Thursday 31 May 2012

100 RPM - Publication Day!

It's been a while since I've had anything positive to report, in terms of publication at least. So I'm very pleased to announce that, today, the ebook "100 RPM" launches, featuring one of my stories.

The premise is straightforward - it's 100 stories of no more than 100 words, all inspired by a different song. There are loads of talented writers - and me - with stories in there. The book will be available for a limited period for just 99p (actually, it's showing for £1.02 - something to do with VAT? - but what's 3p between friends?), so don't hang around - go and get yourself a copy, pronto!

If you need further encouragement, the proceeds are going to the charity One In Four, an organisation helping children who've been victims of violence and sexual abuse. One in four, incidentally, is the proportion of children estimated to have encountered sexual abuse before they are eighteen; a sobering thought.

Amazon take a cut, but all the writers donated their work for free, as has Caroline Smailes - somehow finding time between launching 99 Reasons Why and co-launching (?) Freaks! to organise and edit this collection. So it really is a great example of creative writing being a force for good.

There will be lots of activity online to raise the profile of the book, and you can keep up-to-date via its Facebook page, or the Twitter hashtag, #100RPM.

My story, which I think is number 19 in the book, is called "The Boy with the Dragon Tattoo". It's a silly little tale inspired by the Fountains of Wayne song, "Red Dragon Tattoo"... and if you don't know what that sounds like, point your ears at this:

Will you stop pretending I've never been born,
Now I look a little more like that guy from KorN?

I've had a sneak preview of the book (I've been sent a Word proof, but I'm going to buy a Kindle version to keep on my phone), and have only skimmed through it, but already I've spotted some real gems in there. Don't delay! Click HERE to grab your copy.

Thursday 24 May 2012

The Winner! (and ... The Winner!)

Hooray! The first winner is Sally Jenkins, who added comment number 11 (not counting mine or Nik's) on my competition post and was duly selected by the random number generator at

Congratulations, Sally! Your copy of Nik Perring's Not So Perfect awaits. Once I have your address I will get the book sent out to you straight away. I've tried to contact you via your blog but it's not working for some reason. Please get in touch via danpurdue1 [at] gmail [dot] com.

Thank you to everybody who took part in this and commiserations to those who didn't win. Better luck next time!

The other winner is ... me! Yes, I was very pleased to discover on Monday that I'd won Mark Billingham's Twitter Crime-Writing Competition. He ran it to promote his forthcoming novel, Rush of Blood, which will be released on 2nd August 2012, and it attracted a lot of entries. It was quite a challenge to pack a short story into a single tweet (140 characters, minus the hashtag #rushofblood).Most entrants described a murder - either the run-up or aftermath, or the deed itself - often in grisly detail, so I aimed to do something different. I tried a jokey entry first, then a day or two later found an image I really liked and (eventually) managed to get it to fit the strict character limit. I think it works because as well as a strong central image there are also a couple of implied layers to it. See what you think, HERE.

Mark picked that one as the winner, and my prize is an advance copy of Rush of Blood, which I'm very excited about. Intrigued by the blurb, I bought Mark's compelling first book, Sleepy Head, when it came out in paperback, and have been following DI Thorne ever since. I even got congratulated by another top crime writer, Val McDermid, who "threatened" to steal my idea - giving a wonderfully surreal slant to my morning.

I must say I like this competition business, as it seems to encourage good karma. Last time around, I gave away Amazon vouchers and won the same value in book tokens. This week I gave away a book and won a different book. Hmm...

My next competition will probably be a chance to win my car.

Monday 21 May 2012

You Gotta Fight for Your (First Publication) Rights!

I've now given written notice to Chapter One (full story here) that I want them to either publish the anthology of the 2010 Short Story Competition, or return my first publication rights. The contract I signed way back in the day gives them 90 days in which to publish the anthology, although it also promises me 30 days to review a proof copy - so my take on it is that if I haven't heard anything within 60 days, it ain't happening.

In some ways, sending the notice letter felt quite empowering, although in others it seemed more like an admission of defeat. It's hard to maintain a level of excitement for more than two years, and that initial rush of euphoria brought on by winning had to give way to a kind of studied indifference (if for no other reason than to protect my sanity). The longer it's dragged on though, the more the fear has started to creep in - fear that the anthology will arrive out of the blue any time now, and be disappointing. I don't know what to expect. The 2005 anthology on their website has a clip-art-y cover that doesn't exactly fill me with confidence. The 2006 one is better, looking at least like it was designed specifically for a short story anthology. More important than the cover, though, obviously, is the content. I re-read my story earlier this year, and was pleasantly surprised. Sometimes I can dig out old work and cringe, but this one seems to be holding up okay. But what about the other stories? What about the paper? What if the whole thing's in Comic Sans font? [shudder]

To be honest, my expectations have sunk pretty low. The book would have to be laser-cut into thin sheets of gold to make me think, Oh yes, that was worth the wait. I mean, how can it possibly take two years to put together a competition anthology? The editing should be minimal - after all, any changes other than minor grammatical or typographical corrections would mean the stories wouldn't be the ones that had won the prizes. I know typesetting can be a long process, and there are design and layout decisions to make, but seriously - TWO YEARS?

From a business point of view, it's madness. Who's going to buy an anthology relating to a competition that closed so long ago? My usual points of reference here are the Bridport Prize, the Willesden Herald, and the Bristol Prize. All of these have their anthologies available well before the closing date for the following year's competition. If anybody is going to buy a competition anthology, aside from friends and family of the writers with stories in it, it's writers planning to enter the same competition, hoping to gen up on what kind of thing does well. So you hold the book back more than nine months and you've lost the biggest potential audience for it.

Sticking with the business viewpoint, if you can't maximise your sales through making your product available at the right time, you'd better make sure your customer service is second to none. All the jargon applies here - under-promise and over-deliver, surprise and delight your customers, etc. Or end up creating bad feeling and have disgruntled customers telling everyone they know about how you've let them down. Sooner or later, you'd end up with no customers at all. And you'd only have yourself to blame.

Anyway, yes. 60 days. I'll keep you posted.

Don't forget - there's a copy of Nik Perring's excellent book of flash fiction, Not So Perfect, up for grabs in my free draw. Just click HERE and leave a comment.

Wednesday 16 May 2012

A Feast of Flash Fiction ... for Free!

If you’ve been living under a rock for the past month or so, you’ll be unaware that today is National Flash Fiction Day. If, on the other hand, you’ve been anywhere near the internet recently, you won’t have been able to avoid hearing about the plethora of events, readings, and general goings-on that have been kicking off all over the place today, in celebration of sparky little stories.

If you’re quick, you can pick up a copy of the official NFFD anthology, Jawbreakers, which is available absolutely free - today only - on Kindle (and if you don’t actually have a Kindle, you can get apps for your PC or phone, so don’t miss out). It’s also available as a printed book, but that’ll cost you a few quid. Plus there are lots of stories being posted online in various places for your delectation and delight, so it’s worth heading on over to the NFFD site and following a few links.

But wait! Don’t go dashing off just yet. Because if you like free fiction, I have something exciting for you.

A while ago, I bought Nik Perring’s “Not So Perfect”, a lovely little book of flash stories. But then, a few days later, I wona signed copy courtesy of the Lancashire Writing Hub. The signed and unsigned copies have been sitting side-by-side on my bookcase for a while now, and it dawned on me the other day that it’s slightly crazy to keep two identical copies of the same book …

… so I’ve decided to give my spare copy away (sorry, I’m keeping the signed one, which is the one I've read - the other one has sat patiently on the shelf ever since and is pretty much as-new). The one that's up for grabs is on the left, by the way.

All you have to do to be in the running for the book is to leave a comment below. I’ll put all the names in a hat or a shoe or something and draw the winner at random next week, on 23rd May. I'll cover postage but will have to insist on UK entrants only, please (apologies to any international visitors).

Good luck - and happy flashing!

Friday 11 May 2012

[Edit] What I Learned This Week ...

If you come up against somebody who relies on generalisations, stereotypes, and a persecution complex to construct their arguments, you shouldn't be surprised when they have no interest in an intelligent debate to explore the issue.

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Somewhere To Start From ... is One!

Happy Birthday, Somewhere to Start From!

It's the publication anniversary of my anthology, and although I had ambitious plans to mark the occasion with something exciting, like a giveaway or contest of some sort, I have to admit defeat and confess that I haven't had time to organise anything worthwhile. So, I'll just have to settle for a blog post instead.

I expect most of you know the story of how the book came into being, but for those who don't, I decided to self-publish (via a collection of my short stories in preparation for running a flash fiction workshop as part of the Guernsey Literary Festival; I wanted to have something professional-looking to read from as a way of establishing my credentials as a writer. Initially, that was pretty much the extent of my ambition for the book, but as it came together I started thinking, "This isn't all that bad, actually," and I added a few extra copies to my order in case anybody coming to the workshop fancied a copy too.

From these humble origins, the book has gone on to be ... well, more successful than I expected. Okay, it's not bothering the bestseller charts and it can usually be found loitering around the 1,000,000th mark on the Amazon sales tracker, but I'm still pleasantly surprised by how it's doing. All but one of the people who attended the workshop bought a copy, then family and friends bought them (which just goes to show how brilliant and supportive they are - nobody demanded a free copy), and - most excitingly of all - complete strangers bought copies! And then gone on to say nice things about the book! Exhibit A - Exhibit B - Exhibit C

I read in Writing Magazine a while ago that self-published books typically sell around 40 copies. Allowing for a few held in stock in the Press Shop in St Peter Port in Guernsey, and Books & Ink in Banbury, plus a handful at home, I've sold about 60 copies. I think that's a good result, considering I haven't done that much to promote it, and I haven't had a lot of work published in the past 12 months, so getting my name 'out there' hasn't been easy. (In that regard, please visit my new author page on Facebook - it would be great to get a few more 'likes')

So, what lies ahead? I'm planning to get my act together and sort out an e-reader version of the book and see whether that can unlock a few more sales. I have an idea or two about new ways to promote the book, and I will try to get more stories into print or online. I know this book isn't going to make me rich or famous, but it has given me an interesting insight into how promotion and bookselling works, and it's been good fun. And, really, I can't ask for more than that.