Artisan everything……

I am looking for a platform on which to sell my artisan books. I don’t want to use Amazon anymore. You’re mad, I can hear you say. Amazon has a mailing list of a billion, or something like that. Why wouldn’t you use them? 

I don’t want to use them for a number of reasons. Here are a few of them: I’m an idealist, a romantic, an old-school type of person. I hate cheapness, mass-market produced anything. I love beauty and hand-made ‘things’, items that have the essence of human love behind them. Amazon depresses me. Everything on there appears to me mass-market, cheap, nasty, its reputation diluted by being on that platform. 

I need artisan in my life.

I used to run a small erotic press back in the 90s – yes, in that time pre-Internet. It was a quieter world of creative experimentation.

I started the press – called 8d – and produced four little chapbooks with my creative partner. 

I designed the books – by hand – drew out how I wanted to be fashioned – in pen and ink – then asked a graphic designer to produce a template for the books on his computer using my designs.

I then asked a university publisher to print the pages, and in two of the books I collated the pages myself and sealed them with green ribbon. In the others I had them perfect bound – meaning sealed with a glued spine.

The layout of the books was done in hard-copy format, left-hand page, right-hand page – all set by me on A4 sheets as a reference.

I chose the heaviness of the paper and the style of the paper – 80gsm in sepia. I chose the font and the look of the whole thing. I numbered each book myself, printing only 500 copies of each, so each copy was sacred. 

I loved doing this. It filled my soul. It took a lot of time, but the happiness was in the journey not just the destination.

I recently got an email that CreateSpace (Amazon’s publishing arm) is going to cease to exist and my books on this platform: The Zephyr, The Unforgiven and After Rafaela will go into ‘draft’ form if I do not move the over to CreateSpace’s new platform – Kindle Publishing (or whatever name they are giving it). 

I don’t like the look and feel of CreateSpace’s print novels. They feel and look cheap to me – mass-produced and quite nasty. I don’t make money from my print novels, so I have got nothing to lose pulling them from Amazon.

It also got me thinking, I need to find a new way and look at bringing back the artisan look of my books – try to replicate what I did with 8d back in the 90s, in Australia. 

There will be no money in it – that I know – but the artisan nature of it all will bleach out my depression at being one of specks of nothing in the Amazon universe. 

I am looking at printers who will help me and ways of selling my books directly myself through my website. 

If anyone has any tips or advice to offer please get in touch. I want artisan everything. I want to make things ‘by hand’ as much as possible and revel in the journey, not just the destination. Even if an element of my path is techno-fed, I want to take back control of the creative element of what I produce. 



Beauty and the Beast on the cobbles

This image, photographed today at 12 noon approx (on Friday 7th September 2018) pushed some powerful thoughts to the forefront of my brain. 

Number One: What is that beautiful thing lying against a communal rubbish bin in Marchmont, one of Edinburgh’s more prestige areas?

It’s a piano, carved (possibly by hand by a master Turner, skilled in the art of wood sculpting), with its ivory keys ripped out and left in situ its strings amid the shell. I played its strings for a while in the street, and they sounded perfect – no keys needed, just my fingers strumming them. They were taut and full of song, as though they wanted to sing and be beautiful, knowing full well they had been abandoned to the street.

I wanted to take this piece of beauty home with me, but don’t have the space. It was lying next to the rubbish bin filled with the excesses of our addiction to consumption. 

This piano has a story; it was crafted by someone, sold by someone, played by someone, played by many. It has been witness to political upheavals, family tragedy, tears, joy, laughter and bad weather, and now it lies on a Marchmont street waiting for the council’s uplift service where it will go into ‘recycling’ or maybe if it’s lucky, ‘upcycling’.

It might end up as a bar in a trendy new Edinburgh establishment. It might be broken up and salvaged for shelving units, it might be taken by some soul walking along the street, who like I, wanted to claim it, live with it, love it. 

Everything begins and everything ends and in between is glorious life. The piano on the street is symbol of all that. 

On the warmth of the human spirit

Nothing repulses me more than a coldness of spirit; inexpressive faces, a demeanour turned in on oneself, a dead social ‘coat’ that reeks of inner hatred, a limp handshake, a grey face, shark eyes and a first impression that demands never to be repeated. There’s no excuse for it. 

It’s been my passion  – all my life – to find warm people, people whose faces light up with happiness when they talk, who exude humour and good nature, and vibrancy and LIFE. 

Whenever a meet a person like that I fall instantly in love with them. Man, woman, young, old, it doesn’t matter I become their friend immediately. I crave people like that in my life, and I am lucky to have met a few of these wonderful types, but not many. 

That’s the sad thing, that people who are so bogged down by their own ego and own dark space that they can never ever light up the room, never step outside the own basement-like confines of their own situation and meet another person at face value, as a fellow human on this strange and wonderful planet of ours, never know the true spirit of warm human engagement.

I call these friends of mine – those joyful souls who know how to laugh and who hug and are warm and who really listen, MY JEWELS, because that’s what they are, valuable, glittering and bloody gorgeous. 

I call those strange souls who swim darkly in their own cesspool of low self-esteem THE SHARKS, because that’s exactly what they are, predators who swim around looking for souls to feed off. 

I used to be a journalist and one of the key elements in being a successful journo – apart from being able to write well – was the ability to draw people out of their cages and get them to tell you stuff. I had this skill in buckets, and I still do. It’s a skill I pride myself on. I can talk to anyone and get them to tell me anything. It’s been a key way of analysing human nature since I was very little.

I meet far more SHARKS than I do JEWELS, and that’s sad. Nine people out of ten will be SHARKS, and one will be a JEWEL, but the reality is that these figures are probably not accurate. It should be really be two people out of a thousand will be JEWELS and ninety-eight will be SHARKS. 

Warmth of the human spirit is a truly key emotional and social skill to develop. It’s actually got nothing to do with self-esteem, as plenty of JEWELS I have known haven’t been that confident or ‘out there’. 

I believe it’s all about EGO. JEWELS have their EGO in check, SHARKS never do. Warmth and the ability to project positivity and the genuine caring of others should, must, has to be taught in schools. It’s a skill worth learning and perfecting. 







The terror of writing; confessions of a coward in Sevilla

Writing produces in me this fear so profound, that I become the Master Procrastinator, and end up hating myself.

Is this normal? Here I am in Sevilla, southern Spain, the ‘frying pan’ of Europe, or so it is called. It’s August 2018, and I am free, free of responsibilities. I am an empty-nester, adult children flown the nest. I can now roam the world and live as I please.

I have a little bit of saved money in my pocket, enough to rent a gorgeous attic hotel room with a private courtyard garden, enough to buy my beloved cafe con hielo (iced coffee), and eat tortillas and jamon, enough to feel calm and happy, but here I am, in the midst of an existential crisis. About writing!

I have a beautiful story idea, one I am in love with. I have made notes and have started to build the foundation of the story, the structure on which the poetic elements will be woven, but I am terrified and this terror is like a silk handkerchief tied tight around my mouth. It goes something like this:

I am going to die, and death is coming and I need to tell this story because nothing else matters, and I don’t want to vanish and not have told this story. This story is in my mind and no one cares about it at the moment. It’s a story that resonates only with me because it’s in my mind.

Life is beautiful and life is tragic and life is all we have and nothing much matters except the emotional desire to be free and pure and live experiences as they arise.

The internal crisis continues: I have written novels before but can I write others. Why should I bother on this path, when it’s a path littered with disappointment and invisibility? Can I write? Do I have the energy to write? Should I open a shop and be a grocer, after all people will always need to eat but they don’t seem to want to read books anymore.

Can I compete in this world? Do I want to compete in this world? I am getting older. Is it too late for me? I am invisible so perhaps it doesn’t matter. Maybe all that matters is the universe and nature. Does this mean I am becoming religious? I don’t want to become religious because religion scares me. Everything scares me. There is a fork in the road and one says ‘die’, the other part of the fork says ‘live’. Which do I choose?

Humans are complicated and we are our own worst enemies. Just write, my annoying inner voice says. I will try. 1000 words today. Amen.

My private writing space, Sevilla, Spain, August 2018