A question of perception

It’s another ‘I’m an idiot, learn from me’ post today. It’s also long. Apologies for that but there’s rather a lot to say.

Recently I’ve been trying to get the initial ideas and machinery in place to launch a new book. There are several places where I’m stuck, mostly the same, old same old: you know, stuff like actually managing to write a blurb that makes it sound appealing or coming up with a viable title. There is also the aspect of things I might unknowingly stuff up.

OK, so I try to act with professional integrity. This is the internet. Whatever I do I will offend someone but I try avoid any dishonourable, shabby, dishonest or generally reprehensible behaviour if at all possible. I try to love my internetty neighbour the way I’d like to be loved myself.

However, I’m a writer and a flawed human being. I frequently offend people without even realising. Indeed, if life was a game I suspect unwitting offence would be my Special Attribute. A couple of things have happened, recently, that have made me very aware of this and concentrated my attention on the matter of how hard it is to achieve a good reputation on the internet, how difficult it is not to cause offence, however well meaning your actions may actually be. And how difficult it can be to gauge how others will react to your actions when the only guide you have is to imagine how it would feel to be on the receiving end.

It’s not just about trying to act with decency and integrity at all times. It’s about whether people think think you are. A lot of that is about what folks believe your intentions are. I think that no matter how genuine you wish to be, how honest you think you are being, or how principled you aim to make your approach, if you are selling anything, however obliquely, there are certain quarters of the internet where any attempt to connect on your part will be considered a hypocritical attempt to befriend people in order to sell them something. So far with me, it’s kind of been the other way round. But a couple of things have really surprised me, recently. Stupid things I’ve done without realising they were stupid.

On the up side, since I’ve made these monumental fuck ups, it means that by describing them to you at length I can ensure that you don’t have to. Here’s what I’ve learned from this series of unfortunate events…

The dreadful truth about titles.

I’ll fess up. I got in a bit of a muddle publishing my last two books. The main problem was that when I finished the third book in the K’Barthan Trilogy (as it was then called) I discovered it was a snadge over 300,000 words long. What to do? If I produced a paperback then, by the time I’d factored in the kind of discount that would pay the middle men (60%) I would have a book that cost about £25. So there’s book 1 at £9.99, book 2 at £11.99 and book 3 at £24.99. With books 1 and 2 ending on cliff hangers it does rather look as if I’m holding readers to ransom to find out what happens. Luckily there was a point where I could split it. So I did. But that cost more. Another £800 or so to be precise and another £90 plus 20% sales tax to upload it to the print on demand distributor I use.

With money tight, the question raised it’s head of spending a further £90 plus tax per book to change the word ‘Trilogy’ on the cover and front pages of the first two, to ‘Series’ in print. Also, what little traction the series had was as the K’Barthan Trilogy. I asked folks, took advice and tried to imagine how I would feel if a trilogy I was following had four books. The folks I asked reckoned a 4 book trilogy was not unusual and that no-one would mind. Since I’ve read the Hitch Hiker’s ‘trilogy’ and was delighted when it kept growing, rather than upset, I saved the £180 and went for the 4 book trilogy.

How wrong I was.

A couple of months ago the third book got a blistering one star review, slamming me for writing a fourth instalment. I paraphrase but the gist was like this:

“I know your game,” it basically said. “You’re just going to write book after book and never end the story, because you’re just a bastard writer! And all you bastard writers ever want to do is rip readers off and make us pay and pay so you can buy another set of gold plated wheels for your Mercedes Benz. Well I’m not reading any more of your crap you… charlatan!”

Fair enough, this case, someone has clearly watched too many episodes of ‘Lost’, and that £50 a month I earn from my writing may well look like the gold-plated-alloy-purchasing big time to some folks, but I was completely thrown. First that they were upset, second by the enormous gap between their perception of my personality and the real one.

OK, we all know the golden rule is DO NOT ENGAGE. NEVER reply to things like that.

I broke it.

I commented on the review apologising for causing offence, explaining that it wasn’t intended, that the story ends at the conclusion of the fourth book (in case anyone else reading that review wondered) and then I offered to send it to them for free so they could find out what happened. They never replied. I went and changed the title from ‘trilogy’ to ‘series’ in all the ebook files and on all the listings on every retail site I sell through – it already said it in the product desription. Naturally the retailers all accepted my chages except for Amazon who asserted that if it said ‘trilogy’ on the book cover (even if it’s too small to read) it will be called ‘trilogy’ until I pay the designers to change the j-peg and upload the new one.

I chalked it up as something to watch and a change to do when I brief the designers about my next book.

During last year, I entered both books for the excellent Wishing Shelf Book Awards. When the feedback came through I was very surprised to discover that readers there, too, had commented negatively about my writing a ‘trilogy’ of four books.

Clearly, something that hadn’t registered with me was really pissing other people off. So what have I learned from this litany of amateurism?

  1. Give yourself options.
    My four book ‘trilogy’ has royally ticked off a whole bunch of people. Folks I will never get back. Folks who will consider me a wanker forever and spread their opinions near and far. But the problem would never have existed if I’d had the wit to call it the K’Barthan Series from the get go. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, so learn from mine: if you’re writing a trilogy then, in the name of the almighty don’t call it that. Call it a series unless it’s actually finished, has three books the same length, and you are about to publish the first one.
  2. Give yourself some slack.
    Accept there are some things you can cover with research and some things that only experience will show you but.
  3. When experience does kick you in the teeth, learn from it.
  4. If you can repair the damage, do it as soon as you can but think it through, don’t hurry it or you may just make things worse.
    OK, so I can’t afford to get rid of the bloody ‘trilogy’ moniker until the entire series is edited at the end of November. The covers, I can, and will, change sooner. For now I just have to accept that I’ve fucked up, chalk it up to experience and learn from what I have done.

The grim truth about interacting on the internet.

The second smack in the face from reality came this week.

Recently, I’ve had a facebook ad running which offers the first two books in the K’Barthan Series to anyone who joins my mailing list. I’d heard that a good way to identify a market of people to show your ad to is to choose an audience who like books by an author similar to you. It then suggests you make reference to the author you, and they, know and love and suggest that if they like that stuff they might like yours. I’m always a bit leery about this, I mean, all those reviews saying I write like Adams are just setting folks up for disappointment because I don’t. But I thought it might work with a humorous bent if I aimed it at Pratchett readers.

After a bit of tweaking and watching and tweaking I ended up with an audience who liked Terry Pratchett books and an ad which referenced CMOT Dibbler.

OK, in my defence here, I wrote the copy while Sir Terry was still around but this is what it said:

“If you like funny British science fiction and fantasy why not check out this freebie: The K’Barthan Series stands complete at four books and I’d like to give you two of them. Yes, this all sounds a bit CMOT Dibbler school of marketing but I’m hoping you’ll find a lot more quality literary meat in these books than there is REAL meat in CMOT Dibbler’s sausages.

All you have to do is tell me where to send them – the books, obviously, real sausages will not be involved.”

Then there was this picture and the title and caption below.


“I’M LITERALLY cutting my own throat here.

If you love a bargain, help yourself to two award winning funny sci-fi fantasy books, Few Are Chosen and The Wrong stuff, parts 1 and 2 of the best selling K’Barthan Series are usually £4 but they’re free for a limited time. To grab yours click here.”

To start with, I got sign ups, shares and a couple of joky quotes about the quality of the meat – is it named? Yes it’s called Bob. In other words, exactly what I expected. Then a few days ago, from New Zealand, this:

Pep A: Ripping off a Terry Pratchett character to sell your book? Poor form?
Pep B: Poor form? Fucking shameful.

And I looked at it and I thought… what happened there? And then the ad got this comment:

Pep C: Well. He’s dead now.

And the penny dropped.

Yes M T you daft, fucking moron! He died. And so suddenly this ad is not joking about characters we know and love from a favourite author. It’s trampling over people’s memories of a great man and maligning the dead. Events can cause changes in perception. And I completely missed that. So I’ve removed the ad. Because although it was working really well I didn’t think of that, and while, personally, I think it’s a bit weird to be offended, I do absolutely get why someone might be.

Have I replied or apologised? Well… no, because of another particularly important thing that I’ve learned about the internet, so that you don’t have to is that it’s bat shit crazy, and also:

  1. The international nature of the internet is a two edged sword…
    Yes, you can talk to the entire globe. Unfortunately, not all of it thinks the way you do. That means you can and will offend thousands of people effortlessly and unwittingly at the touch of a button: not just people in Britain but folks all over the world.Seriously though, I’m not American, from the RSA, Kenya or Zimbabwe. I’m not Australian, or a Kiwi, or Tasmanian or from India, Pakistan or South East Asia. I’m not from Holland, Germany, France, Russia or any of the myriad other places where people speak English and read my books, in English. I lack the instinctive grasp of other cultures that will enable me to see the point when funny becomes offensive to them if it doesn’t to someone British. But because I’m speaking English and they speak English too, THEY EXPECT ME TO.
  2. The internet contains a huge gap in perception.
    The aforementioned gulf between the spirit in which I act and interact on line, who I think I am, and what others perceive me to be. Frankly, it’s enormous. 90% of communication is non verbal and boy does it show on t’interweb – mainly through the medium of folks becoming very suspicious of one another. And what that equates to, if you’re selling anything, anywhere on line, is an assumption that nothing you do is genuine. That everything is crafted, honed and perfected with your eye on the next sale.So while you’re trying to just be, write a blog, do stuff, keep people informed, have a presence that’s just yourself: a benign and friendly presence, there are folks out there who will dismiss it as the work of a rapacious scammer who sees everyone as a potential victim (including them, unless they’re ‘careful’ a.k.a. prickly, aggressive and ready to take offence at the drop of a hat).
  3. 3. People are going to drop their weird shit onto you.
    There’s a saying, ‘you can please some of the people some of the time but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.’ I understand this but it seems that in today’s world, if you do anything that might put your name into the public domain, like paint, write, make music, act etc you are expected to please everyone, all of the time. Worse, if you don’t, no quarter will be given.Genuine mistakes, or simple errors of of judgement, far from being forgiven, are seen as an act of cynical aggression towards your innocent audience. A lot of people out there don’t really like themselves. They think they’re cynical, cold hearted conniving little shits, and guess what? Because they believe that about themselves they’re going to believe it about you too.
  4. Give them some slack. Try to stay positive and accept that sometimes you will offend others and it can’t always be helped.
    Long ago, I decided not to worry about the nature of the net. I am who I am and it’s hard to be anyone else. I know I will make mistakes and all I can do is try not to. It’s worth making peace with yourself and accepting that sometimes, no matter how benign you want to be and how hard you try to avoid hurting people, you will cause offence. Sometimes all you can do is apologise, chalk it up to experience, learn from it and move on. Sometimes our attempts to interact with people we don’t actually know personally, can be interpreted, by some as evidence that we’re out to get them in some way. It doesn’t matter how much cobblers that is, they’ve been burned by others and but there’s no way we will ever convince folks like that of our good intentions. There’s no point even trying. Indeed, the only thing you can do about them is hope to heaven that they never, ever find you.

So what can we do? How can writers or artists or anyone creative who interacts regularly on the internet behave ‘well’ without becoming too slick, too spun and anodyne?

Perhaps we can’t. Or perhaps all we can do is our level, genuine best to avoid saying anything that would offend us if you were on the receiving end. Do unto others and all that.

If you’re laid back and you write humour which, by its nature, is subversive you will undoubtedly prick the bubble of the pompous at some stage. But you may also stuff up and the way I have though sheer naivety, lack of foresight or plain ignorance and unwittingly offend many, many folks – good decent people who you don’t want to upset. When you do, I guess the only course is to chalk it up to experience – apologise if appropriate/possible and move on.

Few people do things deliberately to offend, whatever many internet users think. Most of us offend because we’re human, and flawed; and that’s natural. If we never cocked it up we’d be actual God. Because perfect is impossible unless you’re Allah, right?


Filed under General Wittering

Read MTM’s Interview: Win Stuff.

Yes everyone, today is the day when I am interviewed in the Brain to Books blog tour. And it’s a long, long, long interview so if you like to read me wittering on, do head over and say hello. You can find my spot in the Brain to Books blog tour here: http://www.angelabchrysler.com/m-t-mcguire/

If you would like a chance to win a free paperback copy of Few Are Chosen, K’Barthan Series: Part 1 there is still time for you to enter the draw to win one on Goodreads. The giveaway ends on 2nd September. To enter go here: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/150964-few-are-chosen

Finally, there is absolutely loads of literary bling to be won in a whole host of giveaways from a bunch of the authors taking part in the Brain to Books blog tour. To have a look at what’s on offer, go here: http://goo.gl/VtFLrP

Thank you, I’m a little teapot* and good morning.

Eh... have you heard about the Brain to Books giveaway?

Eh… have you heard about the Brain to Books giveaway?                                            You bet I have! Sure as there’s a bag of spare eyes behind me.

*In joke for anyone who has read the book I’m giving away.


Filed under About My Writing, Blimey!, Free Stuff, General Wittering

Discover new authors and win stuff.

At loose end? Bored? Wishing you were still on holiday? Wishing you could have a holiday? Things not as relaxing as you would like? Looking for a way to escape Real Life?


I’ve nothing to read and there has been no shiny stuff in my life for at least an hour. I am bored.

If any of those applies to you relief is at hand – or at least, it is if your modus operandum, escape-wise, is to bury yourself in a book.

“But nothing is tickling my fancy right now,” I hear you say.

Pish and tottle! There is a whole stack of exciting books to discover in of Brain to Book blog tour. Lots of authors, lots of books, different lengths, different genres… new worlds to travel, people creatures and beasts to meet and places to escape to. Something for everyone! This is beginning to sound like an advert isn’t it? At the very least I seem to be channelling Stephen Fry. Sorry about that. OK, seriously now, if you love books the Brain to Book blog tour is definitely worth checking out. Every day from 24 July to 31 August, 2015, which is a sod of a long time, Angela B Chrysler, author and all round good egg will feature three authors on her websites and 14 additional bloggers and authors who have joined in to co-host will feature them too.

To quote Angela, that’s:

100+ books
120 authors
39 days
15+ websites
1 blog tour

Each author will have an interview and full promo to post on their website or blog as well as an appearance on the 15+ sites.

And there are prizes! Weeeeee! Because some of them are doing giveaways: and I’m on there too, on 28th August except that I haven’t managed to organise a giveaway because I’m pants. But that’s by the by. The cool stuff is happening now and you can find it in these places (among others):

  1. on Angela B Chrysler’s blog here: http://www.angelabchrysler.com/blog/
  2. Or you can catch up with the tour on facebook here:  https://www.facebook.com/braintobook
  3. AND!!!! You can check out the giveaways  here: http://goo.gl/VtFLrP
  4. AND!!!!! There’s a Goodreads giveaway on there from me. Starting TODAY! (oh yes) two lucky people can win themselves a copy of Few Are Chosen, K’Barthan Series: Part 1 in paperback. To see my giveaway on Goodreads go here: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/150964-few-are-chosen

Hoorah! Books galore! And giveaways. Lots to read and I can win book bling!

And you can catch up with my post on 28th August, here: http://www.angelabchrysler.com/m-t-mcguire/


Filed under General Wittering, Interesting

Welcome to my world…

Just a quick post before I go into low internet access mode for three weeks… not that you’ll be able to tell the difference between that and me in full internet access mode, seeing as I’ve failed spectacularly to do anything internetty for a long time. Life has just got a bit busy and when that happens, I use computer time to write and my socialising and promoting tends to be put aside for a while.

It all began with a hurriedly organised birthday party for McMini complete with cake. Mmm… Making the cake was interesting. McCat likes cake so the reason that bit in the middle of the neck is a different colour is because that’s the bit McCat excised while I was answering the door.When I came back he ran off with it. It was OK though. The rest hadn’t been touched so I cut out a good margin either side and put in new cake and new icing. Couldn’t get the icing out of the gaps though.


Bakugan cake…. it’s supposed to be the little fellah at the top.

The next cake,  one for McParents’ – on my side – golden wedding. This time it was the raw mixture that got eaten while I was answering the door. I knew I shouldn’t have turned the mixer off. Came back and McCat had his head in the bowl snarfing.

All the cake making gave me a bit of an IBS attack. Trying cake mixture. I think eating some rather old smoked salmon with scrambled eggs for breakfast followed by courgettes fried with some decidedly elderly pancetta for lunch may have contributed too. Still cake made McMini and I iced it without a serious hitch, except that I couldn’t get the dates to fit and I’d planned it most carefully so I couldn’t work out why. Oh and McCat stole a sausage from my lunch plate but at least he left the beautifully (erk it’s all relative) iced cake unmolested this time.

All ready for the day, I woke up on the morning and I discovered that I had vertigo (this is how I do hayfever). Serious, 18 pints on board style spins, so I spent the first hour shouting, ‘Europe’ into the big white telephone without much coming out and waiting for the hayfever pills to kick in. Amazingly they did, the vertigo stopped and off we went. Even more amazingly, we made it in time for the lunch, with some to spare.

All went well, the cake was much admired, McMini had fun with his cousins, the grown ups had fun too and hoorah! All went swimmingly. Even better I got a big rest on the Saturday as McOther and McBrother took McMini to the fair – the vertigo was better but I still questioned the wisdom of watching a lot of stuff going round, and round and round: or worse, sitting on it while it did.

That night while looking for a shoe, I only had one pair and I could only find one – because I’d washed the other one and forgotten that I’d put it behind the curtains where it would get a nice 2 hours of sun on it to dry it before I got up. This simple fact obscured temporarily, I was searching the house. Heard Sis In Law call for my brother. Great, she would almost certainly have clocked and seen the shoe. I looked over the bannisters and there was my sister in law, lying on the ground at the bottom of the stairs wrapped in a duvet.

“Er that’s quite an unusual place to stop… are you alright down there?”
Not really, I’ve broken my ankle.”
“Ah,” gulp. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’ve done it before.”
“Right. I’m guessing you heard it crack?”
“Ah, that’s enough to convince me. Tricky, hang on…” I trundle down the stairs to join her.
“I think I’m going to throw up.”
“OK… let’s get you a bowl.” I run and get bowl. “Did you hit your head?”
“No, I held onto the curtains.”
I look at the curtains in front of the door, clearly she has grabbed them, the hooks have broken one by one and they’ve fallen down, lowering her gently to earth as they do so.
“Lucky! OK, I’ll go and get McBro.”

McBrother appears and suggests going straight to A&E but I persuade him to call 999 so we get a paramedic to evaluate her first before moving her. Sis in law agrees she’d like us to do that. McBrother calls ambulance.

“Ooooo!” calls my Mum from upstairs, “Can I press our red panic button?”
“No,” says McBrother.
“He’s ringing an ambulance,” I tell her.
“OK.” She sounds disappointed.

I am sent to stand in the road waiting for the ambulance. They have verbal directions from McBrother but they will not find our house if they use sat nav. This is because Google Maps is convinced that our house is not where we live, but somewhere a few miles away. Every now and again I contact Google and explain where it really is. And they usually write back to tell me that an adjudicator has looked at my request but that I am wrong. Growing up there, is clearly not enough.

There is a problem with this though, I only have one shoe, but luckily Sis In Law’s shoe has broken in Worthing at the fair and she’s had a bit of a spree while buying a new pair and bought some crocs, too. I slip my vile feet into them and then, weird of weird, put on my panama hat despite the fact it’s 10:30pm and dark  (what in the name of heaven is that about) and trot dutifully out into the road. The ambulance is lost and I run, or at least, I do ‘the gait’ because I can’t run, down the road to it. It arrives and it’s a car. There is no room for me in there with them so I tell them where to go. I run along after them. They drive past. I wave my feeble torch. They stop. I show them.

When I get to the house a few minutes after they do, they are evaluating Sis In Law.

So, the long and the short after this examination was that we discovered she had broken her ankle, on Brighton Gay Pride night, when a lot of other people in the locale, after injudicious amounts of dancing and alcohol, had broken their ankles – and other bits of themselves – too. There was a one and a half hour wait for an ambulance – but that was OK because the Paramedic car had come in about 10 minutes and we had the all clear to take her in ourselves. But the 2 hour wait in casualty (even in Worthing) was a bit more of a bummer. Fair play to her and McBrother that they made the lunch the next day, successfully consumed a heavy meal on a couple of hours sleep and were rather more awake than I was.

“How was your weekend?” a friend asked when I got back.
Was that out of the ordinary for a trip to my folks? No, not really.
“Same old same old,” I said.

On a side note, they’re going to give my Mum a new hip. She finally has a date: slap bang in the middle of our holiday. It’s a worry but less of a worry than when she was in limbo without one. Perhaps that’s why for  have been even more numerically challenged than usual this week: worry. It does make me a bit more ditzy. Let’s forget about that, though and look at some photos. First: the Golden Wedding Cake. Remember I couldn’t work out why the numbers didn’t fit?

Cake: Before...

Cake: Before light dawns, can you spot the deliberate mistake?

Yeh, well, as I was about to serve it up, my uncle noticed it had the wrong date. Yes, I’d put 2005 instead of 2015. A bit of an, ‘ah now I get it,’ moment. Of course the numbers didn’t sodding fit. They were the wrong ones. It’s not even as if I got the date of the marriage wrong, as in 1965, it the bleeding date NOW. Oh well. Luckily it was easy to scrape one side of the O off and turn it back into a 1.

Cake: After, with the RIGHT date.

Cake: After, with the RIGHT date.

Then, two nights ago we had some folks for dinner and when I asked how many McOther said, “eight with McMini.” I translated this as 9, which means I managed to lay an extra place… for a person who didn’t exist… and even worse to not actually notice until I was serving pudding.

So there you have it. My family is still a group of people that THINGS HAPPEN TO, my cat is a mentalist who probably has some kind of feline eating disorder and I’m completely fucking bats.

Never mind… At least there was lots of cake.

My brain and my life.

My brain and my life.


Filed under Blimey!, General Wittering

Meet M T and A F E at the Darkhaven Facebook Launch Party.


Just a quick update, this Thursday, 2nd, as ever is, I am taking part in the ongoing celebrations to launch the book, Darkhaven by my cyber buddy A.F.E. Smith. See my previous post. The giveaway and scavenger hunt are still on and she will be letting me loose at her facebook event where we will be shooting the breeze together, for an hour, at 10.00 am, BST. Anyone who’s up by then is welcome to join me, along with any insomniacs in the States and Australasia.

You can join in the fun by clicking this link: A.F.E. Smith’s Facebook Event

You can also find out more about the tour and Darkhaven here:

Tour homepage
A.F.E. Smith’s Rafflecopter giveaway
Where to find A.F.E. Smith’s Facebook Event on 2nd July




Leave a comment

Filed under General Wittering

Turning the kaleidoscope



orning all.

Today I bring you a guest post from my cyber buddy, A.F.E. Smith, fellow member of the Guild of Writers Who go By Mysterious Initials, who is dropping in to say hello to you part of a blog tour to launch her first book. Darkhaven is out soon with Harper Voyager (Yeh, I know big few trad pubbed! She is my ritziest guest ever). In fact, it will be released in ebook format on 2nd July for £1.99 or $US3.99.  As well as the blog tour there’s a giveaway and a scavinger hunt and a big launch event on Facebook today, Thursday 2nd July! Oh yes, it’s all go. More on that story … later.

But first, without more ado, let’s welcome A.F.E. Smith…

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations.” – Mark Twain

People often want to know where writers get their ideas from. The answer is, of course, that inspiration can come from anywhere. But given that most writers are also compulsive readers, I’d guess many of their ideas actually come from other books.

I’d better add at this point that I’m very definitely not talking about plagiarism. Taking an entire storyline, unique concept or specific wording from someone else’s work is stealing, not inspiration (though even here the line is blurred; think of fairytale retellings or modernisations of Austen, neither of which are forms of plagiarism). My point is that writers are sponges, absorbing everything they come across. And as a result, when they create a book, there are often echoes of other books to be found alongside the rest of the influences.

Take Darkhaven. As it happens, I can actually figure out the literary inspirations for some of its ideas. When I started writing it, I’d recently reread I Am David by Anne Holm and so I wanted to write something that also began with that atmospheric kind of escape (indeed, Ayla’s flight from her home is still the very first scene in the book). The structure of Arkannen, the city in which the novel is set, may well have drawn on both Tolkien’s Minas Tirith and the game from Albion’s Dream by Roger Norman. And the idea of the Nightshade family and their ability to change into different creatures owes more than a little to Stephen Donaldson’s short story Daughter of Regals.

It’s not that Darkhaven as a whole has anything significant in common with these works, or they with each other. I don’t think a reader would have identified any of these influences without me pointing them out. It’s simply that bits and pieces of other books have added their flavour, just as bits and pieces of the real world have (the British industrial revolution, Western and Chinese ‘elements’, a little bit of steampunk, a little bit of murder). Reading is, after all, as much of a genuine experience as anything that happens in the physical world – so it’s hardly surprising that the books I read combine with everything else in my head.

Of course, there are also plenty of ideas in Darkhaven that belong to me alone. I’m not aware of any other city, fictional or otherwise, where the streets are paved with stripes of different colours – like a life-size underground map – to help you find your way to the right place. And I’m pretty sure the actual plot holds a few surprises. But in reality, the only difference between those aspects and the ones I mentioned above is that it’s harder to trace back through the thought process to the seed of the idea. Because sometimes, that seed can be as simple as I don’t want to do it that way. Consciously seeking to be different puts more distance between yourself and the original, but it still leaves you with a debt to another book.

And in fact, there’s nothing wrong with that.

There are so many books in the world now that it’s impossible to be completely new. People have been around too long for that. We have entire websites dedicated to tropes. Our creative process is always going to be one of synthesis rather than wholesale creation: selecting and rejecting the experiences we’ve already had in an attempt to build something new. And that’s fine. Because old bits of glass arranged in a new configuration can become something different enough to be interesting. The key is to keep turning the kaleidoscope until you find it.


Wise and true words. Thank you very much A.F.E. Smith, it’s been an honour to have you with us. Now, I promised to give you some more information about Darkhaven, A.F.E. Smith, the blog tour and the facebook event so here is some more info.


Ayla Nightshade never wanted to rule Darkhaven. But her half-brother Myrren – true heir to the throne – hasn’t inherited their family gift, forcing her to take his place.

When this gift leads to Ayla being accused of killing her father, Myrren is the only one to believe her innocent. Does something more sinister than the power to shapeshift lie at the heart of the Nightshade family line?

Now on the run, Ayla must fight to clear her name if she is ever to wear the crown she never wanted and be allowed to return to the home she has always loved.


Buy links

Amazon (global link)
Barnes & Noble
Google play

Author biography

A.F.E. Smith is an editor of academic texts by day and a fantasy writer by night. So far, she hasn’t mixed up the two. She lives with her husband and their two young children in a house that someone built to be as creaky as possible – getting to bed without waking the baby is like crossing a nightingale floor. Though she doesn’t have much spare time, she makes space for reading, mainly by not getting enough sleep (she’s powered by chocolate). Her physical bookshelves were stacked two deep long ago, so now she’s busy filling up her e-reader.

What A.F.E. stands for is a closely guarded secret, but you might get it out of her if you offer her enough snacks.

Author social media links

DARKHAVEN on Goodreads

The main points again:

Tour homepage
A.F.E. Smith’s Rafflecopter giveaway
Where to find A.F.E. Smith’s Facebook Event on 2nd July



Filed under General Wittering, Interesting

Politics: MTM’s post election rantathon.

You’re probably wondering whether or not I’m still alive so I thought I’d better put your mind at rest. To be honest, there are three reasons for my absence, first a sudden and abrupt cessation of all free downloads for my books had me scurrying to tweak key words, check categories etc on all the major book retail sites – I’m still none the wiser and thinking I’ll probably have to chalk it up to experience… ‘kismet Hardy’ and all that.

Second, I’ve had to learn to do some stuff and it took a while… more on that story next post.

Third, the election. For those who don’t know, there’s been an election here in the UK and even for politics, this one has left a really bad taste in the mouth. Perhaps I spend too much time on the internet but the whole thing seems to have been fought on the politics of hate: them and us, rich and poor, north and south.  I wanted to post something but I was so annoyed that I couldn’t make it articulate or un ranty enough. At the same time, I couldn’t  manage to post anything else until I’d written about the election. I’m still having difficulty being articulate and it’s still a bit of a rantathon. But it’s been a whole month now and this will have to do.

The aftermath of the election was also grim. There was a lot of silly, shitty ‘people who voted for … are the devil’s spawn’ style generalisations on Facebook. One person even asked that anyone who’d voted for one party to unfriend her because she didn’t want to know them. Like uh? For real?

That seems a little extreme. Perhaps there’s a very real need in all of us for a religion, or something like it. But I wonder how it is that people who are staunch rationalists or atheists are sometimes able to turn to politics with the exact same zeal and blind belief that they mock in those of religion. Maybe the human psyche has to believe ‘passionately’ in something. But believing in a political party? I have strong beliefs on what is right and wrong but the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ of politics seems quite murky. A party which has some great ideas in its manifesto is guaranteed to have some that, to my mind anyway, are complete pants at best, at worst, wrong or possibly even unwittingly evil. So it’s a case of compromise there’s no perfect absolute. Not for me. I’m drifting from the point though. Back to the them and us.

Doubtless all this categorising of other humans rallies the troops and makes it easier to produce catchy sound bites but unfortunately, it tends to do so at the expense of a huge uplift in pointless, ignorance-based, alienation and hatred. Perhaps I’m sensitive about this, because in the eyes of a sizeable chunk of the population my geographical origins render me unspeakable, so I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of it over the years.

That’s also why I, personally, can no more think it’s ‘the right thing to do’ to vote blindly for one political party without thought than I could cut my own arm off. Would we put such unthinking trust in a group of fallible humans if they were running a multinational? Should we blindly obey people who want us to vote for their right to wield power and run a whole country? Probably not. Let’s face it, power is guaranteed to bring out the bad side of the strongest among us. So my view is that we need to mix the ruling parties up as regularly as possible so they don’t get too used to it and remember who put them where they are.

However, despite not liking politics, or politicians, very much I think standing with your fingers in your ears going, ‘la la la la I’m not going to play’ and refusing to vote is probably worse. Yes, I’m sure if nobody voted they’d have to change but I doubt that would be with the revolution some folks want. Most likely they’d simply take even less notice of those they are supposed to govern than they do now. Or we’d really have a revolution. Like Syria. There are few things more uncivil than a civil war.

As a child, I grew up in a situation where the people around me came from all walks of life, all social backgrounds and all levels of income, and they were friends. I’ve never quite got the hang of ‘them and us’ because the people in my life have always been too eclectic a mix so support the concept. Everyone was a ‘them’ of some sort. As a result of this, when I vote, I vote for the people I think will do the least damage to the country at the time. I have voted Green, Liberal, Labour and Conservative.

That’s why I found it profoundly depressing: the way that this election seemed to be fought on the politics of hate, with (otherwise) intelligent rational individuals urging us to vote for their respective political parties – on the internet at any rate –  on the grounds that it was ‘the right thing to do’: as if their manifesto was some infallible dictat laid down by God, while at the same time happily mouthing poisonous platitudes from the mother ship decrying the moral turpitude of anyone who voted for a different bunch.

Do we really fall for this ‘everyone in party x is a knob’ style shit?

The fact is this.

THERE WILL ALWAYS BE WANKERS IN THE WORLD. I know! Drop down dead in shock! But yes it’s true. A small minority of the human race are just total tossers. Nothing will change this and it isn’t anyone’s fault. But, contrary to popular belief, their monthly income, accent, occupation, the identity of their antecedents, whether or not they’re vegetarian are allergy sufferers or drive a certain type of car, or drive at all, their birth place, current home, school they went to, parents’ occupation, gender, social standing, social background, stance on animal rights, religion, colour or political affiliation has absolutely NO bearing on whether or not a person will be a twat. In short you cannot just pick a random aspect or experience about their life and say that everyone else who shares it is a tosser, well… I suppose you can, but only if you’re a tosser of epic proportions yourself.

So there we go peps, when you next read a statement that runs along the lines of ‘everyone who voted labour is a twat,’ or conversely, ‘anyone who voted conservative is a knob,’ made by someone pitching it as actual truth, we can all have a quiet chuckle at who the real dick head is.

On the up side, my faith in the British public has been boosted enormously by the fact that UKIP didn’t get in.

For a light hearted take on the way we in the, laughingly named, ‘united’ Kingdom all hate each other, just spool to 2.45 on this vid and watch Andy Parsons sum it up.


Filed under General Wittering