Following the success of Herbert’s competition for Thirty Seconds Before Midnight for World Turtle Day, we’re running another one! It’s summer time, a great time for adventuring, so we’re giving away a copy of Rich in Small Things and a $50 Amazon.com gift card – and it’s a fantastic opportunity to support a very worthwhile cause, the awesomeballsness that is Cool Earth – save a rainforest today.
I was recently asked to write a guest blog post for The Writer’s Guide to e-Publishing website about how I created the covers for my books and used them to create a brand – which as you can imagine I was delighted to do. You can read an excerpt below, and see the full post here.
Every author’s story is different, but here’s how my covers came about. I’d written nearly three novels (that is, two were complete and one was in progress) when I decided to independently publish. I’ll not go into much detail about how I made that decision as it’s a complex one for any writer to make, even now, but I will say it was based on professional feedback on the quality of my manuscripts, my observations of the publishing market at the time and a desire to take control of my own destiny. I also decided to publish a volume of short stories as a ‘taster’ of my writing. So I had four books to take to market.
I gave myself a six-month window to hire editors (and go through the various editing processes and finish writing the third novel) and cover designers, research and plan routes to market and devise an initial launch plan. I wanted to go to market with print (both paperback and hard cover) and digital (to as many stores as possible) as I felt this was important to reach the widest market available – and build a scalable platform should the books take off (here’s hoping!). I’ve always seen this as a long game and this was my strategy for writing as much as publishing. I don’t write to genre – I write books that I hope tell new stories in new ways, and I decided this was an important part of the way that I branded them. And publishing them in all formats added to the challenge (for an ebook you need one image that works as a thumbnail, for print books you need to start thinking about spines and back covers and flaps). READ MORE
In Rich in Small Things I end up driving an ambulance to Mongolia as part of a fictional rally called The Ulaanbaatar cup. If you enjoyed reading about this, you might want to consider taking part in one of these rallies and having an adventure yourself!
These are short rallies – just a few days – and this year they’re organizing craziness to Valencia, Split and Munich.
“Ramshackle rallies are a great alternative to the package holiday hum drum twaddle that your neighbour drones on about over the fence after his annual 7 day stint along the Costa Del Crap. You wont find any sweaty sun loungers here my friends… No Sir-ee! This is true Columbus spirited adventure, and it’s you versus machine as you pilot your 200 quids worth of scrap metal along some fantastic driving roads, through quaint villages and towns and through breathtaking landscapes in search of Ramshackle glory.”
This one will take you three to five weeks. Helen, the author of Rich in Small Things took part in this in 2010 and fictionalized the competitive The Ulaanbaatar Cup following her experiences.
“Imagine you’re lost in a massive desert, hundreds of miles from civilisation, driving a car your granny would be embarrassed by. Then all of a sudden all your wheels fall off and the search for tools turns up a dirty sock and two dried apricots. That’s the Mongol Rally – 10,000 miles of pure adventure over mountains, deserts and some of the most remote terrain on the planet.”
No, not the film! Probably the most famous fun rally with a lot of razzledazzle and some phenomenal cars. It causes quite some debate in Rich in Small Things.
“Gumball 3000 consistently hits the headlines as the newest addition to ‘pop culture’, described by vanity fair magazine as ‘the most rock ‘n’ roll car rally ever staged’ and famed for it’s exploits and celebrity participation. Every year the gumball gains phenomenal coverage across all media. Over the past 10 years gumball 3000 has been hosted by kings and presidents, partied with snoop dogg, appeared on the jay leno show, promoted eco-friendly vehicles, and been the “most searched” website on google. We have always encouraged faces from the world of action sport and streetwear to participate, past rallies have included tony hawk, cypress hill, estevan oriel, danny kass, bucky lasek, matt hoffman plus many more.”
Now this one really is a competition! And it’s VERY serious. It has a pretty high fatality rate – overall about 60 people, including 25 competitors, have died in the Dakar Rally. What’s the prize? In 2012, the winner received:
A free registration, valid only for the Dakar 2013
Return sea transport of the race vehicle between Europe and South America.
Catering on the bivouacs
Insurance (public liability and repatriation)
Hire of the GPS, safety beacon, Sentinel, and Iritrack
The transportation of one trunk and two wheels from bivouac to bivouac as well the technical support and advises from an ASO dedicated crew for the riders registered to the « Malle Moto » Challenge (Without assistance). For the 20 first registered to the « Malle Moto » challenge).
The refuelling during the Special Stages
The driver still had to pay for:
The race vehicle, management of the assistance, driver / crew apparel and helmet, personal travelling expenses, logistics overhead costs (tent, sleeping bag, etc.), the cost of accommodation and subsistence other than in the bivouacs.
The cost of entry is about fifteen thousand euros.
“The Dakar Rally is a supreme human exploit and a 15-day challenge which takes drivers across some of the world’s most stunning deserts. Both a motor race and an orienteering challenge, the Dakar Rally pits some of the world’s greatest long-distance rally drivers against amateur competitors for whom the race is often the culmination of their dreams and who come to take up the challenge with their motorcycles, quads, cars and trucks. The challenge attracts competitors of more than 50 nationalities, who are watched on television by over a billion viewers in 190 countries.”
Proper budget fun! Two routes – one to Venice and one to Prague.
“The banger-rally concept is becoming ever more popular, but unlike other banger rallies we don’t believe in driving, driving and then more driving before arriving at your destination, going to bed and then getting up for the next day of even more driving. Our routes take approx 5-6 hours driving per day (some days even less), leaving you time to see some of the great places we take you to and allowing you time to visit places we have highlighted en-route.
The concept of the Motoscape Rally is to buy a car for £333 or less, turn it into a wacky, eye-catching masterpiece and drive it through some of the greatest roads in Europe. Alternatively use a classic car that’s 20 years or older. It’s not just a driving holiday though, it’s a great chance to meet lots of new people, raise some money for charity or just have the experience of a lifetime!”
A £200 car?! Still you only have to keep it running for a weekend. These guys offer a number of European rallies based on films – The Italian Job (the clue’s in the name!), Mission Impossible (to Prague), Allo Allo (France, Luxembourg and Belgium), Grand Prix (coincides with the bi-annual Monaco Historic Grand Prix and themed loosely on the seminal sixties motor racing film ‘Grand Prix’), The Great Escape (mainly Germany) and Thundercrawl (France to Italy over the Alps).
“The original organiser of budget classic and banger car rallies inspired by some of your favourite car and driving films. Taking in some of the most stunning locations and awesome roads in Europe, our events guarantee a stimulating drive.
But it’s not just about being behind the wheel… you’ll need a sense of adventure (and possibly a tool kit) as you and your team crunch the miles in a banger costing no more than a measly £200! Alternatively, if you have a small engine roadster in the garage (or need an excuse to buy one!), our Italian Job event is now open to a second class of car: ‘Ragtops’, which we define as any open topped two seater with an engine capacity up to 2500cc.
Plenty of people complete the events for charity, with many tens of thousands already raised for local and national causes. Others just like an excuse to paint and customize their chosen vehicles and party their way through Europe.”
With a focus on giving something back. Also to Mongolia.
“Charity Rallies is the fundraising platform for Go Help, the international aid charity. We are adventure lords, cause propellors, time donators and overland rovers and run the Mongolia Charity Rally, Roof of the World Charity Rally and the MesoAmerica Charity Rally on a not-for-profit basis to fund Go Help’s awesome charity projects.”
You buy a car for £300 or less and pimp it up, you can win prizes for your paint job or having a really teeny engine and there are daily challenges – a little bit like in The Ulaanbaatar Cup. Challenges are around: team work, nuttyness, visual awareness, “and anything else we decide is funny, cruel or interesting”. Prizes up to £1,000!
“Wacky Rally is a banger rally like no other. People of all ages from all walks of life with a sense of adventure (and humour) come together and take on a fun and exciting challenge that is often for a worthy cause. Yes, there are prizes, and yes, there are accolades but more important than both, are the stories, the friends made, the memories, the beautiful roads, the tears of laughter, the tears of despair, the fun times and the challenging times.”
Described as “European travel for the unhinged”, this one again involves budget, pimped up cars but is unique in that they announce the next leg of the route at the end of each day.
“23 countries. 23 nights. 5000 miles of open road. Some of the most spectacular driving that Europe has to offer. Mountains, lakes, gorges, beaches, fascinating towns and cities, castles and ruins, but most of all, the chance to drive along some of the best (and possibly worst) roads on the continent. All in a vehicle costing less than £500. Teams set off from Weymouth and cross the channel. Over the following 22 days they will wind their way through another 22 countries before depositing the participants back on the shores of Blighty, tired, and emotional but also far more knowledgeable about the ways of the World. It is not a race, it is an experience.
There will be a rendezvous point set each day to be reached the following day. Hence, a chance to take in the scenery or visit the amazing sights we shall be passing on the way. The route is mainly under wraps but we shall be doing our very best to take in two sections of road described on Top Gear as some of the very best driving in Europe. The Transfagarasan Highway in Romania, which winds for 90 km through the Transylvanian Alps, crossing viaducts and bridges and includes the highest tunnel in Romania. Secondly, The Stelvio Pass in Northern Italy. 48 hairpins take the road up to become the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps. As for the rest of the route….you’ll just have to wait and see.”
These guys offer five rallies in the banger tradition: the Banjul from Spain through North Africa finishing up in Zambia, the Timbuktu to, you guessed it, Timbuktu which is in Mali, also in Africa, Petra/Silk Road finishing up in Jordan, the Dakhla to Morocco and the Murmansk up to the Arctic via Scandinavia and Russia; all two or three weeks long. They all sound AMAZE.
“The World is becoming a dull and safe place ruled by Health and Safety Nazis and this applies to travel, too. However if you have a pile of excrement on your drive which needs scrapping and the local car scrapdump does not fill you with excitement, then buy some cable ties and gaffer tape, and some cases of Vodka and Pot Noodle and jump in and go south or North or somewhere. You will have no support and backup, and mechanical knowledge is frowned upon. However the advantage of going with a group is that help may be at hand if your car dies and a roadbook will give you details of where to go, and what bookings and paperwork you may like to consider.
The Dakar challenges are not charity rallies. Almost all rules on the website are there to be broken. However if we have arranged a charity drop off point on the finishing line then your car must be passed over to be auctioned for local good causes. After all, you would not get much cash for it on the street and might be prevented from leaving the country. Driving home takes too long and is too expensive.”
“The Bullrun Live Rally is the most glamorous and high profile of the new breed of high-end luxury lifestyle automotive rallies. Each year, a hundred of the world’s finest super-cars embark on an epic eight-day rolling party across the USA – bringing together a celebrity strewn cast of characters and petrosexuals for an unforgettable adventure – where the only obligatory goals are to party, drive and enjoy!
Fueled by an impressive schedule of public and private events at the finest venues and hotels and in the most exciting cities in America, The Bullrunners make their way from one checkpoint to the next, learning their destinations daily, winding to a close each night in the party capitals of America. Entry is by invitation only and Bullrun never takes more than 100 cars to make sure everyone has a good time – our parties are legendary. Registration thereafter is on a strictly first come, first served, basis. The rally has attracted numerous celebrities in the past including; Dennis Rodman, Hayden Christensen, Ryan Dunn, Carl Lewis, Mario Andretti, The Cuban Brothers, The Dub Pistols, Vanilla Ice, Bill Goldberg, Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian and many more. The entry fee for the Live Rally event is $20,000 per car – covering event entry fee for two drivers, 5 star accommodation for 7 nights, first-class meals and top-notch parties at the best venues, and Bullrun exclusive checkpoints including track events at some very famous racing circuits.”
12) The Ulaanbaatar Cup
The fictional rally from Rich in Small Things – £10,000 to enter to drive from Hyde Park, London to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia for a chance for the £1m prize. It’s a competition – but the winner is not the fastest. It’s much more like a treasure hunt. Bonus points for silly cars and charitable donations.
Well hello there! This is my new blog launched in line with the announcement of the availability of my first three novels and a book of short stories – you can buy them from December 1st – and the short story collection – Half a Dozen Star Jumps – will be free as an ebook! Read more about my books here.
I will be accompanied initially on this blog by a protagonist from each of my first three novels (and more may join us in time):
– Herbert Trimble: the giant land tortoise who narrates much of the action in Thirty Seconds Before Midnight from Bestwood and the surrounding area, Herbert’s specialist subjects are zoology and evolution and film. You can also be friends with Herbert on Facebook – find him here.
– Melissa Lavender: the hedge-fund trader from Rich in Small Things, a gambler and an adventurer; her specialist subjects are poker, botany and being green. Be friends with Melissa on Facebook.
– Rachel Lassetter: the failed biochemist and super-yacht stewardess who spent most of Riding a Tiger aboard and captive off the coast of Somalia; her specialist subjects are reading, travel and Scrabble. Rachel is very gregarious and would love to be your friend.
We thought we’d kick off with a rather lovely short film of a murmuration – a flock of starlings – that inspired the ending of one of the scenes in the first chapter of Riding a Tiger. Enjoy!