The Demise Trilogy

Out today on Kindle

Demise Trilogy Cover

The Complete Demise Trilogy
This is a complex thriller based on the lead up to and aftermath of the second Iraq war. A conspiracy to cover up the associated activities of parts of the intelligence services. Now available as a complete trilogy.

An Agent’s Demise
Intelligence analysts and agents have gone missing, some may have been killed. The press and the police suspect there is a serial killer on the loose. John Slater was near the latest victim, he is evasive, appears to have no history, and he might be the killer. The second Iraq war and the intelligence network may link the victims and so The Metropolitan Police’s Special Branch investigates, with the help or hindrance of the Intelligence Agencies. The mistakes made in creating the dossiers used to support going to war are supposed to stay buried on both sides of the Atlantic, but still a killer strikes and is everybody telling the truth?

An Agent’s Rise
The Demise operation was shut down the killer allowed to disappear. But the conspirators have not all been caught and the efforts of MI6 and the CIA to cover up the dirty deeds of the security services only results in more deaths and destruction. Slater returns to tidy up, but how can he reconcile his new life with what he is asked to do?

What happens to Jess and Michael? Will the newly promoted Detective Chief Inspector Hooper really allow the suspected killer to go free?

Can the authorities continue to cover up the plot to alter the Iraqi Dossiers on both sides of the Atlantic?

Can the killer stop killing?

An Agent’s Prize
The conspiracy is over, the mistakes and cover up are hidden and buried for good. Both sides of the Atlantic can concentrate on the threats from Islamic Terrorism. That is what they all hope. They want to enlist a hidden black asset in the chase, but there are risks to that approach.

Meanwhile the FBI is still investigating what really happened. Is the conspiracy really over?

Al Qaeda plan new atrocities and MI6 with Homeland Security will try to stop them.

The newlywed Michael Johnson can help but his wife is still recovering from her injuries and she is suspicious of her husband and the authorities. From the streets of San Francisco to the suburban towns of England the terrorists are plotting an outrage.

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Intervention – The Observer Series Part 2

Part Two of the Observer Series will launch on 30th January on Kindle – It is available for pre-order now:

Amazon.co.uk  or Amazon.com also other Amazon sites worldwideIntervention cover

The continuing story of Cathy Rodriguez – a Senior Observer in the Interplanetary Geographic Service. The story follows on from Part One The World of Fives

Cathy is recalled from her Observer duties as she is asked to establish first contact with a new life form. Meanwhile the Conspiracy to prevent humans changing their non-Intervention policy continues to try and kill her. Together with Marta De Jaste, a Senior Investigator, and Tony Briggs her former jailer and security officer, they travel to the chosen planet.

On the planet Tullymeade, Karloon Niesta, a disgraced scientific observer, detects a strange anomaly. A discovery that will change his planet forever.

In deep space two groups of survivors try and recover from their battle in orbit above the planet Freevur

A Tinfoil Hat – Data Protection and Security

For those of you that know me in my regular life, you will recall I can get a bee in my bonnet about data protection. Partly this is due to my previous professional roles and responsibilities. A frequent comment is that tin foil hats are needed as if my concerns and others are exaggerated. Using the Internet and any part of modern society means that your personal data is not personal or private it belongs to big corporations and government agencies. I do not believe that governments will deliberately misuse the data. That is the way of conspiracies and tin-foil hats. The scope though for data loss, data selling to third parties (who will misuse it) and data errors will grow. Then there are the criminal risks. If the security services need a backdoor through encryption then that back door exists for anyone that can find it. Ashley Madison anyone, to name one hacking case.

This also goes to some of my more reclusive tendencies. Reclusive? I hear you exclaim, a sometimes writer with a twitter feed, email, Facebook page as well as this blog. However, when it comes to data, this tendency can become overactive. I do not have a personal Facebook page and my on-line activities are covered by occasional blogs and comments on Goodreads. I have author profiles on Amazon and other sites, I have a Linked-In profile but my other personal details do not appear. I do not share my birthday or medical details on-line and I would prefer it if the companies I interact with did not either. Nor my financial details, spending patterns or other marketing led data. But we are in the era of big data. Having worked for one of the big credit reference agencies, I am aware of just how much data is known about me. More interesting is the analysis applied to that data to be sold to other companies which then results in marketing.

I recently received a mail shot from a marketing company offering me contact details on 5 million company directors. My details are probably in that list. How did they get that data (It might not be accurate of course, but how? I did not give anyone permission to give my data to this company. But of course I probably did when I forgot to tick or un-tick a box on another web site opting in or out. Of course I could have just wanted to run something and hidden in the EULA was an explicit clause along the lines of “We may use your data with selected third parties, if you do not wish this to happen etc….” To use the product you have to agree. Next thing you are offered US Car loan deals in Wisconsin – I kid you not. Not helpful in rural Englan not New England – the original.

Why is this relevant? Well last week saw the European Court of Justice (ECJ) rule that one of the data safeguards used by many companies, including Facebook and many cloud providers, the so called Safe Harbor (US Spelling) rules, were not worth the paper they are written on. Under that scheme the European rules on data protection are upheld in the USA where most cloud providers and social media companies reside.  This comes not just on the back of the Eric Snowden revelations about security service activities but also due to the USA’s Patriot Act. Under the act a; American companies are effectively obliged to hand over all data.Then there is the ongoing dispute involving Microsoft being asked to hand over data by the FBI held in an Irish data centre via a court order in a US Court without going through the existing legal agreements with the Irish authorities.

For cloud providers including WordPress what does this mean. In legal terms it means that no European citizen or company can handover data to a US company and know that the data is legally protected from misuse i.e. selling on or using for a purpose other than which it was provided. Something that US companies do not seem to understand. The UK’s Information Commissioner Office (ICO) provides a very simple set of principles for managing data which meets European requirements but they too have been relying on Safe Harbor and other contractual protections called Model Clauses when data is processed outside the EU.

The EU and the USA are negotiating new data protection rules but the bottom line for all of us is that if you use any cloud based provider that has any connection to a US company for any corporate or personal activity you cannot expect any privacy. You cannot expect that any of your data will not end up in the hands of the US authorities or sold on at the whim of a company. Expect more spam and more targeted marketing built on analysis of everything from your inside leg measurement to who you discussed fashion with on a social media outlet.  The terms of service issues by the providers with all their associated privacy policies are worthless and overriden by the activities of the US agencies and corporations.

A tin foil hat won’t help.

Smashwords Deals

To celebrate the forthcoming launch of Landscape I have some coupon codes via Smashwords to grab my existing books at special discounts for a limited time only!

Simply add the coupon code at check out

An Agent’s Demise – AC79Z – Special Offer with the code $1

An Agent’s Rise – WT3H – Special Offer with the code $1

To The Survivors – BN59T – Special Offer with the code 50% off

The Persuasive Man – YE67W – Special Offer with the code $1

The Observer Series-Part One-The World of Fives – LP55E – Special Offer with the code $1

An Agent’s Demise in Audio

An Agent’s Demise is now available as an audio book via the ACX platform which includes Audible and iTunes distribution. You can get it here

Amazon UK

Amazon.com

Narration and sound production is by Colin Fluxman who has done a fabulous job with the text. You can also get him here on Voice123

ACX-Logo-High-ResAudible-Logo-300x160 itunes-logo-1

Progress or Lack of it

It’s been a few weeks since I posted anything. Not that I haven’t had lots to say, it’s just the time to say it. My biggest excuse is of course writing of the main kind. Oh, and of course I work for a living. Still never let anything like earning a living get in the way of writing. I’m sure the mortgage company would agree. can just see that discussion playing out.

“Dear Sir we are repossessing your home”

“But I’m and aspiring writer”

“Would I have  read anything by you”

“Probably not”

“An you receive an income for this work do you?”

I can’t see that going well.

Still I do have some news on what I have been writing and designing a cover for Landscape. This was going to be another novel but it’s turned into a short story. It now needs some Beta reading. See what you think of the cover below. Not finished yet but It’s a start:

Landscape coverIn other writing I have been making progress on An Agent’s Prize the third part of the Demise conspiracy series. Speaking of that series I have an audio book version of An Agent’s Demise underway on the ACX platform. Not sure when it will be finished but sometime in the New Year.

Part 2 of the Observer Series has also had some additions. Still looking for a title.

Then the start of something some readers have been asking for since it came out. Yes a possible sequel to To The Survivors. Again untitled but I have a few chapters written, no idea where that one will go. When I wrote the first part I had no direction at all, it just went. Most of my other writing has at least a target plot and story in outline. That one just goes. Must admit it is hard to get back in the flow of those characters. It was very emotional to write the first time, a real difference from Demise.

Other projects remain stalled or with just a few words here and there. So enough chat and back to the real job – I mean writing!

Writing to Reading

One of my work colleagues is a process improvement expert. He is a Six Sigma Lean Black Belt which surely as a title should be leaned as a process improvement itself. He can frequently be found drawing diagrams of processes and extracting critical details from our business colleagues. These details, decision points and sub-processes demonstrate where efficiencies can be made. I was contemplating him taking a look at the whole self publishing process, which strikes me as being in desperate need of improvement.

Let’s start with the basic problem. Too many books chasing too few readers who are willing to pay for the book. Economists would focus on the over supply or the under-demand aspect of the problem. To increase demand many writers have resorted to the price tactic of reduced cost to the reader, including free, to generate that demand.  Many marketing strategies emphasise the use of free to generate interest for other books by the same author. Traditional publishers have resorted to inflated pricing of e-books to protect the hard copy versions, much like the music and movie industry kept digital downloads more expensive than CD/DVD and Blue-ray packages.

The pricing and marketing elements and the social media excursions are all about launching or promoting the book after it has been produced. The lean methodology came out of Toyota’s factories i.e. it focused on the method of production.  Although the techniques have spread into post-production and anywhere else efficiencies need to be made. These techniques have led directly or indirectly to just-in-time supply, significant automation and other changes to the production workplace. Many American commentators often critique lean and claim Henry Ford should be credited with the methodology. It is not an argument I would wish to get into as I am not an expert on the history. For the purposes of this article it is irrelevant.

So what would a lean book production look like. Starting with the authorship. Clearly a writer drives a fictional story but let’s face it. We all suffer from foibles. Some writers are very good at scary scenes, others romance. Some are excellent with descriptive passages whilst others can create fabulous dialogue.  Clearly despite the inefficiency caused by increasing the number of writers involved, a lean book should focus on the allocated expertise of multiple individuals to create the book. The justification for the perceived inefficiency would be that more books of a higher qualitative standard would be produced in a shorter time frame. Not something that most authors would contemplate. Yet this type of authorship is common in the workplace – collaborative documents anyone?

Judging by the rumour mill several name authors already produce books in this way for traditional publishing houses.  Who knows if this is true but remember mainstream publishers are businesses not art houses. They want regular product to sell. They do not want to wait till the artist is ready, they have a production schedule to keep and a line of employees from copy-editors to marketeers to keep busy.

The next stage of the production involves the various forms of editing and proof reading. Starting with the authors own efforts (see above where each author could complete this stage). This process varies greatly from a qualitative point of view depending greatly on the skill level of the editors involved. There is a significant variable cost to this process in terms of production costs. An area that under lean should be ripe for automation. Of course if all the authors were experts in grammar, structure and spelling, then editing would be greatly reduced. This would require a major expansion of the processes to be studied extending our lean approach to childhood of the authors from learning to read and write all the way through the education system. Probably outside the scope of this article.

There have been major efforts in the software industry to automate much of the editing process. I think like most operating systems there is still a good way to go.

The next stage of production is formatting and then printing. (I will skip over the cover artwork elements) The new creation of e-books has been a very lean process, prompted by technological change. E-book production in whatever format and through whichever seller is remarkably cheap and efficient. What was once a huge barrier to entry (typeset, review, print review copy, review, print for distribution, distribute, book sellers sell) has been reduced to a few clicks of buttons. Even hardback versions can be produced very quickly.

With a finished manuscript and cover (if not using available default ones) the new publishing process can be completed in under an hour (excluding the seller’s review process) Yes there are foibles of the systems to be overcome regarding pricing, copyright and for Amazon the KDP Select or not decision. Then with the click of a menu item, the new book or a revision is launched on its way. Now here is where us authors need some real process improvement. That newly minted tome is just one of several thousand published each month. It is not only competing with thousands of other new self-published authors but also all of the output of the traditional publishers. That is of course just for books. In the entertainment industry it is competing with similar amounts of music and and hundreds of movies and TV shows for the attention of the buying public.

One of the elements of the lean process is the value chain. The value chain of any published book is long from the hours and hours of writing to the endless revisions and edits. Then we get to the sale. Prices in $ for comparison sake and because that is how Amazon requires prices to be set. Free, 99 cents, $2.99, $4.99 for an ebook. or higher. A new Blu-ray with two and a half hours of movie is approximately $20. Yes there may be extras, but how often are they watched and how often is the film re-watched. Like re-reading a classic book sometimes, but not often. Like most books are read, a movie is watched once.A full novel which should last a minimum of six hours is 99c or Free! We must be mad as self published authors to value our work so little. Even if the book is short, poorly edited and a rubbish story, it will still have some value.

So as a final reference to lean this should not refer to price but to process. The technology process has meant that we have a very efficient production and selling process. The pressure of over-production has created over supply which has been used to drive price down in an attempt to increase demand. I believe this process has failed as the buyer now perceives no value in the product. As the self-pub writer gets no return on their investment they cannot invest in the quality of their product i.e. editing or a better cover. Now the rant…

Amazon as the largest player you have created this monster by allowing books to be given away to support hardware sales of Kindles and other tablets. Yet Amazon has to provide the infrastructure (storage, network, billing) to support a zero price. A zero price provides no covering income for anyone. So Amazon and the others please ditch the free sale and its distortion of the market. It’s not free and puts no value on anything. It also massively distracts readers and reduces the quality of the overall product. I seriously doubt whether it actually increases reading.

For my fellow self-pub authors is your product really worthless, if not why do you price it as such! Being top of a best seller list cannot mean free as nothing has been sold.

For my fellow readers – how many free books have you actually read – was it worth your time. The reading process is not lean – it consumes time. Yes libraries have provided free books but of course they are not free – they are paid for in taxes. The books provided have a value – so should ebooks.