Friday, 29 October 2010


BeWrite Books is proud to announce that The Secret Report of Friar Otto can at last be revealed ... after 750 years stamped as classified information.

And that’s a fact! Or is it? In Sam Smith’s latest novel, it’s hard to tell where fact ends and fiction takes over. Maybe it’s all medieval fact because it certainly reads that way – maybe it’s all thoroughly modern fiction because it reads that way too.

Let’s ask the author himself. Play it Sam ...

Why Friar Otto? I was living in Ilfracombe, a well-known seaside resort town in England, and one May – a birthday treat for my partner in crime/life, Steph – we took the MV Oldenburg ferry out to little Lundy Island off the Devon coast, where I spotted an arctic finch by the castle. I wrote it up in the bird-spotters log there, which is kept in the Marisco Tavern.

Politics, current and past, interests me. Especially where it concerns injustice and/or misrepresentation. I’m also attracted to characters at odds with their contemporaries, the maverick likes of Frank Harris and Edward Aveling; and from Lundy onwards to one William de Marisco.

Having exhausted Ilfracombe library’s history section and the net’s resources, with the Mariscos having owned lands in Somerset and Ireland as well as the whole of tiny Lundy’s three miles of rock, I took myself off to Bath and plunged into that old Roman town's reference library.

The superficial, the accepted shorthand history view, was that William de Marisco rebelled against his king, fled to Lundy and there led a band of pirates. But that shorthand view of his story didn’t smell right. So I dug ... and discovered treachery upon betrayal upon intrigue all laced with regal and religious machinations. William de Marisco was a man loyal to the realm, ill-used by the realm.

The Secret Report of Friar Otto is dedicated to Dr David Kelly, a UN weapons inspector who took his own life in despair after revealing to the press what he know about the non-presence of weapons of mass destruction before Britain and America invaded Iraq ... another man loyal to the realm and ill-used by the realm. Friar Otto kept his information secret, probably lived to a ripe old age, and the truth waited for 750 years to be told.

Why Friar Otto? I felt that a single voice was required.

To represent such a convoluted history from an omniscient author’s view would have required more research than I was capable of undertaking. I certainly couldn’t afford to get over to Ireland and France to look into the Montmorencis, the Marisco descendants there. Stanley Marris, a Canadian descendant of William de Marisco, was however most generous with his help.

I was aware that the Franciscans were at the time of William de Marisco’s imprisonment beginning to make inroads into England. They had already placed a man in the English court. So I struck upon the idea of a friar scribe, Otto, a naïf.

Neil asked me, Why novels and poetry? Writing’s writing to me. I can start with an idea for a poem and end up with a novel. Or vice versa. Content dictates form. And very few writers stick to one form, or to one genre. Isaac Asimov wrote detective novels, Arthur C Clarke children’s stories. To me science fiction is like any other fiction: one begins by asking oneself, ‘What would happen if ...’ Then, if one’s lucky, the book grows from there. Unforeseen plot lines develop, characters take on contradictory lives of their own, and – if all is going well – the author becomes the servant of the book.

With my one non-fiction book, Vera & Eddy’s War, I saw that I couldn’t improve on Vera and Eddy’s tales and so I simply converted them to the third person. The Care Vortex on the other hand, while I had masses of material, in order to protect the innocent I had to convert it to fiction. Whereas my working in mental health, with every day being different, often moment to moment dramatically changing, that fractured experience was best represented in poetry, in the collections To Be Like John Clare and Problems & Polemics.

Right now I’m looking at the possible motivations of a serial cat-killer. Moggycide?

Thanks, Sam.

But while we’re waiting for Moggycide, here’s a brief note about Sam’s latest, The Secret Report of Friar Otto:

A gang of renegade knights takes refuge on tiny and remote Lundy Island off the coast of Devon in medieval England.

When they are betrayed, captured and condemned, Friar Otto is sent to investigate their crimes. But, confronted by dangerous ideas, he starts to ask himself awkward questions.

His secret report is Sam Smith's reinterpretation of a 750 year-old manuscript, The Report in Confidence on the Imprisonment and Execution of William de Marisco and Sixteen of His Followers. The original text has been turned into a beautifully-crafted modern novel, utterly convincing in its evocation of the Eighth Century world and mindset.

The prisoners spend as much time goading the prudish celibate with stories about 'tupping' the ladies as they do discussing doctrinal niceties. A brilliant book that deserves a readership.

Words by Sam (of course), editorial work by Hugh McCracken, cover art, internal and external design by Tony Szmuk, who also prepared the perfect ebook version in PDF, ePub and Mobi formats.

The Secret Report of Friar Otto is available in paperback and all ebook formats for all electronic reading platforms from (or simply click on the open book icon at the top right of this post and visit the bookstore), from all major and minor online stores, and on order from your local brick-and-mortar bookshop.

Best wishes, folks. Neil

Wednesday, 27 October 2010


BeWrite Books is delighted to announce today’s release of Heart with a Dirty Windshield, a sole-author collection by Howie Good, one of the most powerful voices on today’s poetry scene.

Howie is author of twenty-three poetry chapbooks, including Police and Questions (2008) from Right Hand Pointing, Tomorrowland (2008) from Achilles Chapbooks, The Torturer’s Horse (2009) from Recycled Karma Press and Love Is a UFO (2009) from Pudding House. He has been nominated four times for a Pushcart Prize and three times for the Best of the Net anthology. His first full-length book of poetry, Lovesick, was published last year by The Poetry Press.

This from Howie himself, a journalism professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz:

I try in my poetry to challenge reader expectations in hopes of creating a space for a kind of spooky wonder. My poems seem to have scenes, characters and plot, but the relationship among these traditional components of narrative is frequently frayed and strange.

The poems proceed not by linear logic, but the fractured logic of dreams, especially bad dreams. I am less interested in telling what happened than in telling how what happened 
felt. It’s for this purpose that I seek images that are concrete, elusive, accessible and mysterious all at once. Images are maps to areas of thought and feeling untraceable by other means.

I also try in my poetry to make a virtue of succinctness. In fact, one of the defining characteristics of poetry for me is that it suggests a lot with a little. Prose can be discursive, but I see poetry as the most concentrated form of literary expression. It’s the difference, if you will, between the spread of a shotgun blast and the precision of a rifle shot.

And here’s what the critics are saying about Heart with a Dirty Windshield author Howie’s work.

Howie Good’s poetry sleeps with your wife and mocks you in front of your friends. It smokes your last cigarette and hides the remote before spending your grandmother’s Social Security check on brightly menacing tattoos. Good’s poetry, the reader suspects, works for the Yakuza. Jason Cook

Howard Good turns words into a reciprocating saw that can be worked through your gut. He has internalised the existential horror of existence and turned it outward. Nathan Tyree

Howie Good’s poetry remakes reality with startling images, disquieting insights and unexpected juxtapositions. The effect is by turn surreal, disconcerting and always compelling. Juliet Wilson

Good’s poetry is concerned with the anxious, mad beauty of a perilous dream, and his poems teeter on the precipice of something steep, intimating the threat of a drop down a dangerous abyss. Sometimes wry, sometimes tender, and always urgent, Good’s body of work comprises the collective spirit of art in the 21st century. Continuing in the tradition of Breton, Good constructs a dialectic of human history and the nuances of the heart, and locates the tradition of both in the present moment with the lyric as fuel to move his engine forward. Cynthia Reeser

Congratulations to Howie and to BeWrite Books poetry editor Sam Smith on a triumph of a book. And a pat on the back for BB’s technical and design director Tony Szmuk for striking cover work, design inside and out and for preparing the paperback and ebook formats.

Heart with a Dirty Windshield is available in paperback and ebook from (or just click on the open book icon at the top right of this post) and all major and minor online bookstores and on order from your local brick-and-mortar bookshop.

The first BeWrite Books blog reader to email me gets a paperback copy with our compliments. Another three can choose the ebook version of their choice.

Best wishes. Neil M


Thrilling news today that BeWrite Books author Michael McIrvin's The Blue Man Dreams the End of Time has been named as finalist for the huge annual Epic Award.

Michael's Blue Man was up against massive and stiff competition in the mystery/suspense fiction section from ebooks entered by publishing houses all over the world.

The winner will be announced at the international EPICon Convention in March, 2011 in Historic Williamsburg, Virginia.

You can read about Michael and his noir thriller in the BeWrite Books bookstore by clicking on the open book icon at the top right of this page or by going to It's available from the BB store and all major and minor stores in paperback and all ebook formats.

Huge congratulations, Michael. Fingers crossed for the final. The Blue Man Dreams the End of Time is a superb piece of work that we're all proud to have been involved in and it deserves top billing. Neil

Thursday, 21 October 2010


As a very much on-the-ball national newspaper crime reporter in an earlier life, I am just a tad embarrassed to be 840 years late in filing the murder story of Thomas Becket in Canterbury in 1170.

On the other hand, my breaking news is up to the minute ... that world-renowned part-time detective Belinda Lawrence is on the case as of today.

A Canterbury Crime is released by BeWrite Books today, October 22 2010!

It’s the fourth novel in Brian Kavanagh’s riveting Belinda Lawrence Mysteries. And once again Belinda and her sidekick Hazel struggle to crack the case … painstakingly sifting the clues from the red herrings, coping with personal hitches, and facing deadly menace along the way.

Brian’s book was written by Brian (of course), edited by my editorial pal, Hugh McCracken, proofed by the whole team, and beautifully covered and designed, inside and out, by BeWrite Books’ magical Tony Szmuk. Tony also produced the ebook versions.

It’s published by BB today in paperback and all digital formats and is available at all major and minor ebook and paperback online stores as well as on order from your favourite local brick-and-mortar bookshop. It’s also the first BB book to be simultaneously released in paperback and Kindle version.

You can read all about the book, the earlier three novels in the Belinda Lawrence Mysteries series, about Brian, and even read extracts by hitting the open book icon at the top right of this page to take you to the main website and visiting our bookstore section.

If you’re already a Belinda Lawrence fan (and you should be) this is a must-read, which also takes Belinda’s enticing and complicated love-life a step in a (maybe) firm direction. And if you’re new to Belinda Lawrence,  A Canterbury Crime is a great place to start. All Brian’s novels are perfectly self-contained stories in their own right.

Here’s a wee taster for you …

The ancient walled city of Canterbury has held many secrets over the centuries but none more mysterious than the death of Professor de Gray.

Called in to evaluate the contents of his Tudor Manor House, Belinda and Hazel are confronted with a number of suspects who would benefit from the book the Professor was about to publish; a book he promised would re-write the history of St Thomas Becket who was murdered in the Cathedral in 1170.

The unfriendly secretary Miss Mowbray, the live wire student Tommy, the volatile amateur historian Peter, the respected publisher Sir Justin, and Quentin the upstart publisher prepared to obtain the book at any price. Add to them the local Doctor and Funeral Director and the cast of suspects is complete.

Confirming the Professor was murdered proves to be a challenge and, gradually ,as they get to know those associated with the Manor House Belinda and Hazel discover another murder and an intricate web of secrets that leads them to life-threatening danger and finally to the killer.

But can they get to him (or her) before he (or she) gets to them?

Happy reading folks … and the first BB blog-follower to email us gets a free paperback copy. Another three can have the ebook version in the format of their choice, PDF, ePub or Mobi.

Cheers, chills, mystery and fun. Neil

Tuesday, 19 October 2010


Shakespeare had a line for it. "A young man married is a man that's marr'd." (I hope his wife, older than he, hit him upsides the head with a frying pan.) But although I'm neither a man nor young, I've been marr'd. Marred, as we'd say.

Neil Marred.

You see, Neil Marr is Bewrite Books' editor in chief, and he's just edited my latest novel Shakespeare's Will, and, probably like his other editees, I can strip my sleeve and show my scars …

He's too good. Scarily good. Of course he spent a previous lifetime in journalism – oh, sorry, once upon a time that would've been a compliment, meaning he can both read and write, unlike too many of today's journalists who use 'reticent' when they mean 'reluctant' because they are victims of a modern education. But Neil and I are both of a certain age – he's 3 days short of being 13 months my senior – and this means that we went to school back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and children were taught to read, write, spell, punctuate, parse a sentence and understand the subjunctive and the correct use of apostrophes (or, in modern usage, under'stand the correct use of apostrophe's).

He's a damn good editor. So am I. It's been part of my job for years. And when an editor edits an editor's book, then the editor edits the editor's edits and so on, there may just be the occasional difference of opinion. I'm always right, you see, but, quaintly, Neil thinks he is. The fool. But of course he can always pull out the ultimate weapon and threat: house style.


But he can recognise a pun when he sees one; unlike some 'editors' who shall remain nameless. And he edited my first novel, Treason, with only one query; again unlike other editors who shall remain nameless (unless anyone sends me money to name them).

And he's Scottish, you see, so in our gritted-teeth exchange of emails about dashes v. ellipses, he can lapse into some dialect comprehensible only to his own kind. For all I know he's giving me the recipe for haggis rather than a proofreading correction, but I end up saying, "Yes, Neil."

And of course he affects not to understand the simplest, plainest Australian English – for instance, when after The Disagreement About The Quotation Marks I expressed the hope that all his chooks would turn into emus and kick his dunny down – the mildest remonstrance, as I'm sure you'll agree – he responded really quite oddly. The fact that all my pot plants died next day is, I am sure, pure coincidence. Nothing to do with that quotation from Macbeth he sent.

But we both survived the editing experience (the facial tic will go soon, I'm sure) and so did Shakespeare. We didn't misspell the book's title. Our merry jest about bringing the story up to date by changing Shakespeare's twins' names to Chandler and Chardonnay didn't make it into print by mistake. We didn't put 'trumpet' for 'strumpet'. And Tony Szmuk's ingenious cover is a triumph.

And, because I review a lot of proof copies for my local bookshop (shout out: the excellent Mostly Books at Mitcham in Adelaide) I can say that Bewrite Books and their Mr Marr (and, I'll bet, their other editors) can give most bigger publishers lessons in editing. Probably no publishers never let a mistake through – even I did, once – but if more had their books Marr'd it'd be a better world for readers. Though perhaps not as funny ... who doesn't love a really galactic, titanic misprint, as when Jeffery Deaver's publishers printed "brian" for "brain" in a quotation from Hippocrates? And who isn't giggling at the Jonathon Franzen's 'editing' troubles with his new book?

Also, Neil's the only person in the world who's allowed to call me Merry. So when he calls me Meredith I'm back on the headmistress's carpet again, hanging my head and saying, "I dunno," and "Wasn't me." And if there are any mistakes in Shakespeare's Will, it wasn't me. It was Neil Marr. So there. Och aye. Too right.

Meredith Whitford

Thursday, 14 October 2010


We’ve just made three moves that are just a tad scary ... and one that gave me great personal pleasure. ‘Three Nightmares and a Reunion’ will be the title of the film version of this blog yarn.

Scary A: We’re about to run with our first ever ebook-only project. We will now see if an ebook really can stand on its own feet without support from paperback and hardback sales. Regular readers and old friends know our passion for the future of the ebook presentation of work, so now let’s find out if our enthusiasm has run away with us or if we’ve been on track so far this century.

Scary B: Again for the first time, without the usual support of Ingram’s – the biggest book distributor on the planet – we’re faced with building an ebook retail base ourselves ... from scratch. No mean trick, is that. But we’ve carefully prepared (even to the extent of registering BeWrite Books LLC in the USA to get into the massive new ebook retail stores that exclude publishers without an official US presence) and have high hopes.

Scary C: We’re publishing our first non-fiction book with this release. Until now, it’s been strictly Novels-я-Us. And poetry collections, of course.

Pleasure A-Z:
I’ve been working along with an author who’s an old buddy from mid-seventies newspaper days in Fleet Street. We’ve not worked together or even set eyes on each other since we shared an office thirty-five years ago when we were both still in our roaring twenties and Fleet Street was much, much more than just an address in London EC4. And – wow – it’s been a breeze.

A bit scary for author Irene Thompson, too, because 1) she hadn’t a clue about ebooks and had never even read one when we snared her 2) the subject matter of her A-Z of Punishment and Torture seems to clash with her gentle persona as a popular human interest journalist and former ballet dancer.

The story of this reunion is pretty simple. Irene’s husband, John, is European editor of a major US newspaper group and, over the decades, we’ve touched base on international stories many times. So when Irene drifted from newspapers and magazines into books, I read what she wrote with interest and admiration. When I bought The A-Z of Punishment and Torture, though, it suddenly struck me that the mainstream UK publisher of the hardback version had not yet moved in the direction of ebooks. I dropped Irene a line about it. she thought once, then twice, talked it over with John, then contacted her publisher for the go-ahead, and decided to sign with BeWrite Books to run the ebook version.

We had a lot of fun along the way because the ebook is a significant revision of the hardback.  And it was such a whizz of a job because Irene – a thorough pro – understood all the editorial twists and turns without the batting of an eye and was so happy to learn about ebooks and technology as we progressed through the months of editing.

There was another wee bonus. Although her publisher had handed Irene ebook rights, they couldn’t (for contractual reasons) release rights to the original illustrations in her book. So we pulled in brilliant UK artist Catherine Edmunds, who is also an author, was part of the old BeWrite Community way back when and has always kept in warm touch. Cathy, Irene and I worked together to make the book fully illustrated with twenty-six drawings, one for each letter of the alphabet, as chapter-openers. (Cathy, by the way, also covered and illustrated BB's ALLAKAZZAM! by Daniel Abelman.)

Then partner, close colleague and pal, Tony Szmuk, who also handled inside text design and all matters technical, added the finishing touch of a striking cover that works magnificently in both colour and in the black-and-white used by e-ink ebook-dedicated reading devices like Kindle, Sony, Kobo et al. (B&N’s Nook, like Apple’s iPad, can give it the full colour treatment.)

We’ll see release of The A-Z of Punishment and Torture next month. Meantime, if you go back to the BB website (just click on the open book icon and the top right of this page) and enter the bookstore section, you can read about Irene’s new ebook in the ‘coming soon’ column in the right margin, about Irene herself, and also read a sample chapter from The A-Z of Punishment and Torture and see one of Cathy’s illustrations.

Irene has even made the brave new move – without any help from us or anyone else – of kicking off a blog. Her first foray into online interaction with readers. It’s lovely. And very personal. You’ll find it here: Do pay a visit and leave an encouraging note because it’s so new (Oct 13) that Irene only has two followers so far – husband John and me. I predict that her followers list will soon be bustin’ at the seams.

Cathy also has a blog. She’s on where she talks about her own new novel, Small Poisons, and poetry collection, wormwood, earth and honey. And you can see many examples of her art by Googling.

So that’s Three Nightmares and a Reunion ... from A-Z, folks.

Slainte ba. Neil

Sunday, 10 October 2010


Gosh, I'm way behind in updating the blog. Sorry, chaps and chappettes. But ... the weak excuse is also good reason, I think. Hope you'll understand. Those who've been involved recently certainly will.  (And I'll even tell you an anti-Scottish joke at the end to help make up for it.)

You'd hardly believe how busy we've been behind the scenes here. It's been 17X7 all summer, and there's no let-up in sight. So here are the reasons you might excuse the excuse ...

*We have five new titles ready to roll, eight more almost ready to go, a dozen in edit, another two dozen in assessment. New submissions are arriving by the barrow-load.

*We've been frantically (but carefully) converting the entire current catalogue of more than 120 titles to ePub and Mobi on a title-by title basis (no shoddy auto-conversion here at BB).

*Now that we're now fully and additionally registered in the USA as BeWrite Books LLC as of this month, we're busy signing contracts and uploading titles in specific formats to all the massive new ebook retail sites that exclude pubhlishers without that vital US 'official' presence. And, golly, do some of these folks make us jump through technical, legal and admin hoops! Gone are the days of dropping a box of paperbacks on the local bookshop's doorstep.

*We've signed a new rep/agent for the US and Latin America. A brilliant man. We struck lucky with Petru.

*We've been moving heavily on promotion for individual authors and titles.

*We've overcome a major accountancy hiccup that has delayed royalty payments by almost a month. From here in, we annually retain professional accountancy and book-keeping services. So far, no author has complained of the wee delay. Please don't. We're on top of it.

*We've overcome a major Lightning Source print-dispatch-order hitch that has caused sticky problems with paperbacks and are now, additionally, assured of a Lightning Source/Ingram's print and distribution service in Australasia in June 2011.

*We're working out a sale-or-return deal with our printers to make BB titles in paperback more attractive to high street brick-and-mortar bookshops. Good news for authors and readers.

*We've sealed deals for half a dozen BeWrite Books titles for translation and mass-run publication on Mainland China and exclusively pitched another seventy titles at the huge Beijing International Book Fair last month. Watch this space for news. (If your an included author, watch this month's royalties cheque.)

*We've overcome merchant problems at our own site and all is now running smoothly.

*We've signed six new authors this month alone.

*We've been helping a major new retailer (a serious Amazon challenger?) set up.

*We've been busy assessing and buying in new hardware and software to keep ahead of new industry demands. Bang goes Christmas for Tony and me -- we're always at the tail end of the wages queue.

*We've joined several professional bodies and entered BB titles and authors for many awards.

*We've juggled all our usual Indian clubs without dropping a single one. We even picked up a few and they're spinning in the air right now.

*And we're jiggered.

A million thanks to Tony Szmuk, Hugh McCracken,  Sam Smith, Alex Marr and Meredith Whitford for their tireless and selfless input recently and to all authors and readers for their support and word-of-mouth recommendation.

Latest figures show that BB sales in 2010 have increased severalfold. That's good news for everyone.

We must be doing something right, eh?

A more interesting blog post will follow as soon as I come up for air.

Promise. Neil

And my favourite Scots joke of the week:

Library patron in Glasgow: "Any books aboot suicide?"

Librarian: "Aye. But ye cannae hae yin."

Patron: "Why"

Libnrarian: "Folks nivver bring 'em back."