About Me

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 Welcome to my blog cum website thingy. It's about all things related to fiction writing, however tenuous the connection. Here's a brief biog:

After doing an economics degree at Southampton University, I spent sixteen years in the Royal Air Force actually getting paid to have fun by flying aeroplanes. Since then I've worked in wholesale financial services and am now based in the UAE. I also provide consultancy and software development services to a small group of global financial institutions and am lucky enough to be a regular speaker on the international conference circuit.

I've always had a passion for history, languages and archaeology. These elements came together to create Flora Kemble, Oxford University palaeographer and heroine of my first novel, The Seven Stars, a thriller that weaves a tale of deception and murder stretching from ancient Rome to the present day.

My second book, The Manhattan Deception, is now available on Kindle and in paperback.

My third book, The Minerva System is available on Kindle and in paperback.

Book number four, Death to Bankers, has just been released on Kindle and the paperback, from Mauve Square Publishing, will be out soon.

My latest book is a ghost story, set in the misty fens of Lincolnshire. It's called Bomber Boys and has a very big twist in the tale!

I'm a member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists and split my time between work in Abu Dhabi and a far more relaxing time with my wife, Wendy - who's also published by Mauve Square Publishing - with our two cats at home in south-west France.

Amazon author page

My blog

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Free eBook

From 11 Dec to 13 Dec inclusive, The Minerva System can be downloaded for free from Amazon. And if you enjoy The Minerva System, you'll love Death to Bankers, my latest book, recently published by Mauve Square Publishing.




Saturday, 30 November 2013

Death to Bankers

It's taken me longer than I'd hoped to get my latest book published, but here it is at last.






Death to Bankers is the sequel to The Minerva System




Death to Bankers. Simple, brutal and horribly real – the three words that form the calling card of the gang murdering their way across the City of London.

Anarchists taking twisted revenge for the financial crisis or is the story more complex? City trader Will Stratton is caught up in a fatal vortex of corruption, violence and terror. The clock is counting down the seconds of his life and time is running out…

The Kindle version is available from Amazon and the paperback will be out shortly. Keep an eye out on KDP for a giveaway offer on The Minerva System

Here's a taster from the first chapter:



DEATH TO BANKERS

Chapter One          

The young man stopped walking, turned and listened: no footsteps now, nothing but a distant swish of tyres on wet tarmac. Closer at hand was the ever-present sound of the river. Must be hearing things, he thought. Get a grip. Peering into the darkness, he wiped the rain-streaked lenses of his glasses, straining to see if there really was someone back there keeping pace with him, but the world beyond the little pools of light on the Thames-side path was lost in shadow. He smiled nervously to himself at the thought of anyone following him. After all, why would they? And yet the doubts nagged still; after all, it wasn’t the first time.
The last time it had happened was on the walk home from the Tube station a week earlier. He’d dismissed it as coincidence, at worst a mugger looking for an easy mark but put off by the chance appearance of passers-by. Tonight, not five minutes after leaving the Waterman’s Arms and feeling a little unsteady on his feet, he’d heard footsteps close behind him. When he stopped, so did they: when he moved on they continued, closer now. This wasn’t even his part of town, not somewhere he’d ever been before. To him London was a city of islands, patches of firm ground, stitched together by the fine thread of the Underground and surrounded by uncharted waters such as these.
He set off once again, walking more quickly as the path followed the Thames in a wide loop around a scrubby patch of grass and weeds bordering the back fences of the terraced houses which pressed against the river. Ahead was a stretch of boardwalk, better lit; and on a lamp-post was a sign pointing inland to the Tube station – another half-mile. Maybe I’ll get a cab, he thought as he approached the fork in the path.
Suddenly, movement in his peripheral vision caught his attention. A dark figure detached itself from the shadows. Then a hand gripped his arm painfully hard. ‘So you don’t want to talk to me? You don’t like me?’ The man spoke with a continental accent – Italian, probably, he thought, turning to face him but making no effort to shake free. He’d heard the voice before. Their faces were now inches apart and under the stark light from overhead he recognised the man he’d spoken to briefly in the pub. He let out a sigh of relief. ‘God. You made me jump, creeping up on me like that. What do you want?’
‘You know what I want.’
‘Look, I told you. I have to go home. I’ve got work tomorrow,’ he said to the stranger. Then lowering his eyes, ‘We could meet again if you like. Maybe come to the Waterman’s Arms again?’
‘Yes, I’d like that,’ said the Italian. ‘But surely, just five minutes? There’s nobody around.’
He released himself from the stranger’s grasp. ‘No. I told you. I’m going home. It’s late. Too wet and cold. Not tonight. Not here.’
‘Is true. You don’t like me do you?’ the stranger said, his tone becoming petulant.
‘It’s not that,’ he said, raising his hand to touch the man’s face. ‘Let’s do this properly. You know, another time. Somewhere comfortable, warm and dry.’
He felt the hand clamped round his arm again and heard the voice say, ‘No. I want you now.’
The Italian jammed something into his ribs and when he looked down, he saw to his horror that it was a semi-automatic pistol. He gave a nervous laugh: this has to be a joke. Play along with him. ‘Look, there’s no need for that… if there’s somewhere we could go, but not here, not outdoors.’
‘Good. Walk a little with me. By the river.’
‘But you’re going the wrong way, I need to get home –’
‘I said I want you to walk with me,’ the stranger’s insistent tone once more backed up by a dig in the ribs with the pistol. They walked on in silence through the persistent drizzle until they came to a gate in the fence and a sign saying “Gilmore’s Stairs – Port of London Authority”. The Italian released his grip. ‘Stop here,’ he said, putting his arms on the top rail and staring down into the black water. ‘We should talk a little.’ He slipped the gun back into his outside pocket.
The young man joined him, the rain on his glasses transforming the lights of the far bank into diffuse blobs and smears of brightness. ‘What is there to talk about?’ he asked, his nerves slowly calming and the fear caused by the appearance of the gun now replaced by a delicious frisson of anticipation.
‘Your friend?’
‘He need never know.’
‘I am pleased,’ said the Italian.
The young man remained leaning on the railings and seemingly oblivious to the weather, for a moment turned away from him, gazing towards the distant lights of Canary Wharf, apparently deep in thought. ‘He won’t know,’ he said once more. As he did so, the Italian slid his hand into a deep pocket, sewn into the inside of his coat, and his hand closed around the handle of a hammer.
He never knew what hit him, nor did he even feel it, so savage was the initial blow to the base of his skull. Ignoring the fine aerosol of blood that spattered his face, the Italian allowed him to slump to the ground and rolled the inert form face downwards. Six more well-aimed blows to make sure and the job was done. The Italian wiped the excess blood off the hammer on a patch of wet grass: the rain could take care of the rest. Then, opening the gate, he pulled the body down the stairs and into the darkness below.
To be continued....

If you want to read more and own a Kindle, just click on one of the links below:

 


Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Last chance to win a free paperback copy of the Minerva System


Just a few days remaining to win a free paperback copy of the Minerva System. All you have to do is log in to Goodreads www.goodreads.com click on the explore arrow and select Giveaways. You can then search for the Minerva System by title or by author. Alternatively, just click on  www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/61133-the-minerva-system

Entry is free and if your name comes out of the hat, I get to post you the book. Now that's got to be a good deal, hasn't it?

Vote early, vote often as they say in Zimbabwe





Another of Wendy's excellent books has been nominated for the People's Book Prize. Click on the link below to add your votes and comments for this spellbinding tale of myth and adventure featuring Joe, Jemima, Charlie and their Tonkinese cat, Max.



Monday, 26 August 2013

Something nasty in the Goodreads woodshed

I had a bit of nasty shock yesterday: 3 bad reviews. Not that there's anything wrong with that, bad reviews are part of the writer's lot and, once we get over the urge to napalm the reviewer and their entire extended family, if we're sensible we can learn from them.

This time it was different. Somebody calling themselves 'M Hanley' who joined Goodreads this August has flagged that they've read 3 books - my 3 books to be precise - and has awarded each one a 1-star rating, all 3 ratings being posted within 2 minutes on the same day. No written review, no, 'This book sucks because,' just a series of 1 stars.

A bit of research on Google shows I'm not alone and that in most cases this sort of nastiness comes from other publishing houses in an attempt to nobble the opposition. If that's the case with 'M Hanley' then I suppose I should be flattered. I've contacted Goodreads but am not optimistic that they'll do anything about it.

Edit. Having done a bit more research it seems as though I'm not alone and, considering what others have suffered, I got off pretty likely. There's a whole site dedicated to the problem of cyber bullying on Goodreads here http://www.stopthegrbullies.com

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Hard truths about writing and selling books #3. More about agents...

The blogosphere is littered with people shouting, 'I don't need an agent.' Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. Chances are that you do.

Having a good agent on your team takes a lot of the guesswork and learning by mistakes out of the process. Finding a good one with whom you just click isn't easy though. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I did have an agent (nope, still not telling you who it was, nor the name of the agency) but ended up asking to be released from my contract. I then got into  discussions with another agent who wanted to add space aliens and/or a supernatural element to a conspiracy thriller. Now I'm all for editorial input, but that was just plain loopy, so I walked away and signed up direct with Mauve Square Publishing.

It's worked out well for me, but without an agent and a big publisher's marketing budget behind you, you end up having to do a lot of the grunt work; marketing, financial, editing etc yourself. And if you have a full-time day job like wot I do, then it kinda cuts into what little time you have for writing.

So, don't give up on the submissions just yet - I know many agents are worth their weight in birdsh*t, but there are some good ones out there.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Hard truths about writing and selling books #2. Agents

Another thing you'll hear wherever you go is that agents are rude/cruel/stupid/arrogant gatekeepers standing between writers and publishers. Yup, a small minority of them are. However, most of them are just people like you and me, trying to make a living from something they once loved - books - and that thanks to an overdose of that something, now probably hate it. Some horrid, cold facts about agents and submissions to the dreaded slush pile:


i) You submission will be the 500th the agent has received in the last hour/day/week. Agents make no money from reading the slush pile, so, being rational economic beings, they tend to concentrate on the stuff that does make money, like selling their authors' books to publishers. When it comes to wading through the thousands of 'Dark and stormy nights' that flood through the letterbox every day, many of them outsource the job to an intern.

ii) If you are lucky, and I mean really lucky, the intern may spend 30 seconds reviewing your letter, synopsis and first 3 chapters that make up the standard submission package. So don't try and be clever, literary or go for the slow burn. If your book can't hook a bored twenty-something who's spent all day reading manuscripts written to try and hook him or her, then you go on the rejection pile. That's why, if the intern gets round to it or can work out which side of the stamp to lick, you'll get a boiler plate rejection slip, or more than likely, no reply at all.

iii) Agents do not have time to give detailed feedback on your book, nor should you expect them to. There’s a very good chance you wouldn’t like what they have to say about it anyway.

iv) All agents receive threats, nasty letters and e-mails from writers they've rejected. Nobody likes getting rejection slips, especially when they've spent months or even years crafting their masterpiece, only to be told, 'Sorry, not one for us,' but that's no reason to be rude or scary. Grow a thick skin and move on to your next submission. Unless you've used green ink or written your submission in the blood of your first-born, the agent has no way of knowing if you're a bunny-boiler or not, and this is another reason why they tend to avoid personal communication when it comes to rejections. Mother wants me to open a motel, by the way.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Hard truths about writing and selling books #1

 One question that gets asked all the time is, 'How does a piece of crap like <enter the name of a book you don't like> get published whereas my, ahem, masterpiece just gets rejection slips?' Well, there are a number of reasons:

i) Definitions of what's crap and what's good are pretty subjective - on TV I can't stand soap operas, reality shows or football matches (that's soccer if you're reading this from the USA), yet these genres are among the most watched in the country. So just because I think something stinks, it doesn't mean I'm right. Numbers count, particularly when people are paying: remember, the classifications in the media are called Best Seller Lists, not Best Writer Lists. Moral of the story? There's no accounting for taste.

ii) Your book isn't as good as you think it is. Go back, re-read it, get someone else to proof read it, have it professionally edited. Just because your mum, girlfriend, wife, cat, budgie, significant other etc say it's good, doesn't mean it is.

iii) Getting an agent and then your agent finding you a publisher both involve a huge slice of luck. Talent helps, but even agents and publishers can't forecast reliably what's going to sell. The Harry Potter series, Fifty Shades, Twilight etc were books that took the industry completely by surprise. All dealt with themes that had been done before, but they all had that 'something' that made them best sellers. By the way, I know what it is, but I'm not telling...

iV) Finally, don't ever say, "How did this POS get published?" to your agent. I did once and my agent got very cross, so I had to pretend I didn't mean it. Since then I've fired my agent, but that's private stuff and not for this blog.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Where have all the buyers gone?

Maybe I was trying to be too clever by half but according to my cunning plan, a big marketing push in late June and early July would be sure to result in lots of book sales as people stocked up on holiday reading matter.

Err, not so fast. The reality has turned out to be just the opposite - sales figures have fallen off a cliff and are at best flatlining - as in single figure sales for a book that sold several thousand in March and April this year.

Anyone else having the same problem?

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Review of High Finance by Eli Lederman



 Product Details


I've just finished reading this highly unusual but entirely compelling book. The action centres round the equity trading floor of a New York investment bank and there's more backstabbing than the Ides of March.

Here's the 5-star review I posted on Amazon


Having worked in the equity trading division of a large American investment bank, for me, High Finance made riveting if uncomfortable reading. The plot teems with egotistical, dysfunctional monsters and if anyone thinks the author has overdrawn them, believe me he hasn't. People like this not only exist, they have a nasty habit of elbowing their way to the corner office. It weaves a saga of underhand office politics, backstabbing and greed, making it a book that's impossible to put down.



For someone who's never had the misfortune to work in trading, don't be put off by the technical jargon: the author explains it in bite-sized, easy to understand pieces and never allows trader-ese to get in the way of a compelling story.

Click here for the Kindle version High Finance on Amazon.co.uk

Monday, 12 August 2013

Celebrity writers of children's books 'edge out talent' (The Sunday Times, 11 Aug 2013)

An interesting piece from the Sunday Times. The original is behind a paywall here

https://login.thetimes.co.uk/?gotoUrl=http://epaper.thetimes.co.uk/epaper/showlink.aspx?bookmarkid=YGXJYNSZ7R15&preview=article&linkid=2f1df2a3-7c54-4704-b047-2e4b16a6a6bf

For some reason Blogger won't allow you to insert a pdf version - almost enough to drive you back to Wordpress - so here's a paste of the text. Read it and weep...



THE market for children’s books is being ruined by celebrities such as Frank Lampard, Katie Price and Holly Willoughby who force out talented authors, a bestselling writer has claimed.

GP Taylor, who has written 14 books, with three being made into films, said “thousands” of gifted children’s writers were struggling to get into print because publishers and bookshops wanted household names even though they penned “the literary equivalent of lift music”.

Taylor, who has been hailed as a rival to JK Rowling, said he had been “squeezed out” and turnedhis back on children’s writing. The father of three from Scarborough, North Yorkshire, added that the children’s book market was being wrecked by the trend to sign up celebrities regardless of whether they can write.

“Bookshops have gone for the lowest common denominator,” he said. “It’s not about the days of Philip Pullman and Philip Reeve, who were bringing out exciting new books and booksellers were wanting to tell people. Now it’s about big advertising campaigns and getting on the couch on a television show.”

A film of Taylor’s Mariah Mundi and the Midas Box, starring Michael Sheen, is due out in October, with its sequel filmed shortly afterwards. Production begins next year on a film of his first book, Shadowmancer. “I feel completely squeezed out,” Taylor said. “I don’t stand a cat in hell’s chance of getting published any more. I have three big films coming out and no children’s publishing deal. How weird is that?”

Taylor was “dubious” about Lampard’s book, Frankie’s Magic Football: Frankie vs the Pirate Pillagers. The Chelsea footballer admits that he came up with characters and story and wrote only “bits” of it. Willoughby, presenter of The Voice and This Morning, has written a book with her sister Kelly, called School for Stars: First Term at L’Etoile. Her website says the novel “combines Holly’s runaway imagination . . . with Kelly’s creative mind and love of writing”.

Price, who has published two book series, Perfect Ponies, and Mermaids and Pirates, admits she is “not a writer” and uses a ghost author.

Taylor said: “Book stores want an easy sell. If the celebrity makes an appearance, they’re going to be guaranteed queues of people. It’s depressing. There are thousands of talented writers who aren’t getting published.”
Simon Mayo, the Radio 2 presenter, this year launched his second children’s book, Itch Rocks. He writes his books himself and labelled authors who do not as “ghastly”.

Barry Cunningham, a children’s book publisher who discovered Rowling when he was an editor at Bloomsbury, said he would not publish a book just because it had been written by a celebrity. He said there were some good celebrity authors such as Mayo and the comedian David Walliams.

Random House, which published Price’s books, said: “If they introduced some children to the enjoyment of reading, then this can only be a positive thing.”

Terence Blacker, author of the children’s Ms Wiz series, said of Lampard’s book: “Boys who wouldn’t dream of buying a novel will buy Frank Lampard’s ghosted books. But children are never fooled. If a book is bad, they’ll give it up— however big the celebrity.”


Saturday, 3 August 2013

Free paperback giveaway on Goodreads






The first book in the Death to Bankers series is now out in paperback. To win a free copy all you have to do is subscribe to the giveaway on Goodreads.com by clicking on the link below.




Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Minerva System by Simon Leighton-Porter

The Minerva System

by Simon Leighton-Porter

Giveaway ends September 11, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Warm fuzzy

Have just finished moving my site from Wordpress.com to Blogger under my own url. Apart from a minor faff getting the DNS settings sorted out, it all went very smoothly. Not only that, Blogger is sooo much easier to use and renders html far more cleanly. The functionality is far broader even if there's not much to choose between the ease of use.

It reminds me of the happy day when I gave up with Microsoft Office 2007 and its "guess where we've hidden it now" ribbon and reinstalled Office 2003.

No longer free on Amazon Kindle

The Manhattan Deception is free to download from Amazon Kindle from 1 Aug to 2 Aug.

Afraid I had to pull the giveaway. First day went well (31 Jul) but then something seemed to happen when the new month started. Don't know whether the rankings reset to zero but the downloads suddenly dried up so I pulled the free offer. The good news is that it's still available on Amazon at a ridiculously cheap price.

 www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00BU62C9A

www.amazon.com/dp/B00BU62C9A