Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong

    I played the trumpet when I was a lad, even showed some promise. I remember, aged 11, being shoe-horned onto a spot-lit stage to play the Trumpet Voluntary. It’s a solo piece. No room for error, no opportunity to blame somebody else.

    My music teacher back in the early 1970s was a lady who not only wore a miniskirt but was also a terrific musician. She obviously thought that my standing in the spotlight in shorts in front of an audience of upwards of a hundred, comprising parents, pupils and teachers, would be character-building. When she retired from teaching, she took holy orders and became a vicar (or was it a priest?) during her autumn years. What a wonderful and dedicated character she was. Joan, you gave me the courage and skills to have a treasured life-long memory, I salute you.


    To help me learn the trumpet I listened to, and copied, Louis Armstrong - old Satchmo himself. He had a wonderful way of playing to complement that unique gravelly voice. He became my (unlikely?) childhood hero and I listened to his records over and over. In fact, I learned many of his riffs which came with me as I played trad jazz through my school years. (Not very well!)

    Today I flicked onto the internet to have a nostalgic glimpse of the great man, and find he died in July 1971, the very year I stood on that stage. How magical is that? One star dies, another is born…………, well, no.


    I gave up trumpet when I went out to work (and took up smoking) but I’ve had the pleasure of Satchmo’s wonderful company throughout the years. He was the only performer who could sing a smile. I first heard his amazing version of ‘We Have all the Time in the World’ just after my dad died, far too young, in 1973. That one has certainly stayed with me.


    Today I’m having a Louis Armstrong moment – blowing my own trumpet. One could call it my Satchmoment.

    I’ve been writing books for ten years. I enjoy it and have been lucky enough to sell a few. I’ll never be a world-beater, unless by unlikely chance, a 12-year-old TV producer recognizes my talent and hauls me up on stage again, but I do OK. I sell through Amazon (in the main) and for the self-published writer they have all sorts of metrics to show how well or badly I’m doing on a daily / historical basis.


    Reviews, where a reader leaves a few words, are hard to come by. Likewise, ratings which are a non-written 1-5 star assessments.

    To leave a review / rating, someone first has to buy the book and read it, then take the trouble to go to their keyboard or mobile device and record their impressions. Alternatively, they can read it online having subscribed to Kindle Unlimited, whereafter they can read it for free. In addition, reviewers have to spend a certain amount with Amazon before they are allowed to leave a review (£50 I think). Not anyone can leave a review, certainly not relatives. You can’t pay people (or bribe them with a book) to leave a review.

    Anybody who has written something is desperate for positive feedback.

    It takes anything from 6-months to a year to write a book. Then there’s ‘finishing’. This includes editing, formatting for both online and print versions, and the design and formatting of an eye-catching cover (hopefully). Finally, there’s marketing where you tell people you’ve written a book knowing that 99% won’t be bothered.

    After the writing of it, I have to pay for the skilled bits. I’m lucky to have the help of an English editor who lives in Canada. We exchange a long series of ideas, images and drafts before I press the ‘publish’ button.

    So, after all this trauma it’s nice to have a bit of encouragement.

    It’s inevitable to receive bad reviews; occasionally they are so vindictive they make me cringe and I just want to crawl under a rock. I sometimes just go for a walk when someone’s been unpleasant. Thankfully, there are plenty of positive ones, some lovely, so if that’s you, thank you. I’ve written an article about reviews here – some are amazing and occasionally bring a lump to my throat. Those are the ones that keep me going.


    I was leafing through the diagnostics on my Amazon page the other day and had a nice surprise. I discovered that I’ve broken the one thousand review / ratings barrier. That’s over nine books, but still, it was startling and certainly more than I would have expected.

    Then there are those online page reads I mentioned, well, they have broken through the million barrier. That’s a million pages read of something I created from a blank piece of paper. A million of anything is alright in my book (pun), unless your name’s Rowling when a million before breakfast is the norm. A million online page reads equates to roughly five and a half thousand books. People have read these pages worldwide so that in itself is pretty humbling.


    What a Wonderful World.

    You listening Satchmo?