I suspect I must have distributed at least twenty flyers to people who expresed a positive interest in my book. Night fell, and I turned on my camping light.

The effect was that I couldn't actually see the people coming down the path, because the glare of the light in my eyes rendered them invisible to me. I had to listen for their footfalls crunching the stony path and then wait until they came into the illuminated perimeter. To my complete surprise, light began approaching from down the path, and a POLICE van came slowly and deliberately into view and, obviously, stopped opposite my stall.

Bear in mind here that even putting up a table on Hampstead Heath is illegal, or at least prohibited under the by-laws, as is reading a book or distributing leaflets. Ironically, making a video isn’t, as the by-laws date back to 1935. I explained myself to the two members of the eight-strong Hampstead Heath Police Force (carefully neglecting to mention the two wine boxes, which they could of course clearly see in the glare of my lantern), but I needn’t have worried. They were as nice as pie and let me tell them about my book. I gave them flyers. They were particularly interested that the book opened on the Heath and especially so because it involved outreach workers distributing condoms. As it happened, the Terrence Higgins Trust were doing precisely that elsewhere on the Heath tonight, accompanied by one of their colleagues. They actually radioed him and got them to come over to talk about my book.

And, whilst I was engaging two other guys, a couple strolled up and made a bee-line directly for me. They said they were interested and I noticed one had a Terrence Higgins Trust tee-shirt. So I rather stupidly said, ‘Oh, so you’ve been sent by Lily Law.’ Which was the wrong thing to say, as the other guy turned out to be Lily Law in the person of the LGBT Liaison Officer for the Heath. Despite a bit of teasing, he assured me I could continue what I was doing and we had a nice chat. I said I was about to go home, and he suggested I stay longer because it would probably get busier. Then he gave me the information I really didn’t want to hear: It had been heaving the weekend before.

So I stayed, and I made further contacts, but, after a while, it became apparent that people were more interested in cruising than in talking to me. Astonishingly, they even refused the free wine, although many had driven to the Heath. I was thinking of packing up when a black guy dressed in leather holding a chain attached to a collar around the neck of an older white guy, otherwise completely naked and shaved from head to toe strolled up and stood in the full light of the camping lantern. We must have talked for several minutes, although he didn't want a flyer and I suspect he was more interested in making the white guy stand lit up for all to see in the glare of the light. Well, that definitely enlivened my evening.

And who should come around a few minutes later, but the guy from the Terrence Higgins Trust and the copper, who was very interested to know if I’d seen them. I said, ‘yes, they went down the path to the S&M area, it’s down there and over to the right,’ but he already knew. Turned out, his interest was just out of personal curiosity. It was getting late, and I needed to get the bus home, so I knocked it on the head at that point.

Now all I’m left pondering is how I’m going to dispose of the rest of the two boxes of wine. Surely even I can’t drink that in three days? Maybe I should save some for the ‘official’ launch of the e-book at the Wibbly Wobbly tommorrow evening. Disasters allowing, of course... ?

tinyURL for this post: http://tinyurl.com/bwor3ja

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Bokassa goes LIVE on Kindle!

Yes, the Kindle version of Bokassa’s Last Apostle is now live on the Kindle Store. And I just made my very first SALE! Admittedly in the US, and so I won’t be getting any royalties until the sales exceed $100, but so close to uploading my book, it’s extremely encouraging! Click on the BLUE kindle panel in the right hand side of this blog to go to the page for my book on the Kindle store.

I’m looking forward to Pride and my impromtu reading tour (see posts below). Come along to any of the readings and get £2 off the e-book or paperback for a limited period only. But to use the discount code you’ll have to get your book from the paradise press website and enter it when you put the book into your shopping cart.

And don’t forget to enter the draw to win one of TEN free copies of the paperback. Find out how by clicking on the YELLOW panel to the right.

tinyURL for this page: http://tinyurl.com/ca95yn2
 
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