An open letter to Nicola Sturgeon (from a teacher desperate to love his job again).

A departure from book business today:

Ms Sturgeon.

I voted ’Yes’ in the Scottish referendum. I’ve voted SNP (as well as Labour, Lib-Dem and Greens) I’ll probably vote SNP again. I’ve even been a member.

I’ve admired you as one of the most socially-conscious (and shrewd) politicians of modern times for several years. I’ve also been a Secondary school teacher for almost sixteen years and I implore you, in the strongest possible terms; utilise the resources, the well of skills and experts you have at your disposal, and please, please save our education system from the disaster that is CFE.

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In last six years I’ve witnessed, and been unwilling party to, an unprecedented decline in the organisation and standard of Scottish education. Simply, the system as it stands is not fit for purpose. It is demoralising, hobbling and utterly failing the children in our care; as well as lowering attainment and widening social inequality in our pupils.

 

For my own subject, Biology, the vast changes made to date have resulted in a course that is unreasonably difficult, lacking opportunity for practical activities, far too prescriptive, overly concerned with inconsequential minutiae and extremely content-heavy. In its present form the Nat 5 Biology course is a joyless, intimidating and gruelling experience for those who choose to study it. Success in the course is also only achievable for the very best of our pupils, leaving students who would have formerly attainted at a Standard Grade 3 or even a 2, with little hope of passing, and in many cases, unable to even sit the final exam.

In implementing CFE, Teachers were put to the task of designing and writing courses for the new Nat 4 and Nat 5 qualifications with no clear guidance on standards, or assessment structure. This resulted in every department in every school in Scotland designing their own versions of this course. The pupils’ experience of Biology Nat 5 in Scotland will be vastly different in standard depending on where they attend school and the course-writing skills of their teachers.

The powers that be, not happy with furnishing teachers with an ill-conceived structure and content, have further compounded this basic failure by changing that content and structure continually for the last five years. This means teachers haven’t taught the same material two years running yet.

This affects pupil experience in a drastic way. We simply don’t have the experience of the courses to suitably prepare our kids. On many occasions the course guidelines have been changed at the mid-way point of the year, severely hobbling the teachers’ ability to advise the pupils, and the pupils’ ability to pass the criteria demanded.

With Standard Grade, each pupil had an opportunity to sit exams at two levels, a chance to have a good day and attain a higher grade than they’d perhaps demonstrated throughout the year. With National 5, a large portion of our kids simply aren’t permitted to sit the final exam, dropping instead to the coursework-based Nat 4.

In an ideal world the National 4 qualification would be recognised as well-earned. The kids do indeed have to work to gain this award. The skills and knowledge needed to pass national 4 Biology are comparable to a good general grade pass under the old system. Despite this, as National 4 is currently unexamined, employers fail to recognise this achievement, and frankly so do the pupils’ themselves. National 4 is essentially the equivalent of a Grade 3 in Standard grade, but isn’t valued at all. Indeed, some of the kids pigeon-holed into Nat 4 would’ve been permitted, not just a general exam under the old scheme, but also a go at credit. Some may have stretched themselves and attained a grade 2. Now they don’t even sit the exam. Instead, they are in effect categorised as not academic and sat to one side as the certificate kids get taught how to pass the exam. This elitist approach is counter to any good teacher’s desire to provide the best opportunity for our children to succeed. I didn’t become a teacher to tell a portion of my kids hey aren’t good enough to sit an exam.

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Teaching in schools is a special privilege and a role that I’ve felt honoured to perform for most of my adult life. I love my job. I love being a good teacher and giving the kids the best chance I can provide for them to reach their potential and move onto the next phase of their lives with the academic and social skills I’ve assisted them in developing. Most teachers feel this way. At least they tell themselves they do because that’s the way they’ve felt in the past. Until CFE.

Today, right now in schools across Scotland, teachers are losing morale on a scale I’ve never seen and didn’t think could happen.

The current conditions for teachers are so gruelling that we are beginning to hate, to dread, stress over and now depart a role we loved so much but are growing to hate the manner in which we have to perform it. It’s not easy to demotivate teachers in this way, we’re virtually pre-programmed to toil on in hard times and make the best of our working conditions, because we need to perform at our best for the children in our care. We’re good at making do. Still, CFE has succeeded in making us feel as though we’re failing our pupils continuously.

No-one likes to feel like they’re failing, not at home and not at work. That feeling is especially crushing for teachers who have so many young people depending on their guidance. Knowing that you are not being permitted to do your job to the best of your ability is devastating to a teacher’s morale.

This isn’t a bleat from a teacher about pay, workload or lack of development time to write and rewrite courses continuously. It’s a simple fact. Teachers are demoralised, stressed and being ground down because we know that we are not doing the best that we can for the kids in our care.

We are being prevented by a sub-standard curriculum and never-ending bureaucracy from educating our kids properly. We are failing these kids. That is why we are growing to hate the job and the system that is forcing us to work so much less skilfully and effectively than we should be.

This is why teachers are leaving the profession. This is why prospective young teachers are taking one look at the profession and deciding against it, and why schools are struggling to fill key vacancies as evidenced by Trinity High’s recent attempt to recruit parent helpers. 

Recruiting a slew of young teachers trained for five weeks in the summer will not even begin to fix this. The issues with recruitment and retention of teachers stems from the fact that we are not empowered to do our jobs effectively.

Nicola, you must turn your face from the never-ending cycle of sound-bites, argument and counter-argument and endless campaigning, and begin to address the logistic and practical mess that CFE has become.

I implore you, recruit actual, practicing teachers, rather than educationalists to provide solutions for the current issues. Get them in a room and use their insight and expertise to fix the massive problems with CFE and give the children of Scotland an opportunity to enjoy and benefit from an education that will engage them in an inclusive way.

The disparity between the opportunities being offered to children from differing backgrounds, affluence, and academic ability is a disgrace. We must have more equality in the system. We absolutely require a school system that makes its children feel valued and provided for. That empowers its teachers to do the job to the standard we know is required and is not currently being attained.

What we require, right now, is a genuine, honest to God, fit for purpose education that all children can access. Head teachers, Principal teachers and classroom teachers (and many others across local authorities) are working very hard to try to make the best of CFE, but we need help. A lot of it.

Simply give us the means to do the best we can for our children. We don’t mind working hard for those kids. We generally thrive on that pressure. That teachers are losing heart, motivation and morale should scream loudly to your government how futile our efforts seem to us and how concerned we are that our education system is utterly broken.  

Let us do our jobs properly. Let us love being teachers again.

Mr Wilson

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Further reading.

http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/schools-facing-major-crisis-as-teachers-reach-breaking-point-1-4559526

All views are my own and do not represent the views of fife Council or Dunfermline High School.

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Marketing and Promo for ‘On The Seventh Day’

I’m not a marketing or promo expert, not by any estimation.

Whilst I kind of enjoy marketing, I hate promo. I really, really hate it. So much so that I haven’t done any significant promo on my last three books (since dEaDINBURGH: Vantage for anyone who cares).

 

Why?

I find that most book promo is repetitive, exhausting, uninspired, tantamount to begging in some cases and very often fruitless.

For me, Twitter is the least effective way to promo a book and comparable to throwing pieces of paper into the wind with your book name on one side and ‘pwease buy my bwook’ on the other.

 

Unfortunately, at some point, promo is necessary. With my latest release, On The Seventh Day, I accepted the inevitable need to promo, and sat down to have a think about how I could make the process more tolerable for me, engaging for potential readers, able to generate somewhat of a buzz, and perhaps even enjoyable.

I wanted to engage people, not panhandle the fuck out of them.

 

Having recently launched the book (on 15th November 2015), with a two month pre-order period, I feel the most positive I ever have about the promo process and had a tremendous amount of fun during it.

 

For the first time, I feel I’ve succeeded in making readers part of the process without selling to them and have generated more interest in the book than I would have with a more conventional promo process, eg, blurb, quote-tweet/Fb repeat. Press releases, review chasing, advertising etc.

Has it had a significant impact on sales? Ask me in a few days for a yes or no (I don’t share sales numbers publicly, mainly because I think it’s crass as fuck to do so). So far, I’ve had better first day sales, and I’ve had a lot worse, but I’ve never enjoyed the promo and launch experience more.

 

Below are some of the steps and strategies I took and employed:

 

 

Marketing:

Marketing on this novel had been a bit of a no-brainer. As the novel is essentially a split between a comedic plotline (second coming of Jesus) and a more theological plotline (Satan relaying the history of creation and evolution and being mankind’s representative in Heaven), I had a firm idea of how to market and whom to early on.

 

7th day was always going to be a love/hate book, simply because the strong language, religious irreverence (and sometimes disdain), mixed with fairly in-depth evolution and theological discussion isn’t gonna be everyone’s cup of tea.

 

I placed it in the satire, dark comedy, religious fiction, mashups, alternative history and parody sections. And then wrote a product description that was deliberately inflammatory (to certain people) and reflective of the novel’s plot, whilst containing keywords I hope will bring in readers searching for similar works. Time will tell on the effectiveness of this.

 

Blurb:

“God hates you. Regardless of religion, race, sex, sexuality or nationality. He hates all of you. Basically, you are fucked.”

Irreverent dark humour from the author of Lanarkshire Strays and the dEaDINBURGH series.

God is pissed off.

He has run out of patience with humans and decided that our time is over. We’ve had our chance and it’s back to the drawing board. “Fuck the lot of them” is his newest gospel.

Mo, and Jay, best friends who’ve fucked up in the past, beg him for one more chance to get the humans back on track. Alongside Mr Saluzar, the head of a global charity foundation, and Nick, The Fallen Angel, they hurtle towards Armageddon and their one chance to prove God wrong.

They have seven days to save us.

On The Seventh Day contains strong language and religious irreverence which some may find offensive.

Praise for On The Seventh Day:

“If Irvine Welsh’s ‘Glue’ got The Bible up the duff, you’d have On The Seventh Day.”

“Seventh Day is the book that John Niven’s ‘The Second Coming’ desperately wanted to be and failed.”

 

I figured that the language and (apparent) blasphemy in the blurb would keep away the kind of reader who wouldn’t enjoy the book, or piss them off enough to leave a shitty review without having read the book, which for me is promo gold.

 

Cover and images for marketing and for promo came next.

I designed a few different covers using images from stock image sites. Here’s a few examples and the final cover:

 

 

I brought in my usual beta-readers but invited some readers who were religiously-minded as well as those who would enjoy the more comedic elements.

I had a proper mixed bag of comments, which was to be expected and no doubt will reflect reviews to come.

Normally I engage half a dozen or so beta-readers who I know will give me brutal and constructive feedback. With 7th Day, I had fifteen people beta-read. As always some did not make a return, but only three failed to do so, not a bad return. As a result I’m two days after launch with 12 honest reviews already live for the book.

 

8 of these were up whilst the book was still on pre-order. To do this, you need to have the paperback available, pre-order kindle books cannot be reviewed.

 

I’m still undecided on whether having the book on pre-order helps or harms launch sales. With this book I enjoyed the process and most of it wouldn’t have been possible without the pre-order in place, so I guess it paid off this time in terms of building engagement and enjoyment. I’ll try a future release without the pre-order for comparison.

 

As I always do, I ran a few ideas by my writing-wife, Bracha, as well as including links to his book in the rear matter of mine. We do this as a standard cross-promo. Does it help? See how closely we are linked on amazon for your answer.

 

The lad Bracha and I have also been waiting for a while to put together a Double A-Side type project. Bracha’s The Switched and my, On The Seventh Day have mated and are available as a collected edition titled Parental Guidance: A Transgressive Double A-Side.

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Cover by Ryan Bracha

 

Will the extra exposure affect sales in a positive or negative way? Time will tell. For the meantime we’ve a happy coupling of novels, producing a demented bastard child to hopefully help drive traffic to each other’s work.

 

Promo:

 At the beginning of the writing process I had a good idea of the overall plot of the

Novel. This isn’t always the case, more often than not I sit down with a vague concept and see where it goes. The advantage in having a better idea of the overall story allowed me to plan ahead and begin engaging readers early in the process.

 

I’ve made a habit over the years of using (with permission) real people’s names for characters. I feel it makes the books more meaningful to me and gives friends and families a connection to the book, that personally I love, and in the market place means they assist in an honest and enthusiastic manner when promo time comes.

 

An important plot mechanism for the novel is the reaction to events on social media.

I wanted these reactions to feel real and asked reads and friends to allow me to use their twitter handles in the novel to compose ‘fake’ tweets that appear in the book.

On launch day I asked these people to tweet their ‘fictional’ tweet to my fictional character (Jesus), who I’d named after a real person (Garry Crawford). Each tweet was directed to Gaz’s twitter account as he is the main character in the book.

 

The tweet team also tweeted some outraged comments about the book to organisations like Westboro Baptist, just for the fuck of it.

 

I really enjoyed taking the fictional tweets and seeing them tweeted in reality and the readers emailed me many times saying how thrilled they were to be part of the process and have their tweets appear in as such a significant plot point in the novel also. I think it gives the reader an ownership of the book, which is great, all readers should feel that way to an extent when reading, but to have a personal attachment to a book, took it to another, more personal place. Business-wise this gives me a team of people who are invested in helping promote my book I wouldn’t otherwise have had. Better still, they have an honest love for the book, which is fucking priceless.

 

As always, I wove a few short-stories, featuring people I know, into the overall plot and narrative also.

 

Essentially, I’ve been able to take a back seat and allow other people’s excitement at the project form a more natural buzz about the book than would normally be accomplished.

 

During the writing process I also created a few promo images with quotes from the book and some blog posts with early extracts. Standard stuff for me when I’m in the writing phase. Occasionally I’d make a trailer also, but not for this book.

 

As always, I ran a giveaway on Goodreads. In the past, these have ranged from 2500 entrants to 250 for my books.

Why bother?

Mainly to raise the book’s visibility whilst it is on pre-order, but also so that I can then contact around 50% of the entrants (those most likely to enjoy the book and review it, based on their reading history) after the giveaway has ended and offer them a free kindle or pdf copy of the book as a consolation prize.

This is not something I would do on Goodreads in the normal run of things, but after a giveaway I have a list of people who were interested in my book, so I’d be a fool not to use that information.

Typical uptake is around 40% with around a 60% actual return from that pool in terms of reviews.

 

I also research and approach readers who have read similar books to mine, but am very careful to select only those readers that I genuinely believe will enjoy the book, based on their reading habits. General I find a book that I like and is a similar read.

 

This strategy has been key to review building on my dEaDINBURGH series, but I use it only on specific books and carefully targeted readers. A scattergun approach is futile and annoying to readers. Do not piss off Goodreads reviewers.

 

As well as this, I set up an event page for an online launch on FB.

Uptake was pretty good, but I was careful to never actually try to sell the book on the event page.

Instead I shared daily pictures and stories and memes, all poking fun at religion. Lots of comments and engagement came, and those involved were into the satire, having never been sold to.

Every person commenting or liking these posts in the event, was helping me promo across their newsfeed as the likes and comments, obviously popped up in their newsfeeds.

Here’s a selection of images I used and people posted in the event page:

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I also ran a competition to win a Kindle fire HD7, some signed paperbacks and kindle editions of the novel. I took a FB Ad for this (£20), a ‘Like and Share’ deal. Engagement was good and clicks (and subsequent sales) more than covered the cost of the prizes (which I’d sourced cheaply).

 

This for me was a much more engaging and genuine way to get people to share my link around and again made those participating feel a part of the buzz that was building.

 

Overall I’m delighted with the fun I had promoting On The Seventh Day and have come out of it having generated some positive buzz, increased visibility of my back catalogue as well as the new book (definite sales bounce on my other titles despite a price increase) and most importantly, I don’t feel jaded simply because I have been having fun and not selling at people for weeks on end.

Will any of the promo or marketing actually affect sales in the short or long term?

Fuck knows. Writers don’t like to admit that a breakout novel is likely a result of bundles of cash being invested or pure blind luck combined with fortunate product placement or inking to larger works.

 

Having said that, if 7th Day is an international bestseller, I’ll be talking shit about how great my marketing and promo was and giving my own genius full credit for the ‘success’.

 

Mark is the author of eight fiction works and one non-fiction book. You can find Mark and his books at Paddy’s Daddy Publishing or at Amazon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Undercover by Gerard Brennan – Review

Undercover by Gerard Brennan.

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I’m not a crime-thriller sort of reader and find them to be generally fairly formulaic; but having devoured Gerard Brennan’s ‘Wee Rockets’ and ‘Wee Danny’ back to back, I picked up Undercover, confident that Brennan’s writing would see me through.

Pacey, smart and entirely driven by Brennan’s skilful narrative style and insightful characterisation, Undercover has more heart than a butcher’s window and the makings of a great series of novels in its main Character, Cormac Kelly.

Harbouring none of the clichéd mannerisms, foibles or ghosts of his pulp-noir peers, Kelly (whilst engaging and very much the focus of the story) is used (wisely) sparingly at times by Brenan, who carefully switches narrative perspective and allows his story’s ‘victims’ to come to the fore. This allows the potentially minor characters to show all their own strengths and weaknesses and truly affect the outcome of the relentless tale. Each is given time to develop and show their courage and cowardice, fears and strengths; and drive Kelly through the narrative.

Lydia, Rory, and young Mattie are all given central roles in the story and fully-fleshed characters. The ‘supporting cast’ are very much driving Kelly through their world, rather than being utilized as mechanisms for placing Kelly in various perils. I found this refreshing.

I’m a convert to Brennan’s style of crime novel and can’t recommend this book highly enough.

You can find Gerard Brennan and his books at Amazon, US and UK.

Undercover is published by Blasted Heath.

Sneak Preview – Nae’body’s Hero- Meet Frank

Having just passed Chapter 38 on my upcoming novel I thought I’d preview a little more of the book. In the following excerpt we meet Frank McCallum, My main character Rob’s foster-father and all round great-guy. That’s wi I called him after the real Frank.

Here’s a preview from Chapter 4:

The following is copyrighted to Mark Wilson 2012

Two hours was plenty of time to complete the tasks he’d done this morning. They might take Mr McCallum all day, but he was a fit and healthy sixty five years old to Rob’s even more sprightly fourteen years. Besides, Rob had sprouted and filled out in the few years he’d worked the farm, standing well over six feet of broad and lean muscle. It was just another characteristic that set him apart and isolated him from his peers at the local school.

Physical tasks around the farm were so easy for him that it was laughable and helped him feel good about himself as he saw it as a small way to repay the love that the McCallums had shown him.

Rob had come to live with the McCallums, Frank and Mary, just over three years ago after being circulated through a couple of care homes and one foster family. The small, self-sustaining farm was near the city of Durham and felt like another world when compared to his memories of Bellshill. This was a good thing so far as Rob was concerned. He’d much rather never to set foot in his hometown again if he had any say in the matter. Frank and Mary had officially retired in their mid-fifties but as an ex-marine and a former teacher, Frank and his wife found it difficult to accept the slow pace of retiral and had bought the farm to keep them busy. They’d also been fostering kids on shirt-term placements for a few years before taking in Rob on a more or less indefinite basis. Mr and Mrs McCallum were wonderful and Rob was very grateful to have been found by such a patient, open and loving couple.

Cara had also been fortunate to be placed with a fairly wealthy family in Edinburgh. The Graham’s were lovely people and Cara loved living with them. The only problem was that the twins almost never had the opportunity to see each other. Weekly phone calls (always on a Thursday at seven o’clock), was the best that they could manage at present. The few hundred miles of A1 that separated them may as well have been a million miles, but Rob knew that time would pass and bring independence, a driving license a job and money. Cara and he would be together again soon enough and in the meantime they had both landed on their feet with the families they’d been accepted into.

Rob sighed as he watched the sun come up and thought again about whether or not he should talk to Mr McCallum about his fantasies. If anyone could help him it’d be Frank but it was too big a worry. What if the McCallums decided he was a loony and asked him to leave? No….he’d figure it out alone. Rob heard the cockerel crow which meant the Mr McCallum would be awake shortly. “Beat you again Lester” He laughed to himself and started the short work back to the farmhouse.

“So, you’ve been doing my work again have you, lad?” Mr McCallum asked in his thick Geordie accent, trying to sound angry.

Rob loved the local accent as it sounded like a more musical version of his own to his ears. “Aye, sorry Mr McCallum, you’ll just have to find something else to do with the day.”

Frank lowered his little rectangular reading glassed and shot Rob a disapproving look. “I’m perfectly capable you know, son. Ah’ don’t need you doing everything for me.”

“Ok Mister McCallum” Rob told him. “I’ll make sure you’ve plenty left to do tomorrow morning.”

“Aye, right, son” Frank didn’t believe a word…Don’t you sleep?…..And call me Frank for Christ sake.”

Rob smiled at the older man’s fake outrage, stuffed the last of his third bacon roll into his mouth, picked up his bag and headed for the door.

Mary who’d been sitting laughing began clearing plates, but Rob about-turned and took them from her along with all the others on the table. Smiling at Rob she told him, “Thanks, son. Have a good day at school.”

“Aye, try to actually talk to some kids today, eh?” Frank added with a grin.

Rob slung his backpack over one shoulder and headed out the door, “Aye, ok I’ll do that. Love you both, bye.”

“Love you too, son.” Both McCallums chimed.

Mary headed to the sink to begin cleaning the dishes, squeezing Frank’s shoulder as she passed. “Great laddie that one. When do you think he’ll tell wae’ what’s bothering him?”

Franks grunted in agreement as he finished the last of his coffee. “He’ll tell us when he needs to Mary. He knows we’re here for him.”

Mary watched Rob’s back disappear down the driveway from the window. “Hmmm. Suppose so. He’s deep thinker that boy.”

Frank pulling his boots on replied “He’s grand Mary, don’t worry about him.”

School was the usual exercise in patience for Rob it had always been. Even at his old school in Bellshill, surrounded by people he’d known his whole life and with his best friend at his side, Rob was the eternal outsider in his heart. Here in this Durham Secondary school full of kids he couldn’t begin to relate to, he’d retreated into himself more than ever. He’d become mister grey in the school’s corridors, unnoticed by most despite his huge stature. He was quite happy to drift through the days taking what he could from the day’s lessons and keeping to himself on the fringes of the various peer groups.

When he’d first arrived at the school, the kids had been friendly enough, inviting him along to sit with them or join them at rugby or football, but you can only turn down invitations so many times before they’d stop asking. His status as a foster kid, his size and his accent were all enough to set him apart, to make him different in an age group where being different, standing out, was the last thing you wanted; add those to his tendency to isolate himself and it didn’t add up to many friends. This suited Rob fine, he was content to be mister grey, mister unnoticed by the other kids. These days they left the big, weird kid foster-kid alone to sit on the stairs and read his books.

On this particular day Rob was quite happy to be at school instead of on the farm as the McCallum’s grown-up son, Frank Jnr was visiting. Over the years Rob had learned to stay out of Young Frank’s way and always made a point of being busy when he knew the man would visit.

Young Frank was in his late thirties and a government worker of some sort. Rob wasn’t really sure what he did for a living but guessed it was nothing good, probably a tax or debt collector. Whilst his parents were the warmest and most generous people Rob had known in his short life, young Frank was surly, rude, bad tempered and mean to his parents and to Rob.

He made a habit of making snide remarks to Rob whenever they were alone and flat-out ignoring the boy when the elder McCallums were present.  It was an odd feeling seeing the obvious malice and anger on a younger version of Mr McCallum’s face which itself was always so peaceful and kind. Young Frank always dressed in the same brown tweed three-piece suit and chewed vicious-smelling eucalyptus sweets continuously. The sickly-sweet smell lingered in the farmhouse along with a very obvious downturn in the mood of the house’s occupants long after young Frank’s visits ended.

On Frank’s most recent visit to the farm he’d had a massive argument with his parents in the living room. Rob listened from the staircase in the dark hallway outside. He did not like the man one bit but was most hurt by the disdain he showed the elderly McCallums. He was positively cruel to them and they were too nice to be treated by that by anyone, let alone their own son.

Needing a drink of water, Rob had crept through the darkness of the hallway towards the kitchen, but timed his trip badly as young Frank came crashing through the living room door just as Rob approached. Frank shoved him violently out of his way, Rob jumping most of the way in fright at Frank’s sudden appearance. Frank, who had continued barrelling towards the front door, stopped suddenly as something occurred to him then turned and walked menacingly towards Rob.

Reaching the boy he said quietly to him. “You’re the one whose parents left in the middle of the night.”

It wasn’t a question and Rob didn’t give a reply, he just looked at his own feet.

“Yeah, you’re that one. Smart people your parents. Obviously saw what a waste of space you are. Just a stray really, aren’t you?”

Rob’s eye’s misted but he wouldn’t give Frank what he wanted. To make him cry. Instead he just lifted his head to glare at the older man.

Young Frank nodded towards the living room. “Those two old duffers will see through you too eventually you know. Nobody needs a kid like you hanging around. Bad luck, that’s what your type always brings.”

Young Frank turned and walked towards the front door again, tossing one final remark over his shoulder as he left. “I expect you’ll be gone by my next visit.”

Rob went to bed that night mind racing. He knew that Frank was using his insecurities against him, that he’d just set out to upset him. It didn’t matter though, how many times he told himself that, the little voice inside him, the part that hated himself whispered to Rob that every word was true. The McCallums would ask him to go soon.

Rob had asked Mr McCallum after the encounter what he’d done to annoy young Frank. “It’s not you he’s angry at, son, It’s me. I wasn’t always a terrific father to Frank.”

Rob didn’t push for more. He could see that Mr McCallum was upset, so he decided to stay out of young Frank’s way whenever he was on the farm and give him one less target.

In a hurry to spend some time fishing with Mr McCallum, Rob took a shortcut home to the farm, after school had ended for the day, through Neville’s farm and Moses’ field. As he made his way to the edge of the bull’s enclosure he saw Frank’s tractor parked in his own field. Frank had a tool bag and was fixing the old water pump that supplied the cattle’s trough near the edge of the field nearest his own farmhouse. Lifting his head Mr McCallum noticed Rob heading his way and gave him a wave before turning back to the pump. Rob waved back and then stopped dead. The gate leading to the McCallum’s field was open. Broken off the weak hinges he’d spotted earlier it now lay in the mud covered in footprints. Moses.

Still walking towards the gate Rob scanned the McCallum’s field. He spotted Moses, still looking pretty steamed, behind a little knoll off to Mr McCallum’s rear and to his left. Rob wasn’t particularly worried at first. Frank would hear the bull coming from a good distance and get himself to safety. It was as he thought this that Rob noticed two things.

The tractor’s engine, right beside Mr McCallum, was still noisily idling away, drowning the noise of Moses hoofs. Worse, Moses had decided that Frank was a good outlet for his pent up frustrations and was hurtling towards the old man in a charge at high speed and Frank was oblivious.

Nae’body’s Hero is almost complete and wil be available by February 2013.

You can by my debut novel “Bobby’s Boy” on paperback or Kindle here:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bobbys-Boy-ebook/dp/B007SGTHVC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1353085510&sr=8-1