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Free Christmas eBook

Many, many thanks!


Alan Camrose


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 Camrose

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.



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.

It’s guano get ugly

The return of the Scarlet Pipistrelle

First night of our Summer hols. Couple of glasses of wine, nicely settled into the Old Rectory that we rented for a week. Blissful sleep.

Then it came.

Claws. Fangs. Leathery.

And that was just Offspring One, crashing into our bedroom at 2:00 am.

“There’s a bat in my bathroom! A bat!”

Still waking up, “How big?”

“What’s that got to do with it? There’s a bat in my bathroom!!”

Awkward. There’s a strict No Pets requirement for staying in the house. And it had been advertised as a B&B, not standing for Bed & Bat.

“I closed the door, maybe it’ll fly back out of the open window?’


Visions of a hulking leather-winged beast lurking in theshadows.

“Let’s keep your door shut,” I said, not wanting to turn this into a wildlife safari in the middle of the night.

I called Reception, “I know this is a bit odd but we have found a bath in my son’s batroom at the Rectory.. Sorry, it’s late. A bat in his bathroom.”

The man on Reception was unruffled, “There are six types of bat on the estate. They’re endangered species, you know.”

“My son’s feeling pretty endangered.”

“Do you know what type of bat?”

“An unwanted bat. Can you send someone over to catch it and let it out?”

I’m afraid not. No-one on the staff has a bat-catching licence.”

“A bat-catching licence?”

“Otherwise it’s illegal. They’re endangered , remember?”

“Ah yes. So what do we do?”

“If it doesn’t leave, we’ll have to call in the bat people.”

“Bat people?”

International Bat of Mystery

Uncontrolled, spitting, gasping mirth. Heroic effort to maintain the conversation. Dinnah-dinnah-dinnah-dinnah-dinnah-dinnah-dinnah-dinnah Bat-people. Does Robin come with them, too?

“We probably won’t need them. Don’t worry, sir, it will probably be gone by morning.” I could hear him smiling, “There’s no charge for an extra guest. This happens a fair bit. The poor thing probably got lost on the way to the belfry next door.’

I supposed it was like the bat looking for a new home. Maybe a TV series would be made about that.

They could call it Echo-Location, Echo-Location, Echo-Location.

The bat was nowhere to be seen in Offspring One’s room, even though we sought him here and sought him there, we damn well sought him everywhere. He had dutifully flitted off by the morning. No need for the Bat-phone., but since then I have noticed one thing:

The windows in the Rectory have never been so tightly shut.



Alan Camrose

With thanks to Johannes Giez and Igam Ogam for the bat pics.

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?


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.


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.


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.



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 >

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!



Alan Camrose

Gallery view

Welcome to my Blog

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

This time, I take a trip around my Art Gallery to share with you…

Last time, I wrote about painting. Painting the fence in my back garden. I thought I would share with you a few items from when I used to play with thinner paint brushes. And pencils. They were done a while ago, but I guarantee that I had more fun with them than with the fence.

I enjoy the discipline of drawing and painting, and the danger of making the next mark on the canvas or drawing pad where it hangs in the balance whether that will spoil or enhance the offering.

I write books and this blog with a view to exercising my creative muscles, but I have over the years dallied with an easel rather than a keyboard.

I hope you enjoy my sojourn through my sketchbooks and folders.

First up is a self-portrait of me at the Hong Kong Sevens in the 1990s, concentrating on supping my beer with the pitch in the background. That would have been after the Bloody Marys for breakfast to wash down legions of sausage sandwiches, staving off the pain of watching Fiji and the All-Blacks yet again contesting the Final. That pain is reflected in the glowing colours of my pint.

More Asian influence comes from the Balinese puppet that I have included, a still life of the jointed figure bought in a street market. The crumpled form not only reflects the marionette’s posed form, but also chimes with how the day ended after those beers above…

Finally for now, I have included a picture of my junk in Hong Kong Harbour (Hong Kong means ‘Fragrant Harbour’ in Chinese – a tragic example of wishful thinking), on which I would have slept on the top deck as it meandered home:

That’s all for now…



Alan Camrose

Gold Medal Fencing

Welcome to my Blog

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

This time, I hope this post will make you Epée …

We decided to do some Olympic fencing. My bad. I mis-understood. We did fence painting instead.

Regardless, if there were an Olympic Gold awarded for that discipline, then I reckon I’d be in with a shot. There’s skateboarding and surfing, so why not fence painting?

Anyway, last week, we only found time to work on fence posts in my garden, not blog posts. The only worry is that the medal would be only a Silver – Silver Birch Grey, rather than Gold. That was a clear possibility given the artistic spray of paint around the arena. Think of it as a similar artistic exercise to Rhythmic Gymnastics with a ribbon. But with paint.

All for the glory with the Olympic Rings…

The majesty of the Olympic Rings

And then, of course, there’s the mechandising:

Official kit merchandising – available now

It all felt like more of a Marathon, or perhaps more accurately the Pentathlon:

Pressure wash


First Coat

Second Coat



I thought of it as a triumphant debut, never having painted anything before except maybe an Airfix aircraft or two when I was a kid, and they always came out Smudge Brown. This time it was a team event. A relay. Three of us in the team, handing over the baton (more to the point, brushes) as we worked our way round.

But we reached the Finish Line, well the bit of the finish Line not covered over by paint splashes.

It has taught me that I can do this sort of thing, but unlike the Olympics I want to leave it to the professionals in the future…I think I will quit while I’m ahead – the pressure will give me (more) grey hairs.

Silver Birch Grey.

Someone else can carry the torch from now on…

The Olympic Flame



Alan Camrose

En garden

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…



Alan Camrose