The Heat is On for The Lewis Trilogy

The summer has arrived with a flurry of award nominations for The Lewis Trilogy.

The trilogy has already won several awards in France where it was first published.
Now nominations are arriving for major book awards in the UK and USA.

  • THEAKSTONS OLD PECULIER CRIME NOVEL OF THE YEAR (UK)
    The Lewis Man shortlisted
  • BARRY AWARD – Best Crime Novel (USA)
    The Blackhouse – Subscribers and readers of Deadly Pleasures Magazine can vote. Find out more, here
  • MACAVITY AWARDS – Best Mystery Novel (USA)
    The Blackhouse – Subscribers and readers of Mystery Readers Journal can vote. Find out more, here
THE BLACKHOUSE shortlisted for a Barry Award

THE BLACKHOUSE has been shortlisted in the category of Best Crime Novel in the BARRY AWARDS run by Deadly Pleasures magazine.  All subscribers and readers of Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine are eligible to vote.  Readers who have subscribed to the magazine, here, may vote by email (george@deadlypleasures.com) or by sending your votes to P.O. Box 997, Bountiful, UT 84011.
The winners will be announced September 19, 2013 at the Opening Ceremonies of Bouchercon 2013 in Albany, New York

THE BLACKHOUSE shortlisted for a Macavity Award

THE BLACKHOUSE has been shortlisted for a Best Mystery Novel in the Macavity Awards.   This award is nominated by and voted on by members and supporters of Mystery Readers International, as well as subscribers to Mystery Readers Journal. Readers can subscribe here.  Winners will be announced at Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, in September, in Albany this year. The Macavity Award is named for the “mystery cat” of T.S. Eliot (Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats).

In other news…
THE CHESSMEN spent almost six months in the UK hardback bestsellers chart after publication in January this year.

THE ENZO FILES are now available in new e-books editions from Quercus. EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE, THE CRITIC, BLACKLIGHT BLUE and FREEZE FRAME (with BLOWBACK coming soon).  Find out more here

and finally…

Hebrides

HEBRIDES, the photo companion to the Lewis Trilogy

HEBRIDES will be available in September 2013.

HEBRIDES is a photo companion book for the Lewis Trilogy, containing more than 200 photographs of locations in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland described in the books.  The photographs were taken by local photographer David Wilson, and are accompanied by Peter May’s story of the islands’ history and his own history with the islands, describing the inspiration behind the Lewis Trilogy.

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A Look Back… and Forward

The end of another year.  Another book published. Another book written, well, almost. I expect to finish it within the next ten days before I travel to the UK for the launch of The Chessmen, but more of that later.  First a review of the last year….

What were the highlights of 2012?

At the end of the year, The Lewis Man was named by UK newspaper The Independent as one of their “Books of the Year” for 2012.  The Lewis Trilogy was also described in the paper as:

“one of the best-regarded crime series of recent years”.

In 2012, The Blackhouse was published in the USA by Quercus’ partners, Silver Oak, and was received very well.
New York Times reviewer, Marilyn Stasio said:

“Peter May is a writer I’d follow to the ends of the earth”

Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review, calling it:

“brilliant first in a trilogy”

Library Journal also gave it a starred review, describing it as:

“mesmerizing”‘, “breathtaking”, “astonishing”.


and they have just named The Blackhouse one of “The Best Books of 2012” in the USA.

The Blackhouse was named one of “The Best Books of 2012” in the USA by January Magazine, too.

Back in Europe, The Lewis Man was up for several awards during 2012.

In May, I made the final shortlist for the UK Crime Writers’ Association’s “Dagger in the Library” a prize awarded by British librarians.

In the Spring, the French version of The Lewis Man was selected for the French daily newspaper Le Télégramme’s Grand Prix des Lecteurs. There were 12 nominees and all the authors were called on to give talks in book shops and libraries and to be interviewed on television – all of this in French, naturally!  


The judging process took place over several months and the vote was then taken by readers of the newspaper who had registered and read the 12 books.  I was amazed and delighted when The Lewis Man was declared the winner and I received the 10,000 Euro prize at the televised award ceremony.



In June, at Le Havre’s Ancres Noires Crime Writing Festival, The Lewis Man won the Prix des Lecteurs.  This is another prize judged by readers.  It is run and adjudicated by librarians in the North West of France.I was the first author to win this prize twice – having won it previously for The Blackhouse.

The Lewis Man was shortlisted for the first Scottish Crime Book of the Year, at the inaugural “Bloody Scotland” Crime Writing Festival in Stirling in September – a great festival, well-run, superb location, convivial – hope it’s the first of many!

In October, at one of my favourite festivals, the Cognac festival of Crime Writing I won the Prix Polar International by a unanimous vote of the judges (which is apparently very unusual).  The best thing about this award?  The crystal decanter of 1795 Baron Otard Extra Cognac!

As for 2013…

The Chessmen was released on Kindle UK early, and the past couple of weeks have seen The Blackhouse, The Lewis Man, and The Chessmen all regularly sitting in the Top Twenty of the Amazon Kindle UK Mystery and Thriller lists.

The Chessmen‘s hardback release date in bookstores was 3rd January and I’ll be flying to the UK for 11 events to celebrate the launch at bookstores and other venues mainly in Scotland, and focusing on a Hebridean tour!

CHESSMEN LAUNCH TOUR

  • Newcastle, Corrbridge Forum Books, Tea and Tipple Cafe 14th Jan 7pm
  • St Boswells, Mainstreet Trading 15th Jan, 12 noon
  • Newton Mearns, Waterstones, Primavera Bistro 15th Jan 7pm
  • Edinburgh, Blackwells, 53-59 South Bridge16th Jan 6.30pm
  • Dundee, Steps Theatre, 17th Jan 7pm
  • Lochmaddy North Uist, Taigh Chearsabhagh Arts Centre 19th Jan 2pm
  • Lochboisdale, South Uist, Lochboisdae Hotel 21st Jan 7pm
  • Tarbert, Harris, Tarbert Community Library, 22nd Jan 7pm
  • Stornoway, Lewis, Woodlands Centre, 23rd Jan 7.30pm
  • Ness, Lewis, Historical Society, 24th Jan 7.30pm
  • Inverness, Waterstones 25th Jan 4pm (signing only)
THERE MIGHT BE LIMIT ON SEATS AVAILABLE, SO
PLEASE CHECK WITH INDIVIDUAL VENUES FOR
FULL DETAILS ABOUT WHETHER BOOKING IS NECESSARY

I have to go now, to ensure that I meet the deadline to finish writing my next book before the tour.

What is it about?

Well, in spite of daily e-mails imploring me to continue with Fin’s story, I can tell you there is definitely NOT going to be a fourth book in The Lewis Trilogy.  I can also divulge that the Isle of Lewis does appear in the new book.  But you’ll have to wait a while to find out any more!

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The Mystery of the Disappearing Bookstores

During my 2005 US book tour to promote “The Firemaker”, I visited 15 independent mystery bookstores.  This year just 6 of them are still in business.

The latest to fall by the wayside is Partners & Crime in New York City.  P&C has just announced it is to close its doors, following in the fatal footsteps of another NYC independent, Murder Ink.

Mysteries To Die For in Thousand Oaks, California, closed its doors for the last time last week, while further north in the same State San Mateo’s independent Mystery bookstore, M is for Mystery, closed earlier this year.

Since my last book tour of the US in 2010, the Los Angeles Mystery Bookstore in Westwood has gone under, as has Murder by the Book in Denver.

The San Francisco Mystery Book Store, Kate’s Mystery Books, Cambridge, MA, and High Crimes in Boulder, Colorado, had all closed before then, although High Crimes was still operating an internet service and hosting visiting author events.

This summer Mystery Lovers bookstore in Oakmont, Pittsburgh, PA, changes hands, and one can only wish the new owners the best of luck in the current economic climate.

It’s easy to wax lyrical about the service that the enthusiasts who ran these stores provided for readers by offering good advice and astute recommendations, but speaking from personal experience the hosting they provided for authors will be difficult to replace.

Events run at independent bookstores are an absolute pleasure.  Talks and Q&A sessions take place in an intimate environment, with chairs crammed into small spaces between canyons of books.  The bookstore owners know their customers and encourage them to come along to listen to and meet authors who are new to them.  Fans get the chance to mingle and talk with authors and other readers.  And after the fans have gone home, the author stays on at the bookstore to sign piles of books that the owner then goes on to hand-sell, marketing via newsletters to readers further afield, or who couldn’t come along that night.

Through this countrywide network, a writer who was unknown to American readers, could get on the road and let people know about his work.

I traversed the US, east to west, north to south, and in five years built up a loyal fan base and readership thanks to the work of those independent mystery bookstore owners.  Word-of-mouth recommendations are by far the most effective way of reaching new readers.  However, internet shopping is taking its toll, and I feel that I am now witnessing the end of an era.

In times of financial crisis, who can blame people for wanting to get their books delivered to them more cheaply.   But as controversy rages elsewhere on the net about fake online reviews and manipulation of star ratings by sock puppets, the real loss to all of us, readers and writers alike, is the demise of those passionate booksellers – people you could put a real name and a friendly face to – who would tell you what books they loved, and why they loved them, and who would chat in person with you, the reader, and make recommendations based on your tastes.  Lovely people.  People you could trust.  I’ll miss them.

If you still have an independent bookstore nearby, you owe it to yourself to go out and support it.

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Nae Rest Fur the Wicked!

Well, while awaiting the release of The Chess Men, the final book in The Lewis Trilogy – in September in France and next January in the UK, I was keeping my head down and getting to work on a new idea.  However, if I thought I was going to have some quiet time to research and think, I was wrong.  The last couple of weeks have been – well, see for yourself…

Le Télégramme Newspaper Readers’ Prize 
The first thing to interrupt my thinking time was the news that The French edition of The Lewis Man (L’Homme de Lewis) had won the Prix des Lecteurs du Télégramme!  

I had been shortlisted for this prize earlier in the year, so I knew that I was one of six authors whose books would be read and voted on by the readers of France’s Le Télégramme newspaper.  Along with the shortlisting came a requirement to make bookstores appearances and give talks, as well as do video interviews for French television and the internet sites of the newspaper and bookstores.  The shortlisted books were available in bookstores and libraries and over a period of months, readers of  the Télégramme newspaper were required to register in order to participate and vote for their favourite.  Readers’ prizes like this are special because there are no politics involved; it’s a simple case of readers (the most important people in writers’ lives) reading the books and saying which one had pleased them the most.  

Winning the prize meant returning to Brest with a 1500 kilometre round trip for another round of nerve-wracking TV and newspaper interviews all in French, along with the award ceremony, dinner, and the prize itself – a cheque for 10,000 Euros.

You can read about it here:  
http://www.prlog.org/11880216-scottish-island-stories-win-french-readers-hearts.html

Movie of The Killing Room 
While I was in Brest, the Cannes Film Festival was taking place and I wasn’t able to be there for the official announcement that a deal had finally been confirmed to make The Killing Room –  the third of my China Thrillers – into a movie.  Alexis Dantec and Fred Bellaiche’s production company, French Connection, optioned the rights to The Killing Room two years ago, but getting past the Chinese censors was posing a problem for them.  The answer proved to be an unusual one: the company has decided to transpose the novel’s original setting of Shanghai and Beijing to Seoul, Li Yan will become a Korean cop and Margaret Campbell will become a French pathologist!

For more about the crazy world of movie-making, here is the article announcing the project:  
http://www.screendaily.com/news/production/french-connection-links-with-korean-dream-capture/5042319.article

Shortlisted for Dagger in the Library Award
The day after I won the Télégramme prize, I received the fantastic news that I have been shortlisted for the British Crime Writers’ Association’s “Dagger in the Library” Award.  This prize is decided by a judging panel of librarians, and it is awarded not for one particular book, but instead for a writer’s body of work, and for writers who have built up a following with library readers but who have not yet made a big breakthrough.

Here’s how the judges described me:  “An accomplished author, at the height of his powers with this latest trilogy. He manages to vary his settings while always creating completely believable characters.”  Read more about “The Dagger in the Library” and the shortlist here: 
http://www.thecwa.co.uk/daggers/2012/library.html

What will follow the Lewis Trilogy?
With all of these distractions it has been hard to focus.  But an idea has been running around in my mind for a few months and I finally harnessed it and pulled together my first thoughts to present to my editor at Quercus.  After an anxious wait while he considered it, he came back to me with good news.  He loves it!  And I hope you will too, but you’ll have to wait for a while to find out more about it.  I have to develop the story and the characters, research it, write it, then it has to go through the whole publishing process, and finally it will reach you in 2014!  

But first you have to find out how the Lewis Trilogy ends.  The final book, The Chess Men, will be out in the UK in January 2013, and if you haven’t already downloaded the excerpt to whet your appetite, then you can find it here:  
http://www.ur-web.net/PeterMayMain/TheChessMenDownload.html

Scottish Visits
I will be visiting…
Inverness on 25th July, for the Inverness Festival
Edinburgh, 16th – 18th 
August for the Edinburgh Book Festival, for an event at Peppers Theatre 6.45pm 16th August
Stirling on 13th September for “Off The Page” festival hosted by Stirling’s libraries.

and staying in Stirling for the “Bloody Scotland” crime writing festival 14th – 16th September, appearing at this event: http://www.bloodyscotland.com/island-crime/

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That Was The Year That Was

It’s been a helluva year!

Most of you who follow my blogs will know something of the publication history of “The Blackhouse” – how it was rejected by all the major publishing houses in the UK before being snapped up by my French publisher, Le Rouergue.  They then sold it all around Europe and brokered a three-book deal with London publishing house, Quercus, UK publisher of the year in 2011.

Well, “The Blackhouse” was finally published in the UK in February last year, and went straight into the top twenty hardback bestsellers chart at No.16.

Meantime, back in France, the book (in it’s French incarnation, “L’île des chasseurs d’oiseaux”) had already won the readers’ prize at the prestigious Le Havre crime writing festival, but was then, to my delight, shortlisted for one of the biggest readers’ prizes in the world – the Prix Cezam.  Ten books from around Europe are selected for the Cezam shortlist, then read and voted on by more than 3,500 readers in adjudicated groups all over France.

A rare moment to relax on a deserted Breton beach

That nomination obliged me to travel widely around the country talking to these groups about the book, and about my writing in general – during which time I was also busy writing the third book in what is now called “The Lewis Trilogy” (“The Blackhouse” being the first).  In hotel rooms and trains I spent countless hours tapping away on my laptop, criss-crossing France – from Brittany to Paris, from Lyon to Nantes.

I also spent the Spring in training for a research trip in June to the mountains of south-west Lewis.  This entailed getting sturdy walking boots a waterproof jacket, a woolly hat and walking stick, and tramping up hill and down dale to get myself fit.

In the event, nothing could prepare me for the appalling climatic conditions that battered me on my arrival on the island.  Up in the mountains winds were gusting to a 100 kph, spitting rain and stinging hail into my face.  During a week of bruising weather, I hiked through some of the most rugged, desolate and inaccessible wilderness in Scotland.

Returning to France, satisfied but exhausted, I learned that “The Blackhouse” had been selected as one of eight books for the Richard & Judy Autumn Book Club – which is now sponsored by WH Smith, the biggest bookseller in Britain, with more than 1000 retail outlets.

So at the end of August I headed off to London to record an interview with Richard and Judy to coincide with the paperback publication of “The Blackhouse” and the announcement of the autumn list.  

The book shot straight into the top ten.  In all, it spent nearly three months in the top thirty, and sold more than 100,000 copies.  And because it turned out to be the bestselling book of the R&J autumn selection, it received its own extended display in all WH Smith stores after Christmas and is still selling like hotcakes.

Receiving the CEZAM in Strasbourg

As if all this wasn’t heady enough, I learned in September that I had won the Prix Cezam!  Not just the national prize, but 21 out of the 25 regional prizes as well.  This obliged me to attend the national prize-giving in Strasbourg in mid-October, before embarking on a two month tour of France to collect the regional awards.

Then came the news to top it all off.  The Lewis Trilogy had been bought by Silver Oak, the Quercus imprint of Sterling, one of the biggest publishing houses in America. “The Blackhouse” will make its first US appearance in September, with an initial hardback print run of more than 50,000 copies.

As I sit here writing this, the second book in the trilogy, “The Lewis Man”, has just been published.  Quercus tell me that advance sales already guarantee its status as a bestseller, and if the first reviews are anything to go by, it looks set to surpass the success of its predecessor.

To promote the publication, Quercus commissioned a glossy book trailer from big name music video producers, The Forest of Black, and to be honest I think it is one of the best book trailers I have seen.

Even as I stop to draw breath, I have learned that “The Lewis Man” (already out in France under the title “L’homme de Lewis”) has been shortlisted for a literary prize awarded by the readers of the French daily newspaper, Le Télégramme.  And so it all begins again!

But what of the writing.  It’s easy to forget amid this maelstrom that, in the end, the writing is what it’s all about.  Well, I have completed the third book in the trilogy, “The Chess Men”, and just signed a new three-book contract.

However, I have to confess to a deep melancholy.

My sadness comes from saying goodbye to the characters I have lived with 24/7 during these last few years.  Fin and Marsaili, Angel and Calum.  Donald, Tormud, Ceit, and others whom you have yet to meet.  They have been with me through all the ups and the downs, from the despair of rejection to the elation of success.  Characters whose lives I have lived with them, and sometimes for them.  People as real to me as family and friends.  And yet, as I wrote the final few words of the third book, I knew that I would never see them again.

The sense of loss is almost as great as the grief you experience with the death of a loved one, or the loss of a lover.  I have to admit to sitting at my computer weeping unashamedly as I typed the last lines of the final chapter.

I guess the only consolation is that new friends await me.  I have no idea yet who they are, but I know that together we have a roller-coaster few years ahead of us.

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French Award

The Blackhouse is the book that British publishers rejected en masse 6 years ago. Today it is at No.7 in the bestselling UK paperback chart – its 7th week in the Top Twenty. And yesterday it won one of the most prestigious literary prizes in France.

The Prix Litteraire Cezam Inter-CE, is notable for having one of the largest juries in the world of literary prizes. Throughout the year more than 3500 jurors meet in 330 reading groups across France to read, consider and discuss a shortlist of ten books from around Europe before voting using a points system. The votes are collected, verified and counted by the librarians and bookstore owners responsible for leading the groups.

The prize is in two parts, regional and national. Votes are counted first at a local level with prize winners being declared in each of 26 regions; then the points are amassed across France to calculate the winner of the National Award. “L’île des chasseurs d’oiseaux”, which is the French translation of “The Blackhouse”, won 21 out of the 26 regional prizes, making it the runaway national winner.

I picked up the national award in Strasbourg yesterday in the amphitheatre of the Faculty of Medicine, in front of an audience of 250 – participants in the vote who had come from all corners of France without knowing who the winner was.

On an enormous screen behind the stage, the ten nominated books were counted down one by one, according to their place in the vote, until only two remained. The winning book was then heralded by the arrival of a piper who entered through a door at the back of the amphitheatre. I was ushered on to the stage to the accompaniment of Scotland the Brave, proudly sporting my kilt, to receive a cheque, a hand-crafted fountain pen, bottles of wine, and a huge Alsation crockpot.

Following my thank-you speech, I was interviewed in front of the audience for an hour by Strasbourg bookstore owner, Gilles Million. The session ended with questions from the floor, the last of which was an enquiry about my age. I had to reveal that I would be 60 in two months, but added – to thunderous applause – that in the anglo-saxon world 60 was the new 40, and that life now begins at 60.

The presentation was followed by a two-hour signing session, which achieved a sellout of both The Blackhouse and The Lewis Man.

From today I will be embarking on a two-month tour of France to attend regional award ceremonies across the country. The tour is being combined with appearances at bookstores to promote “The Lewis Man” (L’homme de Lewis), the follow-up to “The Blackhouse”.

I recently had an email conversation with one of those British editors who originally rejected “The Blackhouse”, and who generously wrote to congratulate me on its success. She said, “At the time, I didn’t see how to sell it. Obviously I was wrong.”

I wrote back to say that I was not unhappy, since the book had found its time, and its place, with the right publisher – Quercus. But if it wasn’t for my French publisher, Le Rouergue, who rescued it from obscurity by buying world rights and selling it across Europe, the book would probably never have seen the light of day.

So it was particularly sweet to win this award in my adopted country – vindication for the French publisher who had faith in the book when no one else did.

Here is a list of the places I will be visiting between now and mid-December:

Macon
Bourg en Bresse
Annecy
Lyon
Clermont Ferrand
Angers
Nantes
Paris
Lorient
Brest
Quimpier
Angoulême
Gardanne
Toulon
Lyon (again)
Annonay
Villefranche de Rouergue

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Jet2 Strike Back!

Following yesterday’s blog about our nightmare journey on Jet2 from Toulouse to Edinburgh via Nice, I made an amazing discovery… Jet2, it seems, employ internet spies. People who trawl the net looking for critical comments about their precious company and then striking back with self-righteous indignation – as well as slagging off the competition.

I linked to my blog from my Facebook fan page, which automatically posts it to Twitter.

And all afternoon, while trying to catch up on lost sleep, my iPad get chiming alerts from incoming tweets.

This was the tirade that awaited me when I finally gave up on trying to sleep and looked to see who was making so much noise (broken up, of course into tweet-sized chunks). It was from someone called “Cabinflyer30”. No giveaway there, then…

“Your blog made me chuckle (oh yeah?). Jet2 always push to get their passengers to their destinations. Whatever obstacles are put in their way. Even a strike out of their control. Many airlines would simply cancel and strand you until the next available flight becomes available. They don’t have the facility for free drinks on board. There isn’t enough to go round everyone on the plane. Also, if you take no hold bags, let them choose your seat and pay by electron, the first price you see is the price you pay. All the other add ons are variable depending on what you select. One day you will experience a real ordeal when your flight gets cancelled by the likes of Ryanair.”

Wow! This company doesn’t like criticism, and comes chasing you down if you dare to take their name in vain. I replied, as follows, in more tweet-sized chunks:

“Who the hell has electron? And when I fly with my partner I want to sit beside her. They didn’t even carry their advertised refreshments, or make any allowance for the extra hours. Information was non-existent. Yesterday I did experience a real ordeal at the hands of an airline that doesn’t give a damn about customer care. Let them give me an honest price and if I don’t want a bag in the hold deduct it from the total. Just a little honesty, please. And I wonder who pays your wages!”

Back came Cabinflyer30:

“I wonder. LOL! I really care about my job. And believe me, they really do care about the customer. The easy option if they didn’t care would be to cancel the flight. What products didn’t they have available? Sandwiches? If so, these can sell out. There is only so much space in the chiller for these. With bags… all the competitors charge for bags. If they were included the base price would be higher than the competition. When you choose free online check-in, system gives you adjacent seats free of charge.”

I was getting tired of the vacuous stream of PR tat by then and replied, simply: “Give me a break!”

But Cabinflyer30 wouldn’t let it go:

“Give me a break, too. LOL. (Note the use of the light-hearted LOL to create the false impression of friendly banter.) The amount of planning just to get you to Nice requires an outrageous amount of extra planning and effort as well as money. Airlines are very complex businesses and sometime things don’t go to plan.”

Well, you know, despite the fact that the airline gave no warning or information (although knowing of the situation days in advance); despite the fact that they failed to stock up on food for passengers who were going to miss meals and be stuck on an aircraft for hours; despite failing to even offer water to thirsty and irritable customers; and even despite their deliberately misleading pricing system and confusing website, I wanted to give them due credit, even although it seems to me that the business of an airline is to carry passengers from A to B. So I conceded…

“Credit where it’s due. They did get us to our destination. But a little thoughtfulness might have taken the pain out of it. And I won’t fly with you again for reasons aforementioned.”

But, of course, I knew that Cabinflyer30 would want the last word, and I wasn’t wrong. Back came Jet2’s defender:

“Ok, fair enough. Maybe cancelling may have been better for you? Such a shame.”

So who, I wondered, was Cabinflyer30, exactly. No information given on the profile. However, here are some telling stats. Cabinflyer30 follows 31 people and has 12 followers. He/she/it has made a total of 222 tweets – most of them to me, it seems!

Honestly, how pathetic is that?

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WTF

Yesterday I set off to research the third book in my Lewis trilogy. This entailed a two-leg flight. Toulouse to Edinburgh on Saturday. Overnight at an airport hotel in Edinburgh. Then Edinburgh to Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides today.

So why am I waking up in a hotel in Dunfermline, in Fife, a loooong way from Edinburgh? And why did I not get to my bed till 3am French time?

Well, it turns out that there is a strike of fuelers at Toulouse. Which actually turns out to have been going for a couple of days. But did the airline, Jet 2, tell us about it? No. Nothing on their website, no announcement at the airport. The first we knew that anything was wrong was when a girl arrived at the departures desk at the gate and put up a note on the screen warning that the flight was an hour late.

It was due to take off at 7.25pm. We weren’t aboard an aeroplane until 9pm. Only then did the pilot tell us about the strike and announce that he was going to have to fly to Nice to refuel.

So, after flying an hour in the wrong direction, and spending another hour on the ground perspiring in sweltering heat, we finally took off for Edinburgh, ETA 12.30am (1.30am French time). So did the airline offer a complementary drink, even a glass of water (given that there was no way we were going to get to eat when landing in Edinburgh)? No. They came round with their sales trolley, barely apologising for the fact that they didn’t actually have any of their advertised meals on board. So what was on offer? A packet of crisps (washed down with a miniature bottle of wine) a Twix bar and a horrible, stewed cup of watery coffee. And how much did they charge? £16.

This is the airline that lies to you about the price of your flight to con you into buying a ticket – only for you to discover that you then have to pay for a seat, pay for booking on the internet, pay for using a credit card (although no alternative way of buying is offered), pay to put your bag in the hold. It is the airline that sends bag fascists around the seats at the departure gate to see if you are concealing a handbag – which is NOT allowed.

Remind me NEVER to fly with Jet 2 again.

However, that wasn’t the end of the story.

Finally arriving in Edinburgh just short of 1am, we queued in the cold and dark to wait for the shuttle that would take us the five minutes to our hotel – to be met by a grim-faced receptionist. They had given our room away, and there were no others in the hotel.

“I’ve got a taxi waiting at the door for you,” he said. “It will take you on a very short 20-minute ride to another hotel where I’ve managed to get you a room.”. He stuffed £60 in grubby notes into my hand to pay for the hotel and promised to send a taxi to pick us up and take us back to the airport in the morning.

I resisted the temptation to introduce him to the knuckles of my right hand, and we dragged ourselves off to the taxi, whose driver confessed he had no idea where he was going. But he did confide with a giggle, “That guy in there was brickin’ it!”

The short 20-minute ride turned into a 40-minute, £40 marathon in the dark, across the Forth road bridge into deepest, darkest Fife. Which is how I come to be waking up (after 5 hours’ sleep) in a hotel in Dunfermline.

I hardly dare wonder what today holds in store.

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Prix Cézam

I leave tomorrow morning on a seven-day trip to the north-west of France, which may determine the future of my career.

My book “The Blackhouse”, published in French as “L’île des chasseurs d’oiseaux” (The Island of the Bird Hunters), has been shortlisted for a very prestigious French literary award, the Prix Litteraire Cézam – one of ten novels selected from around Europe.

http://www.cezam.fr/?mode=prix_litteraire

I am going to talk to just some of the 4000 readers from around France who will read and vote on the books.  My first stop is a prison in Angers – yes, prisoners, too, get a voice in the decision-making process.

I will be speaking at 12 events in five days – a gruelling schedule, followed in May by a trip to south-east France, and in June to Paris, and a meeting with the other nominated writers.

The results of the vote will be returned for counting in September, and the winner announced at a glitzy event in Strasbourg in October.  In addition to the overall winner, each one of the twenty-two regions participating get the chance to vote for their own favourite.

Winner takes all – along with a massive boost to book sales.

Whether, in the end, it is my book or someone else’s which wins, remains to be seen.  But tomorrow I take the first step on that road to Strasbourg full of hope – that my French will be up to it!

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A Right Royal $&*@-Up

I make my living by licensing publishers to print and make available to the public my coyrighted material.  In return, I get a percentage of the retail price of the book – eight or ten percent.  It’s called a royalty payment.  As a writer I am only able to pay my bills as a result of receiving royalty payments.

So, naturally, I am in favour of the principle of royalties.

But the royalties field is a very uneven one, and if someone chooses to steal my work and sell it without paying me my due, in truth there is very little I can do about it.  And in this electronic age, pirates are plundering my assets left, right and centre.

Take Google, for example – those enlightened schoolboys who were going to change the world for the better.  They just stole almost everything I ever wrote and made it available to anyone on the internet for nothing.  Just copied it and put it up there.

And what can I do about it?  Sweet FA.

Of course, they face a class action from any number of writers who have suffered the same fate.  But that action is being led by a small, unrepresentative group who are advocating a settlement that will cost Google a lot of money, and if I’m lucky put 50 dollars in my pocket.  Big deal!

Now here’s the irony.

As someone who believes in paying due royalties, I went in search of the owners of the lyrics of the Elvis Presley song, “Heartbreak Hotel”, because I wanted to include four lines from the song in my follow-up to “The Blackhouse”, which is called “The Lewis Man”.

After a lengthy process of tracking down the company which licenses reprint permission, I was told that those four lines were going to cost me a sum of money which would, eventually, run to thousands – to cover all the international and paperback editions of the book.

Crazy, isn’t it?  Four lines from the lyrics of a song which are all over the internet.  Four lines from a song written more than fifty years ago, whose writers are both dead (and don’t need my royalty payments to pay their bills).  Four lines from a song which, had I paid for them, would promptly have been stolen by Google (and God knows who else) and made available to anyone who cared to download them.

So what did I do?  Well, I cut the four lines, of course.  It doesn’t make that much difference to the book, though of course it lost a little of its colour.

Madness or what?

 

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