THERE IS SUCH A THING AS A FREE LAUNCH

MAKING OUR CHRISTMAS PRESENT: A Merry Journey is now completely LIVE and LAUNCHED on AMAZON Books in paperback and hardback!

There is a FREE DOWNLOAD OFFER of my eBook – FROM MIDNIGHT TONIGHT. Don’t miss out!

Kindle Edition – FREE FROM MIDNIGHT TONIGHT – for a limited period

Hardcover – £ 24.99

Paperback – £9.95

Why do mince pies no longer look like coffins?
How do you navigate yesteryear’s family games without a fire extinguisher?
Why did Father Christmas trade in his wagon for a sleigh when he first came to town?
Why should you complain if you don’t receive at least one gold ball from the Big Man?
And how do the best Christmas songs jingle our bells?

A perfect festive stocking filler or present, this delightful book is illustrated with glorious pictures, and can be shared with your family and friends for years to come.

Title Fight!

Working out what couda been a Christmas contender…

I wanted to share with you some of my thought process about finding the title for my new release Christmas book for a chilled out festive season.

It has gone through various incarnations before it goes live on 4 November 2021 – in hardback, paperback and eBook. On Amazon.

First up, it was going to be part of a series that I will be publishing in the New Year about how beds tuck into our popular culture. My Christmas book was going to be the first in the series, called Two Turtle Duvets.

The Christmas project evolved into a stand-alone book on how the Christmas traditions that we have come to know and love have evolved. Nothing too serious, nothing too heavy, but a playful look at our Xmas season.

That demanded soemthing else on the title front, something catchy. I thought I had found it:

Checking it Twice: A List of our Christmas Present

Quite pleasing, I thought, but a bit too “list-y”, not least because of the cunning use of the word “list” in the sub-title… It didn’t last long enough to make it to the spell-checker. I didn’t want a laundry list; I wanted a walk, a search, a romp (no!), a promenade (too formal), a meander (too waffly…)…

A Journey.

I wanted to play with the double meaning of “Christmas Present”, and arrived at:

What makes our Christmas Present – on some sort of journey. Like the Three Wise Men but with a lap-top.

First make it sharper and snappier: Making our Christmas Present. With a better sub-title, then.

First thing that came to mind was A Brief History. That made it sound like an academic treatise, not a journey. So, getting closer, I decided on A Jolly Journey, but that sounded like a booze cruise.

I chose A Merry Journey, because who doesn’t want Christmas time to be a merry way of looking at the festive season?

And here it is:

Making our Christmas Present gives you an idea of discovering Christmas as it now is, with a merry journey to get you there.

There. I’m done, from Two Turtle Duvets to the final version, in the St Nick of time for Christmas…

I hope you like it!

Best wishes,

Alan

Alan Camrose

REVEALING THINGS ABOUT MY COVER REVEAL

Why do mince pies no longer look like coffins?
How do you navigate yesteryear’s family games without a fire extinguisher?
Why did Father Christmas trade in his wagon for a sleigh when he first came to town?
Why should you complain if you don’t receive at least one gold ball from the Big Man?
And how do the best Christmas songs jingle our bells?


All these questions that I wanted to answer about Christmas, packaged up in a glossy cover for my new book, Making our Christmas Present: A Merry Journey.

The answers and a lot more will be revealed from 4 November 2021.

This will be a FREE download, which I hope you will enjoy, and I would ask you please please please to take a few moments to post a review. It’s the lifeblood of authors like me, and I would appreciate it very much.

But enough of that!

I wanted to give you here a quick insight into my author thought processes around the book.

I wanted a snappy, Christmassy cover with instant appeal. I don’t know whether I managed that but this is how I got to where I am now.

The book looks at centuries of Christmas, and where the traditional bits came from that individually and together serve up most people’s vision of Christmas. It’s not a history epic or a social commentary or a heavyweight study. The heaviest it gets is fretting over Santa’s belt size…

So I needed light.

I started by thinking about Christmas. There is of course more than one major defining point:

But I fastened onto Santa and how he became the figure we know today – instantly recognisable for the cover, at least today’s version.

I thought about him using an evolutionary cover, something like this, with overlapping pictures merged together:

St Nicholas
Holly King
Santa 2021

Too complicated.

Too serious.

So, Plan B was initiated. A Christmas Kiss – otherwise known as A Christmas Keep It Simple, Stupid

Christmas trees. We all think of brightly-lit and decorated trees at Christmas time…

So why not go for a more sophisticated dark background, and a blurry tree.

Thanks to Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash for the pic

Much better. I like this but it’s a bit tooo sophisticated for a book that’s supposed to be merry while Santa is “Checking it Twice”. That had been the original title. This pic was too serious, looking like it was dressed up for cocktails…

Third time lucky, then.

I went for Christmas trees again, but not just any old Christmas trees. Toy ones, with the addition of a Santa hat on one of them.

I think (hope) that hits the more amusing, whimsical vibe that I’m after, which fits in with my writing style.

And here it is, in all its glory with the new title, the one that will be published on 4 November: on Amazon Books:

Ta – dAAAA!

More playful, less creaking with history, not so blingy…

I hope you’ve found this insight into this part of my creative process interesting

More to come on other stuff soon, and you’ll get it first on my blog…

Cheers!

Alan

Alan Camrose

Thanks to Mitya Ivanov, Unsplash

The Art Gallery of Doctor Moreau

The art exhibition at Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire is fabulous in the true sense of the word, derived here from fables. Magnificent and profound.

Gustave Moreau (1826-98) (he was not a doctor and did not live on an island) was a French painter who created in watercolour a suite of 64 exquisite paintings to illustrate the 17th-century Fables of Jean de la Fontaine. Those Fables were in many cases re-workings of Aesop’s Fables, telling tales of Gods and dragons, lions and golden chariots, rendered in rich detail that seems to generate its own light.

The Lion and the Gnat is probably my favourite of the paintings.

The Gnat uses his brave sting to best the mighty Lion. Then he, without thinking, trumpets his unlikely victory to the world, flies up in the air and is trapped in a spider’s web and eaten.

All opponents deserve respect, no matter how weak and feeble they may look, but arrogance from victory can lead to disaster.

The Lion and the Gnat

Jean De La Fontaine

‘Go, paltry insect, nature’s meanest brat!’
Thus said the royal lion to the gnat.
The gnat declared immediate war.
‘Think you,’ said he, ‘your royal name
To me worth caring for?
Think you I tremble at your power or fame?
The ox is bigger far than you;
Yet him I drive, and all his crew.’
This said, as one that did no fear owe,
Himself he blew the battle charge,
Himself both trumpeter and hero.
At first he play’d about at large,
Then on the lion’s neck, at leisure, settled,
And there the royal beast full sorely nettled.
With foaming mouth, and flashing eye,
He roars. All creatures hide or fly, –
Such mortal terror at
The work of one poor gnat!
With constant change of his attack,
The snout now stinging, now the back,
And now the chambers of the nose;
The pigmy fly no mercy shows.
The lion’s rage was at its height;
His viewless foe now laugh’d outright,
When on his battle-ground he saw,
That every savage tooth and claw
Had got its proper beauty
By doing bloody duty;
Himself, the hapless lion, tore his hide,
And lash’d with sounding tail from side to side.
Ah! bootless blow, and bite, and curse!
He beat the harmless air, and worse;
For, though so fierce and stout,
By effort wearied out,
He fainted, fell, gave up the quarrel.
The gnat retires with verdant laurel.
Now rings his trumpet clang,
As at the charge it rang.
But while his triumph note he blows,
Straight on our valiant conqueror goes
A spider’s ambuscade to meet,
And make its web his winding-sheet.

We often have the most to fear
From those we most despise;
Again, great risks a man may clear,
Who by the smallest dies.


Jean De La Fontaine

The frenzy of the lion is right there on the canvas, and the buzzing, stinging gnat, painted in a different medium – shiny gouache – to make it stand out more – is like a deadly ghost looming over the now beaten beast. But the gnat’s glowing triumph is moments away from despair and defeat in the looming darkness above.

This is flash fiction, nineteenth century-style.

I felt the need to bang the drum for this Moreau, the great Symbolist.

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

Phoebus and Boreas, 1879
Roaring, violent North Wind
is beaten by the warmth
of the Sun in persuading
a passing traveler to
take off his coat…

Featured image at top of post: Jupiter and the Thunderbolts. Not a heavy metal band.

The exhibition is still open at Waddesdon until 17 October 2021.

A bunch of Camroses

You are seeing this before anyone else.

Coming Soon!

My third and fourth books, one a darkly humorous fantasy novel, one a non-fiction book, will soon be available.

What are they about?

BUILDING MEMORIES

My fantasy novel is called Building Memories.

It’s the first in a series about the coming of age of a young woman PI in South London where she needs to cope with her dangerous heritage and survive in two worlds at the same time.

DIVAN INSPIRATION

My non-fiction book is a series devoted to looking through the bedroom keyhole at different aspects of our lives.

Part One is Counting Sheep.

Part Two is beds and sleeping as featured in the movies: The Good, the Bed and the Snuggly.

I am excited to publish these books and hope you’ll join me on their journey.

REQUEST FOR REVIEWS

I’d love everyone reading this to be part of the launch process. I’m hoping that, if you’re reading this, you enjoy my writing style in my blog, or in my earlier books.


If so, and you’d like to read more in the same vein, then please become part of my launch team and make a Verified Purchase of a pre-launch copy (in form) of whichever book (preferably both!) you’d like to read. I will make sure you have time to read it before the official launch.

I will make the price the lowest price I can post it – 0.99.

A Verified Purchase review of the book on Amazon on the Launch Date would be amazing and very much appreciated.

Further details will follow about how you can participate.

Just leave a Comment below confirming you’d like to be part of my team.


Thanks very much, and I hope you will be part of the team.

More details next week.

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

Down the Kindle Hole

Welcome to my Blog


You are very welcome to my Random Place, and thanks for stopping by.

This time, unravelling one of the mysteries of the Amazon self-publishing algorithm…


I am embarking on publishing my third book and it has made me re-evaluate some of the processes and activities involved.

Selling books on Amazon is a conundrum. On the face of it, practically, it seems so easy.

And yet…

Once you’re happy with the text of your new book and worked through the mysteries of trim size and blurb composition, there’s the sacred task of trying to ensure that your epic can actually be seen by people. Yes, I’m talking about the Dreaded Amazon Algorithm. Not right now the dark arts of “independent” reviews and how they affect sales. More about where you pigeon-hole your work in the labyrinth of department categories and sub-categories to be sniffed out by eager and thirsty readers.

Yes, those links that can put the catastrophe into categories.

On the face of it there are two categories for a book to fall into, chosen from a limited list of single words. My first novel was a mix of fantasy, humour, crime, and adventure, so was impossible to pin down in two categories for a “better consumer experience”.

I’m all for a better consumer experience, it’s what we harried authors strive for. Short-cuts don’t cut it.

Then I discovered that Amazon has a rabbit up its sleeve. A big rabbit.

Extra categories and sub-categories.

If you ask them nicely.

I asked them nicely and they confirmed that an author can place a book in a total of up to ten categories and sub-categories combined. That means that you can be a bit more granular about who might be interested in seeing your work and more likely to see it in the blizzard of zillions of offerings in the massive bucket catch-all categories. Why that is not publicised at the start and baked into the initial set-up process is beyond me, but if you’re not aware of it at the moment, then it’s worth spending time delving into the area while you get ready to publish.

Am I shooting myself in the rabbit’s foot by divulging what is to be fair a not-secret, just not universally known?

Absolutely not. What helps you helps me, as far as I can see…Greater precision gives greater confidence to all authors and readers alike.

More granular means less cross consumers who don’t want to dive into the giant Fantasy Bucket when they are after a Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > LITERATURE & FICTION > HUMOUR & SATIRE >
BRITISH
book.

Check it out for your next project. In all honesty, I’m not sure what difference it really makes, but for your British Humour and Satire book, it’s better it’s visible there among the smaller thimble of titles than the giant LITERATURE & FICTION swimming pool, right?

For an e-book (the principle is similar for paperbacks):

  • At https://www.amazon.com/, there’s a Search bar.
  • Click on that.
  • Change “All” to show the “Kindle Store” Department.
  • Click on the changed Search icon.
  • Click on “Kindle eBooks” under “Kindle Store.” That is on the left side of the webpage.
  • Now you should be able to see a list of categories under “Kindle eBooks”
  • Click on a category. It will reveal the subcategories. Figure out where your book sits and follow the categories path down the rabbit hole until you can’t choose any more sub-categories on that path – the BRITISH in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > LITERATURE & FICTION > HUMOUR & SATIRE > BRITISH If your book’s set in Minnesota and isn’t funny, now’s the time to go back up the chain…
  • Make sure you pick up ten paths. (Amazon counts the two you choose in your initial set-up.)
  • The format is important when you ask Amazon to update your paths. It took me a few emails of jolly back and forth to alight upon an agreed place for that better consumer experience…
    • Use the following format: “Kindle Store > Kindle > eBooks > CATEGORY > SUBCATEGORY.”
  • Slightly bizarrely, but presumably due to any spelling or cultural differences, the categories need to be set for each individual jurisdiction where you are selling on the Kindle Marketplace or market for paperbacks.
  • Be patient, Amazon allows itself up to 72 hours to reflect your choices, but experience shows that they are thankfully much quicker.

Hope that’s helpful.

Happy categorising!

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

Whoop! This is my 50th Post at my Random Place

I thought it would be a good moment to cast an eye back over my earlier posts to see just how random they are.

It got me to thinking about the purpose of my blog. It is like a diary, a snapshot of where I am in the particular week, an articulation of something that I feel it worthwhile articulating.

I’m not trying to sell anything with my blog, except my words. If you want to buy my books, then that’s great; if you want to buy me a cup of coffee then that’s great too, but I suppose I’m acting like an unstable lighthouse swirling words out into the void to try to connect with other – broadly like-minded – human beings. Not with bots or algorithms, phishers or exotic princes with a sad story to tell involving my bank account details. Just other human beings who may want to tarry for a moment in my lair to see what I have to say about things of hopefully mutual interest.

I’ve taken a look back over the past year’s posts to see any patterns in the randomness.

My posts include various broad categories:

Books and reviews – my posts on audio books, genre mashing, and Hemingway – topical with the new series from the BBC.

Food and drink, including posts on cheese, tomato sauce and – strangely fittingly – pizza and the wonders of a pizza oven. A special mention to the Claw of the Beast.

roast chicken at Hixters restaurant London

Sport, like the Euros, but I want to put that to one side for the moment. Too sad for the glorious defeat and angry at the minority of idiots who have over-shadowed what was a joyful ride for England supporters.

Charlie George Arsenal goal celebration 1971 FA Cup final vs Liverpool

Music is one of my great loves, ranging from the blues to my favourite country crossover song ever to our open air concert in Glyndebourne last year. My piece on Spooky Bob and his Crossroads date with the Devil is the first in my intended series of stuff about my favourite blues artists.

Posts on travel have kept me embracing the wider world at a time when we have been forced to look closer to home, leading mne back to trekking in Nepal and forward to British staycations in Cheshire and, er, Aylesbury. Don’t smirk, we’re going back to Aylesbury this Summer, too. Lily the unforgettable campervan, too.

Trekking in Nepal

And everyday stuff, like uni, diets and the fierce selection of board games to play during Lockdown.

Croquet, anyone? Games and outdoor activity.

And Jasper and Pagoda, our retriever and Burmese – absolutely not everyday stuff.

That’s all for now. I look forward to the next 50, I hope you do too…

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

Can you hear the words?

Welcome to my Blog


You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, a few thoughts on the voices in your head…


Audio books are a conundrum for me.

They are an attractively packaged way to absorb a book. The words are broadly the same as in a printed or downloaded version, often abridged.

Why cut down? They reduce listening time for a not-huge novel to 10-20 hours rather than 30 or 40. A working week for some. Therein lies the nub of the problem, it doesn’t matter if it’s Charles Dance or Benedict Cumberbatch reading the book out and providing a nuanced voice to differentiate between characters’ voices. The problem for me is that it is too slowly delivered. I process a word and race for the next one which I need to carry on the flow. So why not speed it up? Making it 1.5x speed or more just makes it sound like Mickey Mouse is providing the reading voice.

So it’s too slow or too fast.

Either way, it’s relentless.

I sometimes dwell over a paragraph or re-read it in a book. That’s not possible with an audiobook without a great deal of haphazard fiddling with the buttons.

Relentless, like the tapping of the Master’s fingers…

It will keep coming until the charge runs out, and you wake up at 3 am five chapters on. The Voice is still going and you’ve no idea where in the book you lost consciousness.

I don’t know whether it’s a scientific Thing, but the words don’t seem to stick with me as much when I’m listening to them being read. It’s much easier to be distracted because there’s nothing right in front of you drawing you in. I am more absorbed in the pages of a book, paper or otherwise. (Some people can learn how to speak Swahili while listening to a tutorial tape as they sleep, so perhaps it’s the way my brain is wired.)

Why have audiobooks? Why are they so popular?

They give the gift of time.

When driving a car or gardening or doing something else active, an audiobook nearly allows the luxury of multi-tasking which, from my perspective as a male, is an alluring and usually unattainable prospect. But it comes at a cost. Keeping up with the story. Driving a car and listening to an audiobook, especially at a gripping bit, has to be one of the most dangerous ways of getting from A to B, when you want the gripping bit to be the tyres on the road. That Voice requires concentration and focus, not things one typically wants to divert from pointing a couple of tons of metal and plastic along some tarmac.

It’s a compromise, then. But sitting in a hammock on a lazy afternoon in the blazing sunshine and floating away to the past or the future or simply somewhere else without squinting at dappled pages and battling a wasp for a good view of the next paragraph is a wonderful thing, while swaying in the breeze.

It’s like having a radio station follow you around dedicated to telling you stories. A kindly nanny reading you bedtime stories. Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime on tap. It shouldn’t replace a book but, like most things, at the right time and in the right place, it can be perfect.

I am currently listening to The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter (main picture above). It’s War of the Worlds 2 with more tooled-up ETs. Like Independence Day 2 but set in Surrey. Bertie Wooster fighting off Martians. More likely, Jeeves fighting them off, having invented a fiendish secret weapon while spit-and-polishing some brogues. Unlike Wodehouse, there is strictly no humour in MoM, which is a shame, and there’s precious little soul. A little too much stiff upper lip for me. The pace is – like the audiobook – relentless, but at the same time also rather sedate. Only five hours to go, and I’m sticking with it.

What ho!

Alan

Alan Camrose

Martians, pah! Meet Dogzilla…

Watch this space

Welcome to my Blog


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, a Spring break, sort of…


I have been working on a new novel (recently completed the manuscript) and a non-fiction book, to add to my list of available titles, hence the slight break in blog posts.

We are getting ready for Jab 2, enjoying the re-invigorating weather and generally keeping busy, busy, busy…

Here’s to a warm and welcoming Summer and my normal blog-posting will be resumed shortly.

I’m thinking of re-vamping my site to spruce it up now that I’ve been at it over a year and posted 44 articles. When I get to 50, I’ll come up with something to celebrate that milestone…

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

Remember-member-member…

Welcome to my Blog


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, a university sing-along…


I have news of an exciting scientific discovery. One of our Offspring has been identified as the next evolutionary step in Mankind’s journey, a fusion of Human and Womble to tackle all challenges that beset us.

(Drum roll)

But something changed.

Out of the product of the dry ice machine and the grinding, doom-laden industrial music (and some Taylor Swift): Something Emerged into the light (at around 11 am as usual) from behind a hillock of crockery and cutlery in its Nesting Place. A hillock tall enough to warrant investigation by the Ordinance Survey guys as a separate landscape feature.

Something that rocked our world.

What has been classified in the scientific community under the Taxonomy (nothing to do with stuffing badgers) Hierarchy as:

The Anti-Womble.

A creature that creates chaos in a 500 metre radius by the sheer focus of its awesome will.

Wearing a patched set of black bags and a necklace of used vodka bottles and glitter.

The Offspring came into the light and was fed pancakes before we shipped her back to the bosom of her Uni house now that the snacks box had been decimated and the vodka oceans drained at our Ground Zero.

The dark cloud of the Anti-Womble advanced on Uni in her Mini One – a vehicle of desolation and eight-months-old empty crisp packets – to re-colonise her Uni House, a site rich with uncovered areas of floor and rug ready to be bent again to the will of the Anti-Womble, harnessing the power and restlessness of a loaf of bread that had been lurking with intent in the dread bin for four months.

Emergency services have been alerted on campus in case there is a security breach where the Anti-Womble manifests in a lecture theatre to scatter around surrounding desks an empty Costa cup holder, cup and related detritus. Fear stalks Uni land.

And then, as with the best horror movies, there is a stirring in our attic, a sting in the tale.

There is another one, dragging itself from under the duvet.

Ready to strike, with still a week and a half left until Bin Day or, as it is known in our house…

The Bin Czar* vs Anti-Womble 2 : Judgement Day

Great to see a glimmer of the real world with that Delivery and the restriction changes.

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

…you’re a Womble