Thursday, 14 June 2018

Hunting Houses Out in Rheinland Pfalz

As you might just be able to see, we have been staying in a holiday apartment called Schwarze Katz (Black Cat, in German). Not so lucky, since the internet availability is not quite as advertised. I'm writing this blog post on our second-to- last day in Zell, on the banks of the beautiful Mosel river, but you probably won't get to read it until we have returned to our house in Spain. I am footsore: as you can tell from the title above, we've been house-hunting, but chose not to hire a car. We've looked at 8 houses, in various states of repair, none are perfect for us, but then of course that's to be expected.

Our sale in Spain is going exactly as expected, we are still no wiser as to what day the deeds will be signed over in the notary's office. From that day we will effectively be homeless. Still, at least we will be allowed to make an offer on a house in Germany, should anything be available at that time. Did you know that in Deutschland,  you cannot make an offer until the funds are in place? No, neither did I.

The Mosel valley is truly beautiful. There are many tiny villages along it. Like most rural places, they have property bargains galore: there is no work for a young person in these hamlets. The local bakeries and shops have closed down as the owners have retired, with no-one to take on the family business. We have been looking in the larger villages/towns: but even Zell itself has its share of closed-down restaurants and shops. One never thinks of Germany having felt the effects of the crash ten years ago, but there are signs, and, if they are not so marked as -say- in the villages of Extramedura or Galicia, they are there nevertheless.

Public transport is quite amazing: buses along the Mosel river are frequent. With imagination you could be in Luxembourg in 2 hours, Trier in one-and-a-half, or Cologne if you went north, on the train from the nearby town of Bullay - and you could do that even from those smaller villages. The bus services get you to the train hub on time. The local trains are operated here by the company whose logo you see on the side of the train in this picture: I like the name better than those of UK companies': Thameslink or Virgin for example...

You can ride your bike from Traben-Trarbach to Cochem and beyond alongside the river, it's mostly flat. We rode 12 km on a bike for the first time in who knows how many years, a real cyclist would make the very most of a visit here.

Most striking is how different everything is from Southern Spain. Not better, just different. I think I will take a while to get used to living here, but then that's the point isn't it? Keep moving forward, don't look back.

As some readers may know, I'm in the middle of another Unbound campaign to get a book published. I have been running a competition for pledgers to No Good Deed. The winner has been drawn from a beer-stein, but not, for obvious reasons mentioned earlier, announced. My campaign has been fairly static for over a fortnight, during which we buried my father and came to the Mosel to look for a likely house. Moffat's further adventures will be published - or not. I think I have things a little more in proportion now.

Anyway, despite the complaints about the internet in this apartment where I now write, below is the view from the balcony... Mindfulness? Desiderata? Zen? Call it what you want... but practice it; this practice may not make things perfect, but it may teach you to enjoy things, despite their imperfections...

*PS Apologies to The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band for mangling the title of one of their less appropriate songs.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Book Review: Love Bites by Elena Kaufman

I read this book of wonderful short stories in the same way I read Maupassant's Quinze Contes while studying it/them for 'A' level many, many years ago. That is; I dipped in and out, often went back to re-read an earlier story and always put the book down for a day or two at the end of a story to think about what I had read. 

"Elena's collection was just as intriguing and varied as the one by the writer we used to call "The French Guy". Set in locations as varied as remote Hawaii or a bustling London, Toronto or Paris, each story in Love Bites is a beautifully crafted thing, like one of those tiny boxwood carvings from 16th century Flanders*.

Highlights, for me at least, include: the accurate whilst still sympathetic portrait of a dementia sufferer in Love Bites; the fatuous list of things - according to her friends - that Carmen should be doing in Paris (and I loved the name of the café) in 'Lost Time'. A special mention for the menace of the final tale 'Poisonwood Gods. 

In all honesty, I could have reeled off some exquisite detail or outlined each clever premise for every story in "Love Bites" - but that would, I think, have denied any new reader of the immense pleasure of discovering them for themselves. I started this review by mentioning the author of some of the greatest short stories I know, Elena Kaufman's stories are no less worth the reading. 

*there's an article here  

"Orl Abowt Unbound"

Every time I have to explain Unbound's workings to someone I come over all Molesworth (wich, as any fule kno, is entertaining but perhaps not really informative). Anyway I have made this:

People Explainer Scenes Template (copy) on Biteable.

Which, of course, is not that much better. Anyway, if you haven't guessed I have a second book in its campaign phase. No surprises that Unbound took it after the runaway success of the infamous Gibbous House. (Yes, okay, it is more of a tired shamble than a run, but I have SOLD BOOKS!!)

Anyway, if you're interested, you can become a patron of No Good Deed (the further adventures of Moffat, along the Mississippi) here.

At the time of writing there is an Anagram Competition open to patrons only here

Monday, 30 April 2018

The Log House: Book Review

An unusual, and grippingly dystopian tale of horror. Baylea Hart takes the brave step of making her protagonist Penny somewhat less than sympathetic. This in no way detracts from The Log House's grip on the reader from first page to last.

The post-disaster world is subtly, and  at the same time, very vividly delineated. Penny's quest to return to the log house is full of tension and this reader was on the edge of his metaphorical seat until the final line. The slow reveal of the true horrors in Baylea's all too realistic dystopia is beautifully done.

Another fine book, published by Unbound, available on Amazon and in all good bookshops.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

What is Unbound?

Unbound has accepted my proposal for a sequel to Gibbous House, called No Good Deed. This means I'm on the crowd-funding roller coaster again; begging e-mails, attempts at humorous and engaging posts on Facebook and Twitter, even wandering about in local towns in a sandwich board. (OK I didn't mean that one, but I'm not ruling it out, you understand).

Last time, every person I contacted wanted to know how it worked. Some saw it as paying for a book in advance (a long way in advance) and to some extent that's true. But it's not the whole story.

The whole story is in this magazine article here. I know, who has time to read all of that, right? So, I'll try and break it down, based on what Unbound writers and potential pledgers said to me last time.

"Unbound is publishing books that no one else will."

That looks like a negative thing, doesn't it? It isn't, here's why.

Publishing is traditionally risk averse (in much the same way as cinema and television are). They like to publish what they know, who they know - and that means best-selling authors, or other high-profile people using a decent ghost writer. Otherwise, they'll look for slightly different versions of what they already sell. "If you liked (insert best seller here) you'll love (insert book of similar kind here).  Unbound do not do this. Anyone, you, me (!), can pitch to Unbound, you don't need an agent, you don't even need a manuscript ready to go, but it's probably better if you've got 3/4 of one. (The manuscript, not the agent). I'm not sure of the rejection rate, but it's harder to convince them than you might think. The crowd-funding campaign is a further gauge of whether a book is sale-able - or not.

"You are not pre-ordering a book, you are pledging".

This sounds bad too, hey? It isn't. No book - say if the writer doesn't finish it, or if the production costs aren't raised in the campaign - and you get your money back (or you could pledge for something else).

"These books are expensive".

Two things.
a) Books on Amazon and in Tesco's are un-sustainably (for the author, and perhaps even for publishers in the long term) cheap. I won't bore you with the maths, but an author can earn pennies from a book costing the best part of a tenner.
b) Your Unbound book will have your name in the back (or maybe even the front) as a patron, someone who made the book happen. I've bought a few myself and it feels good to part of creating something that wouldn't exist without that contribution, trust me.

"It takes so long."

It does, but no longer than in traditional publishing. It's just that the process with - say - the latest Hilary Mantel is completely invisible to you. It's the same process though. Manuscript to publisher, structural edit, cover-design, copy-edit
proof reading. Not all of which happens every time with a self-published book, by the way.

Anyway, if you got this far, how about supporting No Good Deed? We can get a great book into the public's hands together .

Monday, 16 April 2018

15 Minutes by Erinna Mettler

No apologies for reviewing yet another Unbound author's book. 

Hats off to Erinna Mettler for producing a pyrotechnic display of short-story writing. If you want to know how it's done buy this collection. Erinna's ability to produce note perfect "voices" across a range of class and and the transatlantic divide make her a kind of Rory Bremner of the short fiction world.
There were so many little gems in this book, which I decided to read again before posting this review. The 15 minutes of fame thread is unobtrusively present throughout the 20 or so stories, but what they all have in common is a humanity and a certain optimism, often found in unlikely places. I reckon that's something we all need in these times.
It is, of course, invidious to pick favourites, and mine, no doubt, will be different to yours. Stand-outs for me were Sourdough, The Typewriter, You Run and The First Punk in Pontefract, but every single story justified its place in this collection. Read it, it's good.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

(Video) No Good Deed : Gibbous House Sequel

Gibbous House's sequel "No Good Deed" is due to start its crowd-funding campaign shortly. Gibbous House was published by Unbound on Jan 17th 2017.
Fans of Moffat's florid voice will be on familiar ground although our "hero" himself isn't. Having been in the Americas for over a decade, he decides to chance his arm over the Mason-Dixon line... The year is 1861, what could possibly go wrong?

The birds comments are not entirely flattering, but then I'm used to unfriendly tweets.

Check out Gibbous House on Unbound here.