People keep asking me how to self-publish, so I've been busy writing up a new section of the web site explaining just that. As I rapidly discovered, I've published all over the place and every site wants something slightly different. It's turning into quite an exercise and will be finished just in time for everyone to have changed the rules.
In the meantime, I've been skiing again, drawing like a fiend for various publications and, yesterday, I went on a bike ride because my sister-in-law is afraid of goats.
I also broke Todd Hoffman out of jail.
Ok, I can sense that you need more on the goat thing. Sally doesn't like goats and, like some WWII bomber, she needs stealthy wing-men to keep random goats from swooping in and attacking her. This has never actually happened, and yet she feels the need for protection. What did happen (some time back) was that a herd of goats swarmed down the hill like the very Mongol Hordes themselves and rendered the poor woman goatophobic. I bet they came out of the sun, like cunning pilots were want to do. It was a nice bike-ride actually, and it was springy enough for a beer by the lake.
We did see goats. They were fenced off and I never realised that very young goats have horns. Little ones. Sally stood quite near them and only screamed once.
In other news, I didn't actually break Todd Hoffman out of jail, but it felt very much like it. If you don't know who Todd Hoffman is, he is a large man with a surprisingly high voice who set off for Alaska a few years ago armed only with a dream and large amounts of money. He complained of poverty, so he spent $100,000 on mining equipment to make ends meet. His dad and some equally poor people went with him to dig nuggets out of the frozen Alaskan ground. There's a new gold rush on, if you hadn't noticed.
Discovery channel liked his can-do spirit and followed him with a camera. Gold Rush became an instant favourite with me in America and all I wanted to do, right from episode one, was go dig holes in far flung places. Everyone I met in and around the Philadelphia suburbs was invited, by me, to come and help. As you know, it never happened. And I didn't have $100,000. I watched Gold Rush over and over.
Now that I have cable TV here in Slovenia, I can follow again the exploits of Todd Hoffman. I've been sitting in the Alps wondering if I should have stayed in the US and gone to Alaska instead. I thought it was an opportunity missed, and looked at Todd and I looked at the Alaskan mountains and wished I was digging there too.
And then I realised that I live in scenery that looks surprisingly similar. Surely gold isn't the preserve of North America! A little research showed that a man in the Swiss Alps is running gold panning holidays. Switzerland, Slovenia, not a million miles apart. More digging showed ancient gold mines discovered south of Klagenfurt in Austria, a mere 100 miles away.
In a moment of gold fever I searched for gold pans on the internet and they all come from America. Gold panning equipment sold in Europe is very expensive because it's imported from California. Amazon Germany offered gold pans at a sensible price, so I ordered some. Three weeks later I got a letter from the Slovenian post office in Ljubljana demanding that I send them the bill for my package so they could invent an import charge. I did that, and they sent it to Bohinjska Bistrica post office with a demand for another 19 euros. In the end, shipping 70lb of American-made goodies from America to Slovenia via Poland was cheaper than a couple of plastic dishes from Germany.
I capitulated, and paid the ransom. I got my parcel. I opened it. And...
...THERE'S A PICTURE OF TODD HOFFMAN ON THE BOX!!!!
It was money well spent. I might cut him out and stick him on the wall of my jail cell when the Slovenians arrest me for digging in their country. It would have been worth it. I'll keep you posted.
Life has been very busy here in sunny Slovenia. Spring has sprung and with it has come the other apartment owners. Whatever organ I have that over-reacts to the sound of other humans, it's been throbbing this week. I was woken at 7 in the morning by children on the other side of my main wall. I don't do 7 in the morning very well and I was a tad grumpy for a bit.
Later in the day I met the four adults and 2 children who pitched camp a foot from my sleeping head. Lovely people, one and all and the kids made a fuss of Tyson. Suddenly the noise became the gentle evidence of my fellow man, rather than a racket. Funny thing, noise.
Bohinjska Bistica's church is my main view from the balcony and of late, its bells have been hammering away like they were designed to make a noise.
It's a great noise, to be honest. It chimes every 15 minutes and bongs the time every hour. Tonight it was practising and when it got tired, the bongs dropped away slowly until you could hear only birdsong.
The birdsong stopped me dead in my tracks the other day. Spring had first suggested itself one evening and while me and the boy plodded our evening walk, I could hear a blackbird. I stopped and it was quite surreal. You see, when I was a kid I would sit in our back garden of a summer's eve and listen to the blackbirds. Since leaving England I haven't heard it, except in British TV dramas. Grab a copy of Morse or Midsomer Murders or basically anything where larger numbers of English people die in mysterious circumstance, you'll hear birdsong that I haven't heard since I was a kid. In America, the TV soundtrack to British dramas made me so homesick I took to listening to birdsong radio on the internet! It was the closest thing I had to being home again. Imagine my surprise (I've always wanted to type that), when I heard the sound of my childhood on a warm evening, but with snowy mountains as a backdrop. It was an alternate universe and I liked it. Every evening now, me and Tyson are bathed in this sound. It almost makes me laugh when I hear it.
At the weekend, the bells of the church rang out for the funeral of a local man. He died of a heart attack or an aneurysm, depending on reports, while skiing on Vogel. He was 48. I walked with the boy by the church at 3pm and saw the funeral begin. Alinka knew him, and as we chatted she reminded me that we live somewhere beautiful, and we should make the most of it.
I returned to Das Boot just as the bells were ringing to mark the end of the funeral, and a man called Stanco called up to me. He owns the house that abuts this building, and his walls are six feet from my balcony. I discovered two things about Stanco that I never knew before. Firstly, his name is Stanco. Secondly, he is having his outside walls insulated and will build massive amounts of scaffolding which will impinge upon my meditations. In short, he apologised for the upcoming three weeks of noise.
I hope Slovenians work short days.
I began my self-publishing adventure in 2012, first uploading a 20k science fiction masterpiece (Like Minded), then a 40k kids' book that only adults like (Linus Bailey) and then Dudley Chalk, my main man at 120k. I toyed with Amazon Kindle, then Smashwords, then both together and all other permutations you can think of. Then I made the print versions. I even made an audiobook. The magic and mystery of self-publishing is that payments in dollars sit in a dollar pile until you reach 100, and then you get paid. The same happens with pounds. If a random European stumbles across my literary marvels and buys a book I get some Euros, which will sit in a dusty corner, solitary, wondering when or if they will ever reach the magic 100. All my book sales are spread across several vendors and across several currencies, waiting, forever waiting...
Until now! This week the dollar pile for Kindle e-books tipped over the magic 100 and they sent me my very first cheque, to the value of $105. The process doth grind exceeding slow (well, in my case), but it does work. I'm chuffed, as we Brits say.
And on that very day, the day that Kindle bestowed upon me great fortune (I seem to have turned into Jane Austen), I was invited to a writing group, consisting of a multitude of ex-pat women who serve cakes and scones. This could account for me turning into Jane Austen. I was the only man at the table and because Kindle had so recently showered me with gifts, I did not have to pour my own coffee.
It was a good introduction to the local writers and I'll go again, not just for the excellent cake. I don't know if any of you out there like to write (I know some of you do) but writing is a living thing and it needs company. Without lively conversation and lashings of jam it can easily become a Gollum-like creature that lurks in the dark and comes out all wrong. If not jam, I had lashings of lively with Cassandra, Mitchell and Bill in America -- we didn't write much during our meetings but the pleasure of their company made the subsequent writing better. It was good to find other writers here, and hopefully they will keep me on my toes. They are keen. They produce things to read out loud. I need to dash off another novel fast or they will think me a fraud.
Slovenia, writing, other things