Sunday, 28 August 2011

The Invisible Man

Something occurred to me about The Doomsday Testament recently that gives me a lot of satisfaction as a writer, but that I hadn't realised when I was writing it. There's not a single line of physical description for one of the main characters.

He's not tall or short, fat or thin. His nose isn't blunt or long or sharp. His eyes never twinkle and they have no colour. He exists, but only in the reader's imagination.

It wasn't a conscious decision on my part, but it wasn't a mistake either. It's just that I was so comfortable in the character himself that I never needed to flesh him out. What he is, he is through his thoughts and his feelings, and what other people think, say about or see in him. We believe we know him, because when we first meet him he's part of a certain type of group, but singled out from it because he doesn't quite belong. I'd always wanted him to be an enigma, but I didn't realise just how successful I'd been.

Doomsday and Defender of Rome are off to a great start. They've both had very good early reviews. The hardback of Defender is doing well on Amazon and Doomsday sold around 2,700 copies in the first week, which is impressive for a debut novel by an unknown writer, as James Douglas is. To give it some perspective, if they'd been hardback sales the novel would be sitting at about No. 5 in the UK sales charts. How much of that is down to the tremendous marketing effort by Transworld and how much to my Heath Robinson  campaign on Facebook and Twitter, I don't know, but a huge thanks to everyone for their support.

This week I'll be giving the first draft of Avenger of Rome a polish before it goes off to my publisher, then it's on to The Isis Covenant and another hair-raising adventure for Jamie Saintclair.

Monday, 22 August 2011


URGENT: This is for anyone who received the hacker begging e-mail saying that I was in Madrid and needed money. I scanned my Mac using security software today and it found two Zbots which are a very nasty kind of spyware aimed at getting your bank details. If you received the message and opened it, please do a security scan

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Hacked off

It feels like being burgled. Some time on Thursday night someone hacked into my internet account and sent a message to all of my contacts, saying that I was stranded in Madrid and that I need 1500 euros to get home. Although it wasn’t well written, it sounded plausible because I’ve been in Madrid twice recently, visiting my daughter, and it was signed Doug, rather than Douglas.

The first I knew of it was on Friday morning when I looked on Facebook and one of my contacts had sent me a message warning I’d been hacked. I didn’t think it was a big problem until I checked my e-mails. I had about four hundred saved for various reasons and they were all gone. The hackers had also stolen my entire contacts list.

My daughter Nikki showed me the e-mail she’d got and I felt sick to think that everyone I’d ever had contact with on the internet had been sent something like that. The frightening thing was that they seemed to know that I’d spent time in Spain recently because Nikki had been working there. God only knows what they’ll do with all the information from the e-mails I’ve sent and received.

If I’d had my contacts list I could have sent out a warning, but I wasn’t able to even do that. I immediately went on Facebook where I have about six hundred friends on my personal and author pages and warned everybody, then did the same on Twitter.

It was only this morning (Saturday) that I discovered that a friend of my mum’s had been taken in by the e-mail. Worse, the hackers had come back to her and asked for more money to help pay a hotel bill. It just makes you incredibly sick to think that these cyber vultures are able to prey on someone’s basic instinct to help a friend in need. I only hope that she’s the only one.

My account is with BT, but to be honest they didn’t seem interested in the fact that I’d been hacked, which is pretty outrageous. I spent about three hours on the phone to a young Indian guy trying to get the account working again and he was very good. But you’d think that if phone hacking is so prolific they’d have some sort of provision made to protect their customers. Surely they should have some kind of emergency hotline where you can report it and get an instant response.

Friday, 19 August 2011

But who was the bloke in the beard?

Brilliant! That's all that needs to be said about Wednesday night's launch of Defender of Rome and The Doomsday Testament.

They were sent out into the world on a tidal wave of good will thanks to the seventy plus friends and family who turned out at Blackwell's bookshop in Edinburgh. They came from a' the airts, as we say in Scotland: Jedburgh, Edinburgh, Glasgow and my neighbours from Bridge of Allan. But the prize for furthest flung has to go to my friend Derek who flew in from Delhi.

My speech was a mix of triumph and disaster. My jokes were actually quite funny, but I somehow managed to mislay page five and after a stuttering halt had to wing the rest. Funnily enough that got the second biggest laugh of the night. The biggest was for the mysterious bloke with a beard you could hide a badger in who appeared halfway through. Maybe it was Bob Low's younger, much more handsome brother.

I signed so many books that my wrist ached and I was still doing it when they started putting the lights out.

Bevvy of beauties: My mum, daughter Kara, Siobhan, Lorraine, Sandra and my sister Carol

Our friends Pete and Maureen

And Allison and Alan

Lorna and Ross, my earthquake advisers

Mum and my lovely wife Alison

Siobhan and Carol, from Canada

Standing room only

In retrospect, the tie was probably a mistake

James Douglas makes a late appearance

I don't know about you, but he scares me

The Gees and the Rintouls

Lynne Hawley, Christine and Billy Piper and David Caperauld
So thanks to everyone who came along and to those who couldn't make it, you missed a great night. Roll on next year!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Prepare for launch

I can still remember the heady mixture of exhilaration, excitement, anticipation and, let's face it, pure terror, in the days leading up to my book launch for Caligula in 2008. It was a venture into the complete unknown, like walking blindfold down a busy street filled with pitfalls and possibilities. On the one hand, there were no worries about success or failure, because having a book published was success enough. On the other, it's the nearest thing to putting your newborn up in a fairground coconut shy.

Imagine what it's like doing it with twins.

Defender of Rome, the second in my Valerius Verrens series, and The Doomsday Testament, my first venture into thriller writing as James Douglas, will be launched on Wednesday at a party in Edinburgh (6.30pm at Blackwell's, 53 South Bridge if you can make it). To be honest, I've been so busy finishing the first draught of my next book and shamelessly plugging these ones that I haven't had time to think about it. But with three days to go the adrenalin is kicking in. The terror has been replaced by a mild case of nerves. Apart from that it's much the same.

Experience has taught me to keep my expectations low and my hopes high. With Caligula anything seemed possible. I know now that being an author is about patience: about building an audience and always striving to make the next book better than the ones that went before. And yet ...

For a debut book Doomsday has created quite a stir. It's already into its third printing and it'll be on sale in all the big supermarkets - a first for me and one which opens up a lot of interesting possibilities. Ask me what I'd hope for Defender and I'd say enough advance sales (it takes about two thousand) to get into the hardback Top Ten for the first time.

It doesn't matter how much you try to keep your feet on the ground, a writer always has his head in the clouds.

Monday, 8 August 2011

What is The Doomsday Testament?

What is The Doomsday Testament?
A SECRET that could save the world or destroy it.
A SECRET that governments and corporations are prepared to kill for.
A SECRET that hundreds of men and women have already paid for with their lives.
And the only clues lie in the diary of Captain Matthew Sinclair's final reluctant mission of World War Two.

'I should tell him I am the wrong man for this operation. That I am burned out and numb, and that I welcome the numbness because it protects me from the man I have become. The war has drained me of all humanity. I feel like a boxer at the end of a fifteen round contest. I have nothing more to give.'

Retweet on Twitter or share on Facebook for a chance to win one of five copies of The Doomsday Testament.

Thanks to everyone who already has. All the names will go into a hat and I'll announce the winners at the end of the week.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

What is the Doomsday Testament?

In 1937, Heinrich Himmler sent a team of SS explorers into Tibet on the pretext of carrying out a scientific study into the flora and fauna of the Himalayan mountains. The true purpose of the expedition had a much more sinister purpose: to discover the entrance to the secret underground city of the Vril, the forerunners of the Aryan race, and unlock the powers that would allow the Nazis to dominate the world.
In 2008, art recovery expert Jamie Saintclair is clearing out his late grandfather's house when he finds a scarred box of military mementoes which paint the old man's life in a whole new light. Even more astonishing is the journal Matthew kept detailing his experiences during the war and maintained right up until his last mysterious mission.
Three thousand miles away terrorists launch a daring raid on the Menshikov Palace in St Petersburg and are only thwarted from blowing up the entire collection by the bravery of a Russian security guard. But why would they only remove a single exhibit which is almost worthless in comparison to the Old Masters and priceless statues they could have stolen? What makes an ancient Tibetan casket looted from a Berlin museum in the dying days of World War Two so important?
The Doomsday Testament hold the key. 

Retweet or share on Facebook for a chance to win one of five copies of