Guest post: Mark Robertson



I’d like to welcome Mark Robertson, author of Off Key, to Sheli Reads today with his guest post about his experiences of the world of book blogging. Make sure that you scroll right to the end of the post for an exercpt of Off Key.

First impressions count?

I’m going to come clean on here and say that I didn’t know anything about the Book Blogosphere until I was looking at ways to promote my own novel. It’s a little bit like finding a cottage hospital at the bottom of your garden when you need a medical. You had no idea about their presence and yet all along they’ve been busy getting on with providing a very necessary service to people like me. I am old enough to know that first impressions can be misleading and that the attractive boy/girl you bump into in the supermarket ,on closer inspection turns out to have blood on their Barbour jacket and a copy of “The Hunting Times” in their trolley*. But I’m hoping in this instance that my first impressions are correct, because right now the book blogosphere looks like the sanest and least cynical place on the planet.

This is possibly because it comes from a pure place . . . a love of books. Money doesn’t change hands; nobody gets whisked away for a fortnight in Mustique to lie on a yacht. A diamond, if provided at all, will be in the form of a can of extra strong, dry white cider. To be honest most emerging writers would be pushed to stump up the money to give you a weekend in Bognor. So your blogger is someone who has genuine devotion to their subject. I understand this implicitly. My friends, if they value their time, know to start running for the hills if they see me brandishing a CD while proclaiming “YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO THIS . . . NO NOW! . . . IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE . . . I ALREADY LOCKED THAT DOOR . . . WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO GET AWAY? Perhaps it’s a just good old fashioned altruism.

“This made me happy . . . it might make you happy too.”

Like any large group there will be factions and arguments and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But in looking at these blogs I‘ve discovered many sites where people of different ages, sexes, creed and colours work together promoting things they believe in. I have seen the posts warning about theft of original material but, so far, that has been the only negative thing I have seen. I have to admit that unattributed misappropriation of others work is pretty low. What goes through the heads of people as they steal someone else’s work? It was pretty shoddy behaviour when it was done to avoid your double English Lit homework . . . but in adult life? But, so far, this is the only downside I can see.

So, in conclusion, congratulations, Book Blogosphere, you can be proud of your body of work and the readers who support you.

“Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,”**


Mark Robertson



*Forgive me blood “sport” enthusiasts, but if you get your jollies killing animals then you’re not for me.

** Humphrey Bogart “Casablanca” (1942)



“I just want to say, I’m going to do it. I said I would, so, if that’s what it takes, I’ll flip burgers or get a factory job or something, if that’s what you want me to do with my life.”

So that was going to be his tack was it? Her heart sank. For once in his life why couldn’t he stand foursquare behind her? She’d been carrying him on her back for more than three years and she was sick of it. Just for once, couldn’t he step up to the plate and be the man. “I might not be at it for long; it’s a rather competitive profession. The exams are pretty tough and the higher up you go the more serious the competition gets. There can be as many as a hundred candidates for one post as a barrister.”

“Oh! You’ll get through it alright. Your sort always does.”

Your sort!!! She knew she was being baited now but she wasn’t going to bite. She’d rehearsed this in her head too much to blow it now in a fit of anger. Calm, calm, calm.

“The past few months haven’t been great for either of us and I know I can get a bit snappy at times,” She said it as placatingly as she could.

“File under ‘Understatement!”

Charlotte let this go. If she lost her temper she knew it would just end up another shouting match and nothing would get resolved.

“It doesn’t have to be like this. Really, with the minimum of fuss we could both get what we want. And don’t get your hopes up but, I might have a solution. And for once in your life just hear me out first. Jacqui Drinkwater, the singer, she must pay good money, regular gigs, that place was chock-a-block.”

“Go on.”

“She needs a sax player… you heard.”

“Probably got someone already lined up. Anyway, I wouldn’t suit her.”

“Shouldn’t you let her be the judge of that?”

“She’s never heard of me.”

“There was a moment in time when no one had heard of Miles Davis.”

“He was a trumpet player.”

“Yes I know. That’s not the point. I could get her number. What have you got to lose by calling her?”

“My dignity.”

“Your dignity? Kyle on Thursday you played a gig for three people, you made £2.50 less your drinks and a share of the petrol.”

“So I’m not good enough?”

“Of course you’re good enough but you have to get out there and prove it. She’s not very likely to come knocking on doors down our street just on the off chance. The difference between you and me is that I’m getting off my backside to try and make a go of my life.”

“So am I. Playing gigs to three people at a time isn’t the picnic you think it is.”

“And coming home to a kitchen’s that looks like a bomb site and finding I can’t have a cup of tea because you’ve used up all the bloody milk isn’t my… ”

She hesitated, trying to avoid saying “cup of tea”, not only because it was nonsense but also because she knew that if Kyle laughed at that point then she really would swing for him.

“So that’s what this has all been about… a pint of bloody milk. I was going to sort it out later.”

“Of course it’s not about the milk. I’m trying to sort out our lives. Do you really want to be living like this in ten years’ time?”

“Yes. What’s wrong with how we live? Is it not up to your standards, your Ladyship?”

“It makes me feel like I’m your mother.”

“Oh! Just fuck off!”

“Don’t swear. I’ve told you not to swear at me. You want the truth? You’re so scared of failing you’re not even going to try. You’re a coward. Stand up and be a man, for God’s sake.”

“Typical bloody woman! You pick up a copy of “Hello” or whatever and all of a sudden you’re dissatisfied with your “lifestyle.”

Kyle drew a set of quotation marks around “lifestyle” which only stoked her fury. But he wasn’t finished. “You can always try your family for a few bob, it’s not like they’re short.”

“Do you know how many times I’ve seen my family since I moved in with you, Kyle? Twice! Twice, that’s right… one wedding, one funeral.”

“And tell me, in all honesty, could you tell the two apart?”

“I gave up my family for you and you can’t give up an hour to audition for a band.”

“I’ve had enough of this. Your family will take you back as long as you hook up with some rich, chinless, inbred.”

“That’s right walk away” She was shouting now, despite herself.

“… and it’s all very well you playing a cross between Mother

Theresa and Bob Geldoff but you’re not paying for Craig’s saxophone lessons, I am.”

“I’m leaving. Unlike you, I don’t believe everybody in the World has a price on their head.”

“If you walk away from me now Kyle, don’t bother to come back.”

A weight the size of a bowling ball hit Kyle in the stomach. He wanted to return, wanted to tell Charlotte how much he loved her, wanted to be the man, wanted to do his bit, but she was right, he was terrified. If he had a proper job he couldn’t practice, if he couldn’t practice he’d get left behind and if he got left behind any chance that he could play his way into a successful music career would be lost. The one person he had desired in his whole life and he was letting her go. Without knowing where he was going or what he was going to do, he slammed the door as he exited the pub.

The man at the bar, to his credit, pretended not to notice.