Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Angel Mountain checklist

The Angel Mountain Saga
Eight volumes are now available in this best-selling series -- with about 75,000 copies sold

On Angel Mountain (Part One), Greencroft Books 2001.
    ISBN 9780905559803.  A5 paperback, 328 pp, £6.99.
House of Angels (Part Two), Greencroft Books 2002.
    ISBN 9780905559810.  A5 paperback, 432 pp, £7.99.
Dark Angel (Part Three), Greencroft Books 2003.
    ISBN 9780905559827.  A5 paperback, 432 pp, £8.50.
Rebecca and the Angels (Part Four), Greencroft Books 2004.
    ISBN 9780905559834.  A5 paperback, 432 pp, £8.50.
Flying with Angels (Part Five), Greencroft Books, 2005.
    ISBN 9780905559841.  A5 paperback, 400 pp, £7.99.
Guardian Angel (Part Six), Greencroft Books, 2008.
    ISBN 9780905559865.  A5 paperback, 256 pp, £6.99.
Sacrifice (Part Seven), Greencroft Books, 2009.
    ISBN 9780905559902.  A5  paperback, 352 pp, £7.99.
Conspiracy of Angels (Part Eight), Greencroft Books, 2012.
    ISBN 9780905559933.  A5 paperback, 352 pp, £7.99.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Bear Islands -- almost a disaster

 Another very spooky thing.  In "Acts of God" there is an episode which involves a vast iceberg breaking up near the shore of the Bear Islands -- with tragic consequences for those who are caught in the resulting waves as they rush shorewards.  I came across this, in a travel log from 2007, which mirrors the situation almost exactly.........

From Markus Ziebell's travel log:
He stopped off at the Bear Islands in 2007 during what was to be a single-handed kayak circumnavigation of Milne Land.  The trip could not be completed because of technical problems with a vessel which should have brought him additional supplies, and because of adverse ice conditions.

After a few kilometers, I reach open water and set course straight for Bear Island, which is 45 km away. As the mountain slopes are much steeper here, I intend to land at a bay with a hut indicated on my map. I'm hoping to find good landing conditions and drinking water there. Just before the bay, I pass another huge iceberg that appears quite brittle even from a distance. I have just pulled the boat onto the protruding rocks of the sheltered bay and unloaded the first two bags, when I am startled by a loud cracking sound. I watch as 800 m away from me a broad wall of ice plunges down the iceberg into the depths. A tall, breaking wave develops in front of the iceberg, and quickly turns into a flat swell that approaches fast. I have barely a minute to prepare for it. I can't pull the boat higher onto the rocks because of its weight. So I just stand next to the boat in my drysuit with the tow rope in my hand and wait. The first wave is still slowed down by the protruding rocks. But the next four breakers crash over them, and I stand in the surf up to my hips while the boat is being thrown from left to right against the rocks. I am lucky, and my sturdy PE- boat doesn't get damaged.


Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Greenland Sunday -- 9th November 2014


2.30 - 4.30 pm on Sunday 9th November 2014
Commodore's Lounge, Boat Club, Parrog, Newport

And now for something completely different --  nothing whatsoever to do with Martha Morgan, angels or Carningli....

Please join Brian and Inger for a couple of hours to celebrate the book launch of the new thriller

Set in East Greenland in 1962, in the depths of the Cold War

At 3 pm there will be a brief illustrated presentation on the Arctic Riviera and Brian's eventful 1962 expedition on which the novel is based
and at 4 pm  the author will give a short reading from the new book

Light refreshments will be served.
Please join us, and bring your friends!

Best wishes


Monday, 20 October 2014

Latest Kindle freebie promo

A week ago I finished the latest Kindle freebie promo via the Amazon web site, and my experience might help other authors with other Kindle books to sell.

This is the third promo I have done for this title -- and the most successful, by far, was the first one.  We should not be surprised about that.  This time I only managed to give away about 550 copies, but what interested me most of all was the very big peak in downloads on the first day.  That's when the book went to number two in the "free Historical Fiction" section.  After that, there was a very rapid drop-off.  My recommendation?  Do freebie promotions just one day at a time.  That way, you get the full weight of the Amazon publicity machine behind you -- since the "machine" does nothing at all after that -- so subsequent downloads just fade away inless you do some pretty hefty marketing yourself.

Now we shall see whether, after another few days have passed, there will be any lift in actual sales of the subsequent volumes in the saga.......

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Oxford University Expedition to East Greenland 1962

Above:  the "red mountain" of Malmbjerget, seen from the other side of the Schuchert Gletscher.  The ore body is well defined.  Note the accumulated mine waste carried out from the excavation of the tunnels inside the mountain.  The mountain is called Himmelbjerg in the novel.

Below: camp site on the Oxford Gletscher, after a heavy snowfall.

At long last, I have digitised the key photos from our 1962 expedition, and they are now in a Facebook Album here:


Some of the images have been in slide boxes collecting dust and mildew for 52 years......... so the quality is less than perfect!  Nonetheless, the photos give a good impression of what we all got up to over the course of 8 weeks in the "Arctic Riviera".........

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Acts of God now available for pre-ordering

My new novel is now uploaded onto the Kindle web site and is available for pre-publication ordering.  So book your copy now, and it will be delivered to you in pristine condition on 5th November, which is designated publication day.


By the way, the creature above is a tupilaq or tupilak -- a magic token traditionally carved out of walrus tusk or some other suitable material -- and often designed to place a curse or bring ill luck to somebody you might count as your enemy.  These figurines are normally quite grotesque, and no two are the same.  Nowadays they are created for the tourist industry, but in the old days they were heavily invested with magic -- and the carving of one was almost a ritual, undertaken with due care and respect.

They are generally quite small -- no more than three inches high.

A tupilaq figures quite prominently in the new novel -- but its role in the story is a closely guarded secret.....

Saturday, 11 October 2014

"On Angel Mountain" hits the Regency Fiction list

Well, this is fun!  "On Angel Mountain" has reached number 2 in the Top Hundred free regency fiction titles.  (Actually, it's only competing with 14 other titles, but don't tell anybody else about that!)  It's also at number 8 in the Historical Fiction list -- so there must be some downloads going on......  Please encourage everybody you know to download it, between now and Tuesday, when the free promo comes to an end.

Not sure how Martha Morgan comes to compete with Lizzie Bennet and other timid and precious Regency ladies for the affections of readers -- but she will certainly have fun stirring things up for a few days!

This is where you can get it:


Friday, 10 October 2014

Free Kindle download offer - On Angel Mountain

My autumn promotion is under way -- starting today and running for 5 days.  "On Angel Mountain" is free  -- in the Kindle version -- for those who might not have encountered the Saga before.  Let's hope that many new readers come on board and join the happy crew of Martha Morgan fans!

A Kindle freebie promotion probably doesn't take away many sales that might have brought in good money,  and indeed previous experience shows that sales of the other volumes in the Saga do go upwards sharply after a freebie promo of this sort.  I'll monitor that carefully and report back......

In the meantime, please spread the word and encourage your friends to take advantage of this amazing opportunity for enlightenment......

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

"Acts of God" soon available.......

Here are the key details:

Acts of God by Brian John. 2014.  Greencroft Books.  ISBN:  978-0-905559-99-5.  296 pp, £7.99.
Publication date:  5th November 2014

Kindle edition:  ISBN 978-0-905559-53-7.  Publication date:  5th November 2014

What's the new novel all about?

In a few words:
A conspiracy / action thriller set in East Greenland during the Cold War. The members of a scientific expedition become the unwitting guinea pigs in a series of grotesque experiments in an arctic wilderness.  As the death toll mounts,  they uncover a huge conspiracy and realise that an implacable enemy with limitless resources will not allow any of them to survive.

There is a new web site here:


and a new Pinterest album here:


Tuesday, 7 October 2014

New Pinterest gallery

 In connection with my advance publicity for the new novel called "Acts of God",  I have made a new gallery of East Greenland images on Pinterest.  Enjoy.......


Monday, 6 October 2014

The eight books of the saga

Here is an update on the details of the eight volumes of the series.

The Angel Mountain Saga
Eight volumes are now available in this best-selling series -- with about 75,000 copies sold.

On Angel Mountain (Part One), Greencroft Books 2001.
   ISBN 9780905559803.  A5 paperback, 328 pp, £6.99.
House of Angels (Part Two), Greencroft Books 2002.
   ISBN 9780905559810. A5 paperback, 432 pp, £7.99.
Dark Angel (Part Three), Greencroft Books 2003.
   ISBN 9780905559827.  A5 paperback, 432 pp, £8.50.
Rebecca and the Angels (Part Four), Greencroft Books 2004.
   ISBN 9780905559834.  A5 paperback, 432 pp, £8.50.
Flying with Angels (Part Five), Greencroft Books, 2005.
   ISBN 9780905559841.  A5 paperback, 400 pp, £7.99.
Guardian Angel (Part Six), Greencroft Books, 2008.
   ISBN 9780905559865.  A5 paperback, 256 pp, £6.99.
Sacrifice (Part Seven), Greencroft Books, 2009.
   ISBN 9780905559902.  A5  paperback, 352 pp, £7.99.
Conspiracy of Angels (Part Eight), Greencroft Books, 2012.
   ISBN 9780905559933.  A5 paperback, 352 pp, £7.99.

New map for "Acts of God"

I've put together this map just to see how it works out at different scales.  It has a sort of "rough and ready" look to it, as befits a book about the adventures of a bunch of explorers in the wilderness.... maybe more tweaking needed.

Mostly these are real geographical names -- but the key locations (Blyhavn, Himmelbjerg, Sandvig) are "invented" names.  The area around the Base Camp is designated as Kjove Land, and that around the upper Schuchert valley, the Werner Mountains and the northern Stauning Alps is designated as Scoresby Land. 

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Who needs agents anyway?

In answer to the question "What's the point of literary agents?", Cressida Downing says:

To an aspiring writer, literary agents can seem like a parasitic race – they take their percentage, but what do they give back? And is it worth having one?
The short answers are ‘lots’ and ‘yes’. Read on!
An agent sends your manuscript out to see who would like to bid on it for publication. They’re effective because they have more knowledge of the editors and publishers than most. An agent knows who is on the lookout for the next big historical novel, whose lists are full, who is looking for a new crime writer, and can target their submissions accordingly.
It’s a two-way street, as publishers will know what genres the agents are likely to be submitting, which ones specialise in crime, which ones are more literary etc.
Once an agent has matched your work to the right publisher (which doesn’t always mean going for the biggest advance, sometimes a publicity commitment is worth more than upfront cash), they are the professional whose job it is to negotiate the best contract for you. Unless you’re confident about tackling aspects such as high volume discounts, territorial rights, and the tricky area of electronic rights, these are all best left to someone who fully understands them.
A good literary agent will be the buffer between the publisher and yourself, negotiating, say, an extended deadline, better dates for a book tour, or fighting for improved deals as needed.
A strong agent/author relationship can be incredibly beneficial for a writer as it means having someone who’s always ‘on your side’, who is enthusiastic about your writing, and whose desire for the best deal is for both your benefits.

That all sounds wonderful, and it makes agents sound like very valuable people, but I can't help feeling that Cressida is living in cloud cuckoo land, since  the experience of the vast majority of aspiring (and experienced) writers is that they can never get to communicate with agents, let alone get signed up by one.  There are too few agents, and too many writers -- and agents know this.    That puts them in a very powerful position, and maybe it goes to their heads.  They can pick and choose from the thousands of budding authors who contact them every year, and most if them insist on the submission of literary material according to a very strict template -- which does vary from one to another.  Then they have the brass to say to a budding famous author "We will probably take six to eight weeks to look at your material, and if you don't hear from us after that you can take it that we are not interested....." 

I don't have an agent, and part of me feels rather sad about that since I have tried hard enough, goodness knows.  Before I published the first "Angel Mountain" novel I wrote to about 50 agents and of those, about 40 never even bothered to reply.  The other ten were, to their credit, polite and helpful, while saying "no thanks".  That did not inspire confidence, and maybe goes some way to explaining why agents are not held in universally high esteem.  After that, I tried to get about 50 publishers to read the manuscript, and almost all of them said "We don't deal with authors direct -- you have to submit through an agent."  So catch-22.  In the end, I got so fed up that I published "On Angel Mountain" myself, and have now racked up sales of about 32,000 copies.  To me, that suggests that neither agents not mainstream publishers are particularly smart, and that makes me feel at least a bit better! One wonders how many other excellent authors are ignored or given the brush-off by the "mainstream" publishing establishment while it continues to search for the Holy Grail, or "the next big thing."   The literary gossip sheets are full of stories of "the next big thing" which went on to sell in millions, having been totally missed by the smartest of agents and the most commercial of publishers. JK Rowling, take a bow.

Even when one is a successful writer with eight published novels to one's name, with 75,000 books sold, agents can still afford to ignore one completely, or to send out curt notes to the effect that "your manuscript is nicely written, but not quite right for our list......"

So back to the question "What's the point of literary agents?"  I have spoken to several other authors lately who do have agents supposedly working for them, and they have all said "He / she does NOTHING for me, while taking at least 20% of my earnings.  Quite frankly, I'd be better off on my own."

Partly, this might have something to do with the fact that neither agents nor publishers quite know how to respond to the E-publishing revolution.  I spoke to another well-known and successful author the other day, who was heavily involved in the Hay Festival, and he said "They are like rabbits caught in the headlights of a speeding car --  rooted to the spot, aware that something unpleasant is about to happen but not quite sure how to cope with it."

So would I have done better with the Angel Mountain Saga if I had had an agent working for me?  I doubt it very much.  I might have picked up a contract with a London publishing house, and the first book might have got some reviews and a fortnight or so of active publicity.  Then it would have simply slipped onto the backlist as hundreds of new titles came inexorably off the production line -- some of them written by BIG authors with BIG marketing budgets attached to them because the publishers had to recoup BIG advances.  Such is the way of the world.  Also, I would have been much less involved in publicity and marketing, and would probably have watched from the sidelines as small quantities of my book tricked out of some high-tech warehouse located somewhere in England.   In all seriousness, I might have been so discouraged that I might never have written volume 2, let alone volumes 3 - 8.

So I went my own way, and published through my own imprint called Greencroft Books.  Then I had to do all the publicity for each title, all the storage, and all the marketing.  Hard work, but fun, and the books have provided a reasonable income.

And now we are into the Ebook revolution.  Another world, since an author now needs neither an agent nor a publisher.  Write the book, digitise it, and stick it out there either as a Kindle book or on one of the other Ebook sites.  The publishing process can be done in a day, as distinct from a lead time of eighteen months or so if one works through an agent and a London publisher.  And immediately, your 70% royalties start pouring in to your bank account.  That's the theory, anyway........

Email notifications

I have just added an Email notification link onto this blog -- so if you would like to receive an Email notification when I post up a new item, just fill in your Email address and register.  Very quick and simple -- and the only extra Emails you'll get are those specifically tied to this blog. 

As ever, I also welcome comments on any of the items on the blog -- some specifically relating to Martha Morgan and the books, and others relating to Welsh literature and other literary topics.

Autumn promotion - free on Kindle

I'm doing an autumn promotion of "On Angel Mountain" (the Kindle Ebook version) for 5 days from Friday 10th October.  It's quite a few months since I did the last freebie -- according to all the pundits, you have to do it now and then in order to "refresh" sales!

I'm pretty convinced that one doesn't lose sales income from such promotions -- what you do is pull in other readers who might then (if they like the story and the characters) go on to actually buy the other seven novels in the Saga.  We shall see....

So now I have to do a bit of work on promotion -- tweeting and twittering and all that......