I have recently become fascinated by the issue of trolls. Not the Peter Beardsley kind or the big hairy creatures featured in Lord of the Rings, but the people who haunt the internet and all too often (but not often enough) end up in court for saying things they really shouldn’t say.
However, I have a confession to make. I am also a troll. Or at least I am if you use the definition of a troll as being someone who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument. Because I’ve been doing exactly that.
But my target hasn’t been some poor kid, sensitive woman or celebrity sort, oh no. My target has been people who are clearly trolls themselves. And boy, do they get the arsehole when you give them a taste of their own medicine.
I won’t go into the reasons how I became involved in all this but suffice to say, I became a ‘victim’ a few weeks ago shortly after I posted something on a forum relating to writing and in particular the issue of self published authors. Naively, I assumed that as an author who has enjoyed a bit of success, some experience might be welcomed. Oh no.
Within a few hours I’d had everything from my ‘claim’ to have been at #1 on the Amazon sports charts for ever with The Crew to my role on Green Street dissected and dismissed. Not just as irrelevant, but by one individual as downright lies. Yes, that’s right, I made it all up. It’s all a dream.
And this continued, for days.
Now I’ve had to put up with some crap in my time from lousy reviews to death threats from extremist nutters and so a few idiots hiding behind ‘tags’ on a message board don’t bother me at all. I actually found it all quite amusing and so being me, I had a dig or to back.
This of course wound them up even more not least because they quickly realised that as someone who was already established, didn’t care, took everything with a pinch of salt and wasn’t adverse to saying what I thought, they were powerless.
Then, out of the blue, I began to receive emails from people talking about these people who were trying to have a dig at me. And the more I read, the more it became clear that these people weren’t just acting like dicks, they were up to no good.
In short, they are a small group of people who using numerous fake identities and hiding behind some spurious ideal of ‘policing’ the quality of self published books, get their kicks from ripping apart the confidence of amateur and particularly first-time authors. They do this by various means including posting bogus and extremely critical 1 star reviews of their books on websites such as Amazon. These being backed up by other members of the clique as well of course, by themselves using their numerous fake ID’s.
And some of these reviews are vicious, personal even. The very definition of trolling.
The more I dug into what they were and are up to, the more uncomfortable reading it became and so I made an allegation that there was some kind of review mafia operating on Amazon.
They were at me like a pack of hounds with more attacks. I was anti-woman, anti-American, sexist, racist, a bigot, etc, etc, but when this didn’t work they began to employ diversionary tactics. Every time a legitimate discussion would begin or a sensible question asked, it would be hijacked by debates about biscuits, sea monkeys… anything. A typical bullying tactic.
So from that point on, with the help of a few other people who they’ve also had a go at, I began digging into the background to some of these people and what I uncovered staggered me.
In a sense it’s no different from the hooligan world. I’m often asked about the type of people who become involved in football violence and people are always shocked to discover that very few are the knuckle dragging right-wingers they expect them to be. They are instead, relatively normal members of society who simply get off on what goes on at games.
The same thing applies to the reviewing trolls. Amongst the people I’ve traced are kindergarten teachers, lawyers, engineers, IT professionals, you name it. Some are even authors themselves and indeed, are acting in the very manner they are so quick to condemn in others.
But what they all are, are people who you would normally regard as respectable. And here they are for all to see acting in a way which is as far from respectable as it’s possible to get. That is quite scary.
Now I don’t like bullies and I’m certainly not fazed by them. I’m also of the belief that the best way to deal with a bully is to not simply stand up to them, but to name and shame them. This time is no different and in the fullness of time, these people will be exposed.
I already have the real names of some as well as the list of identities they use on various forums but I will only make that public once I am absolutely certain that the evidence I put forward is indisputable.
Not that it matters of course. After all, as I tell everyone who wants to write, if you can’t take criticism, don’t do it. Because sooner or later someone somewhere is going to rip you to shreds and that is often extremely difficult to handle especially when it is based on things which are fundamentally wrong.
The trolls who have infected Amazon and Goodreads will experience how that feels very soon and I hope they’re ready for it.
Then again, I don’t really care if they’re not because it’s coming anyway.
I never get bored of saying this, truly, I don’t. A huge thanks to everyone who is keeping The Crew at #1 on the Amazon and iTunes sports charts. We’re now into out 9th month at the top of the tree which however you look at it, is quite something.
Top Dog is also sitting pretty in the top 3 which proves what I said years ago, that if you give people what they want as opposed to what you hope they might like, they’ll buy it.
My next book, Wings of a Sparrow, is almost finished and then, thanks to the success of The Crew and Top Dog, I’ll be starting work on the third book in the Billy Evans trilogy.
Grovelling apologies for my lack of blogs lately. I could throw myself on your mercy and beg forgiveness but if you know anything about me, you’d know it wouldn’t be sincere anyway so I won’t bother.
Suffice to say, I’ve been snowed under finishing off Wings of a Sparrow which is now scarily close to completion and looks awesome. I just hope you lot like it because as I always say, my readers are the most important people of all. Without you guys buying books, I don’t eat!
On which note, heartfelt thanks to everyone who has kept The Crew at number one for pretty much 9 straight months now.
I’m staggered and not a little humbled by this success as well as by the equally brilliant performance of Top Dog. As a consequence, as soon as Wings of a Sparrow hits the marketplace I’ll be starting work on the third book in the Billy Evans series.
I already have an idea for the story and trust me, it is an absolute cracker. And yes, there will of course be a huge twist at the end!
In fact I’m already excited at the prospect of getting to know Billy again. He really is a naughty boy! 🙂
As a writer who doesn’t exactly shy away from contact with the outside world, I receive a steady stream of emails from people asking me questions. These range from requests for advice on writing to comments about books and all points in between.
All are welcome, all appreciated and all replied to. After all, if someone has taken the trouble to mail me, it’s usually because they have taken the time to read something I’ve written so the very least I can do is respond. Time is, after all, the most valuable commodity any of us have.
However, there is one particular question thrown at me, and on a fairly regular basis, which always provides a warm glow of satisfaction; ‘what’s the next book about?’
The great joy of this question is that it provides both affirmation and confirmation in equal measures. For it provides proof that not only is my work liked, it’s anticipated! Could any author ask for more than that?
What makes it even more special is that my back list isn’t just varied, it could even be described as manic. I certainly can’t think of many authors who’ve published books about subjects as diverse as racism in football and farting although I’m sure there is much a decent psychiatrist could make of that!!
Yet as many people have told me, the eclectic nature of my work is part of the attraction. I am, as one reader put it, the Forrest Gump of lad-lit. I think that was meant as a compliment, it’s certainly how I took it anyway!
This ‘box of chocolates’ reference inevitably leads me onto another oft asked question, how do I pick the subjects for my books? The answer to that is simple, or at least it was.
Like most authors, I have a list of books I intend to write at some point. Some are based on personal experience, a few on a passion for something and others which stem from a simple nugget of an idea I have locked away in what passes for my memory. This list has always been fairly flexible and it’s fair to say that it contains books which will never, ever get written for no other reason than I simply don’t have the required skill to pull them off. And before anyone asks, yes, my autobiography is on there and no, it won’t ever get written. There are lots of reasons for this but ‘no one would ever believe half of it’ and ‘guilty your honour’ are two.
But in the past the underlying reason for the subject matter of a particular book was always purely and simply what I could persuade my publishers to print. A process which all too often was incredibly time consuming and frustrating involving arm twisting, deviousness and even grovelling. Indeed, it is a fact that Billy’s Log, which remains one of my personal favourite books (and is also one of my biggest sellers!) was only published at all because I insisted on having it tacked onto the contract for Barmy Army. But that process took two long years!
However, since the move into eBooks and the speed with which that allows me to both write and publish, things have changed immeasurably. For with the decision on what to write and when being mine and mine alone, not only am I in total control but I can be much more reactive to what my readers are telling me. The astonishing success of both The Crew and Top Dog since they went online (and however you look at it, almost 8 months at number one on both Amazon and iTunes is an astonishing feat) is a case in point. For with Wings of a Sparrow almost complete, I had already taken the decision on what to write next but such has been the volume of requests for a third book in that series, that has now become my next project.
That said, only yesterday I had a ‘bolt-of-lightning’ moment which got me so excited that I had to pull over and send emails about it from a lay-by on the A1 so it might be that things change again!
But that’s the joy of epublishing over traditional publishing. It allows me that flexibility which as a writer, is incredibly liberating.
And as long as my readers are happy to indulge me, I’m only too happy to continue along my meandering path.
God bless ‘em all!!!
One final thing I have to say. Just prior to EURO 2012, the BBC aired a documentary which made all kinds of accusations relating to the potentialfor racism and violence in the Ukraine and Poland and featured amongst other things, former England international Sol Campbell claiming that he thought some black and Asian fans might come home in coffins.
As I write this, it is the morning of the England vs Italy quarter final and without wishing to tempt fate, there has not been a mass outbreak of mass racism at a single game nor has there been a single England fan arrested.
We are all used to this type of media fed hysteria ahead of major tournaments but that does not make it right and it most certainly does not make it acceptable. Surely the time has come for the FA to make a stand against this ridiculous, insensitive and above all insulting style of sensationalist reporting and let it be known that it won’t put up with it any more.
But above all, Sol Campbell has done a huge disservice to his country and the many black and Asian England fans who stayed away from the tournament because of his ridiculous assertions. He was also incredibly insulting to the tournament hosts.
Thankfully, the England fans have already let it be known what they think of him with the brilliant ‘coffin parade’ in Donestsk but if he had anything about him, he’d have the balls to come out and admit he was wrong.
So, EURO 2012 is upon us and as is routine, it has been preceded as much by talk of potential off-field activities as it has by those we hope for on the pitch.
I don’t even know where to start with any of this because as most of you who will be reading this will know, it has, in the main, been bullshit. Indeed, I’ve had journalists from both Ukraine and Poland contact me almost apoplectic with rage about some of the things being said or inferred about their country these last few weeks.
It’s not like we don’t know that both countries have hooligan and racist elements (as does every country on the planet) or that when tournaments come around, everyone from hotel owners to prostitutes will be seeking to make a pound or two. That’s certainly not unique to Eastern Europe as anyone in Eastern London will know!
Yet the level of scaremongering here has been appalling and worst of all was Sol Campbells assertion that black and Asian fans risk coming home in body bags.
Now we all know Sol is a sensitive soul and that he’s never been adverse to kicking up a public fuss when fans have had the temerity to call him a nasty name or two but this was a step too far for all kinds of reasons (although I suspect it had more to do with his desire for a post-playing career on the anti-racism/media gravy train which continues to chug along quite nicely).
The problem of course, is that when it comes to issues such as racism (and football fans generally) the media and the anti-racist groups can say pretty much what they like sure in the knowledge that they will remain unchallenged. Fear has always been both the anti-racists biggest ally and their most powerful weapon for the tag of racist is one which is easily applied and difficult if not impossible to remove. Ask Ron Atkinson.
Yes, of course, racism is abhorrent in every way shape or form but having come so far in the battle to defeat the racists, the time has surely come when the population of this multi-cultural country ours of has the right to actually begin to question some of the things being said but we will only ever be able to do that once we can actually speak up free of fear. Because until we can do that, then we run the risk of allowing things to be said which are not only counter-productive but potentially extremely dangerous and that is what we have here.
The reaction to the Panorama documentary in both Poland and Ukraine has been one of extreme irritation but more importantly, those minority groups seeking to make names for themselves will now be well aware that the game and the world will be watching and if they want to make a statement, they already have everyone’s attention.
Thanks for that Sol.
Since I released my backlist online at the back end of last year, The Crew has spent an unbroken 30 weeks at #1 on the Amazon UK sports (free) chart, the Amazon US soccer chart and the iTunes soccer (free) chart whilst Top Dog has been in the top 3 (mostly at #1) on the Amazon UK (paid) football chart. In addition, all of my other titles are selling well on Amazon and if you look at the iTunes soccer charts, most weeks the top 50 will feature at least 7 (usually 8) of mine.
Now, whatever way you look at it, that is not too shabby a record and to say that I am both delighted and humbled by the fact that it is mine gives new meaning to the word understatement.
Somehow, writing has become my career and that is entirely down to my readers who for some reason seem to like my books so not for the first time I would like to thank everyone who has ever read or downloaded any of them and let you all know that I value every single one of you.
However, there is a specific reason why I mention this here and it is not simply to be boastful. You see the other day I was accused by a very well known sportsman of being a ‘wannabe’ writer.
Now I will admit that I had been winding this bloke up a little and it became fairly obvious from the childish way he began using his ‘award-winning’ autobiography as some kind of weapon that he was unused to hearing anything other than sycophancy. But whilst I laughed it (and him) off, it did get me thinking about the literary establishment in general and more specifically, my position within it.
Many years ago, I wrote that those of us who wrote in the so-called ‘hoolie-lit’ genre were not just regarded by the literary establishment as being at the bottom of the literary ladder, but as the rubber bungs on the feet. Sad to say that nothing has changed.
I, for example, despite the fact that I’ve been pumping out work for 16 odd years and have sold a fair amount of books, have yet to receive a single invite to any literary festival or event. I’ve never even been asked to attend the British Sports Book Awards despite the fact that I would guess I outsell pretty much every author there.
Now, it would be foolish to say this doesn’t irritate me at times because it does. However, what I find more irritating is that with increasing numbers of the ‘hoolie-lit’ books being put online and making their way into the charts, by refusing to acknowledge those of us who write about football culture it infers that those people who buy our books don’t really matter. That is incredibly disrespectful.
The only reason publishing exists at all is because people like to read be it in book or electronic form and it doesn’t matter if they’re reading Dan Brown or Chris Brown, every single person who spends money on a book is as important as the last. Lose sight of that and the whole thing will come crashing down.
Personally, I have always kept my focus on my readers but then again, I’ve always tried to understand my market and aimed to give it what it wants. Therefore chart positions have always been more important than invitations because it means books are selling and readers are happy.
Sadly, not everyone seems to think like that preferring instead to court only the opinions of those who can get their names into the papers. On which note, the ‘award-winning’ autobiography by the household name I mentioned previously isn’t even in the top 100 sports books and can currently be found in a remaindered store somewhere near you.
Like many chaps, I have looked on bemused as the drama (or should that be saga) of the Samantha Brick story has unfolded across the media.
Now for those who do not know, Samantha Brick is an average looking woman who wrote a piece in The Mail telling the world that she thought she was beautiful and that she received all kinds of compliments and attention from men who clearly agreed. As a consequence, other women not only felt threatened by her beauty but they were often less than friendly. If you haven’t read it, the initial Samantha Brick article can be found here and speaking as a bloke it’s worth a perusal for one particular reason. I’ll get to that later.
Whatever the truth of her claims regarding blokes walking up and paying for cabs or buying coffees etc, (and I don’t know, nor really care) what is fascinating about this story is the reaction from the sisterhood of women because to say she attracted a negative response is an understatement. In fact vitriol doesn’t come close whilst even hate could be judged ‘abuse-light’. Both in the media and on social networking sites women went for her with a ferocity the like of which I haven’t seen since my days living amongst the legendary hunting females of South Wales! The notorious Valley Commando’s.
Amongst other things she was accused of being self-centred, having a mirror made of beer goggles and being seriously deluded. It was to be fair, quite funny primarily because it did kind of prove her point! However, looking at it objectively as I am want to do, there was one simple reason for this bitch-fest and that is that she had broken the golden rule of womanhood; she had admitted that she is happy with her looks. Or to look at it another way, the female way, she’d become arrogant.
Oh yes, women spend their lives trying to feel great about themselves and read countless magazines and books packed to the gunnels with information on how to try and achieve it. Indeed, it’s the fundamental ideal which underpins the entire chick-lit genre! But for a woman to actually come out and say that she feels fabulous and that men adore her….. well, that’s not on. Especially when she’s only average looking.
And that is the fundamental reason for this jealousy –and that’s what it boils down to- because it’s not her looks but her confidence, her self-belief even. If she’s that secure in her appearance, why aren’t I? If random men pay her attention, why don’t I get it?
I, of course, made this point frequently and was shot down for my trouble. I wasn’t the only one either. When she was interviewed by Ruth and Eamonn Holmes on ITV’s This Morning, Ruthie was almost struggling to control her fury whilst poor Eamonn was clearly fearful of saying anything which might result in retribution from his angry wife later on. Fair play to Ms Brick though, she gave as good as she got in pretty much every interview she gave.
In the following days, Samantha Brick wrote more articles about her life and provided more explanation for her self-confidence. She lives in France where men are more attentive and has a loving husband who adores her. But most importantly she also has a father who told her from a very early age that she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.
Now other than providing me with a great deal of amusement as I’ve watched (and heard!) the wrath of women unfold and leaving aside the fact that as a career maker, Samantha Brick’s original article was as fantastic a pitch as I’ve ever seen, for me as a male this last sentence is the one which struck a chord. Because speaking as a proud dad, my two daughters are the most beautiful girls/women I’ve ever seen and every father I know thinks the same thing. And quite right too.
And the more we tell them, the more we hope that they believe it because I never wanted my girls to grow up feeling anything other than fantastic about themselves and I’m proud to say that they don’t.
Writing in her autobiography Dawn French makes great play of the fact that her father told her every day that she was beautiful and Gwyneth Paltrow says the same thing. Both took it as gospel because it came from their dads and it shaped their lives which is exactly what it should do. Yet neither of those attracted any condemnation when they put those words into the public domain because they are famous. Yet Samantha Brick isn’t or wasn’t and so she is an easy target.
Yet rather than have a pop at Samantha Brick, shouldn’t we all be giving a hearty pat on the back to her father because whilst his daughter might be lacking in the humility department, in terms of instilling confidence he did a fantastic job with her.
And sadly, there are an awful lot of dads and indeed mothers who could learn a huge lesson from him.
Could I once again say a very humble thank you to everyone who has kept my books so high up in the various online charts. The Crew and Top Dog have been at the top of the Amazon football download charts for over 6 months now which is some achievement so thanks to you guys for downloading them.
A new book is on the way and this will almost certainly be followed by the third book in the Billy Evans trilogy!
More news and details on my website which you can visit via this link!
It is fair to say that few very few things have the capacity to impact on an individuals’ status more than a fart.
Sometimes this can be a good thing. After all, if one is in the company of a group of lads out on the lash the ability to let one go -especially if accompanied by an odour with the capacity to strip wallpaper- can quickly elevate you to legendary status.
In most other social settings however, it is not a quality to be admired and therefore it is vital that farting etiquette is both understood and observed.
However, before we dive into the ‘do’s, don’ts and how to’s’ we should examine just why the two sexes react so differently to flatulence because it is fundamental to pretty much every aspect of this section if not the entire book.
As I have already stated, I love farting and to be honest, so does pretty much every male I know. There is nothing quite like the feeling of brewing up and the satisfaction of letting one go is frankly, unrivalled.
In fact, given that the vast majority if not all of people reading this book will be male and will be doing so because they too have an appreciation of the anal art form, do I really need to spend time explaining why we love it? After all, you will already know pretty much everything I can ever say or write if not a great deal more!
Women however, are a different beast entirely and if ever there was a subject that confirms the belief that we are indeed from two different planets, it is the subject of farting.
Or does it?
After all, women fart. I know that might come as a shock to some of you but they do. All of them. That gas has to be removed somehow and it’s certainly not taken away in the dead of night by fairies using Tupperware pots. Therefore it stands to reason that it is ejected in one of only two ways, one of which is fart form. And occasionally they smell. Not like Pot Pourri either.
Yet generally speaking, the vast majority of the gentler sex would have us men believe that they regard farting as nothing more than a basic bodily function and a disgusting one at that. Yes, I am well aware that there are exceptions to this and I know a couple of females who are more than capable of clearing a
room if the mood takes them. Furthermore, as the father of two daughters I am also well aware that in private there are plenty of women who enjoy a good gruff just as much as most men even though they might feign embarrassment if overheard or one slips out by accident. So why do the so-called gentler sex seem to have such a problem understanding why we males are able to derive such humour from farting?
Well to me, the answer to that question is fairly obvious when you think about it. It’s because we enjoy it.
Yes, that’s right. It might come as something of a shock to discover that women don’t actually like men to have fun doing something which doesn’t involve them. Why else do you think so many of them have started tagging along to football? It’s not because they enjoy it, it’s because they want to make sure we don’t!
However, since unlike football, farting is an activity that we can enjoy on our own they are forced to try and discourage us from partaking by brainwashing us. A tactic they do by repeatedly telling us from very early on in our lives that we only do it because we aren’t clever enough to find humour in anything else or that it is ‘disgusting’. It’s bog standard word association hypnosis: Oven = hot = burn, road = traffic = death, fart = bad =stroppy woman.
But the primary tool employed by women as a brainwashing tool to discourage the enjoyment of anal activity is the suggestion that it is childish. The key weapon used here is the phrase ‘grow up’.
This expression is important for many reasons and it is vital that all men understand why. Because it is fundamental to the acknowledged truth that when a woman gets her claws into a man, her primary goal is to mould him into the ‘man’ she actually desired as opposed to the one she ended up with. Central to this is the modification of his behaviour and the separation from both his past and especially his mates. Hence the concerted efforts to discourage any behaviour which might be perceived as being either ‘childish’ or ‘blokey’.
The sad fact is that it is women who are missing out. Not just because a happy bloke is obviously going to be far more fun to be around than an empty shell of a ‘new man’ but because they are unable to enjoy one of the natural wonders of life.
Indeed, it is my belief that women are secretly jealous of us in our love of the anal art form but having backed themselves into a corner, they dare not admit it because that would mean admitting that they have been wrong all along. And we all know what a problem that is for women.
Ironically, they had the perfect opportunity to do just that when the so-called ‘Ladette’ culture took hold back in the 90’s. For that period in our great nations history provided the female with the ideal point to embrace what I regard as being quite possibly the greatest of all human habits.
Yet instead, they blew it. Preferring instead to adopt the delights of getting shit faced, swearing in public and thinking shagging anything that moved was a good idea. All things which they had spent decades slagging us off for and which most blokes eventually grow out of anyway!
And so when it comes to women and farting, we are where we are and it is unlikely that things will ever change at least where they are concerned. However, the fact of the matter is that it is not our fault, it is theirs. They after all are the ones missing out because there is nothing wrong with enjoying farting. It should be celebrated as a sign of confidence but above all, of honesty. If you take nothing else from this book, take that simple truth because it will change your life.
After all, as the legendary rapper P. Diddy once said, “you can’t trust a woman until she farts in front of you” and that says it all.
Like many people I have sat back and watched the furore surrounding Mario Balotelli’s stamp on Scott Parker with mild bemusement. His continued claims of innocence are quite frankly pathetic and if anything, prove just what type of individual he is.
The tragedy is that he’s not unusual. Sportsmanship seems to have become a dirty word in footballing circles these days with far too many players being seemingly devoid of a sense of fair play or for that matter, shame. How on earth can a professional sportsman who is built like a brick shit house justify dropping to the floor as if he’s been shot simply because another player taps him on the ankle or brushes his thigh? If someone did that on the local playing field on a Sunday morning he’d not only expect to get a right-hander for trying it on but he’d get slaughtered by his mates and rightly so because it is cheating pure and simple. And this begs the question, how and why has such behaviour become so acceptable within football when it is totally unacceptable or even illegal in sports such as Rugby, cricket and even golf.
The usual answer of course is that it’s all about winning but that’s bullshit. The answer is that it happens for no other reason than the punishments aren’t tough enough.
OK we are finally starting to see the odd retrospective punishment but that isn’t enough. At a time when every top flight game is filmed then every single contentious decision should be viewed and the guilty parties dealt with accordingly. Not just the players either, if clubs were faced with the threat of having points deducted for repeated offences then this cheating would stop overnight.
But equally, those who play the game professionally should be discouraging this kind of behaviour within their ranks and if that means confronting
their guilty team mates or even asking referees to change decisions during games, then so be it.
Of course history has proven that none of the above is likely to happen because everyone on the receiving end of the game (and by receiving I mean those who earn their money by milking the long suffering fans) are far too comfortable riding their first-class gravy train to want to change things.
But the simple reality is that for the future of the game something has to change and for all kinds of reasons. As both a fan and a TV watcher, I am becoming increasingly bored with some of the antics of players and I’m certainly not alone judging by the increasing numbers of empty seats we see at certain grounds.
Just as importantly, cases like Balotelli’s are making the sport a laughing stock and that not only reflects badly on those who play it but on those foolish enough to pay fortunes to watch it. And at a time when more and more people are having to question the wisdom of spending a large portion of their income on the walk through a turnstile, football can ill afford anything which might alienate any more. Especially when it is so easily addressed.
By the way, could I say a huge thanks to all those people who have been purchasing my ebooks lately. As I write this The Crew is the number one free download on the football charts of both amazon UK and US as well as on iTunes whilst Top Dog is at number one in the paid football charts. Everywhere We Go and Billy’s Log are also selling really well both here and in the States.
Could I also take this opportunity to remind everyone that my new comedy ebook is called The Art of Fart and is just £1.42 (or $2.18) on both amazon and iTunes. All of my books can be purchased by clicking here!
If you have downloaded one of my books recently and liked it, please leave a review. Of course if you didn’t like it, then please remember the old adage, if you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything!
I’ve posted this as a page on my blog but thought it might be useful to post it as a standard blog as I know some people have connections set up.
So what follows is the text of an as yet unpublished interview I gave to a journalist just yesterday (Jan 9th 2012)! I’ve posted it simply because it provides reasonable answers to many of the questions I receive on a fairly regular basis.
I hope you enjoy it but if you have a question of your own, please don’t hesitate to mail me. Oh, and it’s quite long!
How and why did you become a writer?
I fell into it by accident really and it was certainly not an aspiration or anything like it! I had left the Royal Air Force after 18 years as an engineer and was ‘working’ as an extra on TV and in films. EURO 96 was on the horizon and I was on set filming an episode of Casualty for the BBC when the idea came to write a book about my experiences following football. That book eventually became ‘Everywhere We Go’ and it really was a case of right book, right time.
The rest as they say, is history.
How do you get your ideas?
In the early days, they were driven by the readership as I thought they would be. That’s why I wrote follow-on books about local derbies, England and the London clubs (all of which are now out in eBook format).
After that, I moved into fiction which largely came about as a result of an approach from the TV writer Lynda La Plante who wanted me to write something for one of her series and from that point on, I’ve tended to write about things which either interest me or which I am passionate about. Given the way I write and the fact that much of my work revolves around my own opinions, I think it’s vital to take that approach.
How long does it typically take you to write a book?
How long is a piece of string? I actually write fairly quickly but there are all kinds of things which impact on how long a book will take to complete. However, I usually aim to have a first draft of a full-length book completed in two to three months although I actually wrote the second half of my novel Top Dog in under ten days and some people say that’s amongst my best ever stuff!
How do you write?
I’d like to tell you that I have a very clearly defined routine which involves writing at least 5000 words a day or a straight 8 hours at the keyboard but the truth is that I am horrifically ill disciplined and it doesn’t take much to distract me if I’m not very careful. Twitter for example, can keep me occupied for hours which is quite pathetic and if I know that there’s an old movie on telly it’s game over!
I actually had to sell my beloved motorbike because if the sun was shining I’d be out on the road, deadline or no deadline!
However, if I’m in the mood I’ll sit down and simply write for as long as I can and that can be anything from 2 to 20 hours in a day. All I need is tea, food and very loud soul or jazz funk music to keep me going but make no mistake, it’s bloody hard work sometimes.
So why do it?
Well it’s actually quite a decent way to earn a living! After all, I don’t even have to get dressed most days and you can’t say that about many jobs!
More seriously, writing can also provide a real buzz especially when I get in the zone and the words just come pouring out without me having to think too about them. Whilst writing ‘The Art of Fart’ for example, I was having so much fun that I actually had to keep stopping because I’d be giggling so much I’d get tears in my eyes.
It’s also fair to say that I derive a huge amount of pleasure from interacting with readers. That’s actually a huge part of it for me because having someone tell you that they like a particular book kind of makes all those hours at a desk worthwhile if only because it proves I’m doing something right!
You seem to have written books in pretty much every format there is which is quite rare amongst authors. Why did you branch out from non-fiction?
Simply because having written four books with my brother, I wanted to do my own thing. The problem was, I didn’t really know what and so I wrote a comedy book called ‘The Geezers Guide to football’ and then a couple of thrillers before going back into non-fiction. Now I’ve written another comedy book and my next project is also more humour so maybe that’s where I’ll settle. Who knows?
Where do your ideas come from?
Two places, my warped imagination and the market. Whenever I talk to writers I always tell them that if they want to write for publication it is absolutely vital that they get to know who their target readership will be, research what they are reading and then write something to suit.
That might sound mercenary but it’s exactly what a publisher will do when they’re deciding if a submission is right for them so why not make the process easier for yourself?
In my case, my target readership is lads and as a lad myself (albeit an older version!) I understand that we’re basically simple creatures who know what we like to read and more importantly, how we like to read. I try to give them what they want, it really is as simple as that. Thankfully, it seems to be working!
However, don’t get the impression that I take my readership be they real or potential for granted because I don’t. As a professional author my readership is my livelihood and if I don’t keep them entertained, I’ll starve!
How much time do you spend on research?
That depends on the project. When I was writing non-fiction football stuff it was a 24/7 operation because football culture was and remains a constantly moving beast. Thankfully, I had loads of good contacts who kept me supplied with information and to be fair, I couldn’t have written half as much as I have done without their help.
For the fictional and comedy stuff, research hasn’t ever really been an issue because I’ve been able to draw on personal experiences. If you’ve read ‘Billy’s Log’ I’ll come clean and say that it’s very much an amalgamation of my own life and that of my mate who will remain nameless!
So are all of your fictional characters based on real life?
God yes! Everyone in every novel I’ve written has been based on someone real be they family, mates or even celebrities. I ever based one character on my local newsagent!
Character creation is actually a really important part of my writing process because once I have the outline nailed down, the next stage for me is to fully construct the people I will be writing about and that starts with three things; their name, their face and their voice. After all, to all intensive purposes that character is a real person with a real history and real problems of their own and so you have to know what they will look and sound like! But equally, if you’re going to put them through something you have to understand exactly how they will react and what they will be thinking at that moment and all of that has to be built up.
That’s so much easier to do if you use a real life base-line to work from not least because if you’re struggling, you can actually ring them up and chat to them or even stick something on YouTube to give you a feel of them. It’s amazing how simply hearing someone’s voice can help you work through something. It certainly does it for me!
So what other writing tricks do you use?
Music is fundamental to my writing because I can’t write without it. But it can’t be any music, it has to be the right music. As a result, before I start work on a new project I’ll spend ages picking the right album or tracks which I put together as a playlist on iTunes. That becomes the soundtrack and it’ll be on repeat throughout the writing process.
It fairly quickly becomes almost hypnotic and I soon find that I’m able to switch in and out of a project simply by pausing the music which is an awesome thing to be able to do. The downside is that once I finish the project, I can’t listen to any of those tracks again without instinctively starting to type!
Your novels The Crew and Top Dog are two fast paced and very tightly plotted thrillers. How much work did you do in advance?
Ah….. well I actually spent a huge amount of time on these two books but the funny thing about them is that in both cases I wrote the endings first. You see I knew I wanted specific twists within the last few pages and once I had those straight in my mind I had to commit them to paper. The rest of the book was about how I took the reader to that point.
Judging by the fact that The Crew is frequently ranked at #1 in the kindle download charts for football books and is still receiving good reviews over ten years since it was first published, it clearly worked!
So why the move into comedy?
My dad was an entertainer and comedian so I think comedy is in the genes! Truth to tell, I love writing humour more than anything else although in real life, I’m desperately unfunny bordering on grumpy!
You spent a long time in the Royal Air Force. Will life in uniform ever feature in your future work? Or would you ever consider writing your autobiography?
I have a couple of ideas but at the moment, that’s all they are. I have a list of 3 or 4 books ahead of those.
As for my autobiography, it’s an idea that has cropped up a few times in recent years but the honest answer is that if I did write it, I doubt anyone would actually believe it because it would be like a bizarre version of Forest Gump! As anyone who knows me is aware, I’m one of those people ‘things’ happen to!
For example, I was quite possibly the first person in the west to know about the Chernobyl disaster! But if I tell you how, I’ll possibly have to kill you!
As a professional author, do you enjoy the part of your job which doesn’t involve writing?
I love the promotional aspect of writing and do everything I can to sell my books and spread the word about what an ex-editor once called ‘Brand Brimson’.
I also like to talk to writing groups whenever I’m asked but that’s about it really. I don’t get invited to literary functions and have never been anywhere near a literary festival of any kind.
I’m not really sure why that is but hey, that’s the literary world for you. It’s never made much sense to me.
I’ve been writing for 15 years now and one thing I’ve learned is that there are a huge number of people involved in publishing who fail to grasp the idea that the most important person in the whole process is the reader.
So does that explain why you were once quoted as saying that you’re not at the bottom of the literary ladder, you’re one of the rubber bungs underneath? What did you mean by that?
I made that comment during an interview in which I was asked about the genre of ‘hoolie-lit’ which in case you don’t know was the label tagged on to those of us who wrote books about the subject of football hooliganism.
Anyway, the point I was making that in spite of the fact that as a genre it spawned something like 60 books the bulk of which were by first time authors, drew loads of people back into reading and made a small fortune for various publishers and bookshops, no one involved has ever received any recognition let alone credit from within the literary world for what happened. Quite the opposite in fact, we just get looked down upon.
It still pisses me off to be honest. But that’s literary snobbery for you.
It’s well documented that your involvement in the Elijah Wood movie Green Street Hooligans did not go too smoothly. There have been various versions of the story but you have never really given your side of things. Would you like to take this chance to explain what really went on?
The brief version is that the director and I had a difference of opinion. She thought she knew everything and I knew she didn’t. Sadly, in the end I was forced to give up on it and walk away but the finished item kind of proves I was right because whilst it’s ok, it could have been so, so much better. That’s women for you.
Will you do more movies?
I certainly hope so!
I actually have a few screenplays on the production treadmill at the moment and would hope to do more in the future but I learnt an awful lot working on Green Street so won’t make any of the same mistakes I made there. I hope not anyway!
How did you secure your first publishing deal?
My brother and I had been writing some draft material and in the end, I walked into WH Smiths, took a book and wrote to the publishers asking if they would be interested.
That publisher was Headline and within a week or so they wrote back asking for some material and so I sent them some. They quickly came back asking for more and after two or three times I told them that if this carried on they’d have the whole book anyway so they best tell me if they wanted it or not. They wrote back and said they did and that was it.
It was only some years later that I realised how lucky we were and that it doesn’t generally happen like that!
How did you find your agent?
I don’t have an agent! Oddly, in spite of having 14 books published I’ve never been able to find one who wants to take me on so I’ve basically given up looking now. However, if anyone wants the job, I’d be happy to talk to them!
What tips would you give to aspiring writers?
The single most important piece of advice I would give them is this; if you can’t take criticism, don’t do it. Reviews can be brutal but so can reading or hearing simple feedback and if you think that you will struggle with someone slagging off your work, don’t put yourself in the firing line.
After that, it’s the basics. Write what you know, know your market, join writing groups, etc, etc. But above all, enjoy it! If you don’t, how can you expect your readers to?
What was your worst ever review?
Time out in London reviewed my first book ‘Everywhere We go’ thus: Everywhere We Go…. yeah right. Fuck off.
And your best?
I can’t remember the actual book but one of the English broadsheets (The Times I think) once called me ‘the hooligan’s pornographer-in-chief’ which I thought was quite cool. It’s certainly going on my gravestone!
Actually, the best reviews and in truth the only ones that really count are those from readers. I’m very lucky there and appreciate them all (but please, keep posting them!!)
If someone wanted to get a feel for your writing, which of your books would you recommend?
That would depend on who they were and especially what sex!
I do have a soft spot for my novels and to be honest, of all the books I’ve written ‘Billy’s Log’ is a personal favourite because it still makes me laugh. Indeed, I’m going to bow to pressure and write the sequel later this year.
What books do you read?
Autobiographies are a favourite of mine together although I steer clear of footballers and anyone under 40! I recently re-read Joan Simms book which is brilliant and very funny.
I also read military non-fiction and there is a book about the bombing raids on Port Stanley during the Falklands war called ‘Vulcan 607’ which is a particular favourite as I was there!
You have recently made the switch over to epublishing. How did that come about and how is it working?
I was approached by a company called the ebookpartnership.com who wanted to know if I would be interested in putting selected books from my backlist online.
I didn’t really know much about the process at that point but had a couple of titles which I knew I had the electronic rights to and so handed them over, more as a test than anything else. The reaction was amazing and now I have 12 of my backlist available to download. Two of those, ‘The Crew’ and ‘Everywhere We Go’ are actually free and although I was reluctant to do this at first, it has worked out astonishingly well as the ratio of sell-through purchases has been brilliant.
Is it working? Well I suddenly have full control over what I write and when I write it and it all happens at the speed I want it to happen as opposed to having to fit in with a publisher’s schedule. So hell yes! I’m a convert. So much so that I actually wrote ‘The Art of Fart’ specifically to release to the online market.
Tell us about ‘The Art of Fart’.
As anyone who has read the opening chapter on Amazon will know, it’s yet another book which has its roots in my own life! After all, when you grow up in a house of 8, 6 of whom are male, farting is going to feature quite heavily!
But in all seriousness, it’s just a bit of fun. It was certainly hilarious to write!
So what’s next?
I’m currently working on another novel, this time a comedy about football and then I may well write the sequel to ‘Billy’s Log’ which I already have mapped out.
However, if life has taught me one thing it’s that it never runs smoothly so who knows? I just hope I’m around to find out!
As anyone who knows me will be well aware, I have an intense dislike of the festive period and in actual fact, am something of a Grinch. There are all kinds of reasons for this ranging from my distrust of religion to the fact that my birthday is the 7th January (which meant crap presents when I was little) although to be fair, none of this has never stopped me planting myself in front of the telly for the duration and consuming both food and drink as if they were about to be made illegal.
However, as the ongoing farce that is my life meanders (or should that be bludgeons?) its way into yet another year, it might come as something of a shock to discover that I have spent much of this last festive period working feverishly.
The reason for this bizarre and totally unexpected turn of events was the launch of my latest book, The Art of Fart, which was released in December and is the first I have ever written solely for publication as an eBook.
Normally, when a new book hits the shelves, I leave the bulk of the promotional work to the publishers who will deal with all the pre-release publicity and arrange various interviews and appearances as well as sending out review copies to interested media outlets. The result being that they tell me what to do, I do it and all being well, books are purchased by the fabulous people that are the general public.
This time however, there is no PR department meaning that it’s all been down to me! Not only that but being an eBook it was fairly pointless doing any pre-launch work because there was nowhere for potential readers to even pre-order let alone download the finished article. The upshot being that I had to sit twiddling my thumbs until the day The Art of Fart hit amazon at which point, I went into a frenzy of self-promotion!
However, I quickly learnt that what little knowledge I did have with regard to the promotion of books was all but useless and so other than follow the bog-standard Facebook and Twitter route, I was faced with a fairly rapid learning curve. One which grew ever steeper the more I tried to climb it!
For having entered what was in effect a whole new world of publishing, not only did I have to totally rethink my approach to book PR but I had to take an entirely new perspective on the online writing and publishing world much of which I am ashamed to say, I had previously ignored. As a consequence, I have now become involved in various writing communities such as KIndleboards.com and writers-online.co.uk (which are actually good fun and involve all kinds of lovely, talented people!) and thanks to them, have been able to learn a huge amount about the delights of such mysteries as amazon tagging, twitter hashtags, etc.
Thankfully, it seems to be working really well and is actually having a knock-on benefit with my other ebooks as the number of downloads have all increased markedly. On which note, I am delighted to inform you that thanks to the good folk at www.ebookpartnership.com who I cannot commend highly enough, if you search my name on any ebook outlet you will see that my novel The Crew is a free download as is my very first book, Everywhere We Go. Indeed, I now have a total of 12 ebooks available online and not just for the Kindle but all other electronic readers as well as your PC.
Of course now that everyone is drifting back to work the next stage of promotion can begin as I will begin targeting the established print and broadcast media. Hopefully, that will secure some press exposure although it’s fair to say that the title of the book let alone the subject matter may well limit the opportunities available!
I also have a few other ideas on the backburner including one which I hope will be quite spectacular! That may well have to wait until it’s a bit warmer though!
Now whilst all of this is good fun and is hopefully spreading the word and selling lots of downloads, the problem is that doing all of this takes time which stops me doing anything else. And one of the most important questions I have to address is what to do next!
I have managed to whittle this down to three ideas now and all being well, will make the final decision over the next day or so. One thing I do know is that it will almost certainly be another eBook. Primarily because it’s such good fun!