Tag Archives: comedy science fiction

Unicorn farts and other sundry ephemora

This is going to be a short one because it’s twenty past five, which means I have approximately forty minutes to write my usual fifteen hundred word blog post. Hmm. Isn’t going to happen.

Looking at my notes to write about this week they read as follows:

  • Auto correct and bloody Duke
  • Metal detecting and throwing a six

That is all. Okay… off we go then.

Metal Detecting and throwing a six

Saxon ... thing.
A Saxon … thing.

Quite pertinent as I write this, that one. Yesterday, to my absolute delight, I was invited along to a friend’s permission to do some detecting. It was an old club permission so I’ve been going there for a while. The land owner is thoroughly good egg and it’s a lovely spot.

The last time I was there I found a crushed silver thimble from the 1600s I think, and a hammered coin. I love finding stuff from that era because it was such a stormy time in our past. Anything less civil than our Civil War is hard to imagine. You know I’m fairly obsessed because I’ve told you the story about a house called Woodbines which my family lived in, in Kingston, although I’m not sure it’s on this blog. You can read it on the blog on my official author’s site, which I no longer post to, down the end of this link here. Excuse the lack of pictures. I believe that if you’re using a picture to illustrate something under discussion, on a personal blog, it’s supposed to be fair use. However, I still got hit by copyright trolls. I don’t want to risk a huge bill, but also I don’t want to inadvertently pirate photos. I thought it was clear cut but it seems not. Hence, I’ve removed the three pictures I, personally, haven’t taken from all my blogs and two of them were on that post.

Where was I? Oh yeh, so I love Civil War era artefacts mainly because that era was so uncivil and it makes me feel close to a very turbulent part of our history.

The thimble wasn’t my first bit of treasure, there was a bit of Anglo Saxon strap end previously to that from another permission. Both were interesting and have to go through the process by din’t of being silver, rather than particularly brilliant in any respect. That said, a museum somewhere might want the thimble because it’s a bit rarer, coming as it does from an era in history when they were being melted down to make coins to fund the war effort. The modern day ‘evangelists’ yelling ‘Jesus needs your money’ on telly are clearly nothing new since the Puritans really believed they were doing God’s work. Humourless and uptight, they were eventually kicked out of the UK and a lot of them became the founding fathers of America. I’m wandering off on one though.

So we started detecting. The setting is one of the many studs in this neck of the woods and our main purpose is to get any big or spiky bits of iron out of the ground after a piece injured one of the horses a few years ago. This week there was a gorgeous little foal who was too shy to be photographed. I nearly managed it though. After a while I felt I should try and actually find some iron, it wasn’t going very well, I was digging what I thought were big crap signals and discovering, after digging a very deep hole, that the thing that had caused the bing was not iron. Eventually, I got what, in theory, should be a decent bing and sure enough, down in the hole, I found a random silver bit of something. I checked the hole but a bit was all there was. I thought it was either arts and crafts or Saxon. To be honest there wasn’t going to be any middle ground.

Now, having consulted smarter people I am pretty sure it’s Saxon, so that’ll be off to the treasure process then. On the up side, it’s so good it’s likely to come from a grave so there may be more of it. Even better, we should be back on the site this week so I will be able to have a look. But the thing I find most amazing is that when I pulled it out of the ground, mine were the first hands to touch it since someone living six to eight hundred years after the death of Christ pinned it, grieving, to the tunic of a recently dead loved one.

Where is the throwing a six bit to this? Well, I have this theory. I’ve never found gold or anything like that with my detector and I’ve always assumed that my main problem there is the walking over it bit. Because I think, to walk over something really valuable like a hoard or a piece of valuable gold, you have have a certain kind of luck. I remember as a kid playing Ludo with my family. You had to throw a six to start and then you threw the dice to go round the board and back into your ‘home’. The person who got all four of their counters home first was the winner. I remember sitting there, round after round, trying to throw a six to get out and failing dismally. Often I’d not succeed to get anyone out onto the board until my brother’s first counter was already ‘home’. Then Mum, who had similar dice throwing skills, and I would make our way round the board throwing a one each time.

I was always last.

The luck that follows me is not the kind of luck that wins me many premium bonds … or board games. When the Unicorn farts, I am usually up-wind or indoors or … I dunno … facing the wrong way. Except for people; there’s the McOthers, many of my friends and a lot of the colleagues I’ve stumbled upon through my working and writing life. Work stuff would clearly be things like Gareth popping up and wanting to narrate my books … well it could only have been a cloud of sparkly unicorn gas that wafted that piece of good fortune my way! Bloody hell! And nothing gives a person a bigger lift than when someone with a generous dollop of talent in their own field seems to think your stuff is good, I mean he is an actor but I think that’s genuine! Mwahahargh. Also Katherine Jackson, who taught me so much about editing, while editing my books and really had no business dying like that. I still miss her. Then there’s the lovely folks who do my covers, who I blundered upon because they were the people my employers used. And the lovely folks I’ve met and become cyber buddies with in my authoring efforts. But that’s not the luck I’m talking about. The luck I mean is the throwing a six and winning at board games kind of luck.

Am I content with that? Well yes, I think for the most part I am. If I can only choose one, I’ll take the one I have. But reverting to the silver thing – actually I’m pretty sure it’s a silver gilt thing – it’s clearly a tiny fragment of something special. What, exactly, I do not know but, as I mentioned before, most likely it’s grave goods. A brooch pinned to the clothes of a very loved, cherished and high-status dead person before burial so they would be looking at their best in the next life. The rest of it is probably still there somewhere … if I can find it.

If …

Part of me thinks – possibly a little churlishly – that were I the kind of person who could throw a six on a regular basis, I’d have found the whole thing. Another part of me realises that even this tiny fragment is like throwing a double five, a whole one would be the find of a life-time. It’s not that they’re rare, although they are, I believe, but one that good, whole, would be a hen’s teeth job. On the other hand, it definitely ties in with my ability to find interesting things. The ideal, of course, being something interesting enough to be fabulous (to me) but not so interesting it’s worth stacks and I have to sell it! And then another part of me is thinking that I’ll be back there next Thursday. I was chatting to the ex finds liaison officer for this area on line. He told me that in his time, someone had found a fragments of a similar things, returned to the site and found more … Mmm. I’ll keep you posted.

Autocorrect and bloody Duke

A brief one here. Anyone who knows me, personally, will know that when it comes to communication, using my phone, if I’m not speaking, is the bane of my life as it is one long battle with auto correct/auto complete. Auto whatever it is is like wearing a gag, although if I turn auto correct off it seems to be even worse. Part of the problem is that I use the swift keyboard – the Google one.

What is wrong with that thing? It seems to be possessed by some dyslexic demon with an exotic name fetish. Case in point, here in the UK, on the whole, Duke is a surname, a title or something you call your dog. I do not know anyone called Duke as a first name and I think, in the entire two years, so far, that I’ve owned this phone that I’ve typed the word ‘Duke’ on purpose, twice. Yet, whenever I type the word ‘done’ Duke is what it gives me. Not only does it give me Duke but if I change it to done and continue I will find, when I hit send, that it’s quietly changed ‘done’ back to Duke again. Every. single. fucking. time.

Someone or sometime. Bog-standard words. Often used you’d have thought. Summertime. Not so common. Uh-uh-uh, says Auto correct. Every time I type either of those words it defaults to summertime. This is with actual real auto correct switched off. This is just the stupid slidey keyboard getting it wrong. Then there’s or. What is so fucking difficult about understanding it when my finger is sliding from the o to the r key? I’ve no clue but what I get for ‘or’ is out or put. And once again that’s every. fucking. time.

I read somewhere that these things work by looking at what the normals type, averaging it out and offering suggestions. Lord above I haven’t a fucking hope then have I? I mean, look at the words I use. OK so it’s learned the word, K’Barthan. That said it seems to unlearn it and have to be taught afresh from time to time. I’ve no idea why that is. But if it can learn that when I type in K’ I’m going to be saying K’Barthan because that’s what I type every time I write K’ then why the fuck can’t it learn, by the same logic, that every time I type in Mc I’m going to type McGuire? Why is it able to understand that I spell ‘realise’ without an ess rather than a zed but at the same time, be pathologically unable to grasp that if, every time I type done and it offers me Duke I cancel it and type done again until it accepts it, I must actually mean done. Why, when I type in the letters d-o-n-e and not Duke, does it default to Duke, a word I never type, comprising completely different fucking letters?

Also, new factor here. Random capitalisation. If I am in the middle of a sentence, or sometimes in the middle of a word it will suddenly give me a capital letter so I get stuff like,

Hello, how are You doiNg today?

Mental. It’s not as if I’m typing the name of some obscure chemical that is only written by out in full every six million years. These are bog-standard words that everyone uses. Seriously though, who, in God’s name, are the people it’s taking averages from to work out how english … well … you know … works? What in the name of holy fuck are they saying to produce the shit-show that is my phone’s text suggestions? I can only assume it’s mostly folks in Asia where English is used a lot but isn’t anyone’s first language, or that my vocabulary is simply too wide for the parameters of the algorithm to operate. (Really, though? Sounds doubtful.)

At a complete loss, I tried speaking to it. But it can’t understand my fucking accent! My fucking ENGLISH accent for fuck’s sake! The other day I was speaking a sentence which involved the phrase, ‘power of attorney’. My phone decided I’d said, ‘parrot Ernie.’ Give me fucking strength!

As a result, I find myself typing each word tiny letter by tiny letter and the phone, which should be something I can use to quickly reply to stuff, turns into a time sink.

Bah! Swift key? There’s a fucking oxymoron if ever I heard it.

Bookish things …

Yeh, those. So, this month, was officially the worst in about three years for sales.

Last April, I made £408.74 in book sales. This April, I made, er hem, about £65 if I count the sale on my website. Then again it’s up on April 2019 when I made £56.68. Mmm.

Something appears to have happened to Amazon, maybe it’s because I dicked with my series pages – as in changed the name from ‘K’Barthan Trilogy Series’ to K’Barthan Series. Actually no, thinking about that it wasn’t this month. But needless to say, the K’Barthan Trilogy, while disappearing completely from my dashboard, is still alive and well on Amazon. I now have a two book series called the K’Barthan Trilogy (it contains books three and four) which appears nowhere on my dashboard and is therefore undeletable, but alas, all over Amazon. I will sort it out but at the moment I just don’t have the strength of will to deal with emailing KDP customer service repeatedly until they stop giving me boiler plate answers to some other vaguely related question, finally read my actual query and give me a bastard answer.

On the up side, I discovered something weird about myself. Because I’ve made about forty quid on Amazon this month, instead of a hundred and fifty, my wide sales are a much bigger percentage. For the first time they are over a third; 34%. For some bizarre reason, this makes me feel fantastic. Audiobooks, I still appear to be unable to give the bloody things away off Amazon/Audible – except for the odd library purchase or sale on Google Play. Ebooks though, there’s a weeny hint of movement from non-Amazon vendors. This may be because I’ve been actively advertising to people in countries where Amazon companies are not the number one supplier.

It’s not that I don’t like Amazon as a customer, it’s alright, except it’s getting harder and harder to find out how to pay for anything I buy without joining Prime – talk about black pathways. But while I don’t want to penalise Amazon users, I have no wish to be beholden for my income to a company with such rancid corporate ethics, so ideally, I’d like to see a lot of my income derived elsewhere.

Yes, here I am a hundred dollars plus down on my monthly earnings and I’m not nearly as pissed off as I should be – and year-on-year looking at 2018 and 2019 they were about the same – but the distribution of sales over the different platforms is making me happier than money? Well yes. But also it’s because the action on other platforms seems to be increasing a teeny bit. Even better, as my Amazon sales continue to flatline, I have sold my first book of the month, on the first day, from Kobo. Yes, for a while I have a 100% wide sales chart. This also makes me unaccountably happy. There is zero logic in this. I am doing badly and I should be worried but strangely I care more about increasing my sales elsewhere (which is really hard) than on Amazon. I appreciate it sounds a bit touched in the head. But Amazon is difficult to deal with and has the corporate ethics of a morally louche confidence trickster. All its rules are enforced by AI but it’s the cheapest crappest AI possible – NOT like the algorithm at all – which means they are totally inconsistent and their measures ridiculously draconian, often with no appeal or recourse.

Amazon’s customers love the experience but they mostly do prime. The books I’m interested in are usually like my own, outside Kindle Select so I know I wouldn’t maximise the benefits of Prime. Also I don’t understand people who pay £7 a month for netflix, £7 a month for prime, £7 a month for Spotify and so on ad infinitum. All those invisible direct debits chipping away at my income … the thought gives me hives. I need to know the cash is going out. Then again, I am eclectic and have a wide range of interests. Therefore, just as auto correct throws up its hands and has a melt down trying to predict what I will say, so a subscription algorithm probably isn’t going to deliver me with what I require once it is tweaked for commercial gain. Since Amazon’s algorithms are now driven by advertising payments rather than entirely by the desires of the customer, it’s unlikely I’d find what I wanted there. And since Spotify has announced that it, too, will be shifting to that model, I’d suspect theirs will become the same.

I appreciate that the Normals like Prime and Amazon’s customer service is excellent for those who fit their ideal customer criteria (I don’t). But to deal with as a distributor, Amazon is extremely high maintenance. Clearly, they are important and I will always have my books there, but ideally, I want the lion’s share of my income and interaction to be with entities where things are smoother, pleasanter and better run. And where my royalties will not inexplicably go tumbling from over £300 a month to £40. Not to mention that the other sites, and my own, all pay me higher royalties than Amazon for book sales. That’s just business logic innit?

And now, some free stuff and a lot of Things On The End …

Small Beginnings …

Small Beginnings: Ebook version

This month, I have mostly been doing some marketing. I have two things that might be useful. First, Small Beginnings is now free pretty much everywhere except Amazon. I’m hoping it will go free at Amazon eventually.

Normally if I reduce books in price to zero pence elsewhere Amazon makes it free on their own but they don’t seem to have noticed this time. Anyway, if you’d like to bag yourself a free copy of Small Beginnings, or you know someone who might, you can find a page with links to download it. NB, in this particular case, avoid my online shop as I haven’t sorted out a discount code yet and Amazon, because … ditto. Yeh, still steeling myself to contact KDP help (shudders) with the web address of my book on every single Amazon site, followed by the web address of it shown as free on every single country Amazon serves on Kobo, Google Play and iBooks.

Kobo are featuring it in their free section this week, too. For that information link click here.

Unlucky Dip: Audiobook version

OK so you do actually get this as part of my mailing list sign up protocol but if you aren’t, and you have a boring half hour job to do and would like something to listen to to lighten your spirits while you do it, you can’t really go wrong with this. It’s all that is joyous and wonderful about Gareth doing his thing – albeit on a bit of writing that is, if I’m honest, not my best work. Never mind. That is free in two places this month, from iBooks and from Kobo. For links to that, click here.

Merchandise …

Finally, do you remember that K’Barthan merchandise I was talking about? Two developments on that one.

Thing one … If you would like to vote and haven’t yet, the quiz is still open for you to choose your favourite K’Barthan invective. because I have to send it to my mailing list in two week’s time as well! You can still vote for your favourite invective here.

Well I finally have a sort of shop, although it’s Zazzle so no-one will be able to afford anything – I’m working on other suppliers who are less expansive (and pay more royalties) – and also I haven’t finished adding products. But if you’re interested to see how it’s going and you want a gander, you can see that here.

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Filed under General Wittering

Another fine mess I’ve got me into …

Although also … possibly … out of.

Too Much Information Alert …

OK, this post is, officially, going to begin with Too Much Information. I’m going go talk about one of the last taboos, my monthly cycle.

As a lady of a certain age, who is fitted with an … er hem … coil … I have been spared the joy – a word I use with extreme irony – of periods for the last ten years. Gone are the days when, were I to get appendicitis at the wrong moment, I would simply fail to notice and die. I have had both (although I still have an appendix) and on the pain-o-meter the monthly cramps won hands down.

However, despite this, I still have a, you know, cycle. There are days when I am completely sapped of all creativity and depending if it’s a long or short cycle the creative down times last from between forty eight hours to two weeks. I call this the meh time.

When Meh strikes (let’s give it a capital M) the trick is just not to try too hard until it’s gone. I can do artistic creative so long as there’s zero pressure on myself to succeed. So I can draw or twiddle with things in photoshop so long as I don’t take it too seriously. With writing, I can sometimes do stuff long hand but basically, I have to accept, at that point, that my muse has gone on a bender. I’m never sure if it’s on holiday, relaxing on a beach somewhere or if it’s lying in a dark back alley somewhere, out cold, in a pool of its own sick, empty vodka bottle still clutched in one limp hand. If I give it the time to have a bath and several black coffees it might produce something intelligible but on the whole, at moments like this it’s best left to sleep it off. I let it be and get on with other things. To do so is quiching out in many respects. But I’m not really talking about failing to turn up to the chair and write, this is more about sidestepping burnout.

An interesting aspect of this is that I hadn’t thought to count non fiction in the writing I do. Because despite the muse having fucked off on a bender, I have written quite a lot of things this week and historically, have written a fair bit of stuff in these phases. The bit that’s in trouble is the bit that makes up an intelligible plot then, it would seem. It may be that it’s not all Meh, or at least, not all Monthly Meh. I’ve found it really hard to get back into the saddle with the Sussex run and the whole looking after Mum thing and, as discussed last week (or was it the week before?) we have reached the stage where there is no point in denying our arses off any more. We have to accept that her memory is not what it was or, to be honest, I could probably just leave that statement at simply, her memory is not. It is slightly as if the whole looking after Dad thing has left me too exhausted to carry on. Whenever that thought occurs to me, I just have to accept that it’s probably true, file it in the can’t-be-fixed section and then ignore it and hope it goes away. Think of me as the owner of a 1960s car with a snapped fan belt, looping an old pair of tights round the alternator so it will generate enough juice to get me home. All that increased care and concern does tend to drop an anvil on the fiction-creation centre of my brain.

Usually from a great height.

Possibly even from the stratosphere.

Ideally, what I’d be doing right now is starting some K’Barthan Extras. But what I want to write is the big sweeping epic that will take years to finish and won’t sell (not that any of my books sell) – the Betsy’s Bordello origins story – and of course Space Dustmen. Neither of these will be finished by September which is, ideally, the point at which I ought to be publishing my next book. That said I could give Space Dustmen a go as I think that’s going to be less complicated and easier to split into adventures but in my world of highly-polished, unmarketable literary turds it’s the K’Barthan stuff that sells.

That said there wasn’t anything doing this week so I decided to do some of the things I’ve been meaning to do but haven’t got round to. This includes the thing for my will which I still haven’t done but hope to have finished today. Fingers crossed. It also included having a go at some of the settings on my metal detector and finally sending Gareth his share of the royalties for this quarter. Note to self: do the royalties quarterly from now on, it makes it look as if there are more of them. Mwahahaaaahrgh! Self-deception is my friend.

Chatting to Gareth via whatsapp this week, he was talking about his singing lessons and how he is trying to alter some of the physical aspects about the way he sings so it’s more natural – and is therefore more effective – I think that’s the gist. He was worried about sounding ‘wanky’ snortle – one of my own favourite descriptors, that one – so he didn’t go into too much detail.

However, it did strike me that talking to Gareth about these things is very like conversations I’ve had with an ex triathlete friend, who now mostly rides a bike. Both are extremely talented, but a big part of it, I suspect, is that they are also very aware of absolutely everything that they can do to maximise that talent. They have learned every shortcut that will speed their progress from bleargh to perfection. Actually neither of them is starting from bleargh, they start from exceptional and kind of go on from there but you get the picture. I love that artists and sports people are as insanely geeky about their various theatres of operation as any scientist – although Triathlon Man is a scientist so perhaps the geekery is slightly less unexpected in his case. But I’m drifting from the point which is that this intensity, to me, is what separates the men from the boys and, probably, me from the professionals. I have those short cuts but … I dunno … I still seem to get nowhere. I spent the last three years doing a ground-up rebuild on how I produce and think about the books I write. Maybe it hasn’t worked so well, or maybe it’s just that the background stress levels are going up again so, once more, I’m having to fight harder. I’m at a bit of a loss. Again, I’ve reached a stage with my writing where I should accept that I’m not in a situation where I can have a career of my own. I should stop and give up but I just … can’t. On the other hand, I’ve just read an article by Robert Webb during which he stated that having said he wanted to be a novelist he has realised, after staring at a blank screen for the last twelve months, that he might need to give himself some other options. Ah Robert, Robert … I feel your pain. Welcome to the writing pleasure dome.

For whatever reason, writing, for me, seems to take a huge amount of emotional energy, and after years and years of grinding, spirit-sapping stress with Dad and now Mum, a whole decade plus of playing to everything I’m shit at in life and existence – thanks a fucking bunch there, God – I just don’t seem to have that energy any more, or at least, only in very small amounts. I am so, so much closer to burn-out over that than I was with Dad, because I’ve already done ten years of worry – including five of the kind of high intensity stuff I expected to have to maintain for three or four years at the outside. Right now, after a brief dip, I’m looking at another five or ten years of the same thing again. It is not … yeh. Let’s just leave it at … it is not. But having time off in lockdown, while handy at the time, might not have helped to be honest. Not at all. It just gave me a glimpse of what could be, but which I’m beginning to think never will be. There will always be someone with dementia I need to look after, until I reach the point where it’s me. I am really, really struggling to get back into it all. At the start, I remember thinking I probably had the stamina for three years or so, five at the outside. I guess the basic gist is, I was right. But there is no option for the battery to run flat. No way out. No end in sight. Just more and more and more admin, my mother’s, my son’s, my own – blimey but I’m a miserable bastard today aren’t I?! I just have to get better at pretending it’s not happening and carry on. Tights round the mental fan belt. I can do it. I might need a bit more CBT. I’ll look into some options.

Additional Meh factors might be the fact that it’s April, a month during which I traditionally sell fuck all books but I’ve had the worst month for book sales for five years. I’ve up to earn 40 dollars this month. All on Amazon. Usually I earn over a hundred. The fact that I can no longer construct a Facebook ad of any description that gets out of the learning phase isn’t helping either. The frustrating thing with those is that I had an ad that was working well, inadvertently edited something and had to reload it and now it can’t get out of the learning phase. That said. People are signing up it seems so maybe I should just leave it. My Facebook ads always go tits up around Christmas, Halloween and American Elections. But there’s nothing worse than spaffing a load of money up the wall for zero return in a field of operations at which you used to excel. I don’t understand it. If I narrow it down it says my audience is too small to have any hits, but it’s saying my audience is to small to achieve any hits if I choose people in NZ and AU who like Terry Pratchett and Books. According to the numbers, when it bothers to say something other than that my audience is to small, that’s well over a million people. At the same time, I’m getting three sign ups a day for my two bucks so I dunno, go figure.

Out of the Meh came forth Merch …

Back to the point. Meh. I decided that if writing was difficult I’d do something book related that didn’t feel like pulling teeth but needed to be done. So it was that out of the Meh came forth Merch. I spent Tuesday and a lot of Thursday making products which featured Humbert the Parrot quotes. I also did a couple of K’Barthan swearing things. So far I’ve done a couple of badges – oh and one sticker! Mwahahahrgh. Despite feeling a bit Meh, I observed that I was still able to do stupid product descriptions. Well, they made me laugh anyway. Then again, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are funny. Still after anticipating a rather flat couple of days, I had a remarkably amusing time with myself. Mum was on good form too, on the Wednesday, which always helps and we went to the beach yesterday for a walk and it was beautiful light with bright sun.

I think these Meh periods are probably part of life for every creative. OK some folks seem to be able to produce hundreds of books and I salute them. I could do that if literary creativity was like painting. I can paint like ringing a bell just … not as well as I can write. The fact is though, I seem to be so adversely affected by every little thing that sometimes, I’m surprised I produce anything at all. What I do manage is the result of hours of analysis and effort into the how and why of my ability to create so I can squeeze the maximum juice out of each tiny drop. I suppose if you want to be good at something that’s what you do. Maximise it. But … I dunno … it’s as if I have a few drips of potent creativity and I have to make it cover each book. While everywhere I look other writers seem to be just vomiting out books. Really good books too. Burp! Oooh there’s another one. I am probably looking at the wrong people and in the wrong places.

Talking of books, Gareth is hoping to start work on Too Good To Be True soon, singing-related shenanigans permitting. Which made me think of something else and that is, how intensely physical the performing arts are. I remember reading somewhere how people who are in a production full time often have to do an extensive range of weird and arcane physio exercises to keep all sorts of obscure body parts in trim. It’s amazing how much of something that seems large cerebral is, in fact, physical when it comes to doing stuff with your voice or an instrument. I do remember talking about this kind of stuff with my violin teacher when I was small and good at it. Body posture and stance are a huge part of it because you’re not just playing the instrument, you’re part of it because the sound is resonating through you. And that’s why the way you stand or breathe can make a huge difference.

That got me thinking more about writing. There seem to be three important factors that can fuck mine up. The first is pressure. Can I make up stories under pressure? No. This is probably why I am struggling writing more K’Barthan extras. There is pressure to finish them whereas there is not any pressure to finish the other projects which are ticking along nicely. Well … not really. So I have this strange dichotomy where I can write an 85k novel in about six weeks but only if a) that’s not what I’m actually trying to do, b) other stress is reduced and c) the six weeks are spread out over the course of about a year. It’s like learning to fly Adams style. Except instead of throwing myself at the ground, getting distracted before I land and missing, I have to throw myself into writing the next book, forget why I’m writing it and just … enjoy my K’Barthan holiday.

Getting the first set up started is the difficult bit. Once that’s there, if it’s a simple story with a main character and not much else, it will get from beginning to end reasonably fast.

Second thing … admin. If I have something looming, like a tax return or, in this case, some bits and bobs for my will, I feel pathologically compelled to do it before I write. But when I come to do it, because I want to write, I get bored and my mind wanders and I stare at my computer and get distracted and before I know it a day has gone by of me staring at the screen doing … I dunno what. The way round that one is to do a short burst of writing before I start the admin. Then at east I’ve done a bit of what I’m supposed to.

Third thing, hormones. There is the one week in every four where I’m never going to write anything. This is the time I use for editing or to drop writing and have a pop at other stuff; newsletters, writing ads, booking promos. Downloading the graphics and sorting all the links I have to share … that kind of stuff.

Fourth thing, I need to take the right measures. If that means giving up on it for a day or two and doing other things so be it. Yesterday we went to the beach for a day. We spent an amusing hour having lunch in a pub garden and the conversation included inventing euphemisms for going to the loo. Starting with the well known ‘I must go siphon the python’ we built on the theme and finally ended up with McMini calling it, ‘I just have to go and deal with some yard trimmings,’ while I preferred, ‘I just have to go and fly-tip a sofa’. Yeh, I know but we thought it was funny. McOther just sat there with a contented, these-are-my-children kind of smile on his face.

picture of the sea
I must go down to the sea again, the lonely sea and the sky. I left my socks there yesterday. I wonder … continued on page 94/…

Thing is though – going back to my ongoing fight with my muse – for most of 2020, pandemic aside, I was in post op recovery or a great deal less stressed. I couldn’t do the Sussex run for a lot of it and in many ways, Mum’s well-being was out of my hands – or at least, I didn’t feel as painfully responsible for it and I was able to let so much stuff go. It was awesome. I didn’t need to take measures, or follow any of the protocols I usually have to follow to write. I ate exactly what I’m eating now, but I lost weight instead of putting it on. There was no need to keep a daily word count and do the ten minutes a day thing. Now there is. Now, I’m back to the place I was in 2018. I need to pull every trick in the book to keep the tiniest trickle running from the creative well. I need to keep it alive because if I don’t the other stuff is going to get a bit overwhelming and if I get overwhelmed, I’ll be no good to anyone. I need another holiday – already – and since I can’t have a real one, I have to pretend. And if there is any talent in me, it seems that I have to support it with a lot of painfully convoluted mental gymnastics. It’s a a gargantuan ball ache but it is what it is. I just have to accept it and get on with it. I guess part of it is simply that I’ve reached a perfect storm where everything writing related is going dismally badly at once. I just need to grit my teeth and push on through. And do those bloody lists for my will. Ugh.


On a lighter note … K’Barthan invective poll results! Phark.

As discussed here, last week … K’Barthan products. Mmm. Last week I asked if you’d like to vote on your favourite Humbert phrases. Many did.

Congratulations.

As you may have gathered from my previous wittering, I took the recommendations and ran with them, well, OK, it was more of a case of, I shambled crazily for a few metres, went purple in the face and had to sit down for a minute or two … but it’s a start!

The runaway winners, if that’s the right word, were ‘Wipe my conkers!’ and ‘Bite my winkey!’ but there were many more, here are the top six:

  • Wipe my conkers!
  • Bite my winkey!
  • Windy trussocks!
  • Jiggle my tumpkin but don’t touch my drink!

Extremely close behind ‘windy’ and ‘jiggle’ were:

  • Arse!
  • Shroud my futtocks!
  • Bombs away!
  • Gits in a bag!

After talking to Gareth, I realised that I’d completely forgotten to offer ‘Futtocks away!’ as an option which is, apparently, his particular favourite, and one of mine, too. Oh well, you can’t win ‘em all. If you’d like to see the resulting merchandise you can find it here:

This week, K’Barthan swearing is under the spotlight. So if you wish to vote for your favourite piece of K’Barthan invective, you can go right ahead and do that too. The ‘voting’ form is at the end of this link. Enjoy.

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Ham, Jam and Spam.

Woah! There’s a whole gamut of stuff to talk about today. It’s been a chuffing amazing week and I am feeling happier than I’ve felt in years, which I am enjoying thoroughly! OK, maybe I’m owed some Karma or something but even the scam phone call we received yesterday morning did us all a favour. First up:

The Audiobook Project

Aroogah! Aroogah! Pretentiousness alert.

OK, now I’m going to get a bit artsy fartsy here and talk about the business of creating … um … can I call it art? Yes, I’m going to call it art! Snortle. What that means, for you, is that this next bit’s going to sound a trifle pretentious. Look I’ll try and keep it funny, OK. But it is a completely fascinating process this and one I’m really enjoying so I wanted to talk about it.

The thing is, I’d thought about doing my own audiobooks, I did stand up after all. I even tried reading a bit of Unlucky Dip. But there’s a big difference between being able to do funny voices and being able to actually act. Acting is an underrated skill. Yep, there’s a reason why these folks who cross into acting from other careers can’t always pull it off. When I played my recording back, I’d managed to make my story so boring and so lacking in energy, and my attempts at the accents were so hammy that I decided that, if anyone did it, it would have to be someone who could do it properly. Which definitely wasn’t me. And that being the case it also, definitely wasn’t anything I could afford. Because you can’t really join audible and offer someone a royalty split when it’s only going to be a couple of quid a month.

And then, up pops this lunatic called Gareth who wants to record my books on audio, lord help him! And he’s brilliant. And extremely professional about it, but not in a boring killjoy I’m-a-professional kind of way. He just is. On a point of honour, I have made it very clear to him that we’ll only make a few pence each a month if we’re lucky, but he seems completely undaunted by this triviality. Well, he enjoyed the books so he’s obviously a bit of a nutter but it does lend this project a whole aura of, is this actually happening?

This week, we’ve been trying to set what the main characters sound like, which is great fun and allows for total geekery. It’s hilarious trying to describe how you want something to sound when you’re not a good enough mimic to demonstrate. And I’m not. Instead I have to go, ‘she’s a bit like so and so in x, y or z film but a bit more gruff,’ or, ‘General Moteurs? Steed from the Avengers with a bit of that clipped Richard Burton delivery in Where Eagles Dare,’ and then he adds a tiny tiny sprinkling of ‘you my fire h-when ready’ Peter Cushing in StarWars because General Moteurs is quite up himself, especially at the start,’ and so on. General Moteurs is quite tricky because he has to sound like an anally retentive neat bot, but at the same time, he can’t sound too elderly because he’s only in his mid 40s and he gets it on with Deirdre. I’ve really enjoyed trawling my memory of old films for the voices I want. It’s like a competition for who can think of the obscurest mainstream film character – Donald Pleasance doing Blowfeldt anyone?

And then Gareth sends through a sound sample in which he talks in his normal voice about what he’s doing and then does thirty seconds of extremely sinister Lord Vernon, and then he flips out of it again and goes, kind of, ‘is that the sort of thing you meant?’ and it’s like two different blokes on the same tape and it’s gloriously bizarre, and, of course, completely hilarious. So I’m sitting there laughing like a drain and McOther is saying, ‘what on God’s earth are you doing?’ And I have to explain and he gives me the kindly smiling-at-toothless-simpletons look. The one he does when McMini and I get giggly about the Arnold’s Produce vans.

And all the time, these characters are becoming more and more real and I am ludicrously excited to hear them taking aural shape (is that a thing? Mmwahahahargh! It is now). I can tell you, for nothing, that if anyone tried to buy the film rights of one of my books, or make a film, and I was remotely involved in any way, I would probably actually die from the excitement. Luckily Gareth seems to be experiencing a similar Tigger-like enthusiasm for it all, so at least we’re both as nuts as each other.

It’s also weird that I have the character voices quite clearly in my head, but when I look at it, it’s more the tone or delivery technique than the actual sound. Does that make sense? So then there’s this odd dichotomy between what I ‘hear’ and what readers might be hearing and what Gareth, who knows and likes the books, hears when he reads them. And also what is possible with one person’s voice – although we haven’t hit any roadblocks on that score yet. So, interestingly, he’s always imagined the Grongles with American accents, like the British baddie thing in reverse, which would have been hilarious, but ill advised in the current climate, I think. I do visit the States from time to time and it would be a pity if I got set upon for dissing the mother nation, especially when so many of them carry firearms.

But the other thing is that the voices in my head are a lot more similar than they can be in an audiobook because they’re basically all talking with my voice, except for the ones I’ve given comedy accents; the Mervinettes and the Parrot and Screwdriver contingent. They need to be different so there’s some re-imagining required, which is where having an actual actor on board changes everything. He did a voice for Sir Robin which sounded exactly like my dad, which is how it is in my head. But then he did this other voice, which is a bit of a cheeky nod at Sir Alec Guinness in Star Wars and obviously there was no contest and the Geek in me chose that one! Mwahahahahrgh!

What I love about something like this is the whole collaboration thing. Writing is a singularly solo pursuit, and now the involvement of someone else brings a different slant to it all and opens all kinds of doors (Lordy me! Pretension anyone? I know, I’m sorry, but I can’t think of another way of putting it). But it’s like having someone else in on the jokes! Also I’m a great believer that a collaboration is just that, and that a person looking at my stuff as a reader will see things I don’t. So, while I’m choosing these voices, some of them are completely new and different to how I thought they’d be and bits of the reading a little different to how it sounds in my head. On the one hand, it’s old ground, on another it’s totally new.

It’s a hell of a thing.

Other news …

After you …

A while back, McMini and I entered a photography competition. It was themed around tall buildings, or at least things, because trees were acceptable too. There were two classes; under 18 and the others (I can’t remember what it was really called) and you could enter up to five photos so I entered five pictures into ‘the others’ section and McMini entered two into the under 18 class.

We were informed that three of mine and one of his had made the shortlist, which was very exciting as it meant they would be part of an exhibition and offered for sale to the unwitting public. We were asked if we could ensure that we, or a representative, came to the exhibition space for the prize giving on Tuesday. We duly turned up, me thinking that McMini had won something. I was dead chuffed when a mum friend from McMini’s old school got a highly commended, but then it turned out one of mine had come chuffing second!!! Fucking Ada I was floored. And then they handed me a big fuck off cheque, which means I can afford to print an eyebombing calendar this year at the kind of price which will give me a proper margin to sell it into other places. So I’m stoked.

For your delectation, the photo which won is the one on the right there.

McOther is also a great deal more relaxed this week, as we get towards a visit from his US-dwelling bro and our trip to Portugal so that’s grand.

Finally

Useful things come in odd guises. Yesterday morning some bunch of gitoids with an autodialler rang us early. The entire house was asleep and McOther leapt out of bed and answered. It was the usual recorded message, with a foreign accent, telling us that our internet would be switched off in the next 24 hours unless we pressed one to put us through to the help desk or whatever. Either way, it would be a premium rate line that would cost us £100 a minute or it would go through to someone who’d take a ‘payment’ to get our credit card details. Foggy with sleep, I looked at my watch. It was 7.57 a.m.

Shit!

‘I have some good news and some bad news,’ I told McOther as he returned to our bedroom. ‘The good news, is, that was a fantastic sleep we’ve just had. The bad news is we’ve both slept through our alarms and McMini is supposed to be leaving for school in three minutes.’

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck! Panic stations!

I ran downstairs and got his bag sorted, stuffing all the PE socks and other bits I’d washed and left to dry over night into it. McMini dressed in about seven minutes flat, McOther too, then with some cheese biscuits in hand (I’m not sure what normal people call those. Savoury crackers?) McMini and McOther fled to the car. McMini didn’t have time for a cup of tea, so he sniffed a tea bag before he left!

They departed ten minutes late and got to the school with five minutes to spare. Go McOther with your flash motor and McMini with your speed dressing prowess! Phnark.

Which just goes to show that even bad things can have good results! Thank heavens it’s half term next week I suspect we need it.

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This week, I have been mostly … reading.

This week I thought it was time for some book reviews, so here are two that are completely chalk and cheese yet despite this, I find they go together surprisingly well.

First Light by Geoffrey Wellum

First up, I’m a sucker for history books and I’m a total sucker for biographies or autobiographies, especially when you get a good writer/ghost writer or someone who knows how to write up a transcript.

However, this is neither of those.

This is the most wonderful, evocative book about one of the key moments in my nation’s history, written first-hand by someone who could clearly turn a phrase every bit as well as he could fly a Spitfire. It’s fabulous.

The story is of a young man, Geoffrey Wellum, who leaves school at 17 in 1939 to become a pilot. In the book, he takes you through his training, and then, later, some of his best/worst/scariest missions. He is utterly honest, documenting his thoughts and feelings with a frankness that only someone who has been through the mill, and come out at peace with their own humanity, can. He describes his emotions, his fear and his distress as his colleagues and friends are lost, one by one. He describes how the threat of loss deepens the relationships between those who are left and how he, and they, deal with the omnipresent threat of death, themselves. When the heat of combat is finally over, after eighteen long months, and he is taken out of combat and sent home on sick leave, he briefly outlines how he reacted. For those few pages, alone, it’s worth a read, if only for the honesty they contain. The whole book is unfailingly frank about the daily business of being human under stress, and also about the personal and emotional cost.

The style of writing is quiet, understated, yet deep thinking and powerful. Geoffrey Wellum describes flying so vividly you feel you are right beside him, and the writing is compelling. This may be an autobiography, but it’s also a page turner. I read late into the night when I really should have been asleep. I found myself looking for a sequel, it was that good. But over and above that, I came out of it with a great deal of affection for Geoffrey Wellum. Because what comes across in this book is the story of an absolutely lovely chap; a complex and thoughtful young lad trying to do the right thing, but enduring horrors to do it. A man looking for answers which ultimately, perhaps, he finds and accepts, but which may not always be the ones he might expect. A man of great wisdom, so much so that I thought about writing to him to say how much I loved his book, but unfortunately he died in April this year (2018), aged 96.

As people who remember the horrors of the second world war, people like Geoffrey Wellum, die off, we seem to be forgetting. The modern world appears to be more and more profit-driven, our politics polarised and compassion, tolerance or kindness towards people who are weaker than/or different from us fading from daily life. This book is definitely worth a read, if only to face up to the reality of what lies at the end of the path some of the world’s major politicians appear to be embarked upon.

One of the best books I’ve ever read. Recommended.

Scout Pilot of the Free Union (Space Scout Book 1)

This is a comedy but run with me on this, there are similarities, I promise. Our hero, Frank Eric Russell is captain/pilot of a Valhalla Class Star Destroyer in the Free Union’s Star Fleet. We meet him as the Free Union and the Imperium are in an uneasy truce after years of war. Unfortunately Frank makes an embarrassing cock up during a diplomatic mission which leaves the Free Union looking … well … a bit rubbish, to be … Frank (badoom tish). He is punished by way of being transferred to the Free Union Star Fleet’s Reconnaissance Unit. There, he is assigned an ancient and outdated ship and sent on missions which are less prestigious, less carefully overseen and far more dangerous than the crappy obsolete vessel he is assigned to fly them in would suggest.

What I like about this is that Frank is very flawed and human. He can be a bit of an idiot, but he is well meaning and for all his averred cowardice he Does The Right Thing. There’s not a lot of descriptive world building, yet the world in question is very much alive and everything you need a handle on to imagine it properly is in place. Frank describes his missions in the first person which means he clearly understates the case most of the time. Things go wrong on most of them and he is forced to change the plan, or take radical action to fulfil his tasks and escape with his life. Indeed, most of his efforts are about survival and he just does as much of whatever it is he is supposed to be doing as he can while lurching from one crisis or ship’s mechanical failure to the next. But as the book continues, you begin to realise that, though he makes light of it, he is clearly an excellent pilot with a capacity for lateral thought that gets him out of situations that would certainly prove fatal to others. There are also the first hints that his exploits are beginning to get out and that he is beginning to be thought of by his peers as a hero.

Because this is all seen through the prism of his view, he is very understated and matter of fact in the way he describes his exploits – except when he is talking about lack of coffee at which point a hint of drama might creep in. It’s that style of delivery that reminded me of some of the sections in First Light. But also, I believe there was a lot of gallows humour in the RAF in WW2 as a way of dealing with the high casualty rate. This gallows approach is similarly abundant in the world of the Free Union’s Reconnaissance Unit. Likewise, the way Frank questions the ethics of the conflict but at the same time, steps up to do his duty, anyway, also echoed some of the moments of thought Wellum outlines in First Light.

Scout isn’t a deep book, by any means, or at least not like First Light; the humour is slapstick in places and very Milliganesque, so you have to like that sort of thing. It’s all very light and as such is chalk to First Light’s cheese. But, while it’s a quick entertaining read, at the same time, it’s way more complex than it appears when you start in. Macmillan Jones is smart enough to know the important truth that few heroes ever see themselves as such and that’s a facet of Wellum’s personality that is noticeable in First Light. I found the parallels between the two books interesting. Indeed, I found it very intriguing that I even noticed parallels. I’ll leave you to decide if I’m bonkers or onto something.

Light fun but fluff with more than one level! Recommended.

So there we are. If you want to read either book, just click on the picture and it will take you to a page with links to buy it in all the major stores. Although Scout is only available from Amazon both books are available in paperback and ebook – there’s also an audiobook of First Light.

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#ComedyBookWeek, two reviews.

Three weeks ago Comedy book week was looming and I wanted to join in but at he same time, looking at my diary, it was patently clear that I didn’t have time to do it justice. So I decided I would read as many books off the list as I could and review them. That’ll be a nice series of posts over the week I thought. And then I read … er hem … two books. But if all the others are as good as these, you will find a fair few new authors to follow and worlds/stories to enjoy.

The Bumpkinton Tales, Volume 1
by Matt Drzymala

Matt Drzymala’s books have been vaguely on my radar for a while. I think he posts in some of the same Goodreads and Facebook groups as me. As someone without much time, I really like short stories so I when I saw this collection featured in Comedy Book Week I downloaded it at once. They’re all based around the imaginary town of Bumpkinton. Here’s the blurb:

bumpkintonTalesWelcome to Bumpkinton!

Come in, have a cup of tea and a scone, and lose yourself in five humorous tales from the village.

Follow Father Whitworth O’Grady as he chokes on a penny, Albert Scatterhorn as he becomes the grubbiest Father Christmas ever, and Amelia Goose as she feuds with… well, anybody. Plus a whole host of characters as they attend the village’s first Singles Night with a sex-crazed ladies’ man.

Jump in and find out more for yourself…

So I did jump in.

First impressions, this kind of reminded me of Barbara Pym in that there’s a wry wit that crops up in the observation from time to time which is reminiscent of hers. The pace is gentle and this book is series of short stories so you can dip in and finish an instalment. For the most part I really liked the characters, and I enjoyed that some were rather trying, just as people in a real life village are. There was a great atmosphere of gossip created and I enjoyed the whole, does he or doesn’t he? thing surrounding a couple of characters and their reported misdemeanours. There’s a fair bit of comic mileage in the total madman in charge of the paper who, basically, just says ‘hello’ to you and then makes up some spurious interview.

However, these stories are much more than a light read. The characters have empathy and depth and you do start to care about them quite quickly, even the ones that are, frankly, a bit grim. There was a point where I almost felt sympathy for the village busybody and found myself hoping that she might find love, or something. We find out how and why she was transformed from a shy bookish girl to nightmare harridan. After I discovered her past I found her just as odious but at the same time, with understanding, came an ability to give her a little slack! And this depth and reality to the characters, and the way we find out little tit bits here and there as the stories proceed, just as we would if we actually lived there and were genuinely getting to know these people, was an excellent touch and really cleverly done. There is an intelligence and subtlety to it that I really liked.

As someone who grew up in a small village and sang in the church choir (for my sins) I did find it slightly unseating, at first, that the priest is Roman Catholic – it’s definitely more Father Ted than Rev in that respect. But if you, too, find that strange, it’s worth persevering because you soon get used to that.

So, all in all, I recommend this. It’s a lovely bit of light, gentle humour except that, like life, it works on many subtle levels and there’s a lot more to it than that.

Four stars.

Where to download The Bumpkinton Tales

The book is £1.99 as I write but should be reduced to 99p for Comedy Book Week.

Mission Improbable
by J J Green

ImprobableThe galaxy is in crisis, and Carrie Hatchett is the last person on Earth who should be fixing it.

Carrie is a low-achieving daydreamer. After providing a good home for her butt-ugly dog and psychotic cat, her biggest challenge in life is to avoid being fired, again.

But a strange green mist sucks her beneath her kitchen sink, and an unusual clerical error leads to an offer she foolishly doesn’t refuse.

The Transgalactic Council hire her to settle a conflict between the mechanical placktoids and the mysterious oootoon. Carrie must overcome her personal weaknesses and, for the first time in her life, succeed in her job, to uncover a threat to the entire galaxy.

Mission Improbable is Book One in the light-hearted, fast-paced Carrie Hatchett Space Adventures series. “…like Scully and Mulder on acid.”

As a big humorous fantasy/sci-fi fan I had to give this one a go. I think I may not have been in the mood for this book to begin with. I felt that Carrie was the most annoying, thoughtless, irritating woman and I wanted to give her a sharp rap over the head and tell her to belt up. Then something happened to the cupboard under her sink and suddenly, things began to look up, and Carrie got interesting enough for me to forgive her.

This is a much more straightforward book, in many ways, than its partner in this post. Where The Bumpkinton Tales is all half tones and subtlety, Mission Improbable is blocks of primary colours and is definitely not subtle. However, in this case it isn’t a bad thing. Carrie is really quite dim to start with, but she has a good heart and you can’t help rooting for her eventually once the author’s imagination kicks in. Because what really lifts this book is the wonderful originality of thought in it. The oootoon were inspired, I liked Gavin, I particularly liked that Gavin was called Gavin, and the placktoids are a stroke of genius. This book is a piece of light fluff, total whimsy but it’s none the worse for that. You’re looking at a reviewer, here, who has written a book about lobster-shaped aliens who are covered in marmite (vegemite if you’re Australian) scented goo. Let’s just say there were aspects of this book, and I, which were pretty much made for one another.

It was a quick read, the action clipped along at a good pace and once it got going I really enjoyed the twists and turns of the plot and zipped through it in an afternoon. I also got to like Carrie by the end.

OK, so this is a book of it’s type, and in this case, it’s madcap space comedy. It’s not deep. It’s not designed to be deep, because what it is, and what it’s designed to be, is FUN. That said there is a pretty solid and commendable message about not judging by appearances, listening to both sides, thinking and evaluating before jumping to conclusions.

For me, the greatest test of a book is whether or not you think about it after you’ve read it and if you do, how long for. I found that I was chuckling about some of the creatures and ideas in this book for some time. In fact I still am, as I write because the more I think about them the more delightfully off the wall they seem. So although to start with, I was thinking, hmm… not sure, as time goes by, I am looking back on the reading experience more and more fondly.

So did I like it? Yeh. Another four stars. I will definitely be buying other books in this series. It’s not deep, but it is what it is, and I enjoyed it. Recommended.

Where to download Mission Improbable

Mission Improbable is free to download, everywhere.

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Killing Zombies with household pets and other stories. It’s Bloghop time! Books 2 Brain Cyber Convention Sci-fi Blog hop! Stop 4 Excerpts!

It’s a bit of a new thing for me, today because as well as the usual lovely peps, I am welcoming many of you to my blog for the first time as part of a blog hop. Hello and welcome to the Books 2 Brain cyber convention blog hop.

You are now mostly at, stop 4: Excerpts.

What you will find in this post is a brief wee snippet from a selection of fabulous speculative fiction books. Also, just for interest, I have asked the authors to answer ‘The Zombie Question’ you know the one, it goes like this:

‘The zombie apocalypse has begun. A zombie crashes into the room. You pick up the first thing you can see on your left hand side, right now, to defend yourself. What is the object you pick up and how will you kill the zombie with it?’

So without more ado, I welcome our first guest, J D Brink.

invasion

Here is an excerpt from Invasion (Identity Crisis, Book 1):

The creature’s head split in half with a burst of steel wool brains and azure sparks.  Ballista’s big glaive proved sharp enough for cleaving the skulls of even robotic alien vermin.  She planted the weighted pommel of her staff in the thing’s back and easily vaulted over it in the low gravity, catapulting herself into the next target.  Her kick sent it sideways, and she twirled her weapon back for another slash, severing a segmented limb.  It had many, however, and another insect arm snapped around, firing a bolt of green bio-electric energy that barely missed burning a hole through her ribcage.  In these close quarters, that miss was as much luck as skill.  She couldn’t give the thing another shot.  With a flurry of blows, Ballista repelled the beast with the glaive’s pommel and slashed with its heavy blade, repeatedly trading one side of the staff for the other until the thing had but one leg and an exposed underbelly.  One more swing and the collection of wires and tubing that the bug called organs were leaking into the compartment.

Ballista breathed heavily.  She stretched a kink out of her neck and felt the dreadlocks of her spongy hair stick to her sweaty back.  These metallic monsters were a challenge, at least, and though she fought for her life, she found that she was enjoying it.  This was much more like what the gladiator was used to; being a “superhero” on Earth, especially in American society, was more delicate work.  You often had to pull your punches, and killing was largely frowned upon.  Though not killing, she had found to her own surprise, had been a relief to her conscience.  Mercy was not a bad thing.  Still, her combatant’s muscles had missed this kind of fight.

She strode to the next hatch and punched the button to open it.  The octagonal room beyond was dimly lit white with grey shadows.  It took a moment to recognize the crumpled shape of a man wearing a spacesuit and hiding among two empty suits hooked to the bulkhead.  (The big white clown costumes were too cumbersome and confining for her tastes.)  Ballista marched up to him and lifted him from the floor by the suit’s big round collar.  “Captain Marcus?” she asked sternly.  The panicky man’s mouth gaped and his blue eyes flashed around, not seeing anything but his impending death.  “I asked you a question,” she barked, shaking him.  “Are you Captain Marcus or not?”  She’d not paid enough attention to these astronauts to keep track of which was which.

The jarring got him to focus on her.  His mouth made a few attempts to speak, gasping for air like a fish thrown from water, before finally finding words.  “Ye—yes.  Marcus.  I’m Marcus.  Oh, thank God it’s you.”

She did recognize him now, between the eyes and the thinly-trimmed beard.  He was the one who’d said something stupid about never having seen a purple woman before.  It had been some pathetic attempt at flirtation, which she’d been nice enough to let go without physically injuring him.  “Make prayers to your deities later,” she said, turning and flinging him toward the open hatch.  In the low-g, he soared through perfectly.

Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a copy of Invasion:

From Amazon – links to your local store
From Barnes & Noble
From Fugitive Fiction

The Answer (to the Zombie Question).

To my immediate left as I type this is my dog, Jack.  He’s a fluffy white Maltese with a fierce attitude, a cross between a mop and a shark leaping for a seal.  As the zombie crashes through the front door, I react with lightning reflexes, pick up Jack, and spiral-pass him like a football.  Jack soars teeth-first into the zombie and proves himself more vicious than any brain-starved walking corpse!

Three places to find out more about J D Brink.

J D Brink’s Blog: http://brinkschaostheory.blogspot.com
J D Brink on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jd.brink.3
J K Brink on twitter: https://twitter.com/J_D_Brink

And now, I welcome our second guest, Chess Desalls.

Lantern 5 StarsHere is an excerpt from here free novella Lantern:

Fireflies lit the sky, dancing and twirling beneath a curtain of stars. Weary eyes found it impossible to tell where the stars’ twinkling ended and the fireflies began.

One by one, rays of light flickered to life, stretching from torches held by a circle of party guests. No sooner would one’s eyes adjust to a new beam before the one next to it made itself known, appearing to the former’s right, and so on, until the circle of light was complete.

Tori found herself standing in the center of the circle. Funny, she thought, squinting. I don’t remember being invited to a party. She looked down at her dress and smiled. Fabric and lace in soft pastels blossomed from a belt of lollipops cinched around her waist. Her gaze followed the knee-length hem to her legs, covered with tights banded red and white like candy canes sticking out of clumps of mud. She frowned. Instead of dainty ballerina flats, she’d worn her hiking boots.

Confused as to why she’d forget such an important detail for her costume, Tori ran her fingers through her blue and pink wig. Feeling the weight of a handle pulling against her other hand, she looked down, expecting to see a trick-or-treat bag filled with candy.

She stared at her hand as a sick feeling washed over her. Instead of a bag, she held a lantern. All of the torches were aimed toward it, making it glow more brightly than she’d ever seen. Trembling, she lifted the lantern away from the converging beams of light. She sucked in a breath as she stared at an unlit globe, empty with darkness.

“What’s wrong, Tor?”

Tori’s mouth fell open. “Shawna, what are you doing here?”

“You invited me, silly. I wanted to check out that lantern you’ve been telling me about.” Shawna’s broad shoulders shrugged forward as she bent to look inside the lantern. “Hmm, not much going on in there tonight.” Silky black sleeves and leggings accentuated the slim outlines of her arms and legs as she straightened up. Brows lifted above gray eyes in a mock accusatory look, which Tori might have taken seriously had it not been for the mini witch hat perched on her head.

“Great costume,” said Tori. “How come you’re not dressed in your volleyball uniform this year?”

“I had time to come up with something different while you were away. I wanted to surprise you.”

Tori squeezed her friend. “I’m not sure what’s going on, but I’m happy to see you.”

“I brought someone with me.” Shawna smirked. “He’s been waiting a long time to see you.”

Jared? Is he here? Is that why he’s not inside the lantern? Before Tori could repeat her questions aloud, Shawna playfully shoved someone in front of her, a male dressed in a plum-colored cloak; his regalia sparkled with candies made of silver and gold.

“Surprise! I hope you don’t mind that I hinted at your costume. You know, so you could match.”

Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a free copy of Lantern:

From Amazon – links to your local store
From Barnes & Noble
From iBooks

The Answer (to the Zombie Question).

I pick up a retractable pen and shake it back and forth. “Here, boy,” I say, whistling. “Tastes like brains.”

The zombie darts his half-rotten eyes back and forth, following the clicking sounds I make with the pen’s push mechanism.

“You want this, don’t ya? C’mon, you can get it.” I wind up my arm and let it spring forward.

A trickle of drool leaks from the zombie’s slackened lips. Groaning as his prize soars through the air, he turns to follow. He leaps after the pen—catches it. But not until it falls below the gutters lining the roof’s edge.

Three places to find out more about Chess Desalls:

And now, I welcome our third guest, Kate M Colby.

The Cogsmith's Daughter - Ebook SmallHere is an excerpt from The Cogsmith’s Daughter:

“Until we meet again,” King Archon said, staring only at Aya.

Lord Varick took Aya’s arm and led her away from the thrones. With every step, she tightened her grip around his elbow. Varick must have noticed, but he didn’t let on, keeping his face even and greeting the various nobles as they passed. The nerve of King Archon. Sitting up there on his throne, taking compliments on his new wife as though she was some sort of trophy. And the way he looked at Aya! If he kept up such piggish behavior, Aya would have no problem setting him up for execution.

Aya tried to temper her breathing by gazing around the room. She saw many noblemen she recognized from working at the Rudder, but she’d never served any of them. She doubted any of them would remember glimpsing her in the hallway or through a cracked door, but even if they did, they could not reveal her identity without exposing themselves as adulterers. She searched the crowd for Lord Collingwood or Lord Derringher to see if she could get a look at their wives to report back to Dellwyn. Unfortunately, she didn’t see either of them. Perhaps they had already paid their respects to the queen. She made a mental note to look for them again at the ball—assuming she really did attend.

When they were back in the corner of the room, Lord Varick released her arm. “For a woman, you have quite a strong grip.”

Aya shrugged. “I do a lot of clinging in my line of work.”

Lord Varick laughed.

“How did I do?”

Lord Varick grinned, his eyes crinkling. “You did quite well, my dear. I would say the king already seems intrigued by you.”

“I had forgotten his voice.” A shudder slipped down her spine. “I thought I could hear it clearly in my nightmares, but it is much sharper in person. And his eyes, they pierce you.”

Lord Varick nudged her. “Some women find piercing eyes appealing.”

“And some women find piercing eyes a reminder of the ax that pierces through a man’s neck.”

Lord Varick’s eyes widened, and his lips curved into a smirk. “The more you speak your mind, Miss Aya, the more delightful you become. You really should be more open with your thoughts.”

Aya rolled her eyes. “I was taught to be open with nothing but my legs.”

“Ha! That is it!” Lord Varick clapped. “That fire! Keep that blazing, and King Archon and every other man in this palace will come crawling to you.”

Aya blushed. She hadn’t meant to be so forward, but seeing King Archon again ignited something in her—something she hadn’t been allowed to express when she’d been thrown out of her home and selling off her dresses for bread and washing noblemen’s seed off of pillows. She had been good. Mouth shut and legs open. She had allowed Madam Huxley to command her every action and Dellwyn to speak for her. No more.

This was her chance to reclaim her life, to get back her father’s shop, and finally attain justice for his death. She was going to take it or die trying.

Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a copy of the Cogsmith’s Daughter:

From Amazon – links to your local store
From Barnes & Noble
From iBooks

The Answer (to the Zombie Question).

As the zombie staggers toward me, I grab my aluminium water bottle off my desk. It’s rather useless–cylindrical, blunt–but it’s the only object within reach. I fling water at the zombie. The stream hits it in the eyes, but the zombie keeps coming, undeterred. It opens its mouth to groan at me, and I seize my opportunity.

With a war cry of my own, I run forward and ram the narrow end of my water bottle into its mouth. We fall to the ground, and I use my body weight to grind my water bottle further into the zombie’s head. A crack, a pop, a spurt of blood, and the zombie falls still.

I stand, my entire body shaking, and wipe the sweat from my brow. I notice a tear in my sleeve, and search my arm. No scratches. For once, I feel grateful for my apartment’s inefficient heating system and the thick, wool sweater my grandma knitted. With a sigh, I head to the kitchen. The water bottle proved its worth, but next time, I’d rather be attacked near a butcher knife.

Three places to find out more about Kate M Colby:

Website: http://www.KateMColby.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorKateMColby
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/KateMColby

And now, I welcome our fourth guest, David Kelley.

Dead Reckoning And Other StoriesHere is an excerpt from Dead Reckoning and Other Stories:

Snap!

A white-hot pain burned through Hector’s chest and head; for one brief second he was overwhelmed by agony roiling up his spine and cauterizing every nerve.

No, wait. Maybe this isn’t such a good idea after all. Can I think this over a little longer? His mind skittered in fear.

Snap!

A second stab of agony completed the transfer. The pain was gone. The ache in his limbs that had been there for at least twenty years was gone. The stabilization-induced torpor was gone too.

And so were his clothes.

While the first three items were blessings and made him want to jump around screaming like a madman, the idea of wandering naked around the virtual heaven of LifePlus Inc’s Select community bothered him. He’d have settled for just about anything, even a pair of pajamas. He had a beautiful pair of dark red silk ones Kaydianne had bought him. She said they made him look just like Bublé in all those classic movies, a little heavier perhaps but…

Hector’s confusion grew as he examined himself. He had the same body he’d died in. Where was the twenty-four year old hunk-body he’d never had, but ordered? And why didn’t he have any clothes? Dark red silk, gray woolen worsted, a pair of jeans and a T-shirt promoting General ToyoSan Motors would have been acceptable. Where was his luxury villa, complete with swimming pool and maid service?

Instead he gazed down on a flabby chest, gray-hair covered man-breasts, flaccid arms and thighs. This wasn’t what he’d signed up for. Glowing letters flared up inside his vision, but they were meaningless:

——————————————————-

Tren-Hump, Hector. TH15D3AD-1485-13A6-5661A946B3101857

Cycles: 1            CPU Credit: 1%           Ducks: 0.0

——————————————————-

Snap!

Hector jumped, his body arching reflexively. This wasn’t the same moment of disconnection he’d experienced during the transfer; this was a blistering pain that cut across his back as though his spine had been ripped out.

“Okay, Noob. Time to get all those gleaming new Hoxels dirty.”

The creature facing Hector was huge: a powerful humanoid at least three meters tall with four arms and a physique that would have made the Hulk turn white.

“I’m Marshal, but you call me Sir, and make sure you shout it loud so there’s no mistake.”

“What the hell’s going on here — yeow!” Hector squealed again as the whip snapped out and flayed across his shoulders. Virtual or not, the pain felt like his skin had been torn from his body.

“SIR!”

Hector cowered, the searing pain in his back throbbing mercilessly. “What the hell’s going on here, Sir?”

Again the whip lashed out and Hector screamed.

“And be respectful when you speak to me,” bellowed the Marshal. The whip flicked several times like a cat swishing its tail but didn’t land a blow. “Join the line and get ready to do some heavy duty Judgment.”

“Judgment? Ahhhh!” The whip lashed out again, wrapping around Hector’s flabby torso.

Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a copy of Dead Reckoning and Other Stories:

From Amazon – links to your local store
From Barnes & Noble
From Kobo

The Answer (to the Zombie Question).

The object on my immediate left is my wife. I’d grab her. She’d be useless for killing the zombie with, but I’d throw her in anyway. This would buy me time to make a run for it and get to safety. 😉

Mwah hahahargh! And if his wife sees that one, look out for David Kelley in a shallow grave near you!

Three places to find out more about David Kelley:

Websit: http://www.davidmkelly.net
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/David.Kelly.SF
Twitter: http://twitter.com/David_Kelly_SF

And now, I welcome our fifth guest, Massimo Marino:

Daimones-663x1024Here is an excerpt from Diamones (the Daimones Trilogy: Book 1):

Excerpt. Characters: Dan, and his wife Mary. Location: their place, turned into a stronghold, in the Geneva countryside, at the border with France.
After the culling of the human race, and months spent surviving and in search of others, Mary lost all hopes.
“[…] this proves there could be others. With time, maybe, many others.”

Mary nodded.

She was somber and stared at the stove. Without raising her eyes from the dinner she was preparing, she asked: “How many, Dan? Can you tell me? Maybe it’s just that girl we saw…and we might not see her ever again.” She paused then, looking straight into my eyes. “I love you, Dan. And I love Annah. Sometimes I wonder whether all this makes sense. What will be our life next winter, or a year or more from now? Can you tell me?”

“Mary…” I started, but Mary raised her hand to silence me.

“I will carry on, for you and Annah. But I cannot promise you for how long, not this way. Why didn’t we die, too? Why, Dan?” Her body seemed to implode, as if something broke internally. Resting both stiff arms on the counter, her head collapsed between her shoulders. “It would have been so much easier now.”

“Now? What are you talking about? We’d be dead, now. You would be dead, Annah would be dead. Is that what you want? You’ve seen those rotting remains. Don’t do this…”

She kept her head down. “Just hold me. Please.”

I held her tightly in my arms. I cried without making any sound. Mary wasn’t, and that made me cry even more. Warm tears, heavy, and coming from the depths. I couldn’t lose her. I simply could not.

As if she was reading my mind, Mary whispered in my ear, “I don’t have any more tears…”

I stayed there, and hugged my wife hoping she would not crumble any further. That night, the whole night, I kept searching for her, continuously pressing my body against her, breathing her.

During the night, Mary complained a few times she was cold, and asked me to lay next to her even closer and to put my arms around her. I prayed to God that I could be the fire that kept her alive, that kept her away from that cold that grows from the inside. It rises like a shivering fever, and consumes you inexorably, eating up all your strengths and leaving you emptied, hopeless, and ready to give up.”

Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a copy of Diamones (The Diamones Trilogy: Book 1):

From Amazon – links to your local store
From Barnes & Noble
From iBooks

The Answer (to the Zombie Question).

Depends on the room, but the one I’m in here right now gives me nothing I can turn into a real weapon. 
 To my left, books, some boring to death but reading won’t do it. The soft cushions of the sofa might suffocate a living, but not a zombie. On the coffee table a silver tray catches my eyes and I grab it. It’s sturdy, the edge is blunt and the zombie can’t bite through it. I push him back with all my weight. His hands try to grab me and I slam the tray into its open mouth. He gurgles and his grin wides as I push the tray through. We fall and his jaw rips off. I keep slamming with the tray over and over at the root of his rotten nose. Something breaks, and it’s not the tray. A fetid fluid sprays my face. I keep hitting with all my strength and I stop only when two hands grab me by my shoulders.
“We have to run! More are coming!”
The zombie’s head is a pool of black and thick goo and I’m covered with it.
“Let’s go!” screams my girlfriend. I fail to recognize her for at first. 
Scratching sounds and raucous snarls comes from the porch. The front door slams open and three bodies stumble in.
We run.
I’ve never been back home since.

.

Three places to find out more about Massimo Marino.

Website: http://massimomarinoauthor.com
 Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MassimoMarinoAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/J_D_Brink

And now, I welcome our sixth guest, Belinda Crawford.

hero-cover-smlHere is an excerpt from The Hero Rebellion, Book 1:

It was windy on the foredeck, and cold, but the air smelled like freedom and Fink was warm against Hero’s back.

The ruc-pard purred, a rumble that vibrated from his giant chest into hers, and all the way down to her toes. She snuggled deeper into the hollow between his fore- and mid-quarters, enjoying the feel of his thick winter coat. Golden-red and silky, she sank into it, the hairs brushing her bare arms with every giant breath he took, the longer, coarser hair on his ruff tickling her cheek. Fink’s black, hairless tail wrapped around them both, the heavy weight of it draped across her feet, warming her toes.

Lazy images swam through her mind, carried on the distinct pink and mawberry of Fink’s thoughts – the taste of them sweet, the touch of them a soft fizz winding through her brain. She might have stopped and played for a moment in his memories, if the huge skytowers of Cumulus City weren’t spread across the horizon.

She’d seen all the holotours, interrogated all of the guides, but she’d never thought the city would be so… there wasn’t a word big enough to describe it. Surrounded by its sprawling mass of satellite ‘burbs, Cumulus City rose thirty thousand feet through the atmosphere, an endless patchwork of grey and green connected by the silver threads of bridges and the restless movement of the skylanes.

Below, spires shot planetside and massive generators kept the city and its ‘burbs aloft, while giant tethers prevented it from drifting with the winds.

The city was her ticket, her chance, to see Jørn, to explore the planet’s surface without minders or gadgets or her mum looking over her shoulder. She rubbed the dull plasteel bracelet wrapped around her wrist. Or so she hoped.

She breathed deep and hugged her bare arms against the chill as freedom came closer and closer on the horizon.

‘Hero.’ The Lamb, the latest in her bevy of minders, stood in her peripheral vision clutching a heavy coat, the wind flattening her white-blonde curls against her head. Her mouth was pulled tight and her big green eyes were wide, almost swallowing her face. The way she eyed Fink looked to Hero as if she were waiting for him to flash his fangs and pounce, and she held herself like one of the old Terra creatures Hero had named her for, stiff and tense, leaning away from the ‘pard as if the extra millimetre would save her if he did. A brave lamb, wary but not scared.

Hero wondered at where Tybalt–butler, tutor, substitute parent–had found someone who didn’t quake before six-hundred kilograms of genetically engineered ruc-pard, bigger at the shoulder than Hero was tall, and twice as long. This woman wouldn’t be as easy to get rid of as the others.

Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a copy of The Hero Rebellion, Book 1:

From Amazon – links to your local store
From Barnes & Noble
From Author’s Website – get a signed copy.

The Answer (to the Zombie Question).

I immediately pick up my tea cup and, channeling Riddick, smash it against the arm of my chair before shoving the broken, jagged end into the zombie’s rotted eye. The eye will burst and the cup’s ceramic teeth will shred its flesh, spraying my hand with old blood and the zombie’s putrid stink, but I’ll keep digging, pinning the thing to the wall with my other hand, until the shards pierce its brain.

The zombie will shudder and twitch, and I’ll give the cup a nasty little twist–just to finish the job–before letting the body slump to the ground at my feet.

Three places to find out more about Belinda Crawford:

And now, I welcome our seventh guest, Me, M T McGuire.

9781907809262_LowResHere is an excerpt from Escape From B-Movie Hell:

I noticed Eric was beginning to go a bit blurry round the edges. If I caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye, I would see something … else, but when I turned to look closely, he’d be Eric again. Whatever was going on, I decided it was best faced on a full stomach, so for now I’d cope with it the British way: ignore it and pretend nothing was happening. Eric kept drifting in and out of focus and the pain behind my eyes intensified each time his image sharpened. He was looking increasingly worried and uncomfortable, and judging by the expression on his face, he thought I was about to have a stroke. I was beginning to think the same thing.

“Andi,” he began haltingly but I interrupted him.

“Eric, have you got an aspirin on you?”

“Yes.”

“Can I have one?”

“What? Now?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because I have a headache, you dolt.” Blimey, what was the problem? I wished he’d hurry up, if he didn’t give me one of those aspirins absolutely immediately the top of my head was going to blow off.

“OK, Andi, I can stop your headache but you have to promise me you won’t go all limp and fall over again.”

So Eric was Norwegian but surely he’d seen people faint before – I mean people faint all the time don’t they? His expression was panicky but also slightly shifty.

“It’s called fainting, imbecile and no, I won’t.”

He pressed me.

“You promise?”

“Yes I promise!” He eyed me sceptically. For heaven’s sake! How much reassurance could a person need? “I will not faint again,” I told him. As if I had some kind of control over it. “Satisfied?”

He nodded.

“Good! Now for God’s sake give me an aspirin or I’m going to die.”

“No. I’m not going to give you an aspirin. I’m going to stop your headache.”

My reply died on my lips as Eric went into soft focus at the edges again. As he did so, my head began to hurt less. I didn’t like this one bit, there was definitely a correlation between the amount of ache in my head and the amount of blur round Eric. I turned away from him and looked out onto the City of London through the plate glass windows which made up two-thirds of the Student Union canteen wall. I scanned the familiar skyline. The Post Office Tower and the Gherkin were where they should be. The Shard? Check. The Walkie Talkie? Check. All was right with the world and nothing, except Eric, was blurry. I faced him again and as I stared, something moved by his head. Was that a tentacle? No, no. My friend did not have tentacles.

“Andi?” Eric waved his hand in front of my face except …

Hang on. That definitely was a hint of a pincer there. Maybe it was a joke. Yeh that was it: a joke; a piss-poor one at that.

“Eric, what are you doing?”

“How’s your head?”

“It hurts a bit less.”

“OK,” he said slowly. “Andi, this is going to freak you out a bit.”

“Then don’t do it.”

“I don’t have any choice.”

“Yes you do.”

“No, I don’t. Your brain can’t take it.”

My breath caught.

“Can’t take what Eric? Tell me right now or I swear to God I’m going to—”

I stopped. My headache had gone and this time, I knew I wasn’t imagining it. Slowly Eric became a translucent wavy outline and behind him something else appeared. It looked a bit like a lobster, but without a tail and with fewer legs: two pairs to walk on and a pair of ‘arms’ with huge pincers on them. It was about seven feet tall with two long antennae. It had mouth parts like a praying mantis and on top of its head were seven stalks, each with a human-like eye on the end: the eyes were blue, like Eric’s. The creature’s exoskeleton was reddish-brown and glistening with translucent slime. I sat there for a few moments with my mouth open.

“It’s difficult to explain,” he said.

Yeh. I reckoned that was the officially certified understatement of all time.

Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a copy of Escape From B-Movie Hell:

From Amazon – links to your local store
From Kobo
From iBooks

The Answer (to the Zombie Question).

Ah, the thing on my left is my cat, Harrison. Harrison is a food obsessed moron. I can’t see him defeating a zombie.

‘Brainsssss,’ says the Zombie shuffling closer.

I pick Harrison up and contemplate how I can damage the zombie with him. He starts to purr.

The zombie shuffles closer still. I notice that it has a distinctly cheesy smell.

‘Have you been eating Doritos?’ I ask it.

Harrison’s ears go pointy at the mention of the C word.

‘Brainssss,’ the zombie says.

Well, I suppose it would.

‘Conversation’s not your strong point is it? Did you know you smell of cheese?’

 The zombie doesn’t answer. Cat in arms, I stand up and back away. What to do? Throw Harrison at it and leap through the window? Possibly but knowing my luck I will bounce off the glass and the zombie will feast on my unconscious form while the cat looks on with a confused expression. Even if I lob Harrison at the zombie, will he distract it long enough for me to pick up a chair and chuck it through the glass. And what if it eats him? It’s hardly responsible pet ownership is it? And the idea of owning a zombie cat lacks appeal.

Then I am distracted by Harrison. He is wriggling. I try to hold onto him but he escapes and leaps to the floor rushing towards the zombie. For a moment I stand petrified and then I realise he’s doing The Cheese Meow. Harrison is obsessed with cheese and the cheesy smell of this particular zombie is driving him wild. In seconds he leaps into the air. Then he is on the zombie. The battle is bloody and swift, and judging by Harrison’s eager and speedy snarfing, the zombie tastes as cheesy as it smells. Soon, the stripped skeleton is all that remains. Harrison drags his distended stomach a few feet away and flops contentedly onto his side. He will enjoy the mother of all sleeps after his feast of undead cheesy flesh. When he looks up at me and winks, I swear he burps.

Three places to find out more about M T McGuire (apart from here):

On my website: www.hamgee.co.uk
Thanks for reading everyone, the next post in this smashing tour is author interviews and you can find it and all the other posts on this Goodreads thread here or just head on to the next stage at Kylie Jude’s blog, here.

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Filed under Blimey!, General Wittering, Interesting

Dipping my toe into the world of #Sci-fi #Romance

Back cover, Looking for Trouble.

Back cover, Looking for Trouble.

Like many of the laideeeees I like a bit of romance: no squelchy bits, I prefer to imagine the squelching for myself. I’m interested in the way love affects people and that’s probably why my characters get it on from time to time. That said, I’ve never dared pitch my books as full on romance because… well… there’s the odd snog, and a bit of enthusiastic grinding, no actual sex. Even so, I have got to know many romance writers as cyber buddies over the years and as well as being ruthlessly well organised and efficient they are an incredibly friendly bunch, and generous about sharing their knowledge with dumb schmucks like myself. A lot of the stuff I know about selling books on the internet is information I’ve gathered from romance  writers.

And guess what? There are many, many flavours of romance and they are not all spicy, some are what’s referred to as ‘clean’. So that makes my books ‘clean romance’ which is cool because it’s yet another genre I can add to my ever expanding book description. Imagine my delight when I happened up on the Science Fiction Romance Brigade. Yes, there is a niche for sci-fi with romance in it. So obviously, I joined up straight away!

They are a lovely bunch with many and varied books to their names, some spicy, some clean and some between and they have kindly allowed me to witter on on their blog, so if you liked the romantic aspect of the K’Barthan Series it’s worth a visit. Forget reading my drivvel, there are give aways, book recommendations and all sorts of new authors for you to try while for authors there is expertise, camaraderie and general interest from other people who write science fiction with romance in it.

You can find the Brigade’s blog, and my post, here. And you can interact with them on their facebook site here,

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Filed under General Wittering

Secrets of the K’Barthan Series unlocked.

One of the great things about being an author is that you get to be a bit… hmm…. let’s call it, ‘eccentric’. It is one of the parts of the job I truly delight in – and probably the bit I am best at. Certainly I’m far better at being a bit weird than I am at writing books, but I digress. One of the things I get asked sometimes, apart from, ‘Are you mad?’ is where I get the names from.

Well, clearly we authors can make some of them up, like The Pan of Hamgee, while others are normal, like Ruth or Lucy or a bit comedically untrendy, names normally associated with the elderly, for example, like Gladys and Ada. Then again, judging by the amount of Masies, Ediths, Dots and Daisey’s under ten there are now, and the rate the real Gladys and Adas are dying off, there will probably be lots of toddlers and babies named Gladys and Ada before long. Christened by people too young to remember that no-one under 70 was called Gladys or Ada for many years.

In other instances, if you’re looking to name characters you can turn to the world around us… things like this:

philip softone2

Yes, Philip Softone got his name from some lightbulbs. Ever since I saw the first advert for these in about 1989 I have been giggling quietly to myself about who Philip Softone is and wondering what he is like.

Meanwhile his assistant…

20140627_154147

I know, I know… I really should grow up. 😉

There must be a way I can work Clancy Docwra in there somewhere – just because it’s such a jolly silly name (sorry Clancy, if you’re reading this). Indeed, I reckon I may have to write some wild west punk specifically for him, because with a name like Clancy, he can only be a sheriff or a sharp shooter right… or do you think he might be a card shark? Hmm not sure.

Another rich source is place names. When I’m driving along and I see signposts to places like Leighton Bromswold and Carlton Scrope I immediately start wondering who they are, what they do and what they’re like. It’s easy to pick and choose, too. You can go for something off a random signpost sighting, like Carlton Scrope, or you can choose something more simple like Alton, Ashington, Norton, Dacre, Derby or even Troon. You can put them together to make first names and surnames: Alton Troon, Norton Dacre etc. If you want to get seriously wacky you can go off piste and try another country.

So if you’re about to name your main character Kyle, hold up! Why not see if there’s an interestingly named town near you?

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Filed under General Wittering