Archive for the ‘Personal Bloggers’ Category

The Passing of Paper

Posted on the March 28th, 2017 under Personal Bloggers by

Smash logo and brand identity(Photo credit: Wikipedia)I follow quite a few legacy publishers on Twitter and suffer from the not infrequent urge to block them as I stare, open-jawed, at their attempts at what they clearly think is ‘marketing’. Where most self-published authors have worked out, often by trial and error, that ‘buy my book’ doesn’t work, publishers are frequently to be found out there using Twitter as a broadcast medium.My least favourite of an ugly bunch are the guys who have clearly logged into Twitter for their daily session (“Dave does Twitter from 4-5pm, then goes through the slush pile”) who then retweet anything nice said about them or one of their authors. To the luckless recipient of this gold, a timeline suddenly packed with retweets of breathless praise for Dave’s publishing house, event or client’s book until Dave runs out of RT cruft. At this point, if you’re really unlucky, you’ll get Dave asking you what’s your favourite colour or what book changed your life as he practices his ‘engagement’ skills.The example that flashed across my disbelieving eyes last night, however, took the proverbial biscuit:It ticks every ‘shit use of Twitter by a publisher’ box I can think of. What, you mean if I pre-order this book and send you proof that I have, indeed, placed a pre-order, you’ll actually send ME a real whole honest-to-goodness PDF file containing chapter one of the book I can’t read yet? I am SO grateful! I can’t begin to thank you! Really! A whole chapter one of a book I just paid for but can’t read as a crappy, bitty PDF (like the ones torrent sites serve) just for little me? Squee!These are just a few examples of how legacy publishers are struggling to get their heads around marketing, promotion and distribution in a post-paper world. We’re not quite there yet, of course – there’s still a lot of papery stuff around. But anyone not habitually wedded to a paper-based business model can see that the consumption of ideas, information and narrative on mushed-up dead trees and bleached old knickers (paper) is moving to a diverse and often inter-connected ecosystem of devices with blinding speed. When we are using those devices, we are not pleased to be ‘disrupted’ and, in a device-centric world, the publishers’ ability to use their market power – sales teams stocking retailers – is minimal. They’re no better off than the rest of us. The Internet, as we have been seeing since 1995, is a great leveller.The idea that there is value in selling information encoded in a ‘book’ or indeed any other conventionally printed product now belongs in a Cadbury’s Smash advert. When was the last time you looked at a paper map? I fondly recall driving across Scotland in 1988, following a printout from Autoroute 1.0 and picking up some hitch hikers who, when they found out I was following a computer programme around Scotland, became very nervous indeed and wanted let out early. They clearly thought I was a madman. It’s taken a while, sure enough, but the paper map today is (along with the dedicated GPS device, incidentally) a thing of the past. The ability to contextualise information based on a layer over the ‘real’ world is incredibly powerful. It’s why Google has invested so much in building that layer with Earth, Streetview and the like. Apple is rumoured to be making a huge play in ‘Augmented Reality’. Not only are we consuming information about where we’re going totally differently, we can clearly see around the corner a world where we won’t care where we’re going. We’ll just tell the car to go there and it’ll tell us how long it intends to take and then provide us some entertainment of our choice as we travel. It’ll probably be plotting to kill us, but that’s another kettle of fish.Newspapers are clearly in the throes of another aspect of the movement of information online. In their case they’re having to struggle with the reduction of value in two ways – the loss of revenue from people buying papers and that of advertisers willing to pay to reach those readers. The problem becomes one of scale – the news gathering resource and reach of a quality newspaper is expensive – and when you devalue the good through information ubiquity, you lose the ability to pay for large teams of journalists. Who will custodiet custodes, then? Smaller teams working more efficiently – but also a slew of copycats, content farms and repurposers. Quality content has to fight harder to cut through the rubbish. It’s messy out there, but there’s one thing that’s certain – nobody’s interested in print anymore – and the revenue models for print don’t translate online, the scale doesn’t work at cents per click. Not only do you not have the resources for big newsrooms, presses and distribution networks, you arguably don’t need them.Print books are a good whose price is set entirely on its own inefficiency. The cover price of a book consists entirely of percentages based on the cost of print – including the author’s royalty and distribution. A tiny proportion goes to editorial costs. Oh, and profit. Let’s not forget profit. An author is remunerated on a percentage of the revenue generated by the book as, indeed, is a distributor – the latter gets a whopping 50% of cover price. You could perhaps see how publishers would be wedded to this model – it has been thus for the past century or so. That’s the way we do it around here, see?When you go online, you not only rip out the costs of print and distribution and sales returns/stock loss but you also tear down the sales network publishers have depended on for so long. Bookshops are dead, sales are taking place on platforms the publishers don’t own, control or influence. And so that most passive of sales environments (the long shelves packed with attentive soldiers of stiff-spined papery joy, the tick of the clock, Mildred sitting behind the till, reading and leaving you to have a nice, long browse) has been transformed into an online nightmare of conflicting shrill demands for people’s time and attention.In this brave new world, publishers no longer offer the significant scale they used to. Even the media they retain privileged access to are less powerful. Physical book retail is on a massive decline, despite constant announcements by ‘the industry’ that ebook sales are under pressure. These are mendacious and statistically skewed to an amazing degree – and they’re quite poignant, in their way. ‘It’s going to be okay, chaps, you’ll see’ – that brave last sentence nobody quite believes, but they’re all grateful for as they all walk into the hail of enemy gunfire.The one thing publishers had to offer authors was scale. Scale of marketing, distribution, recognition. That’s a product of marketing. Rip out the sales channel and go online and you’ve got some serious problems on your hands unless you can get your head around building serious online scale. Legacy big-hitters like JK Rowling or Neil Gaiman have made the leap and brought their audiences online with them and have massive reach on platforms like Twitter.Publishers haven’t. And they really don’t know how to do it. They can’t believe they need to do it. And they won’t resource to do it properly because they’re still clinging on to that last log in the sea.Or, as an old pal once said to me (of literary agents, but never mind, it fits today’s legacy publishers too), “They’re like eunuchs in the Ottoman court. They see it happening all around them; they know what it is that’s happening. But they’re totally incapable of doing it for themselves!”

The Great Emirates Laptop Ban

Posted on the March 22nd, 2017 under Personal Bloggers by

Abu NidalAbu Nidal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)It is notable that the UK, in slavishly following the ‘security advice’ of close ally the USA, has not included the UAE and Qatar in its version of the great laptop ban. It takes no great stretch of the imagination or cognitive leap to infer that this ban has a commercial implication, working as it does directly to the detriment of the three global airlines operating a ‘feeder flight’ model out of the UAE and Qatar.The biggest threat to the three is a loss of business class travellers, probably the only people who will lose out significantly. While it’s great for parents to provide kids with tablets to keep them entertained (those of us without children clearly think this is just bad parenting, but that’s quite another kettle of marmosets), Emirates’ much-lauded ICE entertainment system offers films, music, games across literally thousands of channels. The big hit comes when you lose that precious work time.The solution appears to me to be blindingly simple – and if EK moves fast enough, they could get in a massive media hit out of this one. Buy in 100 Chromebooks, 600 Lenovo Ultrabooks and 300 Macbook Airs. Load them with MS Office. Provide them on loan to business class passengers (they could be booked at time of flight booking or even online check-in) who can bring a USB memory stick (or, if they forget, be offered a complimentary little red Emirates one) to bring/save their work on. To be honest, most these days work with online resources anyway, so could log in using any machine. The machines would be cleaned (both hygenically and data-wise) after each use. The IT stuff could be handled by EK subsidiary Mercator, already (quietly) one of the world’s great software and services players.Catch the current news cycle and you’ve got the solution in seconds. It might not fit everyone’s needs, but it’ll comfort many – and I think catch the public imagination, too. In the face of a mean-spirited and dubious use of security as protectionism, EK could show it’s the customer who comes first and they’re willing  – as always – to go the extra mile.The ban is, of course, quite loopy. For a start, UAE security and civil defence is way better than US security. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are major international hubs and trusted by tens of millions of passengers each year. Their security procedures and capabilities are best practice. And there’s nothing to stop a terrorist flying a bomb from Paris or St Petersburg – the idea that only Arab airports could be the source of a threat is as risible as Trump’s Muslim ban. Which targets, it should be noted, different nations to the laptop ban.Not that I, for one, am in any rush to go to the US. I have stamps in my passport showing a lifetime’s travel around the Middle East and no desire whatsoever to stand there having some jerk in a uniform shouting at me and asking to look at the contents of my laptop.This whole thing about making us dance around airports in our socks and ditching Masafi bottles because they could be bombs (presumably the water bomb is these days considered a credible threat) has long rendered me sore amazed. The IRA’s last bomb on the UK mainland weighed a metric tonne, was packed in a lorry and blew out the heart of Manchester, doing £1 billion of damage. The concerted and sustained terrorist campaign waged by the IRA against the might and weight of the UK’s civil defence and military over thirty years compares rather oddly to the threat posed by a bunch of bloodthirsty yahoos in Toyota pickups. It’s what prompted me to write A Decent Bomber in the first place – that odd juxtaposition of the threat from today’s water-bomb terrorism to the constant destruction wreaked in the skies by the IRA, PLO, Abu Nidal, the Red Brigade et al.We have never been so constrained by, or constantly reminded of, the threat of ‘terrorism’ as we are today. And the credible threats have never been so slight – particularly when set against the efficiency of modern security apparatus. You might argue that we’re safe precisely because that apparatus has stopped us bringing water bottles or unscanned heels onto flights, but in travelling outside the UK I have noticed nobody else out there is really bothering that much. And it’ll be interesting to see if the rest of the world believes in the credible threat of a weaponised Kindle being stored in the hold rather than being used to read on a flight…

The Unbearable Lightness Of Not Writing

Posted on the March 21st, 2017 under Personal Bloggers by

English: Erik Pevernagie, painting. Representi...English: Erik Pevernagie, painting. Representing the opposition with lightness of being (Photo credit: Wikipedia)I’m not writing.I’m not editing or marketing, either. I’m not planning, plotting or playing with a new MS. I started a new book but it’s come to a sort of ‘meh’ point and I’ve put it aside while I do other things. I’ve scribbled a few short stories and other things, but nothing really significant.It’s mildly embarrassing when you meet people who know you only as a booky person, because they invariably (and perfectly politely) ask what you’re working on at the moment and ‘I’m not really, I’ve just sort of got nothing right now that’s floating my boat’ sounds wrong.But it’s God’s honest, guv. I see no reason to force things and the new project is nowhere near qualifying for that excellent advice that saw me race to get A Decent Bomber done, ‘Finish!‘I’m glad I’m not under contract. The agent/publisher would be nagging, reminding me an MS is due in next month and I’d be going spare about it, wracking my brains to force words onto the screen as I write in the certain knowledge that it’s not really what I want to do or, indeed, what I want to write. And, by extension, that it’s not really quite good enough to put my name on it and be proud of what I’ve done. I’d hate that.It’s not like it matters, of course. As we speak I languish in complete obscurity as a writer, so my lack of a new project is hardly going to have the NYT worrying about the future of literature.In fact, it’s something of a bonus. There’s a certain sense of relief at not having characters bumbling around in my head all the time, not worrying about getting that next scene down or being niggled by a piece of dialogue. I’ve been doing more cooking, ambling about on the Internet and going out at weekends to rediscover bits of the Emirates. It’s amazing how you get blasé about living somewhere as downright wonderful and exotic as Lalaland.And no, I’ve not been posting here very much. I realised the other day that this silly little blog of mine will turn ten years old next month. That’s pretty venerable. I suppose I shall have to celebrate in some way.In the meantime, I’m enjoying the, well, lightness of not writing…

How To Self Publish Your Book In Dubai. Or Anywhere Else, For That Matter…

Posted on the March 3rd, 2017 under Personal Bloggers by

I just thought this was more fun than the EAFOL logo, to be honest…The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is once again upon us. Yup, that was a year right there.I’m doing  workshop on how to self publish in the UAE, although you’d be able to use the info to self publish in Copenhagen, Watford or even, to remain topical to our peregrinations last weekend, Kathmandu.I’m also doing a Q&A panel session on publishing, apparently which seems to have become an annual event confirming me as the UAE’s poster child for self publishing. Which is all very nice, but I’d honestly rather be talking about censorship, selling books, telling stories, spies in the Middle East or the region’s troubled relationship with narrative fiction, building a sense of place in novels, terrorism in fiction or a number of other aspects of my booky life. Hey ho.The How to Self Publish EAFOL Workshop is linked here for your ticket-buying pleasure: that’s Dhs 250 to you, mate.What do you get for your Dhs 250? Well, you get to be shouted at by me for two hours. You’ll also learn about editing, cover design, page layout, formatting your core manuscript, file management, rights, ISBNs and copyright, dealing with the National Media Council and booksellers in the UAE, printing books and mounting to sites like Amazon – as well as ebooks and Kindle, Apple, B&N and other online outlets. Then we’ll also explore book marketing and promotion, online marketing, using dashboards and other booky sales stuff.In short, a grounding of all you need to know to publish your own book effectively, to the highest possible quality and directed at the widest possible audience. Not bad, eh?Sign up right here! Right now! 

Kathmandu: The Green Eye Of The Little Yellow God

Posted on the February 21st, 2017 under Personal Bloggers by

English: Durga, Kathmandu, Nepal Español: Durg...(Photo credit: Wikipedia)There’s a one-eyed yellow idolto the north of Kathmandu;there’s a little marble cross below the town.And a broken-hearted womantends the grave of ‘Mad’ Carew,while the yellow god forever gazes down.He was known as ‘Mad Carew’by the subs at Kathmandu.He was hotter than they felt inclined to tell.But, for all his foolish pranks,he was worshipped in the ranksand the Colonel’s daughter smiled on him as well.He had loved her all alongwith the passion of the strongand that she returned his love was plain to all.She was nearly twenty-oneand arrangements were begun,to celebrate her birthday with a ball.He wrote to ask what presentshe would like from ‘Mad’ Carew;they met next day as he dismissed a squad.And jestingly she made pretencethat nothing else would do but the green eye of the little yellow god.On the night before the dance,’Mad’ Carew seemed in a tranceand they chaffed him,as they pulled at their cigars.But for once he failed to smile and he sat alone awhile,then went out into the night beneath the stars.He returned, before the dawnwith his shirt and tunic torn,and a gash across his temples dripping red.He was patched up right awayand he slept all through the day,while the Colonel’s daughter watched beside his bed.He woke at last and asked herif she’d send his tunic through.She brought it and he thanked her with a nod.He bade her search the pocket,saying, ‘That’s from “Mad” Carew,’and she found the little green eye of the god.She upbraided poor Carew,in the way that women do,although her eyes were strangely hot and wet.But she would not take the stoneand Carew was left alonewith the jewel that he’d chanced his life to get.When the ball was at its height on that still and tropic night,she thought of him and hastened to his room.As she crossed the barrack square she could hear the dreamy air,of a waltz tune softly stealing thro’ the gloom.His door was open wide,with silver moonlight shining through.The place was wet and slippery where she trod.An ugly knife lay buriedin the heart of ‘Mad’ Carew:’twas the vengeance of the little yellow god.There’s a one-eyed yellow idolto the north of Kathmandu;there’s a little marble cross below the town.And a broken-hearted womantends the grave of ‘Mad’ Carew,while the yellow god forever gazes down.(J. Milton Hayes)This is my way of saying we’re off to Nepal. Who knows what we’re going to find… 

Another Sharjah Shipwreck

Posted on the February 5th, 2017 under Personal Bloggers by

Cometh the storm, cometh the shipwreck. It’s happened almost every year for a few years now, although we missed out last year. It seems like every time there’s a decent storm around here, some poor mug ends up beached on the sandy Sharjah or Ajman corniches. I don’t know what it is that attracts them to this particular stretch of sand, but it does.They’re currently digging up the beach along Sharjah’s corniche, installing what looks like a drainage system. Absent any explanation whatsoever, we can only conjecture it’s to support further hotel development (Boo!) on what is a much-loved stretch of public beach used every weekend by thousands – unless they’re going to expand the corniche road, known locally as Muntaza Road. We can only hope they’re going to put the beach back neatly the way they found it.There was absolute chaos on Friday night as a combination of roadworks and rubberneckers who’d heard there was a beached ship to stare at brought traffic to a standstill on the beach road and all the roads that feed into it. The police were trying to impose some sort of order on everything, with the wind still doing a pretty good howling impersonation and the sea still dangerous. Earlier in the day, the wind was so strong out to sea, you could lean back into it and not fall over.The name of the beached boat looked like ‘Hira’, which would make it an 867 tonne offshore supply/anchor vessel sailing under a St Kitts and Nevis flag, although this is by no means certain – there’s also a Turkish Hira and an Indian one, neither of which look anything like this one. Another time I read it as ‘Hide’ but couldn’t find anything under that moniker. It’s firmly stucked in the sand in the shallows a hundred yards or so away from the beach proper. There’s nothing about it in the news, which is odd as The National and Gulf News have both made much of past beachings.Anyway, by Saturday pretty much everyone had got over it and the crowds had thinned. It’s still out there, presumably waiting for a high tide, a tow or Godot. You can imagine the poor captain calling the owner: ‘Hi boss. I’ve got got good news and I’ve got bad news.’

Alba Car Care: Dubai’s Ultimate Car Detail Shop

Posted on the February 19th, 2016 under Personal Bloggers by

alba-car-careI wanted to get my car detailed for quite some time and, after randomly watching a small billboard of Alba Royal Car Care at Al Quoz Industrial Area 3, I decided to turn the wheels to that direction and try them out. From what I saw while entering the premises, they have a fairly large facility and a sizeable staff wearing a sharp-looking uniform. Proclaiming themselves as the “number 1 car detailing service in Dubai”, they had a nice and quick desk service.

I was given a small form to fill regarding the basic details and also asking for any special instructions I’d like to specify before they begin.  I found their car detailing process to be pretty meticulous and lengthy with the manager constantly briefing me about the specifics such as the use of pH-balanced soap and special microfiber towel while washing the exterior. The next step included careful detailing of dashboard, door panels, console, seat panels, headrests, rubber mats and cargo area. The windows, also, were given a “water-repellent” treatment and I was quite impressed with the shine. While the three guys were detailing the interior, I was shown the exclusive German waxes, cleansers, polishes and conditioners they would use for car polishing after a hand dry finish.  The stuff appeared to be quite expensive and of premium quality.

To sum it up, I was very happy with what I got for only 450 AED and particularly liked the wheel wax treatment which, like everything, lasted quite longer than I had expected. My car interior smelled fresh, pleasant and rejuvenated for various weeks. If you’re looking for a high-quality car detail package in Dubai at a highly economical price, visit Alba Royal Car Care. These guys also provide other services such as window tinting, car wrapping and dent & scratch removal.  Check ’em out and let us know what you think!

Al Nakba

Posted on the May 15th, 2015 under Personal Bloggers by

Nakba 1948 oldman and baby tentNakba 1948 oldman and baby tent (Photo credit: Wikipedia)She talked to the table, her voice low. ‘My father was born on a farm in Palestine in 1946, outside a village called Qaffin. It’s the farm we have today. My grandparents left during the troubles in 1948, what we call the Nakba, the disaster. You know this, right? The Nakba?’ I nodded. ‘When the Zionists threw my people from their land and declared Israel a state. They had a saying, you know, “A land without a people for a people without a land.” But it was a lie.’