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Adventures in Writing – another summer over

This will be the first month since I started writing this blog that I have got nothing to say.

There are a number of reasons for this.

One, I feel very strongly that anything I say doesn’t really matter (refugees, climate change, they are a LOT more important).

Two, the woes of the world make ANYTHING I say totally irrelevant

Three, writing books is not such a big deal – we authors are not the font of all knowledge

So, to bring things into perspective, I’m going to write about what happened to me this month…a personal overview of four weeks or so of my ever-changing life.

I decided to enrol my youngest daughter in my school. Her mother was not impressed. I tried to convince her that having a choice, having options, is a good thing. Imagine having the option at 18 of either going to a Spanish University or a British one. Or, even at 16, having the option of trying to find a job in Spain, or a having the chance to go to a British FE college and leaning, training for a career that she will love. I wish I had those sorts of options. I left school with not very much. A grade ‘C’ in English and Art. Yeah, well with that I’m not even going to get into the Civil Service. So…my choices were limited, hers will not be.

I wrote a book over the summer. That’s quite an achievement, even if I say so myself. 65,000 words. A Western. I’ve always wanted to write a Western and it simply flowed out of me. I had to change the title a few times, but in the end, I went with ‘Unflinching’, a little like ‘Unforgiven’, but nothing like the same story. Set BEFORE the American Civil War, in 1857 this book tells the story of a Pinkerton Detective who sets out to find the kidnapped daughter of a general he served under. In the Mexican War. It is gutsy and full of violence. Which is how Westerns should be. I loved writing it, I hope you love reading it.

cover draft

The very wonderful cover of my soon-to-be-released novel ‘Unflinching’, a Western set in 1857 America.

Publishing a book is always fraught with problems. Small independant publishers do go out of business. They cannot survive in this cutthroat world, so where does that leave us poor authors? Do I self-publish, or find another publisher? I think my publishers are very good, although I was let down recently by some mistakes in the editing process, mistakes which were panned by a reviewer! Rightly so. Anyway, I got in touch with the publisher and we have worked together to iron out all the errors, of which there were not many, to be fair. I suspected there might have been a faulty with the reviewer’s E-reader. It does happen, because some of the things she said simply didn’t add up when I went through the manuscript. Anyway, it’s done… Another book of mine had a tiny mistake. The name of one of the characters changed towards the end, This was another publisher and their response was very different. They won’t make the changes! So, I am going to withdraw my book from them, close the contract, go with someone else. There a lot of good publishers out there…but there are plenty that aren’t. It is so difficult to find the right one, isn’t it. To self-publish sometimes seems like the easy option, but I’m still convinced to try and get picked up by one of the big publishers is what it is all about. So, that’s what I’ll do.

Did I tell you I completed the first parto f a TV adaptation of one of my books? It was such hard work, but I’m hopeful I’ll be rewards when it is put out on our TV screens!!!

Summer is over and it has been busy. Western, TV episode, and another book also completed. I’ve struck a deal with a publisher to publish 4 of my books. Sounds good. Well…we’ll see. I’m very pragmatic about the whole industry now. Like I say … We’ll see. I think that is the best policy.

Wait. Keep an open mind. And, as it turns out … Nothing to say this month? Well…quite a lot in the end!

Keep reading people.

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Adventures in writing…a month of commemorations!

This has been an interesting, and moving year, so far.

Interesting because it has been a steep learning curve for me with regard to publishers. I knew they worked slowly, but never quite how slowly. Of course, this is because they have lots of work with mountains of authors in the queue before me, I understand that, but nevertheless it is frustrating.

But I’m philosophical. I have now reached the stage where I don’t care.

If it takes them three years to get round to me, then so be it. I’m not going to worry. What will be will be. When they ask me to promote, get in touch with the press, libraries, Twitter and Facebook…I might just wait myself. Wait and wait.

Let me reiterate. I DO NOT CARE. I forked out a lot of money for a virtual book tour, a Twitter campaign, etc., etc., Result? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. So, no more of that thank you very much. I’m not wasting another penny on any of these awful campaigns. They don’t work. End of.

Now, the moving bit, for which I DO care. Quite a lot.

2015 has been an extraordinary year for commemorating some of the most important dates in our calendar.

April was a time to remember the horrors of Gallipoli, Churchill’s dream of knocking Turkey out of the Great War and putting immense pressure on the Germans. It was a disaster. battle_of_gallipoliToo many died in what was to become a nightmare campaign. But we need to remember; for the men who gave their lives and to instruct our youth about the utter futility of war.

June. What a month (as I’m writing this, it is not yet over!). The fifteenth saw my school joining in with many others in the commemorations going on all around Runnymede for the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. Actually, that is wrong. King John didn’t sign it, he couldn’t read or write. He put his seal on it. Anyway, my school asked the question and were given the answer, and named, by Dan Snow, who is a cool guy.

Then, the 18th June. Waterloo. waterlooThere is not much more to be said about this battle, one of the most important ever fought. A terrible day, but even so I would have loved to have gone to Belgium to watch the re-enactment, but of course I couldn’t. I have bought all the stamps and the coins…and a French army in 10mm however, so that is something!

In October, it is the 600th anniversary of Agincourt…

What a year…and next year…2016, is the Somme, and the Norman invasion (950 years since Duke William came a-calling!).

Mm…I might have to buy some more figures!

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Adventures in writing – sick of scams

Oh Goddddddddddddddddddddd!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I sometimes truly believe I am a lone voice in the wilderness.

Okay, here we go.

I came across a ‘free’ course on how to promote books, as I am pants at promoting. I don’t have it in me. I may not be alone in this. I’m not a salesman. I write, I create, and I know there are a hundred and fifty thousand people out there right this minute screaming at me (hah! ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY THOUSAND? What am I, nuts?) telling me that in this modern world, you have to be a salesperson, you have to get out there, promote yourself, give your all. Find your platform, your voice, and shout it out…Jeez, I’m even beginning to sound like all of these people!

Look, I can’t do it, ok. I’ve acted on stage. Biggest audience? Three thousand people, baying for blood. Live. I did it. Smallest audience? One old lady, seeking warmth from the cold, and I put in a performance that would have you eating your own heart! I can act, but I can’t be myself. I’m no good at that. Here’s an example…I had a colleague come up to me who had just requested me as a friend on FaceBook. ‘I never knew you were an author!’She’s been in school for FIVE YEARS. I’ve been writing since…well…since. I am NO GOOD at this sort of stuff…So, I downloaded this ‘course’.

It was pants.

I remember when I was selling magazines in John Menzies and this guy, who always came in and bought his newspaper from us, suddenly said to me, ‘What are you going to do when you retire?’ I looked, blinked, didn’t know what to say, couldn’t find the words, so I shrugged. He laughed and said, ‘When do you want to retire?’ Again, I sort of danced around the question…’Er, when I’m old and I can’t go to the toilet any longer without help.’

This was not the answer he was looking for. So, he invited me back to his home for a ‘seminar’. And there I sat, listening to the BS. How to earn fifty thousand in your first year, a hundred thousand in your second…and so on and so on.

This is the same.

And after this wonderful course that taught me absolutely sweet Fanny Adams…I get an e-mail inviting me to purchase the all new, all dancing super-dooper course on ‘How to be a best-selling author’ and if I did it NOW, I could save, save, save. Yey!!!

At the amazing bumper price of only $99 dollars a month (reduced from $127…wow, really? SUCH a saving!!!) I could learn how to be a best-selling author.

Oh Goddddddddddddddddddddddd!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am reminded of those scams from Nigeria, where they drop you an e-mail to ask you to send them all your personal details (including the location of birthmarks on your children) and all you have to do is say yes, and they will deposit 10 million dollars into your account. Keep it there for a week, keep half of it, and sit back and count all those lovely greenbacks!

It’s all BALLS!!!! And the sooner we wake up to it the better. There is no easy way of creating a best-seller, people. Unless, of course, you can write a book telling everyone how to write!  Wouldn’t that be cool. I’ve looked up these ‘experts’ and they have written lots of books. All around 20 pages long and all to do with how to write a best seller. And the mad thing is, people are buying this BS!!!

Look, it’s not rocket science. The first part is the hardest, no matter what all these idiots say –  you have to be able to write and then YOU HAVE TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD BOOK. And after that, you write another, then another, and you don’t stop. That’s my credo. Don’t stop. To hell with them all. Just keep writing!

Oh…just to prove any form of marketing doesn’t work at all, my book ‘Whipped Up’ is on special offer and on virtual tour. You can read the reviews, but nobody is buying it, not now, not ever, so…nuff said.

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Adventures in Writing… hitting the wall

Strange life, isn’t it. What it throws at you, how it tests your resolve.

Now, to start off, I’m not trying to sound pessimistic or defeatist here … I love writing, I really do, but I am quite a sensitive guy. I take things to heart and life can be so hard. For me, it seems, the fates are always against me. I know, i know. I can hear people saying now, ‘you make your own fate, your own luck!’ Well, I’ve tried that too. But I digress …

You´ve heard the expression, a picture is worth a thousand words. As a writer, the task is to try and paint the images in our head using words in such a way to make them accessible and understandable to our readers.

It is not easy, as you all know.

I sometimes find myself reading a good book by an established author and missing out entire chunks of narrative because I find them simply uninteresting. I feel terribly guilty about this, then I stop and wonder how many of my words are being skipped and skimmed. A lot, I think.

Often, as a writer and as a person, life throws up its challenges. Those challenges can be daunting, sometimes unassailable. And very often it is easy to give up.

I remember a couple of years ago, I contacted my publisher and requested my book be made ‘free’ for a short time, as I’d heard this was a sure-fire way to gain interest. Well, it worked. In a way. The book, which had perhaps sold maybe half a dozen copies, was downloaded 784 times! And how many reviews did I get? One. How many follow-up sales? None.

Depressing, isn’t it.

Recently, I followed other advice about book promotions. Certain companies would promote your book on their site, which has X-thousand followers. Sounded worthy of a shot. So, I did it. Contacted my publisher (not the same one as my first attempt to conjure up interest), and decided to offer one of my books at a considerable discount. Less than a pint of beer in the UK. I thought it was a pretty good offer.

Result? No sales.

So, you can understand why I’m depressed.

Most of us have the same problem, I guess. It doesn’t really matter how good we are at writing, we’re never going to reach readers, not in any great volume. There are simply too many books out there, too many writers. And most of them seem to have hit on the magic ingredient of getting known. Well, I don’t know what the ingredient is, and it’s causing me huge concern. I have always wanted to write. Not to make millions, not to be famous, but to simply make enough money to live a life which allows me to create, pay the bills and put some food on the table. Well, it’s not going to happen.

I´ve gone on about Twitter and people having hundreds of thousands of followers, so imagine my delight when I joined a webinar to be told this is meaningless. What one has to do, in order to reach readers, is to get people to join your email list. Well, sounds great, except I don’t know how to do this. And, right now, I’m becoming more and more cynical. I don’t think anything will work.

Pessimistic, depressive, cynical…yes, I’m all of those things now. I’ve had the optimism beaten out of me. I met a good friend of mine the other day, whom I haven’t seen for almost 20 years, and she told me, ‘I’ve looked at your books and I was going to buy one, but they’re not really my sort of thing’. At my work, I have well over 70 colleagues and not one of them has ever bought any of my books. It’s not that they are bad. They are published works, well-edited, and are good stories, but people simply do not want to part with their money, or simply can’t accept, or a flair to do something which most only ever dream of. ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’. Perhaps it is that. Who knows? To write a book is no easy matter, but writers are rarely celebrated for the simple act of writing. People do not give it any credit. Run a Marathon and people worship you like a god; drive a Porsche and people stop and gasp in the streets; sing and you’re considered the have achieved the highest calling in life; write a book, nobody bats an eyelid.

Well, I’m not going to worry about this now. I’ve decided. I’m simply going to continue to write. To hell with the marketing, it doesn’t work. If I can write and get published, that’s all I really care about. To get the food on the table, I’ll continue to teach for as long as I can and in my spare moments, I’ll put down the words and try my best not to worry. It’s going to be hard though, don’t you think?

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Adventures in Writing – tweet, tweet ter-woo!

You know, I’ve just posted something on Twitter. I go to look, and it’s not there. Well, it is, but it is already superseded by about forty or more tweets from others. This got me thinking. In order to READ all of these Tweets, you’d have to be on the internet 24/7. For most of us, this simply isn’t feasible.

So…I tried to work it out. All my efforts to post earth-shattering, informative, philosophical, newsworthy Tweets…

Is it really worth it?

I began to think about myself. I’m not unique, different, in any way out of the ordinary. How much of my day do I spend on Twitter? It didn’t take me long to find the answer.

About ten minutes.

In that time, am I likely to take notice, spot, discern, know about the world’s next great book?

Answer…

No.

We are all programmed to believe that having a ‘presence’ is absolutely essential in this hyper-spaced-out-world in which we live.

Is it?

What does it mean if we have 108k followers? I’ve talked about this before, but sometimes I think it is worth revisiting. I use the above figure as an example. Here’s why.

Today I received an email telling me I have another new follower on Twitter. Not a company giving me access to thousands of e-books, or a travel firm, or fashion house, but a real person. Youpie. I investigated. This person follows some 23k people. That, in itself, is something of an achievement. Where does he find the time? Then, his followers…108k. I had to look again, One hundred and eight thousand followers! My God, who is this guy? Some sort of Mahatma Ghandi, a man of world-renown, the next President?

No. He’s just a guy. From Merseyside. And he’s written a book. And he has 108,000 followers.

What the hell is happening? Am I the only one who thinks all of this as simply some massive con? I think I am. People bombard me with all sorts of put-me-downs after I post such ideas. They lambast me, insult me, tell me I need to wake up, get real, join the real world. Really?

Sometimes, being a lone voice, is kind of deflating, but it can also do wonders for the spirit. Think of how many great men and women have been ridiculed for their views, only to be revered later when people realise the truth of what they said. Crying in the wilderness is actually a good thing. Just because a thousand people tell me I’m wrong doesn’t actually mean I’m wrong.

And then…joy of joys … as if to confirm thing, I receive an email from someone inviting me to be their follower on Twitter. Someone … or something. They ‘sell’ reviews. For a small payment I can purchase ‘good’ reviews.

Now this really got my blood boiling.

I do not want to buy ‘good’ reviews. If I’m going to buy reviews, I want them to be ‘honest’. And I receive an email from Amazon telling me that only when you have received 50 reviews are you going to be taken seriously. Fifty? So, the pressure is on. We have to have that magical number, we have to break through the barrier, get ourselves noticed, win the accolades, the sales, the acceptance. Fifty. And, guess what, Amazon can help. Yes, they really can. You can get onboard and ‘buy’ the required number of sales to be regarded as a best-seller! Just imagine, having that accolade on your book cover. ‘Best-selling author bla-de-bla’ comes to a village hall near you to talk about how wonderful it is to be a star. Famous. Rich. Mm.

I’m being cynical? You think? I know James Joyce did it. He bought 200 copies of Ulysses I think it was, to give away to his friends. That gave him something of a kick-start, but what is being proposed today is very different. As long as you keep spending your money, you can buy your way to success. Well, I’m of the school which believes talent, creativity and the ability to craft a damn good story is of far greater importance. We all need to promote ourselves in the best ways we can, but this buying your way above the masses … Well …

I’m simply and honestly disgusted. This is all a sham. We are living in the era of the biggest publishing con there has ever been, and we all contribute, we all buy into it, even me. Because the pressure is on to sell, sell, sell. Honesty and talent no longer have a place. We must sell, by hook or by crook, and to hell with everything else. Listen to Amazon, if you don’t believe me. Or Bookbaby. It’s easy. Anyone can do it … just keep reaching inside your pockets.

Beam me up. I’ve had enough.

I’m going back to my keyboard, find happiness in the worlds I create, and keep submitting. I believe, in my simple innocence, that good writing will forces its way to the top. People like good stories. They simply need to know I write them, that I exist. But I’m not going to buy my way into the consciousness of prospective readers. Besides, I can’t afford it. So, there has to be another way. Surely.

Thanks for dropping by. You can find out about my books on my website: www.stuartgyates.com. Come along and visit me, pick up a book, enjoy. But whatever you do, keep reading.

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Adventures in Writing…oh so many ‘authors’…

I sometimes feel like one of those ‘grumpy old men’, which was such a wonderful series on BBC. It may have been politically incorrect, but it was spot on.
Why do I feel this way?
Well, okay, here goes.
I, along with many of you probably, join a group online. It is supposed to be a support group, a place where you can go to share stories, seek advice, listen to those who have been through it all and come out the other end smelling of roses.
Well … how many times to you open an email from one of these groups and are presented by such declarations as, ‘So-and-so’s new thriller is the best thing I’ve ever read, buy it now!’ Or (even more sickening ) ‘I’ve just discovered my latest thriller ‘The Private Dick is not as Big as you Thought’ has got to number 10 in the Amazon’s ‘low-life thriller’ chart!’
Why is it that every single group I’m a member of, no matter where: Facebook, Linked-In, Goodreads, is hi-jacked by these people. And, even WORSE, is when I try to do something similar, my post is suspended and I receive a really snotty letter from the administrator (not Facebook, I’m relieved to say!). I can’t fathom it. It must be me.
And then, today, I received an email inviting me to join Amazon’s ‘FAST TRACK’ . For a small ‘donation’ I can get five reviews. I’m relieved to read it does not say ‘Five 5-star reviews’ because that would be so wrong I’d be forced to post a blog about it.
Sounds great, doesn’t it. But imagine, all those countless thousands of ‘authors’ out there, desperate to sell their books and make a million. They’ll be pushing and shoving to get those reviews. Because it is easy, right?
Are you, like me, one of those authors who post their books on any number of Facebook groups and then, perhaps once a week, perhaps once upon a rainbow weekend, you go onto said site and simply scroll down, and down, and down, and… And you never once stop because you are sick to the back teeth of seeing these awful self-effacing adverts? Well, I’m sick of it. So what is the point? Nobody stops to read what these adverts have to say. There are perhaps fifty million authors out there (okay, okay, I exaggerate, but it feels that way sometimes) and most of them are simply awful. And, swimming around the edges of this pond of sickening banality, are the sharks and the crocs. The countless ‘experts’ who offer every trick in the book to make you a best-selling author.
I wonder when it will end?
I wonder when it will get back to readers buying good books, and authors writing good books.
Do you think it will happen? And how are we to know the good from the dreadful? The Kindle explosion has done no end of harm to those writers who are good. Readers are a discerning bunch. They pick up a piece of pap and will never, ever pick up anything that is offered free or cut-price again. They don’t want to take the chance. So, they buy their 12.50 edition of a Kindle by an author whom they know and trust. We’re doomed. You and me, the good ones.
Well, I’m going to watch some re-runs of ‘Grumpy old Men’, sit back, and wallow in the knowledge that I’m not the only one, that I may be a grump, but actually, every now and then, I do actually speak some sense!
My follow-up to Burnt Offering has now been accepted for publication.

 

Burnt Offerings is now available at a new, reduced price for the Kindle. Visit any Amazon site to take advantage.

Burnt Offerings is now available at a new, reduced price for the Kindle. Visit any Amazon site to take advantage.

I can’t say when it will be out yet, so watch this space. In the meantime, pick up the first in the series and enjoy!
Thanks for passing by.

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Adventures in writing – a personal view by Stuart G Yates: how do I get known?

There are so many authors out there now, it’s like a world gone mad. I feel sorry for the poor reader, avid or not. How are they supposed to choose who and what to read? It’s something I’ve been trying to think about a lot.

How do I make my choices?

It’s difficult for me right now. Living in Spain, I have little opportunity to visit a bookshop. An English one, I mean. We used to have one where I live, but it has closed. They even stocked my books for a while, but now the whole venture has disappeared – along with my books! I’ll never get them back, nor will I get anything from the company. I’m not even sure if they exist. But I wander from the point (which isn’t uncommon for me!).

So…how do I choose a book?

Sometimes, it’s by the only really credible way – recommendation. A friend reads something, they pass on a copy to you. You like it, you then go out and buy another by the author. We all do this, and it’s a great way of discovering new books. Then there are recommendations in magazines, newspapers and, of course, Amazon. I like the way they link similar themes together, so if you put in a search for a well-known author you could end up buying a book by someone totally different. I read the reviews and take the plunge. This is how I came to Simon Scarrow, and his wonderful Roman Empire novels.

We might come to them via films – this was how I ‘discovered’ James Bond, or TV, which is how I came to Ian Rankin and ‘Rebus’. There are so many different ways, more than I’ve listed, but isn’t the best one simply going into a bookshop and sifting through all those lovely, freshly printed volumes? At a visit to ‘Waterstones’ I saw a staff-recommendation for a book, priced at only £1 as an introduction to an author. This was about ten years ago, and the author was Henning Mankell, and what a find he turned out to be.

Of course, as an author, I have another problem. How do I get people to pick up my books? Being with indie publishers, I have to do the marketing myself, which is a total pain I can tell you. I’d much rather be writing. Somehow, you do feel the pressure, even sitting alone with just your word-processor for a companion, to try and promote. Panic, frustration, they all gnaw away at you. How many times have I taken a break, popped over to Facebook and become dragged into to replying and commenting on posts? And as I do this, I become increasingly agitated by the armies of authors I see on there, shouting out about how brilliant their latest book is. So many now are wound up by the need to be published and to find success. Success, which means, sales. I look at their posts and I’ve now got to the stage where I simply scroll by, not even giving them so much as a glance. Unless it is by an established author. Then I might stop, and read. I did this actually. I tried to find some top authors on Facebook. John Harvey, for example. If you like thrillers, you’ll know who he is. He hasn’t got a Facebook page. The aforesaid Ian Rankin, he has, but I’m not at all sure if he writes it. The same goes for Lee Childs…is it him?

Some authors, like Simon Kernick, Harlan Coben and Michael Jecks often post something. Michael even tells us about his walks over the moors, which is fantastic. I love this approach, which is so unassuming, so personal and nothing to do with his books (which are great by the way). Natural. There are others, however, who simply use Facebook to declare their brilliance, or their particular bigotries. These latter ones happen to be also so-called sock-puppeteers and I no longer have them as ‘friends’ or, more importantly, buy their books.

As for me, I’ve had enough. I’m so disillusioned by all this social-networking rubbish that I’ve decided I’m pretty much going to turn my back on it. I’ve just read a blog by Bernard Cornwell. It’s like a breath of fresh air and reaffirms what I’ve always known – write a good story. The rest of it is nonsense. All these marketing tips may well be very good, but if your story sucks, what is the point?

There is a whole world out there full of hard-nosed profiteers who will take your money and promise you the earth, with interviews, author pages, guest blogs. There’s one right now, on Facebook, advertising ‘How to become a best-selling author’, or words to that effect. Another ‘Make your book sell…find out how to become the next Stephen King’. These books cost 4.99. Great, pay the money, and discover what? The magic formula? I think not.

There are thousands of ‘friends’ who LIKE your book but never ever buy it. They take your free-promos, but they never have the time to write a review. I’m sick of it, there has to be another way to get yourself known, and I wish I knew what it was.

So, what do you do as somebody who wants to write? I’ll tell you my own experience, after doing this since the mid-70s, with 14 books published and 2 more due out this year. You get a job. You earn money. And you write in the evenings, or the weekends, or during your holidays. You write because you love it, because you have the urge to create. And when you’ve written a good story, you write another one. And you don’t stop, because it is what you do. You may never make any money, you may be rejected a thousand times by every agent on the planet, but you don’t care, because for you the writing is all.

That’s it. No big secret. I write, I re-draft (about 3 times), I get it proof-read, I then submit. I’ll no longer go to small independents, and I’ll not self-publish. If an agent one day likes something of mine, I will crack open the champagne and rejoice. But until that day, I no longer have any desire to shout my wares from the rooftop on Facebook. If people buy my books, that is because they like the sound of the story. And that’s good enough for me.

Here’s some timely advice about finding an agent: http://writingteennovels.com/2013/03/21/finding-a-good-literary-agent-for-your-novels-by-paul-volponi/

Visit my websites to find out a little more about me, with links to my books: www.stuartgyates.com  and

www.glennstuart.co.uk

Thanks for dropping buy, and keep on reading. Here’s a selection of some of my books, with links.

 The cover of my first 'legitimate' novel, Cold Hell in Darley Dene

big coverFront cover

 

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