Brushing shoulders with mad Ludwig…

It may have escaped your notice but I have failed to complain about the weather for a good three or four posts. That’s because Mrs Sun and all her family have been where we are, enjoying swimming in the lakes and burning the bits we forgot to cover. The last couple of days have been hot enough to sizzle your sausages, although it looks like it might cool a bit this week. We have loved it.

our latest spot…

We had a lovely evening with Kerrin and Susi – he’s an old Army pal of mine who I haven’t seen for over 30 years. It was just like old times, and great to meet his wife and their youngest. They live in a fab chalet on top of a hill overlooking Bad Reichenhall and the Alps just beyond them. They looked after us like we were royalty and we were so tempted to stay another day. Maybe next time. (They both have a good book in them – inevitably it was a topic of discussion. I hope I encouraged them.)

Kerrin and Susi

Then we headed off to Chiemsee, a large circular lake just east of Munich. The aim was to pop and see Ludwig II’s unfinished castle, Herrenchiemsee, which is on an island in the lake. For Ludwig, think mad Bavarian who also built the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang castle, and you can then imagine the ambition. Actually (and we haven’t left yet) we did so much more. Yes it’s a tourist trap, but we found a fab, new Stellplatz about a mile from lakeside with everything in for just €13.50 including wifi and washing up facilities. On the first afternoon we rode down to the lake and went for a swim.

halfway round Chiemsee

Then the mother of all cycle rides. Forty miles round the lake – typically all set up for us cyclists. With picnic we managed it, and were only a bit saddle sore by the end. Today we cycled down to the lake, caught the ferry over to the island and saw the German equivalent of Versailles. I wasn’t allowed to take any photos inside the building, but imagine the Sun King’s pad and you get the picture. Except it is half finished inside. So you get the chance to see a couple of rooms which aren’t adorned with Meissen, gold leaf and Renaissance art. Fabulous, as are the fountains outside. For the rest of the day we enjoyed a late picnic lunch on the side of the lake, went for a swim in the lake (with the hundreds of other tourists) and enjoyed a late supper.

just like Versailles…

And the books? Well Unsuspecting Hero continues to sell at about 1/2 books a day, all over the world (Spain, Italy, Australia). Which is fab, because it can only mean that people are reading FtF and going for the backstory. These sales are also paying for a good splodge of the advertising for FtF. Which, in itself, has been interesting. My early advertising in the US did well. My latest seven days targeted adverts in the UK has sent 280 people onto the Amazon page – but only turned over about 3 purchases. Now I don’t think that’s a good enough hit rate. If people click to go to Amazon you would have thought that about 10% might make a purchase? I think the price is too high (currently £3.76, set by Amazon). This is due to the exchange rate change inflated because of Brexit. I reckon £2.49 is a better price (UH, which is set by me, is £1.99). I think people are going to the page and are being put off by the price. Anyhow I shall be talking to Mr Amazon tomorrow and getting him to sort this out.

In the meantime reviews have continued to come in (thanks everyone), all of them fab. And I have reset my advertising to East Coast USA and AUS and NZ for the next week. Let’s see how that goes. I will let you know.

Finally, it would be wrong to end this without mentioning Doris, who has been fab. Just fab. Well done her! Have a great bank holiday and a good first week back at work.

Much further south and we’d be in Austria!

Some things you might not know about Germany. First, diesel is cheaper the more remote you are (currently about £1 a litre). That doesn’t happen in the UK? Now without nuclear fuel, they have embraced alternative energy sources with an enthusiasm that is remarkable. Every German barn (and there are lots of them) has their roofs covered in solar panels. I love it. Eating out is relatively inexpensive – think pub food prices, and the quality is good, if slightly sausage shaped. The roads are breathtakingly good, smoother than a baby’s whatnot. But to get to that state they close kilometres of them down at a time. We have been caught by many Umleitungs (diversions) some of which have barred us from a major A road through a whole county. And we have seen the polizei attending more crashes than we ever did in the UK. Not sure why that is. So now, you’re better informed.

We’ve continued to head south and ended up at Bad Reichenhall where my mate Kerrin and his wife live – just west of Salzburg. We drove down the ‘hop route’ – Bavaria is famous for its beers. And, and it never ceases to surprise us, the Alps just appeared across the bottom of the southern German plain in an instant. One minute you’re thinking the land couldn’t get any flatter and then, as if by magic, the majestic Alps appear like turning the page of a child’s pop-up book. Fabulous.

the lovely town of Muldorf

We’ve stayed at a couple more Stellplatz. And last night on a small, worn campsite run by the German version of the Munster family. All v strange. But it did allow us a short cycle ride into the town of Muldorf, which is a semi-walled town of strong pastel coloured merchant houses, gable end on, with decorative, high fronts almost Mexican like in terms of defining the town’s main street. It was a lovely surprise.

Today we’re on a swanky Stellplatz in Bad Reichenhall, having got to Kerrin’s a day earlier than we expected to. But that was lucky as we cycled up into the mountains to a small lake, had a picnic (with lots of other Germans) and I went for a long, delightful swim. There is nothing finer than paddling away in a lake when all around you are hemmed in by big, pointy peaks. We both did some phys and, as a surprise to both of us, went out for supper and ate meat and dumplings – fabulous!

all German Catholic Churches are like this…

What about the book? Thanks for asking. I have sold 67 copies of FtF in a week, over half of which have gone to the US – which is a surprise. In addition, and this must all be on the back of FtF, 18 copies of UH have also flown off the shelves. That puts me at over 10 books a day, which will do for now. I have continued to use Facebook to advertise, and am learning an awful lot about the demographics of all this – and what seems to work and what doesn’t. It’s too early to be definitive, but when I have something I’ll let you know. Still only 22 reviews, which is well under my target of 100. But I did a check and I know I have at least 50 promised – so numbers will be up there, but the timing was a touch ambitious.

Anyhow, that’s me. Hope you are all well and enjoying Mrs Sun’s generosity.

Stopped by a lake…

We’ve been holed up on a large lake (think Keilder Reservoir) on what must be the largest Stellplatz in Christendom. We were heading southeast and picked this place out, and what a find. It’s in the village of Asberg and the Stellplatz has room for around 500, but the pitches are big, there are showers (and EHU if you can find it – at a price). In typically German fashion there are cycle routes everywhere, a place to eat and drink around every corner and it’s all very tidy and well maintained.

For three days we have run, cycled and walked – we need a holiday now. On the first day we cycled the 15 mile route round the lake (which was lovely). We did the same at Keilder a couple of years ago, and whilst the vista was similar, the weather was rubbish and there was nowhere to get a cup of coffee. And that’s the thing about Germany. If you want mountains, lakes, views and good holiday stuff you head towards the equator. In the UK you head towards the Arctic. Oh, and if you do manage to get good weather ‘up north’ you’re accompanied by a couple of squadrons of midges that dilute any pleasure you may be getting from a glimpse of Mrs Sun. So Germany wins hands down.

Here you can rent everything, including paddleboards. Now I don’t know about you, but I struggle with the point of paddleboards? Which idiot thought they were a good idea? A surfer? You know, surfing is great, the sea, the waves, the surf and my board. Let’s take away the sea, the waves and the surf and just keep the board? Or how about windsurfing? The water, the wind running through your hair, the sail, the jaunty angle and the board. I tell you what, let’s take away everything other than the board… You get my point? Seems madness to me…

we took the boat out…

On day two we took the boat out and had a lovely paddle across the lake. In the afternoon we both ran round the smaller bit of the lake – 10kms. Well done C. I actually run 9.5km because my groin strain let me know it wasn’t happy and sent my leg into spasm. Oh well. It’s skipping for me for a while. And today we cycled 20 miles or so to another lake along a canal which joined the two. We took a picnic with us and sat by the lake chomping away at a couple of rolls. The route there and back was through miles and miles of forest tracks – all marked. There is nothing here but trees and marked cycle and walking routes – it’s fab.

What about the book? Well, Mr Amazon emailed me having opened up a permission to access some sales data. In the end I got the first three days worth (I think) and it told me I had sold 29 books. I’ll live with 10 a day, but we’ll see. I’m getting back in touch with Mr A to press him for more info. At the same time I have used Facebook to target the US: both genders, 24-65, and lovers of thrillers such as Le Carre. I started it on Friday and it finishes on Monday – cost £20. Without any stats I can’t see how many books I’ve sold, but the sales ranking in the US has shot up considerably, so I must have sold some books.

note storks nesting on the chimney

Just as interesting, currently 30 US people ‘liked’ my post/advert. I checked out most of these folk – and a good number of them are very WASPy, and one or two downright white supremacist (certainly v Republican and anti-Obama). I think they probably thought my post/book was an actual conspiracy theory and assumed I was blaming Obama for the whole thing. The real irony is that my book is anti-religion, and notably against white supremacists, so they’re going to get a surprise if/when they read it!

A further upside is that today I’ve sold 6 copies of Unsuspecting Hero in the US – I don’t sell UH in the States – it just doesn’t happen. I assume they’ve bought both books? We’ll see.

Off further southeast tomorrow. We’ll be running out of Germany soon!

Well done us…

This will be late – I’m trying to stick to a Wednesday and Sunday post. Wifi is problematic, but not overly so. First, with new European rules concerning roaming costs, Virgin now charge £5 for 250MB, which is not bad. Phone charges are 8p a minute, which again is workable. Also, I hadn’t realised that Deutsch Telekom are now part of the Fon network, which means as a BT user we can log into local and domestic wifi provided by DT. Unfortunately they’re not as widespread as BT in the UK, and SFR in France, but unlike BT and SFR (and typically German) when you have a signal it’s very good.

plenty of this…

We are now half way down Germany in the middle somewhere (think Frankfurt and you’re just about there). We’re heading south to Germany’s bottom right corner where an old Army pal now lives. On the way we’re hoping to stop off at Rothenburg, a beautiful medieval, walled town and a couple of other sights. We’re using the German Stellplatz system which mirrors the French Aires. Actually they’ve been rather good, a couple of which have been free. Tonight we’re on a farm for €5. And v good it is too, helped by Mrs Sun who seems to have forgotten that we are the Ladleys and, as such, she should be ignoring us. We’ve driven, walked, cycled and run. And, of course, watched quite a lot of the Olympics…

…which have been fab? How can we, a country of around 60 million, have more medals than China, a country of 1 billion? It is, of course, all about money. And well done to John Major, who post Atlanta, decided to throw lottery money at the problem. And as we all know money makes points, and points make prizes. It’s not that we are genetically more winner shaped than, say Germany or France. It’s just that were much more organised and better equipped than the other two. I don’t want to brag, but as a company commander with 100 soldiers we used to win a good number of the battalion competitions. And it wasn’t that we were necessarily fitter than the other companies, it’s just that I used to get every soldier to try every sport/event, pick the best and then we’d train accordingly. And, more often than not, we’d win or come v close to winning. It’s about being better organised and then throwing money at the problem. So well done the UK – but I’d still rather remain in the EU, before you think I’m getting too jingoistic.

our place by the farm

What about the book? Well, I don’t know. I just don’t. With Unsuspecting Hero I can get an hourly update on book sales. You buy one – anywhere in the world – and I know 20 minutes later. With FtF I don’t know squat. I have no idea how many books I’ve sold, nor how many of you have downloaded a free book as a scout. I do know how many reviews I’ve had, and where I sit in the rankings (and you know both of those things by looking at the the Amazon web page). At the moment I’m having a discussion with Amazon as to how this might improve, but as they own the book I think I may have to wait until the end of the month. Month-on-month. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Heading off again tomorrow – southward. Hurrah!

A couple of days by the river…

C made the point that if you go somewhere you’ve been before and throw in some good weather, all of a sudden time slows down and you start to relax and enjoy yourself. That’s how we have found ourselves, now on our fourth day on a Stellplatz on the banks of the Mosel, a river we know reasonably well. Interestingly, though, not that often during the summer. And now, with Mrs Sun winning the Gold Medal in the Olympics weather stakes, we’re having a ball.

we walked up here

We left R&C’s on Tuesday night with the aim of catching an early morning ferry. The beauty with P&O is that even if you book a dog-early slot (for the cheapest price), if you turn up early and they have room they’ll slot you on. That’s what happened with us. As a result we were on the Calais Aire in good time for a half-decent nights kip. Wednesday, after a pop to Auchan for a quick breakfast and some fuel, in rubbish weather we drove and drove stopping at teatime on a motorway Aire in Belgium. Ordinarily this wouldn’t have been our bag, but with the Olympics providing must-watch telly, we didn’t notice that we were parked between two huge juggernauts.

We made it to the Mosel on Thursday and pretty much parked up on the first Stellplatz we found. Stellplatzs are the German equivalents of French Aires, and v good they are too. Most cost, but this is mid-summer and we are right by the river and it’s €11 a night which includes EHU. That’s a remarkable price and there are scores of Stellplatzs down the Mosel – it’s easy to find a slot.

Doris in top spot

We cycled 25 miles + picnic on Friday (cycle paths on both sides of the river) and yesterday we walked onto the other side of the river, climbed the hillside through the vines and did a circuit back to Doris in great walking weather. In between I have been skipping (a groin strain preventing me from running) and we have watched more Olympics than is probably good for us. Hasn’t it been fab again? I think the best point so far has been the girl who won a Silver in the trampolining. Did you see that? Wasn’t she fab? So surprised, so happy and so brilliant. I love it.

We still have no plan. That’s made it all very relaxing. We’re heading southeast, but don’t want to stray too far from a decent satellite signal with the Olympics broadcasting to next weekend. Currently we have a ferry booked for 9 September, as we are due at BBC 2’s party in the park in 11 September and then I’ve got work the following week. How lucky are we?

And an update on the book. It goes live on Tuesday. By then I hope to have about 15 reviews across all of the Amazon sites, and will go for a major Facebook advertising campaign on the same day. Hopefully the paperback will be out on the same day and Amazon, if they do what they say they’re going to do, will launch their own advertising campaign. I have a promise of around 50 reviews which should come in the next couple of weeks. So, unless I get a bellyful of reviews from people I don’t know, I think it’s unlikely that I’ll make 100 reviews in 3 weeks. But I am still trying.

That’s us, from an Olympic, sun-soaked Mosel valley. And all is well.

Billy no mates…

I’m pretty certain everyone is sick and tired of my going on about my books. C certainly has had it non-stop and I am not beyond stopping a stranger in the street and telling them how excited I am. Yesterday a friend of Mary’s popped round and told me her husband had just finished Unsuspecting Hero and was now onto Fuelling the Fire. That was it. She got my literary life history – and some. My friends are sick of it, well those who still call themselves my friend. I am an author bore. Official. No need to talk about it behind your hands. I know.

And when I’m not talking to people about it, I’m checking the many e-sites I have which tell me how things are doing, who I’ve been communicating with and reminding me that I am very dull. Facebook, my Facebook Page, four Amazon pages (UK, US, Canada and Australia), two Amazon author pages (UK and US), my UH sales figures (sold three book yesterday – yippee!, and two new reviews) and the number of hits on YouTube for the FtF trailer (146 last time I looked). Oh, and the stats for this site. Throw in the need to watch every second of the Olympics and I am a busy, but very dreary, man. I love it!

Now I know you want to know about Rebecca and Steven who flew to the Bahamas yesterday (and got there safely). That we took them to the airport with burgeoning suitcases and big smiles as they jetted off to a much better place. We are so pleased and excited for them. We have a family WhatsApp group (us and the Greens – Steven’s family). Bex called us on WhatsApp yesterday, clear as a bell. All seems well there.


But I want to share with you my latest (of 7 so far – okay, so a long way short of 100, but I am working on it) review of FtF. I do not know who this reader is: I enjoyed this book so much I immediately bought the first in the series. It interweaves special forces (SRR and SAS) action with SIS (MI6) intelligence gathering by its slightly quirky heroine, Sam Green. It’s an astonishing mix that will please fans like me of both Lee Child and Stella Rimington. The detail and obvious behind the scenes knowledge make for a compelling and deeply satisfying read yet the author has managed to sustain a fast pace that I found riveting and held my attention. I nominated this book for publication from an abstract on Kindle Scout and subsequently received a copy free two weeks before publication. I’m so glad that Kindle has now published it. It’s an absolute corker. How fab is that?

So, as you can tell, I am in marketing mode. I have emailed BBC Bristol and asked them if they think a local Kindle Scouter is a story. Doubtless Amazon will do something when they launch on 16 August, and I am going to use Facebook to advertise as soon as I have 10 reviews on the UK site (and similarly on the US site). And I have some other thoughts up my sleeve. For me though, the reviews give me real confidence that this is a book that people will enjoy if I can get it to them. I just need to do that.

Off to R&C’s tonight in Dover and then an early doors ferry to Calais tomorrow morning (£106 return for Doris – how good is that). Then four weeks of pottering, some marketing and, hopefully, a couple of chapters of book three. I’ll let you know a title when I have one.

Have a good one…

Almost on holiday…

Phew…! That’s that then. It’s been an amazing couple of weeks. To be honest, for a start-up summer school I wasn’t expecting much, but Johanna and her team really pulled it off. It was full on for the students and, for me, nine leadership lectures/seminars and a lecture on my time in Sierra Leone allowed me to prepare a lecture series which I can use anywhere as well as getting a lot of things straight in my head.

the staff…

the students…

Then there’s the book. I’ve only had two reviews so far, but both have been extremely positive. Tomorrow I start on my own marketing campaign getting as many of those who nominated FtF as possible to finish it and pen a review. The ambition is still 100 reviews in three weeks. It might be pie in the sky, but I’m determined to give it my best shot. The book goes live on 16 August, although you can preorder now. Unfortunately I can’t access any stats at the moment, so I’ve no idea how many of the scouts have downloaded the book, nor how many preorders there are. I have asked Kindle what’s what, but I’ve had no reply. If you wish to preorder, then please do so here:

I’m at Mary’s at the moment. C, Steve and Bex have just arrived fully loaded ready for their Bahamas expedition tomorrow. We’re taking them to the airport early doors, and they’ll be back for Christmas. Our aim is to fly over and see them in the Spring. That’ll be fun.

We’re off to Germany (via R&C’s) on Wednesday. The aim is to follow the sun for four weeks, whilst writing and marketing. I have just finished 140 personal emails/Linked In messages to people who I know voted for the book. I’d like to think half of those might end up penning a review. It’s not quite 100, but it’s a good start.

Oh, and we will try and recharge our batteries whilst we’re away. Hurrah!

Have a great week.