Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Hitler and the Mars Bar by Dianne Ascroft

'Hitler and Mars Bars' by Dianne Ascroft
Published by Trafford Publishing Ltd
ISBN: 978-1-4251-4591-0
Price: £11.99
Genre: Historical Fiction

What is your book about? It is the tale of a remarkable child and era - the story of a German boy's journey to manhood in war-torn Germany and post-war rural Ireland. Set against the backdrop of Operation Shamrock, the little known Irish Red Cross project which aided German children after World War II, it reveals a previously hidden slice of Irish history.

Erich, growing up in Germany’s embattled Ruhr area during the Second World War, knows only war and deprivation. His beloved mother’s disappearance after a heavy bombing raid leaves him responsible for his younger brother, Hans. When the war ends the Red Cross transports him, along with hundreds of German children, to Ireland to recuperate from the appalling conditions in their homeland. During the next few years he moves around Ireland through a string of foster families. Separated from his brother, he experiences indifference, brutality, love and acceptance in varying measures. He finds a loving home with one farm family but is unable to stay with them.

This is the story of a German boy growing up alone in a foreign country. He dreams of finding his mother. He yearns for a family who will love and keep him forever. He learns his brother is his ally not his rival. Plucky and resilient he faces the challenges his ever changing world presents.

Why did you write the book? I didn’t initially set out to write this book. The idea gradually evolved. Several years ago I met a man who was one of the children helped by the Red Cross endeavour, Operation Shamrock. His life story intrigued me and spurred me to research the project. I used my research to write a non-fiction article for a Writer’s Bureau course assignment; the article was printed in Ireland’s Own magazine. With my course assignment completed, I thought that was the end of it. But family members insisted that the story would make a good novel. Initially I wasn’t interested to pursue it but, the more I thought about it, the idea grew on me. Eventually I got excited about it and, then before I knew it, I had begun writing the book.

Where did you get your inspiration from? As I said, I heard about a boy helped by Operation Shamrock and his story started my imagination racing. It was the first time I’d heard of this Red Cross endeavour and I wanted to know more about it. I read the few articles I could find and watched an RTE television documentary about the project. I also spoke to people from communities that had hosted these children; I spoke to the evacuees themselves, their foster families, their classmates and neighbours. I gathered a lot of information and I wanted to use it to re-create the experiences of these people. Even though I was writing a novel, I tried to portray the people and events as accurately as possible.

How does your book differ from others that are similar? As far as I’m aware, the events of Operation Shamrock have never formed the basis for any other novel. And no other novel explores Irish life in quite the same way. There have been many books written that nostalgically recall the people and way of life in rural Ireland half a century ago. Maeve Binchy in ‘Light A Penny Candle’, Alice Taylor and Michael McLaverty all capture country and village life well. But none of them look at Ireland from the point of view of an outsider who cannot even speak the language when he first arrives. My novel looks at the same people and places but through a foreign child’s eyes. It is a unique window into this bygone era.

Why did you choose POD? I didn’t actually make the decision; I was fortunate and the opportunity fell into my lap. Soon after I began writing the book, before I even started to think about finding a publisher, I saw an ad in Ireland’s Own magazine for a Book Deal competition. I submitted the synopsis and one sample chapter to the contest. Then I continued writing; I didn’t think much about it. A couple months later I was notified that I had won. The contest was jointly run by the magazine and Trafford Publishing; the prize package included the free design, printing and production of the book as well as review copies and promotional material. So I was spared the task of submitting my manuscript to countless publishers, hoping to be accepted by one of them. I never even explored the possibility of submitting the book to a traditional publisher.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of this method? One of the greatest advantages of POD is that the book is always in print. There’s no time limit; it can be marketed and sold for as long as the author wishes. There also isn’t a large inventory taking up space anywhere, slowly yellowing and aging. Fresh, new books can be produced, in any quantity, whenever they are needed. POD also gives the author total control over the layout of the book, cover design and content. One of the greatest disadvantages it that the author is responsible for most of the publicity and promotion. While it can be fun, it is also time consuming. The inexperienced author will have much to learn about marketing to promote a book effectively. POD authors will also find it’s an uphill battle to get their books stocked in bookshops. If they are accepted, invariably it will be on a sale or return basis. Getting the book reviewed by most major newspapers and magazines is also difficult.

How do you market your book? One of the most important things I’ve done is to seek feedback about the book from readers and reviewers. Positive comments can be used in my marketing efforts. Although it is difficult to get a review by a major newspaper, it isn’t impossible. It is worth sending copies to any newspapers that agree to consider reviewing it. Positive reviews by Brian D’Arcy, BBC broadcaster and Sunday World columnist, and the News Letter, a Belfast daily newspaper, were very beneficial to my marketing campaign. I’ve been promoting the book in ever widening circles. Initially I concentrated on the counties of Ireland where the book is set. I sent press releases to local newspapers then I contacted local bookshops and libraries to offer the book for sale. Most bookshops agreed to stock the book on a sale or return basis; libraries said they would contact their regular suppliers to order it. I then widened my marketing campaign to include the rest of Ireland. I sent press releases to newspapers countrywide. Since it isn’t profitable to have too much stock tied up in bookshops, on a sale or return basis, I encouraged shops throughout the rest of the country to order it from their distributors. Next I concentrated on my internet presence. The book is listed on Amazon and other online bookshops. I also sell copies on my own website at Information about the book and upcoming marketing events can be found on my Bebo ( and MySpace ( pages as well as my blog, ‘Ascroft, eh?’ (

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome? Apart from finding time to write the book while juggling the rest of my life and responsibilities, marketing was undoubtedly the greatest challenge. I had so much to learn and then had to spend the time to apply it effectively. Most days I wished I had at least a 48 hour day to complete even half of my ‘To Do’ list.

What would you say to others considering POD? If you are willing to put the effort into marketing your book then POD is a viable option. It is very satisfying to be in control of every aspect of your book’s creation and printing. But you need to look at the business aspect carefully - price the book realistically to make a profit then find every possible sales avenue. POD isn’t for anyone who is only interested in the creative side of writing. You need to have a strong business sense and not be a timid salesperson.

Where can I get a copy of your book? ‘Hitler and Mars Bars’ is available from the publisher, Trafford Publishing ( and from my website ( I offer a special discount price for books bought on my own website. It can also be ordered from online bookshops, including, and any high street bookshop. My website’s homepage features professional book reviews and readers’ comments (click the heading, ‘Reviews’, to read the full reviews). Chapter excerpts can be found at,, and

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Without Reproach by Anthony James Barnett
Published by: Libros International
Genre: Fiction
Price: £7.99 ISBN: 978-1905-9882-59

WHAT IS YOUR BOOK ABOUT? Hi June, WITHOUT REPROACH started life as a mystery. Jenny, a young English woman, inherits a share in a hacienda and riding school from a Spanish artist. The only trouble is she has never heard of the guy, never been there and is not related to him. On her first visit to the hacienda, she is horrified to find a painting of herself in the nude. The story hinges on her ordeal of finding what has gone on and why, and of fighting off the other beneficiary who wants the hacienda for himself.

Although I wrote the book as a mystery, the media made meat out of it by calling it a 'Steamy Novel by Local Grandfather' and it has been categorized under romance with Amazon, so what do I know? There is 'steam' in it, but it happened, rather like life, because of the circumstance, not because of contrivance.

WHY DID YOU WRITE THE BOOK? Wow, a good question. Why does anyone write anything? Since 1994 my short stories have been published in magazines, summer specials, international competitions and broadcast on radio. Maybe I thought it was time to branch out.

WHERE DID YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION? I had a glimmer of an idea when someone in the newspaper was reported as inheriting money quite unexpectedly, and I wondered what would happen if things were more mysterious.

HOW DOES YOUR BOOK DIFFER FROM OTHERS THAT ARE SIMILAR? Well .. I now live in Spain, and am familiar with the places I've written about .. But, perhaps playing on the media response, I'm a grandfather of eight who's written a 'Steamy Novel'. Wrinklies aren't supposed to know about sex are they?

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE POD? I didn't. The publisher accepted me, and they happen to have chosen POD as the means of printing.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF THIS PRINTING METHOD? The advantage is books don't sit gathering dust. They're printed as and when required and don't need a substantial investment to get under way. However the book isn't in the public's face, they can't pick it up and browse, so it can be a big disadvantage. Realistically though, the chance of having a début novel on bookshelves is very remote so maybe it isn't such a disadvantage after all. The unit price is certainly higher, so that works against POD.

HOW DID YOU MARKET YOUR BOOK? There has been no publicity budget, but my publisher has placed it in every major on-line store in the world and others seem to have 'jumped on the bandwagon'. I've been amazed to see WITHOUT REPROACH in places such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Japan, China, France, Sweden, Germany, Italy, USA, Canada, and of course the UK.

WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU HAD TO OVERCOME? I think publicity was, and still is the biggest challenge. I thought writing the book was all an author had to do. Wrong! Unless you're a big name, you have to "sell" yourself and your book to the world. If you don't, your book won't move. You have to be very active.

WHERE CAN I GET A COPY OF YOUR BOOK? Crikey, June, I've seen it on so many different sites it's impossible to include them all. Here's a selection:-Amazon USA Amazon UK Kalahari S/A Seekbooks Aus The best thing for me was a couple of weeks ago whilst idly checking the sites. I came across Amazon Canada and found WITHOUT REPROACH had hit the Best Seller list for some reason. It made number 56, which for me was incredible. It only lasted for ONE DAY but it had been there. I have no idea how or why, and it will probably never sell another one in Canada, but I love them for it. I just wish it could have stayed.

Friday, 13 June 2008

The Forgotten Future by Deborah Clark Ebel R.N

The Forgotten Future: Adolescents in Crisis by Deborah Clark Ebel R.N.
Published by Outskirts Press
ISBN: 9781432719357 (paperback)
Price: £8.95 (US $17.95)
Genre: Non-fiction, child psychiatry, mental health

WHAT IS YOUR BOOK ABOUT? The Forgotten Future allows readers a peek behind the doors of a locked psychiatric unit for adolescents and provides insight into what life inside an acute psychiatric hospital is really like, for the patients and for the staff. It tells the stories of some of the troubled teens with whom I have worked in Connecticut, Alaska, and Virginia. The stories are all true, although I have placed all of the patients into a composite hospital which I have called “Oak Haven”. The book is reader-friendly as it tells the stories of adolescents suffering from a variety of mental disorders and explains many of the unit rules and actions of the staff. It also demonstrates the dangers of physical and mechanical restraints as I tell of the death of one of my patients who died during such a restraint. As an assist to parents, The Forgotten Future provides appendices with resources and important information about how, when, and where to seek help for troubled children, as well as specific questions to ask of providers and mental health facilities.

WHY DID YOU WRITE THE BOOK? Twenty percent of the children under the age of 18 in the United States have mental illnesses, and between six and nine million of those children have a serious emotional disturbance. Each year, hundreds of thousands of these children and adolescents are confined to inpatient psychiatric hospitals, residential treatment centres, therapeutic foster homes, treatment academies, and behavioural boot camps. After having worked with children and adolescents in the mental health field for more than twenty years, I have come to believe that despite those extraordinary numbers, many of our children are not receiving optimal treatment for their mental health issues. I wrote The Forgotten Future: Adolescents in Crisis to provide an unprecedented insider’s look into a system which has serious inadequacies and to raise the question, “Can’t we do better by our children?”
WHERE DID YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION FROM? I got my inspiration from the children I have worked with over the years.

HOW DOES YOUR BOOK DIFFER FROM OTHERS THAT ARE SIMILAR? I always say that my book is no “Girl Interrupted”. Mine is better. It is contemporary, whereas Girl Interrupted was published 25 years after it reportedly took place (1967). Hospital lengths of stay are shorter now and the availability and use of medications has increased substantially. Also, The Forgotten Future focuses on many young people from diverse backgrounds, rather than on one individual.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE POD? I didn’t want to take years to find a publisher and then wait more years for my book to appear in print. Additionally, I knew that I had a niche.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF THIS METHOD? The advantage is that I don’t have to worry about finding a responsible printer or order fulfillment. The only disadvantage is that it is not in bookstores, although it can be special-ordered.

HOW DO YOU MARKET YOU BOOK? The Forgotten Future is a niche book, but it is a very broad niche. Almost everyone has a friend, a child, a neighbour, or a friend with a troubled child with a mental disorder, and they’re all looking for answers. In addition, teachers, counsellors, psychiatric nurses, and others will all find something in it. I use the Internet extensively and market to local and national mental health organizations, psychiatric nurses’ groups, schools and mental health facilities. And I always keep my web site at updated.

WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU HAD TO OVERCOME? My biggest challenge was trying to have my editor(s) understand my book’s needs. For example, at first the designer set the cover with sort of a Gothic-looking typeface that really creeped me out. I suppose she had not read the book and she must have thought from the title that The Forgotten Future was a futuristic novel of some sort. Anyway, it took several weeks to get that straightened out. All in all, though, things went smoothly.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO OTHERS CONSIDERING POD? Anyone who wants to be successful with POD must be aware that they are responsible for their own success. You wrote your book and you’re responsible for marketing it. If you know that you can pull that off, then go for it. In many ways, you may find that marketing your book is harder work than writing it.
WHERE CAN I GET A COPY OF YOUR BOOK? From my web site, or from Amazon (UK, US, Canada, Germany, and Japan),, and many other online booksellers. It can also be special-ordered through brick-and-mortar book stores.
IN ADDITION: I would like to add that a portion of the proceeds from each retail sale of The Forgotten Future: Adolescents in Crisis will go to the National Children’s Advocacy Center (NCAC) in Huntsville, Alabama. I invite everyone to visit my web site at where a link to the NCAC can be found.

Monday, 31 March 2008

Good Americans Go to Paris When they Die by Howard Waldman

Good Americans Go to Paris when they Die by Howard Waldman
Publisher: BeWrite Books (UK)
ISBN: 978-1-904492-98-3
Price: £ 9.50 ($18.99)
Genre: Fantastic/Literary

The Kingdom of Heaven has been downsized to a single city, and to save overcrowding, God has a new chosen race and set of entry qualifications.

In the modern hereafter only good Americans go to Paris when they die.

But not even a divinely ordered bureaucracy is infallible and five not so good Americans find themselves posthumously thrown together and trapped in a surreal limbo:

Randy 1900s marine Louis Forster; Maggie Thompson, an over-sexed 1930s fan dancer; neurotic 1940s New York intellectual Seymour Stein; Helen Ricchi, the mysterious and bookish wallflower suspected of foul play after her husband’s disappearance in the 1950s; and modern-day Las Vegas bore, truck driver Max Pilsudski.

And the ill assorted desperate departed will stop at nothing in a seemingly impossible quest to return to the land of the living and repair flawed lives and fractured loves.

I seemed qualified to illustrate the famous saying, “Good Americans go to Paris when they die.” Although not necessarily good and not yet dead, I am an American and have lived in Paris for decades. I know what I’m talking about when I talk about Paris, at least the Paris on this side of the death barrier. The theme of lost love used to occupy my insomniac hours: what if I’d undone fatal mistakes or corrected fatal omissions? Where would I be now? Useless conjecture for me (and for you too) but that seems to be a possibility for the characters in Good Americans Go to Paris when they Die: to return, youthful again, to their lover and with hindsight do the right things.

All of my novels (question of age perhaps?) are concerned with the salvaging of the past. In the Seventh Candidate the arch conservative protagonist, who earns his living effacing obscene graffiti from subway posters, longs for the supposed decencies of bygone decades. In Time Travail the protagonist devises a machine to pull in imperfect images of his long dead loved ones from the past. Finally in Back There, the aging hero relives his youthful Paris love and in the writing of it tries to modify reality.

In the other side Préfecture de Police, the protagonists of Good Americans Go to Paris when they Die find themselves caught in the slow moving wheels of bureaucracy. Inspiration on this subject came easily to me. Having spent most of my professional career as a teacher in the French educational system, I have a first hand knowledge of the functioning (to say nothing of the malfunctioning) of French bureaucracy.

To my knowledge no book is similar to this one, otherwise I’d never have written it. If what I have to say echoes other men’s voices, I prefer to keep my mouth shut. Although a fantasy novel, Good Americans Go to Paris when they Die is free of elves, dragons, or vampires (at least of the conventional blood sucking variety).

For the usual reason: failure to get published by a conventional publisher. I sent the habitual cover letter, synopsis and opening three chapters of my first novel, Time Travail, to ten publishers on the other side of the Atlantic. The postage for that much weight cost 15 Euros a throw, the equivalent of a bottle of good Scotch. I gave up when I discovered that all of these publishers had done away with a human Submissions Editor in favoUr of the Kirubawaki XL289 Manuscript Slush Pile Processing Machine. This ingenious apparatus recycles all submitted manuscripts to paper on which it prints the form rejection slip (It inspired a short story, available on demand). I redirected my saved money in bottled consolation. Fortunately Jacobyte Books, an Australian POD publisher, accepted my book and then a second one. Later Jacobyte merged with my present publisher BeWrite Books, based in the UK.

One great advantage of POD compared to conventional publishing is that the book remains constantly available, printed up at a touch. Moreover, the small publisher using this technique can afford to take chances on an off beat author since his overhead is reduced: no need to maintain a stockpile of books to gather dust while waiting for readers. The disadvantages of POD are obvious. Normally bricks and mortar bookstores won’t handle them. In addition, in terms of budget, POD publishers are small time operators, with little possibility for big scale promotion of their titles. The author has to do most of the work - if he’s able to.

Quite poorly for reasons given below.


So far as marketing challenges are concerned: living in a non English speaking country. That ruled out radio and TV interviews, book signings, library contacts, and all the other laborious but profitable devices to dig up readers. I can’t even count on inner circle purchases and resulting word of mouth publicity. No aged aunts or curious neighbours to come to my rescue. Fact is, outside of my wife, none of the members of my family (not even my three boys) have a solid enough knowledge of English to read what I write. So it goes.


On Amazon and My other novels, Time Travail, The Seventh Candidate and Back There are also available on these sites.


Sunday, 17 February 2008

The Dandelion Clock by Jay Mandal

The Dandelion Clock by Jay Mandal
Published BeWrite Books (UK)
ISBN 9781905202782
Price: £7.99 (US$14.99)
Genre: gay romance

It is a love story of gentle humour and warmth which shows that people, in love as well as in life, are all the same. It starts in 1986 with David, a twenty-eight year old with a good job and a house all to himself, meeting Rob at Waterloo Railway Station. Rob however is some ten years younger, and is jobless and homeless. There’s an instant rapport between them. But is David the good Samaritan he seems to be? And why did Rob leave home?

This is a why-did-you-climb-Everest? sort of question. I’d written ever since I was a child, and this was the book that I’d been heading towards from my teenage years. It gave me the opportunity to incorporate both serious and humorous elements. I was concerned when the age of consent was lowered in the UK, that my book might have missed the boat, but it’s topped Amazon charts and over 1,500 copies have been sold. As well as readers’ reviews on and Amazon UK, a review was published in The Sunday Express. The second edition comes out in March 2008, and we’ve taken into account feedback from the first edition.

Another tricky question! I suppose from the usual sources such as television and reading other books. And, when I wrote the novel, there was still inequality with gay men not having the same rights as straight people.

Some gay novels are ‘literary’, while others are erotic. Mine is a romance and judging from the correspondence I’ve received, it appeals to both gay men and straight women.

I did the usual rounds of mainstream publishing houses but got nowhere. Then I saw BeWrite ( mentioned in a writing magazine. They were inviting writers to submit short stories to them, so I sent them some of mine which ended up being published on the Internet. Then BeWrite went into book publishing using print-on-demand technology. First, they published a short story collection of mine, A Different Kind of Love, which was reviewed by Gay Times. Then they published the first edition of The Dandelion Clock.

POD means that neither the publisher nor the author has a vast stockpile of books in a warehouse or garage. That would tie up capital and, if the books weren’t sold, would mean a loss and the waste of natural resources such as paper. With POD, books are printed only when an order is received. This means however, that such books are not usually stocked by high street bookshops - although they can order them for customers.

I send the book’s details to writing magazines, newspapers, other authors, readers who’ve enjoyed my other books, members of Internet readers’ and writers’ sites, libraries, and friends. Being listed in the gay romance section of Amazon helps.

Apart from writing the book and getting it published? The book started life on an Amstrad, and has seen several computers come and go since then. Luckily I didn’t have to self-publish – my publisher took responsibility for the printing, proofreading, editing, and cover design.

It’s worth it if you have a market for your books – family and friends, a niche at online bookstores such as Amazon. But you’re unlikely to see your book on the shelves of high street bookshops as POD books can’t always be returned to the publisher.

From the publisher, BeWrite Books

Excerpts from my books and a video clip at

and reviews from magazines and other authors at
The e-book costs only £1 if ordered direct from BeWrite.

From online stores such as Amazon
From high street bookshops, by ordering.