The Edinburgh Ebook Festival

ebookfestThis may look like a cop-out blog but, in fact, it’s an attempt to point you towards a rich and potentially very rewarding series of events which will make up this year’s Edinburgh Ebook Festival. It’s the official press release and it gives you plenty of time to look at what’s on and plan your visits accordingly. And, if you like what you see, please send the relevant links to friends. Last year it was a great success, this year it’s even bigger and more ambitious.


Now in its second year, the Edinburgh eBook festival is back from the Glorious 12th of August right through to Sunday night August 25th. This is a unique type of festival. Billed as ‘the festival that comes to you’  it’s available online any time of the day and night, with limitless audience capacity and everyone gets the best seat in the house. Dress code optional.  And it’s FREE for all.

During the day a regular set of ‘events’ are posted up on the festival site. You access it via your ereader, smartphone, tablet, ipad or computer so that you can literally be in two places at one time. Wherever you are, as long as you have internet or wifi access, you can take part.

Our programme  features individual slots at  roughly hourly intervals throughout the day from the Short Story slot at 11am, right through to the ‘Conversations’ slot at 11pm. In between we will feature residencies, workshops, ebook launches, and sundry other ‘events.’  We even have the world’s first weathersheep ‘Derek’ who will be providing a ‘sheeping forecast’ each day at noon.  Derek is this year’s internet phenomemon and his ‘Fifteen Grades of Hay’ trilogy is the talk of the cyber valleys.

Residencies include Catherine Czerkawska’s Mid-list, Cally Phillips’ Drama Retrospective and Chris Longmuir’s mammoth exploration of the Crime genre. For Sci-Fi buffs there’s David Wailing, as well as Travel with Jo Carroll, Horror with Mari Biella and Ghosts stories dissected with Dennis Hamley.  Sue Price will inspire you regarding Functional Literacy and Ingrid Ricks will do similarly about advocacy. There’s a chance for you to participate too. Kathleen Jones will be running a Life Writing workshop and Bill Kirton a Comedy workshop.

There’s plenty more. Mr McStoryteller Brendan Gisby will host the Short Story slot and Roz Morris offers a new spin on Desert Island Discs with her ‘Undercover Soundtrack’ event while Jian Qiu Huang confirms the internationality of the festival with his ‘Conversations with the Universe.’

There are slots on ‘Market Choices’ where writers and publishers reveal ways they have approached publicity and sales and there’s launches of ebooks as well as talk about the relationship between narrator, author and reader.  Our festival theme is Beyond the Margins and we hope to explore this concept in a way which will be thought provoking ,fun and open doors and minds as to the possibilities of digital publishing.

The festival opens with a look at Stuart Ayris’ unique, inspired and inspiring ‘Frugality’ Trilogy and closes with Peter Tarnofsky’s latest short story collection ‘Everything Turns Out Just Fine.’

And if that’s not enough, there will also be a FREE Goody Bag available throughout the festival.

Last year we welcomed over 9,000 visitors through our virtual doors.  With over 150 separate ‘events’ and featuring oodles of writers – some you know and some you’ll want to get to know – we hope that there will be something for just about everyone. We hope to show you that the digital revolution is alive and well and that Beyond the Margins there’s a whole new world just waiting for you to read and read about.

Daily previews begin on 1st August with some background information about the main participants and events, giving you the chance to ease your way into the technology. But really, if you already know how to use an ereader, tablet, smartphone or pc it’s simple.  Just go to and the events will come to you. You can catch up on events you’ve missed with a click or two to the appropriate category.   Remember, it’s all free and everyone is welcome.

The festival has a facebook page where you can post your comments and you can follow on Twitter @edebookfest or have your say at #edebookfest.

There’s really no excuse not to visit this exciting new festival now, is there?

Kim Jong-un And Me

korea 001At last, the breakthrough! After all these years of writing all sorts of things, fame and riches are within reach. All I have to do is play my cards right and undertake an admittedly tricky piece of international diplomacy.

Let’s get the facts straight first. Kim Jong-un is a very nice man, a very nice man indeed. Yes, yes, we all know he’s First Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army, Supreme Leader, blah, blah, blah but I’m betting he’s basically a very thoughtful, caring individual who has his nation’s welfare, progress and general well-being at heart. You don’t get to be a top political leader of any of the world’s great powers or even of the minor ones, such as the United Kingdom, unless you’re a really nice guy. And, I repeat, Kim Jong-un, or KJ as I intend to call him from now on, is a very, very nice man.

He’s also the world’s youngest head of state and his youth is part of the reason I want so much to get to know him better. He was actually educated in Switzerland and his classmates there said he was a bit shy. But he was a good student and got on well with others. He was ambitious, enjoyed playing basketball and, like most students who know that education’s only a pretence for having a good time, he wasn’t all that meticulous about attendance and his grades suffered as a result. (These indisputable facts are essential to an understanding of my thesis and, needless to say, I owe them all to Wikipedia.)

But from those inauspicious, even mundane beginnings, he has progressed to a condition described by the Korean Central News Agency as ‘a great person born of heaven’ and inspired the ruling Workers’ Party to declare in an editorial, ‘We vow with bleeding tears to call Kim Jong-un our supreme commander, our leader’. (NOTE. ‘Bleeding’ in this context is not the same as its usage in such English expressions as ‘Oi, mate, what’s the bleedin game then? Leave it out, you bleedin tosser.’)

So where does KJ fit into my own plan for JK Rowling-style world domination? The answer’s easy. I ask you to picture one of those gatherings where thousands of those present and many millions watching on TV weep and wail and gnash simply because KJ exists and is among them. He has only to raise his hand for a silence to fall on the multitude (broken only by suppressed sobs of ineluctable joy), he has only to take one step and they will follow, however deep the abyss towards which he leads them.

korea 003Now I ask you to add just one element, one gesture and two words to the scene. In his hand he holds a book. He raises it for them to see and says just two words, ‘Buy this’. The resultant KJ-provoked sales would make JK look like a no-hoper. And that will be the effect of my diplomatic endeavours because yesterday, to my great surprise, I received two copies of my book Brilliant Study Skills IN KOREAN! The attached illustrations are proof of its existence, and I’m hoping the one with the blurb about me conveys the fact that I am one of KJ’s greatest fans.

On the other hand (and this is where the tricky diplomacy comes in), I must be careful not to alienate South Korea and it may be that I have to indulge in a wee apostasy, denounce my erstwhile mate, KJ, and cut my losses because the population of South Korea is twice that of the North.  Democracy can be a bugger at times.

Righting a 400-year-old wrong (maybe)

leith hall 026For a moment yesterday, I thought that James Abernethy of Mayen had done me a great favour on December 21st 1763. That was the day he, John Leith, the Laird of Leith Hall in Aberdeenshire, and several others were in a pub carousing (I think that was what they called it at the time), and it degenerated into a brawl. They went outside, Abernethy shot Leith in the head and he died on Christmas Day. It seems that, on several occasions since then, John has appeared as one of the many ghosts which stroll around the house and grounds. Apparently his head is heavily bandaged and he does a lot of groaning and moaning – which is understandable.

As I read all about the incident, I was getting quite excited because it would have fitted perfectly into one of my plans. To explain, let’s go back just one year. As well as doing my ‘Write a Crime Novel in an Hour’ workshop as part of the Aberdeenshire Crime and Mystery Festival, I had to think up a plot and provide clues for a murder mystery which was supposed to have taken place some time in the past at Haddo House. The idea was that families would be given the evidence collected at the time, walk through the relevant rooms, gather and interpret clues and decide whodunit. In other words, they would use the detection facilities available at the time. They would then be allowed to use modern methods – fingerprinting, DNA profiles, chemical analysis – to get a more accurate picture of what had happened. It would be a fun couple of hours and interesting to compare procedures and outcomes then and now.

Apparently, it was a highly popular event but results were very varied and, from what I’ve heard, I won’t need to be nearly as meticulous with my plotting in future since many of the amateur detectives relied on instinct and speculation rather than actual evidence. My favourite example was when one group decided that the murderer was the daughter of the laird. Bizarrely, she’d killed him because, according to them, she was a lesbian. There was nothing in any of my notes about her sexual orientation but, even more bizarrely, they’d deduced it from the fact that they’d seen a bowler hat in her bedroom.

So, to return to the killing of John Leith, I’m having to repeat the exercise this year at Leith Hall – new location, new crime required – and to find a real-life murder (for which Abernethy was never tried, by the way) was very serendipitous. The problem was that, disappointingly, it all happened in Aberdeen, rather than at Leith Hall, so I’ll have to fabricate something again.


leith hall 022Very near the house, there’s a hanging tree, so I’ll be able to tell the tale of some unfortunate who was not only wrongly accused of the murder but also hanged within sight of the music room’s windows. I’ll then provide the visiting groups with enough clues to exonerate him/her, give him/her a posthumous pardon, and finger the real perpetrator. I’ll set it in the early 1700s so they’ll be righting a 400 year old wrong. Unless they spot a stray bowler hat, of course.