How to Get People to Return Books

“I promise, I promise. I’ll return it as soon as I’m finished.”

How many times have you heard that just before you reluctantly loaned a friend a book? You just know that you will never see that book again.

Well, here is the answer. It’s an ancient mediaeval curse you can paste into the front of your books.

Said to have been a curse written in the 1200’s or so this is actually a fake written in 1902. But, there are many authentic curses that can be found

The trouble is — it is a fake.

On the website:  Colin Higgins has this to say in part about the curse.

“It is an amusing hoax dating from 1909. Edmund Pearson, joker, librarian and true-crime writer, claimed it was part of a rediscovered Old Librarian’s Almanack originally published in 1773.”

That’s not to say that there aren’t mediaeval book curses, and quite powerful ones at that, just that this beauty is not authentic.

Here is one from the year 1172 to guard a bible, followed by the original latin.

If anyone take away this book, let him die the death; let him be fried in a pan; let the falling sickness and fever seize him; let him be broken on the wheel, and hanged. Amen.

Written in 1172. "If anyone take away this book, let him die the death; let him be fried in a pan; let the falling sickness and fever seize him; let him be broken on the wheel, and hanged. Amen."


There Is Writing The Book and There is Selling the Book

Shark Flight, the sequel to Cobra Flight is still in production and I am starting to think of marketing it.

With the demise of newspaper book reviewers along with newspapers themselves, and the fracturing of the media landscape, a writer has to take a much more direct role in the selling side of things.

A lot of writers really have a hard time with this. Many feel that production is somehow beneath them, something that a “trades” person should be doing, not a head in the heavens author.The paperback edition of Cobra Flight as a 3d image

That’s not how I see things at all.

The work of planning out the marketing campaign for a novel is part of the creation process as far as I am concerned. By trying to find things in the design of a book cover, an advertisement, or a video book trailer I am forced to keep the shape and events of my novel in the forefront. This is always to the good because it keeps the novel grounded in the story experience of the reader, and the listener of course because Shark Flight, like Cobra Flight, will also be an audiobook.

By examining what might appeal to a reader through the marketing campaign I am constantly reviewing and strengthening the book through the writing process.

So, in this spirit of marketing experimentation here is an early concept of what an advertisement on Amazon will look like.

I stress, that Shark Flight is not in fact available for sale yet. This advertisement is a mock-up.




Why Good Praise is Never Enough for Writers

I thought I was the only writer in the world that felt this way and it secretly shamed me. Until today when I discovered that Neil Gaiman, of all people, thinks the same way.


Neil Gaiman is the author of such books as American Gods, Neverwhere, co-author with Terry Pratchett of Good Omens and many other works,

A Winter Drive Deep In the Northwest Territories

There are moon dogs out.

The world is asleep under the stars and what diamond hard stars they are too. As I drive back into the city from a day in Fort Rae they seem to outshine the headlights.

The road back from Rae is a hundred miles of twisting and turning gravel that leaps up and down through low hills choked with spruce, aspen, tamarack and a few fir. In the dark it becomes a terribly hostile place made more intense by the absence of traffic. An accident here or a breakdown would mean a night in the minus twenty weather hoping, praying for a traveller. It’s because of that, that there is a survival kit in the back seat and an arctic sleeping bag. We don’t take chances in this country. There is nothing between Rae and Yellowknife except a few wolves.

As I drive east toward midnight the stars glint hard through the windshield. I turn down the instrument panel lights and let the stars beat through the headlights. There’s Orion directly in front of me and just to the left the Big Dipper is making its slow wheel about the sky, tied always to the north star and I can’t help thinking about Manitou and Black Bear playing cards on the other side, past the sky. It’s funny how a child’s story takes on real life in this country. Perhaps he really does exist.

The road is frozen gravel so there’s no need to worry about sliding but where it goes through a curve the traffic has carved just one track. When it turns to the right the lane stays where it is supposed to but on a left turn the bare gravel is far to the left and that means any vehicle coming the other way would be met head on. It’s a game of chance and anxiety. Whether to stay on the hard pack snow and let any traffic slip past or stay on the gravel and keep the speed up on the gravel.  Every curve is a guess. I pass one truck heading west from Yellowknife and see its headlights bounced off the trees well in advance so I relax. I know that I’ll have the warning to get back to my side of the road. The trees are coated in hoar frost and the headlights turn them into silver cutouts plastered against the stars. There’s magic here.

Halfway back now and there’s an odd light directly ahead.  It seems like the glow of a city but I’m too far from Yellowknife for that and the air is too clear to allow any city to light up the air anyway. You can be a mile from Yellowknife and not know it because the city lights aren’t reflected the way they are in the south.

The glow is troubling. There’s a hardness to it that doesn’t seem right. Thoughts of flying saucers are easy here, it’s so lonely. If I was an explorer from Alpha Centauri sent to earth to spy on the human race what better way to gather data than to drop down on a lonely highway in the arctic and pick up the one vehicle for fifty miles in either direction.

There’s nothing on the radio, too far out. The heater is noisy and I turn it off to concentrate on the light. It’s growing too quickly for it to be stationary and it must be moving.  Then darkness, as I slip down through a dark valley guarded by rock walls and up a long curve of the hill. No light. Then light.

The moon for God’s sake. It sits in the trees as it rises above the horizon. It’s huge. it seems to fill the width of the road and looms above the windshield of the car. The light is being refracted through the atmosphere I tell myself and the moon is being magnified but that doesn’t take anything away from the spectacle. Its light blasts down the highway at me and in a straight stretch I punch off the headlights. Hardly any difference. The moon has turned the highway to a twilight sliver. We rush on together, the car and me and the moon. The stars shine on still so bright I can see them when I look away from the moon. We’re a team the moon and me and we drive on and on under its light until the road curves into darkness and the headlights must come on because I never want to use the survival kit. Darkness envelopes the car and the loneliness is back but then the curve is finished and once more the moon is back.

Midnight is passing. I forget how far I have driven. I have no idea where Yellowknife might be and that troubles me. Must always know where you are in this country. The old habits built up in this very region from that silly little seaplane base down the road from the motel are coming back.

Know where you are all the time, goes the rule, then you will know where you are lost.

You get killed when you get lost in an unknown place.

Strange rule but it works. There’s a telephone in the car.  Now that I am closer to Yellowknife I could use it if the car breaks down. But that wouldn’t help me much. What am I going to say? “Hello, uh I need a truck to pull me out of a snowbank.  What’s that? Where am I? Uh, somewhere between Rae and Yellowknife. Just start driving and I’ll be on the road.”  Christ it could take the rest of my life to find me.

The moon has dogs. They’ve come up either side of the mother. Pale little children riding coat-tail as if they were afraid of getting lost. What does this mean? I think to myself.  Is this good luck, or bad, do they herald good weather or a snarling blizzard? God the weather knowledge I have lost over the years. Must relearn it.

A glint of light between the left dog and the moon. It’s the airport beacon sweeping away to the arctic sky. What nostalgia that brings back. It sweeps over me. The nights and nights I plowed my way back through some skag down the MacKenzie river overloaded with gear and fuel trying to land a 185 at the base, never really sure where the airport was and then suddenly seeing that white slash of light sweep across the sky and I knew I was home and the floats would be touching Back Bay in twenty minutes. Dangerous life and I don’t miss it but you always remember the good things about the past, never the bad, and that beacon is one of the good. The beacon is good to me too. I start to reenter the world. I start to see the moon and her dogs for what they are. The stars retreat to being stars and not silent watchers over the wilderness. The magic is leaking away and the car slips closer to Yellowknife.

I see some lights beaming from the top of the territorial government office tower and then the YK Tower and then the highrises. The airport and its snow wrapped bush planes waiting for break-up and the endless summer days goes past on the right and then I’m back. The city swallows me up and the north goes away.  There’s sadness as I take the car back. I am giving up the treasure of a sensation and a life few would ever experience. I live within myself content and with the secret knowledge that the moon and her two children put on that show just for me. Somewhere I hear Black Bear’s grumbling chuckle and I love the world.

Baked Chicken for Breakfast in Albania


As I was working today on the draft for The Disaster Tourist — How Journalists and Relief Workers Survive and Thrive in War Zones I came across a photo I had taken in Kukes Northern Albania during the Kosovo War when tens of thousands of refugees flooded into Albania.

I was working as a spokesperson for CARE Canada and the team had rented this house not far from the border. The family that owned it was more than happy to move out and live in an underground shelter in exchange for hard currency, and they provided the meals.

Well, getting food in War Zones and Disaster Areas can be a problem and in Kukes, unless you had a lot of money you had to make do with what you could get your hands on.

In this case, it was chickens. Our landlords had a lot of chickens in their back garden and that is what the team ate. For breakfast, lunch, and dinner, every day after day, for about a month, we ate baked chicken.

We could get other food but that would have meant buying off the black market, which was probably stolen relief food so that was out of the question. But we got lots of offers including many from a local hoodlum who was trying to move up in the ranks from sometime hitman to crime boss.

But beer was cheap and plentiful so all was good with life.


From Out of My Long Forgotten Past – A Tone Poem

Recently a friend sent me a copy of something I had written for a competition in either the late eighties or early nineties. It won an Honourable Mention in its category, a designation that I can recall filled me with deep disappointment because I always expect better than I can deliver. Considering that this was a Canada wide competition, a competition that has launched many writing careers, it certainly was churlish of me to object to not winning a first prize.

The story, or essay, was later read on all of the CBC AM Radio networks, including on the international short wave service. As such, I should have received a fair bit of money for its broadcast but I had entered the contest under a false name because I was working at the CBC, and the rules forbade any participation.

I do wish I could recall the false name I used.

Anyway, enjoy the next 700 words, but I can’t answer any questions about the Llamas because I have no idea where I got that title.




Creston, British Columbia, Tivoli Theatre. Empty spittle plastered ticket office.

International Harvester school buses move with the sudden runnels of desultory traffic through the dying town. Clutter of business signs, Creston Cafe, Pro Hardware, Sears catalogue office, all housed in false fronts joined one to another as though imitating the walls of granite surrounding the town, hemming it from the progress and wealth it hungered for and has all but given up on.

The mountains are the only thing that distinguish this town from the thousands of others like it cluttering the map speckles of ink dots and faint names between the cities. Were it not for the mountains Creston would not be. Night and mountainside eight hundred feet up, rain, fog, sign saying one lane for two kilometres. And then a fall of more clogging fog as the car slows and slides into the sluice under the ice slides.

Creeping along in second gear. Avalanche, Do Not Stop, says the sign. Cannot go fast either. Inching along over the road.

To the right a rounded triangle of concrete curb, then; “Uh. Can you move to the left please.” From the passenger on my right who has been silent since the car started to creep. I move left a bit closer to the rock wall. There’s no need for me to be here but I humour the passenger. Not a place for an argument.

Car at the other end of the narrow lane and moving toward us. Nasty feeling of not knowing where the back end of the car is as we back into the pull out. Flash of friendly headlights on the way by as a thank you and we are left alone again on the mountainside.

Steep winding road to a summit far away from the world. Lost in trees cloaked in pillows of freshly fallen snow. Tenseness of left hand turns and curves on gravel at night with nicotine bluing the glass and the wipers smearing.

Road goes away and the car moves on faith.

Ferry. White and green gloss paint.

In the belly the car nose to bumper with the others and the trucks hulking in the centre. Up the steep metal ribbed stairs to the gloss paint and the smell of cooking oil from the snack bar run by a fourteen year old girl and an older woman behind the bulkhead putting the orders together.

Man sitting at the counter describing to a stranger the death of his son in Montreal over the holidays. Shot accidentally or on purpose by a man cleaning his gun in his house. There’s a doubt and a mystery and a crying in his suffering yet calm talk.

Mad rush to the cars below decks as the ferry suddenly docks. There had not been the slightest suggestion we had been anywhere near the shore. How the crew knew I didn’t know. And then the rumble of the trucks and the flight down the twisting dark road.

Highway puddled with water getting set to freeze in broad car traps of slipperiness.

A red flaming snake of taillights slithers through the never straight road and the night for the east. Poor bastard in the lead is pushed by the tail. Some can’t take it and drop from the ritual of leading to the side of the road to wait the darkness before creeping on by themselves.

Night creeps over Arrow Lake deep in the Selkirk clefts. 

Prince George and a dull washed out mall.

Coffee shop suddenly full of old people. Nowhere to go and nothing to do.They roost and chatter and pass the hour. Just as bats have atime to leave the cave and gulls a time for the shore, the old are ruled by the tides of human need and spirit and will move again with the passing of their tide. What other tides might there be? All of the interior wet and damp and coated with the black constant sheen of rain.

Energy levels drop.

No point to anything because each day will be the same as the next and of the last.

Audio Book — Good Launch

Well, I had an unexpected and nice surprise this morning when Audible sent me my sales report for April. Normally, audiobook sales are about a third of ebook sales and paperbacks are about a fourth.

For whatever reason, and I am not complaining, the report showed that three or four times more people downloaded the audiobook of Cobra Flight than the ebook.

We are not talking big numbers here, but it is interesting and very heartening,

By the way, I got a note from the FindAwayVoices people who are handling non-Audible audiobook sales for me to say that Kobo will soon be distributing the audiobook. That is something unexpected because I had been under the impression that Kobo was taking only a few select audiobooks into its catalogue.

Since Kobo is much bigger in Canada than Amazon for ebooks it is an important development.

Cobra Flight Audiobooks and Paperbacks Very Soon

It has taken a while, and it will be a short while yet before you can buy, but Cobra Flight has now been accepted by a couple of dozen audiobook publishers worldwide including Google Play, Kobo, etc. Amazon, Audible, and iTunes are doing their final quality checks.
Next week I will receive the printer’s proof for the paperback and those of you who want to can buy a physical copy. And of course, the eBook is for sale just about everywhere worldwide, including Kobo and Amazon

Betrayal – The New Spy Thriller from Ethan Jones

Ethan Jones is writing strong and hard spy thrillers with a Canadian viewpoint and engaging characters.

Here’s his promo copy for the newest in the Javin Pierce series. 

You should buy a copy.


A hero, sent out as a mark; who is behind the betrayal?

Covert CIS operative Javin and his partner Claudia are on the hunt for two terrorist masterminds, but their mission suspiciously goes awry right from the start. The team is now forced into a dubious alliance with Mossad and the infamous Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard.

Pursuing the terrorists deep into hostile Saudi Arabia, they not only discover an assassination plot that could topple the Saudi kingdom, but also suspect a traitor has infiltrated their team. Who is behind this betrayal? In a race against time, can Javin and Claudia unmask the traitor and stop the assassination plot before the Middle East is plunged into an all-out war?

Betrayal is the next instalment in the explosive new bestselling Javin Pierce spy thriller series.

You will love this fast-paced international suspense, action, and mystery novel that will appeal to readers of John le Carré, Ian Fleming, and Daniel Silva.

Grab a copy of Betrayal now to enjoy the low price of $3.99 (or the equivalent in your country’s currency) and the following exclusive limited- time bonus content:

The Way to Closure, a short story that ties into the next book in the series.

An exclusive excerpt from Closure, the third book, to come out on May 3.

Start this explosive series today! Here’s the link: