“Your headline may be too long.”

Wait a minute. The last headline was  five words longer and got 8,800 ‘likes’, so it can’t be that.

Maybe the reason I wasn’t getting the ‘likes’ was because the headline was shit? Or because the people I targeted were the wrong people?

Why do you always assume that the headline is too long? I agree that short headlines are easier to read and some writers think ‘brevity’ is a toasted sandwich at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, but stop sacrificing words.

Every time I submit a promotion for my book I am aware that it is not an exact science. So, I will experiment with target audiences and different messages until I find one that works.

If it doesn’t work, I bin it. If it does, I try something similar. With my own stuff I find ‘humour’ gets the most ‘likes’ and ‘clicks’ and ‘shares’.

It is all extremely fascinating. Short, clever headlines are a no-no. So are serious ones. Ones that ‘blatantly sell’ seem vulgar, even to me.

In advertising I am repeatedly told by designers and technology bods that they want short headlines so they don’t get in the way of the design or the functionality of a site.

I don’t beg to differ, I differ without your permission. A good headline will ‘pull’ as well as any design or whizzy-tech.

I now have all the facts and figures to prove it.

 

 

So, what you been up to? My neck in it

Why haven’t I been blogging as much as I used to? I’ve been busy. I know that it is no excuse for spending a few moments and dropping a few words down but my brain is as fried as a Scotsman’s Mars bar.

For those of you who don’t know, my second book is out and doing quite nicely thank you very much. I have to admit I was a little naive about the whole process when I published my first one and promised myself I wouldn’t be so ‘stupid’ this time.

I made sure I double-checked links, connections, artworks and all the stuff in the background. I’ve also been writing promotions and stuff that you wouldn’t believe.

Plus my diabetes has been a constant aggravation. I had to change doctors because they closed down the practice where I normally drag my frustrated butt to. This has meant I have had to sign on somewhere new and despite all my medical records being sent over they decided in their infinite wisdom that all the doctors before were making things up.

For the last month I have been going through a battery of re-tests which I only had performed the month before. More blood tests. More urine tests. More blood pressure tests. Retinopathy. And a ‘tickle’ test on my feet to make sure they were still alive.

And despite my records saying exactly what medications I am taking and in what quantities, they now want me to take the bottles and packets down to visit them.

Then there’s the automatic reordering process. Boots prescription service offers a repeat prescription option. Foolishly I ticked the box that requested it and since then the new doctor’s surgery and Boots can’t seem to talk together and agree what I need and when – I am constantly wandering in and being utterly flummoxed by their inability to communicate.

This is an ongoing situation which I hope one day will be resolved but for the moment I am walking between the two and kicking them both. Not angrily, but forcefully enough for them to remember my face and my complete frustration with the whole service.

This week I have to have two different blood tests at two different places with a whole ream of different request forms for each – don’t turn up without the right form I beg you, despite their insistence to take more blood they refuse to do it unless your order form is signed in triplicate and stamped by the practice.

And then the doctors wonder why my blood pressure is so high. So they want to check it again. And again. And again.

 

 

Sit me down. Wind me up. Off I go to the pub.

Huzzah! I have finally finished checking my new book through and collating comments, spellings, grammar and visual tweakings into one easily readable and ‘steps-to-take’ document.

A great sense of relief washed over me as I hit ‘send’. I sat back. Took a sip of green tea and wondered why I was drinking this vile liquid again – there are so many nicer teas and even more delicious pints of Guinness to be had elsewhere

But, it doesn’t stop there. I’m running my own advertising campaign on Facebook. Doing the same with Amazon. And I’m halfway through book three. Nasty stuff, that. Nastier than green tea, by far.

The rest of the afternoon will be taken up trying to come up with headlines for the next promotional campaign and analysing data gleaned from promotions.

In advertising agencies I used to complain that the creative department was treated like a production line. Anything that needed to be done was stuffed their way and they had to get on with it – the phrase ‘Just Fucking Do It’ was bandied around far too often

You could say it has been good training. I’m doing everything now. Writing, strategy, planning and telling myself to turn my own computer off and on when I have a technical problem.

It’s liberating in a way but occasionally I just want to get rid of all the other stuff and carry on writing. Sit me down, wind me up and off I go.

In fact, fuck it! I’ve reached a point in the day where to start something new is going to be a waste of time. Plus I’ve had enough of green tea. I’m off to the boozer. Who’s with me?

No one! Suit yourselves.

The good go to heaven. The dad can go to hell

Over the last few weeks I’ve been trying to put my thoughts in order. My book ‘Nothing Important Happened Today’ is starting to sell. My second novel ‘England’s Mean And Unpleasant Land’ is at the publishers and my third ‘God Save Us From The USA’ is well on its way.

Then this idea for a book about my dad wormed its way into my consciousness and my happiness has severely diminished. There is a direct correlation between the increase in my bad mood and the time I spend writing about my recollections of his behaviour.

In a way, I’m lucky, he only tried to strangle me once. I can’t remember the number of times he was screaming in my face apoplectic with rage over some small thing.

He occasionally talks with pride about an incident where a friend of his came up to him and said ‘Those two kids of yours are the best behaved kids I have ever seen”.

There’s a reason. I can’t speak for my brother but I was so terrified of dad’s rage I daren’t put a foot wrong.

And it wasn’t just my screw-ups I was afraid of. His road rage seemed to erupt every time we were in the car. Someone would cut him off and he was out the car rolling up his shirt sleeves shouting ready to beat the crap out of everyone. He was, and remains, such an angry man.

When I met my friends’ fathers I was surprised by how tolerant they were. How easily they didn’t fly into a rage when something went skew-whiff.

Or were they just like my dad who was all sweetness and light when his friends were around but a complete arsehole when they weren’t?

Writing all this down is probably good therapy for me, but at the moment it’s a fucking nightmare. It explains a lot about my behaviour and probably more about my lack of feeling today for the man who terrified me.

One good thing that has come of this is, I now recognise the ‘bullies’. I see my father’s face in every one. And I make sure they don’t get away with doing it to other people.

Continue reading The good go to heaven. The dad can go to hell

‘Never speak ill of the dad’

Me and my big brother have put up with a great deal over the years from Davies Senior. And the really annoying thing is, we seem to be the only ones who see what he is really like – like the little boy in the Emperor’s new clothes we’re pointing and shouting but this time no one is taking any notice.

Other people over the decades have said ‘your dad is all right’.  Or ‘he’s a good laugh’. Little do they know the full extent of dad’s behaviour. Or misbehaviour. It’s become the subject of a little back and forth between me and big brother because we are so exasperated by things he has said and done.

Of course I won’t air all our family’s dirty linen in public. Let’s just say that we’re in constant contact because what he says to one son doesn’t quite tally with what he says to the other.

In recent years he has become unsteady on his feet and is prone to a fall or two. Once he was pinned under the fridge/freezer for two days because he pulled the thing down on himself and we had to get the ambulance and fire brigade to break in and rescue him.

Of course, we insisted he carry his mobile with him at all times in case of such a problem but no, dad knows best. He insists he can get to the phone.

We’ve talked to social services about getting people to go round and visit. Maybe help him tidy up, make him a cup of tea, have a chin wag. Every time he has fired whoever has turned up or hidden from them.

A key-safe was installed so that if the worst should happen an ambulance driver could get to him in an emergency. Dad, in his infinite wisdom, removed the keys from the safe because ‘too many people know the number’.

(One time he fell I had to order him quite harshly to crawl to the door and unlock it so that the ambulance crew could get in.)

He moans that no one comes to visit him. There is a reason. He has alienated all his friends and most of his family. He refuses to speak to them.

For the last few years he has been in and out of hospital more times than the doctors and refuses to see there is a problem.

His last visit was to a halfway house where he stayed for two and a half weeks. He complained that it was full of old people and no one talked to him. (I talked to the nurse and she told me that he refused to talk to anyone else or even get involved in any of the activities that were taking place.)

Once again dad signed himself out and wanted to go home, explaining that he could look after himself and would walk home if they didn’t let him out.

All well and good, but me and big brother know that in a few days the phone calls would start again. And they did.

Since I live in London and my brother lives near dad, he bears the brunt of all this. I get the phone calls at stupid o’clock while my brother has to constantly put his life on hold because dad needs some shopping or can’t charge his phone or needs someone to help him off the settee or accuse us of stealing something.

I’m not mentioning half the stuff he does because no one believes that ‘such a sweet old man’ could be so Jekyll and Hyde. We’ve seen both. (It was terrifying to behold as a kid.)

Then we have the sad days when he says he wishes he was dead. My brother and I have both confided that at times we both wish he was dead. But we can’t say it to anyone else because they think we’re being unkind and uncaring.

We’ve both done everything in our power to try and make his life a little easier and he has spat it back in our faces. So now we save our criticisms of dad’s antics for one another.

My brother suggested I write a book about dad telling the full, unexpurgated version of his treatment of us, our mother, and other people.

I said I couldn’t do it while he was alive. He said you’ve got to do it at some point, it might help other people who have gone through the same thing.

That’s when I came up with the title ‘Never speak ill of the dad.’

And we both laughed. Because we both knew everyone else would say ‘You can’t say that about such a lovely fellow’.

We can. We know him. You don’t.

 

 

*Spoiler alert* They spoiled it for me

Recently, I’ve been watching the Walking Dead on my Kindle Fire mainly because I love the ‘x-ray’ function. Tap the side and all manner of trivia springs up to inform and delight.

Another great thing about it is, if you hear a music track you like, tap the side and it tells you the artist and the title. It’s brilliant. It’s like having a genius sitting next to you.

The problem with this genius is that the bastard knows too much. So, you’re always in danger of finding out something that destroys the ‘suspension of reality’ that the story demands.

(If, like me, you love the Walking Dead stop reading now. )

As I watched, this x-ray function casually informed me that petrol goes ‘off’. It loses its flammable properties. So all these cars driving around after the ‘zombie apocalypse’ wouldn’t happen.

I tried to ignore that fact and continue watching but there was that voice in my head muttering ‘It really wouldn’t happen that way, you know?’

Forget the implausible premise about the dead coming back to life and eating everyone else, the petrol factoid destroyed my enjoyment. And I’m sorry to share it. But it was nagging at me.

It was like watching one episode of the Big Bang Theory where Sheldon Cooper informs everyone that Raiders of The Lost Ark didn’t need Indiana Jones.

The Nazis would have opened the Ark of the Covenant and been reduced to dust with Indiana Jones not having to lift a whip, a revolver or a finger.

He could have just followed them and taken it when the Germans had been liquefied, dehydrated and desiccated.

Another of my favourite films destroyed by cold, hard logic. And don’t get me started on Lord of the Rings. apparently three tomes of legendary writing could have been reduced to a pamphlet if the logicians had their way.

Or you could go to the cinema with Dave Parsons: his ‘ Is it me, or does Wolverine look like Alvin Stardust? ruined the whole franchise.

I want to see the latest offering with Hugh Jackman as ‘Logan’. But I know I’ll have Alvin Stardust’s greatest hits going through the back of my mind.

Damn you, x-ray! And double-damn you, Parsons!

 

Mark Davies is the author of ‘Nothing Important Happened Today’ and the upcoming novel ‘England’s Mean And Unpleasant Land’.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mark-Davies/e/B01N1MT756/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1487356310&sr=1-1

“So, what do you do? Really!”

It’s a bit of a delicate subject. Talk to anyone in a pub and you really can’t believe a word. Some people will lie so badly that they would have you believe that they won the Falklands War, singlehandedly.

How can you refute their claims? Where is the evidence to dispute what they did, in what situation, and at what time?

Over the last few months, I have heard so many stories.

Much as I love a good revelation, and the possibility that I drink in the presence of a hero, there are too many people who claim too much.

What I have always found is, the people who don’t talk about what they do, and what they did, are the people who you really should talk to.

 

Introducing the Bar Tangled Spanners

Friday night was a bit of a mish-mash of things. The people over the way were moving out and all I could hear was lots of shouting and a general kerfuffle in the hallways as I tried to get my brain in gear to do some work.

Abandoning all my efforts I pulled on the coat and thought ‘fuck this for a game of soldiers’ and walked up to the Merton Manor where I knew Oliver Duggan and the Bar Tangled Spanners were playing that night.

To be fair, I had only seen them once before at the bandstand in Abbey Mills. They were doing a bit of an unplugged set and it was one of those pleasant Sunday afternoons with a few beers, some good people and some good music.

I had never seen them play a boozer before and plugged in and with some great low notes and a solid beat on the drums I was pleasantly surprised – after so many years of people saying come and see our band I had been a little cynical.

The band had me at ‘Highway to Hell’ followed by a version of Bryan Adams’s ‘When You’re Gone’. They switched easily from rock to pop with Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I will Survive’.

It was a tight little unit of musicians and a set list that ran the whole gamut of musical styles – of course when they did ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ I was a very happy drinker trying to sing along with them.

Of course I am biased when it comes to music but every song and style they dragged from their repertoire was performed professionally with flair and gusto. I left thinking ‘why do I not see these guys play more?’

If you ever get a chance, catch them in the act. The way they play is note-perfect and even those annoying young people were dancing in the aisles and shaking their booties. The old farts like me were standing at the back and yelling ‘more’ at the end of the evening.

Check out the Merton Manor on Fridays. It’s their local stomping ground and you can ocassionally find them there shaking the floor and bobbing a few heads in time to their infectious set list.

Thanks for a great night, guys. You made an old man happy. Next time can you play some ‘Bring Me The Horizon’, I would love to hear you play that. Or Motorhead, you have got to play some Motorhead. Or some Clash.

I’ll send you a list.

 

Depression isn’t funny. It’s not even sad

Everyone thinks the opposite of love is hate, but that’s wrong. The opposite of love or hate is indifference. They’re emotions, indifference is the lack of emotion.

Depression, or the version I went through, wasn’t about feeling sad. I had an absence of emotion. No happiness, no sadness just an empty vessel shambling from one doctor to the next and not really caring about anything.

How did I get into such a state? Quite simple, I was stressed at work, stressed at home and extremely stressed on the journey to and  from both places. My brain was under constant attack from anxiety until it ‘popped’. The fuses just blew and left me without power.

If it wasn’t for some timely intervention from some friends I don’t know where I would be right now.

The problem was, I hadn’t really noticed my steady decline. To be fair I have always had the feeling that everyone was ‘too happy’ and I couldn’t figure out why. If someone had spotted the signs during childhood maybe I wouldn’t have blown a fuse in later life.

What ‘depression’ did for me though was give me a whole new perspective on everything. My brain would fixate on any task. Everything had to be done perfectly or it wasn’t good enough.

I watched women getting on the bus and pondered why they didn’t get their Oyster cards out before the bus arrived instead of ferreting around hopelessly in their bags when they approached the driver.

I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to rush to get a free copy of the Metro at the tube station when you could download a copy at home before you even got to the underground.

These were just the tip of the iceberg. At work I was surrounded by situations that reminded me of how amoeba reacted to situations – stimulus=response – no one seemed to be thinking ahead and I was one of the people expected to deal with the day-to-day problems.

Looking back I find it amusing. If it wasn’t for my meltdown I would probably be blowing my top at all the little stupid things that people do and getting myself into a tizzy every time they happen.

Now I sit back and say nothing. It really shouldn’t be my problem. Then America goes and elects Trump and I find myself gnashing my teeth again. Time to buy more fuses.

 

The most murderous hoax in history

The hoax was created by General Pyotr Rachkovsky – head of the foreign branch of Russia’s Secret Police from 1884-1902.

Trying to win European support for Russia he decided they needed a common enemy and decided to make Jews the scapegoats.

A state-supported campaign against the Jews began – The Pogroms. The policy was that all Jews were to be either killed, converted or driven out of Russia.

Rachkovsky sent fake letters to the French press explaining that French terrorists were Jews, and began spreading the story that a secret Jewish cabal was planning to take over the world.

He also stated that he had found a written copy of the Jews’ master plan; the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

The truth was that he copied the text from a 19th century work of fiction and an anti-semitic novel by Herman Goedsche.

Many people believed the lie and the Protocols were published in newspapers in 1903 and in 1905 in Sergei Nilus’s new book.

Tsar Nicholas II, although anti-semitic, banned it and explained that the protocols were a fraud but when the Royal family were murdered in 1917, Tsarists found a copy of Nilus’s book.

Many believed the book was authentic and continued the Pogroms killing over 100,000 Jews.

After their defeat in 1921, white Russians spread the protocols outside Russia blaming their loss on Jews.

The book was translated with the British edition entitled ‘The Jewish Peril, an American version followed a few months later.

The Times of London exposed the fraud but in America car-maker Henry Ford extended the range of the hoax with his newspaper the Dearborn Independent with articles called ‘The International Jew’.

This coverage continued for years and helped the Independent become one of America’s largest newspapers.

In 1927, a lawsuit finally forced Ford to recognise that the Protocols were a sham, but the damage had been done. By then his articles had been reprinted in book form and translated into several languages.

After their defeat in World War I the Germans were quick to point the finger of blame at the Jewish community. German Foreign Minister was assassinated by right-wingers who believed he was one of the Elders of Zion,

Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf is thought to be influenced by Henry Ford’s ‘International Jew’ articles. Hitler studied the protocols avidly and publicly blamed Jews for the collapse of the German economy.

Hitler even hung a picture of Ford in his office and on Ford’s 75th birthday awarded him the Grand Cross of the German Eagle – the highest honour given to foreigners.

In the next eight years Hitler’s Nazis killed six million Jews. By the time of World War II the Protocols had become one of the most widely circulated written works in the world.

The succession of translations hid the hoax’s origins making the book seem more legitimate.

Despite the many times the hoax has been exposed the Protocols were later promoted by Libyan dictator Muammar El-Qaddafi and Uganda’s former leader Idi Amin.

It is thought that as long as people need a scapegoat, the Protocols will continue to resurface.

I’ve never been one to advocate book burning but this one deserves to deleted and destroyed by any means possible. Because someone somewhere will continue to believe the hoax.

 

 

Mark Davies is the author of ‘Nothing Important Happened Today’ and the upcoming novel ‘England’s Mean And Unpleasant Land’.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mark-Davies/e/B01N1MT756/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1487356310&sr=1-1