Category Archives: Free Stuff

Happy New Year … briefly.

Happy New Year …

This is just a quick one to wish you Happy New Year.

I can’t say much this week. Christmas II is about to start, in Scotland, so I will be heading up there tomorrow and I’m busy packing and sorting stuff out before we go. There is an absolute craptonne I want to talk about regarding Christmas I at Mum’s. How it went (well, I think) and about being a carer; the sense of responsibility, the good bits, the bad bits and why God seems to think it’s his moral duty to ensure that I have to wipe somebody somewhere’s arse at regular intervals from now until I die. More on that story … next week.

In the meantime, one of those terribly strange conundrums has cropped up. Suddenly, yesterday, 439 people in the USA and 1 Canadian downloaded Small Beginnings, for free off Amazon, along with another 127 so far, today – I can’t tell where they’re from yet but I’m guessing USA again.

That’s pretty impressive. I doubt I’d get much more interest in the States than that if I’d scored the mother of all promotions that is a bookbub. It really is like the American bit of a Book Bub Featured Deal without the other countries on top. It’s bizarre. But also good. OK so the USA is the country with the lowest read through rate, but I’m still delighted. After all, I should be good for 10 sales on the next book if I get the usual 2% read through rate, only a fraction of those folks will read the book, you see. I’m guessing they were all the USA as well, possibly with another Canadian in there.

Also, so far, the Christmas Easter Egg (Nog) – The Last Word, has received 253 downloads so I’m pleased about that, too. It was only 8% of the mailing list people so I’ve resent it to them for next week with a ‘just in case you forgot this’ kind of message because it’s a busy time and some of them may have done.

While I was doing that, it crossed my mind that I haven’t checked my mailing list for non-openers recently. Having done so I discover there are over 800 and I have not checked or sent a do-you-want-to-stay email for over a year. Oops. So I’ve sent the, ‘Wanna unsubscribe?’ email letting them know I’m going to delete them and giving them a button to click if they want to stay.

The joy of that technique is that the people on that list are gathered with an equation that, essentially, says, ‘show me everyone who hasn’t opened or clicked an email in the last year, who isn’t on x, y or z list’. Then of course, anyone who clicks will automatically disappear because they’ll have opened something in the last six months. Mwahahahrgh! Cunning eh?

Right, it’s late now and I have to go to bed but before I do, I may as well remind you about the K’Barthan Not Christmas story as well. Yes, The Last Word is still available to read. AND I’ve corrected the bits where I pasted the same paragraph in twice – a chunk at the beginning and a paragraph near the end. 🙂

Here’s a bit more information:

The Last Word, A Christmas K’Barthan Extra

Shows the cover of The Last Word

The Last Word

Yes! It’s dark, it’s mid winter and in K’Barth that means only one thing. It’s Arnold The Prophet’s Birthday! The biggest holiday in the Nimmist year. As usual, the Grongles have banned any celebrations and worse, this year, to add insult to injury, they’re going to have a book burning on the Sacred Day but that’s not going to stop Gladys and Ada. Oh no. Here’s the blurb:

When Mrs Ormaloo brings the terrible news to the Turnadot Street Businesswomen’s Association that the Grongles are going to burn some more banned books on the night of Arnold, The Prophet’s Birthday Gladys and Ada decide to take steps. They even enrol some of the punters from their pub to help out.

The books are in a warehouse being kept under guard. Gladys, Ada, Their Trev and the rest of the group embark on a plan of devilish cunning to rescue as many banned books from the flames as they can.

Corporal Crundy is determined not to mess up his first assignment since his promotion. It should be easy. All he has to do is guard some books. Yeh. It should be a piece of cake but somehow that’s not the way it turns out.

Just to recap, this story is about the same length as Night Swimming and available in PDF, Mobi and Epub from Bookfunnel. Later I will add a second half to it and release it as a short story with a proper cover and t’ing rather than this slightly dodgy one what I done! Phnark.

To download your copy, click here

All that remains is to wish you and yours a fabulous New Year. I’m not going to say anything like, ‘Hey 2022 can’t get any worse can it?’ because in my view, that’s just tempting bloody fate. Instead, I’ll just say, here’s hoping we’ve bottomed out and things begin to look up.

 

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Here’s a Christmas Easter Egg …

Happy Arnold, The Prophet’s Birthday (may his blessings be upon you).*

Yes this year, I’ve got my arse in gear and I have managed to produce a free Christmassy story for your delectation. Except, of course, it being K’Barthan it’s not a Christmas story per se but is about their equivalent, Arnold, The Prophet’s Birthday. And also, if I’m brutally honest, it’s only here because I wrote it last year f0r an anthology which never went ahead and then I never got round to writing the second half this year.

Never mind, last year’s happenstance and MTM cock ups amount to this year’s Christmas Easter Egg for you … or Christmas Easter Egg Nog, if you’re American, although I don’t know what Egg Nog actually is because I’m British. From what I understand, it’s a ye olde American tradition of drinking custard on Christmas morning. I used to drink custard instead of coffee in sixth form at school so it sounds good to me if a little … you know … odd.

Anyway onwards and upwards. Here it is, anyway. Feel free to download it of you want to. Is there an audio version yet? Oh no there isn’t BUT oh yes there is will be in the New Year, when Gareth has finished being the baddie in a panto. **

Here’s a bit more information:

The Last Word, A Christmas K’Barthan Extra

Shows the cover of The Last Word

The Last Word

Yes! It’s dark, it’s mid winter and in K’Barth that means only one thing. It’s Arnold The Prophet’s Birthday! The biggest holiday in the Nimmist year. As usual, the Grongles have banned any celebrations and worse, this year, to add insult to injury, they’re going to have a book burning on the Sacred Day but that’s not going to stop Gladys and Ada. Oh no. Here’s the blurb:

When Mrs Ormaloo brings the terrible news to the Turnadot Street Businesswomen’s Association that the Grongles are going to burn some more banned books on the night of Arnold, The Prophet’s Birthday Gladys and Ada decide to take steps. They even enrol some of the punters from their pub to help out.

The books are in a warehouse being kept under guard. Gladys, Ada, Their Trev and the rest of the group embark on a plan of devilish cunning to rescue as many banned books from the flames as they can.

Corporal Crundy is determined not to mess up his first assignment since his promotion. It should be easy. All he has to do is guard some books. Yeh. It should be a piece of cake but somehow that’s not the way it turns out.

This story is about the same length as Night Swimming and available in PDF, Mobi and Epub from Bookfunnel. Later I will add a second half to it and release it as a short story with a proper cover and t’ing rather than this slightly dodgy one what I done! Phnark.

To download your copy, click here

All that remains is to wish you and yours a wonderful Christmas – or whatever you do instead – and a fabulous New Year.

*I am probably going directly to hell for that joke.
** S’cuse the badly executed oh no it isn’t! Oh yes it is panto joke there. I couldn’t help myself.

 

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Yikes …

An eventful one this week. It’s the summer holidays so pretty much anything except admin and Mum stuff has gone out of the window because all three of us are off. Instead we are Doing Things. Well … a bit.

This week McMini gamely came to Mum’s with me and we had a lovely lunch. Duck confit salad (om-nom-nom) and she was in great form. The lovely gardener was there too, one of his first days back after a long illness and a really tough time. He joined us and ate his packed lunch while we ate ours.

However, on the journey down we saw something that shook us a bit. A few miles out from the Dartford Bridge there’s a junction to Southend, I think it’s number 30, I’m not sure. The penultimate one in the stack, anyway – the other side of the Bridge they start at one. There was quite a bit of traffic and I was in the outside/fast lane, in a long, long queue of cars going at a steady 70 past a bunch of other cars and lorries going slower.

As we passed the Southend junction, a purple Mazda 2 came flying across three lanes of traffic and tucked into the fast lane in front of a grey Jaguar. There are four lanes there. The Jag was about to overtake a car that was going quite slowly in lane three and it looked as if there were about fifteen feet between the Jag and the car it was overtaking when the Mazda barged through this very small gap at speed.

What the actual f***?

The Jag driver was irritated, and as soon as both of them were past the car in lane 3 he undertook the Mazda and pulled a similar stunt, cutting in a few feet in front of the other driver in a there!-see-how-you-like-it gesture. The young man in the Mazda (I’m afraid it’s always a young man) then completely lost his biscuits. He tried to return the compliment but didn’t have enough grunt to undertake in the room available. He pulled in behind the Jag and drove up close on to the Jaguar’s back bumper, hanging out a bit, as if that was going to help him get past.

Just to go off on a tangent slightly, you do this because a) if they get past they may suddenly swerve in front of you and stop dead, causing you to run into them b) they might do the same thing but with a view to boxing you in, giving themselves time to either reverse their car into yours and smash it, or to get out of their car and smash you before you have time to reverse and escape. Or c) when they get alongside you they might try to side-swipe you or run you off the road. Amazing as it may seem, I have seen all of these things attempted on the UK road network. There are some very angry young men out there and sometimes, just noticing that a woman is driving a car they consider unsuitable for females – or simply being overtaken by a female (even as part of a long stream of other traffic) – is enough to set them off.

After a quarter of a mile or so, the Mazda driver suddenly broke left, swerved through three lanes of traffic, gunned it up lane one, the slow lane, in a few empty yards between lorries and then piled across three more lanes, but he still failed to pull in ahead of the guy in the Jag. By this point I had started to leave a gap so that if they hit each other or stopped in the fast lane to have a pagga, I had time to stop. They continued with the argy bargy but a giant flabby Range Rover drifted into my lane so I couldn’t see much of their antics, only that the Mazda had swerved back across the other three lanes into lane one again, presumably having another go at getting past. Meanwhile the Jag was doing what any self respecting motorist does when presented with an insane nutter, you keep them behind you.

An Arnold's Produce van.
Some traffic yesterday. Not on the M25 clearly, coz I couldn’t stop.

Since the Jag driver was now fleeing for their life, both cars were doing well above the speed limit and the knob in the Mazda was repeatedly weaving through three lanes of traffic, using gaps that were not a great deal longer than his car, then gunning it up lane one and trying to get back across to the fast lane in front of the Jag. I wondered if I should dial 101 (or is it 111?) to call the officially-less-urgent-than-999 police contact line and report them. They kept this up until we got to the speed limited section before the bridge. Once again, I saw the Mazda pile over from lane three to lane one, narrowly missing the back bumpers and front noses of other cars as he went. I slowed down to 50mph along with everyone else, and watched as he used lane one to undertook a lorry in lane two. Lane three had a lorry in it as well and the jag, in the fast lane, passed that. They were about 600 yards ahead of me at this point because by now I was firmly convinced they were going to have (or cause) an accident and I wanted time to stop. Once they disappeared behind their respective lorries they were masked from view.

However, a moment after the Mazda 2 disappeared, the traffic stopped. Dead. I didn’t get time to look much. I was concentrating, first on slowing, then on letting some of the traffic merge in front of me but not so much that I stopped completely and pissed off everyone behind me. We had ended up with three lorries at a standstill in lanes one, two and three and the only lane still open was fast lane; the one I was in.

It took about 30 seconds to file through. There, in lane three, was a metallic silver-green people mover. I’m not sure what it was, cause I was driving so I couldn’t really look that hard. I think it might have been an old Renault Espace, or the model below because, though it was a people mover, it was one of the smaller ones. It was facing in completely the wrong direction and its left front wing had collided with something resulting in a big crumple and the presence of a lot of other bits of metallic silver-green people mover all over the road.

The A14 in lockdown, because that’s all I have! Mwahahahrgh.

Total kudos to the drivers of those three lorries. They had stopped, in a line, to temporarily block the three lanes so the poor woman driving the green thing could walk across to the safety of the hard shoulder. A lorry was parked on the hard shoulder a couple of hundred yards further on, although I wasn’t sure if that had been involved or was just there, and another woman in a bright blue Suzuki Jeep (or at least a 4×4) had stopped and was giving the poor woman a hug. She was probably late fifties or early sixties, and clearly shaken. I couldn’t help wondering if the Mazda 2 had clipped her, spinning her car round 180 degrees, or if his sudden appearance, overtaking her on the wrong side, or cutting across her path had given her a start, shocking her into an instinctive swerve before she had time to check the space around her. The good thing is that the whole area of road is on CCTV and the dart charge cameras photograph the numberplate of every car that goes over there, so if the idiots in the Jag and the Mazda are required for questioning, I suspect the police will have no trouble finding them.

What is it about men in their twenties or thirties who drive hot hatches that makes them such utter and complete wankmuppets? I have not seen a lady driving like this, indeed, I have never seen anyone but young males, either alone or in a very small, hot hatch full of enormously tall men, driving like this.

After a quick debate with McMini I rang 999 and was relieved to discover that I was the first person who had called and was not, therefore, wasting their time. It’s really difficult to know whether to phone the police in situations like this or to just assume someone else will. I explained about the Mazda and the Jag, and I explained that while I hadn’t witnessed them cause an accident I was not surprised that there had been one. I explained where the lady was and that her car would need recovered and possibly someone would have to come and pick the debris off the road.

As the old adage says, I guess if idiots could fly, this place would be an airport.

Triffid!

On the up side, a cause for smugness. McBicycle was not happy and needed fixed. Yesterday, I fixed it. I realised after lockdown and my knee op, that it had got salt water on it at some point and a lot of the gubbins to move the big cogs at the front gears had seized net result, 9 gears rather than 28. Indeed, it wouldn’t change gear at all. I put WD40 on it, which is not what you’re supposed to do, but I decided I should un-seize it before I washed it, and since I was going to wash the WD40 off, I hoped it would be OK. So having squirted the offending bit with WD40 on Thursday afternoon, I spent yesterday removing the chain and cleaning it with bicycle de-greaser, plus the deralier (I think that’s how it’s spelt) cogs which were all totally filthy, and cleaning the gear mechanisms too, before putting it all back together and putting bicycle lubricant all over it. Yes, there is such a thing. Mine is called ‘Wet Ride’. Snortle, yeh, don’t even go there.

The result is a bicycle which will change through all it’s gears, and a lot more smoothly than before, to boot. I love fixing things so it was a very enjoyable afternoon all round.

Last but not least, my triffid flowered again.

On a completely different note …

In case no-one knew – and we’re talking my organisational skills here, so that is a very real possibility – I have reduced the cost of Small Beginnings, the first K’Barthan Extra, to zero. That’s right, you can pick up a copy for NO PEE. Mwahahahrgh. You can also pick up a copy of the audiobook for free from my store as well, if you’re into that kind of thing. This is the one I’m talking about:

Small Beginnings, K’Barthan Extras, Hamgeean Misfit: No 1

Small Beginnings …

Destiny called and everyone else was out.

When your very existence is treason, employment opportunities are thin on the ground. But when one of the biggest crime lords in the city makes The Pan of Hamgee a job offer he can’t refuse, it’s hard to tell what the dumbest move is; accepting the offer or saying, no to Big Merv. Neither will do much for The Pan’s life expectancy.

This is free to download from all the major ebook retailers for August and also in audio from my store – but I can’t make it free from the book vendors in audio so if you’re after that one, it has to be just from my store.

If you’re interested in the ebook, click here.
If you’d like to give the audiobook a go, click here.

If you aren’t interested but you want to help, feel free to copy and paste either of these links into the social media thingy of your choice and share away:

Audiobook: https://payhip.com/b/ubYs
Ebook – free from all the main vendors: https://www.hamgee.co.uk/infosb.html

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There is no end to my unending twattery.

Christmas has come and gone. Christmas is usually about other people but this year, thanks to COVID, we got one for us. Not that we had a choice but it was wonderful, just this one time, to ditch the travel. Our lovely rellies will all be there next year and we’ll be into the car again and creeping through the packed motorways to their various houses and I’ll be whinging about the travel even though I love them and wouldn’t do anything else. Mum’s turn next year.

Meanwhile, COVID aside, I was kind of congratulating myself for managing to limp through this year without making an absolutely monumental fuck up of anything. Or at least, nothing stupendously moronic enough that others could specifically point to, while going, ‘bloody hell! Look at that!’

However, it turns out that is not what I have done. Indeed, quite the opposite. After managing to avoid overt wankerdom for quite a lot of this year, I pulled some absolute blinders out of the bag at the end to ensure that my reputation as a vacuous airhead remains untarnished. Yep, I may be dim but my reputation for knobbery is shining as brightly as ever. Since I can’t so anything to ameliorate my twattery, I feel we may as well have a chuckle about it here. It’s good for naught else after all! Off we go then …

First, I managed to arrange an extra special shit show for myself over a couple of hours on Christmas Eve …

Six o’clock; it was dark and everything was closed. Time for shower and pjs. Got undressed, replied to a couple of texts and dumped my phone on a chair in the bathroom next to the shower. As I put it down a solitary card fell out of the case. An M&S card. I picked it up and checked the floor around, nothing else had fallen out.

Good.

Putting the card back in the wallet bit of the phone case, I discovered the reason nothing else had fallen out. It wasn’t there.

Not so good.

Indeed, more like aaaargh! Yes, a handful of business cards were gone and I was happy to lose those but I was less happy about the absence of my debit card and my driving license, which was only in there temporarily anyway because I keep having to do things that require ID and it was pissing me off having to go and find it.

Shit.

I scrabbled round under the chair but there was no sign of the cards.

Double shit. Now what.

Well, I decided, since I was already in the buff and the water was running nice and hot it was a pity to waste it. Yep. I may as well have a shower. Then I could put joggers over my pj bottoms, an anorak over the top and trace my steps round the town to see if I’d dropped the cards during the walk I’d taken earlier to deliver Christmas cards. I sent about three, the ones I could deliver on foot, and that was it.

Why did this stuff always happen after I’d run out of time to fix it? I asked myself. Why indeed. Thank you 2020 for a final fuckery fuck. I hate you. Except I sort of don’t because lockdown has been very, very kind to my stress levels.

Showered and changed I went downstairs to the McOthers, grumpy to a point where I might just possibly have been the grumpiest bastard on earth at that moment, and explained what had happened.

‘When did you last use the card?’ asked McOther.

‘Pffft! Yesterday, the day before, last week? How should I know?’

I could see the enormous concentration it took for McOther to stop his eyes rolling. Obviously I’d not the blindest, chuffing clue when I’d last seen the cards, natch. We decided that I’d search my office, and look down every sofa and chair I’d sat in since June. No wait, no need. McMini remembered that they all fell out the previous evening and he climbed over the back of the sofa to retrieve them for me as I lay on the cushions like a giant fat baby bird making pathetic noises, arms, legs and crutches akimbo and ice pack applied to my knee. Thank you McMini.

We started the search and McOther, god love him, donned his coat and retraced my route round the neighbourhood to see if he could find the errant cards on the pavement. Why to god do I not keep these in my wallet? He asked me before he left. I explained that I have a wallet but there are slots for cards on my phone case and so I split my cards between the two. Bag snatched? Never mind you still have money. Phone lost, never mind, you still have a credit card in your wallet in your bag. Left one or the other at home? Never mind, you are still financially functional.

McOther returned from his search of the streets empty-handed. Having searched everywhere while he was gone and also found nothing, I resigned myself to the horrors that had overtaken me. I was going to have to pay twenty quid, or whatever it is, for the pleasure of losing my driving license and I’d have to stop my debit card.

Ugh.

Maybe I should take one last look in the bathroom, I thought, even though McOther and McMini had both looked there and found nothing. I went up, and looked at the chair. Underneath it, standing neatly against the side of the shower cubicle are a couple of bottles of spray cleaner. One was slightly skew whiff. Could that be? Maybe … yes! There were the offending cards! Still bunched together in a fat oblong, jammed in between a bottle of Cillet Bang glass cleaner and the side of the shower cubicle. I put them in a different part of the phone wallet, where they cannot fall out.

To begin with, having been forced to make some unscheduled after-dark perambulations, McOther was unamused. However, he did eventually see the funny side.

Christmas almost ruined but thankfully, not, after all.

Further news, I decided to buy myself a pair of spiffy new boots this week. I duly searched for them on line and, finally, discovered a pair in a colour I like and a size that would fit. Joy. As usual when I came to buy them the ruddy site wanted me to join. I get so fed up with this having to join up to everything. Yet more emails I don’t want and another password for an ‘account’ I’m unlikely to use ever again; a password I am even less likely to remember. The worm turned and I gave my address but wrote my feelings in the name box. I paid by paypal so they’d be using those details anyway. Right?

Hmm. Apparently not. Now they keep sending me emails addressed to, ‘Dear I don’t want to join anything I just want to buy some shoes’.

All I can say is, I’m glad I didn’t swear. This made me unaccountably giggly, which just goes to show how much of an idiot I am, because it’s not funny, except that I find it chuffing hilarious. Presumably because I’m a twat. As well as arsey. An arsey twat, then. But we all knew that anyway.

Well … Tis the season to be merry, after all …

Originally, I thought I’d have a new release to share with you. Yep. I was hoping I’d have managed to get a story in this year’s Christmas Lites. However, after a horrific two months for the producer, which included her getting COVID,  it will, most likely, be postponed until next year. I will keep you posted on that one. In the meantime, there is always last year’s which you can find here. It’s great as always; beautifully presented and full of cracking stories although not one of mine that time.

There were also glitches in the admin. There are times when I think it would be really great to actually be able to remember something occasionally. The kind of shite normal people don’t even think about having to remember. Stuff they remember as easily as they remember to breathe. Clearly it is not to be. Lorks though! Imagine if you did have to remember to breathe … every … fucking … breath. How much mental time and energy would that take up. You’d get fuck all done right? Yeh, right. Well, that’s where I am with admin. And there is a LOT of admin in my life. I need to speed up my mental cogs, I need to think faster so I can write faster and be, if not on top of then, at least, a few inches off the bottom of my admin.

On the upside, after about 21 months, West Sussex Social Services has finally got round to invoicing me for Dad’s care home fees. Luckily, I had the money ring-fenced and I have paid so that’s the last of the Dad stuff … er hem … except interring his ashes but we’re going to batch him with Mum so at the moment his mortal remains are still with the undertaker.

Further strange adventures on Tuesday. I received a mysterious email from DPD warning me that they were going to make a delivery today. I was surprised to discover they were delivering to Mum. I have a lot of stuff on order so I pinged a message to the lovely folks on the care group warning them that I may have sent my bras to Mum’s in error. This was particularly annoying as I am not now going to Sussex for the foreseeable so I was wondering about the logistics of getting whatever it was, but I was pretty sure it was bras, back to me. I spent some time going through all the ‘your order is dispatched’ emails and discovered to my horror that yes, there was one. Mum sends gifts out to all her nephews and nieces. There are a fair few of us and so depending on the status; vegetarian or not vegetarian, they get smoked salmon or cheese. At the moment, although there are two vegetarians, one eats fish but the other doesn’t so I send her cheeses from a fabulous company which used to come to the Ely Farmer’s Market. I order them with Mum’s card but I always put my number and email address because Mum doesn’t look at her emails anymore. I used to do it for her but now that everyone who matters knows she doesn’t read them there isn’t really much point.

Bollocks. It was obvious what had happened. I’d somehow managed to stuff it up and have the cheese sent to Mum instead of my cousin. Arse-ity arse, arse, arse! Yet, when I looked I had got the delivery address right. Bum. Now I’d have to complain. Except that, hang on, hadn’t my cousin had her cheese? I was sure she’d mentioned it. What was going on then?

Before I could investigate further the phone rang. It was Mum.

‘Darling, something’s arrived. I don’t know what it is.’

‘It’s OK Mum, I think it’s cheese,’ she starts slowly and deliberately reading the label.

‘Do not leave, deliver or return to depot, open at once …’

‘Mum,’ I feel guilty about interrupting her but we’ll be there all day. ‘Are you able to bring it inside and open it?’

‘Of course, good idea.’ We chat about this and that as she makes her way into the house and takes the parcel into the kitchen. I hear her put it on the table. ‘I’m going to put you down now while I open it,’ she says.

Clonk. Scrabbling sounds.

I wait.

‘Are you doing OK?’ I shout after a minute or two.

‘Yes he’s coming this afternoon,’ she bellows back cheerfully.

Riiiiight. OK so she can’t hear me. I wait, and wait, and wait … Then after a little while, I wait some more. Hmm, has she forgotten I’m there, I wonder. A couple of days before, while we were chatting on the phone, she fell asleep. Luckily I made the call so I was able to hang up and redial, the ringing phone woke her up. No, wait. She isn’t asleep there are still scrabbling noises. It’s just the sound of someone with arthritic fingers trying to cut through sellotape with a kitchen knife. Please God don’t let her cut herself.

Clunk. Ah she’s picked up the handset again. ‘It’s jolly difficult to open!’ she says. Clunk, I hear as she puts the phone back on the table and starts sawing, afresh, at the sellotape before I can reply.

I wait … and wait … and wait a little bit more.

‘Oh …’ I hear her say.

‘Yes?’

Clunk scrape click, ‘Darling, it’s definitely cheese. One with red writing on, one with green and two blue.’

‘No, Mum, I think the two blue ones are the biscuits.’

‘Oh so they are. And there’s a jar of something.’

‘Onion marmalade?’

‘I haven’t got my glasses but yes … I think so.’

Arsocks! Now I know it’s my cousin’s cheese.

At this point the carer arrives, and she does have her glasses with her so she’s able to read what’s written on the packets. Then we discover a note in there.

‘Many thanks for your support at this difficult time. We hope you enjoy your cheese. Stay safe. Tim Jones.’

Well … that’s not my cousin’s cheese. But they’ve sent Mum the same cheese selection she sent my cousin. Bless. Part of me is delighted for Mum, another part of me is green with cheese envy and wishing it was sent to my house. But the biggest part of me is extremely concerned. I know that these guys do a number of farmers markets in their area, Stamford, Oakham and similar. Ely must be about as far east as they come on a regular basis. They also come to the Bury Christmas Fayre, they must sell a tonne of cheese there, and doubtless they do Norwich Cathedral Fayre and many others round about – they come from Rutland so I’m guessing they do everything within a 100 mile radius. Those events were all cancelled this year and just talking to the chap on the huntin’/shootin’/fishin’ stall at the market who makes 12 bore cartridge Christmas Lights, it’s a lot of revenue to lose.

So now I’m rather worried about Mr Jones and his holstein cheesemaking helpers. I hope they are OK because their cheeses are absolutely fabulous. I’m going to go and buy a big hamper of cheese from them right now. Because they are awesome and I want to keep them going. And if you want to try some of the best cheddar cheese in the world – I kid you not, this stuff is gorgeous – just visit www.lincolnshirepoachercheese.com It’s expensive, but it’s worth it for that sort of quality. I also notice they won a gold medal at the 2019 Artisan Cheese Awards in the Hard Cheese category. I find that unaccountably amusing, although I suspect nobody says ‘hard cheese’ anymore. I’ll have to put the phrase in a book so it’s preserved for posterity. But an award would be anything but hard cheese I’d have thought.

There we are, it’s all go here at locked down towers. I have to go to emergency code red London on Monday for an appointment with the knee consultant at London Bridge Hospital. I’ve decided that public transport probably is a bit dicey so I’m going to drive. They do let you park there in situations like the current one. Woot for the vaccination when it comes. In the meantime. Wish me luck.

_____________

On a different note …

I’m giving away one of my books until 31st January – because I feel like it. Obviously, the book in question is the Christmas one, Nothing To See Here. If you haven’t got it, now’s your chance. Here are the details.

Nothing to see here

It’s midwinter and preparations for the biggest religious festival in the K’Barthan year are in full swing. Yes, even though, officially, religious activity has been banned no-one is going to ignore Arnold, The Prophet’s birthday, especially not Big Merv, who orders The Pan of Hamgee to deliver the traditional Prophet’s Birthday gift to his accountants and lawyers.

As usual, The Pan has managed to elicit the unwanted attention of the security forces. Can he make the delivery and get back to the Parrot and Screwdriver pub in time for an unofficial Prophet’s Birthday celebration with his friends?

Just in case you’re havering, it got this review, which is about the best review any of my stuff has received, ever:

‘It is a gem of a story, polished and with every facet cut to just the right angle.
A real joy.
This is the wardrobe entrance to a whole new world
Thanks Jim Webster. 🙂

I’ve decided to give this book away from my online store for the whole of January. Here’s how to get hold of a copy.

Go to my shop and download it – this may sound daunting but it’s OK, bookfunnel will also send you the book by email so if you have any problems loading it you can get it from them AND they will help you. To grab your book, just go to my payhip shop, here: https://payhip.com/b/nYoz click to buy and enter this code at checkout, exactly as I’ve typed it exclamation mark and all.

WipeMyConkers!

Happy New Year, and Happy (belated) Prophet’s Birthday. Here’s hoping you and yours stay safe and well and warm, or cool if you’re mid summer right now. For the rest of us, here’s to spring! Let’s hope it hurries the fuck up!

Here are the details for the free book again:

Download page: https://payhip.com/b/nYoz
Code: WipeMyConkers!

Blurry Pyramid Orchids at Mum’s

 

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The sky is falling apparently … again.

Today, let’s talk about publishing! Yes, I’m going to talk author shop. That said, I’m supposed to talk author shop really, aren’t I? That’s why I mark all the McMini and dementia posts ‘off topic’ although to be honest I go off topic so often that the book-related stuff is the off topic theme here nowadays. But hey ho, onwards and upwards.

 

So this week I was listening to Joanna Penn’s podcast, at least, I think it was this week’s, it might have been last week [MT disappears to check]. Ah, yes. Last week, number 402. The point is, she was talking at one point about the apparent disappearance of the also-boughts on Amazon. Now, I’ve never actually got much out of the also-boughts, myself, because the folks who read my books seem to have very enquiring minds and read all kinds of weird shizz so they were always stuffed to perdition from the start. People who bought my books have also bought thrillers, horror books, text books and mostly, my other books leaving the Amazon recommendation engine going, ‘Uh?’

However, if your readers are a bit more genre-centric, I’m reliably informed that you can glean readers from the fans of authors similar to your via the also-boughts, readers who are likely to enjoy your stuff. Amazon notices their buying habits so if readers of Terry Pratchett books start buying mine, for example, the recommendation engine goes, ‘Oy-oy!’* and starts automatically recommending my books to people who have bought Sir Terry’s books (oh how I wish). If that happens Bob’s your uncle, your work is introduced to a new and interested audience.

* you didn’t know it was Jewish, did you?

Word is that for some time, Amazon has been trialing the removal of these also-boughts from its current, prime position, or removing them altogether, and introducing more strips of paid advertising instead. They’ve been doing this mostly on their US site so I haven’t seen it but obviously, if they make the switch permanent, it has some serious ramifications.

If the also-boughts disappear, then, in theory, the ads should provide a similar premise, since most authors who advertise chose similar authors’ names as advertising keywords, so that when readers look at books by them, they see adverts for your similar book. However, as usual, there are some unscrupulous spammers advertising everywhere, without a nod to relevance at all like those people who keep offering me products to enlarge my penis … when I’m a WOMAN (money down the drain boys). Or thinking about it, maybe they just have the SEO equivalent of also-boughts like mine.

Anyway, a lot of authors head the advert something like, ‘If you like Douglas Adams you’ll love M T McGuire’ except I don’t because it’s like telling everyone you’re actually God, down to visit the planet incognito, and will unleash a string of one star reviews from Douglas Adams fans who are incensed at your presumption. Indeed, advertising anything funny that’s not Douglas Adams to Adams’ fans is a bona fide recipe to send them into conniptions about your sheer brass neck and bring down a tidal wave of snark upon yourself – believe me, I’ve tried it. Luckily Terry Pratchett fans are more benign so I say things like, ‘The K’Barthan Series. A bit like the discworld series but not as funny.’ But I digress.

So will also-bot-ageddon make any difference if it sticks? Yes, in that it will mean authors and publishers will have to pay for their place on the also-boughts. For readers, there will be no also-boughts to trawl for similar authors to the ones you like. For authors, there’ll be no easy way of finding alternative yet similar authors to yourself to use as advertising keywords. But as David Gaughran, points out, the infrastructure will still be there and Amazon will still use the also boughts algorithm to make recommendations to customers by email. Also, since what an author thinks her audience is may not be correct, Amazon will always go on the buying habits of target readers rather than an author’s guestimate, because that will make them more cash, so presumably they are unlikely to bin the also bots long term.

As a reader, I only use the also boughts or buy on personal recommendation, I never use search because it never returns interesting books, only commercial ones and I’m British so I’m far too cynical to click many ads. That, alone, is enough to suggest Amazon probably won’t bin the also-boughts entirely. I can’t be their only customer who works like that. Maybe it will appear in some other form or maybe they will fix the shambolic awfulness that is AMS ads so they present a more accurate alternative. We can but hope.

What this whole panic does flag up to me, though, is that now, even more than ever, it’s important to avoid being beholden to one big business for anything, be it a retailer for all your income, a particular form of social media for all your communication, or even one product. We have to get our books out to as many retailers as possible, in as many formats as possible and while social media is best done in earnest on one site alone, there’s no harm in having your blog posts go to all the others if the software you use allows.  And yes, that means I really should make some audio books. I’m not sure it has to involve remortgaging the house or tying myself in an exclusive deal to one retailer for however million years* for a crappy 40% royalties, anymore.

* actually, I think it’s seven, or maybe fourteen years, but that’s a sod of a long time. I may be dead by the end of that.

For a number of reasons, mostly Real Life’s continual and annoying interference with my plans for literary world domination, I write slowly. That means that, ideally, I need to engage the kinds of readers who are prepared to pay for my books because there’s a longer gap between each one. But, as digital content becomes further and further devalued we probably will reach a point where it’s all free on subscription and we authors get paid for page reads of our electronic content, if at all. If the review site I used to write on was anything to go on, payment starts at a good rate, the site in question paid 50p a read at the start. By the end, it paid a fraction of a penny for each read and you needed to get hundreds of reads on any piece you submitted to net 10p. I see the subscription model going the same way; 1p per read of each of my 100k+ books. Ouch.

Yet, one of the things Joanna Penn raised this week, was that while recent trends point to electronic content decreasing in value to nothing, there is an increase in people buying other things, instead; their favourite albums on vinyl, hard backs of their favourite books or box sets and other deluxe or collector’s versions. There’s also the idea of the author as a brand, the value of a personal appearance, visiting conventions, schools etc. Not something Real Life gives me room for at the moment but there’s no harm building the MTM brand.

As for product diversity, as well as forms of output for my books, there is merchandise. Many readers do and will buy merchandise, possibly more for comedy books, but, for my own part, the stuff I made on Zazzle with the art work from my books netted me rather more than the books, themselves the first year they were out. Again, I stick that stuff everywhere; redbubble, zazzle, cafepress, and any I go on to find. More importantly, I should to put them on my own site – don’t forget to do that, kids, I’m working on mine. It’s an easier decision for me, since my books aren’t mainstream and committing to one retailer makes little business sense if you write the kinds of books I do. My fans are eclectic and far flung and I usually only sell a couple of copies of each book a month on each site (it’s particularly low at the moment because I’ve run out of cash for ads). The way I see it, on pretty much every site where my book is on sale, I’m likely to sell a handful. The more sites my book is on, the more people will be buying those couple of copies and suddenly, £5 a piece from twenty or thirty obscure book retail sites adds up fast.

Finally, it’s all about control. I think, possibly, the smartest thing you can do is retain control of as much of your work, rights and reader contact as you can. I’ve spent enough time in marketing to be wary of relying on any one big business. Remember when Facebook showed your posts to, like, everyone? Remember when they stopped and authors with followings of thousands found they were only reaching a handful of their fans? Yeh. That. So to me the most important thing, above everything else, is to get a mailing list going, achieve a rapport with the readers there, sell your stuff on your own site and keep all those small sites going. Because that way if one of the big boys does something funny and stuffs up your earnings, it won’t be the end of the world.

To sum it up then, nothing is constant, the only thing we can guarantee about the ebook business is that it will keep changing. And people who are reliant on Amazon will run round complaining that the sky is falling on their heads. So you have to keep as much of the process where you can control it as possible while, at the same time, giving yourself as many options as possible. That’s why, if you write slowly, the way I do, there are probably only three golden rules:

  1. Have as many sources of income as possible, by having your products available in as many different places as you can.
  2. Aim to generate as many different income streams as possible around your books.
  3. Aim to get a good rapport with your readers and sort out as much of that as is humanely possible, through channels where you have control, on your own cyber turf.

______________________________

Happy news. If anyone wants to try reading the weird shit I produce without having to join my mailing list to get some free, and then be subjected to even more weird shit in the form of newsletters, you can buy Book 1 in the K’Barthan Series at a reduced price on Kobo from today until 27th November. There are a lot of other books reduced like this on Kobo, too, not just mine!

Few Are Chosen

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Pussy Galore’s Younger Sister …

Yes, that’s right, Bargains Galore!

Oh ho ho ho, that was in aid of give a crap joke a home week.

Once again, through the wonders of modern science I am speaking to you in my absence. This is getting to be a habit. Sorry about that?

This week I am mostly, in France, on the road heading to Les Arcs where the others will ski and I might on one day but, more likely, I will be spending an hour writing, an hour eyebombing and another hour swimming, while the others ski. I will definitely have to exercise a lot or the eating will do for me – they’re all burning off calories, after all whereas I … mmm.

So, in my absence, this week I’ve a couple of promos to tell you about in which you can snaffle yourself a whole host of free books. First up this one:

Dean Wilson, Free Sci-fi and Fantasy Books, 16-22nd April

That’s fairly self explanatory but yes, you can avail yourself of a whole host of free books. Most will require you to sign up for the author’s mailing list so they can tell you about even more free books and their own lovely work, to boot. What’s not to like? Anyway, if you fancy giving that a go, the link is here:

http://sffbookbonanza.com/freebooks/

Quick and Quirky, 30th March – 20th April.

There is also a second lovely promo for quirky, humorous or downright weird short stories. I’m thinking there will be some interesting stuff there. This is a multi-genre promotion so everything is there, from erotica (oooh-er missus) to horror, to sci-fi to humour and beyond. If you think a few shorts would be handy, you can download them here:

https://www.fallaciousrose.com/promos/

That’s it for this week, a quick one I’m afraid but I have to go pack, on pain of death. I spent an extra two and a half hours in the car yesterday and it’s somewhat stymied my progress down the list of ‘things to do before I go’.

Until next week …

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Look at my huge pussy! #IWD2018 #womenwriters #internationalwomensday #seewomenwrite

I’m sorry, that was just gratuitous wasn’t it? Let’s start again.

Meet my cat. His name is Harrison and on Thursday morning he was sitting looking cute in the bottom of a huge box.

I’ll take a photo, I thought and held up my phone.

Shiny thing! Harrison thought and popped up to have a look. On the one hand, I managed to get the picture in focus – wootity-woot – on the other, I failed to get his ears in. A partial success then. Can’t win ’em all.

Obviously, his behaviour was nothing to do with going after my phone or, more likely, the interesting prey-shaped wiggly things that poke out of the ends of my sleeves the whole time, oh no no no. He was excited because Thursday was International Women’s Day and he knew that until Sunday 10th March, he could grab some of my books featuring strong intelligent heroines at a reduced price with these retailers: Google Play, Kobo and Smashwords. Those books are:

Escape from B-Movie Hell at 50% off: http://www.hamgee.co.uk/infoebmhiwd.html
The K’Barthan Series at 20% off: http://hamgee.co.uk/infoboxsetiwd.html

Oh. All of my books then, except for Unlucky Dip, which is free anyway.

Hmm … cutting my own throat, just like Mr Dibbler.

If you follow the hashtag, #seewomenwrite you should be able to find more books featuring women characters and or written by women authors.

Talking of women authors, you can also pick up one by sci-fi and fantasy author Patty Jansen. Here’s a bit more info:

She is lost on an alien planet. He said he’d help her get home. He lied.

Jessica’s plane develops engine trouble over the dry Australian inland—and crashes in thick, unfamiliar rainforest.

A group she thinks is a search party shows up, but it consists of large-eyed not-quite people who kill all survivors except Jessica and a long-haired hippie named Brian.

No one is going to come to rescue her. In fact, they’re not even on Earth.

While the pair wrestle their way through the forest in search for help, Jessica becomes ever more suspicious of Brian. Why does he know so much about the world where they have ended up? Why is he so insistent on helping her?

Jessica has always been able to use her mind to tell animals what to do and now she’s hearing voices in her head. Another man is pleading her not to listen to Brian. Except this man can kill someone with a single look, and he uses his mental powers to order people around.

In this utterly strange and dangerous world where people seem to want something from her, who can she trust?

A gritty survival story in the vein of The Hunger Games, set in a Star Wars locality.

This isn’t one I’ve read, but I really loved a lot of her other books so I downloaded it straight away. If you think you like the look of it, go to this page http://pattyjansen.com/pages/watchers-web/ and you will find a bit more information and links to download it from the retailer of your choice.

Next week we will back to the usual MTM wittering.

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#ComedyBookWeek starts today!

ComedyBookWeekWide

Oh yes it is. And naturally, as a writer of funny books, I am taking part. I’ll be reviewing a couple of the books involved on Wednesday and doing doing an interview over at the lovely Matt Drzymala’s blog here I’ll also be reviewing his book here on my blog on Wednesday, along with Missing Improbable by J J Green.

Folks with rather more drive and dynamism than me are doing a lot more. There are over 80 books involved now from a varied bunch of genres, from Chicklit to Sci fi. If you’re wondering where to find out more here’s how:

If you enter the hashtag #comedybookweek into the social media platform of your choice you will find all sorts of interesting information about the event; posts from authors involved, book reviews, giveaways and other joyous gubbins. You can also visit the comedybookweek website, here.

Many of these fine and dandy books are reduced in price, including Escape From B-Movie Hell, which is reduced to a gob smackingly competitive price of 99c/99pence. OK I won’t do the Cut My Own Throat Dibbler joke but I’ll give you a few seconds to imagine it in.

Did I mention that other authors are celebrating with giveaways, exciting competitions and other lovely swag? Oh yes, I see I did.

However, even I have dusted the moths out of my wallet and stumped up to send two of my books in signed paperback to the lucky Goodreads members who win them. You can enter those, from the 17th – 24th July, because, er hem, I got the date wrong, here:

Enjoy yourselves, and #comedybookweek, and most importantly, I hope you have a good laugh.

 

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A free box, an embarrassing parent and over 100 #free #scifi_books!

This week I have mostly been cheating and taken my blog post from my monthly round robin email, but when you get to the bit about free sci-fi books you’ll understand why, because it’s good.

Patty Jensen Promo 3-5

This week as McMini and I trundled home from school we noticed a large wooden box in someone’s front garden. It was big, big enough to accommodate a full grown adult well … a small one anyway, and it had a sign on it saying, ‘free please help yourself’. Shameless skip-shopper that I am, there was no way I was going to leave it there, but sensitive to my McMini’s sensibilities I asked him anyway.

After a brief discussion as to whether the box was the free item in question, or whether there’d originally been something else on top, which some other enterprising local had already removed, we decided we’d take the box, paint it and use it to store some of McMini’s gargantuan collection of lego. Even though we were 99% certain it was the box they were giving away we decided to make our exit a sharp one. The box and its garden were only a few hundred yards from our house so it wouldn’t take long to nip home.

Except that when it came to moving the box my arms were not long enough to carry it by both handles so the exit was not exactly sharp. It involved puffing, panting, pigeon steps and lengthy stops for protracted bouts of breathless wheezing and giggling. After ‘carrying’ it about five yards in 10 minutes, some kind local took pity on us and took the other handle. We got it the rest of the way in about 30 seconds flat!

McMini told me I was ‘awkward’ which is 7 year old speak for ‘a complete and utter embarrassment’. I told him about the time my Mum made me join her in our coat cupboard to hide from some on-spec visitors and he decided that, perhaps, I might be a bit less embarrassing than I could be. The box is now in our garage, awaiting filler, sanding and painting. You can see from the bike next to it that it’s quite large… yes, I’m posting a picture of a box for you to see because I find boring stuff so incredibly interesting! Mwah hahahahrgh! But then if I wasn’t obsessed with the minutiae of life, I probably wouldn’t write books

Continuing on the subject of getting something for nothing, I wanted to give you the heads up about some free sci-fi and fantasy books that will be up for grabs this weekend: over 100 of them!

Renowned Australian sci-fi author, Patti Jansen has got together with a bunch of over 100 other sci-fi and fantasy authors who, in a moment of March madness, will be giving away their books for free. The theme has two streams: books that are in Kindle Unlimited – although I believe many of those are going to be free to non Kindle Unlimited Amazon users for 5th and 6th March – and free first in series on Kobo; they’re free whatever.

Patti has kindly included a link to download the Kobo app, for any amazon only users who might want it. More details can be found on the giveaway page, which is on Patti’s site.

So, to sum up:

I got a free box, and you can get some free books.

To take a look at the books in Patti Jansen’s Insane March Promo, click on the picture at the top of this page – not the box, that’s in the middle, anyway, the super promotion thingummy – or, slightly easier, click this link here:

Patti Jansen’s Insane March Promo: http://pattyjansen.com/promo/

 

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Underground, Overground, Wombling Free…!

It’s a long time since I wrote anything on my blog. There is a reason. It’s because Real Life has been quite hectic. Worse, it’s been hectic in a way that has meant that I need to write to stay sane. That’s where I’ve been. Writing, and driving 130 miles to Sussex in the middle of the night to accompany one parent to hospital while a carer stays over and looks after the other, then doing the full care package for a day and dealing with all their heating and the cooker being turned off due to a gas leak on one and a half hours’ sleep… that kind of thing.

But now I’ve just finished half term week during which I was compelled to leave my characters to their own devices and interact with Real Life. So here I am, sorting some bits of real life out before I go back to my routine of not very much time, but a bit more than before, and a lot more of it spent writing. Also, my parents are on a more even keel now, so the desperation with which I escaped into my made up world is not quite so marked.

As you probably know, both my parents are in their 80s and they need a bit of help. To that end, I’ve been trying to get some disability aids out of Social Services for them. It’s not that social services won’t give them, just that it takes ages. There’s one particular thing called a ‘perching stool’ which Mum could really use in the kitchen, right now. But there’s a 20 working day waiting time before they can even call you back and start the process. I have been wondering if I should buy one – if Social came up trumps with a second I could always put the bought one in the greenhouse for her. But I was havering, because they cost a sod of a lot of money, these things.

So imagine how insanely chipper I was to discover this bizarrely obscure item in a skip this morning, just outside my gym! It was brand new and it wasn’t alone. It was in there with three other disability aids: a riser loo seat for people with dodgy hips which was still wrapped in its plastic and a really handy trolly-cum-walker with two shelves for trays. All had labels on with a number to call for collection after use, so at the least, I thought, if Mum and Dad have no use for them, I can ring the number and get them back to people who need them. Anyway, I had to take the trolley because it was the only way I was going to get the stuff, plus my bicycle, home. So, with the help of three of the ladies who also attend my gym, who praised me for my Womble* like tendences, I climbed into the skip and relieved it of its disability enhancing contents.

SkipScore

If anyone had ever told me I would get excited about finding items like these in a skip I’d have told them to piss off. Luckily, no-one did. Unlike the time I said I’d never marry a lawyer and then…

It will be even more of a challenge to get the things – which are square and firm and most non-folding – from Bury St Edmunds to Sussex in a Lotus. I might have to borrow McOther’s car.

Even so it’s a bit of a result. I am, naturally, hugely chuffed to have these difficult-to-get things fall into my lap, instantly, when I never expected them to, and for free.

Mwah hahahahrgh! Sometimes the stars just align.

 

*If you don’t know what a womble is, click here the song explains it. Obviously, they are a lot more interesting when you are 7.

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