Two #KindleFire #Giveaways and a book recommendation.

Just a quick post to give everyone the heads up on a couple of giveaways. The prize in both is a lovely Kindle Fire. Oh yeh. The first is the freekindlegiveaway.com ‘Discover’ Giveaway and this week we are mostly discovering, Science Fiction! Sqeee! (including my book)

To quote the site: ‘This Giveaway is a DREAM for the true Bookworms who participate! Not only do you get a chance to win a Kindle Fire OR a Gift Card/Paypal Cash…but everyone who enters will receive FREE books and special bookish offers!’

There are 20 other smashing science fiction authors taking part who will be discounting or giving away their books. They will get in touch with you after the giveaway has ended to let you know what discounts or freebies they are offering.

You can find the giveaway here:

http://www.freekindlegiveaway.com/discover-giveaway/

The second giveaway ties in with a new release. You will probably remember my mentioning Darkhaven, by A F E Smith last July. I recommended it because I loved it and I thought you might too. Well, A F E Smith has now released the second book in that series – Goldenfire – which I am also loving, I’m half way through. To celebrate the release of Goldenfire, A F E is taking part in a giveaway hosted by fellow author Becca Hamilton. The first prize is a Kindle Fire. So if you’d like to enter that one, here is the link:

Goldenfire Giveaway

If you are interested in checking out the books they’re a good price – £1.99 each (about $2.99) and you can check them out here. Ah, yes, and if I’ve done them right, the Amazon links should take you to your local Amazon store.

Darkhaven:  Amazon, Kobo iBooks Barnes&Noble
Goldenfire: Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes&Noble

If you decide to enter either of the giveaways good luck.

6 Comments

Filed under General Wittering

Lo! Unto You is Born… my #Christmas #giveaway. Win a #KoboGlo and some eBooks.

So the lovely promotional price for Escape From B-Movie Hell has expired and now you’ll have to shell out the gargantuan sum of £2.50 – or approximagtely $US3.99 – if you wish to buy a copy. Sorry about that. However, fret not, there is free stuff in the offing from me. I am running a giveway, and what’s more, I’ve extended it so it’s not finishing on Christmas Eve as first stated but on 2nd January, 2016.

20150104_132704

For lo unto you is born this week My Giveaway! Yes, I will be giving away a Kobo Glo Ereader. Why? Very probably because I’m nuts. But it’s true and some lucky bleeder is going to win this thing, plus electronic copies of all four novels in the K’Barthan Series… and the short prequel if you really want it.

If you think you’d like this fabulous new bit of electronic kit for Christmas, or at least, joyeaux anee, follow the link I’m about to give you and answer the moronically simple question to enter.

The main points again.

  • Follow this link: http://hamgee.co.uk/giveaways/escape/
  • Enter the competition.
  • Enjoy this lovely festive picture of my cat.
  • Share the link with EVERYONE you know in THE ENTIRE WORLD to get more entries.
  • Do it before 2nd January, when the giveaway ends.

That is all. Good luck me hearties.

3 Comments

Filed under General Wittering

Spectrum is green! My #NewRelease Escape From B-Movie Hell is Go!

Yes, it’s here, that book launch that I’ve been incredibly quite about (not). But at least you can console yourself with the fact that it’s launch day so that means I might finally shut up about it.

Escape From B-Movie Hell is … AVAILABLE! Phnark. Grab it from your vendor of choice using the luscious links on this page:

http://hamgee.co.uk/books/escape-from-b-movie-hell/

9781907809262_Fullcover

7 Comments

Filed under About My Writing

You may choose bath time, or DEATH.

As  you may all know, Escape From B-Movie Hell, my latest book, is about to hit the streets. I am still frantically primping mailshots and generally phaffing about so obviously the ideal thing to happen today would be for something to go so unbelievably, mind bendingly, heroically wrong that the wheels would fall off and I’d achieve absolutely nothing.

But that wouldn’t happen would it? Not unless my life ran like a badly written sitcom with a totally unrealistic plot.

Yeh. You’d better believe it. Of course it did.

This has been the most amazingly bizarre day.

McOther got the 7am train to London. McCat appeared shortly afterwards hopped onto the bed stinking of creosote and left black foot prints all over the duvet. Upside no black footprints on the stairs. Still not sure how he did that but very grateful, all the same. Downside, creosote is poisonous and the way cats clean creosote off their feet is to lick it off.

Oh oh.

There was quite a lot of creosote – admittedly, a bit less than before now he’d left so much on the duvet but still. There was only one thing for it.

“Kitty McCat you have a choice,” I told him. “You may choose bath time or DEATH.”

I’m pretty sure McCat chose death but I overruled him anyway and washed his feet. A process which sounds so simple written down doesn’t it? But which, by dint of him being a cat was not simple and took many minutes. I was soaked by the end and stinking mightily of creosote as well. McCat was a little less stinky, with very damp legs and a lot less gunk on his feet but a lot still there all the same.

Just to throw a little tension into the mix, school run time was looming. And if I was going to get the cat to the vet and McMini to school I had to do something RIGHT THEN!

So I rang the vet and was told to bring McCat in for ‘cleaning’ as soon as I could.

That’s when I looked at my giant cat box and my small car with two seats. No room for cat AND son in car. No other car available, well, there is McOther’s big Chelsea Tractor but I need a wi-fi transponder to drive it and it’s in his pocket. I could get in there and drive to the vets but McOther will receive a phone call telling him someone has stolen his car. And the police will arrest me as I come out. That would make McMini very late for school.Where he was due to be any minute but the longer the cat went with tongue access to creosotey toes the more likely he was to get ill.

But it was OK, a neighbour has kids in McMini’s class and I rushed over and asked if she could take McMini with her lot. Yes. Hoorah! But I noticed they were in uniform. He had his class party today and I thought it was a home clothes day but it seemed I was supposed to send him in uniform with the home clothes in his bag.

Bollocks.

Never mind. With the cat possibly a mere handful of licks away from death there was no time to go home and chance. My son takes at least an hour to put on his clothes anyway. So I hugged him and dumped him and legged it back across the road where I put the cat in the box in car and went to the vet.

I’d called ahead so when I arrived and gave them my name the receptionist called, “The creosote cat’s here.”

Several staff came out to look. I was ushered into a consulting room and the vet confirmed that McSpanner Cat needed more cleaning and that they would be happy to do it for me and just keep an eye on him for the morning.

I left Mr Creosote with them and went Christmas shopping. I bought things for my dad. Handkerchiefs and socks. I looked at all the things he would have liked once and couldn’t cope with now and felt a little teary.

Then I went to home (via the gym). Immediately I got in, the vet rang.

Turns out that McCat had enjoyed a wonderful morning. I think his hosts had enjoyed it too. To wash his feet they put a little warm water in the bottom of a tank so they could stand him in it and lather his toes with swarfiga. He lay down, rolled over and luxuriated among the warm suds. Diva like. On his back. He is such a tart.

When I collected him he was still damp with a couple of bald bits where it got so sticky they had to shave it and wearing a buster collar – or cone of shame as we call it. They told me to keep on him until he was dry. I tried not to mock the afflicted by laughing as I watched him bumping into things, and getting stuck between two chairs as he tried to chase a ping pong ball under the dining table. At one point, he even tried to force the cone of shame through the cat flap.

He failed on that score.

However, he did manage to lick his tail, one back paw and his bum while wearing the cone of shame, a cone he was wearing expressly to stop him from being able to wash himself. He licked the cone of shame a lot too. It was very funny watching him rolling around on his back trying to get one leg round it and into licking reach.

I attempted to take a photo and he looked at me as if to say, ‘Oh no you don’t.’ Then he curled up and waited stoically on the sofa until I left.

He provided some very unhelpful assistance while I made some cakes for McMini’s teachers. Forget the stuff on his feet. He is already the cat version of Mr Creosote the man, a la Monty Python. No food is safe. The cakes proved to be an epic fail. Definitely back to the drawing board on that one – I may as well have let McCat hoover up the mixture the way he wanted to – but first more ingredients required. There is cake mix on the cone of shame.

On the upside, the vet only charged £30 even though McCat was there all morning. Also he is fine albeit a little cowed by his experience. Welcome home Mr Creosote. Like the stuff he walked in, that name will probably stick.

And this is the world of weirdness I live in. At least you can see why my books are strange. Write what you know and all that. And I do.

Now, all I have to do now is put the clean duvet cover on and I’m back to where I was at the beginning of today. A lot of action then, but eff all achieved.

Never mind, if you want to make me feel better, you could always buy my book. If you do it before Sunday you can get it for the knock down price of 99p. If you use the giveaway link, there might even be a free ebook reader in it for you. If you’re interested, you can find links to buy it from the major stores here:

http://hamgee.co.uk/books/escape-from-b-movie-hell/

If you’re not interested… well… I will stop talking about it eventually, I promise. I leave you with a picture of what McCat was probably doing in the bath… at the vet’s.

20150513_131756

8 Comments

Filed under General Wittering

#NewRelease by M T McGuire Pending.

Yep. I bet that gave you a bit of a shock but it’s true. I have a new book out on this Thursday that ever was. AAAAAND I’m running a giveaway as well in which one lucky so-and-so will win a spiffy new Kobo Glo ereader PLUS free electronic copies of all four novels in the K’Barthan Series with which to adorn their lovely new piece of e-bling.

9781907809262_LowRes

The book is called Escape From B-Movie Hell and the blurb goes like this:

If you asked Andi Turbot whether she had anything in common with Flash Gordon she’d say no, emphatically. Saving the world is for dynamic, go-ahead, leaders of men and while it would be nice to see a woman getting involved for a change, she believes she could be the least well-equipped being in her galaxy for the job.

Then her best friend, Eric, reveals that he is an extraterrestrial. He’s not just any ET either. He’s Gamalian: seven-foot, lobster-shaped and covered in Marmite-scented goo. Just when Andi’s getting used to that he tells her about the Apocalypse and really ruins her day.

The human race will perish unless Eric’s Gamalian superiors step in. Abducted and trapped on an alien ship, Andi must convince the Gamalians her world is worth saving. Or escape from their clutches and save it herself.

That’s the book, then. Now for the giveaway. There are two ways to enter and I’m going to tell you about the first today and the second  on Sunday.

So, if you are a fan of my stuff and you have already bought the book, entering is pretty easy. There’s a link in the back – just a click away from the menu – which will take you to the giveaway page on my website. If you are meaning to buy the book but haven’t got round to it I’m keeping it at a knock down price of 99p, about $1.25, until 8.00pm GMT on Sunday 20th December, then it goes up to £2.50 or about US $3.99.

No purchase is necessary to enter the giveaway, and I will give out the direct address to enter in another post on Sunday. I’m just giving folks who buy or have bought the book first dibs. That said, yes, you guys and gals, please do share the link to get more entries – I just wanted to give you a head start as a thank you for actually stumping up cash for my drivel!

If you’re reading this and you haven’t bought the book, but would like to grab it while it’s 99p, links to find it on all the major ebook retailers are on this page here: http://www.hamgee.co.uk/escape.html

The main points again. The giveaway runs from now until 8.00pm GMT on Christmas Eve, 24th December. Anyone who has bought the book gets the link first inside the book but no purchase is necessary. I will give out the direct giveaway link on Sunday 20th December.

21 Comments

Filed under About My Writing, General Wittering

Surviving trolls, extremism and other curses of modern life

<<<<POLITICS WARNING read on at your own risk, I can guarantee I’ll offend the entire world with this one.>>>>

A couple of weeks ago, I was standing on a rain soaked road in France in a Barbour which is not at all waterproof looking at this field. In all truth, I didn’t really connect. It looks pretty unremarkable but the odds are that if I’d been there 600 years earlier I’d have seen the bodies of several thousand French soldiers, 3 days dead, most stripped completely naked by looters from the desperately poor local population after the important stuff had been removed by the English (I bet those clothes lasted some local families a couple of generations). That’s because 600 years (and 3 days) previously we are about as sure as we can be sure of anything in history that the battle of Agincourt was fought on this particular field.20151029_114039

As I understand it, one of the defining aspects of the battle was that the ground became a quagmire. People sank in the mud and suffocated, just as they did 500 years later, a few miles down the road, on the Western Front. Once I heard that it made connecting a little bit easier.

There’s no hint of the carnage that took place there now. There’s a museum, a memorial and not much else. It was a bloodbath and it horrified the people of its time just as the first world war did, just as the deaths of those 60,000,000 victims of the second world war (if you count civilians) did, just as 9.11, 7.7 and last week do.

Those Agincourt deaths are not at the forefront of our consciousness any more. As I said, the area is not far from the fields which comprise what was once, part of the front line in WW1. Likewise, apart from the odd memorial and the war graves you wouldn’t necessarily understand the horror of war from what’s there now. Although the bucolic peace belies the truth, farmers are still killed and injured every year by unexploded ordnance buried under the tranquil landscape. They will be for some time. Things are not always as they seem.

Maybe, as wars pass out of living memory, they cease to be so real to us. How do we keep remembering, understanding?

When I grew up there were plenty of people around who had fought in the second world war and still some who had fought in the first. It was in their consciousness at all times, and so it was in ours.

As they die out there is one experience in my life that I begin to value more and more. An RS lesson I was given when I was about 17. It comprised my A level set, three of us, the teacher and a visiting Bishop. He was about 70, Mark Greene his name was, and he was sitting on a rickety arm chair which tipped up, dumping him onto the floor. I remember that. I particularly remember our poor teacher’s flustered efforts to help him up and his calm, unfazed reassurances that he was fine.

But what I really remember about that lesson was the story he told us. At the end of the war he was with a detachment of forces in Germany and on the day it was liberated, he was the 20th allied soldier to walk into Belsen.

We didn’t know that’s what he was, of course, I’m not sure the teacher even did. I don’t even remember how it cropped up. There’s a bit of a memory gap between the chair incident and it suddenly hitting me, very forcefully that this man was telling us what it was like to walk into a death camp for the first time, when you hadn’t realised they existed, when you didn’t understand, first hand, what human beings were capable of doing to one another, or at least, in an era when the general consensus of opinion was that we’d evolved past all that.

He proceeded to tell us about the experience. What he felt, smelled and saw. I have seen videos of what was there since which cast a whole new light on his words and made his understated, calm description of the facts all the more powerful. He wasn’t ’emotional’ as he described it. He cried no tears. But the strength of feeling in his voice was striking. He avoided emotional trigger words, he told us about the smell of excrement and rotting bodies but spared the grisly details. He talked about seeing piles of grey sticks and only realising, at second or third glance, that they were people and that some were still alive, just, and moving. I remember thinking that I was hearing about one of the defining moments of the 20th Century from a man who was actually there. I still get goose pimples when I think about it. Mainly because I suspect I am unlikely ever to come so close to history again.

And then Paris last week. And all the absolute tosh that’s been talked on the internet since about religion, and the Muslim faith. We don’t seem to be learning do we?

Aldus Huxley, I think it was Aldus Huxley, said, “Propaganda is the art of convincing one group of people that another group of people is not human.”

One of the defining things about the concentration and death camps was that the victims were stripped of all humanity. They were not to be dignified with a name. They were given a number. Their names were verboten. They all wore the same uniforms. They were as robots. Nothing.

And that’s how you hate. That’s how the Daesh are able to kill the way they do. Because to them a non Daesh child is not a human child. Then again, I’m not sure how the Daesh manage to have kids because as I understand the tenets of their extreme doctrine, their menfolk believe women aren’t human either.

So how do we beat them? Well, turning their victims away, or ‘Closing the UK’s borders until Isis is defeated’ is patently bollocks. Making all Muslims wear an armband, well, yes, Mr Trump, I refer you back to Belsen. We’ve done that before, quite recently and I don’t recall it working out well. You need to have a word with yourself mate.

Someone at church the other day who said there is an easy way to make all these memorials to past battles mean, or continue to mean, something. Give the dead names. Pick one solider, research him, find out who he was. Suddenly they stop being numbers and turn back into people. And after last week, in Paris, I thought that all the more.

It’s very easy to generalise about people, to isolate ourselves, to become ‘them and us’ about practically everything. Now more than ever we seem to be particularly vulnerable to a black and white generalist view of the world which is simply a lie, a fairy story totally removed from the truth which we tell ourselves because we cannot handle the uncertainty of grey.

I can see it in myself. When it popped up in the news recently that Jihadi John had almost certainly been killed in a bombing raid my first instant thought was, ‘serves him bloody well right. You live by the sword you die by the sword.’ But then I thought about it some more. It’s hard to consider someone like Jihadi John as a human being. Really hard. But somewhere he has parents and family who loved him, some might even be anguished by what he has done. Somewhere there might have been a mother, a father, a wife begging him to turn to compassion and humanity again like the family of an addict begging them to forsake the bottle. We are all equal, we are all human. He was a sad pathetic thing, broken inside, but to deny his humanity, however much he seems to have forfeited his right to be seen as human, maybe that is the cause of the trouble.

People like Jihadi John, people like the lads who killed all those people in Paris, probably get off on the feeling of power or that they are physically doing something to make a difference than politics. It’s in our nature to want to change the world. That’s why we’re high achievers in so many ways. Their acts are inhuman so perhaps the only way we can defeat their inhumanity is by holding onto our humanity.

The minute we cease to see your enemy as a human being, you have given in to hate. In my view, if we give into hate, we’re no better than they are. An ability to love and respect others is what sets normal people apart from the extremists. The way to understand the gravity and the evil of war is not to look at the casualty numbers, it’s to remember that they are people. To give them names.

Every now and again, someone special comes along like Jesus, Budda, Mohamed and the like and they try to persuade people to treat each other as they’d like to be treated themselves. It’s ironic, isn’t it, how fast we manage to turn that into intolerance and hatred. If the devil exists, he must be laughing.

If we have a battle cry, perhaps it should be that of Antoine Leiris, whose wife, Helene was killed at the Bataclan.

“I will not give you the gift of hating you.”

It seems to me that, if ever we need to foster a culture of love and tolerance, it’s now.

 

 

13 Comments

Filed under General Wittering

Detail: What Noticing Stuff means to a writer.

Some random true life stories this week, as inspired by Mr Chuck Wendig’s blog, even if I’ve missed the deadline and my very tenuous efforts to link them to my ‘job’ – which is really just an incredibly expensive hobby.

Story 1. Years ago, in the mid 1990s, I was driving to my job one summer morning. My journey to work used to take about an hour, 20 minutes to the outskirts of Cambridge and 40 minutes queuing. I drove an elderly Triumph Spitfire so the morning queue had a worrying tendency to turn into a game of temperature gauge chicken. On the up side, even if I had to sit there with the heater on to stop the engine boiling, at least I could take the lid off.

So there I sat, at the end of the queue, in my car. I leaned back looking up at the blue sky I saw, where other’s saw the deadness of their car’s upholstered roof. An aeroplane flew across and directly above me. As I watched, it began to blow out smoke – not yeek-my-engine’s-failing-and-I’m-about-to-plummet-out-of-the-sky-type smoke you understand – stunt plane smoke like the Red Arrows (or les Bleu, I don’t have a picture of the red arrows) blow out in red white and blue. Anyway, I watched and as it flew, smoke in full er… puff? It drew a circle. Then after a bit of flying back and forth, it put two eyes inside the circle and a smily mouth. Then it flew away. What I liked about that was the fact that the pilot must have known that hardly anyone would see what s/he did but they went and did it anyway.

Thank you Kate Jackson, over at Roughseas for having a picture of the Red Arrows blowing out volumes of exactly the kind of smoke I’m talking about.

How does that pertain to writing? Well, to me it says that sometimes, even if you think only one person in a thousand will ‘get’ something, it’s worth putting it in if you believe in it. Why? Because chances are, they’ll be aware that this is a very obscure joke and putting it in will make them feel like you’re sharing secret code with them.

Onto the second story. A week or so ago, at the school picking up my son. I was just having a quick chat to his teacher about his maths when a helicopter came over.

“How very odd coming up out of the sun like that and flying so low,” said McMini’s teacher.

“Yeh, and they’ve got the door open,” I said, as we both looked up. “Perhaps we should give them a wave.”

We duly both did, along with McMini, who didn’t need much encouragement. The wave spread – or several other folks had the same idea – and then to our amazement the helicopter did an circuit of the playground, the folks in the open doorway leaning out and waving like looners. Then everyone waved back at them: the kids and some of the parents were even jumping up and down and cheering. The helicopter then headed off. None of us know where it came from, where it was going, or why it flew over us. But we do know that pretty much everyone felt good after it had gone, including, perhaps, the folks in its open doorway.

Relevance to writing is a bit thin here, I’ll give you, but perhaps it shows the value of a wave and a smile, the power of simple things, or of small acts of friendship. I’m a great believer in approaching the internet like that. It’s full of people who’ve had a bad day and are ready to rip your head off, but sometimes, all it takes to break the ice is a kind word, a smile or, yes, a cheery wave.

Which brings me to the last story.

As most of you know, my Dad suffers from memory loss. Before all that hit him, he was a life long lover of wine and spent many hours poring over lists from the Wine Society, and other esteemed wine sellers, selecting and buying wines. Many of these were bought to drink with Sunday lunch, which was a bit of an event in our house, or at the riotous dinner parties my Mum and Dad used to have. One of his favourites was a claret called Leoville Barton. For some years, he bought cases of it to drink on special occasions – although my Dad being my Dad, quite a lot of quite mundane occasions were ‘special’.

The other night, a friend came round to dinner and we had a wine tasting. We put the bottles in socks and juggled them about a bit and then tried to guess what they were and who’d brought what. One of the wines felt familiar and I realised that it reminded me of the Chateau Leoville Barton my Dad used to love and which, I admit, I rather like, too. And as I said this to McOther and our friend, I suddenly felt incredibly affected. I was amazed how a single flavour could bring back such vivid memories of the happy times I’ve had drinking a glass of that wine. And as I remembered my Dad as he was then, it hit me, anew, how much of him has gone forever.

So what do these things mean for writing? Well, maybe that small things, tiny details inserted in the right place, can show the reader volumes about your characters without you having to tell them. I guess it also means that a deftly added detail can be incredibly poignant or can make the difference between a boring scene and diverting one. Perhaps it also means that as writers, we should train ourselves to notice all this stuff – or perhaps the fact we do is what sets us apart and makes us writers. Perhaps some of the battle we face, when trying to turn our writing from good to amazing, is working out which details to add, and when; and even more importantly, which ones to leave out.

 

21 Comments

Filed under General Wittering