New Caledonia


Tomorrow (Monday) we board our cruise ship the ‘Pacific Jewel’, older than the other cruise ships in which we’ve sailed, so it’ll be an education. She might be ‘old’ (launched 1989), but she does look more like a ship than a block of flats.

Maureen & I sail, with our daughter, son in law and three grandchildren, for a family holiday afloat, so communication might not be as efficient – or as cheap!

An eight night cruise to New Caledonia, so named by Captain Cook in 1774, because the southern tip reminded him of Scotland.

New Caledonia is now French, but they don’t use the Euro currency, but Central Pacific Franc CFP – I wonder if I have the price of an ice cream left in the tin I use for odd coins from our travels. . .

The last time Maureen & I were in Noumea (the capital of New Caledonia), was in 2002, so it’ll be interesting to see the changes – if any. The Pacific islands work to ‘island time’ . . .and we will have to learn to slooow dooowwwnnn and to enjoy the experience.

jewel-032The Pacific Jewel seem s to have a focus on family fun from ‘rock climbing’ to flying fox from fore to aft, or it could be the other way around.

p_and_o_edgee_2The wire is the flying fox . . . .at my age I might give it a miss.


Noumea – New Caledonia

From Noumea we sail to the Isle of Pines – see below


and then on to Lifou Island, again below


and finally Mare Island before sailing back to Sydney.


As you see, I plan that nothing will be too strenuous – except in the pool with the grandchildren – a nice break before the madness of Christmas / New Year, and I thought the above pictures would be a gentle reminder for those in a northern hemisphere November. . . . . I can be cruel :-o)

If anyone is interested in the South Pacific try James Michener’s books such as Tales of the South Pacific, The Return to Paradise, and Rascals in Paradise – all three are factual.

They never said ‘If only . . .’

A baker’s dozen of real life, but different, e- books that I’ve read in the last couple of years.

Once again, from a cost point of view, the e-book has the advantage of the printed book. As I said in my last blog I’ll risk a dollar or so on unknown authors to read novels, but I also like biographical books about people who have stepped out of their comfort zone.

I do enjoy reading books written by people who have changed their lives for one reason or another. Perhaps the change was caused by redundancy, or a casual remark that grows in to action, or the thought that you would like to do something in memory of a loved one – I find them all very entertaining and readable. The percentages have been taken from Amazon reviews of each book.

82% – 4 & 5 * reviews – a total of 148 reviews

A light hearted look as to how a family coped with the loss of employment by the bread winner. Having been made redundant myself at 55, I had great sympathy for the family and wanted to know how they coped. I think they had more fun, and really lived `life’ the day they left their secure environment and took up narrow boating. The flow of the story pulls you along with the family, whether it is turning a seventy-foot boat in a sixty-eight foot wide canal or the male leaping ashore to moor the boat, only to realise what he thought was solid ground turned out to be less solid than anticipated. It has drama, comedy, pathos within a travel book that doesn’t travel all that far from its origin. The book is different, and for me it was a pleasure to read.


   64 % 4 & 5 * reviews – a total of 503 reviews

It’s a long time since I laughed out loud when reading a book, but I did with More Ketchup than Salsa. The author captures the feeling of ‘is this all we have’ in a down trodden job in a grimy north of England city. You can feel the dampness and the rain in the author’s writing. For me this was an enjoyable book to read. I was surprised at the low 4 & 5 * percentage.

journey83% 4 & 5 * reviews

Have you ever thought that a casual comment would change your life?
It did for Craig Briggs, and Journey to a Dream is his story. I read this book while travelling in Spain, so  my location added to the overall enjoyment. The story is entertaining and the author’s style of writing makes it an easy read.


sequinsA light, but an interesting read. I enjoy books where people step outside their normal comfort zone and make a ‘go’ of the change.

89 % 4 & 5 * reviews




I wonder what the future will hold for these Anglo-Saxons living in Spain, now that the UK is leaving the EEC. I think they will take it all in their stride, and perhaps produce another book.

walk I like `off centre’ books that tell of personal desires to create, or complete tasks, that others might find a little `odd’. I came across `Vic’s Big Walk’ on Amazon while looking for something to read during an anticipated long flight. Not knowing anything about the author or his goals the thought of someone recording his effort to walk from the Pyrenees to Blackpool at seventy years of age, sparked my desire for an off centre read. I was not disappointed, as the author’s prose is very readable. He drew me in to his, and his wife’s, life as he walked nearly 2000 kilometers towards his childhood home town in the UK. His observations of the people he meets and the places he visits, along with his daily stop for coffee, creates a feeling that the reader is looking over the author’s shoulder and is part of the experience. I thoroughly enjoyed Vic’s Big Walk and at the end of the book I was pleased to note that all profits from the sales would go to pancreatic cancer research – a cancer that caused the early death of my own father.
If you like a well written travel book, which isn’t a travel book, but a personal record of a man’s effort to do something unusual, and still benefit others, read Vic’s Long Walk and enjoy his story, while making you feel good.  93% 4 & 5 * reviews

lifeA very interesting story. I am of a similar age to the author, so his book brought back a lot of memories of my youth. The influence, of the company created by the author, on the music world, comes alive without it being a brag about the author’s accomplishments. I read this while on holiday and found it strange that it stuck in my mind long after I’d finished the book. If you are interested in the history of how they created popular music in the 60’s & 70’s this is the book for you.  85% 4 & 5 * reviews



What an interesting travel book –
It is the type of travel book that you can pick up and put down – each destination has a short 500 word story of the author’s experiences in a particular destination. I was able to dip in and out as I pleased and periodically through the book, the author has included photographs of the previous places mentioned. Besides the author’s admiration of certain places, he also points out the pit falls – particularly when eating street food in Asia. 89% 4 & 5* reviews


An entertaining short book of about 89 pages, read it in a single sitting. It reminded me of the sort of chapters one reads in Readers Digest – condensed information of the writer’s trips. Enjoyable, but only up to a point 63 % 4 * 5 * reviews

yearOverall I enjoyed the book, it was an easy read, and each chapter could be read as a stand-alone piece, if the reader had a particular interest in a specific destination.
This not a negative comment, but I had the feeling that each chapter could have been sent to magazines as a single article. I think it is a book that would interest those who have not travelled a great deal, rather than a person who has travelled. 80% 4 & 5 * reviews – 198 reviews

peace I haven’t met the author, nor heard of her as a filmmaker, but she e-mailed me and asked if I would like to read her book. I checked the outline of the book and found that she worked as a young woman in Afghanistan filming news items, and this sounded interesting, so I agreed.
The first part of the book was exciting as she detailed her time in Afghanistan as a young film reporter for TV stations. The reasons for various TV station & print media showing or rejecting her work confirmed my own thoughts on the moral standing of certain elements of the media in today’s world.
On the author’s return from overseas we are told of her relationship with her then boyfriend, and various girlfriends, as well as her mother. After the excitement of Afghanistan & her visit to Russia during the cold war, for me, the soul searching for a spiritual anchor and her relationships with friends and relatives was of less interest than her work. Overall I found the book to be an easy read at 180 pages, and the details of her  time in Afghanistan was fast paced and read like a  novel. 98% 4 & 5 * reviews



A clear account of how people can be conned. I was surprised that so many Christians were duped when one would expect them to question how such a high daily return could be obtained, and from where the high return originated. 88% 4 & 5 * reviews



An educational read without being force fed information. Obviously one eyed from a US perspective, but that was to be expected considering the book’s title. I enjoyed the book, even though it was ‘shallow’ in parts. It is not a deep historical book of politics and tactical military moves, just many anecdotal tales by those who took apart in WW2.  88% 4 & 5 * reviews a total of 487 reviews




A very funny book with strong Australian overtones, but with sad moments as the author tries to find his son.

95 % 4 & 5 * reviews




Show me – don’t tell me

The title of this blog is a dictate that is drummed in to authors – show the reader, don’t lecture the reader.


A few years ago we were told that the e-book was overtaking the printed book in popularity – today I am not all that sure. I have an old adage that if I think something is not true or not quite right, I know that many others will think along similar lines.

Political spin on any subject brings out the scepticism in me (some call it grumpy old man syndrome), and when reporters throw out huge numbers, for whatever reason, I cannot help but do a quick mental arithmetic (I am old enough not to require a calculator), to see if the statement is credible or just journalistic spin to grab attention.

I have a feeling that the e-book ‘revolution’ may have faltered and printed books are still as popular as ever. I believe that the reading public still like the ‘feel’ of a book and the ability to skip backwards and forwards easily through the pages.

As a reader who haunts second hand book shops, school fetes, library sell offs etc for that particular ‘must have’ book, I am certain I am not Robinson Crusoe. While hunting for the elusive paperback it never occurs to me to check to see if I can buy it as an e-book.
With book prices in Australia being in the $18 / $19 to $30 area for a paperback, I am a strong supporter of Book Depository for the same book at half the Australian price. The wait of eight to ten days is not a problem. I only buy authors that I have read, I never buy unknown paperback authors, because of price.

This is where the e-book comes in to its own. The e-book world allows me to find new authors to read at a reasonable cost. The cost factor, if I don’t like the book is small, but if I do like the e-book, the author’s name goes on my buy list for a printed book as well as their latest e-book. If the author only publishes e-books, so much the better for my pocket.

Over the last few years I’ve read a number (about seventy) of independent self-published e-books and thought it was about time that I passed on information about some of the novels that I have enjoyed. The list is in alphabetical by author, not in any preferential order. The percentages have been taken from Amazon, so the percentages could well be higher when taking all sales in to account.

Mario Almonte – American author.
Of the reviews 80% were 4 * &  5*
Theresa Manning

manningThe location of the story is set in present day New York & Boston. After the first few pages I realised that this author is no novice when it comes to writing. I had not heard of him or read any of his work before I read `Theresa Manning’. His writing is smoooooth, if that word can be used in this context.
The story is a relationship, rather than an action tale, which flows effortlessly from scene to scene. The author brings the characters to life, and at times drops in some great quotes `The wheels of a generation, the mouths of the moment’ referring to a wayside diner. When I read the quote it fitted perfectly in to that particular scene. The relationship aspect of the story has not created a standard romantic novel, it is different, because the author creates tension between each of the characters as he pushes the story to its final conclusion. It is a sharp concise novel that will entertain and linger in the mind after you have read the final page.

John Campbell – American author
Of the reviews 93% were 4 * & 5 *
Walk to Paradise Gardens

cam1John Campbell’s historical novel `Walk to Paradise Gardens’ is a saga that begins during the early days of WW1, and the reader follows a family through all of their troubles.
The story captivated me from the first few pages as I read his descriptions of the medical areas behind the lines in WW1. The author brought the whole horror of this war to life. Later, his descriptions of London in the 1920’s & 30’s has your mouth watering as he describes the simple act of taking tea and cakes in an `acceptable’ (for the wife of a political minister) café. Campbell has the ability to capture the period, regardless of the decade. The historic detail enhances the story without overwhelming the reader with facts. A love story to be read and enjoyed at leisure.

A Lark Ascending –
Of the reviews 100% were 4 * & 5*


Rating this book as a five star read was no effort at all. The author has really captured the Lime House area of London during the early 1920’s. I could feel the damp, smell the river, and feel the fear of being out and about after dark during those dark days. John Campbell’s ability to research the times, and the places about which he writes, is always spot on. This is the second of Mr Campbell’s books that I’ve read and enjoyed, both are set around the same period; one in peacetime, and the other during the first world war. A must read for those who love accurate historic fiction.

V.R Christensen – American author
Of the reviews 72% were 4 * & 5*, which equated to 470 out of 653 reviews.
Of Moths & Butterflies


Being a mere male `Of Moths and Butterflies’ is not my normal type of book, but from the first page I was captivated by the characters and their situations.
The story is set in 1881 / 82 and takes place in Kent & London. The author has recreated the time and the place, and the life style of the various levels of society. The main character is a young woman who is being manoeuvred in to marriage because of a shameful act that was not her fault. I found myself wishing this young woman would take a swing at certain family members, but of course this was 1881, not 1981.
The author’s writing is rich in creating scenes, without being overbearing in detail. I read this book on a Kindle while travelling and I would regale my wife with bits and pieces of the story. Now the acid is on me to buy another Kindle so that she can read it, without me being `Kindleless’.

Robert Davidson – British author
Of the reviews 100% were 4* & 5*
The Tuzla Run –


Davidson’s descriptive details of the various geographic areas, and the war damage in the Tuzla region (Boznia), comes across as personal experience rather than research. Once I started the story I found it hard not to keep reading the next page and the next and so on, even at the risk of lost sleep.
The author has produced an exciting story in the mould of the traditional `journey’ style of storytelling, coupled with credible heroic and cowardly characters. It seems to me that The Tuzla Run is tailor made for an action movie.

Susan Denning – American author
Of the reviews 75% were 4 * & 5*, which equated to 662 out of 883 reviews.
I am also aware that this author has sold nearly 200,000 e-book & paperback copies, plus it was released via an audiobook company, as an audio book.

Far Away Home


Far Away Home is a joy to read. Within the time it took to read the first page I was in to the story. Meeting the main character, Aislynn, in New York, is to step back in time. Denning has captured the time and places of the mid 1800’s in America. Her detailed research is not overpowering, but it does help you to feel the cold of winter, the joy of spring, the smell of the trees, which were cut down to create Aislynn’s home. In her desire for accuracy, I believe Denning drove a covered wagon through similar terrain as did her main character when she crossed the wide open spaces between New York and Utah. Denning experienced the trials of such transport and her personal experience adds credibility to the story.
The relationship between the characters moves the story steadily forward. They became real to this reader, so much so, that I was quite sad to reach the end of the book. Perhaps Ms Denning will favour us with a sequel, as I’m sure many of her readers would like to know what happens to Aislynn. If you are interested in the old American west, and you like strong characters, who stand up for themselves and their friends, then this is the book for you.

Laurel Lamperd – a saga over two books, Australian author
Of the reviews 100% were 4 * & 5*
This author has written a total of eight books.

Wind from Danyari

In addition to the central characters, the Hennessey family, who are rich in emotion and diverse, I found the author’s detailed description of the landscape and the hard climate of Western Australia, as stimulating as the human characters.
The scene is set with the arrival of the first Europeans to the area. This is followed by the introduction of Joe Hennessey, in the late 1800s, who, as a teenager, sets out to attempt to make his fortune in the gold fields of northern Australia.
The story flows as the author paints her characters to the harsh canvas of Australia between 1880 to the outbreak of WW1. The story has romance, tragedy and adventure, which are mixed with the way of life of two cultures. The ancient aboriginal way and the newcomers creates tension and sadness. I found the book to be a page turner. I believe that this book is the first in a series that chronicles the Hennessey family.

Of the reviews 100% were 4* & 5 *wa1

The Hennessy boys go to war, Danny to England to be trained as a bomber pilot, and Will joins the Australian Army and is sent to New Guinea. The story begins in the time of innocence in Australia of 1939. The author showed me the lives of people in outback Australia of that time, and how their innocence changed as the war progressed.
Lamperd has the knack of describing the conditions of north west Australia to such an extent that she had my mouth dry from windblown sand, only to be washed clean in the next chapter by watered down beer in a London pub on a damp wet night, after a bombing raid over Germany. Her description of the Kakoda trail, the mud, the tropical heat and rain, with the expectation of fighting the Japanese brings to life the bestiality of man when at war.
It is not a story of war, but a story of a family caught up in a war. How relationships are made and broken, some deliberate others beyond control of the character. I read the book on a Kindle and after I’d finished, the characters and the locations stuck in my mind for days, even though I was travelling and seeing new places. A well told story.

While trying to find out if Ms Lamperd had written her third book in the Hennessy series, I read that she had died in June 2013. I also read that the third book in the series would be published posthumously, but I don’t know the title, or if it was published.

Ian Stewart – Australian author
Of the reviews 100% were 4 * & 5*

The Peking Payoff



The story has the feel of James Clavell’s `Noble House’ without being a copy or fan fiction in any way. The detail description of Hong Kong in the 1970’s comes across as `real’ due to the author having lived and worked in the Colony (it was a colony in the 1970’s). The story has action, believable characters for the reader to either sympathise or hate, crafty `baddies’ and an exotic location. I enjoyed the story and wanted to know what happened next when I reached the end of the book. The ending didn’t leave me hanging and wondering what had happened, because it was the logical place to finish the story, without upsetting the reader, but it didn’t stop me wanting more!

The Unintentional Jihad
Of the reviews 100% were 4 * & 5*


The Unintentional Jihadi is a damn good yarn. Fast paced and exciting. The author writes about what he knows . . .his knowledge of Malaysia and Singapore adds authenticity to the story. Using details in the book you could drive from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, and drive around KL without your GPS.
In parts the story reminded me of the `39 Steps’ by John Buchan – the reluctant hero being chased by the baddies, who might be good or bad . . . , but you have to read the book to find out the truth!

Of the reviews 72% were 4 * & 5 *

nanyangAt around 650 pp Nanyang is a solid book. The detail of the history surrounding a particular event in which a character becomes involved is engrossing. My hobby is Asian history so the back ground of the various events was right up my street.
The author has a great love of research, and Asian history, and this shows as the story unfolds. I must say I particularly liked the author’s description of various battle & fight scenes. He never tried to alter history, but he did bring to life the skirmishes and battles of the period, and used them with great effect to move the story forward. I found myself reading faster and faster to reach the climax of a particular battle, even though I was aware of the historical outcome. The book was a pleasure to read.

K. P. Vorenberg – American author
Of the reviews 100% were 4 * & 5*
Tierra Red


I haven’t read many books set in New Mexico, but I was looking for something different to help pass the time on a long-haul flight from Sydney to Europe, so I chose `Tierra Red’. I wasn’t disappointed, the story flowed and I felt I’d learned something new about the region, which is where the story was set. The characters were believable, and fleshed out just enough to help create mental pictures – I was shown, without being told the various foibles of each character. The story is not a `gunslinger’ cowboy story, but a study of people and how they react under certain circumstances. It is obvious that the author has detailed knowledge of the New Mexico area, and her knowledge adds authenticity to the story. I enjoyed the novel, and the author’s style made the book a very welcome read on such a long flight.

Marianne Wheelaghan – British author – Scottish – Of the reviews 92% were 4 * & 5*

The Blue Suitcase

suitcaseI finished The Blue Suitcase and found it to be a fascinating book. The story is `now’ rather than the reader being told about the political situation of Germany in the 1930’s. In many ways it is a happy / sad story of a young girl growing up in Germany, during that disturbing decade. The author held my attention throughout the book – not once did I skip forward, because I wanted to know every detail of the main character’s life. The story is wrapped around the changing political situation with its highs and lows, the broken political promises and broken family relationships. A bitter sweet story that reminded me of a symphony that builds from the pleasant tones of everyday life to the crashing finish of a destroyed Germany. A novel it may be, but I have a feeling that there is more to this story, for this author, than just a novel.


Geoff Woodland – Australian, author – but also British – half Welsh / half English, I’m still very fond of the UK, but not the weather :-o)

Ice King
Modesty forbids me to comment on this novel, but if you wish to know what others think, try this link.

Big Day Out – Saturday morning.

There comes a time when you have to drag yourself away from the staff who are selling books. Space at home becomes a problem, because we live in a small house.

A school near where we live has an annual ‘Big Day Out’ – food stalls, fairground, homemade jams, hand made jewelry and of course BOOKS!

All the books I saw where very good quality, even though they were second hand.

Five dollars for a plastic bag and you can fill it with books – only one book in the bag it is still $5, but for those who are bookies  . . . (not the horse racing kind), this was manna from heaven!

I had my list of favourite authors, just on the off chance that I might find one or two of their books that I hadn’t read. Under each author’s name I had listed down the books I  owned or had read.

Let the hunt begin.

My wife and I arrived to see boxes and boxes of books and long tables groaning under the weight of more books.

I bought my plastic bag (standard shopping size bag) and started checking the books, they were not in author order, which made the hunt more fun.

Lee Child –

LC        LC1

Daniel Silva –

DS    DS1

Before I found out about ‘Big Day Out’ I’d bought two of Daniel Silva’s books from Book Depository of the UK. Book Depository’s prices are half of the Australian price for the same books, and this included postage from the UK. The books I ordered haven’t arrived yet, but I expect them early next week.

I hoped that I wouldn’t find them today! – I didn’t.

David Baldacci –

DB   DB1

In the rush I bought two ‘First Family’ , now my son has a copy.

Michael Connelly –

MC1   MC

MC2  MC3


RFDIt is years since I read this author, but I have not read this book.

Archer_Sons_of_fortuneI have a feeling that I might have read this years ago, but at $5 a bag who cares . . .

Now for something new – (for me that is)

573460  922991

2358380 10446225

Stepping Stones is more for Maureen, because the story is set in Liverpool, where she was born.

Add in several children’s books for our grandchildren, and the hour we spent along with many others at the book stalls, cost us $10!
I am sure we will donate them back for next year and hopefully we will be as fortunate to buy a fresh lot at next year’s ‘Big Day Out’.

A great way to spend a Saturday morning.


Plant now and harvest later

I have been asked about the assessor that I used to advise me if I could write, and if my book was entertaining and worth reading. After all writing is a branch of the entertainment industry and fiction has to be entertaining if you wish to keep the reader’s attention so that he or she will keep turning the pages.

Thanks to the internet I was able to research a number of assessors before deciding on Tom Flood of  Flood Manuscripts.


In 1990 Mr Flood’s novel Oceana Fine won the  Miles Franklin Award , which is Australia’s most prestigious literature prize. The prize is awarded each year for a novel of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases.
I checked the list of authors who have also won this award – very impressive.

During my investigation I found out that Tom Flood had also won the Victorian Premiers Award, the Australian/Vogel Award and the Orange Banjo Paterson Short Story Award. For my none Australian readers Orange is the name of a famous city in Australia. Flood’s writing was also exhibited in the National Museum of Australia.

I never did meet Mr Flood during all the time we corresponded via e-mails. His business address is a three hour train ride from my place so I stuck to e-mailing.

My original manuscript was over 160,000 words and with Tom’s guidance I managed to reduce it to around 120,000 words, which was still high for an unknown author.

Once I’d received the report from Flood Manuscript that in their opinion I could write, I started searching for an editor, and I wanted a female editor so to have input about the story from the opposite sex.

In today’s ‘enlightened age’ I suppose I was being politically incorrect by choosing an editor by their sex, rather than by their qualifications, but I was sure that I could find the right editor who just happened to have both qualifications. The other small detail was that I was paying!

It took me some time to find the ‘right’ person, because I’d never spoken to or had any dealings with an editor of either sex.

Eventually I found Louise Wareham Leonard, a writer who was born in New Zealand, moved to New York with her parents at the age of twelve, attended the United Nations International School and then Colombia. She has BA in Comparative Literature and Society.
Her first book Since you asked won the James Jones Literary Award,

Since you

and her second book Miss me a lot of was released in 2008.miss-me-199x300

Her third book was released in 2015, but this was in the future of the time that I was researching.

Once again all correspondence was via e-mail because ‘my’ editor lived in Western Australia and I live in NSW. The tyranny of distance was not a problem and we soon built a rapport and the manuscript was pulled apart, tweaked and rebuilt. Of course all this takes time, but as the title of this blog states – plant now and harvest later, which was my plan  once I’d finished writing Ice King


When Ice King was picked up by a UK publisher, and republished as Triangle Trade they had the manuscript edited once again by their own editor. I am happy to report that they only found five very small items in the manuscript to change and one of those was to satisfy the current PC brigade and had nothing to do with either Flood Manuscripts or Louise Wareham Leonard.

Triangle Trade

Part Two of Traditional or self publishing.

On receiving the contract I read it quickly and then read it again more slowly and then one more time, after which I decided that I needed help to make the correct decision.

I bounced the idea off Goodread, which is a book readers web site, and I was very pleasantly surprised to hear from  Stephen Leather, one of my favourite authors. He was kind enough to comment on my request for advice.

Chinaman   Long shotTunnel rtasDouble tap



Just four of the nineteen Stephen Leather books that I have collected over the years.

Stephen advised me to retain an agent before signing with a publisher. So the next thing was to find an agent willing to represent me. Funny how history repeats itself – I was unable to persuade any Australian or British agent to represent me, even though I had a publishing contract and their cut from my commission would be 15%. Many of the agents that I contacted stated that they were ‘full’ – and others failed to reply.

I still wanted the contract read by someone who was aware of the pitfalls in the publishing industry, so I joined the Australian Society of Authors and paid to have the contract checked by their legal department. I received an eight page report containing thirty four suggestions. Some suggestions where easily fixed with the publisher, but for other suggestions the publisher wouldn’t budge. Certain clauses were going to be ‘take it or leave it’ clauses.
If I rejected a certain clause the contract to publish would be withdrawn. In the end I accepted the contract, after all, I’d always wanted to be published by a professional publisher and this company had been in the business for a hundred and fifty years. A strong consideration for me living in Australia was that a UK publisher would be able to market the book far better than I could in the UK & USA. I even had some of their books on my book shelf at home, which I’d bought some years ago.

At the request of the Company I sent the publisher’s editor a copy of the manuscript and I am pleased to say she (another female editor) only requested five small changes to the manuscript. One of the changes was based on the perception of how a reader would accept my description of an urchin in 1805, which would be unacceptable today (un-PC). I explained that in 1805 it was acceptable, but in the end I lost the argument and the word had to be changed. Overall I was pleased that the editor that I picked to do the original editing was a very good choice.

Once they were happy with the manuscript they wanted to change the book’s title and the book’s cover. It took me some time to get used to the new cover. I must admit that it is more dramatic than the original cover. The title in the picture below shows ‘The’ Triangle Trade, but in the final production I managed to get rid of this word on the grounds that it made the title sound like a textbook. It was published as just ‘Triangle Trade’. Triangle Trade


I was then asked for suggestions as to marketing the book.

My suggestion was to produce the book in paperback, and I specifically asked that it not be produced as a hardback. I wanted it produced as cheaply as possible, and suggested that the publisher place copies in airport & railways stations book shops marketing it as an impulse buy for travellers. I was an unknown author, but with the new cover and at the right price, I thought that it would make an attractive read for a traveller’s journey.

The publisher already had a databank of customers to whom they could do a mail or e-mail shot.

Sales staff around the country where given the new book’s title and told to start marketing.

I was given a small advance on sales and the book was produced – in HARDBACK with a sale price of £15.99! I was sent six free books as the author.

At that time the exchange rate to the Australian dollar was $2 for £1.00, which made Triangle Trade one of the most expensive books in Australia, (and I think the UK) particularly for an unknown author.

I complained that Triangle Trade should have been issued as a paperback and I was told that they had been in the publishing industry for over one hundred and fifty years, and that they knew what they were doing. . . . . .I had my doubts, because I spend a lot of time in secondhand book shops. New paperbacks in Australia are expensive.

I buy new paperbacks from Book Depository because their prices are the lowest in many cases, as long as you don’t mind waiting a week or so for free deliver.

A year or so later the e-book version was issued at £4.99 (AUD $10.00), which is more expensive than the e-books from Stephen Leather, Lee Child, C. S Forster, Vince Flynn, Michael Connelly and many others.

Overall the sales have been disappointing. I receive a report of sales every six months, which includes details of my commission. My commission has not yet paid back the small advance.

On a positive side the marketing by the sales person working in and around Merseyside (Liverpool, UK) did a very good job by getting me interviewed by Radio City of Liverpool, the local Merseyside  radio station. The radio station rang me and the interview went for about thirteen minutes.

The same sales person also managed a full page spread in the Liverpool Echo on the ‘Book’ page, written by Laura Davis, the Executive Editor of ‘What’s On’, in the widest read newspaper on Merseyside. As you know Triangle Trade (Ice King) is centred around Liverpool in 1804 to 1807 so the radio and newspaper link generated a lot of interest, but few overall sales, which I put down to price again.

If a reader of this blog is considering self publishing and they are fortunate enough to be picked up by a regular publisher, be careful as to what you sign. I signed away my own work (Ice King) for ten years in a cloud of euphoria, plus I have to offer any further books to the same publisher.

I suppose I could write under a non-de-plume, but it would be difficult to write the remainder of the King & Co. series under another name, because I have possibly a total of three or four books in mind for the series.

I sold a few hundred paperback editions of Ice King, and also hundreds more as an e-book before it was re-published as Triangle Trade, so there are too many current readers asking for the sequel by Geoff Woodland rather than A. Another.

Over ride your wish to be published in the traditional way, maintain control and do it yourself. Only reconsider this approach if you have an agent.

Stephen Leather being a prolific writer, has managed to do both, much of his work is published by a traditional publisher, and he has produced additional e-books, which he self publishes. Check Mr Leather’s link for a great deal of information on self publishing.





Traditional or self publish?

Ice King cover

I like facts and figures so I collated some facts and figures about trying to get a book published.

After months of research and many more months of writing I completed an historical novel, called Ice King , all I required now was a publisher or agent who might be interested in my work.

Before sending Ice King to anybody I  had the manuscript assessed to find out if I could write, and if the story was interesting enough to hold a reader’s attention.

The initial word count was 150,000, and I knew that publishers would not consider such a large novel from an unknown author, so under advice from the assessor I reduced the word count to 120,000 words. I was aiming to cut it to 90,000, which is the breakpoint, apparently, for unknown authors. If I had managed to cut it to 90,000 words it would have destroyed the overall story, even 120,000 words was a struggle to keep the story together.

The assessor lived north of Sydney, so all our communications were via the internet – we never did meet. At the end of a few weeks, and taking in to account the assessors’ detailed suggestions, I had a novel of 120,000 words.

The next job was to have it professionally edited. I hired an editor, who lived in country New South Wales, Australia, and during the editing process she moved to Perth, so I didn’t get to meet my editor either.

The assessor was a male, so I deliberately set out to find a female editor because I wanted input from both sexes. My editor was born in New Zealand, educated in New York, and graduated from Columbia College, New York.
She won the American James Jones Literary Award for her first novel in 1999, so I judged that she would be the one to edit my novel.

Once the editor had finished I had the best possible chance of getting my book published – wishful thinking with hindsight.

Ice King is a trans- Atlantic centred story set between 1804 to 1807. The story takes place mainly between Liverpool in England, and Boston in the US, so I had my doubts of any interest in this type of story from an Australian publisher or agent, I was correct – unfortunately.

I sent out thirty five proposals, which generated a 45.7% response – all negative, I am sorry to say.

I was in good company Gone with the wind 38 Margaret Mitchell was rejected thirty eight times – I don’t consider myself to be as good as this author, but her number of rejections gave me hope.

This is the breakdown –

Australia – three companies approached – one answered – my work was rejected.
Of the other two, one asked for a synopsis & two chapters, which were sent. The agent didn’t communicate further. The other failed to reply to the initial approach.

ContestMathew Reilly was turned down by every publishing house in Australia before self publishing. His book was picked up, after he self published, by an Australian publisher and republished under the publishing house imprint. He is now in great demand with fifteen books to his name.

UK – twenty two companies approached – nine answered – all nine sent personal e-mails – which were polite, but they were all rejections.
Of the thirteen that failed to reply, three sent auto replies that they had received the submission. The other ten failed to reply to the initial approach.

watershipDown 26 Richard Adams was rejected twenty six time by British publishers

USA – Ten companies approached – six answered – all six sent personal e-mails – polite, but they were rejections.
Of the four that failed to reply, one sent an auto reply, one asked for additional sample chapter & didn’t communicate further, the others didn’t acknowledge the initial submission.

Carrie 30Stephen King’s ‘Carrie’ was rejected thirty times by American publishers.

I only approached agents and publishers who were interested in new authors or  specialised in historical fiction. I didn’t wish to waste the time of a publishers or agent who focused on westerns, crime, horror, or fantasy books etc.

The lack of interest from traditional publishers and agents made me think of what to do next.

I decided to self publish. I hired an American company to format the manuscript so that I would be able to give a computer file to any book printer, and they would be able to produce a paperback edition of the book.

At the same time I had a web site created, Geoff Woodland, which included the front cover in an effort to market the book. My problem was that the sales of the book were of more interest to British and American readers than Australian readers. The postage charges from Australia killed the European and American sales, so I opened an account with Lightning Source of the US & UK for print on demand, and this worked reasonably well, but I was not selling as many copies as I’d hoped, which I put it down to price, because I had to include local US or UK postage.
Lightning Source issued a monthly catalogue of all their available books to booksellers. To be included in the catalogue there was a cost to the author, but competition between hundreds of authors for recognition swamped many small book sellers, and large booksellers only stocked popular selling books of well known authors. An author not living in the UK or US was at a definite disadvantage.

I looked around for an outlet that would allow me to sell Ice King at a cost that was not too expensive. I found e-books! Amazon & Smashwords would be my salvation. I had the Ice King Word file created in to a mobi file to upload to Amazon. I also uploaded to Smashwords, which was easier, because Smashwords had a program to auto convert Word to their own system.

Ice King became an e-book and sales picked up. Flattering reviews started to appear and I had a feeling that it had all be worth while – or had it?

A few months after the release of the e-book version it was picked up by a UK publisher, and they wanted to republish under their own imprint.

I was over the moon! A real publisher, who had been in business for over one hundred and fifty years, wanted to publish Ice King.

I was offered a contract, and with this under my belt I felt sure I would be able to secure an agent.  . . . . . .













A Stirling coincidence

We decided to visit Hahndorf, which is in the Adelaide hills, and a short drive from Adelaide in South Australia.
The town was original settled by Prussians from Europe. They arrived in 1838 off the ship ‘ Zebra’ under the command of a Dane called Dirk Meinhertz Hahn. The voyage out was very unpleasant, but once they arrived in Australia Captain Hahn stayed with his passengers and helped them to settle in their new country. In honour of his help and assistance they named the town after him.
Obviously the town still has a strong German ‘flavour’ via the meat, bakeries and wine that is produce in the surrounding area.


The Hahndorf Inn


It was the start of autumn and the feel was very European, with the trees changing colour. I must admit that I didn’t see any VWs, in this German town.


I have a German friend in Australia, so had to take this photograph.

I found the beer to be expensive so didn’t buy any, which is just as well as I was driving. We had lunch in a small café and sat on a balcony overlooking the main road. The town seemed full of tourists and very few locals, other than those working in the shops.

The art / come history centre was the best part for me. In addition to the history of the town they had interesting pieces in the shop area – earrings and other jewellery made from broken crockery. Alongside the earrings you could see the original broken plate, saucer or cup.
None of the crockery items were broken deliberately all were from residents in the town who gave the artist the accidentally broken bits of their own crockery and the artist created items of jewellery. To say the items were unique is an understatement.

On the way back to Adelaide we had to pass another small town called Sterling (population about 4500). With its wet and mild climate it became a favourite of the British to escape the intense heat of a summer in Adelaide. It did have a very English feel to it and of course it had shops.

Maureen went to look at what she wanted to see, and I found a second hand book shop called ‘Chapter Two’, which I thought was a good name for a second hand book shop.

As I entered a young lady, who was typing on her lap top, greeted me and asked if I was looking for anything in particular. I said no thanks, just browsing and she went back to her computer.

A few minutes later I thought I’d have a long shot and asked if her shop was computerised,

‘No,’ she said ‘ what did you have in mind?’

I told her that I’d been looking for a book called ‘The Phantom Major’ about the SAS in WW2.

‘Oh!’ she said ‘I think we do have that book!’

and went to one of the shelves and pulled out a hard copy of the book with the original dust jacket still intact!

Phantom Major

I bought it for $10, it was in better condition, and cheaper, than the paperback version that I’d loaned out in the late 60’s and never had returned. I was very impressed with her ability to remember her books and it seems that she knows where every book she had in stock was located on the shelves.

I’d been looking for this book for some time and found it ironic that the story of the main character Lieutenant Stirling (as he was when he suggested the creation of the SAS), should be found in a small town called Stirling outside Adelaide. I like coincidences.

The town is not named after Major Stirling, but after a friend of the founder in 1854.


Three hundred years of print and thought.

The sunlight filters through the panes
of book-shop windows, pockmarked grey
By years of grimy city rains,
And falls in mild, dust-laden ray
Across the stock, in shelf and stack,
Of this old bookshop-man who brought,
To a shabby shop in a cul-de-sac,
Three hundred years of print and thought.

Like a cloak hangs the bookshop smell,
soothing, unique and reminding:
The book-collector knows its spell,
Subtle hints of books and binding—
In the fine, black bookshop dust paper,
printer’s-ink and leather,
Binder’s-glue and paper-rust.
And time, all mixed together.

‘Blake’s Poems, Sir—ah, yes, I know,
Bohn did it in the old black binding,
In ’83.’ Then shuffles slow
To scan his shelves, intent on finding
This book of songs he has not heard,
With that deaf searcher’s hopeful frown
Who knows the nightingale,
a bird With feathers grey and reddish-brown.

John Arlott.

The British cricket commentator – I can remember him on the radio (in the UK) as a child, but not being a cricket tragic I never knew that he wrote poetry, until years later.

As I looked at the books stacked on the pavement near Churchgate in Bombay (Mumbai now), his poem came to mind. Must admit I couldn’t remember it all, and had to look it up.
He originally wrote it for a friend, after seeing more than fifty book shops in Hay on Wye, on the boarder between England and Wales.


Pavement book sellers Mumbai – blue tint due to the bus windows.

Book seller


The above book seller in Hay on Wye was not happy with Kindle, he calls himself Prince Derek Fitz-Pitt Booth Addyman – the self proclaimed King of Hey on Wye – he proclaimed his title in 1977.
In the mid 60’s he visited the US to collect books from libraries that were closing,  and he shipped the old books back to Hey on Wye to help create what we know today.


Hay on Wye sellers could be a standard shop or just an open stall in the grounds of the old castle.

Each year they hold a festival of books , which President Clinton refereed to in 2001, as the ‘Woodstock of the mind’.

Hey on Wye is in Wales, but the Royal Mail considers it is still in Herefordshire  –

DSC00278c As we walked in to the town we ‘crossed’ the border . . .


There was no misunderstanding for this home owner as to which country he lived in – the house was right on the border. The Welsh Dragon said it all . . . .

China focused fiction

I recently started to clean out some books and realised that I gathered a small collection of China focused novels. I think I may have others , but in which box ??

The list is not in any particular order, just as they came to hand.

Tai Pan

Tai Pan – James Clavell


Noble HouseNoble House



Iron TreeThe Iron Tree – Martin Booth

China dawnChina Dawn – Robert Lipscombe Duncan

Mandarin                      Robert ElegantDynasty


Fragrant HarbourFragrant Harbour – John Lanchester

Trade Imperial – Alan LloydTrade Imperial




Eight BannersThe Eight Banners – Alan Savage




The Dream TradersThe Dream Traders – E.V. Thompson

Ty shan





Ty-Shan Bay – R. T. Aundrews

A Private

A Private Revenge – Richard Woodman




Shanghai  Shanghai – Christopher New





The Peking Payoff – Ian Stewart Peking pay off

The Lust of Comrade Lu – Ian Stewart

Lust of

Tea in China

For all the tea in China – Stephen Shepherd

At the moment I doubt that I will give them away . . . . . . they have all been returned to their storage place, because one doesn’t disregard old friends.



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