LEMONADE: When Life Provides Only Citrus…

Below the image is the text which accompanied it on Facebook, and it’s things like this that Atomic Fez has strived to achieve. The ‘Small Press’ has let too many people down over the years, and we need to re-​​earn the trust of people with their money. Thank you for your support of us, Paulo Brito, as well as your support of Rhys Hughes.

Copy of “Twisthorn Bellow” received by Paulo Brito [click to embiggen/close]
Copy of “Twisthorn Bellow” received by Paulo Brito

Order placed and paid on March 3. Order placed in the mail on April 16. Order received today. As you can see by the dates the order took more than a month to be processed which is very bad. If I was disappointed, of course. If I will buy more books at Atomic Fez Publishing, yes I will. Reason? I have to highlight the excellent professionalism and posture of Ian Alexander Martin that solved this abnormal situation. The small publishers should be congratulated.

REVIEWS: Two Books, Much Love

Today’s news covers some reviews from the first half of this month. EXCELSIOR!

Back at the start of the month brought news the mystery The Designated Coconut written by John Travis had been reviewed by Library Journal. Plus, they liked it! Hooray!

Library Journal logo
Travis’s clever second series entry (after The Terror and the Tortoiseshell) is for readers willing to suspend disbelief… the animal characters endear themselves to readers… in this admirable comedic stab at blending speculative fiction with crime.

Library Journal (April 1st, 2013; Vol. 138, Issue 6, p65)

You can also order copies of both that title and the other “Benji Spriteman Mystery”, The Terror and the Tortoiseshell, both in hardcover for one LOW LOW PRICE of just $40 /​ £25!

Then today, the Library Journal review for John Llewellyn Probert’s book The House that Death Built arrived! HUZZAH!

Library Journal logo
The Dark Manor, constructed atop one of England’s ancient stone circles, radiates malevolence and hostility. Wealthy industrialist William Marx built the house in hopes of connecting with the spirit world, though Marx was never seen again after he entered the house. Its current owner, Sir Anthony Calverton, contacts a pair of paranormal investigators, Mr. Massene Henderson and Miss Samantha Jephcott, to furnish him with proof of supernatural activity in the house. The inclusion of four other investigators, including Sir Anthony’s niece, her physicist husband, and a famous TV “psychic,” sets the stage for a classic horror tale with a mystery at its heart. VERDICT: Probert’s début novel presents the first full-​​length adventure for paranormal investigators Henderson and Jephcott, whose previous cases have been chronicled in the collection Against the Darkness. Although the setting is contemporary, the protagonists display an endearing Victorian archness. This is a delightfully scary book.

–Jackie Cassada, Library Journal (April 15th, 2013; Vol. 138, Issue 7, p61)

Hooray! Click those links to order your copies TODAY!

ARTWORK: Cover of Sleepless Knights Revealed

Jimmy Broxton’s contribution of cover art to Mark H Williams’ début Sleepless Knights brings ‘the final piece of the puzzle’ for a project that has been quietly bubbling away at Atomic Fez Publishing for nearly two years. The title will be formally released on August 5th of this year, and is currently available for pre-​​order from the publisher for 33% less than retail price.

CLICK to embiggen / close
Cover of “Sleepless Knights” by Jimmy Broxton

Mr. Broxton – whose work has graced the pages of Knight & SquireSaucer Country, and The Unwritten – has provided his prodigious gifts to the outsides of Sleepless Knights, with the final cover art on the right for your entertainment and adoration.

As both the proprietor and publisher, Ian Alexander Martin couldn’t be happier than he is with the artwork, calling it “much more than I had imagined possible. There’s a simple, graphic quality to the design that the typical small press book doesn’t possess, and the cover’s style is eye-​​catching in the same way that the works of Saul Bass were. I’d marry this cover if I could!”

Mr. Williams, author of Sleepless Knights, explained that Mr. Broxton was asked to contribute something which was in keeping with the over-​​all tone of the novel, one which mixes “the domestic with the fantastic. ‘Gleeful anachronism’ might be a good way to describe it… But there’s also a poignant tone to the book – these characters are far from home and have all seen better days. In addition to the comedic elements to the book, the story of Sir Lucas is an unlikely hero’s journey that tests him to his limits and beyond, and I was keen to avoid anything too overly wacky.

“Jimmy responded with an initial sketch which he described as ‘a representation of authentic brass rubbings coming alive, cavorting, boozing, eating kebabs/​fried chicken and generally acting up as described… it’s comedic, but not a cartoon as such… a darker, more satirical feel.’ ”

The man, the legend: Jimmy Broxton [click to enlarge / close]
Jimmy Broxton

Mr. Williams concluded by hailing Mr. Broxton’s work saying that it “not only met that initial brief, but far exceeded my expectations. I’m hugely proud to have such a striking and original piece of design as the cover to Sleepless Knights.”

Mr. Broxton [recent security camera data, left] is a UK based graphic artist, illustrator and designer. He is best known for his work with Guy Adams restoring the iconic ‘60s comic strip Goldtiger by Antonio Barreti and Louis Shaeffer. He’s also known for his art for the Madefire ‘motion comic’ The Engine (also with with Mr. Adams), work on DC/Vertigo’s “The Unwritten” with Mike Carey; Paul Cornell’s “Knight and Squire” six issue mini series also for DC comics (collected in Batman: Knight and Squire), and a run of short stories for Dark Horse Comics Presents, working with writer Martin Conaghan.

His hobbies include: cooking, cycling, boxing, and pretending to be somebody else. He can be found on Twitter claiming to be @JimmyBrox.

For those really beside themselves with this design, we have all sorts of things to make your life complete!

Yes, we’ve got T–shirts for men and also for ladies! PLUS we’ve got coffee mugs made of aluminum (or aluminium if you insist). HOORAY!

Fully Labelled Products (for credit awareness)

Men’s Heavyweight T–shirt Questing Mug Ladies’ Fitted T–Shirt
CLICK for ordering details via SPREADSHIRT SITE [new window or tab]
[red only]
CLICK for ordering details via SPREADSHIRT SITE [new window or tab]
[steel only]
CLICK for ordering details via SPREADSHIRT SITE [new window or tab]
[red only]

"Un-Plugged" Products (for more subtlety)

Men’s Heavyweight T-​​shirt Questing Mug Domestic Mug Ladies’ Fitted T-​​Shirt
CLICK to order via SPREADSHIRT [new tab or window]
[red only]
CLICK to order via SPREADSHIRT [new tab or window]
[white or steel]
CLICK to order via SPREADSHIRT [new tab or window]
[white only]
CLICK to order via SPREADSHIRT [new tab or window]
[red only]

NEW TITLE: Sleepless Knights Now Available for Pre-Order

Starting right now, you can pre-​​order printed or electronic copies of Sleepless Knights, with the printed copies priced around 33% less than the Recommended Retail Price. It’s just Atomic Fez’s way of thanking you for your patience for your copy to arrive in August, and your confidence in the quality of the author’s ability.

[click to enlarge / reduce]
Mark H. Williams [photo by Simon Gough: www.SimonGoughPhotography.com]

To say the author, Mark H. Williams [image, left], is un-​​known is a bit of an understatement. He is, at this point, entirely unpublished. He’s written any number of plays, one of which was short-​​listed for an award. Until now, however, he hasn’t ever had anything published; short stories, novellas, novelettes, poetry, shopping lists, novels, nothing.

How this came to be is unexplainable. The novel is something to behold, as its details, plot lines, and characters do not even vaguely resemble what one would expect of someone of this little renown.

For the past year or so, he has been slaving away perfecting the text of Sleepless Knights. It arrived in damned good shape, but there were a few areas to improve, as he worked on those, re-​​submitted the manuscript, had it returned to him with accompanying demands for more changes, and then repeated the process. That’s all done now.

During that time, he was quite possibly the most patient man in the history of writing. He calmly waited whilst his editor/​publisher replaced all of his hard-​​drives when they failed; including one of them going through and expensive recovery process. Various financial hurdles placed themselves in the way of the title coming to fruition, which he also endured the experience of. Both of those, and more, caused his book to be delayed a fair few times. Now, the waiting has come to an end, and the ordering of copies can commence.

It’s not easy being the man behind the myth.

Sir Lucas is butler to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table – the person who managed every quest from behind the scenes. He’s a man whose average working day involved defeating witches and banishing werewolves, while ensuring the Royal pot of tea never crossed the thin line separating ‘brewed’ from ‘stewed.’ What’s more, 1,500 years after that golden age, he’s still doing it – here in the modern world, right under our noses.

When King Arthur and six of his knights are exposed as living among us, Merlin is unleashed and a grim apocalypse unfolds, uncovering secrets from the past that King Arthur would rather stay buried. When Lucas is forced to confront his own peculiar destiny, will he choose to sacrifice his true love and lay down his life in the service of his master?

Sleepless Knights is a tale of high adventure and warm humour, with a spring in its step, a twinkle in its eye and, at its heart, the ultimate butler.

“I suggest you find something to hold on to,” I said. “I fancy this will be somewhat unorthodox.”
     I edged the car onto the embankment at the side of the road, which got progressively steeper the closer we got to the tanker. Realising that I was not about to stop for him, or indeed his vehicle, the driver ran for the safety of the surrounding fields. Between the cab of the tanker and the side of the road there was a gap exactly half the width of the Jaguar. I took the last few metres of the embankment at top speed.
     The car swung up onto its right side. The wheels left the ground, and we shot up and clear through the gap. The weight of the Grail on the roof turned us upside down in mid-​​air, and the momentum of the jump flipped us back round again in a perfect side roll. We landed upright on the road, on the other side of the tanker, just as its engine caught fire.
     The world exploded.

REVIEW: The Terror and the Tortoiseshell

Today’s e-​​mail brought a note from author John Travis that Publishers Weekly had reviewed his mystery The Designated Coconut. Plus, they liked it! Hooray!

pwk_logoBritish author Travis’s quirky second Benji Spriteman whodunit (after 2010’s The Terror and the Tortoiseshell) offers a welcome return to a universe where, two years after an event known as the Terror, humans have been mostly wiped out. Abhoring a vacuum, nature has replaced humanity with animals, who have changed form — many walking upright and talking in human language. The altered creatures have filled the void in the workplace as well, taking over the occupations that used to employ people. Spriteman, a cat who has assumed the last name and business of his late human owner, is a 1950s-​​style hard-​​bitten PI. His latest exploit has an unlikely catalyst: “two female crime writers from overseas were coming to do a book tour.” Meanwhile, the magazine Dismemberment Monthly begins receiving threatening letters. Murder follows. Travis shows a deft hand for detail, as shown by the police using a flock of pigeons to mark the outline of a dead body with their droppings. (May)


THE NEW NORMAL: Less Paper, Indie Book Stores Thriving

Yes, you read the title correctly: eBooks are expanding their market share but Independent Book Stores are doing quite well, thank you very much. This is as I predicted, but I’m not going to be smug about it as, about a year ago, it looked very, very bleak for the one-​​location shops going it alone.

The first article, from North American industry bible Publishers Weekly, provides an incredibly lengthy list of the top sellers in the eBook format for last year. So lengthy I haven’t a clue how many there are mentioned there. Yowza, is it ever long. Still, a scan for the names you recognize will come up with at least one title for each author, often several. Stephen King, a long-​​time advocate and fan of the eBook (and considering the size of Under the Dome, fans ought to keep that in mind before investing that volume of space on their shelves) even makes an appearance with his novel about the Kennedy assassination. The Fifty Shades of Grey series is predictably at the top, proving the anonymity of a eReader is something people take advantage of; and the Game of Thrones series is also scattered through the top of the list. Tom Clancey shows up a few times, as does John Grisholm. So do other authors, but it seemed best to get those out of the way right off the bat.

The point here is that people like to read, and the thing that I started hearing when the Kindle first came out–I’m reading more and more now–seems to be continuing un-​​abated. The more they read, the more they read; tautology aside. 

The second article is something that I hoped would happen: people running their own bookstores are learning to turn lemons into lemonade (sorry about the hoary old phrase) and are turning their businesses struggling to compete with the large chains, into more successful places to get people in in order to enjoy the book as a destination. Celebrate the book, they cry, here we are to act as your enabler! Given the large chains have fewer and fewer locations – and those locations have fewer and fewer employees – the independents aren’t in competition with anyone who provides an actual browseable inventory of titles. The automatically generated suggestions on line where “if you liked Guy Adams’s Sherlock Holmes: The Breath of God, then you’ll also enjoy Accountancy for Cornish Tin Mining, 1845 – 70 (Vol.3)” clearly has never worked no matter how many times they change the calculations. In the shop, however, Lucy or Andrew (or whoever), will point you instead at either Warren Ellis’ Gun Machine or  Andrey Kurkov’s Death and the Penguin and you’ll be far better off as a result. This is something that the local stores have always done very well, and the modern reader – possibly having grown-​​up in an on-​​line world – knows not the joys of having someone point them at their new obsession of an author. Thus, the indies are playing to their strengths, this time with a whole new generation.

7-77-7-7: Yes, Even Editors Get to Play Along

77777. No, it’s not a Mayan doomsday prophecy. It’s a lot of writers all sharing a piece of their latest work-​​in-​​progress. If you’re not familiar with this ‘share chain,’ you go to either page 7 or 77 of your current work in progress, scroll down 7 lines, and then copy the next seven lines into your status box. Then tag 7 other writers to do the same.

CLICK to embiggen
Actual image of inside Atomic Fez Headquarters.

The fiendish part of this is that I am not a writer. Editing, publishing, proofing; all of that. “That’s bad writing, and you do good writing! Do some of the good sort of writing in this bit of the story” is more my line of things. Actual writing; no.

So, here’s the three things being worked upon currently here in Atomic Fez’s secret underground lair [image, right]. Note that these are all not to be taken as “finished”, because there’s still things to do, including grammar and punctuation checking (plus who knows what else).

So… here we go then!

— — —  —  —  —  —  — —

Sleepless Knights, by Mark H. Williams, page 77

“Merlin!” I shouted, over the escalating din. “Close the portal!” The hooded head shook from side to side and the figure rose up through the hole to mid-​​torso. “We have made a mistake!” I cried, “Go back!” The wizard was now out up to his waist. A bolt of lightning sent another shower of rubble down on my head. With a loud thooming rush, Merlin shot clear out of the ground and up through the hole in the roof. The cave mouth was nearly blocked by debris, and, as I squeezed out through the remaining gap, another rock-​​fall closed it up behind me.

— — —  —  —  —  —  — —

I, Death by Mark Leslie, page 77:

“Shouldn’t you go?” I asked Julie. “I mean, her new boyfriend just died, after all, and …”

She interrupted me. “Sarah hasn’t been with anyone since you guys broke up, Peter.”


“I don’t know what you’ve been hearing, but she hasn’t been seeing anyone, – certainly not Chad – and she hasn’t even been spending time with me or any of her other friends all that much. She just wants to be left alone.”

— — —  —  —  —  —  —  — —

Unnatural Acts by John Llewellyn Probert (feel free to make a joke at this point, everyone else will), page 77:

“Well I’m sure you won’t get many clients where that happens,” David said. His words came out with far more venom than he had intended and he regretted it when Arielle looked hurt.

“I meant for your loss,” she said. “I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like, losing the one you love.”

“I’d gladly tell you,” David said, “Only right know I think I’d go insane if I had to try to put it into words.”

“That’s okay, you don’t have to,” she said.

— — —  —  —  —  —  —  — —

Thus, here we go with the taggage:

  • Christopher Fowler
  • Guy Adams
  • Chris Rothe
  • Carol Weekes
  • Paul Magrs
  • Nev Fountain
  • Barbara Gordon

SNOW: An Open Letter to People Panicking

PEOPLE OF BRITAIN: Congratulations on your recent delivery of Snow™! 

The photos you’ve been seeing, however, do not show a carved road in either Canada or Norway, they’re from from Japan. For one thing, those vehicles are driving on the left, and we don’t.

CLICK to embiggen
Actually, the northern end of Japan.

We do not have snow like that here in the Dominion of Canada, even though we do all live in igloos and get to work using dog-​​sleds.

Here’s some real information for you (thank you again, Inter-​​Net®):

The snowiest bits of North America:

  • 974.1” Thompson Pass, Alaska (just north of Valdez) in 1952 – 1953.
    • The Thompson Pass is very very very close to Alaska and kind of Canada but it’s marginally Canada in the same way that The Isle of Skye is only marginally Great Britain. 
  • 963” Mt. Copeland, British Columbia  (near Revelstoke) in 1971 – 1972. Maximum depth unknown.
    • This is deep in the east of British Columbia in the Rocky Mountains. Nearly Alberta. Rocks thrown from here could land in the next province.

The snowiest bits of Canada Proper (not a scientific or geographical term): 

  • Saguenay, Québèc had 342cm over 96 days. That’s snow-​​fall not ‘on the ground accumulation’, so it’s not quite what we want
  • St. John’s (we have two, but I think this is the one in Newfoundland) had 180cm of ‘on the ground accumulation’ on February 9, 2001, and that’s unusual for them.

The areas where one can be as free of snow as possible

  1. Victoria (just a short ferry ride from me, and is the Provincial political capital)
  2. Vancouver (just the end of the street from me and is the Provincial business capital)

PLUS you’ll notice that on that first page is a picture of the Japanese road you’ve seen claimed to be Canada, and another shot much like the ‘Norway’ one with the tour bus is just below that. Apparently they use “snow melting” techniques to dispose of the stuff from the roads.

RRP: An Open Letter to Retailers

The following notes were sent by myself to a book retailer who questioned the charging of a price on this site which is somewhat less than the “cover price” or “Recommended Retail Price” as stated on the back of the books and in all official listings of the books’ details.

CLICK to get details
THE HOUSE THAT DEATH BUILT, by John Llewellyn Probert [cover by Stephen Upham]

They are reproduced here in the interests of “transparency” for the benefit of both retailers and readers alike. It is hoped that this clarifies the matter, and that further understanding might be gained by it. The more all of us knows about how the world’s economy works, the better we can work within it for the benefit of us all.

My first reply was as follows, replying to the suggestion that I was charging the retailer the full RRP whilst selling here for less than RRP.

Actually, you’re being charged 40% less than the RRP (or 30% for Limited Editions), so you’re still making money. You’re entirely free to choose whatever price you wish; as is anyone, for that matter. It’s hoped that I’m not right when suggesting the above has a certain whiff of  “collusion” to it. Publishing is already altogether too rife with that just now, and the public deserves far better from everyone in the industry at the best of times, never mind these trying economic times of ours.

Be assured that your order is, in fact, far larger than the number of copies I’ve sold at this slightly discounted price, so it’s unlikely that you will feel a reduction of any sales figure due to my efforts. It’s probable that none of the people who purchase from you are even aware that Atomic Fez has a web site, never mind is offering prices lower than the RRP, and any print or internet advertisement I run does not include the fact, leaving it to the visitor to discover as “an added bonus” and thus not directly competing with your offering in any way more than someone comparing prices might do with Amazon and Waterstone’s .

I am aware of the difficulty of an independent book shop competing with others’ deep discounts, having worked quite some number of years in retail, including about five in a single-​​location book shop.

If the Internet is a shopping mall, yours is a full retail bookstore with the positive aspect of a massive selection as its approach. Atomic Fez’s selection has the vastly limited “only a few titles” approach of a wholesaler, thus making selection only a few things, thus the only advantage is one of a slight discount, presuming someone wants a copy of one of the handful of titles in the first place. Your customer base is vast and eclectic, mine is “folks what know me”. So, you see, I’m still in a position of struggling and limited appeal.

But, speaking of presumption, this publishing nonsense is in fact my only income, so the “other reasons” you allude to are of little relevance to me, yet aren’t entirely clear to me either. This is a business I’m running here (although my bank management might disagree).

Your order and continued customs is valued, as is your position. Please let me know if you have any concerns.

That then got me wondering about things, and thus I tweeted as follows:

Which didn’t elicit any response, but I did a bit of research in order to know that I was actually headed in the right direction and found both the one in the Oxford English Dictionary (Concise) and THIS DEFINITION of “collusion” to be applicable, both with the “overt” and “tacit collusion” uses of the word.

CLICK to embiggen

This notion of collusion – coupled with the widely distributed (widely on Facebook, anyway) image to the left encouraging people to buy local, support the arts, and coming at the same time as people are wanting to not support the National Hockey League’s Board of Directors after screwing the fans through the Players’ Association – got me tweeting this:

The retailer then got back to me in response to my original note, asking the following:

I am sorry but collusion between who and who?  I have spoken to no-​​one about this.  I have no idea if anything else is stocking it.  Or (again) am I missing something?

One might suggest that he’s missing the fact that he spoke to me about the price being charged here on Atomic Fez site, which is precisely the point which had attempted to be made.

So, after saying the news that further orders weren’t going to be placed by them was surprising and disappointing  I took another run at explaining the position which they were placing me in.

The suggestion of “collusion” is a considered one, in that you seemed (and that word is also carefully considered) to be suggesting we both need to charge the same rates, even though we serve entirely differing markets. Additionally, whenever any product is offered for sale in the marketplace for an identical price no matter who the offering business is, then the consumer is ill-​​served as competition is not engaged in. Your tacit suggestion that my rate should be identical to yours, thus equal to the RRP, despite the differing markets and situations, amounts arguably to a mild form of collusion. I cannot tell you what price to charge, nor would I expect to do so; the closest being the recommended retail price. This principle is why the old Penguins and Corgis have the statement about how the RRP isn’t valid in Australia because even suggesting a price to a retailer was frowned on there.I’ve no idea what the feeling in [your area] is about it, nor the local regulations, but in the USA there’s a massive broo-​​ha-​​ha about “price fixing” using the “agency model” in an alleged arrangement between Apple’s iBooks Store and the major publishers. Their purported discussions and operating principles behind that situation sounded to me like just about every single principle which has driven the publishing industry since day one. The one thing which did stick out was the aspect that the publishers and the retail outlet of the iBooks Store were coming to terms regarding the final selling price to the customer, and that’s not on. The retailer sets a price at which the product is offered for sale to the customer, who then has the right to either accept it or offer a new one for the retailer to accept. No one is going to walk into a drug store and start haggling over shampoo, but that’s the theory.

What it comes down to is this: I sell to you at the RRP, which is there for anyone to sell at: Amazon, Chapters, WH Smiths, yourself, or whoever. You are charged 40% (or 30% for Limited Editions) less than that RRP for your wholesale chargeable cost. What you actually charge your customers is entirely up to you, and I’ve no part in that beyond the original RRP. If Amazon or Chapters or [another independent book dealer] decides to deep-​​discount my titles, I can’t stop them, just as when the Amazon retail partners “thebookcommunity_​ca” or “Vanderbilt CA” decide to charge several times the RRP (it’s happened several times, and is likely a money laundering scheme which doesn’t involve a single copy of the book).

My slight discount at the “manufacturing source” is not meant to approach the added value that your carrying of a broad selection of titles and authors which rightly justifies whatsoever price you seem appropriate independent of any wishes I may have.

It’s simple free market economics.

CLICK to get details
THE DESIGNATED COCONUT by John Travis [cover by Sunila Sen-​​Gupta]

It’s entirely probable that the individual hasn’t read anything of my notes beyond the first paragraphs of each of them (which is suspected owing to none of the later points made are even mentioned in passing). This is not something I have any influence over.

Honestly; I don’t expect to become Midas doing this. I don’t even expect to become able to buy a new car each year after throwing away the one from the previous year. I’m simply trying to find ever possible way I can find an advantage both ethically and economically, in order to pay authors a decent royalty and cover the simple cost of production of the books. I also have a need to pay my own bills (heat, light, food) which aren’t a part of the actual price of publishing eclectic, genre-​​busting fiction. So far, the bills for printers and author’s royalties have been always paid, and most of those and further costs have been borne by means other than revenue.

When someone suggests that someone’s slight advantage is something that they themselves cannot condone, then one should be a bit concerned about what sort of influence they feel is right. As it’s certainly not helping me anyway, then it seems even the potential of competition isn’t welcomed, and one wonders if this is the sort of world one wishes to be a part of in the first place.

Atomic Fez continues to support the selling of its books by anyone and at any price they see fit. If books are sold, then they are read; or what’s a Heaven for?

MESSAGE: Happy Christmas

We’re taking a bit of a break until next year, which will see at least three new titles from gifted authors, and only one of them will be from someone you’ve already seen here. Hooray for new books!

Until the return in 2013, orders continue to be monitored, as does eMail for any questions you might have about eBooks purchased with brand-​​new electronic readers over the season. 

If your beliefs do not match with the celebration of Christmas, you are encouraged to get in the spirit of the Solstice season which promotes the enjoyment of longer days, much food, good fellowship, and the treatment of all peoples equally (even if they happen to read the “Twilight” series of books).

Well see you on the other side of New Year’s, and please accept all the best wishes for you and yours, as expressed below.

Standard Holiday message