Archive | January, 2012

eBooks and the future

23 Jan

After finishing university I ended up with a good degree in a subject which offered no direct entry into any job except teaching. So, at the very end of 1977 I ended up as a trainee computer programmer. I’ve almost entirely made a living by working on computers since then, in all sorts of jobs, mainly as a software technical author. When describing how computers were in 1977, you need to know that they were very large, very expensive and very difficult to access.  I owned a very early PC, which was almost unbelievably underpowered.  My first notepad computer is now a museum piece.

Then there is digital photography, which I have been involved with for about a decade. Before that I took rolls and rolls of film on 35mm on a very good Pentax SLR. In a cardboard box in a wardrobe I have several thousand negatives which I must scan in more, as they contain so many family memories. The quality of digital cameras has improved in much the same rate as computers and any other digital device. There is always the danger of being the man who opted for Betamax and HD DVD. I have given away all my VHS cassettes, and am only on DVD/Blu Ray for video these days. The point of these rambling reminiscences is that today’s technology uses file formats which will, in all probability not play on a new device in a few years time.

On my bookshelves I still have a number of books from my undergraduate days, which started forty years ago. I can still take these books off the shelf and read them, and I sometimes do. If I wanted to, I can have my negatives printed off. Now what will happen to the eBooks I purchase in ten years time. Admittedly, there are literally hundreds of pounds weight of books around the house, and many of these I am unlikely to look at again. Maybe I should dispose of these to a local charity shop, but I am adverse to getting rid of books. In the Cathedral in my local provincial city, Hereford, there is a chained library. In medieval times, books were so valuable they were quite literally chained up. The writers of these books still have their work available six or seven hundred years after they were written. Can any writer of eBooks imagine the same happening to their works?

Technology moves on, as do file formats. If we are to hope for the survival of work for even five years we must encourage the standards agencies to create open standards which are backwardly compatible, while developing new possibilities to enthral and encourage readers. Just don’t expect that Kindle you bought two years ago to be useful in five years time.


Looking for a villain

16 Jan

It’s the pantomime season here in Britain. If you don’t know the artform, it’s a little difficult to explain why there is a man dressed up as a woman and the leading boy is, rather obviously, a girl. Nonetheless, there is one part in the patomime which is easily the most fun to play, and that is the villain. There has been a bit of a complaint this side of the pond that many Hollywood movies, especially the action ones, have British actors as the main villains. Personally, I don’t have a problem with this. They are just following the old tradition of the pantomime villain. Think moustache-twirling, eye-rolling, maniacal laughter, chewing the carpet etc.

Well, this year, in our village pantomime I am playing the villain, and it is a hoot. At the same time, I am trying to complete the second in my series of novels. But I am unhappy with the villain I currently have. If you have heroic deeds being done you need a decent villain to work against. What would Sherlock be without Moriarty? or Robin hood without the Sheriff of Nottingham? As part of the process of artistic cross-fertilization, or synthesis, if you prefer, I am now going to give the book villain some of the qualities of the pantomime villain.

Oh, and I just looked it up, and the book has now sold 507 copies in 3 and a bit days – way-hey!

Where now?

16 Jan

The spy thriller novel, Troubled Waters by Jon Wakeham is currently the number one download on the UK Amazon Kindle site in its genre. It was until two days ago the number four download in this genre in the US. If you are an agent or publisher, what is being offered is a successful product, the first of a series of novels concerning the same core characters, and leading from 1909 until the outbreak of WWI.

There is now an established market for this series, and what I want to achieve is a successful print run of the book, with the necessary publicity and cover art, in order to gain greater recognition and sales.

The second in the series is due in June this year. The aim is to produce literate novels, not literary work. The research is of good quality, and there should be a high recognition factor of the real life characters who appear in the story.

One reviewer has described the leading character as ‘James Bond’s father,’ and has highlighted the main plot line running throughout the series, which is the development of the intelligence agencies which became MI6 and MI5.

Wow – #4

14 Jan

Since putting my book on as a special offer under Kindle Select I have shipped several hundred copies (400 in 2 days). This makes me #4 in the genre.

#4 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Mystery & Thrillers > Thrillers > Spy Stories & Tales of Intrigue

Check it out:

I’m beginning to believe that this is working out well

Flying off the shelves

13 Jan

I put my book, Troubled Waters, onto Kindle Select a couple of weeks ago in an effort to shift more copies. Two days ago I opted to put a special offer on the book. For five days, starting yesterday, the book is available for a free download. I have been looking at the reports on Kindle Direct Publishing. After only a couple of sales since Christmas, I was a bit dazed to find that 227 people had downloaded the book for free. Of course, none of the money comes to me from that. I have to trust in the quality of the product and trust that some people will read and appreciate the book, and they like it enough to recommend it to their groups and friends and perhaps put glowing reviews on Amazon.

You can find the book here:

Being on Amazon Select, the book is unavailable elsewhere, but come and have a look at the other books on my web site,

And to those who have downloaded the book, I hope you enjoy it.

And a link to the Facebook page for Troubled Waters:

Special Promotion

12 Jan

My book, ‘Troubled Waters, is available for the next five days as a free download through the Amazon Kindle site. This is a special promotion through the Kindle Select program.

If you take up this offer , I would greatly appreciate a glowing review on Amazon. The idea is, after all, to shift a few more copies. It is selling quite well, but I need to get some momentum going in order to make enough money to keep on writing. You can find the book on:

I also have a facebook page for the book:

Pay that a visit and say you like it

Historical fiction and the value of history

11 Jan

In order to get a perspective on where you are now it is certainly helpful to know where you came from and how you got there. That is unless you subscribe to the statement of Doctor Pangloss that all is for the best, in this, the best of all possible worlds. In this age of information overload and unreason it is increasingly difficult to know what to believe unless you use your critical faculties and an attuned BS detector.

The study of history, if it involves some research and the examination of the texts which represent the raw material of information, is one of the best forms of training for a detective. The two types of university degree the Police in the UK primarily look for are History and Psychology. This kind of training can help you work out what can be relied on and what should be flagged up as problematic.

The worst kind of history is the reletivist position, where all stories are regarded as equally valid. If some information comes from a source that is deeply prejudiced, stupid or ignorant, it must be considered to be of less value than if it comes from a thoughtful and reliable source.

The second bad type of history is that which makes assumptions before it starts and comes in half-way through the story. Much of the history I learned in school suffered from that point of view, and I always found it to be condescending of my teachers that they could not trust me with more of the truth.There is nothing which cannot be questioned or must be regarded as sacred in the texts.

There are some wonderful stories in the past, which is what history is really about. Many of the characters you come across are more interesting and remarkable than any fictional character. If you are writing historical fiction you must be careful to keep the narrative true, or you may become a propogandist for a particular political opinion. For an example of this, take the film ‘Braveheart’, which a leading Sc ottish acadenic described as, ‘A remarkable film. It manages to get every significant detail wrong, including who Braveheart was.’ (The Scots used to bring Robert the Bruce’s heart in a casket with them into battle. This was the “Brave Heart”). There are scottish nationalists who implicitly believe in the narrative of the film, and hate the English because of this belief. Nearer to the truth is that William Wallace was an Anglo-Norman leader fighting another Anglo-Norman leader. Only the sword and arrow fodder were locals.