Tuesday, 12 September 2017

The Beauty of Nature :)

I love autumn.  It's my favourite season, right from the smell in the air first thing on mid-August mornings, through to dank and chilly late November.  As today is particularly lush, I decided to get away from the laptop and go for a walk over the park.  At last ~ no more summer clothes, time to wear my over-the-knee boots and a jacket again!

Under the trees, the view as I looked up was so gorgeous that I just had to lie down amongst the fallen leaves and twigs, and look up at it for ten minutes or so.  One woman came over and asked me if I was alright.  I said yes, I was just enjoying the beauty of nature.  She gave me a half smile, half weird look, and went back to her phone.

(I didn't have a camera with me and don't possess a smartphone, so these are not my pictures, btw).

On the way home I passed a garden with a lavender bush that smelled wonderful as I walked past.  I broke a tiny sprig off and put it behind my ear, and could smell it all the way home 😌 (where I discovered that the washing line had broken, and my washing was all over the garden.  Ah well).

Friday, 18 August 2017

Short Story: Ten Minutes Late

During a two day period with no internet (it's okay, we survived...) I clicked on an old folder marked 'Story Ideas', and found this, a story I wrote about two years ago and had forgotten all about.  I wrote it when I came back from shopping one day; on the bus journey there, I alerted the driver to hang on for someone who was running to catch it 😀

Ten Minutes Late

October 1974

Danny was late.  Seriously late.  He could just make out Ruth and Steve boarding the bus as he turned the corner, Ruth with her huge sketching folder, Steve with his camera bag.

            "Ruthie!" he screeched.  "Tell him to wait!"

            Alas, the noise of the dense morning traffic ensured that Danny's cries went unheard.  He hoisted his bag onto his shoulder and started to run, zig-zagging round a mum with a pushchair holding another child's hand, and a group of dawdling schoolgirls.  His bag fell off his shoulder and he stopped to hoist it back on; he had to catch that bus.  Missing it would mean an eighteen minute wait for the next, which meant he would be ten minutes late for his photography class.  Monday mornings were bad enough without disapproval from photography tutor Jim Duncan, the worst stickler for punctuality in the whole college.

The traffic was slow.  Maybe he could make it.  When he was about twenty yards short, though, he heard the whoosh of the doors closing, and the wretched vehicle began to move off.

"Wait!" he shouted, helplessly, knowing no one could hear him.  He quickened his pace, and was only feet away as the bus pulled slowly out.  Running alongside it, now, he looked through the window.  Ruth and Steve were deep in conversation and didn't see him, but in the seat behind the driver, a woman was looking his way.  He waved to her; she could alert the driver, ask him to hang on, and open the damn doors.

The woman met his eyes and he signalled to her, waving like a crazy man, pointing at the driver, but she turned her head.  She looked away as if she hadn't seen him, but she had, he knew she had.

Why didn't she help?  It wouldn't have hurt her, would it?  All she had to do was call out to the driver that someone was running to catch the bus; Danny had done that very thing himself, for other passengers.  The drivers were always happy to hang on for a couple of seconds.  But that bloody woman just couldn't be bothered.  

"Stop!" he shouted.  Too late.  The bus moved into the traffic and Danny bent over, hands on his knees, huffing and puffing.  He eased the weighty bag off his shoulder, and mooched into the shelter to sit down and wait for the 8.48. 

All the other students stared as he burst in, red-faced; Jim Duncan just gave him one of his 'looks'.  A quick glance round the room told Danny that there were no spare seats apart from one at the front, next to a geeky kid he hardly knew, so there he sat.

~ ~ ~

The late arrival had no detrimental effect on Danny's college career, annoying though it was at the time.  He finished his foundation course eight months later, then went on to do two years specialising in photography.  He felt enthused, inspired, but once he had his shiny new diploma, he found that jobs in his field were hard to come by.  He settled for a position on a local paper that scarcely paid a liveable wage, so when he discovered that his girlfriend, Julie, was pregnant, he took a job as a supervisor of the photography department in a large store.  Less interesting, but it paid twice as much. 

He doubted he would have married Julie had she not been pregnant, because he was not in love with her, but back in the 1970s parents of unmarried pregnant daughters still insisted on shotgun weddings.

Julie gave birth six months after the wedding, followed by two more children at three yearly intervals.  Money was always tight, but they were content enough, give or take Danny's occasional dalliances.  With the demands of a family, photography took a back seat.  He joined a camera club, and even had a few arty black and white landscapes featured in books of local interest, but his hobby never paid him more than pocket money.

"It's a shame Danny never did anything with his talent," his mother said, often.  "Still, Julie and the kids have to come first."

Danny took early retirement at fifty-five, and joined a second photography club, which was where he met Sally.  For Julie this was a dalliance too far, and she left him.  By this time the children were grown, and his betrayal of their mother soured his relationship with them.  Living with Sally did not turn out to be as much fun as their illicit affair; five years on, he was no more happy with her than he had been with Julie.  As he sank into his autumn years, he sometimes wondered if he'd missed some vital turning point somewhere, not made the most of an opportunity that might have made his life more satisfying.  Just happier would have been nice.

He had forgotten all about that Monday morning in 1974; just a few weeks after it occurred, it disappeared from his conscious memory.

Had he but known the effect of that morning on his entire life, he might have thought about it every single day.

If the woman on the bus had seen fit to alert the driver, Danny would not have been late for his class.  He already knew that.  What he didn't know was how his world would have changed, had this been so.  If he'd arrived at class with eight minutes to spare, instead of ten minutes late, he would have been able to choose his seat.  Instead of sitting at the front by the geeky kid, he would have sat further back, next to a girl he knew only vaguely but with whom he had exchanged smiles.  She had two tickets for an exhibition by a local photographer of some national reknown, that night, and if he'd sat next to her they would have got chatting at break, and she would have asked him to accompany her.  Because he didn't, she asked someone else.

If Danny had gone to that exhibition, he would have got talking to the photographer, a woman called Laura, and struck up a friendship with her.  Through Laura, he would have found evening and weekend work as an assistant to a friend of hers, Guy, who ran a successful business doing portraits and weddings.

He would never have met Julie, because he would have been working at a wedding reception instead of at the barbecue where she chatted him up.

Eventually, he would have dropped out of college and worked full time for Guy, discovering he had a real affinity with the customers as well as a talent for portrait work.  In time, he would become Guy's partner, helping him to expand the business, and in his thirties he would allow Guy to buy him out, on good terms, so he could go it alone.  After entering his portraits into competitions, his work would gain critical acclaim.  He would branch out into fashion photography, become sought after, and, at the age of thirty-eight, would marry one of his favourite models.  They would have two children, an idyllic marriage, and move to New York.

By the time Danny was fifty, he would be lauded as one of the greatest fashion and beauty photographers of the age.  He and his family would holiday on Capri, and in the mountains of Aspen.  In the autumn of his years, he would consider how blessed his life had been, and want to share his wealth.  Opening his string of hostels to care for runaway teenagers would gain him respect, and make him feel that he had done something truly worthwhile with his good fortune.  He would have been a happy man, indeed.

But none of this happened, because Danny failed to catch the 8.30 bus.


Back in 1974, the woman on the bus ignored Danny because she was bloody fed up with people who couldn't be on time.  What was so difficult about getting up when the alarm went off?  'Running late', indeed; too damn lazy to get out of bed, more like.  She'd had enough of selfish people who ruined things for others because they were too bone idle to get out of bed in the mornings.

That, however, is another story.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Lindisfarne ~ Coming Soon! #PostApocalyptic #Dystopian Project Renova Book #2

Have you read Tipping Point yet?

If so, you might like to know that the sequel, Lindisfarne, will be out in late September ~ the 26th, all being well! 😀.

Post Apocalyptic, Dystopian, mild SciFi, Romantic Suspense, Government Conspiracy.

Around 95K words (approx 4k longer than Tipping Point).

Time span and structure
January 2025 ~ May 2026.  Told from alternating points of view.

Main characters:
1st person points of view:  
Vicky and her teenage daughter Lottie, also Heath, Aria.

3rd person points of view: 
Biker Wedge, and data analyst Doyle.

The blurb:

Six months after the viral outbreak, civilised society in the UK has broken down.  Vicky and her group travel to the Northumbrian island of Lindisfarne, where they are welcomed by an existing community.

New relationships are formed, old ones renewed.  The lucky survivors adapt, finding strength they didn't know they possessed, but the honeymoon period does not last long.  Some cannot accept that the rules have changed, and for just a few, the opportunity to seize power is too great to pass up.  Egos clash, and the islanders soon discover that there are greater dangers than not having enough to eat.

Meanwhile, in the south, Doyle discovers that rebuilding is taking place in the middle of the devastated countryside.  He comes face to face with Alex Verlander from Renova Workforce Liaison, who makes him an offer he can't refuse.  But is UK 2.0 a world in which he will want to live? 

Lindisfarne is Book #2 in the Project Renova series.  A book of related short stories, entitled Patient Zero, features back and side-stories from minor characters, and will be available by the end of 2017.  Book #3 is due in mid 2018.  

Monday, 3 July 2017

More Annoying Language Trends, or just trends....


Have you noticed this one?  It's the latest word for any group of related products, e- or otherwise, available for sale, usually at discount.  A 'bundle' of games can be sent to your internet each month.  Looking up our options for paying for WiFi on a long train journey recently, we saw that we could purchase a 'minute bundle'.  Outside Asda, I saw a Virgin van offering their services as a 'customer discount bundle'.  It's not only the internet, though; outside a local butcher, on the blackboard, was advertised the specially priced 'meat bundle'.  Sounds disgusting.

A bundle of kindling. 

Reach Out

No longer do you make enquiries, or ask people about stuff; you reach out to them.  You don't apply for a mortgage, you reach out to your mortgage advisor.  GRRRR!


So, I forgot to put this one in at first...  Thanks to Julia and Judith (and Sharon, when I mentioned the 'bundle' thing on Facebook) for mentioning it in the comments.  It's the way people randomly start sentences with this word.  As illustrated so well by Julia:
"What do you do for a living, Tom?"
"So, I'm a dentist, and..."

Pulled Pork

It's pork and it looks sort of shredded instead of in slices, right?  And so it costs more and it's trendy.  I'd noticed it only in my subconscious until Sharon brought it to my attention.  Now, I see shelves full of the wretched stuff every time I go into a supermarket.  Oh, and when you've bought some, you can put it in your...

Hand-Stretched Ciabatta.  

Give me strength.

No Problem

Can you remember, back in the olden days, when you'd ask someone in a shop, or behind a bar, or a counter, or on the phone, to do/get something for you, how they'd say "Certainly, madam", or "I'll be just a few moments," or "Yes, that'll be fine," or even just "Yes"?

They don't say any of these things anymore.  Since about 2000, the affirmative answer has changed from that nice, short, convenient little word ('Yes') to the ghastly No Problem.

"Please can I have a taxi from outside Morrissons to *my address*?"
"No Problem"
"I'd like to book an appointment with Doctor Black on Wednesday."
"No Problem"

A while back I was in a restaurant with my father and we'd been waiting for our main course for about an hour.  Every suggestion and request we made to the waiter(s) was greeted with the answer 'no problem'.  In the end, my father said, 'well, there clearly is one, because we don't have our main course yet'.  The waiter's slightly red-faced reply?  'No problem, sir, I understand.'

And don't get me started about 'content writer'......


Thursday, 29 June 2017

How do readers discover books?

If you're a self-published or independent/small press published author, you've probably read many blog posts about what makes a reader choose to buy a book.  Is it the eye-catching cover?  The favourite genre?  The catchy blurb?  The price?  The reviews?  Of course, it's a combination of some or all of those elements.  Before any of them, though, comes the greatest problem of all:

In a time when thousands of new books are published every week, how do you get the reader to discover the actual existence of your book in the first place?  

As well as being a writer, I am an avid reader.  I read 99% of books on the Kindle app on my tablet, and download between 1 and 10 a week.  I read, or start to read, between 6 and 15 books a month.  I'm sure you've seen all those graphs showing how most readers discover the books they buy, so I thought I'd do an assessment of the around 300 books I've reviewed on my book blog.  The categories differ slightly from those you see on standard graphs, but I think the results will be interesting for writers and book bloggers to see how an average Kindle user makes her choices ~ particularly for those writers who don't buy Kindle books themselves, but hope to sell their own.

Here goes:

Amazon: chanced upon during an Amazon browse (usually in 'also boughts'), 
or books that have come up as recommended for me by Amazon.

Book Blog: downloaded after reading a review on a book blog, 
or other article about the book/author.

Personal Friend Recommendation.

Twitter, after talking to the author/getting to know them.

Twitter, via a passing tweet.

Favourite author
When I've read one book by an author via one of the other discovery routes, 
and liked it enough to buy another of their books ~ sometimes just one other, but with some authors that initial discovery has resulted in multiple downloads.

Chosen to review from the list of submissions
on Rosie Amber's Review Team, of which I am a member.

Other Review Request: I don't take requests generally,
but on occasion a fellow writer has asked me to review a book, 
or I've read submissions for an award.

Paperback lent to me.

Won the book 
(incidentally, I've since bought and reviewed all of this author's work)

Bought after watching a TV programme or film.

Classic I always meant to read.

Facebook promotion or advert.

Goodreads recommendation.

Sometimes the categories merge, for instance, when I choose a book from Rosie's review team list that I would have bought anyway.  And do bear in mind that I don't use Facebook much, and when I do it's mostly in a non-book/writing fashion.  It's worth noting, too, that I am about 50% more likely to download a book if it is available on Kindle Unlimited.

I'd be most interested to hear how you make your choices 😃

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

I am honest caring doctor and have communion in the face and breasts.....

.... I'm talking about the fake profiles that have been following me on Twitter of late!  I get followed by roughly 20 of these per day at the moment, and am writing this so that you recognise them and don't follow them back 😂😄

They target middle-aged women and are clearly made by people looking to carry out some scam or other ~ you never know what you might be clicking on if they send you a link in a DM 😱😲😳.   As Julia has said, in a comment below, it's a numbers game; the people who make these profiles are often run by the master scammer, who knows that if they make enough of them and follow enough people, eventually they'll get a 'hit' ~ someone who is foolish enough to send them money. 


Please click the links and enjoy...

Take a look at @Steven21773017

He is a perfect example; a photo that's clearly taken from photobucket or similar, and a bio in bad English.  No tweets.  They're usually 'medical doctors' or 'bankers' or 'army officers', and claim to be 'simple' or 'humble' or 'love God'.  'Am honest and caring man' is another favourite.  Sometimes the maker of these profiles has taken two pictures from whoever's profile they downloaded the photos from, and used one as a header photo too...like Lucas20Davis who is even tweeting the occasional one!

Harry Smit is a great one - look at his tweets; he hasn't realised you need to leave a gap between words to make the user name link work...!!

US General (top picture) @BrianNott3 cant even spell his own name in his bio....
@dennisham3131 can't seem to decide how to spell his name and, though a 'military office', cannot write basic English....

... but centre stage must be given to @albertgrandy3
At least this one's tried harder with the bio!  

....although he appears to be the same person as @Drjimwilliam, a man of 'dignity and honest', albeit about 10 years older.....  and @wonderwilliam56

@CaptainJerryJa1 is working hard 'as a Navy' (does he mean navvy??!)....

And then there's @willians6643007 who appears to be the identical twin of @Lewis336David!

They target us in the hope that we are lonely, naive and looking for love; they've probably seen all these programmes like 'My Online Nightmare' about women who fall 'in love' with men they meet on the internet, and get conned out of their life savings.  My sister says she gets them popping up on Skype; they're always respectable looking, middle-aged men in military uniform, but have no actual profile.  Those on Twitter are the lowest of the low when it comes to internet scam hierarchy; they don't want to pay for online dating profiles, and aren't even intelligent enough to make sure their English is right and their profiles convincing!

Be careful.  They might con you out of your life savings.  
Then again,  I doubt they'd know where to start.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Tipping Point: coming your way on August 7th!

"I didn't know danger was floating behind us on the breeze as we walked along the beach, seeping in through the windows of our picture postcard life."

 Tipping Point ~ out 7th August
Click here to see it on Goodreads

  The facts:
  • Genre: Post apocalyptic, family drama, romantic relationships, dystopian, with a background thread of government conspiracy.  As with all my novels, it's very much a character-driven book.
  • Length: Around 90K words, ie, roughly the same length as The Devil You Know but shorter than The House of York, and Kings and Queens and Last Child.
  • Setting: The fictional Norfolk seaside town of Shipden (based on Cromer), and a fictional village in Tyne and Wear, Elmfield (loosely based on Monkton Village, near Jarrow).
  • Main Characters: 34 year old Vicky Keating and her 16 year-old daughter, Lottie.  Her long-term partner, Dex.  Friends Kara and Phil, and Heath and his teenage son, Jackson.

The blurb
The year is 2024.  A new social networking site bursts onto the scene.  Private Life promises total privacy, with freebies and financial incentives for all.  Across the world, a record number of users sign up. 

A deadly virus is discovered in a little known African province, and it's spreading—fast.  The UK announces a countrywide vaccination programme.  Members of undercover group Unicorn believe that the disease is man-made, and the public are being fed lies driven by a vast conspiracy.

Vicky Keating's boyfriend, Dex, is working for Unicorn over two hundred miles away when the first UK outbreak of the virus is detected in her hometown of Shipden, on the Norfolk coast.  The town is quarantined under military lockdown, and, despite official 'no need to panic' claims, within days the virus is out of control.

In London, government employee Travis is working on a bulk data analysis project when he begins to question its purpose, while in Newcastle there are scores to be settled...

Sequel Lindisfarne is set on the island of the same name (click link for pictures) and will be out in September.  An outtake short story collection, Patient Zero, is planned for around Christmas, with Book 3 out in mid 2018.


Saturday, 20 May 2017

#amwriting - or would be if I could string a sentence together....

....what to do when the words just won't come.

You've probably been there.  It's first draft season and, the night before, when you were watching a mediocre film on TV, half your mind was planning out the next few scenes of your plot.  You can't wait to get back to it.  Next day, you make your beverage of choice, sit down and ... nothing.  You write a couple of paragraphs, and think, "If I paid money for this, I'd ask for a refund".  Your dialogue is banal, your descriptions wooden, and that scene that seemed so intriguing and relevant last night now comes across as hackneyed/unfeasible.  

A few suggestions about what to do when this happens 
(and what not to do):
  • Push through it.  It might be that the spark re-ignites in the next scene, and it begins to flow, after all.
  • Push through, even if it doesn't.  But won't this section be useless, and need to be scrapped, anyway?  Probably.  Or maybe it can be improved upon in the second draft.  There might be some good ideas hidden in the bad stuff.  The important thing is that you've got it down, and taken the draft to the next stage.
  • Do you have a daily word count target/must-write for your first drafts?  I do.  It's 2K.  I don't allow myself to get up from my chair until I have written those 2K.  On odd days like this, though, I give myself a break.  I say, "Right, it's not a good writing day, so you can get up when you've written 800".  Inevitably, I carry on and write more.
  • Accept it.  Don't give yourself a hard time, and bow out for the day. Use that allotted writing time for something you wouldn't otherwise have done, so you feel it wasn't wasted.  Like the ironing.  Yes, yes, I know that in the grand scheme of things the ironing isn't anywhere near as important as your novel, but most of us don't live in the grand scheme of things.  And tomorrow, when the sentences are falling out of your head faster than you can write them, you won't have to think, 'damn, better stop now, I've got to do the ironing.'
  • Write a blog post.  Write the plan for the short story you've had in your head for a couple of months.  Plan out the next few chapters.  Write the first draft of the blurb.  Any of these things will give you a sense of achievement and put you in a better mood - and they might even give the creativity a kick start.
  • Talk it through with a writer friend, either in person or via emails.  It might not solve the problem, but it's good to talk to someone who will understand. 

And what not to do?
  • Get drunk and morose about it.  You're not Hunter Thompson or Ernest Hemingway.  It'll just make you feel worse, and you won't be able to write tomorrow, either, because you'll have a hangover.
  • Read one of your favourite books.  It'll make you even more depressed, and convinced that you might as well unpublish everything you've ever written.
  • Take it out on your loved ones, acting the prima donna about your 'writer's block'.  Don't glamorise it; it's not some mysterious syndrome that afflicts the creative/artistic.   You just can't think what to write, that's all.
  • Become convinced that you will never be able to write anything decent, ever again.  You will.  It'll come back

But what if it goes on for over a week, or a month?  If you've already written several novels, maybe it's just that you need a break.  Some writers start the next one as soon as the current WIP has been despatched to the proofreader.  Some need a few months to collect their thoughts.  If it's your first try, it could be that writing novels isn't the best move for you at the moment, and you might be better writing short stories, or novellas, or articles, to keep your hand in until the time's right.

If you're having a bad writing day today, I hope the words flow better tomorrow!