Friday, 29 April 2011

April comedy round-up...

April calendar
Diary of a stand-up comedian Entry #15
So I had two more gigs in April, both at Comedy Bin venues. The first was at The Carnivale in Whitechapel on April 18, and the second was last night in Clapham at The Alchemist.

The Carnivale is a good little venue with a good stage area to perform, but you also have a balcony upstairs where people eat, probably wondering what the hell is going on downstairs as they chow down on their burger and chips. There was a good sized crowd, but they were quiet so it was difficult to learn anything. However, in saying that I got to see the very funny Mark Diamond and Harriet Kemsley again, as well as a fella called Guy Manners who was on top form, and the singing MC Gwilum Argos!

Last night it was a smaller crowd in Clapham hosted fantastically by Aatif Nawaz, but the atmosphere was good. I tried out some new stuff and it went well. Onwards and upwards!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Advice for Indie Authors: eBooks & The London Book Fair

The London Book Fair, Advice for Indie Authors,
I sat on the tube this morning and read with great interest the headline story in the Metro titled Ebook piracy ‘is colossal threat’ – especially after my visit to the London Book Fair last week.

During my visit to the Earls Court show, I took in a Self-Publishing Masterclass seminar, and the full extent of the eBook revolution was laid out with some impressive stats:
  • Amazon now sell more eBooks than physical books for its top 1,000 titles
  • In 2010, Amazon sold more Kindles than printed copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  • There are 115 eBooks sold for every paperback
So it is perhaps not a great surprise that eBooks are now suffering the same fate as the music industry did when iPods and MP3 players first took off. However, it is not all bad news. As Leila Dewji, editorial director at Acorn Independent Press Ltd, said during the presentation: “During this same period of growth for eBooks, paperback and hardback sales have increased.’

And it was only last week in a article that self-publishing giant said it expects its print-on-demand sales to grow almost as fast as eBooks.  Self-publishing is a global phenomenon, and not only is this good news for the printing industry, but it is great for indie authors like me.

I spoke with Danny Bowman, marketing manager at Pen Press Ltd where I am publishing my first novel, and he said:

“The energy of this year’s book fair was palpable, with representatives of many fine companies visiting our stall and visibly keen on getting involved with us. While all our titles received a great deal of interest, it was fascinating to note that Party People by David Jamilly was a very popular focus point for rights’ buyers from the Asian Pacific Market.”

“Also very noticeable this year was the sheer amount of authors stopping by to express interest in our services. We found on perusing some of the samples shown to us that the overall quality of these authors was very high indeed. Several of the authors we spoke to had, in fact, been published by mainstream houses before but were keen to consider self-publishing with the flexibility and artistic control this option affords. This just goes to show that self-publishing continues to shed the stigma that has previously been attached to it and becoming an increasingly popular choice for those serious about getting their books read.”

Digital technology is certainly revolutionising the book printing industry, as PrintWeek editor Darryl Danielli pointed out in his comment piece on Friday. Self-publishing has given book printing a new lease of life, and clearly this is being recognised by some of the major players in the digital sector, with both HP and Kodak exhibiting at the London Book Fair for the first time this year.

At the Dispelling the Myths of Self-Publishing seminar, Simon Potter from Fast Print said: “Authors are now in control of their own destiny and technology has allowed this change. Print on Demand is taking over the publishing world. In the US, more than half of the books published were self-published.”

HP put on a series of seminars to highlight the printing capabilities of their digital technology, including a talk from Teresa Pereira from Blurb, who highlighted the affordable nature of self-publishing for things such as photobooks. Kodak, meanwhile, had an impressive display of POD samples. For someone like me, it was exciting to see the quality of a self-published product – it makes the whole purpose of self-publishing more worthwhile to know that a product I created will be printed to the highest possible standard.

Today I emailed the final copy of my manuscript to Pen Press. Over the next few weeks, all of the hard work that goes into creating a successful printed product will engulf my life. And I can’t wait!

This blog was originally posted on

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Lad Lit Book Reviews: Blow by Bruce Porter

Books For Men Book Reviews - Blow by Bruce Porter
After watching the film of the same name in which Johnny Depp depicts drug smuggler George Jung, I found myself wondering if I too should put together a high-scale cocaine smuggling operation. After all, it seemed like fun. All those parties, traveling to exotic locations, marrying Penelope Cruz. What is there not to like about it?! Okay, there is the small case of incarceration in one of America’s most notorious prisons, so before I jump at setting myself up with some unsavory Colombian friends, maybe I should explore this little venture in a bit more detail.

And that has how I found myself reading Bruce Porter’s account of How a Small-Town Boy Made $100 Million with the Medellin Cocaine Cartel and Lost It All and here is a quick spoiler – I won’t be following up on any of those dreams of starting up my own magic Charlie (minus the chocolate) Factory.

George Jung is and was a charismatic character, who lived a spectacular life, before his spectacularly major f*ck-up at the end which saw him finally locked up for pretty much the rest of his days (he was sentenced to 60 years although he is eligible for release in November 2014). And this was the real reason I wanted to read the book – I wanted to know what happened to the man who had everything but threw it all away (even if he did get it by breaking the law!). This was, after all, a man who at one point was responsible for 90% of the cocaine smuggled into America. In layman's terms, that's a shit load of coke!

The pace of the book starts off slow, with perhaps a bit too much detail and opinion from Porter on Jung’s middle class upbringing in Massachusetts as a star high school football player. But the action starts to move along at a quicker pace once Jung arrives at university and embraces himself in the hippy 60s culture of smoking weed. But where others saw peace and love, George saw a profit and before long he was smuggling marijuana up and down the country. Even his first arrest and imprisonment didn’t deter the young man known as Boston George, especially when your cellmate happens to be mates with Pablo Escobar and offers you an in to his Medellin Cartel.

Carlos Lehder – Jung’s German/Colombian cellmate who helps open up the door to vast wealth and piles of cocaine that would make Tony Montana enviously sulk in the corner – is the catalyst for Jung’s rise and downfall. From living in a mansion where the walls are stashed with $100 bills to car-bombs and a heart-attack by his mid-30s due to too much cocaine abuse (not to mention flying out to meet Escobar and watching him execute a man), it all takes its toll on Jung who spirals out of control in a wave of paranoia and betrayal.

The rest, without going into too much detail and perhaps ruining it for anyone wants to give this a read, is a colourful and often toxic cocktail of the highs and lows Jung faced as millions of dollars poured through his hands as he single-handedly made cocaine the fashionable drug for many Americans during the 70s and 80s. Porter has done his homework, and goes into great detail to fill in a lot of gaps the film missed out. It is this insight that offers the reader so much more than depth to the complex character of George Jung; a sort-of modern-day Robin Hood until that inevitable ending when he lets the reader down just when you have bought into that fairytale.

Blow is an extraordinary story of greed and power, and ranks alongside our very own Mr Nice Howard Marks as one of those old school drug lords that you just can't help but like. No happy endings here, but one hell of a roller coaster that will throw you off the tracks at a 100mph!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

The comeback kid!

Comeback Kid
Diary of a stand-up comedian Entry #14
After the horror show at The Railway last week, it was nice to get back up on the stage and put that gig to bed. Last night it was back to the Cavendish Arms and I'm pleased to say things went well.

Openmic Matt was on hand to film the set as proof that I can get a bit of a laugh out of a crowd. It wasn't enough to get the Stockwell audience to 'buy me a drink' Cavendish Arms style, but it was enough to make me feel that things were back on track.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Advice for Indie Authors: The incredible journey starts here...

The Gutenberg Bible - the first book ever printed!
Did you know that way back in the 1450s, The Gutenberg Bible was the first book printed with a movable type printing press, and marked the age of the printed book?

Of course you did; you took a degree in the history of the print industry right? How obtuse of me. Okay, let me try another one.

Did you know that The Diamond Sūtra - printed on a wood block press around 868 AD in China - is earliest complete survival of a dated printed book?

I can tell by some of your murmurings that I am still failing to impress you. After all, any fool can find out this sort of information on Wikipedia. Okay, give me one last shot.

Did you know that two years ago I finished writing my first ever novel?

Ha! I finally have you on that one! The again, why should you know that? After all, two years on and I still haven't managed to get the damn thing published.

Since 2009 I have lost count of submission letters I have sent to publishing houses and literary agents, offering them the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take me and my work on, only to receive a rejection letter informing me that financial restraints now limit them to taking on just one new writer a year. One new writer a year!

So where does that leave me? Like many frustrated authors, I could publish my work on the Internet for free, perhaps even on this blog right here! After all, here I have on my doorstep an audience in the millions - billions in fact - to showcase my work to.

Then again, the appeal of someone stumbling across my work by accident during a random Google search, and clicking off just as quickly, doesn't quite do it for me. And I get the feeling there is a good chance it could get lost in the billions of cyber pages out there (unless I name the book Click here for porn - that might get me a few more clicks!).

After all the hours I spent typing away at my laptop night after night, for months on end, my dream was not to see my words uploaded onto a computer screen in the hope that it might get seen. Call me old fashioned, but the goal of all my hard work was to finally see my words on the pages of a printed book, just like The Diamond Sūtra or The Gutenberg Bible all those centuries ago.

And apparently I am not alone in this way of thinking, hence why the self-publishing industry is now such big business.

According to US trade magazine Publishers Weekly, there are more then 86,300 publishing companies worldwide, with self-publishers making up a vast majority of that number. Depending on what figures you want to believe, it is estimated there are 300-400 mid-sized publishers, and six large well-known publishers. That leaves a huge number for the self-publishing fraternity to fall into.

Those figures might sound astonishing at first glance, but perhaps less so when you look at the figures published by, one of the largest self-publishing companies in the world. They have published work for over 1.1 million people since 2002, from more than 200 countries, and add 20,000 titles to their catalogue each month.

For someone like me, self-publishing not only represents a fantastic, yet daunting, opportunity to have my work published in both paperback and eBook form, but perhaps more importantly here is an example of where a print business has evolved with new technology, and is certainly thriving.

I want to find out more about this sector of the print industry that seems to be growing by the day, so tomorrow I am off to the London Book Fair at Earls Court to meet with Grace Rafael, who is Director of Indepenpress Publishing Ltd (Stand E205), in the main exhibition hall. Indepenpress have a successful self-publishing division and imprint, Pen Press, and it is with Pen Press that I will be self-publishing my book with.

This is the start of my journey to create a printed product, using all of the tools and technology at my disposal to make it a success, and to prove that print is not dead, it's simply evolving. I hope you enjoy the ride.

This blog was originally posted on

Friday, 8 April 2011

RIP Steven Scaffardi - the night I died on stage

Dead man joking: How my tombstone
might look after last nights horror show!
Diary of a stand-up comedian Entry #13
It was awful. No, it was beyond awful. Imagine the most awkward situation you have ever been in, multiply it by 10, and then sprinkle on top the feeling of having nowhere to hide, and then you might - just might - have an idea of what it feels like dying on stage.

You know that saying You wouldn't wish that on your worst enemy? Well, that is a stupid saying because you would wish this on your worst enemy!

The horrors of last night started at 7pm when I arrived far too early at The Railway. I grabbed myself a drink and sat down and waited. The promoter, Openmic Matt, said he would put me on towards the end seeing as I had opened for him a few times in the past.

So by the time I eventually got on at about 10pm, I was pretty pissed. I had not eaten anything all evening and instead filled myself up on pints of Stella. The audience were in a good mood having been entertained by some very funny acts already including Hannah Deasy, Tom Appleton, and Mr Blair.

Now it was my turn.

I staggered up to the stage, feeling pretty confident, and cracked my first joke - to complete silence. Immediately I panicked, and broke out into a cold sweat. My mind went blank and I just started blurting out the first thing that came to me.

Unfortunately it wasn't a joke. I found myself just waffling, and after about 30 seconds it hit me - I had absolutely no idea where I was going with this. I wasn't even telling joke!

There must have been about 20-30 people in the room, but at that moment it felt like I had a 1,000 pair of eyes on me, all wishing I would get the hell off the stage. So I did the only thing I could think of which was to be honest.

"I'm not too sure where I'm going with this," I told them, shifting awkwardly in one spot. They just stared at me, hatred in their eyes. I attempted to get back on track but by now everyone in that room just wanted me to finish up and get the hell off that stage - no one more so than me!

I shuffled back to me seat after what seemed like the longest five minutes of my life. I grabbed my bag and headed straight towards the exit. Openmic Matt saw me as I was leaving and tried to tell me my set was okay. I appreciated him trying, but I think we both knew I had just stunk the whole place out, so I fled as quickly as possible!

When I woke up this morning I still didn't feel that great, but I figure this is something every comedian has to go through, so I'll just put it down to experience. Plus I did learn a very valuable lesson - don't get pissed before going up on stage... unless your Dylan Moran of course, it seems to work for him!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Is it me or are there some strange folk on this open mic scene...?!

Strange people
Diary of a stand-up comedian Entry #12
Another good little gig last night, this time in London Bridge at Hoopla. The MC for the night is a guy called Steve Roe, who I happened to be in the year below me at school. We didn't know each other back then but comedy has brought us together.

That sounded a bit gay didn't it?

No matter! I went on first last night, and it was the first gig I have done where as soon as your five minutes is up the lights go down and the mic cuts out. That's one way of letting you know that your time is up! But all in all, it went really well. In fact, there was one bloke at the front who laughed his head off at everything I said, so that was a good sign!

Then again, the same bloke laughed his head off at the next act, and the one after him, and the one after him! Hmmm, there seemed to be a pattern emerging here. By the time it got to the halfway stage and the same audience member was still cracking up at the weirdo who came on and made a dolphin noise for five minutes (I kid you not), I was starting to feel my number one fan might be a little fickle.

Still, I've invited him to come to all of my future gigs!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

My Comedy Bin debut

My first ever Comedy Bin gig was on Friday night in Finsbury Park at a bar called T-Bird and I learned two very valuable lessons.

Number 1: Drunk people don't care very much for open mic comedy
Number 2: Dangerous T does in fact look very dangerous!

The night had been going well, all hosted superbly by Marilyn Muruako. There was a good vibe in the downstairs room where the comedy was taking place, and I was looking forward to my set. It was also good to get a look at some of the talent out there on the circuit. Guys like Mark Diamond, Harriet Kemlsey, and Mr Blair, were all very funny.

But there was one man who stood out for me and that was Dangerous T.

I remember glancing around the room when we went downstairs and there he was, psyching himself up for his set a bit like Rocky Balboa. And I think you have to respect a man who goes one better than Mr T, and emphasises his title with a word like dangerous!

So the first half of the evening had gone well, but within seconds of the restart after the interval the mood changed. A group of lads from upstairs decided they were going to come down and talk through the comedy. They didn't so much heckle, rather have a loud conversation with each other.

By the time I got my five minutes on stage, I was all too aware of the drunken ramblings going on at the back. I tried to ignore it, but it's not easy. I'd had a few drinks myself by the time I got on, and was feeling a bit brave (I also had a few mates there and they are quite big lads so that also helps make you feel a little bit brave), and I tried to silence the group of lads like a couple of others had done before me...

The problem is I'm not exactly that experienced with dealing with this type of situation while on stage. This was only my eighth gig! So instead of saying something witty, I just told the guys to shut-up and insulted them. Looking back, probably not the best thing I could have done, but luckily they didn't hear me...

... they were too busy talking to each other!

So all in all, a bit of a mixed night but all part of that learning process I guess!