A blog from Tonto Books, featuring musings from the publishing world and some occasional special guest appearances.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Paul's Christmas blog

Choosing my favourite novel I read this year is easy - it's David Peace's The Damned United, a fictionalised account of Brian Clough's tumultous 44-day reign as Leeds United manager. Clough is obviously a fantastic ready-made protagonist, but Peace's skill is to make the reader love him, hate him, respect him, pity him... all at the same time. It's brilliantly written, and the structure is really inventive. The Times called it 'probably the best novel ever written about sport' and it's hard to disagree with that.

In my opinion, 2007 has been the worst year in living memory for new films. The Bourne Ultimatum was the only decent thing to come out of Hollywood, but my pick of the year came out of Germany. The Lives of Others is about a Stasi spy who is drawn into the lives of a couple he is ordered to monitor. It's gripping and fascinating, and there's a brilliant central performance from Ulrich Muhe, who sadly died in July. The ending is just perfect, and the final line is sure to bring a tear to the eye.

Finally a CD pick and, after honorable mentions for Kate Walsh's Tim's House and Josh Rouse's Country Mouse, I'm plumping for Midlake's The Trials of Van Occupanther. I know it has been around for a while, but it only really took off this year. It's difficult to describe - ambitious 60s and 70s-flavoured melodic indie pop with narrative lyrics that tell tales of ancient or post-apocalyptic bandits, kind of a cross between classic Fleetwood Mac and Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds... Actually that makes it sound really rubbish, you'll just have to trust me that it isn't!

Have a great Christmas and a happy New Year.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Stu Recommends

As these will be the last blogs before Christmas and starting back in 2008, we thought we'd put some recommendations up.

It has been difficult to find the time to read for pleasure this year, as much of my time at Tonto and at home has been taken up by reading manuscripts. When I've got the time, I always seem to drift back to the same books. The first being 'Filth' by Irvine Welsh. His writing is an acquired taste, but once tasted, something you'll never forget. If new to Welsh, I'd recommend going for some of his earlier works before attempting this one. On my Christmas list this year is his latest book of short stories, 'If You Liked School, You'll Love Work'.

Being a massive Paul Weller fan it was great to see two Weller books out this year - Paul Weller: The Changing Man by Paolo Hewitt and Suburban 100, by Weller.

For me, Suburban left me wanting to hear more about what inspired the songs, what they were based on... everything. I think many Weller Geeks felt the same but it was amazing to hear the man himself telling us about the songs and not just some journo assuming what they were about (and I got a signed copy). The cover is brilliant too, with artwork by Sir Peter Blake.

We're going to be working with some very interesting writers next year, so I'm very much looking forward to a productive New Year!


The best film I've seen this year has to be The Last King of Scotland. Forest Whittaker gives an outstanding performance in this tense and fast paced film, based on the novel by Giles Foden. It is one of those films that leaves you stunned... I hope Santa remembers to bring this one as well.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ros's Christmas blog

So this year the novels that gripped my heart in their fist were Anne Tyler's Digging to America, Mark Haddon's A Spot of Bother and How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper.

As well promoting the More Tonto Short Stories anthology at Durham Lit Festival I've been redrafting a novel... writing lots of stories and thinking through ideas for my next novel... My most recent short story Defying Gravity is being featured in this December issue of Laura Hird's website.

I'm hoping 2008 will be the year that my novel gets published and so I get to spend the year touring bookshops and shamelessly self promoting... fingers crossed!

Anyone who wants to come along and show some support then please come to The Blue Room in Newcastle on 2nd March 2008 which I'll be reading at - very exciting stuff...

Oh and there's about five half written plays to finish and that film script in the corner that I keep ignoring - still...

Ros Wyllie

Rosalind Wyllie's short stories are featured in Tonto Short Stories, More Tonto Short Stories and Tonto Christmas Short Stories. During December you can get a free copy of More Tonto Short Stories and a free download of Tonto Christmas Stories - see more details here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Pete's Christmas blog

Looking at my bookshelf, I'm hard pressed to find the books that I've read this year. Holding down a regular job, going through the final edit of Johnny Lonely and working on a new book has left me, a slow reader at the best of times, with little in the way of completed reading material, outside of research for my new book, An Englishman in Rocket City. Boy A by Jonathan Trigell and Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon stand out, and my all time favourite, Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, which I reread for the eighth time.

The launch of Johnny Lonely has been the high point of 2007 for me, and it got me involved in the Durham Literature Festival and the LitFest Inside programme at Low Newton women's prison, among other things. Thanks to all who have supported Johnny Lonely. May 2008 bring you all more smiles.

Pete Tanton

Pete Tanton is the author of Johnny Lonely

Monday, December 17, 2007

Roger's Christmas blog

I met Jonny almost 20 years ago and over that time wrote his life story with him, before contacting a film company who created the documentary 'The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off'. This year, Tonto Press published Jonny's story, now available at most stores and on-line at Amazon. I'd met Jonny just at the right time, after I'd returned home after sailing the Caribbean. I'd had such a pirate-ridden, shocking, hurtful, startling, starving, adrift-at-sea, desertion of Captain time. I wrote it all down. Got the bug. Penned a trilogy of adventure fiction, then bumped into Jonny.

Roger in festive mood

There is no getting around the fact that getting published is a nightmare. Twenty years plus I have been sending stuff away, to no avail. You almost have to stalk a publisher or agent these days! Meet them on a train, in a pub or save their lives because the accepted route just does not work. None the less, Tonto Press read one of my manuscripts this year and published Jonny's story.

So 2007 has been a great year. The charity is coming along a treat and I have done quite a few signings, which are fun. I usually take along a sign that states 'author here' as a bit of humour. I love it, especially when a young girl came up to me and said, 'Oh, I thought that said, "Arthur"!'

Roll on 2008 is all I can say.

Roger Stutter

Roger Stutter is the author of Jonny Kennedy: The Story of the Boy Whose Skin Fell Off.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Burglar's Dog Christmas survival guide

As previously promised, here's The Burglar's Dog Christmas guide, produced for a local publication (hence the lack of rude words) but not published, presumably because it was slightly unkind to some of their advertisers... More special features from Tonto writers coming next week.

'Tis the season to be dragged around city centre bars by sozzled work colleagues in novelty Santa hats. The Christmas office pub crawl can be a nightmare, but luckily Newcastle's favourite four-legged bar reviewer The Burglar's Dog (AKA Mark Jones) is on hand to offer up a survival guide. To celebrate the release of the new edition of his bestselling drinking guide, here are his best (and worst) Christmas party pubs in Newcastle upon Tyne:

Akenside Traders: Every single office night out from my work for the last 2,000 years has involved the Akenside. And since I detest every one of my colleagues, it'd be fairly safe to say that the Akenside is not one of my favourite Christmas haunts. I hate this place – I've got nothing but bad memories of terrible nights out amongst imbeciles, and of ricking my ankle on those stupid steps.

Buffalo Joe's: This 'amazing Western fun theme bar', has long been one of the most depressing bars in what the geniuses at the neighbouring councils would like you to call NewcastleGateshead, and its mornings-after the prime instigator of calls to the Samaritans, but it is written in law that every office night out must, inevitably, end here.

Centurion: Central station's lovingly-restored, Grade I Listed, first class passenger lounge has become a room full of neglect and echoes, with tacky lighting effects clashing with the tiling. It's plain the management have got about as much love for this place as they would for a ginger stepchild.

Fluid: Two floors of average wood and brick decor, a reasonable pint, and a healthy cross-section of punters, happy hours for the Christmas party crowd. Nothing out of the ordinary to report. File this one under M for mediocre.

The Goose: I believe that small is beautiful when it comes to pubs. It's a viewpoint that has held me in good stead over the years, and provides a yardstick with which to batter this gargantuan hellhole about the face and neck. I've actually seen people lining up to get in here. Where are these people coming from? Why has there not been a cull?

The Lodge: Loveable cheeky chappie TV presenters Ant & Dec apparently ploughed a quarter of a million quid into the refit and rename of the old Jonny Ringo's, but I'm left thoroughly nonplussed. However, whatever your line of work, your colleagues will inevitably want to drink here on their big night out.

Pacific Bar Cafe: What a terrible, terrible bar this is. Even after all this time, I still fail to see how the fact that it cost £9 million to build can justify serving up rubbish beer at astronomical prices. Bar humbug.

Tiger Tiger: I understand the nature of exclusivity, but I expect to get what I pay for, and it has to be said that, for a so-called luxury bar, Tiger Tiger is absolutely woeful. And the spiteful door policy might scupper your night out before it starts.

Union Rooms: Thanks to the marvellous building in which it is housed, the Union Rooms is the least horrible of Newcastle's Wetherspoon pubs, serving up a reassuringly drab pint of bargain fizz to go with your festive celebrations.

Yates's: If there was any justice in this world, then this would be the finest bar Newcastle has ever seen, housed in a truly remarkable French Renaissance building. Instead it's a Yates's chain bar. And it's an absolute bran tub of dross.

the burglar's dog REVISED & UPDATED

The brand new revised and updated edition of The Burglar's Dog Alternative Guide To Drinking in Newcastle upon Tyne by Mark Jones is available now from all good bookshops, priced £9.99.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A can't-put-it-down murder mystery

There's a nice review of The Rocketbelt Caper in a publication called General Aviation News. Reviewer Janice Wood calls the book, 'a can't-put-it-down murder mystery that shows how obsession and betrayal can lead people to commit dastardly deeds.' Read the full review here.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Chrissie Glazebrook

It is with great sadness that I post today's blog. Our friend and creative writing tutor, Chrissie Glazebrook, died last Friday.

Chrissie was a tutor on the MA Creative Writing course at Northumbria University and a very well-known and respected author. She was very supportive of Tonto, and kept in touch offering encouragement and words of wisdom to me since graduating.

For those who knew Chrissie, there will be a memorial service for her in Newcastle on Thursday 10th January at the Friends Meeting House in Jesmond at 2pm. There will be refreshments afterwards and there will also be a display of her work with comments collated from ex-students. Venue to be confirmed.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Rocketbelt movie premiere

As reported in the Sunday Sun article posted here yesterday, Pretty Bird, a movie based on the rocketbelt caper story, will receive its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January. To clarify, despite what Wikipedia says, the movie is not officially connected to the Rocketbelt Caper book, the rights to which have been optioned elsewhere. This is how Sundance is describing Pretty Bird:

Pretty Bird (director/screenwriter: Paul Schneider). A comic tale of three would-be entrepreneurs who set out to invent a rocket belt. The clash of their mismatched personalities soon dissolves the business into a morass of recriminations, retaliations, kidnapping and murder in this parable of American dreams and delusions. Cast: Billy Crudup, Paul Giamatti, Kristen Wiig, David Hornsby.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Weekend press coverage round-up

A few bits and pieces from newspapers and magazines this weekend: First up, reviews of both The Burglar's Dog and The Rocketbelt Caper from the December issue of The Crack. Next is a piece about The Rocketbelt Caper from yesterday's Sunday Sun. Finally, there's a review of The Burglar's Dog from December/January's Accent magazine. Click on the images to see readable versions.


Friday, December 07, 2007

Jonny Kennedy book signings - Newcastle, Leeds, Birstall

Roger Stutter is currently busy with a host of signings for his book Jonny Kennedy: The Story of the Boy Whose Skin Fell Off. Roger will be pleased to dedicate copies of the book as inspirational Christmas gifts, and to chat to shoppers about his memories of Kennedy. Roger will be joined at the signing by representatives of the Jonny Kennedy North East charity. The book has already helped raise more than £1,500 for the charity.

Tomorrow, Saturday 8 December, Roger will be at Borders, Silverlink, Newcastle from 12 noon to 2pm.

Next Saturday 15 December, he will be at Borders, Leeds, from 12 noon to 2pm AND at Borders, Birstall from 4pm to 6pm.

More signings are being set up all of the time, so keep checking our website and blog for more details. [Roger will also be playing Santa Claus on Newcastle's Northumberland Street from the 16th to the 18th of December in aid of the Jonny Kennedy North East charity!]


Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Book What She Wrote

OK, I'll stop having a pop at celebs who write books that they don't really write soon. Of course there are loads of them out there who write their own, and next up as a novelist is Coleen McLoughlin - Wayne Rooney's missus. I can almost hear the dinner time 'My book is better than your book' conversations.
The Bookseller reports that Coleen is writing a series of children's novels for HarperCollins as well as three more non-fiction titles. For those of you interested, the first is out in Spring 2008. Read the full article here.

Although fairly cynical, I am interested in Celeb Culture and am fascinated by their recent switch to novel writing. Is it such a bad thing? I don't know. I haven't read any of them, nor am I likely to, so I can't comment on their 'quality'. Probably they will be harmless enough and will work on some sort of role model level for the kids, who knows.

Where does it leave those novelists who have been slogging it out for years and years without great success, with or without an agent, looking for that big break? What about all that money you spent on your MA in Creative Writing, learning the craft, drafting your novel... all those rejections? Do you think it makes a mockery of all that blood, sweat and tears? Interesting debate.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Free books for Christmas!

It's freezing cold, pitch black whenever you're not at work, the roads are gridlocked, and you can't go into a supermarket without your ears being assaulted by Sir Cliff Richard. That can only mean one thing - it's Christmas! And once again, Tonto is getting festive by offering lots of free stuff!

First up, get a FREE copy of More Tonto Short Stories when you buy ANY Tonto book direct from us this Christmas! MTSS is our latest acclaimed paperback anthology, featuring sixteen writers including Ros Wyllie, Stephen Shieber and Katie-Ellen Hazeldine. The offer runs until 31 December 2007, while stocks last, one free book per order. Ideal for getting your stocking fillers!

If you aren't one of the 1,200 readers who downloaded it last year, there's also another chance to get our anthology of Christmas short stories by some of our favourite new writers, including Pete Tanton (author of Johnny Lonely), Stephen Shieber, Ros Wyllie and Jolene Hui (all More Tonto Short Stories contributors), absolutely FREE! It is presented in a newly-formatted easy-to-read and printer-friendly electronic version, and you can download it from our homepage.

We're also offering free Burglar's Dog and Johnny Lonely badges this Christmas. The brand new revised and updated edition of The Burglar's Dog is out now, and if you buy a copy direct from our website OR from amazon.co.uk using our trackable link, we'll send you a brand new set of four pin badges absolutely FREE, thoughout December 2007, while stocks last. Johnny Lonely is Pete Tanton's prize-winning novel. If you buy a copy direct from our website in December we'll send you an exclusive Johnny Lonely pin badge absolutely FREE, while stocks last. Don't forget, if you order direct from our website you'll ALSO get a free copy of More Tonto Short Stories!

All of these offers can be found at www.tontopress.com.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Search Inside! Tonto books

As several of our titles are now featured in Amazon's Search Inside! programme, we've added links to our website. You can now browse, sample and (obviously) search the following titles:

jonny kennedy the rocketbelt caper jonny lonely wor al

[The Burglar's Dog is not yet available on Search Inside! but you can read an extract here.]


Monday, December 03, 2007

Christmas book compo

Below is an 'advertorial' that appears in the current Gateshead Advertisers. Click on the image to see a larger version, and feel free to enter the book compo.


Friday, November 30, 2007

The Burglar's Dog singles reviews

A few weeks ago I jokingly mentioned a Burglar's Dog gig guide. Well here's the next best thing - the Dog aka Mark Jones reviews the singles in the latest issue of NARC magazine. Click on the image below for a readable version. Pete Doherty fans needn't bother.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bye Bye Bookman

One of our favourite book bloggers, Grumpy Old Bookman aka Michael Allen, has announced he is taking a sabbatical from blogging. His incisive views on the publishing industry have been a regular lunchtime read for us, and he has always been kind to us at Tonto. He might return to blogging in a year or so, he says, but until then we wish him very well. The blog will remain online, serving as a very useful resource for anyone with an interest in books. And every aspiring writer should read Michael's (free) essay On The Survival of Rats In The Slush Pile and get hold of his book The Truth About Writing, which he also offers as a free PDF.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Burglar's Dog in party mood?

If you're at all familiar with the work of The Burglar's Dog you'll appreciate why we found the newspaper article posted below quite amusing. The headline "IT'S PARTY TIME" could hardly be less appropriate for a piece about the grumpy old dog, and the accompanying photo of drunken teenage revellers doesn't quite match his demographic. But perhaps this will introduce the book to a whole new set of fans? Will teenage girls buy the book, take its advice, ditch the Bigg Market, and start drinking in the Newcastle Arms? (That fine establishment's regulars will hope not.) Only time will tell.

The article was meant to be a Burglar's Dog's guide to a Christmas night out, but that seems to have been lost somewhere. Fear not, we'll post the guide here on the blog nearer to Christmas. In the meantime, you can read the article by clicking on the image below. Thanks to Ron Wilcox, manager of Borders at Gateshead's Team Valley for the quote: "It is a really popular book and will be great as a Christmas present. It is the funniest book in the world.'

Elsewhere, number one Newcastle United website NUFC.com is hosting a series of special Burglar's Dog pre-match pub reviews, and running a Burglar's Dog compo.


Monday, November 26, 2007

The Journal Culture Awards

Friday 30 November is the deadline for your votes. As we've seen various other organisations suggesting that people can vote for them, I thought I'd give us a little plug in case any of you were considering a vote... but looking at the website, I discovered that Newcomer of the Year has to be an 'artist' rather than a company. Shame, because we were certain we'd win. A friend of mine sent me a text message the other day saying he was voting for Tonto as Newcomer of the Year because we 'gave books a kick up the a*se', so at least the judges at The Journal will get a laugh out of the process.

Tonto Press has published two deserving newcomers this year Pete Tanton who won Tonto New Novelist competition and Mark Jones who wrote The Burglar's Dog, so if you fancy voting for them, you can do so by clicking here.

I think celebrating the arts (especially in our own region) is a good thing. It would be great to see some writers get a mention or some of the many literature events that are now happening in the North East.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Amazon's Kindle ain't no iBook

So Amazon has launched its electronic book reader, the Kindle. It uses the same "paper-like" display as Sony's reader, can store 200 books, and offers wireless connectivity. At a hefty $399 (Amazon won't ship them outside of the US) it's sold out already. But not everyone is happy with their purchase. The average customer rating as of today is just 2.5 stars out of 5.

My initial reaction, judging solely from the photos, is that it looks pretty ugly. It looks dated in "Apple White", which Apple stopped using a few years ago. Jonathan Ive certainly hasn't been anywhere near this one. Some of the features seem unnecessary. It allows users to read newspapers and blogs - but so does the internet, available on most modern mobile phones. Also, although Amazon's backing means a large number of titles will soon be available for download, at around $9.99 each they're not much cheaper than a good old paperback.

I can see how something like this would be useful for business purposes, to carry many previously bulky reference and text books, but for leisure I think people will stick to old fashioned books - at least until Apple comes up with something more desirable than Amazon's effort.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ad enough

So you're trying to place an ad in the Guardian's Review section, like you did last year. After two weeks of unanswered phone messages and emails you finally get hold of someone who can help. The price is agreed, the ad is booked, and you're ready to supply the ad artwork as a print ready file, like you did last year. Only the Guardian no longer accepts files direct. So you have to go through a middle man and pay an extra fee. Only the middle man doesn't accept print ready files. He only accepts designers' files, converting them to print ready, then supplying them to the Guardian. If you already have print ready files, he says, then there's nothing he can do for you. You get back to the Guardian and explain the situation. Can't they just accept the file direct, like they did last year? After all, it is only a classified ad? No. So you can't place the ad. This country, the Guardian isn't what it used to be, Charlie Brooker's the only bit worth reading, etc.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Uptown top ranking

We're trying out RankTracer, a service for tracking Amazon rankings and estimating sales. You can follow a book's progress on the website and via weekly and monthly reports for $2 per month. It's a US-based site, but you can track sales on Amazon.co.uk. For example, today I can see that The Burglar's Dog has sold an estimated 4 copies in the last 24 hours, and 33 in the last week. This is obviously useful to any author or publisher who habitually checks their Amazon rankings once or twice a day. Most interesting is RankTracer's provision of estimated sales figures. I've seen various investigations into how Amazon's sales rankings correlate to sales figures (like this one), but most have been based on the US site, which obviously sells a lot more books than the UK site. Because of the way books are sold - via wholesalers, then via retailers, and then with the deadly spectre of returns hanging over everything - it can often be months before publishers (and authors) can have accurate sales figures to hand. So anything that can give a barometer of how a book is selling has to be useful.


Monday, November 19, 2007

The Rocketbelt Caper in T3

The Rocketbelt Caper is featured in the new Christmas issue of T3 gadget magazine. You can see the printed article by clicking on the image below. The published text is quite a bit shorter than the supplied copy, so if you'd like to read the original text it's posted below.

Buck Rogers and James Bond owned one – now you can too

"No well-dressed man should be without one," quipped Sean Connery of the amazing flying rocketbelt as James Bond whizzed over the heads of befuddled Spectre henchman in Thunderball. But this most sought-after of sci-fi gadgets is much more than a movie prop. The rocketbelt is real – originally developed by the Nazis and then the US Army, before becoming the world's most profitable entertainment attraction. Powered by highly-concentrated Hydrogen Peroxide, the flying backpack lifts its pilot into the air on a jet of supercharged steam. Now gadget fans who find the iPhone a tad dull can purchase their own personal flying machine. The folks at Tecaeromex (www.tecaeromex.com) will sell you a custom-made rocketbelt, plus fuel lab and training package, for $250,000. That should make the commute to work a lot more interesting, but watch out for telephone wires – the words "cheese" and "slicer" spring to mind.

1939 – Buck Rogers introduces sci-fi fans to the concept of the flying "rocketbelt"
1945 – Nazi scientists try – and (thankfully) fail – to build the "Skystormer" rocketbelt
1953 – Engineer Wendell Moore develops the first working rocketbelt for the US Army
1965 – Sean Connery's James Bond evades bad guys using a rocketbelt in Thunderball
1984 – 2.5 billion people watch the rocketbelt spectacularly open the LA Olympics
1991 – Disney's The Rocketeer battles nasty Nazi spies with a flying rocketbelt
1995 – Three Texan friends build the best ever rocketbelt – the RB-2000
1998 – A feud over the RB-2000 ends in lawsuits, kidnapping and murder
2001 – Tom Cruise flies a futuristic rocketbelt in Minority Report
2008 – Pretty Bird, starring Paul Giamatti and based on the RB-2000 story, will open

"The Rocketbelt Caper: A True Tale of Invention, Obsession and Murder" by Paul Brown (ISBN 9780955218378, Tonto Press, £8.99) reveals the secret history of the rocketbelt, and tells the full story of the RB-2000 murder.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Money off for penniless students

Are you a student in Newcastle? Are you bewildered by the limitless sprawl of Newcastle's legendary drinking scene? Have you spent all of Mummy and Daddy's money already? Fear not, because we've teamed up with Newcastle University's Courier newspaper and Blackwell's bookshop to offer a full English pound off The Burglar's Dog, the indispensable guide to the eighth best party city in the world. The Alternative Guide to Drinking in Newcastle upon Tyne will tell you where to go, where to avoid, and assess your likelihood of getting a sound beating if you stumble into the wrong drinking hole. Essential reading, I'd say. Just print and cut out the voucher below (click on the image first to get the full-size version) and present in to Blackwell's on Percy Street at Newcastle's Haymarket before 31st December 2007 to receive £1 off the cover price. There's also a compo in the article below, with a closing date of tomorrow, Friday 16th.

[Are you NOT a student? There's no reason why you can't print out and use the voucher as well.]


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Writing advice from Hank Moody

Californication is a new TV show, currently airing on Five in the UK, starring David Duchovny as Hank Moody, a writer who has forgotten how to write and now spends his time blogging and, erm, fornicating his way around California. In this week's episode, Hank gave a careers talk to a school class. 'Being a writer blows,' he said. 'It's like having homework every day for the rest of your life.' Fairly un-PC but reasonably amusing, Californication could be one to watch for more useful writing advice.


Monday, November 12, 2007

The Book That I Wrote... not.

There was a very interesting article in The Times Online today. Bruce Dessau looked at the wonderful world of the ghostwriter: "One publishing insider suggests that there are few celebrities who literally write their own autobiographies, maybe less than 20 per cent, but the book world is often reluctant to let readers in on the fact."

What? You mean they don't even write their own books? It was refreshing to see that Peter Kay was one of those who bothered to sit down and write his own story. The celeb memoir is big business and now there are two I can think of who have branched out into novel writing. As a ghostwriter myself, I always have a chuckle when I hear or read interviews telling that a celeb has just finished his or her book, wondering if they mean just finished reading it for the first time. Cynical? Moi?

Here's a great in-depth interview from one of those new novelists.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Johnny Lonely - free extract

The last of this week's free samples is an extract from Johnny Lonely by Pete Tanton. You can download the sample of Pete's novel using the link below:

Download Johnny Lonely extract (pdf)

If you don't already have a pdf reader you can get Adobe Reader free here.

And if you enjoy the sample you can buy the full thing from your favourite book shop. Get more details here.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Rocketbelt Caper - free extract

Today we're posting an extract from The Rocketbelt Caper, A True Tale Of Invention, Obsession and Murder. You can download the extract using the link below:

Download The Rocketbelt Caper extract (pdf)

If you don't already have a pdf reader you can get Adobe Reader free here.

And if you enjoy the sample you can buy the full thing from your favourite book shop. Get more details here.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Jonny Kennedy - free extract

Today you can read the first few pages of Jonny Kennedy, The Story of The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off, including the foreword by Nell McAndrew. You can download the extract using the link below:

Download Jonny Kennedy extract (pdf)

If you don't already have a pdf reader you can get Adobe Reader free here.

And if you enjoy the sample you can buy the full thing from your favourite book shop. Get more details here.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Burglar's Dog - free extract

This week we're posting free extracts of our latest books online for you to sample free. First up today it's the brand new version of The Burglar's Dog. You can download the extract using the link below:

Download Burglar's Dog extract (pdf)

If you don't already have a pdf reader you can get Adobe Reader free here.

And if you enjoy the sample you can buy the full thing from your favourite book shop. Get more details here.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Free books for bloggers

Do you have a blog or a website? Would you like to review one of our latest titles? If so, drop us an email (contact [at] tontopress [dot] com) letting us know which book you'd like to review and pointing us to your website, and we'll send you a free review copy. Simple as that. Choose from these three books:

Jonny Kennedy
The Rocketbelt Caper
The Burglar's Dog

Happy blogging!


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Free books and 20% off at Borders!

Two great offers courtesy of two of our favourite literary blogs today. First up, Michael Allen at Grumpy Old Bookman is having a clear-out and is rather generously offering free copies of some of his books in the hope that they will be read and enjoyed, and then passed on to others to do likewise. Grab a great free read here.

Meanwhile, Emma at the Snowbooks Snowblog has posted a voucher for 20% off any full-priced item at Borders, valid from 2nd to 5th November - just print it out and take it in to your nearest store. Once there you'll find many a nice Snowbooks publication, and also, of course, our very own Jonny Kennedy and The Rocketbelt Caper, both of which are stocked by Borders nationally. Get the voucher here.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Burglar's Dog gig guide

We Tonto folk do like our music. Only last week I bumped into Short Stories scribe Roz Wyllie at a Kate Walsh gig, and last night I saw Mark Jones, AKA The Burglar's Dog, at a show by Arcade Fire - the 10-strong Canadian 'baroque indie' outfit (no, I have no idea what 'baroque indie' means either).

The general consensus as we left, after an astonishing encore performance of Wake Up, was that it was something approaching the gig of the year. Mark's verdict? 'Mediocre. 6 out of 10.' To be fair, he blamed this on the rubbish venue - the soulless Metro Radio Arena Newcastle - rather than the band, stating he would never go there again, even if they 'dug up Hendrix'. The Burglar's Dog Gig Guide will be on a bookshelf near you somewhere around the year 2099.


Monday, October 29, 2007

Watch out publicans - the Dog is back

A good piece on The Burglar's Dog by Tony Henderson in this morning's Journal. It doesn't seem to be on the paper's website, so here's a scan - click on the image to see a bigger readable version.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pete Tanton on the California wildfires

The terrible wildfires that are currently sweeping through California have brought back some vivid memories for Johnny Lonely author Pete Tanton. In October 1992, Pete lived in Mission Viejo, Orange County, as a series of wildfires erupted around the area.

'It was terrifying,' says Pete. 'What started as plumes of smoke in the distance grew to become massive columns on every horizon. We'd stand at the top of our street and see lines of flame along the ridges. We were trapped, and to my eyes there was no way out. I spent three or four days watching the helicopters and firefighting planes dropping water on this wall of fire in what appeared to be a futile effort.'

'The television news did a fine job of sensationalising the emergency with alarmist headlines, while at the same time urging viewers not to panic.'

After several days Pete managed to escape to Laguna Canyon, which had remained relatively unaffected by the fires.

'I expected to see the city of Laguna Beach in charred ruins, and was surprised to see all the shops still open. It was the houses up in the hills that had burned. Locals told me that the area was prone to brush fires. Why, I wondered, did people build expensive houses in such a volatile place, and why did everyone seem so surprised that they burned so easily?'

'Many of the things in Johnny Lonely come from this experience: people desperately watering down their roofs with garden hoses, news reporters standing a few feet from trailer homes as they went up in flames, their kerosene tanks exploding for the cameras. I hope I went some way towards capturing the experience.'

Johnny Lonely follows wannabe musician Hughie Youngkin on an ill-fated quest to become a rock star, during which he finds himself trapped in wildfires.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Getting your book stocked

Recently Paul blogged about the curse of being a 'local' publisher and the associated problems. There are, of course, many more...

We've had an ongoing battle with high street chain WHSmith since last year. Today we heard from them that they will not be stocking Jonny Kennedy, Rocketbelt or Burglar's Dog books. It's a shame as in our hometown of Newcastle, WHSmith is one of the only bookstores not to stock us. Obviously, we realise that the decision largely comes down to not being a major publishing organisation and not being able to afford tens of thousands of pounds to ‘buy’ shelf space. No doubt we'll carry on with the battle. At Tonto we refuse to give up on such matters. The last buyer at the store couldn't stock us because she didn't know how the computer system worked! Really.
For those of you interested, you can actually go into any WHSmith store and order our titles from them. If you are from the Newcastle area, you can always pop into WHS in the MetroCentre where they buy direct from us. Yep – there’s the other problem: Decisions also come down to personal taste. Some buyers are able to buy direct from us (to support us locals) and some won’t or can’t. You really don’t know until you ask.

Which brings me to another point. We are approached quite often by people asking us how much we charge to publish new authors. We’ve advised those authors whenever possible, and it is nice to see that instead of paying a vanity publisher, people are now self-publishing. The entire process of publishing is difficult enough, so for an author to take all this on board is a huge risk. However, it is pleasing to see people taking the initiative. For those of you who are interested in the pitfalls of DIY publishing, there is a very informative blog by June Austin. It tells of the highs and lows she’s encountered in her struggle to see her book stocked. Read it here.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The future of reading is electronic

As publishers we would have to be crazy not to keep a very close eye on the progress of electronic books - e-books - or books published on the internet. We've become used to finding our music online, and now movies and TV shows are becoming increasingly available for download. Magazines are going 'web-only' - big US mags Premiere and FHM are just two that now exist exclusively online. But how will this electronic shift affect books?

The main argument for resisting the switch from paper to electronic is the loss of physicality - books are desirable, people like to hold them, and they're a lot easier to read than LCD screens. But witness the Sony Reader (above), which uses a 'paper-like' display to make reading e-books easy and pleasurable. 'Suppose Apple released an electronic-paper iTome,' suggests Jon Evans in his Walrus magazine article Apocalypse Soon. Based on Apple's previous successes you'd have to assume that such a device would be desirable, tactile, and easy to read. Then the world of electronic books would become very interesting indeed.

It's a debate that will continue, but one that will need to be settled very quickly if the book industry is to continue to compete with other entertainments. You can read the full Jon Evans article here. He also discusses giving electronic books away for free in a Guardian blog here. Credit to Grumpy Old Bookman for the links.

From our own point of view, we published a free-of-charge Christmas Short Stories e-book last year that was downloaded more than 1,200 times within the space of a week or so. But how many of those 1,200 actually read the thing, and how many of them went on to actually buy a Tonto book? (It was, after all, a promotional exercise.) Crucial questions, but certainly we will continue to experiment with electronic books. If nothing else, it will save a few trees.


PS. On a tenuously-linked subject, I went across the road to the Cluny last night to see singer-songwriter Kate Walsh. Kate, once of this parish and now living in Brighton, has made good use of the web. She was the first unsigned artist to have a number one hit on iTunes, and subsequently her album Tim's House (so-named because it was recorded at friend Tim's house) has become a hit CD, prime-time Tesco ads and all. Of course, much of her success is just down to the plain fact that she is bloody brilliant. You really must visit her MySpace page for a listen and a look.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A small, good thing...

There's an interview with Tonto author Jolene Hui on a website called Blushing Ladies in which she is asked, 'What do you feel has been your most important writing accomplishment to date?' This is Jolene's reply:

The most important writing accomplishment was the first story I had published with Tonto Press. It was called "Bookshelves" and was the first fictional piece I'd had published (outside of my college literary journal). It meant all the difference in my self esteem and pushed me in the right direction writing-wise. Since then I have had so many successes I can't even count them. Even though I had already been writing for years, I look at it as my true starting point.

Jolene has gone on to write for publications as varied as Inside Hockey and A Is For Amour, and we're pleased she regards being published by Tonto as her starting point.

Jolene's story 'Bookshelves' is published in 'Tonto Short Stories', which is available from Amazon in the UK and the US, and 'The Remaining Half' is published in 'More Tonto Short Stories', available from Amazon in the UK and the US, and also with £2.00 off the cover price direct from Tonto. Jolene has a website here.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Publishing will eat itself...

Interesting article in the Observer this week about Frankfurt and the state of the book industry ('It's carnage ...' Inside the genteel world of books). To summarise: the publishing industry should be boarded up like an old abandoned mine.

The feature's author, Carole Cadwalladr, does a nice job of wading through the bizarre world of solicited/unsolicited submissions, slush piles, and agents, and gets some interesting quotes from industry faces.

Selected highlights include Bloomsbury editor-in-chief Alexandra Pringle on the joys of being a writer ('It's a horrible job. It doesn't pay well. It's lonely. It's depression-inducing. It's frustrating. There's no fun to be had... When my writers say I could earn more money at the till at Sainsbury's, I say, well go and do it.'), Curtis Brown agent Jonny Geller on why writers should never attend Frankfurt ('It's soul destroying. You see writers being traded like pork bellies.') and publisher-turned-agent Patrick Janson-Smith on the state of the industry in general ('You look around and you think the world needs another book like it needs a hole in the head... If you're not in a three-for-two or Richard & Judy, forget it. There's no point. If you ask me, publishing is in a mess.').

This comes in the same week that Anne Enright's The Gathering (described by judges as as 'bleak, depressing and uncomfortable') won the Booker Prize. Chairman of the judges Sir Howard Davies launched an attack on the 'kid gloves' approach to reviewing literary novels. 'There appear to be some novels where people leave their critical faculties at home,' he said. His comments are printed in the Times (Rank outsider Anne Enright takes Man Booker Prize).

Meanwhile, Ed Handyside, founder of this fair city's own Myrmidon Books (Tan Twan Eng's Gift of Rain was long-listed for the Booker), discusses the peculiarities of the publishing industry in Publishing News (Boxing Clever).

'We've found the UK supply chain to be especially challenging,' says Ed. 'We actually find it easier, and often less costly, to sell our books overseas. There, buyers are content to judge us by our products. In British trade publishing the formula is reversed: the assumption made by press reviewers and some influential booksellers seems to be that a small press can't possibly produce books worth taking a look at. We've sold thousands of books in the Far East, South Africa and Australasia but, despite the enthusiasm of Borders, some independent booksellers and a few brave Waterstone's branches, you couldn't find any of our titles in our own city of Newcastle until a couple of months ago.'

All very interesting, and a good insight into why the book industry is currently circling the drain.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Burglar's Dog's 'caustic critic' is back

The brand new edition of The Burglar's Dog was officially released yesterday. It's available from all good bookshops, including Amazon, Asda, The Back Page, Blackwell's, Borders, Fenwick and Waterstones. If you enjoyed the original 2006 version, this is a must-have - completely revised and updated and containing up to 33.3% brand new material.

There was an interview with author Mark Jones in the Sunday Sun at the weekend ('A caustic pub critic has blasted fun pubs and designer venues, claiming they are destroying a North city's individuality').

And don't forget, you can claim a FREE exclusive set of four Burglar's Dog badges here.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Wor Al Shearer in Toon and in tune

Alan Shearer was back on the pitch at Newcastle's St James' Park yesterday for the first time since his retirement to take part in a charity match (he scored a hat-trick in a 5-3 win for his side). Meanwhile, video footage has surfaced of Wor Al performing a cabaret version of Lionel Ritchie's All Night Long. Particularly impressive is his decision to sing his own backing vocals ("Let the music play on, play on, play on"!), and also his attempt to sing the Swahili bit in the middle!

Our Shearer tribute, Wor Al, is currently available direct from Tonto for just £4.99 - get it here. If you prefer you can get it for £5.99 from Amazon. Mick Lowes from BBC Radio Newcastle called it 'A tribute book that no self-respecting Newcastle United fan should be without'. Fifty pence from each copy sold goes to the NSPCC.

You can hear BBC Radio Newcastle's 'Local Hero' montage of extracts from Wor Al here. It's an mp3, so you can right-click to 'save as'.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Pete Tanton back in Durham with Johnny Lonely

Fresh from opening the Durham Literature Festival, Pete Tanton will be back in Durham tomorrow (Saturday 13th) to sign copies of Johnny Lonely at the city's Waterstones from 12.30pm (69 Saddler St, Durham, 0191 383 1488). The next day, Pete and fellow Tonto scribe Roz Wyllie will be visiting HMP Low Newton as part of the Lit Fest Inside programme of literature workshops within the prison.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Not fair, not in Frankfurt

The Frankfurt Book Fair officially got underway yesterday but, although we do have a couple of spies in the midst, we aren't there. This was a source of much debate for us, as we were keen to be there and do some 'networking', but ultimately we couldn't justify the cost of going over. This is a view echoed by an anonymous publisher (not us!) in the Bookseller's Frankfurt Preview. Other publishers, obviously, state that the Fair is invaluable to them. The article, Strength in Numbers on pages 10-11, reports on how independent publishers are banding together to reduce costs, via organisations like the IPG. The Bookseller is publishing daily during the Fair, and the issues are available electronically via its website. We will get to Frankfurt eventually, this year's event probably just came around a little too early for us. In the meantime, anyone wishing to discuss rights for such fantastic internationally-appealing titles as Jonny Kennedy and The Rocketbelt Caper is most welcome to get in touch! Our 2007 Rights Guide can be viewed here.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Website redesign uploaded today

The Tonto website has undergone a slight redesign over the last few days. The homepage has more news stories and a new feed from this blog, and there are now dedicated pages for writers, trade and press. Check it out here and let us know what you think.

To celebrate the website's redesign we've added a couple of special offers - you can now get £2 off More Tonto Short Stories and £3 off Wor Al.

Speaking of offers, we've also extended our free Burglar's Dog badges offer until 22 October.


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Jonny Kennedy Book Day

Following on from our launch for the Jonny Kennedy book, there is now a short from the day.
You can view it by clicking here. Soundbites come from Nell McAndrew, Edna Kennedy and the author, Roger Stutter. If you look closely you can see Paul and I trying to avoid being caught on camera.


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Jonny Kennedy in the Weekly News

Another good piece on the Jonny Kennedy book in the new edition of the Weekly News. Click on the image to view a readable version.

If you haven't already got your copy of the book it's available from all good bookshops around the country, including Asda, Borders and Waterstones, and from Amazon stores worldwide.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

More Jonny Kennedy mixed media

There was a nice piece on the Jonny Kennedy book in the Hexham Courant on Friday. Jonny lived much of his life in nearby Rochester. Click on the image to read a bigger version:

And on Saturday the Shields Gazette reported on Nell McAndrew attending the book launch (Nell's model behaviour at Johnny book launch).


Monday, October 01, 2007

Lit Fest opens in style with Pete & friends

Tonto Press writers Pete Tanton, Katie-Ellen Hazeldine, Stephen Shieber and Roz Wyllie headlined the opening event at the 17th Durham Literature Festival on Saturday. Pete read from his novel Johnny Lonely, and Katie-Ellen, Stephen and Roz read stories from their acclaimed More Tonto Short Stories collection. All did a great job, engaging and captivating those present. The writers then signed copies of the books for audience members.

Thanks to all four writers, and to everyone who came along, some of whom had travelled long distances to be there.


Friday, September 28, 2007

Tonto writers kickstart Durham Lit Fest

Tonto writers Pete Tanton, Katie-Ellen Hazeldine, Stephen Shieber and Roz Wyllie will open the 2007 Durham Literature festival tomorrow, Saturday 29 September.

Pete will be reading from his prize-winning comic novel Johnny Lonely, following wannabe musician Hughie Youngkin on an ill-fated quest to become a rock star, during which he finds himself trapped in a terrifying firestorm. Katie-Ellen, Stephen and Roz will be reading their stories from the acclaimed More Tonto Short Stories collection.

The event, Pete Tanton and Friends, will take place at Durham's Gala Studio tomorrow Saturday 29 September at 2pm.

Pete will also be signing copies of Johnny Lonely at Waterstones in Durham on Wednesday 3 October from midday.

Johnny Lonely by Pete Tanton and More Tonto Short Stories are both available to order from all good book shops.


Jonny Kennedy coverage and contest

As promised, here is a selection of coverage of yesterday's Jonny Kennedy book launch. Scroll down to win a copy of the book signed by Nell McAndrew and Roger Stutter.

Firstly, for some reason the third part of the Evening Chronicle's serialisation of the book didn't appear online, so you can view a PDF of it here. The first two parts can be seen here and here.

Roger, Nell and Edna were all featured on ITV1's North East Tonight last night. You can watch the programme online here.

The Journal covered the launch this morning. Click on the image below to view a bigger version.

The Evening Chronicle ran a similar feature, again click to see a bigger version:

The launch should also be featured on BBC Radio Newcastle later today.

As promised, we have a copy of Jonny Kennedy specially signed by Nell McAndrew and Roger Stutter to give away. For a chance to win the book, email your answer to the following question along with your name and address to:
contact [at] tontopress [dot] com

Question: Jonny's theme tune 'Don't Stop Me Now' is performed by which rock group?

The contest closes next Friday 5 October 2007, and the winner will be chosen at random from correct entries received.