58. Dublin Writers’ Conference was Simply Brexcellent


IT was the morning after Brexit and in a state of shock I was making my exit from Britain.

Boarding the flight to Dublin, I wasn’t sure exactly how my hosts would react to the shock news that Britain had voted to leave the European Union.

First impressions weren’t favourable. “I’m not sure where I should go now,” I explained to the man at Dublin Passport Control.

“Well, yous got to be joining that big long queue over there, fella,” he said, pointing to the non-EU arrivals. He couldn’t keep a straight face for long, though. “I’m kidding you. Come on through.”

I jumped in the taxi and started a conversation with the driver about the other big European issue of the day: Euro 2016. “You did well beating Italy,” I said. “If you beat France then you might meet us English in the quarter-finals.”

“Don’t know about that,” he said. “I’m from Romania. We got knocked out in the group stages. I’ve been here for 13 years. Came over to do some building work and never left.”

Nice bloke. Reasonable fare. And I was dropped off at the Castle Hotel in the City Centre which was the perfect base for the weekend I had planned. I was attending my first official 3-day Dublin Writers’ Conference with Books Go Social.

I joined this writers group shortly after my book came out, mainly because they seemed to have an incredible social media reach and many fellow Indie Authors were on their books.

The brainchild of Laurence O’Bryan, an Irishman who was disillusioned by the whole traditional publishing “monopoly”, it has been going from strength to strength since the eBook revolution and Amazon’s decision to take the plunge and back the Indie Author scene.

For me, the jury was still out on BGS, though. I can’t put a single extra sale down to the tweets that have been put out on my behalf.

This was maybe the acid test. The Annual Conference. And if I had any doubts about joining the group they were simply blown away by what, for me, was the highlight of the year.

The self-publishing professionals who attended were an absolute mine of information, whether you wanted to learn about the art of writing itself, formatting, marketing, getting your novel into book shops or even turning it into a Hollywood blockbuster.


KEN AITCHITY talks to the writers about the current state of storytelling

That was where Ken Aitchity came in. Once dubbed “The Story Merchant”, Ken is actually based in Hollywood and has produced film and TV shows, written books, lectured on writing and guided fellow authors. Who could fail to be impressed by a person whose CV reads like an A-Z of the creative arts.

Ken wasn’t alone though. Among others there was Ben Galley, an author of Dark Fantasy, started life in Croydon as a worker in a small food outlet dreaming of doing something better with his life. When he discovered self-publishing was no longer frowned upon he got in on the ground floor and has now produced 10 novels including an epic fantasy called the Emanska series.


THAT’S ME on the far left: Not asleep, just listening intently (honest!)

Ben has started a shelf-help consultancy designed to assist budding authors and his particular strength is marketing. For those like me who struggle with this aspect his talk about reader funnels was fascinating and his website is well worth a look.

Jessica Bell, too, is a legend in self-publishing. She does virtually everything herself including formatting, cover design and self-editing, while somehow finding time at home in Greece to pursue a singer/songwriting career as well.

And these were just the people I met on the first day: There was a revolving door of professionals throughout the weekend, each with their own unique take on the art of writing and self-publishing.

But perhaps the most interesting aspect is meeting fellow writers and discussing their individual journeys, reinforcing the fact you are not alone. On Friday night volunteers had a chance to read from their own work and critique each other with expert feedback from Jessica and Ben.

Through it all Laurence and his team were extremely helpful and their organisation couldn’t be faulted, with events switching between the famous Gresham Hotel and the Irish Writers’ Centre.

The Books Go Social Dublin Writers Conference was well worth the investment. I would recommend it to anyone who has been in two minds about whether to take the plunge.

Britain may have voted to split from the EU, but it’s comforting to know the writers’ community goes from strength to strength around the world.

57. The Terminator and SkyNet really exist: We just call them Google

FOR THE last two days I have been going all Sarah Connor.

Sarah, for those who like their Sci-Fi, is the hero of the early Terminator movies. Her reward for identifying the dangers of a new world dominated by technology was to be wrapped tightly in a straitjacket and stowed away from the general public.

Well, I can safely say I can see Sarah’s point. For all the new wonders that new tech has bought us, how many of us are turning into boggle-eyed raving loonies by this computer-dominated world?

The task I started on this week seemed relatively simple. I had 25 free codes to give away after Crossing The Whitewash was released as an Audio Book.

CrossingpromoSTILLWow! Fantastic. A giveaway. FREE.

Recently everyone has been telling me that the way forward to becoming a “real” author is to develop your mailing list, so those interested in your work are at your fingertips when you launch new projects.

And to start this little process what better way to build a list than with a company invented for the purposes of compiling such lists?

The most popular of these in writing circles seems to be MailChimp. As with most of these things it is COMPLETELY FREE until you get to around 2,000 subscribers.

I have been with them for about two years. My current list numbers 16, including my wife and several of my mates who, no doubt, felt sorry for me.

Here is the key, then. You set up a Facebook Ad, with a classy video like the one my narrator/producer Samuel J Haskell made for me, then invite people to click through to your website and fill out the email link, which goes to MailChimp and is forwarded to yourself. From there you send out the codes. Simple.

chimpA useful piece of technology like that – with such a cute, cuddly name, too (Awwww, MailChimp, look at him) – could hardly be part of a conspiracy to take over the world, surely?

Then it begins. Trying to set up a mailbox to get notifications sent to me of new members on the list, I am informed both my Yahoo and Gmail accounts aren’t suitable. Because messages are being sent out from a third party (MailChimp) then Yahoo and Google will think they are up to no good and attempting to steal all the goodies from your email account.

Fortunately, you can click a button which says “I’ll take that risk” which, of course, I did.

Then I ran the ads and in one day had 22 clicks for just a fiver. Not a bad start.

When I checked the Email list, though… Nothing, zilch, nada.

So 22 people clicked through to my website and, one step away from their free gift, decided “Nah, can’t be arsed with that”.

I’m sure that does happen, but all 22?

I checked the link and, lo and behold, while my website said my email address had been accepted, nothing was passed on to my MailChimp list. The technology didn’t work. This, by the way, comes after five hours of tinkering about, trying to get the Ad together on Facebook before it rejects about half the things I want to do. So this is a hair-tearing moment… No wonder I have the hairstyle of Buster Bloodvessel.

Anyway, I try everything: Building a new list, tinkering with the forms, changing the website around… nothing works. I have to suspend the ad campaign, imaging that some people will be pretty fed up with the fact they haven’t got their audio codes even though they filled in the Email box.

Finally I take the plunge. I am told I need a website with my own personal domain. Which costs money. Luckily I spent some a while ago buying the domain name for my website, so I can set one up with that.

My website is from a firm called Wix. Quite frankly they get on my Wix on regular occasions. Other lucky writers take the plunge and “employ” website designers, but I figure: I design pages on a national newspaper, what can be so difficult?

The f***ing technology, that’s what.

Anyway, on we plunge and I obtain the website incorporating my own personal domain name. I am now nickripp@theripperfile.com. Only trouble is this has to be verified. I click for it to be verified and where do I end up? Google, of course.

Now, Google already runs my computer. Everything happens through Chrome. It knows all my passwords, usernames, inside leg measurements, length of… well, you get the picture.

Apparently Google is in charge of Emails, even if you thought you were setting them up with Wix, or Go Daddy, or any number of other companies.

And Google won’t make things easy for you. Oh no. There is a “How to get verified” video that lasts five minutes. I dare anyone to watch it and NOT find their mind well and truly boggled.

I give up and try different ways. “Congrats”, pings my old email. “You now have your own Email domain!”

“No I soddin’ don’t,” I reply, ranting at the screen. Google won’t let me play!

I try a variety of other tricks, none of which work. I am supposed to stick some code on the end of my website address as verification. How? “Watch the simple-to-follow video” says Google. “F*!*”|!”

By this time my wife has run for cover, my little girl is riding around the living room on a tiny bike which goes squeak, squeak, squeak and I’ve put my head through the computer and am shouting “Here’s Nicky!!!” having just typed 3,000 times “All Google and no play makes Nick a dull boy”.

Then, without warning, and I still don’t know how… it lets me in.


Unfortunately, now my brain is mush. I am mumbling to myself. I am sweating. I am picking bugs off the wall and eating them whole because I didn’t have time for lunch, or dinner.

My wife is whispering on the phone to someone… in my paranoia I am convinced it is the men with white coats.

Of course, Google isn’t the Terminator or SkyNet. It is much more subtle than that. It is not going to destroy us with guns, or lazers, or flying, whirling machines of death. It is just going to send us all slowly  mad.


So here I am, staring blankly at my screen, the Google logo in its jolly colours taunting me in its untouchable status.

And one question is whirring around and around and around in my head: “Who died and made you boss?”

56. How Audible brought my characters to life


ANYONE who has read Crossing The Whitewash will probably agree that Arnold Dolan is a pretty terrifying character. At least, that’s how he was described by judges in the Writers’ Digest eBook awards.

This week, though, Arnie even SOUNDS terrifying. I know, because I have heard him speak.

Today I am wallowing in the satisfaction of releasing an Audio version of my UK gangland thriller, having spent four months helping to edit and perfect what I believe is a pretty impressive product.

In collaboration with a very talented young producer/narrator, Samuel J Haskell, I think we have come up with something with which we both can be pretty proud.

Don’t take my word for it, though. The book is on sale on Audible and if you take up their offer of a month’s trial you can download it for FREE and put it on your MP3 player, phone or other listening device. Better still, why not listen to the sample which is provided on the page first to see if it whets your appetite.

I am a convert to Audio books. I find they take the pain out of the mundane commute to work, though I’m not sure if I would like Arnie Dolan sitting next to me on the District Line journey from Mile End to Monument!

The book has to be pretty exciting, though, to maintain the interest, because it is easy to doze off as the tube train clickety clacks through Whitechapel and Tower Hill.

I think Samuel manages to do that, and he has also added some pretty impressive sound effects for things like loud speakers and phone conversations.

So how easy is it to produce your own audio book? Amazon’s ACX division have made it a pretty straightforward process.

All you have to do is put a sample of your book on their website and then invite people to audition for the role of narrator/producer.

Then it is a question of setting a deadline for the first 15-minute sample, followed by a deadline for completion. You have to agree a fee – which can be done either as a flat rate of a certain amount per hour, or as a share of the profits.

With Samuel I agreed BOTH but unfortunately ACX don’t have a provision for that so he will just have to hope I am honest about how much money we rake in.

I paid Sam £750, which may seem a lot, but over that period of four months he certainly earned his corn. He was able to put up chapters a few at a time for me to listen to, and I then sent him corrections or comments if I didn’t think things sounded quite right. There was a lot of back and forth before we got it exactly how we wanted it, and Sam – a trained film producer – also threw in the promotional video that you can see here.

I think I got a bargain but, as it was his first experience of ACX too, I believe the experience for both of us has been invaluable.

At the end of it all, one simple click on the writer’s part and the audio book goes to the ACX techies for final approval, which they carry out as soon as the producer confirms he has been paid.

It’s interesting to know, too, that every time someone signs up for the one-month free trial with Audible and makes your book their first order, you earn $50. Whether I will get my money back I don’t know… but, to be perfectly honest, hearing characters I have created like Arnie, Gary and The Legend talk has been priceless.


53. Don’t apologise for being an Indie, we’re cool. Learn the lesson of Tarrantino and Co

I’VE just found a blog post which absolutely sums up the way I feel about writing and Indie publishing. If you want something new, bright and refreshing don’t bother too much about the trad published stuff: in my opinion they just see a formula that has worked in the past and hammer it.

How many times have you read a book and thought: This plot and the characters are awfully similar to something I read not that long ago? If it’s by the same writer I sometimes wonder whether there is a writing team back at Big Press Towers who are just following a formula to produce the next bestseller. Admittedly,  there are a fair number of Indies who follow tried and tested formulas (vampire stories, anyone?) but that’s probably because another Indie came in to break the mold and put them back in fashion. It just stands to reason, you are much more likely to find something new and original in the Indie pile.

So if you think you have a story to tell don’t wait for the big agent or publisher to come to you… be brave, be bold and put it out there. It worked for some in the film industry who got fed up of banging on the doors of the big studios and just did it. There is plenty of help out there these days to help write, edit, proofread, publicise and market your book… why not just go for it.

Use this article as your inspiration

52. Why TV drama Broadchurch was a turn-off for best-selling author Peter James

WE all loved Broadchurch. It was a gripping TV drama about a childkiller set in the heart of homely Dorset.

Every week we tuned in to see if David Tennant’s troubled Detective Inspector Alec Hardy and his sidekick, the feisty Detective Superintendent Ellie Miller, could crack the case.

Well I say we, but in one particular house in Sussex the first time DI Hardy visited the murder scene it had internationally renowned crime author Peter James reaching for the off button.

I was lucky enough to get a chat with the great man himself after the London Book Fair recently, and my main article can be found here on the Express website.

Peter, 67, has written 12 novels around his character, the Brighton DS Roy Grace, and gave an enthralled gathering of authors the inside information on how he does it. And key to it all is that nasty little word research.

If there is one thing that makes me groan out loud it’s research. I’m a writer and I want to write. I want to sit down at my computer and get on with it, rather than spending hours in the local library pouring over books or writing Emails to experts before waiting vainly for the reply that never comes.

Unfortunately it is also one of the most important tools in a writer’s armoury. In Peter’s list of priorities for a good novel it comes second, behind characters and in front of plot.

So back to Broadchurch. Peter has fantastic contacts among the police community which have helped him bring Roy Grace’s world to life.

He says: “Some of these police shows on TV really annoy me. They rarely emulate what happens in real life.

“I remember the crime scene in Broadchurch after the little kid had fallen off the cliff. All the men turn up in their white suits so they don’t contaminate the crime scene, then David Tenant arrives in just his normal clothes and breezes in.

“The Crime Scene manager would never let that happen. The first officer to arrive secures the scene and then no one, it doesn’t matter who they are, is going to be allowed in without being fully suited.”

Peter talks of another incident where he picked up a crime book set in the UK by an American author. “He had one of his main characters driving up the M25 to Birmingham,” said Peter. “I thought: if he can’t be bothered to find a simple road map online then he can’t be much cop.”


Talking of cops, Peter didn’t start out life as a crime writer. Originally he wrote spy novels.

He explains: “Ian Fleming had just died and I thought there must be a vacancy in the spy thriller genre so I wrote a book called Dead Letter Drop. To my complete surprise it got published but to my even greater surprise it didn’t sell – I think I offloaded about 1500 copies.

“I decided I needed a publicist so went to Tony Mullikan (Midas PR) who booked me on a Nationwide Tour. I visited nearly every town and city in the UK, went on TV and radio stations to give interviews, then published my follow-up book Atom Bomb Angel. It sold 1750 copies.

“Then I was told, ‘You will never succeed if you write about something you cannot research. Find something you’re passionate about.

“Then I had a massive stroke of luck. We got burgled. The policeman who came around, a Detective Constable, saw my books on the shelf and told me if I ever needed help with my research to get in touch.

“Me and my wife then met up socially with him and his wife, who was also a detective, and we became good friends. Through that initial relationship I’ve met lots of people associated with the police, like Scenes of Crimes Officers and such, and found them fascinating. I figure no one sees more in a 30-year career than a copper. These people are incredibly resourceful.”

Peter started being inviting me out on patrol, to crime scenes and to the mortuary for post mortems. They gave him invaluable insights on which to base his books.

Now he enjoys his research saying: “When I set out writing a book it’s nice that I am learning a little bit about the world, too.”

He is branching out soon to launch his own YouTube channel. It’s worth keeping an eye on so check out Peter’s website here for the May 19 launch.

As for me, I still see research as evil, but after talking to Peter I realise it’s a necessary one…


51. To join KDP select or not join KDP select… that’s the big question


INDIE AUTHORS have a great deal to thank Amazon for – in many ways the revolution in writing has been led by them.

Createspace, Kindle and ACX are all valuable weapons in a writer’s armoury once they decide to self-publish.

Through Createspace you have the ability to produce a physical book, with a professional cover and quality printing, which can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with anything turned out by the traditional publishing giants.

Meanwhile, Kindle has led the way in the astonishing rise in digital books over the last few years while ACX is now allowing Indie Authors to bring their stories to life in the form of Audio Books. Once put together and produced with a narrator, they can then be distributed and sold through Amazon’s Audible branch.

In the past, sick of rejection slips or ignorant firms who refused to even answer our emails, potential authors no doubt put their hard work on the fire, admonished themselves for being such terrible writers and gone back to the day job.

Now there is an alternative – and it is something which is growing in popularity so much that even traditionally published authors are considering the alternatives: whether that means going the whole hog and doing everything off your own bat, or enlisting help through the “hybrid” companies. More of those in a future blog entry, though.

I spent a day at the London Book Fair a couple of weeks ago and found the Author Central section crammed with writers eager to learn more about this brave new world in which they have the power to publish in their own hands.

Perhaps their biggest problem now is getting their work “seen” – without the aid of the vast marketing machines the trad-pub companies can call upon.

It takes a lot of hard work and tinkering – trying to use Amazon’s algorithms to your best advantage – not to mention paying for advertising through social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter.

And it is tempting at this early stage to find a method of giving away your book free so that you can get it into the hands of more people and rise up the book “charts”.

This is something that Amazon encourages, too. They invite authors producing eBooks to enlist in KDP select, which means you give them exclusive rights to sell your novel any way they want.

Join Kindle Unlimited, for instance, and the reader gets a whole library full of self-published books to delve into, picking and choosing, their subscription money going into a central pool, rather than payment for books going to individual authors.

The big advantage of KDP Select is that Amazon positively discriminate in favour of those that sign up, giving their books better visibility and special promotion. But at what price to Indie Authors in the long term?

To join Select or not join Select is now the big question, to misquote Shakespeare in the week of his 400th birthday.

It seems to me the more cards KDP Select holds, the more the writer’s work is being devalued.

cokerMark Coker, co-founder of Smashwords, gave his own thoughts on the matter in a video talk entitled 10 trends driving the future of publishing. It’s worth watching.


50. Climbing the charts like a Take That comeback single

SIX months ago if my sales graph had been a print-out from a life support machine doctors would have pulled the plug. To say things were flat lining would be like suggesting the Alps were “a bit hilly”.

Tonight I am basking in the heady atmosphere of being no 43 in the Urban Kindle sales rankings, having tried every trick in the book to resuscitate my baby.

Well, as an Indie Author, you can never give up hope, can you? The traditional publishers might whisk the plug out as if they had finished the ironing, rather than destroyed a promising career. We have a greater emotional attachment to our sickly child.

In the case of Crossing the Whitewash it had taken me four years hard labour to give it life and I wanted it to have every chance of succeeding.

To be fair I had plenty of advice about how to revive the patient, but the trick is deciding what is genuine help and what is designed to make a quick buck out of you. You have to wise up to those blowing on your neck telling you a hurricane is on its way, and it isn’t easy.

Still, by experimenting with Twitter and Facebook ads, changing categories and key words, and enlisting help from Social Media experts claiming to have hundreds of thousands of followers, the recovery has been a steady one.

The problem is I have no way of gauging what has worked and what has not. I just know that over the last month or so sales of my beloved novel have looked much rosier – in terms of Kindle anyway.

The fact none of the big bookshops will stock my novel, even though I emphasised my connections with Bristol, Wales and London and made a big selling point of the fact the Rugby World Cup – a backdrop for the novel – was taking place last September and October, has been hugely disappointing.

Tonight, though, I am pretty happy. In the hourly Amazon rankings I see that in this country my novel has reached an all-time high at no. 10,508 of all Kindle paid sales, fiction and non-fiction (and if you knew how many people are trying to flog books in this format you would know why I am so impressed). In the Urban category I have broken through the top 50 barrier. Admittedly it is one of the more “niche” genres but even so it gives my heart a flutter to see my baby actually featuring in one of the best-sellers charts.



Of course, the spin off of this is that my novel is likely to be seen by more potential readers. With 24 reviews, 16 of which are 5 stars, it should begin to feature much higher on the search engines, which will improve its visibility for potential readers.

At £1.99 Crossing is still in the virtual bargain bin, of course, so there is little hope of making any profit or giving up the day job. The first ambition, though, is to establish myself as an author and with the latest news I think I can say I am starting to do that.

I’ve got some new marketing tricks to try out over the coming months in the hope of raising sales even further. An audio book is in production and there are plans to promote it through a video in conjunction with my narrator and producer friend Samuel Haskell.

The key, eventually, is to establish a fan base and hopefully then those four or five sales a day will multiply handsomely.

arnie ad

Meanwhile, the current Facebook ad seems to be the one pulling them in. I’ve made a strength of the fact the American eBook competition judge described Arnie Dolan as terrifying, and I’m delighted to say it must be working.


49. There is a snobbery barrier erected by traditional publishing industry

THERE is a lot of old rubbish out there – novels which should never have seen the light of day.

That’s certainly a view many take about self-publishing: that because the writer failed to interest an agent or one of the big publishing houses their work isn’t worth a cursory glance.

With the massive rise in self-publishing it shouldn’t be surprising that some of the fayre on offer is hard to stomach. But then again I’ve read plenty of bilge masquerading as literary genius churned out by traditional publishers, including novels by some of the industry’s biggest names.

On occasion I have taken the plunge and bought the next release from a best-selling author, only to consider it to be hugely disappointing, poorly written and badly researched.

I have even found myself questioning whether the author actually wrote the book, or whether a well-honed team of editors, plot developers, proof readers and researchers put together the new release by committee just to keep the cash rolling in.

Let’s be honest, it is hard enough to write one novel, let alone churn out one or two every year as some writers seem to do.

In my view, self-publishing at its finest is an antidote to this tunnel-vision way that the mainstream publishers view things. If you are looking for something bright, new and entirely original you are far more likely to find it if you wade through the lists of self-published authors out there. I grant you, though, finding the gems can be hard.

Someone has to break the mould some time, though, or we’ll be reading the same plot lines and ideas for time immemorial.

You could compare it to the indie music boom, when hard-working, original bands fought back and released their own records after being constantly ignored by the mainstream companies, who preferred talentless acts because they looked good and had a decent gimmick. To a certain extent the Indie labels won, and we have all reaped the benefits.

This week I attended a meeting of the admirable London Writers Cafe, a group organised by the dedicated Lisa Goll for people intent on seeing their work appear in print.

The guest was Louise Buckley, a former editor with one of the traditional publishing giants who has taken the leap to become a bigger fish in a smaller pond. In short, she is an agent with Zeno Agency and is keen to build her client list.



Louise’s main brief was to explain what she would look for in an author’s opening page, and there were some very useful hints and tips on covering letters, synopses and first chapters.

I did ask her whether she would consider taking on self-published authors, though, and her response was pretty emphatic. She said no traditional publisher would be interested in taking on a book which has already been published, so she would only consider a self-published author if they were offering up completely new material.

This surprised me seeing as the company she used to work for – Pan MacMillan – gave Kerry Wilkinson a nine-book deal on the back of his first three self-published novels and, no doubt, repackaged and promoted his original material, too.

Of course, Kerry was a No.1 Amazon bestseller so he is an exception to the rule, but surely an agent should be willing to take on a self-published author on the strength of what they have already achieved?

On that note, I see that Rachel Abbott – another self-publishing success story – does have an agent in the highly-regarded Lizzy Kremer.



Rachel has done wonders off her own bat, and the fact she still seems to bump into this “snobbery” given her fantastic number of readers and followers is hard to credit. Her Guardian article this week is a real eye-opener…

47. Closing the Nook


Say it fast and a Nook eReader sounds like a person addicted to steamy romances.

To be perfectly honest, I’d never heard of one, never used one and never seen one before I decided to go into the publishing game. In fact, I had to google it to obtain this picture.nookereader

However, when I published my novel Crossing The Whitewash plenty of people suggested that I should make it available in this format for digital readers.

Barnes & Noble developed this particular eReader as their answer to Amazon’s Kindle and another device I’ve never seen, Kobo, which has being plugged quite ferociously in WH Smith’s lately.

So, of course, I loaded my novel to all these platforms and waited for the royalties to flood in.

Unfortunately, while Kindle sales have taken off and at the weekend I reached #12,600 in the “charts” and 52 in the Urban category – more successful than an All Saints reunion I might suggest – sales on Nook have been zero, zilch, nada.

Recently I wrote to them and suggested they might like to plug the book and they obliged. I was featured on new reads, but unfortunately they put the wrong blurb with the book which meant anyone buying it would be in for a shock.

The writing accompanying the book jacket suggested it was some sci-fi adventure, rather than a gritty UK gangland thriller. I made nine sales (a vast improvement on none), but wonder how many complained and got a refund.


To be fair, it seems to have pushed me up in the Nook First (the debut novel section) best-sellers list, anyhow.

Still, I mentioned the error to Nook and they graciously offered me another free promotion in the future, maybe to coincide with the Writer’s Digest Award announcement. Great!

Except now I read this… Barnes and Noble are pulling the plug on the Nook, cutting their losses. Oww!

I’m not quite sure what it means. After all, apparently Sainsbury’s are taking over sales in the UK. Confusing.

And there was I thinking it’s time for you Nook owners to put it up in the loft, next to your Betamax videoplayer, Sinclair C5, DeLorean sports car and complete collection of Robert Maxwell’s 24-hour newspaper.

Can anyone throw any more light on this?




46. Great one-liners

PERHAPS it’s because I’m a journalist that I believe the sadly departed David Nobbs wrote one of the greatest opening lines I have read in a book.

“Henry Pratt stared in disbelief at the first word he had ever had in print. It was ‘Thives’.”

The second sentence goes on to say: “The full story read ‘Thives who last night broke into the Blurton Road home of Mrs Emily Braithwaite (73) stole a coat, a colander and a jam jar containing £5 in threepenny bits’.”

Those of us who fell foul of the old-fashioned typesetters and readers at our local rags will know exactly how the star of “Pratt of the Argus” felt.

I’ve been tinkering about, trying to find the perfect way to start my new novel Header.

Originally it was going to be a novella but the more I developed the idea, the more it has grown.

I wouldn’t say it is a sequel to Crossing The Whitewash, more a prequel as it is based around Arnie Dolan’s career-criminal dad Big Mo and his relationship with his wife Beryl and eldest son Chuck. Hopefully it answers some questions posed by the first book.

Taking place in the early 80s, it has enabled me to reminisce about those times, looking back at the music, the politics and the fashion.

I think I know where I am going with the plot, but one thing that is definitely a work in progress is the first line.

The ability of a first line to draw you into a story cannot be underestimated. I guess it should ask questions of its readers, inviting them to peel away the answers bit by bit.

I always remember my mum quoting the first line of Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities at me: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” A paradox, begging the reader to ask why it was so good, and what was so bad about it? There’s your hook, right there.

In more modern times I recall reading Stephen King’s It, about a scary clown figure that terrorises the children of a small town in Maine. It’s longer, but has exactly the same kind of magnetism to pull you into the story.

“The terror, which would not end for another twenty eight years – if it ever did end – began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.” It seems a bit long winded but drags you straight in at the deep end, as it were.

Another good one liner is George Orwell’s 1984. “It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen.” Intriguing.

As with Whitewash, I am considering starting my new novel in a prison – on this occasion with Chuck visiting his father, who has just been transferred to HMP Isle of Wight.

Now, Chuck may be the visitor but he isn’t exactly a good boy, as those who’ve read the first book will know. So I’m dabbling with this…

“Every time he heard the rattle of keys, clunk of tumblers and creak of rust-infected hinges, Chuck Dolan has the irrational fear he might never emerge into sunlight again.”

As I said, though, a work in progress and no doubt it will become something completely different by the time I get around to finishing it.

In the meantime, why not let me know your favourite first lines and why? Free copy of the Paperback copy of Crossing The Whitewash for the person who offers up the one I deem the best.

Meanwhile if anyone can give me any of the inside gen on HMP Isle of Wight I’d be delighted to hear from you. Contact me by email at nickrippington@yahoo.co.uk