Friday, 30 December 2011

Give me an A ...

Here's something light-hearted on which to end the year:

Hands up if you like fruit smoothies. Innocent do a great range in the UK, in handy little cartons for kids - expensive, I know, but they keep longer that way. Recently they've been doing a giveaway of fridge-magnet letters (3 per pack) and we'd managed to collect quite a few before they stopped. But we were missing a few letters - crucially an A. You can't spell a lot of words without an A and you can't spell my teenage daughter's name Clare.

So she wrote a rather tongue-in-cheek email to the company and asked them pretty-please to send her an A. This is a company whose lists of ingredients frequently say "no socks" or "no trumpets", so we thought they'd have a sense of humour. They replied back saying they'd be delighted to send the missing letters which duly arrived, so my daughter put together a short video of thanks...

Happy New Year!

Thursday, 22 December 2011


And so this is Christmas and what have you done....

In the words of John Lennon, what exactly have I done with 2011? Well one of the most important things to me has always been writing and up until this year, it's something I'd neglected for a long time, for a variety of reasons. And then my wonderful dad bought me a kindle in early February and I don't think he'll ever realise how much he changed my life. It probably doesn't mean much to most of you, but apart from being a great present, it opened so many doors to me into the world of indie publishing. Suddenly I don't need to be commercial. I don't need to sell thousands of books, to prove to a traditional publisher I can earn back an advance.

So in February I released my thriller Hamelin's Child and a collection of short stories Maniac onto Amazon's kindle platform, followed by a young adult fantasy Edge of Dreams later on in the year. A bit more formatting and they were soon on Smashwords platform too - and from there distributed to Sony, Barnes & Noble, WHSmith, Apple and all the major e-book retailers. I've worked with some great cover designers and taken out some online adverts - which more than paid for themselves in volume of sales. It's been a steep learning curve but I've sold thousands more books than I ever imagined I would and had fantastic reviews from people all over the world - strangers I've never met and who have no vested interest in being nice to me. I've even had fan email. And I'm writing again and loving it all.

The negatives: the near implosion of the British Fantasy Society, seeing friends hurt and egos inflated, realising that the internet can sometimes be a bad place and that some laundry really should be cleaned in private. Hard lessons and ones that make me less likely to volunteer my time and experience in the future. But I've also strengthened friendships and come out wiser and in the end probably happier.

My teenage daughter made her tv debut as an extra on Waterloo Road this year. Tiny acorns, those fleeting seconds on screen, but she's set for a stage career and let's face it, she has as good a chance of a job in the entertainment industry as anywhere else these days. And hubby finally got his stained glass business up and running after more than five years renovating the outbuildings (he's not that slow, but he had to start by underpinning the entire building with reinforced concrete, rebuilding much of the walls and putting on a new roof). So Moulton Glass now has a proper home and he is already making local sales.

And what for 2012? My resolutions are as follows:
  1. To stop procrastinating, get bum on seat, computer off facebook and actually write
  2. To stop being embarrassed about what I do. I find it hard to promote myself - especially as I write some dark and graphic stuff. But I need to learn to be proud of myself and my successes. I AM A WRITER. More than that: I AM A BLOODY GOOD WRITER!
Watch this space, 2012.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Ebooks For Soldiers

I'm involved in a new initiative to keep soldiers entertained while on active service away from home. Now, I don't have any friends or family currently serving in the military, but I can imagine that e-readers are an absolute boon to anyone with a limited amount of luggage or personal belongings. Ebooks For Soldiers was set up so that authors with books available in electronic format could donate free copies of their books to serving military personnel, especially over the festive period when our men and women are far from home and family.

One of the authors involved is Michael Lorde, whose thriller ebook Blind Veil is available from and  Michael is also the instigator of the entire project and has put most of the hard work into getting it all up and running. You can find out more about Michael here, but in the meantime, I put some questions to this talented author:

So tell me a bit about yourself –where you are from and what you write.
I was raised in New York State. I lived in Virginia Beach for thirty years, but I missed the seasons and I’m glad to be back up north. I now live in Michigan with my ten year old daughter. It’s Christmas time and we have snow. I’m smiling.

I write fiction. Blind Veil is a psychological thriller, so it has creepy elements, so of course some of it’s pretty disturbing. The first few chapters are different than the rest of the book, and take place decades ago; but then the story switches up to the here and now. Everything else in the book occurs as a result of that unreported past crime.

I’m currently working on the second Blind Veil book as well as edits for a fantasy book. In the fantasy book, the main character is a young woman. That storyline is not as intense as the Blind Veil Series, though it has its own disturbing moments… just not as consistently. That book is a softer read.

I also dabble in scripts. I have two that I’d like to see produced and I work on new ones all the time.

When did you start writing seriously and why?
I’ve always written. Some of my teachers told me that I should pursue writing, but I didn’t pursue getting published until Blind Veil. This was the book that demanded me to pen it down and get it out; to share it with others. I’m probably happier now in this work than I’ve ever been; now that I’m writing all the time. Looking back, I don’t know what took me so long to make that decision.

How much and what type of research do you do for your writing?
I actually did no research for Blind Veil. I have a background as an investigator, so I knew the terminology. The rest came to me when I got the idea for the book. The plot came to me instantly. It was the first time that had happened, and I found it pretty amazing. I had a similar ‘epiphany’ with the second book, the fantasy book. Both are the first of a series.

What do you enjoy reading? Do you have a favorite author?
I love to read, though I stay away from reading novels when I’m heavy into a plot. That way I’m not picking up terminology, or writing styles from other author’s works. I read everything. I’m the type of person who has to learn things all day long. I’ve always been that way. As a kid, I read constantly and really loved school, so yes; I enjoy reading just about anything. As far as a favorite author… There are way too many to be able to pick just one. King is definitely on the list because I like oddities and he’s the ‘king’ of oddities. I also enjoy ‘Lord of the Rings’ type of story lines, so I’m a fan of J.R.R Tolkien. I like Baldacci, Grisham, Clancy. There are way too many to list. I’m big on espionage, conspiracy, and psychological thrillers; so I enjoy anything that includes those elements. A writer’s style means more to me than the ‘technical’ aspect that might captures some reader’s attention. I want to feel a strong pull into the characters and the storyline; not like I’m watching it, but as if I’m next to them the whole time, or close enough to walk a few steps in their shoes.

Tell me something about yourself that not many people know.
That’s easy. I have a water phobia that I’ve never been able to shake. I’m a great swimmer and was even on the dive team in high school, but I’m never totally comfortable swimming in the ocean, or in a large body of water. I went white water rafting years ago thinking that would rid me of it, but it didn’t. It was fun enough, but I wouldn’t do it again. I love boating and tubing and in the past I’ve water skied and wind surfed. I’m fine with all of that; but put me over my head in the ocean without a device nearby, and I am not a happy camper. I hated the swim training I had to go through in a dive tank that the navy seals train in. It was a grueling experience. Impressed? Don’t be… our training was nothing like Navy seals training; we just used their tanks. There was nothing intense or life threatening about it, and water boarding and survival training was the furthest thing from our instructors mind. Still, I would never want to go through it again. Like I said, I’m a good swimmer and more than capable. I just don’t like the feeling. I love being at the ocean, but not in it. So, now you know my secret. I have four kids who are all part fish. Go figure.

So Hollywood wants to make film of your book. Who is going to play your main characters?
Being very visual, I knew the answer to this when I was writing the book. Ioan Gruffudd (or Christian Bale), Denzel Washington, Ian McKellan, Gael Garcia Bernal, and Bridget Moynahan.

Oh no! The film director says that the sponsor will only put up the money if your book can be set on a desert island. How will this affect your story?
That’s funny! Okay, the way my main character’s feeling, he may as well be on a deserted island; and while part of the book does take place on the ocean, I don’t think the whole island scenario will work.

It’s a psychological thriller, so the main character is stuck with his situation. No matter where he tries to run, he can’t run away from his own thoughts. Nothing is easy for him. He faces challenges whether he’s on an island or smack dab in the middle of New York City. The problem with the deserted island is that it’s deserted. His situation requires that others are around and in fact things get pretty intense for him because they are around. I hope I bring the reader in close enough that they can feel that intensity of what he’s going through. Many of my readers have said that they couldn’t put Blind Veil down, so I’m hoping that I’ve accomplished that. One reader told me ‘I was there’ which being an author, was of course music to my ears. As long as I can bring the readers into my character’s ‘island’, I’ll be happy. But deserted island? We’ll just have to hire a different director.

And finally…

Vampires or zombies?

Definitely Zombies. I got bitten by a Great Dane once… while deciding whether or not to adopt him. He answered that question really fast, well before I arrived at the E.R. That was the closest encounter I ever want to have with a creatures teeth. (I’m a huge dog lover. The two great dogs I do have, know enough to keep their teeth in their mouths where they belong.)

Apples or bananas?

Commercial best-seller or literary prize winner?
Commercial best seller would be nice. Recognition is wonderful, but it won’t pay for the kid’s colleges.

Thanks for answering those questions, Michael - and apologies for the oddballs. I have a strange sense of humour at times.

So if you're reading this and you are currently away from home and serving in the military, hop on over to Ebooks For Soldiers and take a look at what's on offer. Or email your son or daughter and get them to take a look. Sign up and you could soon be reading Michael's book Blind Veil for FREE on your e-reader. And if you're not eligible for a free copy, then why not buy one instead? There are more authors signing up all the time on the site and you're bound to find something you like.

Michael's website, blog and video trailer are all worth a visit and you can also read reviews of Blind Veil.

How can an unreported crime that occurred forty years in the past,and across the country, affect a New York City Cop today?

Can a seemingly innocent boat ride forever change the life of a former Marine?

Find out when a Police Officer meets an eccentric scientist who claims to hold secret knowledge that has been hidden from the rest of society.

Is this all truly happening, or is he slowly losing his grip on reality? Unfortunately, neither conclusion between the two worlds is better than the other as the clarifying line between reality and impossibility slowly disintegrates, turning his world upside down.

He must dig thirty years into his past; deep beneath the veil and the mesh of murder, lies and deceit to find answers.

Follow the trail of events that will forever shape his future… and maybe yours.

Available in English only at:

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Michael's Story

Have you ever thought about killing yourself?  I mean really doing it – topping yourself – not just messing about to get attention? It’s a scary place, that black hole in your mind, and sometimes I walk the edge, one foot in front of the other around the rim, and wonder whether to just shut my eyes and jump in. It’s like balancing on the railings on a motorway bridge – gives you a thrill, an adrenaline shot like nothing else on earth.

Except perhaps heroin.

You want to know why heroin? I’m not sure I know myself, but then I’m not sure about much in my life anymore.

I’m Michael. This is my story. It’s not pretty and I’m not proud of it. But it’s mine.

Friday, 9 December 2011

KDP Select & Large Fries To Go, Please

So I looked at KDP Select - amazon's amazing new offer for indie authors. Sign exclusively with us for 90 days and we will put your ebook in our amazon prime lending library. You get a share of half a million dollars in December alone. $500,000? Just for December? Where do I sign?

Read the small print. You get a share of the money pot depending on how many times your book is borrowed as a proportion of all borrowings. And the library is growing rapidly by the hour since amazon emailed all us indie authors yesterday. But in return, amazon demands exclusivity - you cannot sell or distribute your book anywhere during that 90 day period - that presumably means you can't sell your books off your own website and you can't give books to reviewers.

Where it really get complicated is if you have ever sold your book via smashwords. Quite apart from the fact that you have to wait for smashwords to pull the books from B&N, Apple, Sony and other sites (which can take a few weeks), you need to remember that even if you unpublish a book from smashwords, the site retains a copy to service previous customers of that book, which they will presumably distribute to said customers who wish to re-download. Bang go amazon's terms & conditions then. And once you violate amazon's t&c, the wording is sufficiently vague for them to get away with anything.

I'd maybe consider it for a new book. But you'd have to have a huge proportion of downloads (not numbers, but % of total downloads) to be making real money at this new game. So I'll pass for now and stick with smashwords and getting my books into as many different outlets as I can.

But KDP Select does sound like a menu option in a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet, doesn't it?

Monday, 5 December 2011

You Couldn't Make It Up

It's 3.30pm and I'm finishing the design of a very complex universe at work - yes, really, I am. Not something from Magrathea, no, but that's what I do as a day job: design universes. Actually I work in business intelligence and the software I use to set up systems to interrogate big databases is called Business Objects - the resultant interface is called a "universe".

So it's half-three and the phone rings. It's my husband who I left at home in bed with man-flu this morning. He's been up and about and says that one of my catfish is stuck in the aquarium. Now this morning I remember seeing a bit of plastic pipe floating on the surface of the water - I pushed it back down to the bottom, weighted it with some gravel and realised the catfish was still in it. I thought he was probably a bit scared and he'd come out when I'd gone.

Now my catties came to me about two inches long and they are both about five inches now, if not bigger. They're big and clumsy, but very sweet nervous creatures who like to live in the pipe and the coconut shell. Unfortunately one had grown a bit big, tried to bend in the T-junction of the plastic pipe and got himself completely wedged in tight. Poor thing had been stuck there all day.

Husband insists this is a domestic emergency and I need to come home to rescue him (the fish or husband? I'm not sure). Fortunately, I only live 15 minutes from work, so after much hilarity in the office, I drive home. And the pipe is floating with poor cattie tightly stuck in the bend. I try to shake him out but he gets more agitated and more stuck. Husband says we'll have to saw the pipe apart, so I find a washing up bowl and prepare to transfer tank water, fish and pipe.

Then I have a brain wave. I find a tube of face cream with a lid diameter slightly smaller than the pipe. Insert it gently into T-junction and push very slowly. Visions of squashed fish, but I persevere - and he moves a bit. Take out tube and look inside and he's definitely straightening out. Bit more pressure and a shake to dislodge his fins and he's out, straight to the bottom of the tank.

The pipe is in the bin, but I now have a traumatised fish with a scratch along one side. He hasn't moved in a few hours but he's still breathing. If he hasn't moved by tomorrow, it's off the to the aquarium shop to see if I can get something to put in the tank to make him feel better. He probably needs a stiff drink - I know I did!

I told you - you couldn't make it up.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Code Cracking...

Here we go. Starting at the Guardian's post, this is my pathetic attempt to crack the code created by GCHQ to attract high quality candidates for jobs in the security services.

Well to me that looks like hex code (base 16) from what I remember about computer tech courses way back. Our normal counting system is base 10 (0 units of '1' and 1 unit of '10' make the number 10) and binary is base 2.

No, I don't think they'll give me a job yet.

So, the first pair of characters above is eb. In hex, that gives me (14 x 16 ttp1) + (11 x 16 ttp0) where ttp = "to the power of", such are the limitations of blogger.

Any number ttp0 =1, so that gives us (14x16)+11 = 235.

No, I still don't think they'll give me a job.

I could go through the whole screen of hex and convert each character pair to its equivalent number. Then what? Presumably the base 10 numbers themselves are a code?

Just as well I never wanted a job in MI5. I'll stick to re-runs of Spooks on tv instead!

Oh, and feel free to correct my calculations if I'm wrong, which wouldn't surprise me in the least. It's a long, long time since I used to reconstruct deleted computer files by pulling bits of hex code together!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Is E-Cat a Con?

E-Cat? Finally a source of clean renewable energy - or a giant con?

I heard about this via a techy bulletin board I use at work for my IT support. Some of the US members were discussing it and while I couldn't go hunting at work, I made a note to go and look when I got home.

E- Cat is "energy catalyzer", a supposedly clean way of combining nickel and hydrogen in a "low energy nuclear reaction". It looks like fusion (most of our nuclear energy comes from fission - splitting - rather than fusion - combining), has no radioactive waste products and is apparently practically self-sustaining.

Sounds too good to be true? In most real-life situations, there really is no such thing as a free lunch - and I'm sure if this really was the future of the planet's energy, I'd have heard a bit more about it in the news by now. The web site has lots of stuff on from October, but apparently there's been a sale of an energy plant to an anonymous US customer in the last couple of days.

The company is called the "Leonardo Corporation" - an Italian company (and no, the name isn't lost on me - Da Vinci was famous for a lot more than his artwork and he is still rumoured to have invented the concept of the helicopter) and the E-Cat's somewhat secretive inventor Andrea Rossi is keeping quiet about the "secret ingredient" of the nuclear process.

If it's true, he's going to be a very rich man. If not, there will be a lot of red faces and he'll probably still be a very rich man. Either way, Mr Rossi wins.

I think I'll sit on the fence a while longer and think about those little pecking birds you used to get in the 1970s - the ones that slowly slipped coloured water and were about the nearest things to perpetual motion in existence.