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The Purple Death – OUT NOW!

The second adventure begins ...

The second adventure begins …

I am thrilled to announce that the second adventure of Splidge and his friends is now available in paperback and e-book from and other online retailers.

The Purple Death continues the quest to find the young Cragflinger’s missing father. This time Splidge, Snotty, Doreen and the Crag are off on a dangerous journey across the uncharted regions of Gud. On their travels they meet the incredible Mr Fobar – a genius inventor, the beautiful prospector, Melissa Buckweed and a lair of terrifying monsters, possibly the legendary Gudzillars, feared for attacking and killing the Royal Army.
But far worse … the City’s population is suffering from a terrible plague, the Purple Death. With everyone throwing up and bedridden, it is down to a twelve-year-old boy and his friends to try and rescue everyone, including the Royal Gud, before it is too late!

The third book, The Isle of Gid, is expected to be published later in the year, probably in the autumn. It shall the story into the east and on to the high seas surrounding Gud. The Giddy Isles are made up of five curious islands, ruled over by a bunch of swarthy, bloodthirsty pirates. Sea battles, killer sharks, early morning duels and cross-bow firing monks make up some of the obstacles for the young Cragflinger in this adventure. Don’t miss it!

Get the Puple Death from Amazon here:

Super Thursday!

superthursday-blog1Today is Super Thursday!

It is the 9th October 2014 and it is what the publishing trade in the UK are calling Super Thursday. 315 hardback books are officially being published for the run up to Christmas.

Famous names and famous authors are pushed to the front. These books are collectively available from independent booksellers to supermarkets, larger chains and online retailers.

What they have forgotten is Splidge the Cragflinger is also available today!

All right, so my book was published a couple of months a go, but for all the world knows it has been thrust on to the world this very morning with the others.

All you need to know is that Children will love it! Give them something special this year for Christmas.

When Splidge get a job with the King of Gud, the excitement takes over.

A fabulous gift from a new writer.

Splidge the Cragflinger’s first adventure – The Royal Tournament!

The Dream Sellers

Is it me, or are there lots of people who want to help me sell my newly published book? Ever since I published my children’s adventure story, Splidge the Cragflinger, I have become very popular. I wish I could report that it was coming from children aged 9-12 and their parents, all eager to buy my book, but sadly I cannot. I have found myself the target of the self-publishing service industry.

In 2005, when podcasting hit the UK and I launched the Vobes Show (originally called The Radio Vobes Radio Show) the same thing happened. This time it was the podcasting service industry who buzzed around me like wasps round a cream cake. All of a sudden, experts came out of the woodwork, told me how I ought to podcast and what equipment I should use. New software to make it easy to record podcasts were rustled up and published. Manufacturers of microphones, mixing desks, pop shields, recorders, mp3 players jumped on the bandwagon. It seemed for a while everyone wanted to help me produce a better podcast; a podcast that listeners (the hundreds or thousands of listens who were going to be coming to hear me) would love!

Well, guess what? The people who made money out of podcasting were not the people providing the podcasts. It wasn’t the people who were researching their shows, writing scripts, making notes or gathering material to present, recording regular shows, uploading them to web based audio storage servers or spending time building the audience week after week.

The people making the money from podcasting were the people providing the services for the podcasters. Wasn’t it always thus?

And now with the huge interest in self-publishing, the services industry is back and just as eager to please. Oh, didn’t you know, everyone can publish a book? Didn’t you know, you should write one and get it published. Didn’t you know you can make MONEY by publishing your book?

So the promise is there. The lure beckons. Temptation is hard to resist, and just like on Youtube, you too can make a video and earn money (in their case through advertising), the good news it is really easy! And there are tons of people who will take you by the hand and help you do it!

Of course, they don’t say much money you will make. And they don’t say the making money part is the easy bit of the process. No, let’s be clear. The easy bit is getting your book, video or podcast published. Anyone can do that, and everyone does, and there is the rub.

It’s noisy out there. There are millions of books, videos an podcasts and all of them are saying ‘Buy my book, look at my video, listen to my podcast!’ But very few are actually making ‘real’ money from doing it.

I say again, the people who are making money from self-publishing are the ones selling the ebooks called something like ‘My guide to self-publishing’ or ‘Make money with ebooks’. Or the others who offer ‘ebook promotion’, ‘We Tweet ebooks’, or ‘You are too damn lazy to do your own marketing so we will do it for you’, etc And all for an oh, so affordable price.

For clarity, I am not saying these services are bad or that they don’t work. I just pointing out there are a hell of a lot of them and they will happily take your money. The question is, will you sell enough books to make it worthwhile? I don’t know. I haven’t been in the self-publishing game long enough to find out, but I do know, as a rule of thumb, the people who make money from this sort of artistic endeavour are the people providing the service. They are dream sellers.

My book Splidge the Cragflinger is a historical fantasy novel for children aged 9-12. Details and samples in ebook format and audio are available for FREE at

Printed Books of Splidge

Early cover designs for book 1

Early cover designs for book 1

The digital revolution is everywhere. It is fast taking over the world. Maybe it has already. And generally it is a good thing. For children’s authors who intend to self publish their work, it is not so good and I shall explain why.

Children, as we know, go to school. There they experience, often for the first time, printed books. Some of these children fall in love with them and will become the next generation of readers and, no doubt, have their ereaders in their pockets ready to grab at a moments notice, perhaps while waiting for a bus or riding on a train. But at the moment, while they are children, they know and use printed books.

Children, of course, are attracted to bright and shiny things, and tablets, mobile phones and computers are marvellous playthings; games, videos and social media websites are enjoyed to the full, but I do not believe the majority of children in the ‘reading’ world use them to read books. Not yet.

Therefore if you are a children’s self-published author and you want your work to reach your audience you need to have it printed.

Fortunately there is such a thing as print-on-demand. The digital technology has made it possible to have printed a single copy of your manuscript in the form of a professional looking perfect bound book. Fabulous! Companies like Amazon and Lulu can do this for you and not only print them, but make the books available for anyone in the world to purchase.

The downside to this incredible never-seen-before instance book-print situation is the price. To me, as an author, the fact that I may order my printed copy for less than an English tenner and have it delivered to my door within a week is amazing, but to a potential parent looking on line, the cost, when compared to other children’s books, is pretty steep. Almost double the price!

It is parents that are going to be buying the book online. They have the credit cards. So to compete in an over crowded marketplace I need to make my printed book cheaper. But how?

There really is only one way. Have them printed myself and in quantity. It’s not cheap and is a big risk.

It isn’t as expensive as it once was, however, and the quantities do not have to be ridiculously high. The risk is that you do not sell them and end with stacks of boxes all over your house.

However, I think if you have the printed book you have a lot of options open to you. Here are some of them:

First, you can still put them on Amazon and let them fulfil the orders. It costs a bit, but it would still make the price cheaper than the print-on-demand books.

Second, you can sell them direct from your own website. This is great because you can personalise them and sign them for the buyer.

Third, you can sell them at talks, workshops, and literary festivals. For children’s books it extra cool, because you could give away some to school libraries, offer them as prizes and perhaps sell a few at school fêtes or craft fares.

All the other rules apply; have it proofread, edited with a good cover. But printing yourself is worth thinking about.

I am going to try it with Splidge the Cragflinger and shall report on how it goes.

Hubbub, smells and grime

streetOne of the key points in my fictional novel, about a boy who takes a job as a Cragflinger and enters a competition to save the bankrupt kingdom, is its unhealthy environment. The story is set in an alternative England, somewhere between the 15th and 18th century, which I call it the Land of Gud. Most of the action takes place in the Palace and in the streets of the City and I wanted to play down the glamour often associated with castles, knights and Merry England. Gud City is a mess, just as any city up and down Britain was in that period.

Back then, the streets of England were strewn with the detritus of human existence. Systems to deal with the increasing number of inhabitants who had left the countryside and sought a better life in the over crowded streets of swelling towns and cities were desperately lacking. The stench and noisome smells from unwanted rubbish deposited in public places couldn’t be avoided and the resulting diseases and plagues from rancid meat, swarming flies and vast numbers of unchecked vermin became an every day occurrence.

We take it for granted today that roads will be swept, rubbish collected and animal excrement picked up. In the not so distance past, few realised the importance for cleanliness.

There was also little regard for peace and quiet in the urban centres. People often lived above or adjacent to their workshops or factories and carried out their occupation at all times of the day and night. Many a sleep was disturbed by the banging and crashing of metal workers going about their lawful business or the horrific squeal of butchers slaughtering their pigs for the morning’s trade.

Add to this the vast range of animals wondering the streets and you get some idea of what we would call these days a totally unexceptionable way of life. But then, it was the norm. Imagine the continual clatter of hoofs on cobbles and you start to ‘hear’ the din as our ancestors did. As well as horses pulling wagons, carts and carriages through the messy, rutted, mud-covered streets, rooting hogs, clucking chickens, stray dogs and goodness knows how many species of vermin scurried about the place adding to the clutter.

In my story, the King of the land is well aware of the terrible state and is desperate to clean up the city, but lacks the funds. I wanted the reader to experience some of this unhealthy environment and remind them just how fortunate we are today with our street lights, paved streets and dustbin men. I am not sure we have conquered everything. Towns and cities are still busy and cluttered with other things that impede and frustrate the dweller; street furniture, traffic lights, authoritative signs, sirens, thundering lorries to name but a few.

Splidge the Cragflinger is available to buy in paperback or in ebook from most on-line retailers.

Judging a Book by its Cover

newbookcoverIt is a truism that we make decisions based on first impressions and nothing is more true than with books. In the old days, when people stepped inside those strange shops that had shelves attached to every conceivable piece of wall space and loaded them with books, the wordy tomes could be opened and examined at random. A sense of what the book was about could be gleaned from fanning the pages, and by feeling the texture of the paper or gauging the weight and the quality of the printed article. An emotional attachment started to be made with the book and a desire to own it began, before it was reluctantly returned to the shelf because the price was too high or other priorities called upon the few pennies available in one’s pocket. However, everything other than the cover was secondary to the buying decision making process; the cover is what makes it a purchase or not.

With the Internet as the main method of book purchase these days, the cover has never been more important. We glance at a thumbnail and are either intrigued or not. If we are, a click of the mouse brings up a larger image and a value judgement is made. Is it the right one? Who knows, but the author is setting up a promise to its potential reader with the visual statement about what type of thing they can expect to find inside the book. It is that unwritten promise that influences the purchase to happen, or not.

It is interesting to note that once the book is purchased, the cover has finished its job. This is particularly apparent with ebooks for when you open your Kindle, for example, after downloading the digital file, the cover is not even displayed. Not only that, it is very easy to forget the title of the book altogether, for that is not displayed in the top left/right hand corner as it usually is on a paperback.

Although I have self-published my first book, Splidge the Cragflinger – The Royal Tournament and it is available on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Barns and Noble and at other on-line retailers, I have been reflecting about the cover art. The advice from the self-publishing gurus is not to do it yourself. ‘Get a professional to design your cover!’ they say and in general that is probably good advice. That said, not all professionals are to the standard you may desire and not all of them understand your book or produce art in the style you wish.

I have included illustrations on the inside of my book too. This is also deemed a no-no. The professional gurus have something to say about this too: ‘You must have a professional standard to keep the integrity of your book.’ I am not too sure about that. I wonder how much of this is simply the professionals protecting their industry and income rather than knowing what works with any particular book.

My reason for the last statement is this: Over the years, as a book collector, I have stumbled across sketches inserted into the printed text by the authors, (fiction books mainly), which has not been professionally drawn. However, to me, this adds something extra from the originator of the work of fiction. The author, although not a professional or necessarily a competent artist, is trying to add something to his manuscript to help explain what he sees in his head as part of his creation. I think it has a place.

Also, we are led to believe, beauty (and art) is in the eyes of the beholder. A professional artist brings the results of training, style and hours of learning and practice, which can be excellent and appealing, but they are not from the brain of the author. And to me, a novel in particular, is not the collaboration of more than one person, but generally a single individual’s perception, story and thought. And that is that what I want to see when I buy that authors book.

Does it sell books though if the author’s ‘art’ is on the cover? That, of course, is the million dollar question.

Anyway, I am playing with ideas for my first book’s cover. It is not finished, but you can see it above. I think I shall put the other central characters on the cover too. Will it bring in sales? The advantage of the self-published author is that he/she can experiment and test each cover and gauge how sales rise or fall by swapping covers over a period of time.

Splidge the Cragflinger is the first in a series about a twelve-year-old boy looking for his missing father. To save himself from ending up at the dreaded workhouse, he lands a job with the royal palace as a cragflinger and discovers that the national sport is very much dependant on him that year.

Ten Things You Don’t Know About The Author

Richard on his coracle

My coracle is a traditional style and fun to paddle.

I thought I would share ten things you may not know about the author of the Splidge books:

1. Richard owns a coracle and paddled it on the River Severn in Shropshire.

2. The first town featured in his Bald Explorer TV series is Lewes in East Sussex. It was chosen because of its proximity and its historical significance in Sussex.

3. In 1996 and 1997, Richard wrote, co-produced and starred in a children’s television comedy series on British television entitled ‘Snug and Cozi’. These were the adventurous mishaps of two crazy aliens who crash-land on Earth.

4. In the late 1980s and very early 90s, Richard appeared as a regular background police officer in the ITV series ‘The Bill’. There were three units filming on the same set which at times caused quite a bit of confusion.

5. In his mid-twenties, Richard attended  three courses at the Desmond Jones School of Mime in Shepherds Bush, London. This amounted to a year’s tutoring and he went on to perform mime plays and skits across the UK and abroad.

6. Richard has also learned a number of circus skills from which he made a living on the corporate entertainment circuit. These skills included, juggling, unicycling, fire-eating, stilt-walking, walking on glass, lying on a bed of nails, slack-rope walking and knife throwing!

7. In 2006, Richard caught a bug that began, over a four-year period, to destroy his left eye. It was Acanthamoeba keratitis, an amoeba which ate the cornea, resulting in three cornea transplants, each of which failed to take hold. At the end of July, Richard’s left eye was removed. He now wears a prosthesis.

8. Richard left Forest Boys school, in Horsham, at 15 in the late 1970s, with 8 CSEs (Certificates of Secondary Education). He worked for two and a half years as a reprographics printer before leaving to work in a recording studio.

9. Richard was one of the first four British podcasters in the UK and started recording and uploading a 30 minute comedy podcast show in January 2005. He maintained this daily for 500 shows, then continued with five shows a week until he reached 1800 shows. This podcast ceased in 2012. He won an award for the Best Sounding Tour from the Peoples Podcast Awards in 2005. He continues to record a daily audio journal podcast, a behind-the-scenes look at his life, called The Naked Englishman which commenced in January 2006.

10. Richard’s only vice is books, mostly secondhand history books. These mostly include British history and English social history. He cannot pass a secondhand bookshop without diving in and making a purchase.

Feedback to Book 1

My beta readers are busy digesting the first book in Splidge’s adventures and I thought I would share the results from very enthusiastic reader – aged 7!

I sent a questionnaire to elicit a response from my young readers and this is what one little girl said …

About you
Girl, aged 7

3 favourite books – she’s just mentioned 3 of the most recent ones which are: Crazy cow saves the world well almost (Jeremy Strong), Riddle of the Rajah’s Ruby (Enid Blyton adventure story), Narnia
In general she’ll read anything but loves the adventure stories such as the Famous Five and also lots of the more contemporary things like the Jacqueline Wilson and Jeremy Strong books.

About Splidge
Did you enjoy & fully understand it? Yes

Were there any parts that you felt were missing/ confusing – No

What part did you enjoy most? I liked the bit when Doreen was tied to the roof
Any that you didn’t enjoy? No
How does it compare to other books that you have read? Better (I asked her about this and she said that it was better because it was longer, there was more happening and it was more adventurous).

The Characters
Which characters did you like? King, Doreen and Splidge
Which didn’t you like? (she mentioned the Baron but then said that he was right for the story so although he wasn’t her favourite character you shouldn’t change him)
Was there anything that you wanted to know about? What was Doreen’s father’s name?

The Book
What do you think of the book cover and did it match the story? Yes

Did the blurb tell you enough/ excite you to read the story? I didn’t read the blurb (she never reads the blurb)

Did you like the layout and the font? Yes

What did you think of the pictures/ did they fit the book and would you have liked more? Would have liked more (I think that she’d have been happy without pictures too as many of the books that she reads don’t have pictures).

Were there too many big words or did you understand it all? Understood it all.

First Print Run

Buying your own books may not be the best way to make money, but the first bulk order of pristine books written by my own fair hand is exciting. And the reason for this egotistic spending spree? The answer is simple. I am to give them away to interested readers. Two strategies are at play here.

First, because it is a children’s book, I am chucking a few at my target audience (age range 9-12) that I think the book (actually the series) is aimed at. It is essential for me to see the reaction. Not only do I want to know if the young readers liked the story, but whether they liked the printed layout, the font, the drawings, the cover and over all impression of the book. I am desperate to learn which characters they liked the best, which they hated. Did they guess the ending and what was the language like to read. So many things tell me and no doubt, so many differences of opinion!

Second, I also value the opinions of parents and other interested grown ups. Not only the story and any holes in the plot or boring points or the limitations of my skill as a story teller, but also if there are spelling errors and grammatical mistakes or typos that have escaped the various processes to get the book to this stage.

Hopefully, when all the feedback is in, and I have evaluated any changes I wish to make, the book can be said to be finished and ready to publish – sometime in September I think, ready for the Autumn.

So, on to book two and three then. 🙂

Book2 – First Draft Written

book2-draftIt has been a while since posting here and that is because I have been busy writing my books. I have now finished the first draft of book 2 of the Splidge the Cragflinger series. It is very rough and I have had print off a copy, so I can read it away from the computer and digest the story. I will need to rewrite it and then edit it, but that is ok. I wanted to get a book copy of it, to initially stick in a drawer for a while and forget about it, and then later come back to it afresh for the rewrites.

The printed copy arrived today (while I was busy writing book 3, as it happens) and I took a quick read and I can honestly say it is dreadful! Of course, that is because it is literally the first draft, in other words, as written, with all errors and storylines that don’t work – a sort of stream of consciousness. That’s fine. It is better than it being stuck in a text file on my PC or anonymous document on my Google Docs account. At least if I die, there is a record of the work. 🙂

The first book, The Royal Tournament, is very close to publication (yeah, I know, it’s only self publication or vanity publication by another name) and it will be available for those parties that are interested to have a gander at the rubbish I have been occupying myself with all this time. I will try and keep you posted. (Actually, I am not even sure there are readers to this blog, so I may only be keeping myself posted!)

The Artwork is coming together …

artwork1The desire to write prodigiously, every day and to get produce a body of work on the scale of, say Anthony Trollop, is laudable, but the ability to do so is challenged by real life and the daily problems of earning a living. Not least, I feel I am still learning to write and that everything I do is poor and immature, regardless that it is intended to be aimed at children. Young people are the hardest audience to write for. If bored, they will abandon it and move on. It is only as you get older that you might persevere with inferior work for a tad longer. But if it is utter rubbish, then no one will read it.

However, the artwork for the book, Splidge The Cragflinger, is coming along. My drawing skills have incrementally improved, which is great and for a personal victory, although there is still a very long way to go before I could even begin to call myself an illustrator. I think I can ‘get away with having them presented within my own book, calling them simply, ‘the authors sketches’. I believe that way adds something to the work. Anyway, at present I am preparing the master images for the 18 chapter headings. I am drawing them double the size they will eventually be. They shall be then be digitised and tweaked in Photoshop before being dropped onto the page. I need to create a new cover photo, along the lines that I have already outlined, but with more a detailed background. I would like more of the story features depicted somewhere on the cover so that when the reader reaches a point in the story that stumbles across them, he or she can tick it off, as it were, as their significance becomes apparent.

I have, stored up in my brain, many stories to tell and book ideas to write and I desperately want to get cracking on them all, but I need before all else, to know that it works and that people want to read the rubbish I write. And that my work is acceptable. I doubt I will ever be a master at any of this, I do not have the confidence. I am not like someone I know, who used to be a friend, when asked about his first ‘novel’ said candidly, he thought it a masterpiece. I am, however, very proud of my first children’s book, although, I am not egotistical to claim it is anything more than average. I hope it captures the imagination and sells in significant numbers to allow me to write more and get better at it.

Time, as ever, will tell.

The Fun of Illustrating

Watercolour and ink idea for a cover for the first book.

Watercolour and ink idea for a cover for the first book.

I couldn’t say I was a great artist, but I am having a lot of fun learning to illustrate the Splidge books. Like most people, when I was younger I enjoyed drawing and painting. I wasn’t very good at it and never really perused it further, although now that I have started writing the adventures of Splidge and his friends in Gud, I wish I had. I loved to doodle and make little characters and colour them in crayon or felt tip pen. I used to find paint always went wrong for me.

Now that I have started to draw again and have discovered the magic of watercolour, I am hooked on paint. I do like using a black pen for the outline and then filling the rest with layers of watercolour. I like it because it is a transparent paint. In other words, it is very thin and you can see through it, so if it goes wrong, you can add more water to thin it out more. You do need to use thicker paper and that can be a little bit more expensive.

Splidge and Snotty take a ride in the newly invented hot air balloon.

Splidge and Snotty take a ride in the newly invented hot air balloon.

What I tend to do is work out what I am going to draw (usually a scene from the book I am writing) and then do a very simple sketch in pencil. I keep a plain paper note book for those sketches. I rough out the idea of the drawing and just keep adding detail as I go. Sometimes, I even ink over the pencil and try out some paint to see how it will look. When I am happy with it, I then grab my watercolour paper and copy my sketch. I do not always stick to exactly the same lines. I find it always changes slightly and that’s ok. I go with it.

After the pencil bit is done, again I draw over with an ink pen. I have started trying out one of those pens that have a nib and bottle of ink to dip it in, but of course, it doesn’t have to be that. When the ink is dry I use a rubber to erase the pencil before I start to paint. I try to fill the large spaces first, like the sky and usually the lightest colour. If I mess it up I can always go over it. If it is too dark, that’s not so easy.

I enjoy this bit the most, because this is where the painting starts to come alive. I usually finish of with painting in the faces with a pinky skin tone colour and then adding shadow to try and make the image looker three dimensional.

I need to do lots of paintings to improve, but slowly I am getting there.

Book 1: The Royal Tournament

Splidge throws the Crag at the Crag-Scoring-Board

Splidge throws the Crag at the Crag-Scoring-Board

Six years ago, a father leaves the family home and his son, Splidge, to fight in The Wars. He didn’t return.

When Splidge becomes twelve he is deemed ‘of age’ and required to work to support his family. In the land of Gud, children must get a job otherwise they are auctioned off at the Mop Fair for domestic servitude or agricultural labour. If they remain unsold they are sent to the Workhouse.

Splidge is keen to earn money so that he can make a trip to find his father. He discovers there might be an opportunity for him at the Palace. The Royal Gud, King Guddamac is advertising for a Cragflinger, someone with the skills in the ancient art of flinging crags.

The King is desperate; without a Royal Contender on his team, the Royal Tournament cannot take place. Cragflinging is the national sport and it would be a tragedy if it didn’t take place because the games provide the much needed funds the King needs to repair the crumbling Palace.

Splat! - the Crag lands on target. Luckily, they love it!

Splat! – the Crag lands on target. Luckily, they love it!

The story takes place in the wet, rain-drenched land of Gud. A land that is bankrupt and in a state of disarray; overshadowed by the loss of the previous King and his army and where artisan umbrella makers labour hard to keep the populace dry.  However, there is a sinister individual who has his own ambition to change how the City is run. He wishes to disrupt the Royal Tournament and to be rid of the boy who seeks to become the Royal Cragflinger.

When Splidge finds out what this evil man is planning, he and his friends, a raven-haired girl, a sooty dwarf and small orange mop-like creature, are left to put their wits together and save the beloved City from this vile menace.  Splidge, the Cragflinger, a novel by Richard Vobes, shall be published in early 2014.