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NEWS & MUSINGS

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March 2024

If you listened to Ros Rice's Access Radio interview with me recently, this is where you can win a FREE copy of Unity. But, you have to be the first to click on the Access Radio logo and correctly answer the question I asked in the interview.  (Listen here!) Ts&Cs: First correct email answer wins. Winner MUST be a New Zealand resident living in New Zealand.

TIME
TO WIN!

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The Book of the Year!

Actually, my apologies, I think I’ve transposed the headline; maybe it should be The Year of the Book, since 2023 was when I completed and published my first spy novel, Unity. Thank you, thanks. Wonderful. No really, there’s no need. Oh all right, keep going… (takes a bow, accepts flowers)

Was Unity a success? Well, that's a good question, but it might not be the best way to ask it. I’m reminded of when Bilbo wishes the wizard Gandalf good morning: Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat. “What do you mean?” he said. “Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?”

I’m no wizard (and some might argue no author), but whether my novel has been a success depends on the perspective. So, at the top level we could perhaps argue that for a novel to be successful it must have become a best-seller, perhaps with the film rights bought by a production company. Unity has sold fewer than 150 copies in a year (pass me the tissues…) and nobody has beaten a path to my door for the rights to it, so in that respect it has been a miserable failure.

Another benchmark would be that an established publisher picked it up and is now promoting it to booksellers and libraries throughout the land, with a generous advance to me to write a sequel. The publisher has organized a number of launches and signings, and I am in demand by all the literary supplements for interviews and profile pieces. Spoiler alert: I don’t have a publisher. I self-published, so no speaking tour or interviews, and no profile pieces. And I can’t afford any paid promotion. Success? Nope.

It’s about here that Gandalf, his bushy eyebrows arching together, would ask: “Or do you mean it’s successful because those who’ve read it have enjoyed it?” Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. By all accounts – and I mean verifiable feedback: reviews and ratings on both Amazon and Goodreads, along with direct emails and feedback to me personally – Unity has been successful. Those who’ve read it have enjoyed it (or for some reason been too scared to tell me they haven’t).

Ah yes, you ask, but are we talking hundreds of reviews and ratings? Because that would be a measure of success surely. Er, no. At time of writing there are 14 ratings and ten reviews on Amazon (but averaging 4.8 out of 5), and nine ratings with five reviews on Goodreads (all five stars). In terms of the quality of feedback then, yes Unity is a successful novel. In respect of the quantity? No, still struggling.

But what about peer endorsements? Established novelists usually have another famous author endorsing their books on the front cover, which gives confidence to the potential reader. If Ian Rankin says of Mick Herron’s Spook Street that it’s “A terrific spy novel” (which he does) then for Ian Rankin fans that’s all they need to check out Herron’s works. Did Unity receive any famous endorsements?

Well, actually, yes. Veteran actor Derren Nesbitt (Where Eagles Dare, The Prisoner, Special Branch, etc.) liked it and said I was “a very fine writer.” (Some may know that Unity has a tie-in to the enigmatic ’60s British TV series The Prisoner and Nesbitt was one of the guest stars). And David Pinner, author of Ritual on which the cult film The Wicker Man is based, calls Unity “a fine thriller.”

Successful endorsements? Yes and no. If Unity was widely available in bookshops and people saw those endorsements on the cover they might well be encouraged to purchase. But it’s not. So, lovely though the endorsements are, it’s like shouting them into the darkness and not even hearing an echo. But I’ve got them, so at least that’s something.

But about now Gandalf would be going, “Hrumph,” and snapping the reins to get his horse and cart moving along with some haste.

Am I despondent? Do I feel writing Unity was all a waste of time? Am I giving up writing altogether? You’d be entitled to ask given that so few copies have sold and considering all the energy I put into it. But for those of you with a bad case of schadenfreude, bad luck; no I’m not giving up, and here’s why…

I learned a lot about writing when I authored Unity. I unashamedly mimicked some of my favourite authors, emulating their writing styles and being inspired by their use of language. Not for a moment is this plagiarism; I am talking about being inspired by other authors, not pinching story lines, paragraphs or whole pages from them. I believe the quality of my writing improved as a result. That’s a success, and I enjoyed writing the book. Yay, high-fives all round.

When the book was in its final draft form I managed to cobble together a ‘focus group’ of 12 pre-readers who agreed to read it and provide me feedback, both in terms of the story and the grammar, spelling etc. As a result, I was able to tweak the narrative appropriately before release and fix most of the errors; any remaining are entirely my fault. How is that a success? Well, I didn’t have to pay for an editor (which I couldn’t afford anyway) and it helped confirm for me that the story was actually okay; independent readers told me so.

And finally, I successfully self-published Unity using Amazon KDP – Kindle Direct Publishing – a platform for authors to get their works published and available globally at virtually no cost. I designed and created my own cover, uploaded and formatted the manuscript, and proofed everything before hitting the “Publish” button. Hey presto, the book was born.

There are no vast stocks of Unity sitting in a warehouse somewhere, costing me storage fees; Amazon KDP makes the eBook version available for instant download, while the paperback and hardback versions are available on a print-on-demand basis, something that still gobsmacks me to this day. I recently ordered ten copies and they arrived within seven days. I don’t know how they do it.

I know of authors who can’t negotiate the mechanics of publishing with KDP and who pay “experts” a lot of money to do it for them. In that respect, I regard having done it by myself an achievement.

But beyond all of that, I wrote a spy novel. It might not win the Booker, it might not be a best-seller, and it might not even be in the shops. The thing is: I did it.

Success.

Avatars in my Head

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When I started writing Unity I needed to clearly picture my cast of characters. I chose the two famous actors pictured because they enabled me to capture their appearances, mannerisms, voices and emotions. Having their avatars in my head made me write about them almost without thinking.

I gave them the working names Bill Riley and Judith Tench as a way of reminding me who they were, and I fully intended to change their names before publication.

But I grew to like them so much I left them as they were, rightly or wrongly. Nobody so far seems to have picked up on the similarity in their monikers, so maybe it doesn't matter. But if I were ever to have a hand in casting the film version...!

'Superbly crafted' 

Some audiences are harder to please than others. In the case of Unity, which is linked to the 1960s cult TV series The Prisoner, die-hard Prisoner fans are among the most cynical and difficult. In general, they - pardon the pun - take no prisoners, but Rick Davy, who runs a major Prisoner-related website called The Unmutual, is a convert. Here's his recent review:

 

'As regular readers will know, I am not a fan of ‘Prisoner fan fiction'. It tends to be written by people full of enthusiasm, but lacking in ability, reliant on stereotypical characters and situations which are not befitting the greatest series ever made.

It was with trepidation (coupled with an enthusiasm that someone was willing to give it a try), therefore, that I learned that a new book, entitled ‘Unity' was being prepared. My trepidation was misplaced.

Mike Bodnar's story is unlike any Prisoner-related fiction written previously. Rather than writing an 18th episode, or sequel, as many others have tried previously, Mike has written ‘Unity' from a totally new perspective.

The story is almost a ‘The Village behind the scenes story', telling the tales of those at Governmental level (and below) who have set up and run The Village, and those operatives that we always wondered about when watching the series, but never got to find anything about. A unique idea, and one which I am delighted to say Mike has approached with both aplomb, and genuine creativity.

We are spared the usual shortcomings of fan-fiction (copying existing storylines, poorly written Number Six dialogue, etc) and instead treated to a whole host of new, and believable characters, and a fascinating and well thought out back story for the setting of our favourite series, and captor.

It is these undercurrents and back-stories which make ‘Unity' a very interesting and well written piece of work. Superbly crafted, with punchy dialogue and good scene setting, the author has tried something new and definitely pulled it off.'

'A fine thriller' (from the originator of The Wicker Man)

Acclaimed author David Pinner (pictured) of Ritual/The Wicker Man fame, says of Unity:

'Unity is very well-written and shows good political nous. A fine thriller: it is also a work of sharp prose and great economy. "Art is the gift of saying the most with the least’ and Mike Bodnar knows this".'

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'Sharply honed thriller writing'

I recently received a very thoughtful and incisive review of my new spy thriller Unity.

It comes from a doctor of literature, David Annwn Jones, and he has this to say about the novel:

It's sharply honed thriller writing, comparable to the very best in the field. Amongst the reading pleasures are the clever and devastating links to 60s political figures and what I call the 'faction' effect: you find yourself wondering: 'Is this actually fiction

or has the author got the lowdown on what actually happened?'

For me this vindicates the lengths I went to in researching the zeitgeist of 1967 Britain and especially the political situation of the time. My aim was to have enough factual material in the story that anyone who wondered, did that actually happen? or, was that person real? could do some research and discover that yes, indeed it did and indeed they were - right down to the name of the head chef at the Savoy Grill at the time.

I thoroughly enjoyed that research, and if I'm guilty of anything it's breaking off my writing to go down all sorts of Internet rabbit holes in search of information. If I had chosen not to do that the book would have been finished and published a year ago!

Anyway, I love getting feedback, so if you've read Unity and have some thoughts you'd like to share, please do.

Breaking News!

June 23, 2023

 

There aren't many actors who played roles in The Prisoner still alive, but one of them who very much is is Derren Nesbitt. Derren was Number Two in the episode 'It's Your Funeral,' and he's just read Unity.

He emailed me to say that he thinks I'm a 'very fine writer... very talented,' and I have his permission to use his endorsement too.

I am, needless to say, delighted. Meanwhile, if you haven't yet read Unity, now's the time!

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'Where am I? In The Village...'

I finally got to stay in The Village for the first time ever, but just for one night.

Although I'd visited Portmeirion many times, I'd never been fortunate enough to actually stay, so this was a real treat.

I took many photos of course but couldn't ignore the opportunity for a publicity shot for Unity in the grounds of The Village, which are so essential to both The Prisoner and my Unity tie-in novel.

I left Rover on guard...

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5-star review for Unity: Peace for All, Freedom for None

The Book is Launched! (April 2023)

Unity was officially 'declassified' at the 2023 Prisoner convention at Portmeirion, on the weekend of 22/23 April.

Below are a few snaps from the event, which was well attended and heaps of fun. The Village was alive again with scenes from Free For All, Checkmate, and more, and the effort everyone made with their costumes was astounding!

My thanks to the organisers (Six of One Appreciation Society) for letting me use this splendid occasion to launch the book. Watch the highlights of my book launch here on YouTube (or see below!).

Coming Next:
The Liscannor Intercept

Trial book cover for Mike Bodnar's next novel, The Liscannor Intercept

Three years on from Unity, MI6 finds itself up against the IRA in an explosive race against time! 

Anastasia Walker and Rupert Symes are alerted to a consignment of guns, bombs, missiles and explosives making its way to Northern Ireland by sea. The IRA is desperate to receive it, but the ship carrying the menacing freight gets into mechanical difficulties off the coast of County Clare.

 

Agents Trainor and D’Amelio are dispatched to Ireland’s West Coast where they’re to rendezvous with a team of SAS soldiers. Their mission is two-fold: to intercept the IRA’s attempt to reach the stricken ship, and to prevent the deadly weapons from ever reaching shore.

 

 

But not everyone in the little village of Liscannor can be trusted. Who are IRA sympathisers, and who are not? How can Trainor and D’Amelio stop the ruthless IRA faction? When D’Amelio is captured and tortured, their mission seems doomed…

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