Thursday, 31 May 2012

Olives for FREE!

So here's the deal. You undertake to review Olives for your newspaper, blog, YouTube or school magazine. Wherever you have an audience. You undertake to give the book a sincere and honest review.

In return for that undertaking, here's a review copy of Olives. It's free, it's yours to keep and there is no obligation implicit in the gift other than that above.

You go to this here website, Smashwords, and you enter this here code: GK45A. You download Olives - A Violent Romance for free as an e-book for Kindle, iBooks, Sony, Nook or PDF file. The code will be valid until 18/6/2012.

If you'd like to tweet me your review (or just chat), it's @alexandermcnabb.

Enjoy the read!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Back from Florida

In case you might be interested, here's a link to the 'True Talk' radio show on WMNF radio in Tampa, Florida. Show host Samar Dahmash Jarrar gave me a grilling about Olives - A Violent Romance, the great naming debate, sex, alcohol and the motivations of writers. It was a fun, freewheeling discussion which I, for one, enjoyed immensely.

I start warbling about 28 minutes into the podcast, BTW. 

The first question: "Why on earth did you pick a name that would be like Kennedy here in the USA?" is one we've seen debated quite a bit on here. We talked about treading the line between the participants in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, making the Middle East somewhere people want to find out a little bit more about and dig below the surface of the headlines. We talked about the Arab reaction to Olives, too, crossing the border into Israel, being a European in Arabia and lots more besides... Fun...

Friday, 25 May 2012

Florida Here We Come!

WMNF Radio is a community station in Tampa Bay, Florida. Fridays at 11am they have a program called True Talk that focuses on the Middle East and the Muslim World and later today that's precisely where you'll find me, talking to host Samar Dahmash Jarrah and co-host Ahmed Bedeir about Olives.

More details on True Talk are linked here and here's the link if you want to listen in tonight at around 7.30pm Dubai time.

I met Samar when she guested on the radio show I used to co-host with diminutive blonde bombshell Jessica Swann on Dubai Eye Radio. We've sort of kept in touch since and have been meaning to do this for a few weeks now.

It's all part of 'Olives Over America', something of a focus on the US for me over the coming weeks, with a number of US book bloggers reviewing Olives - A Violent Romance. That's going to be something of an acid test as the book will by no means  be playing to a home crowd!

It'll also be interesting to talk to Samar and get an Arab-American perspective on the book. Do feel free to join us later! :)
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Sunday, 20 May 2012

Reviews, Reviews, Reviews

One of the interesting aspects of The Great Collapse of Publishing is being a heavy reader who doesn't quite know what to read next. How do you tell if a book - especially a self-published one - is great or simply rubbish.

I say especially self published, but I've had a couple of recent disappointments with big publisher works. However, self published books are a little like the girl with the curl right in the middle of her forehead. There's nothing worse than a badly written, sloppy book that's all over the place and has wooden dialogue, a tenuous plot and scrappy characterisation unless it also hasn't been edited.

You don't want that on your Kindle, believe me.

This has led to the rise and rise of the book blogger, as well as communities such as GoodReads. All that commentary can help a reader sort the wheat from the chaff. Except it's a jungle out there - the explosion of new material that self publishing has opened up to the market has not only meant a new richness of choice and diversity for readers, it has led to a bewildering number of voices crying out into the wildnerness, "Me! Me! Read my book!"

The end result has been a universe of book bloggers out there with months-long TBR lists (To Be Read), constantly harried by authors and being pressured to respond to a constant swathe of imprecation. Let us not forget, back in the Bad Old Days those most egregious of gatekeepers, literary agents, got 40-50 submissions a day (still do, in fact. In the US a big agent can pull 200 submissions a day).

Now book bloggers aren't quite getting as bad as that, but it's on the rise and fast, at that. Soon they'll be getting pretty choosy about which books they take on board - a number of more influential book review blogs actually put new submissions on a list for reviewers to take on if they like the look of them.

Olives has had some lovely reviews (some collected here on the book's website, along with the fabby Time Out Beirut interview), especially  on Amazon and GoodReads. But I'm off seeking more, so spent much of the weekend chasing around the world after book bloggers.

Funny, but I can see that same wary look in their eyes I used to see in agents' when I came into the room...
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Tuesday, 15 May 2012

May 15th

The conversation turned to Palestine in the past, to al nakba, ‘the catastrophe’, the formation of Israel in 1948 and the end of the British Mandate in Palestine. When I asked Ibrahim whether he had ever gone back there, his bushy eyebrows shot up in astonishment.
‘Go back? Of course we go back! As often as possible. It is not always easy.’ He laid his forearm on the table as if he were about to give blood, palm up. He looked across at me. ‘Sometimes they are like this on the border. Sometimes like this.’ He balled his hairy hand into a fist. ‘When it is like this you are turned back or made to wait for hours while they play with you. Sometimes before they make me kneel on the path in front of them. That is hard for a man like me. I am old, I have become used to having the dignity, you know?’
Olives, Page 44 

This year is the 64th since the creation of the state of Israel and the resulting displacement of hundreds of thousands of people from their land. I've already posted about it over here and won't repeat myself but it's sort of key to Olives - A Violent Romance and so I couldn't let it go past without comment!

Monday, 14 May 2012


Olives - a violent romance is the 'top featured' book over at eReader Daily News this week, a promotion which will hopefully be the start to finding a US audience for this most violent of romances!

The smashing news is that I've had to drop the cover price of the book to meet eReader Daily News' criteria, so this week you can buy Olives for your Kindle for just $4.99 by clicking this here handy link:

And as if that weren't enough, I've given the Olives website a bit of a spruce up to include some of the reviews of the book that have appeared in various media, linked here. I've also included a link to Time Out Beirut's interview with me about Olives - and, for your reading pleasure, gladly reproduce it here.

There are more interviews in the pipeline, too. It's lucky I'm no shrinking violet, isn't it? I genuinely feel sorry for writers facing this brave new world of self publishing who don't have an appetite for the promotional side of things, because dragging your weary carcass out there and pushing yourself at people is pretty key to finding even a small readership.

Smashwords' guru in chief Mark Coker has published a guide to e-book marketing which is both sensible and useful - it's linked here if you're interested. One of the many excellent points Mark makes is that you can push as many rocks up as many hills as you like, but at the end of the day the monster of all marketing tools is word of mouth.

That doesn't mean you don't have to do marketing for your book - it's an absolute necessity in my humble. But it does mean that once the ball is rolling, it should (if your book has 'it') gain its own momentum. At what stage that happens is, I can tell you with much personal experience, anyone's guess!!!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Technology Troubles

   Aisha pushed her chair away and stood, stretching. She leaned on the back of my seat. ‘This is really good, Paul. People are going to love this.’
   I grinned. ‘Thanks. I hope so.’
   ‘Zahlan’s concerned it’s all on dead trees. You know that, right?’
   I nodded. ‘Yes. He made it abundantly clear. He wants an online version as well as what he calls “more interactivity” but that wasn’t really part of the plan. We did discuss that carefully with Mr Shukri when we signed the deal.’
   Aisha sat back down, this time sideways with her legs crossed towards me and taking sips of coffee, her red nails rich against the white and gold porcelain. ‘Yes, but Shukri’s old school. He wouldn’t know the Internet if it came round and bit him on the ass. I think your Robin sort of took advantage of it. But Shukri’s gone now. Zahlan’s in charge and he’s shaking things up. He’s very good you know, Paul.’
Olives, Page 24
When Olives - a violent romance was first written back in 2004, the Internet in the Middle East was less than ten years old and there was little sense in having a website for a contract published magazine. Of course, time changed that and Jordan has been at the very forefront of the region's online development - Jordan's got the most competitive telecoms sector in the region and punches well above its weight when it comes to software development, fostering startups and generally creating intellectual property.

It would be inconceivable to have such a project today without a website, yet there are still 'Shukris' in the woodwork, old skool types who would let a sneaky beast like Robin sign up a magazine contract with no online element.

And so Paul has to, as the Minister puts it, 'go the extra mile' and produce an online asset from his magazine to smooth the waters with new boy on the block Abdullah Zahlan.

Friday, 4 May 2012

How Much Is That Olives In The Window?

I have never pretended to actually understand Amazon's expanded distribution - I just signed up for it and sat back to wait and see what would happen.

What's happened is you can now buy your very own copy of Olives for just £888 from bookseller invise-uk. At that price, you' think they'd chuck in free delivery but no,  that's an extra £2.80.

Given you can snap up your very own copy of this violent romance for £9.93 from the Book Depository including free shipping to over 100 countries around the world (including Jordan where distributors are too craven to stock the book), you'd be forgiven for wondering quite what invise-uk is offering to sweeten the deal. A case of Cristal, perhaps? A diamond-studded cover?

Given the Book Depository pricing actually undercuts Olives' price on the shelves in the UAE, Delhi, Bahrain and Lebanon (where the Middle East Edition is on sale), I thought the least I could do is out-do Invise.

So here, ladies and gentlemen, is your chance to buy Olives - The Dubai Edition.

What do you get?
The Dubai Edition of Olives is enhanced by a fine, etched, 18-carat gold cover and printed on fine vellum in a signed, numbered edition of no more than ten copies. Each copy is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity and a calligraphy of the quotation from Mahmoud Darwish which also graces the back cover of the edition. We are pleased to confirm that a box of Patchi chocolates and a bottle of Roederer Cristal champagne will accompany the book on delivery

There will also be sparklers.

All for a mere £1001.

Take that, Invise-uk!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Narratives in Action

It was a sunny, warm day yesterday so I cannot, sadly, attest to whether the rain in Al Ain stays mainly on the plain, but there's a brand new multi-carriageway lump of blacktop replacing the 'old' Al Ain road that spirits you straight to the airport and, if you know what you're doing, the 'crescent' building at the heart of the United Arab Emirates University's Maqam campus. UAEU is a big university, people, very big. And brilliantly well equipped, at that.

I was there to speak to an audience of students (and a smattering of faculty members) as part of a two- day workshop organised by the Department of Philosophy, the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and the Deanship of Libraries of the United Arab Emirates University, in collaboration with Université Paris Sorbonne Abou Dhabi, titled 'Narratives in Action'.

I attended the morning session and was glad I did. A fascinating talk by philosopher Dan Hutto explored how we use language and narrative to guide our interactions and behaviours within a social context. Steve Bird examined how language 'primes' us and outlined a fascinating new research project he and colleague Sami Boudelaa are undertaking to explore the relationship between language and  cognition. Further examinations of language, narrative and their effect on human behaviours came from Massmimiliano Cappuccio, Hosny Mostafa Al Dali and Fama Zohra Sai.

And then, after lunch, it was my turn. Given the event was billed as an 'interdisciplinary workshop' and I clearly have no discipline to offer, I outlined to a hearteningly full room how to write a book. As I pointed out, writing books is easy - all you have to do is put together 100,000 words. The order you put 'em in is, of course, the kicker.

My advice was loosely based on this here post over at Fake Plastic Souks, 'How to Write a Book' which I wrote as a follow-up to my earlier 'How to self publish in the UAE' post on that self-same blog. I was delighted to come across at least one young lady who is attending UAEU's creative writing course, which is held in Arabic. I did all I could to exhort the students to take up writing for themselves and publishing for themselves - there's never been a more exciting time in publishing as writers can now find their own outlets for their work as I, indeed, have done myself - and very glad I am that I done it.

I had fun, although I'm not sure how the audience processed all. I had to skip right afterwards and return to the devastation that is McNabb Mansions now the AC men have been in for the past three days. But that, as they say, is quite another narrative...