Sunday, 26 April 2015

Happy Third Birthday, Carla. Here's Bodicia's review and some notes on the novel...

My fourth novel "Carla"is (just about) three years old next week. Happy Birthday.

A while back,  the novel was reviewed on the influential A Woman's Wisdom blog, run with discreet professionalism by Bodicia. 

If you're a reader and you are not following this indie blog, you should be - along with Rosie Amber's review blog, EL Lindley's short story and review blog, and Terry Tyler's occasionally caustic and satirical look at matters indie - AWW is critical reading.  

Here's the review. I'll let Bodicia introduce the book for you.

And here's the terrific Bodicia herself, live from the Manor.

Carla is my second best selling book after Ultra Violence. Both sell a few copies every week, though it is the only book I have written which sells in the US (UV is about football hooligans,so I would probably not have bothered if Amazon gave me the option).  

It is set in Southwell, UK, and as I said to the Creative Writing group Phil and me work with last week, you can actually visit the places in the book, including the pub where "Carla" herself works.

I used to drink there but had a fall out with the landlord. I was on my laptop minding my own business and he asked me to move as I was getting in the way. He has the social skills of a house brick. As the pub was empty, it was just personal. I left and never went back. That was three years ago this week.

Guess what book I was writing? You won't even need a second.

Catalogue: I am compiling a catalogue at the moment of the Green Wizard work and this entails collating the pick of my reviews for inclusion. 

Three things come up about Carla time after time. One, women find it a difficult read (subject matter, not writing, which is universally praised), but most finish it. Its about mental health and its about love (Or obsession, though personally, I find the two conditions very similar). 

Two, everyone likes the protagonist, John Dexter, a 42 year old released inmate from a psychiatric hospital (and they, perhaps, weren't supposed to), and three, everyone comments on its grasp of the condition known as Borderline Personality Disorder, a condition of which I have some personal experience.

Fame: Personally, I thought this was the novel that was going to get me in the papers etc, but it never happened - and when you see the fizz and froth that sells in Indie, it is perhaps understandable, but I was naive at the time.

Like Hollywood Shakedown, I would probably not be able to write like this again and I wish - I fervently wish - I could go back, slap myself around the chops and speed it up in the middle, but I think it passes muster still.

Covers: Here's the first cover I designed staying in Kent with my then Beta and (still) great friend Kelly Wainwright.

The first five covers (for the five books which started GW) I designed on Publisher were so amateurish (including a stolen photograph of a beautiful girl from Tumbler - its no wonder I get into trouble!), Kelly contacted me and told me she was getting complaints and it was affecting sales, so, like the embarrassed gent in the Yellow Pages advert...

...I realised I needed a cover designer. So I found Dark Dawn Creations on, of all places, the Amazon Forum and we worked on some covers until we came up with this one, starring a good friend of mine (with express permission, honest guv!) from my local gym. 

The original photograph  for this second edition in the graveyard at the bottom of Southwell Memorial Gardens before being tarted up by Dawn. This is my favourite cover of the lot.

Stepmum: My stepmum described it as the most depressing book she has ever read - and she has a voracious appetite for  books, a four book a week habit. But she read it and that's all a writer can EVER ask, isnt it, for a reader to complete his or her work.

On the other hand, in an interview on the Wizard's Cauldron, top light-erotic romance writer Lelani Black described it as one of her desert island three. That was one of the proudest moments of my time in Indie. Before she said that, I was on the point of packing the game in, but after, I realised that it was probably worth continuing.  Another reviewer, someone I don't know, who suffers from BPD, said it was one of the best books she has ever read so that was also praise indeed.

If you are a paperback reader, its a beautiful looking paperback, worthy of a gift, especially with the new Matte covers Createspace are punting at the moment.

Best Chapter: Carla contains my single favourite chapter as a writer - Smash Box, where John goes on a bender in Nottingham City Centre. You can follow his route to some extent, except one of  the pubs he visits is based on the much missed (and maligned) Redback bar, which was closed at the turn of the Millennium by the Police.

Here is the pub he started in, the desperate, end-of-the-world Joseph Else.

It also contains the single saddest chapter I have written so far. I still can't read it. If you know which one it is, then you've read it and know what I am talking about. If not, and you like sad songs and sad stories, you might like this chapter in Carla.

Origin: Here's the origin of the novel Carla - quite a few people may not know the story. This from July 2012. Originally seen just 57 times (boy, was I starting to worry!).

Trilogy: Carla is the first of three books which deal with this older madman/young (ostensibly) innocent girl dyad. 

The second is Once Upon A Time In The City Of Criminals, which attempts to do what didn't succeed the first time - make the male character a bad bad man. 

This isn't going to work either, judging by several comments made by readers so far, who actually like the new bloke, Terry Valentine. 

The third and concluding part will be out next March and will be written from the perspective of the young girl. Obvious move, really. I've already written this in my head, but I believe there are way too many books out there for reader comfort and one book a year is plenty.

Reviews: There are tons of reviews of Carla both on the Amazon website and also essays on Rosie Amber's Review Blog and on back posts of this one. 

It's  cheap to download too, but consider the paperback - it is a beautiful little thing to give as a gift for people interested in psychology etc and it's just over a fiver.

More later. Happy Birthday, Carla!!


  1. Hmmm...excellent post Mark and I wish Carla a very happy birthday. I can still remember reading it in one glorious day whilst on holiday last year...and the way it made me feel...breath taking...

    1. Three years seems like yesterday, Georgia :-) I know you've always liked this one...
      Thx again. Mxx

  2. happy birfday, Carla! You know I love it, and I sympathise greatly with the need to re-write one's old books!

    1. Terry, there are three chapters in there that simply need to come out but after revising one of my books and, in hindsight, I should tone down the Tales From The Asylum (which, oddly, are much worse than anything in "Criminals"), but hey, it's only books and you have to move on. I still remember your review and being heartened by it. Thx again. Mxx

  3. Thanks for the shout out Mark and Happy Birthday to Carla :-)

    1. You are very welcome, B and thank you for the review. :-)

  4. Carla is, perhaps, my favorite of Mr. Barry's catalogue. Or maybe it's just that it was the first I read! But whatever the reason, the wit, heart, gut-wrenching drama, and stellar storytelling just bowled me over and made me a fan. Your review is lovely, with sentiments I share. Happy Birthday to a brilliant book and it's writer!

    1. Thank you, Lorraine :-) I sometimes think its my favourite too, but I've never been a decent judge of the merits of my own work and its best to let others make their judgements. Being a bloke, I like to see what my friends and readers think of the rankings of my work. Women don't tend to be like that, I think. I love lists. Trouble is, it changes week by week ha ha.
      Thanks for your support and thanks for reading, Lorraine. :-)

  5. Happy Birthday to the beautiful Carla and John Dexter, Wiz. The novel has pride of place on my bookshelf for the way you made an unlikely hero both heroic, and tragic. You leave no one out in your stories, Wiz, no hot mess or train wreck or hooligan is left behind :D. I even have a girl crush on Chloe from Once Upon A Time In The City of Criminals, sir, and it's all your fault, hehehe. *Sigh* Maybe one day the guy will get the girl in the end, and no one has to die, or hurt themselves, or get hurt, maybe :) x

  6. Oh what a pleasure to hear from you, Lelani. I know you are a big fan of Carla and you gave me loads of confidence in the old days when it was all a bit uncertain. Thank you. As for Chloe, I feel as if she's getting a bit overlooked as I genuinely think she's a much stronger written character than Carla. I gave her equal billing with Terry but you are the only person so far who has made these comments about Chloe. I sat listening to young girls on buses(and young gangsters too) and her diction is bang on. I love Chloe too and I shall miss her because she ain't never getting out of Wayne Manor - or is she? :-) Oh, and do you not remember that I gave TNP a happy ending? I'm not all grim and gritty. Take care and I hope your books are flying off the shelves. x