Tag Archives: women in sci-fi

General wittering …

A quick one this week as I am currently in the thoes of trying to locate my W8BN form. Gads! I have decided to open a Barnes&Noble publisher account to sell my books direct. Why in the name of Pete I decided that would be a good idea now I do not know. These days, Amazon and the like ask you to fill in tax information and giving a UK tax number is enough for them not to withhold 30% of my earnings.

Unfortunately, unlike every other US based company I deal with nowadays, Barnes&Noble still require you to do the whole get the form from the IRS and fill it in yourself malarky, which I can do but … just not anywhere I can track it down without about five days of rigorous searching. Worse, I suspect that what I have is an EIN number which may mean that for the sake of about three quid a month I would have to spend 40 minutes on hold to the IRS to have an ITIN assigned to me, and I have a feeling that this involves affadavits and sending my passport off to the IRS in America which is not an appealing prospect.

Naturally, there is no question that I should just do this when I have time. No, I have to do it all within 30 days of opening my account. Except they don’t tell you that until after you’ve opened one at the beginning of the holidays, like a moron, when, frankly, you haven’t a cat in hell’s chance of writing that 1,000 words you need to write to finish your next book.

So we’ll have to chalk that one up to experience. Gah except now I am worrying about it so I will have to go through all my stupid bits of paper because, naturally, the W section in my filing case, which I thought was the location for my Withholding/W8bN information, is missing. Jeepers. Head. Desk. With any luck it’ll be in the folder for special urgent things at the front. There isn’t time to look and do this so I’ll have to check when I’m done. Sorry to leave you in suspense. Fingers crossed.

On the up side, it seems I have grown a triffid. OK it’s not strictly a triffid, it calls itself an epiphillium. There’s a guy who sells plants from his front garden for charity – you know, take one and put the money through the door. One Sunday a few years ago, on the way home from church, I found this in his tray of for sale plants. It was quite small and it was labelled, ‘epiphillium/moon flower’. It was only 50p so I bought it.

On a side note, this is the guy who put a big wooden trunk outside with ‘free to a good home’ on it once. I carried it a little way home and then two kind gentlemen took it for me, which was jolly splendid of them. It became the box for McMini’s lego. Turns out this fellow’s father was a seaman and that the box was the trunk in which he kept all his possessions. It has travelled all over the world.

Back to the plant. What does it look like? Well … imagine a Christmas Cactus on steroids. It’s getting a bit big. The two segmented um … bits … in a pot have become a large … thing. Every now and again it sends out an enormous long shoot which turns in to a long spindly branch. It has little hairy bits that grow out of it occasionally, leading me to suspect that normally it would climb things. This one doesn’t. It sits in our conservatory. A couple of times in the last four years, it has produced a flower bud. My life being what it is, we are usually away when this bud opens up so I have never seen a flower until now.

Note my hand in the left bottom corner for size reference.

This year it’s gone a bit mad. It started off with sixteen buds but a few died off and we were left with nine. One day this week, as we were eating supper, I noticed the first flower was opening. It opened so fast it was almost possible to detect the movement with the naked eye.

Each day this week it has treated us to a nightly display of gargantuan triffid like flowers which are really rather splendid. Weirdly, they don’t smell of much close up but the part of the house in which they are situated ends up smelling strongly of vanilla. Which is lovely. They last the night and are wilted by morning.

Naturally, in a spirit of scientific enquiry, I have set about them with a paint brush to see if I can pollinate them and make seeds. Why I do not know. I mean, if I want to grow more of these all I have to do is pick a leaf and plant it in some compost and it will grow. But I want to see the weird triffid fruit I guess.

Yeh. Okaaaaay.

I wonder what these things are pollinated by in the wild. I’m not sure but I’d guess it is something like an actual bird, a humming bird? Either that or the biggest fuck off moth imaginable. Hang on … OK I’ve just had a quick google and it is, indeed, a big fuck off moth. A sphinx moth – which, as far as I can make out, is a variant, or possibly another name for, the humming bird hawk moth or the like – and Bats. Yes actual bats. Fuck me.

Hmm … Well … these flowers are enormous. Clearly despite being an old bat I am not a bat – or a moth – and my pollination efforts may not work. Also what with it being flowers on the same plant it may not work for reasons of floral incest but then again … they might.

Before and after, spiffy new case for my kindle although it hurts my eyes in the morning.

Other news, my kindle broke a couple of weeks ago. There was a crack in the screen, NB do not let fat cat walk across screen of kindle while it is left in dodgy old case on bed. Yes that is how it cracked. Not the front but behind it. Head Desk. After looking at the price of a new kindle I wondered about buying a KoboGlo. But I wasn’t sure how much of a ball ache getting amazon books onto Kobo hardware would be. I reckoned impulse buys on holiday would be right out as I tend to leave the lap top at home. There’s the remarkable, that does ebooks but not very well to be honest. I use both for editing, making notes with the keyboard on the kindle and scribbling all over it on the remarkable but the remarkable displays it in a very strange way so I prefer the kindle.

After a bit of thought, I decided I’d see if I could get a new screen. God bless the internet for making these sorts of endeavours possible. So I sent off for a new screen from China which was, apparently delivered yesterday. But not here ‘to PO Box’. Hopefully that means it’ll be actually delivered on Monday.

Luckily having mentioned it in passing, a dear lady on one of the Goodreads groups I visit mentioned she had the same model as mine but doesn’t use it any more. She warned me that the battery no longer works and the on off switch is a bit shonky so she’s bought herself a new one. She asked if I’d like her to send it to me. I said that yes, I would and bless her, it arrived way before the official new one I’m expecting. A couple of weeks ago, on Monday, I sat down and took both kindles to bits, swapped the screen from hers into mine and … wahooo … it works again. I was so excited by this development that I treated myself to a spiffy new case from Caseable – the state of my old one was part of the problem, the elastic had gone soggy and it was knackered. Now that the print version of Close Enough has arrived I can send the lovely lady who helped me out the first three Hamgeean Misfit books to compensate.

Talking about books … it looks like there might be a gap in Gareth’s schedule for another audio book in week or two – aaaah be still my beating heart! I know but this is still such a massive novelty. Squee! Shiny thing! More on that story as it unfolds.

It seems that my ridiculous, childish excitement at hearing my books in audio is not going to abate. I’ve been listening back to them recently, kind of by mistake because I set my phone to shuffle and it keeps playing me chapters in among the music. But bizarre as this sounds I have loved hearing the odd one when it crops up and then there is the whole, is the next song going to fit in with what I’ve heard? thing. I’m amazed how often it does. This is probably very egocentric of me but it also amuses me, although when I get McMini’s grade three drum pieces it’s not quite so splendid. Can’t win ’em all.

This week at casa McGuire, there has been a lot of furniture moving going on. McMini has requested an office swap. I am delighted about this as my office is upstairs next to his bedroom. I love it up there when the house is quiet and it’s just me but with e-school and all day gaming it’s a) not quiet and b) understandably, McMini doesn’t want his McMother lurking within earshot all the time. Since it’s two rooms and a bathroom up there, it makes sense to have his ‘office’ up there too. It also means that when he has cousins or friends to stay they can stay in that room, all kids together on the same floor, rather than having a room next to his that I’d rather no kids went into!

The room downstairs, which was his playroom, is near to the kitchen and other areas where I might normally be doing things. It worked brilliantly for him as a nipper as I was able to whizz through when he called but now he’s older it makes more sense if it’s an office for me.  We have been setting everything up in there including my music system, which has not been in operation for twelve years. I’d forgotten how good actual vinyl records sound. Although mine are all a bit dusty and need fixing. Anyway, so far, the room looks like this. The wooden things in front of the shelves are a pair of 1930s (I think) skis which came with Mum and Dad’s house. Nobody wants them and I was going to sell them but now I think they’re too cool. This happens when I think I might be able to sell something. The blue oar is part of the escape dinghy set which came set into the wings of a B15. It’s from the rubber dinghy Mum and Uncle had when they were kids. It was yellow, apparently. Grandpa sourced it from army surplus me thinks! I’m pretty sure I mentioned that in another post somewhere. If I was any good at this blogging thing, I’d link but it will take me too long to find it if I want to publish this by the correct time.

McMini has also, finally, managed to procure all the items he needs for his ‘army costume’ and I thought I’d share the slightly sinister results. He’s now on the search for a thermo nuclear war suit. Hmm.

McMini talks a good army/sport but left to his own devices he is such a complete couch potato that I suspect he would dislike the army intensely. Frankly, I see him more as a Bletchley Park kind of guy. But I thought I’d share the completed kit. Most comes from car boots but the odd bits come from t’interweb. The bizarre four way goggles are pretend night vision glasses. They are fitted with blue lenses which look very impressive but render him completely blind when they are in use! He is so going to be doing cosplay at conventions.

We are starting to do social stuff again. Hoping to make a quick trip to Scotland to see the in laws for McDad’s birthday, which should be lovely. McMini and I are heading down to Sussex to see Mum next week and spend the night as the cousins are in residence so that should be a gas and we are seeing friends again too, for appropriately socially distanced gatherings, obviously. My writers groups are still suspended or on line because we have members who are shielding. But the local restaurant we always visit is opening this week which is very exciting. And the sun’s out today … woot.

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Smashing K’Barthan Mug Competition

Perhaps you can ameliorate the total mundanity of this post by making me give you a cup. You can do this by winning my competition and evincing extreme mug envy from your friends and family. Or if you’re feeling outrageous, you could use it to hold your hot beverage of choice. Or cuppa soup if that’s your thing.

Because yes. That’s right! I’m giving away another mug like this one in the picture. You have until Sunday 20th July 2020 to enter.

All you have to do is read Close Enough answer the easy question and fill in your email you can find out more here: https://forms.gle/6dDGpnQU23bdMpwT7.

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Down, down, down in a burning ring of fire … a ring of fire …

Yep. That’s where I’m going this week. Flame throwers at the ready. You see, for a while I’ve been wanting to say something about Black Lives Matter but I haven’t really known how. This week … well … it’s hot and I’m fed up. The Kessel Run to Sussex took a fuck of a lot more than twelve Parsecs yesterday and some plonker got all aggressive and shitty with me because as a 52 year old bag I have the temerity to drive a sports car and worse, I overtook him. O.M.G. The horror! You’d have thought I’d peppered him with machine gun fire. If I drove a real snurd, I confess it would have been tempting.

Yeh, and to be frank, I probably listened to Never Mind the Bollocks too many times and that’s ANGRY political stuff. And you know me, never one to avoid getting flamed if I can. But yeh, Black Lives Matter (AS WELL) … Here is my incredibly simplistic take on it.

[Rant Mode]

It seems that a lot of us have huge difficulty with being open minded these days. When I meet people for the first time, I confess I find it as tough as anyone to avoid making snap judgements based on their choice of clothes, hair colour, voice and any amount of other irrelevant crap. I suspect we all do. I am beginning to wonder if there is some kind of instinctive tribal thing that makes us all judge by appearances and that humans can’t stop themselves from doing so in the first instance. Perhaps it’s a thing from way back, a pack thing. Maybe. The point is, the part where we become thinking, rational beings is where we set ourselves above that, where we ignore our instincts and broach the difficult task of talking to people we aren’t sure about or are uncomfortable with.

Perhaps it helps if we are not in a bubble. Where I live, people go abroad a lot, people visit from abroad and we walk from a to b to go to the shops, church, the library, etc etc. We are lucky enough to be exposed to many other cultures. If you walk everywhere, you meet people on the street, in shops and around town who are different from you. And when you get the opportunity to talk to them you realise that other people are not black, white, old, young, foreign, scary etc they are actually just … people … well except teenagers, they really are scary (joke sorry teenagers). In this country we are beginning to drive more and walk less and we are beginning to fragment a little into like minded groups.

That’s not bad in one sense, but in others it reinforces stereotypes.

One of the difficulties of all this is that for political parties, there is a great benefit to reinforcing our little bubbles and stereotypes. They want to engender a sense of belonging among their followers; a feeling that all members of party X or Y are PLU (people like us) and that we’re all in this together, working towards a common aim. The unfortunate side effect is the implication that other people following other parties are not like us and don’t belong. It also doesn’t help that some of them gloss over disagreements within their own ranks by pointing the finger at other groups or people who hold a different point of view and blaming everything on them.

This is probably alright in a situation where people are not taking politics too seriously and are still seeing it for what it is, ie, the machinery by which a nation governs itself, as best as it can. But increasingly here in Britain, we seem to be losing that detachment and cynicism for which we are famous.

Even I’m losing it. And I’ve been trying to work out why. After a lot of thinking, here’s my Anne Elk theory.

These days, there are far fewer people of faith. That’s not a problem in itself. However, humans seem to have an inherent need to believe fervently in … something. Without a religion to put our efforts into, it seems a lot of us pour that spiritual fervour into the most ridiculous things, which hair colour brand we use, whether we like tattoos or not, reality TV and, of course, our political affiliations. When you add that need to believe into the mix, suddenly the results of the PLU marketing start to become a bit grim.

Going out on a serious limb here – yeh I can feel the cross hairs lining up as I write – I am beginning to think that the difficulty with some aspects of modern politics is not that people’s political choices are driven by their religion but that their political affiliations ARE their religion. My religion affects everything I do, political choices as well. But my politics are NOT my religion. I think that if you are a Christian and you start believing that a single political party is … you know … God’s party, you are in trouble.

OK so perhaps it also depends where you are. In Britain, where I live, it’s absolutely OK to question authority, rules, politicians, the status quo and everything else, indeed to not do so is considered a bit naive. As a Christian that’s also OK because Jesus did it the whole chuffing time. In some countries it’s rather frowned upon to make fun of politicians, here in Britain, frankly, we think that’s what they’re for.

For me personally what that means is I vote for the party whose policies most closely align with my religious beliefs. My religious beliefs are about doing what I believe is the Right Thing – other people’s interpretation of Right may vary – mine are as follows:

  • Love your neighbour as yourself.
  • That which you do to the least of my bretheren, you do to me.
  • What would Jesus do? (Turning over tables, trashing the place and making a whip from cords and setting about people cannot be ruled out here).
  • No hatred – ‘if I say I love God and hate my neighbour I am a liar, for if I cannot love my neighbour, who I have seen, how can I love God who I have not seen?’
  • My job is not judgement, ‘Do not judge others lest you be judged’ and ‘leave judgement to God.’

This means I have chosen who to vote for based on how closely the follow my version of Christian philosophy. As a result I am the original floating voter. I’ve voted Liberal (which means a different thing in the UK to America, think Conservative with a small c). I have also voted, Labour (socialist – relax, my American friends, this is not the socialism in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, that’s communism. Socialism, proper is a different thing based, originally, on Christian love-thy-neighbour kinds of principles, help the poor, welfare state, that kind of stuff, funded by asking the rich to pay a little more tax to help it along). I think I may have voted Conservative once, and I’ve voted for the Green Party. It just depends which one is suggesting policies that most closely resemble ‘the right thing’ (as outlined in my points above) at the time.

This also means that I do not believe in ‘them’ and ‘us’ but ‘we’. This appears to get me in the shit with pretty much everyone, which is unfortunate, but there we go. What do I mean by that. I mean completely disregarding how people look and honing in on who they are.

I think the greatest example of that I’ve encountered recently is a lady called Irene.

Every weekday morning at roughly 9.15, on the radio show I listen to, they have this thing called, Pause for Thought. They have someone of faith on who gives a little pep talk. They are from all faiths, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Humanist etc and are usually brilliant. Last week, they had this lovely guy on from ooop north somewhere who is a vicar in the Church of England – that’s basically episcopalian for everyone everywhere else in the world. I can’t remember his name but he was talking about modern answers to the question, ‘who is my neighbour’. JC’s answer was the parable of the Good Samaritan, obviously. This guy told us about Irene.

Irene is a stalwart of his church. A lovely lady who is always on hand to help, listen, make cakes – and tea – and generally muck in. I think she may even have been a lay reader or church warden but I can’t remember. One Sunday, she said goodbye to everyone as they were all drinking coffee after the service and went off home. A few minutes later she was found lying on the pavement just outside in a state of disarray, her sticks beside her. Someone had hauled her out of her car onto the street and driven off in it.

The young gentleman concerned was apprehended by the police, convicted and went to gaol.

Irene would spell it neighbour but beggars can’t be choosers. 🙂

Irene knew his name from the trial so she did some research and when she discovered which prison he was in, she made enquiries as to whether she could contact him. When he said it was OK, she started writing to him. After a while, she started visiting him, too.

Long and the short, a few years later, the priest who was giving this talk turned up to a church event and there was Irene, behind the tea stall as ever, and there beside her, wielding a teapot, was a smiling young man who had originally thrown her onto the pavement and nicked her car. With her help and support he had completely turned his life around. He had a job, he was settled and he felt he also had a purpose. When she had every reason to be angry and vengeful, she, his victim, had the grace and compassion to see him simply as another human, to seek reconciliation with him and to help him become a good man.

So … We Christians can make judgements about whether or not George Floyd was a ‘good’ person and ‘deserved’ his fate. Yeh. We can do that if we like but that isn’t our job is it? CF Jesus Christ’s pretty fucking clear instructions ‘do not judge others lest you be judged’.

It’s also not the point.

Black Lives Matter (too) isn’t really about who George Floyd was, and whether he was a good person. It’s about a situation where someone has so lost sight of the humanity of another human being, because of their skin colour, that he can kneel on their neck for one and a half hours, while they repeatedly tell him they can’t breathe, and think that’s OK, possibly even deserved. And it’s the fact that this event can be played out daily, again and again along with other smaller pettier dehumanising things across the length and breadth of the world and nobody questions it. It’s the fact that even today, people are still a commodity. There are still slaves.

It’s about people, all over the world, who are victimised because of completely petty bollocks like their colour, what they wear, their gender or who they want to have a relationship with (who cares if it’s someone of the same gender they’re not asking you to shag someone you don’t want to are they so why do you have to force them to. Nothing spreads misery faster than unhappy people).

It’s about trying to persuade people to cast aside the petty stupid tribal trivia of the packaging; like colour, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, height, hair and eye colour and all that other totally irrelevant crap – and see only the person inside.

It’s not about whether George Soros funded demonstrations, or who has donated to Black Lives Matter (too) (because clearly, if he funds a political campaign and he’s left wing, that’s immoral but if someone right wing funds a political campaign – in the flack I’m getting – that’s fine. Newsflash, neither matters.). It’s probably greatly about the frustrations of lockdown, about people in poorer housing, smaller flats, poorer areas, with less garden, less space who have been climbing up the walls as they try to work out what a fronted adverbial is and explain it to their children while they work from home, or don’t work and watch their savings dwindling or their debts mount up.

How did it start all over the world at once? Could it be because everyone all over the world is going through the same thing right now; lock down, pandemic etc. Oh and world news services. The entire world saw it on the news.

Black lives matter is not saying black lives matter more than white lives. It’s saying black lives matter too. At the moment, it sounds as if black lives matter less than white lives. So yeh, all lives matter and at the moment those of our black friends are being counted cheaply so I’m happy to support them and help them redress the balance.

Are the riots bad? Of course they fucking are. Rioting is always bad but it tends to happen when people are angry and no-one is listening to them. They’ve been asking nicely for two hundred fucking years. When you tell someone, my life matters, you’re hurting. If someone dismisses that hurt with a trite, all lives matter, it’s unkind. As someone on reddit said, imagine you’re sitting at the dinner table. Your mum serves everyone except you. You say, ‘I want some too?’ and your Mum says, ‘we all want some,’ and doesn’t give you any. That’s what you’re doing when you say all lives matter. And that’s where Black Lives Matter really needs the Too on the end, I reckon.

Is defacing statues bad, yes but … look at it this way. If you were in Germany and there were a load of statues of Hitler and there were streets named after him and nobody minded, what would you think? I’m guessing you’d take a dim view. Yet all over the UK there are statues celebrating people who treated other human beings as possessions and assets, bought and sold them as if they were things. Thought of them as things, which, to quote the great Sir Terry, is where the trouble starts. Put them in a museum, explain what happened, explain that we are NOT like that anymore. We need to face up to our past and learn from it rather than destroy everything and try to pretend it never happened.

Is it so hard to imagine how another person from a different background or in a different situation might see our world? Is it so hard to to try and look through someone else’s eyes for a moment and ask how we could make it better, kinder for folks like them? Is it so wrong to wish the world was as pleasant for everyone as it is for us? Well as a woman, and a woman who often went to places with a person who had a severe mental disability, I know that yes, sadly yes, this small act of imagination is extremely hard for some people, but interestingly, far less so at a point of encounter. People who were lovely to my Dad would then make sweeping, generalist statements about the mentally ill and just totally fail to see the hypocrisy of that. Indeed, I see this again and again, people conflating all black people with criminals because they knew someone black who committed a crime or even because they read about it in the paper.

Even some of my friends conflate all economic migrants with freeloaders, but laud British people who emigrate elsewhere for the same fucking reason for having so much get up and go.

Some people are dicks. It’s not because they are Muslim, Foreign, Black or Women, it’s because they are dicks. They might use their faith to justify their dickishness but at the base of it all they’re just twats. I’m a Christian but I know some of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ can be monumental tossers. Jesus doesn’t need your money. He doesn’t even need your obedience. Jesus needs your love and your compassion. Jesus needs the difficult stuff. Jesus needs you to love your enemy. If you tell people they should turn the other cheek, Jesus sure as hell wants you to check that you aren’t the person hitting them first.

Christians are supposed to be Christlike. End of. Jesus didn’t tell people not to mix with the tax collectors, nope, it was the Pharisees who did that, when Jesus met a tax collector, he blagged dinner off him.

Do I think black lives matter?

You fucking bet I do.

And you know why?

Because when I grow up I want to be Irene.

[/Rant mode]

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And on a different note …

… if you need something to take your mind of my horrific left wingishness and your grinding teeth after reading this week’s blog post, maybe a nice relaxing audiobook would help.

Few Are Chosen is not just available on audio! It’s reduced until 30th June! If you do Kobo, Chirp or iBooks it’s a mere $5.99 (or £5.99 on Kobo and whatever $5.99 is in other currencies on Chirp and iBooks).

So if you want to find out why I think Gareth is brilliant, you can pick it up for a song, or at least … a snip.

If you think that might be your bag, click on the picture on on this link …

https://www.hamgee.co.uk/audiofac.html

 

Smashing K’Barthan Mug Competition

Perhaps you can ameliorate the impact of my utterly satanic left wing nature by making me give you a cup. You can do this by winning my competition. Then, when you win, you can do what you like … I dunno, voodoo, spit in it, smash it because I’m so awful. Or if you’re feeling outrageous, you could use it to hold your hot beverage of choice. Or cuppa soup if that’s your thing.

Because yes. That’s right! I’m giving away another mug like this one in the picture. Once again you have until the end of this month, 30th June 2020 to enter. Hint, you have an extremely good chance of winning. Put it like this, I’m giving one cup away and so far, all the entrants have won.

All you have to do is read Close Enough answer the easy question and fill in your email you can find out more here: https://forms.gle/6dDGpnQU23bdMpwT7.

Next week, I promise, I will try and go back to being funny.

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Well there’s a thing …

Grumpy bastards R us

This week has been a bit of an interesting mix. Is it just me or is everyone a bit grumpy coming out of lockdown? I live on one of the main drags into town so there’s a fair bit of traffic noise. The one thing I’ve noticed is how much more often people are hooting at other motorists at the moment.

It seems that what most people have decided, during lock down, is that they’re ‘not going to take any shit from anybody’ and what that appears to mean, in practise, is more firmly entrenched views, an even deeper aversion to keeping an open mind and an even more frequent recourse to knee jerk anger about insubstantial crap, like whether or not they should wear a mask (seriously? WTF people find a REAL issue to get upset about) rather than … you know actually not taking any shit. I suppose nothing makes people intolerant more quickly than when the economy goes down the shitter. And all the pundits are telling us it has – although how on God’s green earth they think they know is a mystery to me – but presumably folks are believing them.

Oh my Gaaaaaaaad! We’re going into a recession! The economy has gone tits up and it’s all (insert name of political party of choice or group of ‘them’ you don’t really like)’s fault. Britain’s economy has shrunk by 20%.

Okaayyy.

Yes it’s a chandelier, to illustrate my point.

Hang on though, we’re only coming out of lock down and for the major part of lock down the economy has been switched off. No-one expects their car to carry on running after they’ve turned off the ignition do they? … Well, OK some old cars chug on a bit before they stop but that’s about fuel mixture and not generally a THING so let’s rule it out at this point shall we?

Seriously though, things are still not back to normal and surely any figures obtained while the economy is switched off are pretty much moot.

Here’s an analogy. Say you have a chandelier. Like a healthy economy, it has many bulbs (different types of businesses) and they are all burning brightly. If you cut off the power to the chandelier, obviously, you’re going to end up in the dark. This is not a surprise is it? Likewise, the economic statistics for March and April can do nothing more than illustrate that the economy was switched off and the country was, as it were, in economic darkness. Because no-one was allowed out and three quarters of businesses were closed.

Here’s another chandelier …

My point is. We’re not going to have a fucking clue what’s happened to the economy until we turn the bastard thing back on are we? And we haven’t. So when the papers and news channels gloomily tell us that the economy shrunk 20% in March, and tell us this is bigger than any shrinkage in the entire history of fucking time, it means absolutely bugger all.

Sure it’s true but is it the truth about our economy? Yes it is, but only in so far as it indicates that the economy was switched off at that time, just the same way that things get pretty dark when you turn out the lights and the figures might show that there is NO power going through to the bulbs at this time.

I really should stop taking pictures of people’s chandeliers.

Taking the chandelier analogy further. Say you live in a house with an annoying safety feature on the ring main like ours has, which cuts the power when just about anything happens. You want to go into your darkened room, so you stop in the doorway to flick the light switch and, ‘POP!’ a bulb has gone and in doing so, it’s tripped the on off switch on your fuse box. You’re in the dark and you know that switching on the chandelier did it. You know that, most likely one of the bulbs on the chandelier has blown, possibly more. Obviously, you don’t know the exact number of bulbs that have blown until you go to the fuse box to reset the trip, go back to your darkened room and turn the chandelier back on. Then, and ONLY then, when it’s actually switched on, can you assess the damage and see how many bulbs you’ve lost, or if it was more than a bulb, that you’ve lost the entire chandelier. My point is, you’re not going to fucking know until you turn the bastard thing back on. Are you?

While the chandelier is off, we have a number of choices. We could start on all that doom and gloom about how we’re screwed and condemned to sit in darkness for evermore because it’s broken now. Or we could say, ‘hmm, let’s go reset the trip (thus restoring the electricity supply to the chandelier) switch it on, and see if any of the fucking bulbs light up before we panic, shall we?’

Money is all arbitrary and illusory. The economy is about ‘confidence’ and to be frank, the last time we had a recession, I felt that we were almost talked into it by people who were trying to give the Conservative government a hard ride … or was it a Labour government then I’ve no idea. How many small business owners are going to give up after hearing that 20% statistic? How many small businesses are going to go into administration because their customers have read that and are saving every penny and not buying that thrombdimulator or whatever it is our lovely small local business sells?

But if the economy is about confidence then we need confidence right now. And that need should come before the need for sensationalism to gain a news service more adherents. We believe and we achieve, or at least, do a sod of a lot better than we will with all this doom and gloom shit. No wonder everyone out there is fucking miserable and standing on their hooters so long that those unfortunate enough to live nearby are beginning to think the ruddy things are stuck on.

In the Jewish faith, every 50 years they have a Jubilee, yes that’s where we get the word. And at that time, all debts are written off. So you’re never going to get a situation where someone is so far in debt that even their grandchildren haven’t a hope in hell of sorting it out. Coz … jubilee.

Why don’t we do that? Seriously though, why can’t we just reset the entire god forsaken thing and start again. Just write off everything. Let’s face it, France and Britain are practically bankrupt, they’re billions and billions in debt and the only reason they aren’t bankrupt is because they’re France and Britain rather than say, Liberia or the Cameroon … or Greece.

If we can stop the fucking world, surely a post lock-down jubilee is a piece of cake. No of course it isn’t because the people least affected couldn’t possibly forego the chance of supplementing to their billions.

It’s just mental.

And of course, by pedalling this 20% bell endery – rather than just admitting that they don’t know what’s going to happen so we’ll have to sit tight – the credible news sources erode people’s belief in them, and that’s how your bog-standard person in the street starts believing the ludicrous shite pedalled by the far right and left who, big news here, are NO different from one another, each as fucking awful. Worse this reduction of everything to generalist sound bites, with lots of NLP trigger words like disastrous, terrible, wicked etc means that people actually believe this shit. It’s how normal, kindly every day souls start to actually believe the kind of cartoon, absolutist bollocks pedalled as ‘news’ in papers like The Sun and the Daily Mail.

I remember when, as a kid, the BBC news would be different to all others. They would report a disaster as dispassionately and un-emotively as possible. I remember watching the BBC newscasters describing ‘substantial damage’ and a ‘major incident’ while their counterparts on ITV were referring to ‘absolute carnage’ and an ‘unprecidented disaster’. ITV was all NLP trigger words, BBC was, on the whole, an effort to establish the facts. Now the BBC have joined the race to the bottom and sealed their own doom.

There is so much good stuff we will lose.

Speaking of which, has anyone seen the programme with Professor Brian Cox about the planets. It’s really interesting. Stuffed to the gunwales with fabulous effects, photography and facts. Loads and loads of facts. Not ten minutes about how you’re going to learn some facts, another fact strung out for five minutes, an ad break followed by another five minutes to recap the fact you’ve discovered in the first half and explain what you’ll learn in the second half, followed by a second fact and another five minutes to sum up what you’ve learned before the credits roll.

Anyway, if you get a chance, have a look because it’s wonderful and incredibly interesting. Plus the way that all the diverse planetary bodies in the solar system are actually linked is kind of magical, and the stuff of another science fiction novel I think.

Talking of which …

Knock me down with a feather but Audible finally got their fingers out of their arses and published Few Are Chosen. So now the whole K’Barthan Series, is live. That’s sixty three hours, eight minutes and fifty seven seconds of meaty K’Barthan goodness … narrated by Gareth – the voice of K’Barth – Davies. And with Unlucky dip on top that’s sixty three hours, forty one minutes and seven seconds of meaty K’Barthan goodness.

It took me three hours to upload the box set to Audible and the. Entire. Battery. Life. Of my lap top. Please God let there not be any errors.

If you’re interested, you can find information about my audiobooks here: https://www.hamgee.co.uk/audio.html.

Spikes … Robert Smith and that bloke out of the Alarm eat your heart out! Mwwahahahahrgh

Another joy this week, in a bid to try and help McMini come to terms with his chances of sustaining anything approaching a proper Mohican with his curly hair I treated him to a demonstration of how I used to make my hair stick up. A lot. Yep, no gel, straighteners or anything else required, not even back combing, you just rub it with a towel in a gentle circular motion.

The ideal length for hair, if you are doing this, is anywhere from four to six inches. Mine currently stands at about a foot. I only did the front because I didn’t have all day but I reckon this isn’t too shabby. Note to self, do not play with spiking hair, try to take selfie in bathroom mirror, fail and take a second photo in the bathroom while wearing a sun top. It does look startlingly as if I’m in the all together there doesn’t it? Oops.

And there we are that’s it from sunny Bury St Edmunds this week. More crap next week including, why I can’t understand how people get all het up about gayness and how I intend to mend my broken kindle … A bientot.

___________________________

If you feel like something to escape into …

There’s always my new book. A big thank you to everyone who ordered Close Enough. Apologies the paperback isn’t out yet. That’s a whole other story.

If these books aren’t your thing but you want to help any other way, feel free to share the information page in my website with your friends: link below.

https://www.hamgee.co.uk/infoce.html

Here’s the blurb again, just in case you need it …

As recently appointed delivery man for Big Merv, one of Ning Dang Po’s most powerful crime bosses, The Pan of Hamgee is ordered to deliver a gift to Big Merv’s current girlfriend. With a pair of bespoke-made, sapphire and diamond earrings on board, and a trip across the city in the offing, what could possibly go wrong? Everything.

While you’re at it, this and all my other books in paperback, audio and ebook format should be available from your public library. Just check your library app or ask your librarian.

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This week I have been mostly been …

Finding out about how the bunny got on …

Bunny!

It’s coming down to the wire I have about 50 minutes to break the back of this before we all knock off for the evening, with a quick ten minutes of lighting candles and stuffing our faces with cake yes it’s the McBirthdays: McMini’s and McMine.

First of all the bunny!

Remember him? He turned out to be a young one, perfectly healthy and able to see so he was clearly just incredibly tame.

After a week at the vet’s, his owners couldn’t be traced so they decided they would re-home him. Apparently his new owners absolutely adore him so he is very happy and being well looked after. In other words he is …

… a happy bunny. Oh ho ho. So that’s a grand.

Eating cake …

But not baking one. Yes, this week it was mine and McMini’s birthdays which usually means it’s time to make one of my bizarre cakes that look so horrendous that they end up being almost cool. Amazingly, I didn’t make a cake this time. I was requested not to.

This is mostly because each the men in my life has an incredibly sweet tooth and prefers a bought one. McOther bought a white one for me to decorate but McMini even eschewed any attempts to add further decorations because he dislikes the lemon icing I make. Mwahahahrgh.

Never mind. Saved me a job. Instead the cake was artfully decorated with candles and ting until it looked like some kind of hedgehog with hair loss and, after we removed the candles it bore an uncanny resemblance to a stilton. Hmm.

Tasted good though.

Pulling my hair out

The next K’Barthan Shorts book, Close Enough, is out next Thursday. I spent a lot of the week checking that all the right files were uploaded everywhere. Making sure it was listed on the sites where I wanted it listed. Trying to make it go live on Apple. Jeepers, I don’t think like an Mac-er so that took a bit of doing. I did, finally discover that as well as uploading the book, setting the price and adding all the information, I needed to actually click an on sale button.

Doh.

Yeh. Won’t be getting many pre-orders off apple then but it is on sale there now. Phew.

Fighting gremlins

Yes it wasn’t just Apple – although to give them their due, that was finger trouble my side of the house rather than any actual ghost in their machine. This was different.

In what clearly was a gremlin-driven escapade at Ingram Spark there was an unusual wobble with the paperback, too. Having heard a lot of other authors complaining about bugs in the new Ingram dashboard I left it as late as I dared to set up the record there ready to upload my book. But starting the set up process appears to have locked my prices in as round numbers before I had even reached the page with options to edit them. When I tried to change them, nothing happened. It was only when I contacted the help desk that I managed to alter them, Arnold, The Prophet in all his munificence bless the chap who came to my aid.

When I explained the prices hadn’t changed he assured me that they would but it would take a while.

The next joyous discovery came the following day when I discovered exactly how long ‘taking a while’ was. Having automatically set up some random prices on the book, the system would not incorporate my corrected prices until the following Friday because they only batch price changes once a week. This, I know, but their doing it before you have even uploaded a manuscript for your book or made the record live was a new one on me. Strange though it was, it didn’t look like a particularly significant problem, until I uploaded my cover with the correct price of £5.99 on the back at which point, it was refused. They take three days to send a proof sometimes, so I was rather keen to persuade them to process it and let me proof the results. After all, it wasn’t as if the book was on sale yet or would be for another week.

A second query to the help desk and I discovered that yes, this was their new normal (I do dislike that phrase) and I would not be able to upload the cover before the prices went live on Friday (today as I type this bit). That seemed like a special kind of madness. I guess it saves mistakes being made in the field as it were but for a book that’s not even going to be published when the prices come into effect it seemed a novel way to proceed.

This morning, I waited on nervous tenterhooks to see if my book’s prices actually did change to the correct ones. They did but from now on I will have to factor in that week from the point of set up, to the subsequent Friday lunch time, that it will take to change the prices that are automatically added in when I start. What makes it more confusing was that you were able to change prices under the old system several times and it would change your most recent entry. It wouldn’t change on the public sales side of stuff until the following Friday but your dashboard would show the new prices, yellowed out, so you could see the were pending.

Hopefully, I’ll get the proofs back in time to sign this one off before Thursday. Should do, but they will probably come in on Wednesday when I’m in Sussex so I’ll have to remember to take the right electronic gizmo with me to be able to read it and sign it off while I’m there.

A few dicey moments there then, but I think we’re more or less set. The only other thing I’ll need to do is upload the files to my payhip store late on Wednesday, although Bookfunnel will send the files on to the folks who have pre-ordered it from there.

Still it all appears to be drifting vaguely in the right direction so definite spud points all round this month.

Frankly, apart from on this here blog, I haven’t really made much of a thing about my forthcoming launch. Perhaps I should but I think you need to have an engaged community of about 20,000 followers before it makes much difference.

Exploring options

Other exciting developments this week, Findaway voices rolled out Authors Direct, their direct selling platform, to authors in the UK. Sadly it involves a monthly sub of $20 which is too expensive for my nascent sales to stand. There’s also a set up fee, although because I was on the waiting list they reduced that from a rather hefty $90 to $25. The cancellation is only a month each way so I think if I was a bit further down the line I might have jumped in and given it a go but right now that $20 a month is more needed to spend on the mailing service I use and Bookfunnel.

Attempting to persuade ACX to publish Few Are Chosen to Audible

And failing.

Yep. First one still not published.

However, I have ‘claimed’ the kindle version on ACX. I suspect this is what I needed to do in the first place as I went for the kindle version with all the others and not only did they go live much quicker but they have linked with the paperback. In the case of Few, I ‘claimed’ the paperback – because it has the proper title instead of the stupid shit Amazon insists on because they won’t change the word ‘trilogy’ to series – but it hasn’t linked with the Kindle version the same way.

You have no idea how sorely, sorely tempted I am to upload the book again, using my second ‘claim’ and see if that speeds things up.

There will also be a new audiobook releasing in September some time, which will be the K’Barthan Series Box Set. I don’t know why I didn’t get that done last time. But I tend to batch my art work requirements around the time of any new releases. This time, I have have had audiobook covers done for all my other works, including a K’Barthan Box Set cover. I’ve also got them to add Gareth’s name on the covers, because I hadn’t, which is a bit embarrassing.

So I will upload the box set onto Findaway Voices and ACX next week. I suspect that will go live before Few Are Chosen ever does. If it does, I’ll give you the heads up when it lands. If you use one of the other sites, or your library, you can read Few Are Chosen anyway. Also, I might have some tokens for free copies of my audiobooks from Findaway which will allow me to give you a copy of Few Are Chosen from certain sites. I’ll have to look into that and find out more.

Treating myself … and you lot

Also, as a birthday present to myself, I paid for Gareth to do and audio version of Night Swimming. One of the lovely things about working with someone who is learning as they go is that you get to see the curve. I think we were starting from a pretty high level anyway with Gareth. Even so, his narration still gets better and better with each book. He just sounds more relaxed and at ease. Perhaps narration is a bit like writing in that it takes a little while to find your ‘voice’ or at least, your mode of expression? Dunno. Anyway, it’s just lovely.

Hopefully I should sign that off tomorrow or Sunday and he’ll be done next week. I just want to listen to the last two chapters one more time. Then I can change the audio sign up list so people get Night Swimming. Gareth is doing this and the K’Barthan Shorts series as and when he’s a bit bored or has some time, so I’ve sent him all three of the completed K’Barthan shorts so he can work on them any time the mood takes him.

Cocking up another series name

The fourth K’Barthan short is not short at all. It’s 54,000 words and counting which is a novel in anyone’s book. Never mind. I guess you can’t win ’em all.

______________________

If you’re a bit bored …

Why not pre-order my new book, Close Enough. It is out next Thursday, 18th June. I have to confess, I am quite pleased with this one.

Despite having been writing for a living in some form or another for over 20 years, I reckon I still have a lot to learn and I still feel as if each book I write is better than the last. I’m not sure the shorts are everyone’s cup of tea, they are more snapshots than anything but I enjoyed writing this one and it feels a tiny bit more complex. Not like the novels but more complex. If these books aren’t your thing but you want to help any other way, feel free to share the information page in my website with your friends: link below.

https://www.hamgee.co.uk/infoce.html

Here’s the blurb again, just in case you need it …

As recently appointed delivery man for Big Merv, one of Ning Dang Po’s most powerful crime bosses, The Pan of Hamgee is ordered to deliver a gift to Big Merv’s current girlfriend. With a pair of bespoke-made, sapphire and diamond earrings on board, and a trip across the city in the offing, what could possibly go wrong? Everything.

That’s all for this week. Until next, have a good one.

 

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20:20 in 2020? Probably not.

Happy New Year everyone.

Well, as always, that wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared. Christmas at Mum’s was a quiet but cheerful affair and New Year at the in laws’ was also quiet but also cheerful. McMum in-law wasn’t well and I was worried she wouldn’t want us up there. My parents tended to prefer a distraction, when ill, but McOther’s lot are like cats; they seem to prefer to withdraw. They don’t want us to see them below par. However, this time, despite clearly still feeling a little piano, McOther’s mum was in good spirits and they did and let us look after them and cook the meals. Hopefully we gave them a bit of a break and there’s nothing like a dose of McMini to lift the spirits.

And here we are … back to um … stuff.

Needless to say, on the way to McParents I received a crie de coeur from Mum’s care team. A letter had arrived, registered post, from the people who made her washing machine, along with an invoice from September 2018. The letter was dated 28th December and threatened my mother with legal action if she didn’t pay a £78.00 bill within seven days. This seemed particularly shit since, not only was the bill was from sixteen months previously but they’d only invoiced once at a point when we were instructed that any invoice would just be the system doing its thing before they could stop it and we shouldn’t pay. It was basically a case of Teflon desks at the insurer and the company they’d used to supply the machine. I hope I sorted it out but if the … you may receive another communication but that’ll just be because it’s gone through the system and can’t be stopped … line holds a well this time as it did sixteen months ago I will expect my mother to receive a court summons shortly.

Naturally since I was half way up the A1 on the way to Scotland, and all the paperwork was either in Sussex or in my desk in Bury, there was absolutely bugger all I could do until after New Year. I rang Miele – the swines issuing the threats – and told them this. I do wonder who thought it was OK to bill an octogenarian woman with dementia once, wait sixteen months and then send a letter demanding payment in seven days on 28th December and expect to get it – Christmas post, bank holidays and all, even if she paid up since it would be a cheque. I did ring and ask them if it was a mistake and the woman I spoke to, though very polite, reacted as if she couldn’t understand what on earth I thought was wrong with that kind of behaviour.

I asked McOther if this was normal. Only for American lawyers apparently as McOther put it, ‘the rest of us are more civilised.’

Back in Bury, I was able to sort it out. After, I hope, keeping Mum out of the small claims court, I went shopping and met with a couple of surreal experiences. While paying at the self service bit of Marks and Sparks, I noticed a munching noise next to me. It came from a little old dear who’d just loaded up her sholley at the check out, said goodbye to the cashier and was hoovering up a red pepper like a woman who hadn’t eaten for days. She noticed me looking so I gave her a smile, which she returned, shyly, before going on her way. What amazed me was that no-one else noticed. I’m not sure if strange things like this only happen around me, or if it’s just that the writer in me notices this stuff. Or, perhaps it was the day for eccentrics yesterday. On my way home from Marks, I noticed one of my favourite shops had an outlet sale and popped in. A woman there was singing along to the canned music at the top of her lungs. Pretty impressive as it was all that dance trance kind of stuff where the synths do all the melody and the singer just sings one or two notes, you know, like plain chant – only with a busier background and in a major key.

After stocking up with shopping, I did the first eyebombs of 2020 – start as you mean to go on – and returned home. I wrote some stuff and then it occurred to me that I should probably and work out some sort of plan for 2020.

MTM’s 2020 plan …

Yeh. Normally, my New Year’s Resolution is not to have one.

This year, though, I feel I ought to lay some vague plan. I am aware that since my full time job is looking after McMini (McOther when he’ll let me) and Mum my ‘career’ such as it is, will always be a side hustle. But I can’t help thinking that the equivalent of, at least, pointing to something on the horizon and saying, ‘let’s go that way!’ Might be helpful at this point. Especially as I have Gareth to think about now. Holy shit I still can’t believe that’s happening! And since he’s taking the time and effort to make the K’Barthan Series as audio books, the least I can do is try and earn us some money from them. The question, as ever, is how.

Looking back is often good, in that sometimes, when your forward momentum is about the same speed as continental drift, it is a real fillip to, kind of, speed up the camera and see how far you’ve come. Last year, after many false starts (thanks, benighted car) the following fabulous things happened:

  1. I finally published a book, exactly four years to the day after the previous one. I’d no idea the time had gone so fast. Gulp.
  2. The whole audiobooks thing, which feels as if I’ve jumped timelines and am living the life of a different far more successful MTM.
  3. Met a bunch of local authors here in Bury which is brilliant. Cluster marketing, support from like minded souls, and all that fabulous malarkey. Looking forward to doing stuff with them in 2020.
  4. I wrote some more stuff, although I haven’t counted the words.

Then there’s the longer game. During the four years between Escape From B-Movie Hell and Small Beginnings, I learned some great ways to keep writing when it feels as if you lack the emotional slack to do so. Last year, we walked the final stages of Dad’s dementia journey with him and while it was really hard, I am at peace with what we did. There’s nothing that I would change. I’m sure we did the best thing by him and while it hurts, it also feels right, possibly even righteous. The writing stalled, but only for three months, and at the moment it seems to be up and running again. I have reverted to my 10 minutes a day rule, there is lots to write and from the point of view of organising and publishing more books, lots to do.

Back to the book launch for a moment. Am I happy with the way the book launch went? Yes and no. Small Beginnings launched mid November with a very small plop, rather than a splash. It’s only a novella, I’m a very small and weedy member of the writing community, who is, basically, starting again from scratch so that probably isn’t bad. It helped that  Barry J Hutchison lent me his fans. Thanks Barry for letting me post on your facebook group. If you are wondering who Barry is – check his books out here. They’re a bit like mine only better and more plentiful! Plus he kept going when he had a far, far shittier year than me. Without Barry’s fans, the release of Small Beginnings would have been considerably down on Escape From B-Movie Hell in 2015.

This might be because Amazon is now pay-to-play and I can’t afford to, it might be because my mainstay group on Goodreads has become very quiet and I doubt the sales boost from there was anything close to 2015. So what can I fix that won’t take time I lack, or cash? I’m thinking, there are six things I could try, in no particular order.

  1. Writing more books, even if it means making them shorter and less complicated as well as long and epic. Increasing the back catalogue is paramount at this point.
  2. Increasing the variety of the back catalogue. Yes, I need to get my arse in gear and publish Space Dustmen.
  3. A blog tour might work, but it will be a time suck so I’ll have to see how well I do at writing the posts, in advance.
  4. I could set up some ads on Facebook, and if I can make them funny enough, might be able to blag some shares off my Facebook friends – especially for the audiobooks launch.
  5. I need to sort out my mailing list engagement, which is, frankly, risible. Back in the day, about 50% of folks I sent emails to would open. These days I’m lucky if it’s 20%.
  6. I am wondering about dipping a cautious toe in the world of podcasts or video blogs. These will not be particularly professional, mainly because I live on a main road which the emergency services use, doing full blues and twos, approximately every five minutes. And I have an extremely talkative cat who follows me everywhere.

The obvious ones to concentrate on are, one, two and five. After all making more product and building on the most straightforward and direct method contact with any enthusiastic buyers have to be the central effort.

There we are, that’s about it. Nothing to See Here will be released on 8th February, or there abouts. If you want to know when it’s available for pre-order, click here or click on the picture. I think I may have mentioned that before! Mwahahahrgh.

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Shenannagins …

OK, so, I’m not even going to talk about the election result. The choice was a bumbling, everything-that-is-awful-about-posh, bloaty-faced, straw-haired sack of farts, or a man with a rather dodgy looking past who was slightly preferable but wants to do my brother and thousands like him out of a job. What do you want, Mary? Root canal without an anaesthetic or a ghost chilli enema. Choose. I chose, because women died to give me that right. The side I like least won but that’s not saying much. I consoled myself with some guerilla marketing, stealthily inserting cards about my free reader magnet into all the Terry Pratchett books in Waterstone’s. More on those stories, next time … now, it’s back to the matter in hand.

A mish mash of other stuff this week, then. Along with some of the most obscure comedy references available. I thank you. Today, as usual, I am writing to you from the past (Thursday). Well … apart from that first bit but let’s keep this as simple as we can shall we? It was McMini’s last day of term so I forewent parents’ swim, came straight back home after drop off and went into town to vote and do some Christmas shopping. After an hour and a half, I’d been moderately successful, and I couldn’t remember anything else I needed until I arrived home. Once here, realised that I’d forgotten to get the propelling pencil McMini wanted, although I can get that tomorrow.

While I was trailing round Waitrose, I had a quick chat to a friend, and found a small cured meats platter reduced from just shy of £7 to £2 and a rather garlicky curried bean salad which was also reduced. Smugly congratulating myself for sorting myself with a very pleasant lunch, I went home, where I immediately realised I had failed to get the one thing we really needed: milk.

The hat …

Never mind. I’d go up later I thought. And of course immediately I had that thought it began to rain and continued to piss down until the moment I had to leave to collect McMini from school.

Meanwhile, McOther is off on some work thing until late tonight in Oxford so collecting McMini involved going to the final school event of the term, McMini’s carol service. Alone.

The carol service takes place in the cathedral, which is a few hundred yards down the road from our house so I decided to walk. Seeing as it was still pissing with rain, and I had therefore failed to get the milk, I thought I’d take advantage of the time I had to walk into town to leave fifteen minutes early, swing by M&S on the way and pick up a plastic two pint bottle.

The communication from the school warned us that she service would start at two o’clock prompt and that there was stuff on in the cathedral so would parents not take their seats until after one fifteen. Shit were people sitting there for forty minutes? Fuck a duck! How full was it going to be? OK so I’d aim to get there by quarter to, that way I could stand at the back and sing really loudly without disturbing anyone. If I was really lucky, I’d be so far from other people that I’d be able to do the descents without anyone noticing.

There was a queue in M&S and so I strolled in at five to two. The cathedral was packed and, somewhat blinded by the miasma of pathetic rain all over my glasses I set off where I was ushed, if that’s a word, down the aisle.

Half way down, I was shown into a seat next to a pleasant couple who were on the aisle. It being rather bad form to take the outside and obscure their view, I squeezed past them and sat third person in. Shortly afterwards, a family arrived from the other side and took the remaining seats wedging me firmly in place. We were definitely packed in and when Once in Royal started up and we all stood, I turned sideways, which did make things easier. The people round me were pleasant enough but rather serious and staring straight ahead, clearly worried that I might engage them in conversation.

Waynetta Slob … and Wayne.

Then again, that was probably understandable, as they probably thought I was a weirdo. I was wearing a stripy knitted hat, so McMini would see me easily, a manky waterproof coat (think Ted’s out of Ralph and Ted in the Fast Show) a pair of wedgewood blue moleskin trousers that, in the wrong light, can be mistaken for the same kind of velour jogging pants favoured by Waynetta Slob and I was carrying a pint of milk. This, is probably not how the average Christian expects their fellows to turn up at church (well unless it’s mine and the person is doing coffee). I did demur from smiling at them and saying, ‘milky milky’ but I wonder if that might have broken the ice. Possibly, but I suspect it would merely have made people nervous, as a comedy reference goes, it’s too old and too obscure and would merely become the embodiment of the original parody.

The cathedral, itself, looked stunning and as a building expanded by the same firm of architects who designed the one where we had Dad’s memorial, there was a pleasant feeling of familiarity about it. The picture doesn’t really do it justice but they asked us not to take photos (after I’d taken that one) so I had to pixelate the teacher and crop off the parents in front of me.

Now, normally, when I go to carol services, I’m there with someone I know. So we are able to giggle when I sing the wrong verses to the carols incredibly loudly, or when I try to whisper the responses and end up barking, ‘AMEN!’ At the top of my voice when everyone else is saying, ‘and also with you’ because my voice has done something funny etc. The details of these things always amuse me and I come from a family of people who fuck it up in similar style. As a result, my memories of Christmas services, as a child, are of giggling at stuff ups, or because my brother was singing the carols falsetto, or I was singing them in a really high squeaky voice, an octave above everyone, that I can no longer do. Or Dad was complaining about how ‘fucking high’ the carols were this year (yes, there was plenty of effing, even pre Alzheimer’s) as his voice cracked, yet again, while, with a facial expression like someone sucking a lemon, he attempted the high bits in Hark the Herald.

There was also a propensity to do a kind of irreverent running commentary, among ourselves. In short, in my family, there was, still is, normally a lot of giggling. And if it isn’t family, I’m normally with other parents I know, so there is also giggling.

But when you are on your own you can’t giggle. Especially if you have a) turned up with a bottle of milk, b) eaten an injudiciously garlicky lunch which you are now sharing, through the medium of your incredibly scary breath as you do the singing and c) have already drawn a great deal of attention to yourself with your incredibly loud singing voice and the fact you are dressed like a rubby. On the up side, as a friend later remarked, at least it was only milk I turned up with and not a can of Stella.

Mwahahahahrgh! It’s never too early for a fusilier!

Of course, the absence of other like-minded nutters, or at least, in the event of my failing to out any that were near me, the commentary went on inside my head only.

There was a couple in front of me, sharing their service sheet in a very sit com style and a little old dear with them who I had down as grandma. Grandma (for want of a better name) suddenly upped sticks and with a nod, a smile and a wave at them disappeared off down the aisle to the back.

My brother’s suit! Nearly as loud as my voice, but not quite. 🤣

A few minutes later, after looking nervously round, the lady also disappeared up the aisle. She was gone for the whole of Oh Little Town of Bethlehem and then reappeared in the last verse but still sans old dear.  Had she gone to the Cathedral Centre lavatories to enquire after the old dear’s health? Was there a family crisis being played out here? I’ll never know, even though, as a professional nosey bastard (I’m an author after all) I’d like to.

There I was jammed in next to all these very nice but incredibly serious people. Their horror was almost palpable as I yelled my way through what felt like a million carols at the kind of volume that comes close to competing with a set of bagpipes. Maybe that’s why the old dear left. But the alternative is not to sing, which I will not countenance at a carol service, or to sing a bit less loudly, which is still deafening, but risks being really rather out of tune with it.

At the end of the service, the headmaster read the last lesson. They’d gone for a different response to the usual and he reverted to the traditional one. Except instead of giving the feed line he gave the response. Everyone tried to say something but nobody knew what to do so we all just went kind of, ‘mana-manah.’ And quick as a flash, a little voice in my head went, ‘do dooo do do do!’ And I started thinking about the Muppets song.

It wasn’t funny exactly, but it was accumulative funny, the sort of thing which would get a laugh if you added it to other stuff in a comedy. And if you have the kind of mind that’s already seeing a rich comedy of the absurd in yourself and everything around you, and has been attempting to do a Terry Wogan at seventies Eurovision-style voice over throughout the service. Or if you’re from the kind of family who’d start giggling. It’s really hard not to nudge the people either side of you and laugh. I resisted the temptation to nudge, but a small chuckle escaped.

Nobody else made a sound. Oops

Then Hark the Herald began.

Fuckity fucking fuck! (Sorry.) But seriously, Dad wasn’t wrong, I swear it goes up a key every year. For me things get a bit dicey over top f, I can do top g but only on days when I can’t get down to bottom g. Otherwise I have to do the special high note gurn. It’s a facial contortion that throws Dad’s sucking a lemon high-note reaching expression into the shade. And you just can’t go about doing that kind of thing in decent lighting, in front of people you don’t know. Most cathedrals are chuffing dark so hardly anyone can see. Not this one. Today was low voiced Mary, I’d managed to produce a crystal clear, non crackly Little Town of Bethlehem. I knew that fucking high note was going to be a bit of a stretch. And we were definitely up there.

So there I was wearing my manky old waterproof coat and my ridiculous pussy hat, screeching the carols like some peri-menopausal banshee. With a bottle of milk. And garlic breath. Trying not to show any outward signs of amusement or … well … any outward signs. While in my head I could hear my father guffawing his head off and saying something like, ‘Well Mary, you really have excelled yourself this year.’

 

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New releases and MTM twattery …

In which MTM has a somewhat mixed week … just call me Trevor (see illustration).

It’s Friday as I write this, as I think touching a computer tomorrow morning may bring trouble upon my head when there are things I am supposed to be organising.

This week I am a combination of thoroughly pissed off and insanely happy. Let’s do the whinge first so we end on a high note eh?

First up, Mum hasn’t been great. She was in great form on Wednesday, but she’d forgotten she’d ever read any of my books, which was kind of alarming because she absolutely loved the K’Barthan Series. But then we like a lot of the same things, so, since I wrote it for me it probably would work for her. She’d also forgotten a number of other significant events that happened in our lives, my cousin being epileptic, for example (I discovered she’d forgotten over the course of a conversation about how my niece, is doing, as she is epileptic too). So that’s a bit sad. Although Mum is still on great form at the moment, still happy and still very much Mum, but this is a whole post, in itself, so more on that next week, I think. Back to this week’s news.

A few days ago, I woke up with a cold, unfortunately it’s one of those ones which takes ages to come out, so I’ve been feeling gradually shittier each day since Tuesday. Last night, I had to make a very flying visit to metal detecting club which pissed me off because I was really looking forward to it. But I was running a temperature by that time and didn’t want to give anyone my lovely germs. I had to go to pick up a book I’d bought, and drop off some batteries to one of the other members – which I forgot to do (head desk) – but once I’d bought the book and donated a raffle prize I made a swift exit.

Just to piss myself off even more, I also sprained my ankle yesterday. Not badly but just enough to be an irritant and make walking hurt. On top of that, I discovered that all those codes for free set up on Ingram from the Alliance of Indepenent Authors, Nanowrimo and the like are not accepted by Lightning Source, despite the fact it’s branded Ingram for everything else. So I’ve still had to pay £50 to set up my book. Worse, through my own twattery, I pissed off McOther and now I have totally cocked up on the school front and pissed off McMini as well.

Scores on the doors …

Chaos Fairies: nine million, eight hundred thousand and sixty three. MTM: one.

Shite.

McOther is usually an easygoing, cheerful chap but he is a perfectionist control freak, and stress gets to him, so he has trouble letting organisational malfunctions go. Because they do his head in. In life, he has to plan and double plan, and because he’s really smart, this works. He is not a being who busks it with much enthusiasm. Whereas I find that when I plan, I’m too thick to foresee everything that might happen, although in my defence, quite a lot of things happen to me that nobody would have any right to foresee. But things tend to turn out so monumentally at variance to the way I’ve foreseen them that it’s, frankly, a waste of time for me to plan. I’m better just equipping myself with everything I might possibly need and winging it. McOther finds that approach extremely stressful, so I have developed a method of making it look as if I’ve planned meticulously in order to keep him calm.

McOther’s job is a bit of a high-octain stress-fest. He’s high powered, people want to protect ideas or invent stuff, they come to McOther. Professor Sir Stephen Hawkins was a client. McOther’s invented stuff too, which is probably why he’s so good at helping other folks with their inventions. But it comes at a cost. He likes them, he takes it extremely seriously and … yeh, he finds it stressful. He has high blood pressure and he’s on beta blockers and while it’s a family trait, I could seen him finding, after he retires, that he no longer needs them. He is uncharacteristically dour at the moment – I suspect he’s reaching the point where they need to recruit someone else to his staff – so I know he needs things to run smoothly at home. He only works thirty minutes away, but he has clients all over, and he has to spend a day in London each week at the firm’s London office. He also has to go to Oxford a lot which is a pig of a drive from here. I just hope it’s not going to be the death of him, all this running about, and that he hits retirement age before things get even busier as post Brexit, when the massive recession hits, lots of scientists will be made redundant and they’ll decide to speak to a lawyer about doing something with that thing they invented in their shed …

Anyhow, with McOther at full stretch, and some, I try to do all the organising McMini stuff so he doesn’t have to. But there’s quite a lot of it, which has probably made him more nervous. And now, at the worst possible time, there have been some malfunctions.

The first one, I forgot to check McMini’s PE kit when he got home yesterday. In my defence, with my newly sprained ankle and shitty sinusitis with new, super-duper, improved added temperature I was actually feeling quite chuffed with myself for staying upright. I haven’t quite got the knack of the way McMini’s school functions on a couple of levels and PE kit is one of them. First he needs a lot of PE kit and after rugby on Wednesday I have to wash his kit the minute he gets home so I can dry it – well … principally, the socks – over night for him to use in PE the next day. It being Thursday yesterday, I’d been somewhat louche about conducting further checks, only to discover that there was PE on Friday, too.

That pissed McOther off, because it meant I’d done a whole half term without hoisting in that PE happened on a Friday (I knew football did but that’s an after school club). Worse, McOther had clearly had a really grim day at work (as demonstrated by our conversation as he arrived, did you have a good day? No. End of conversation) so he was not reassured by the fact I’d forgotten. He’s a control freak, so if he’s presented, too honestly, with the reality of how much stuff I forget it makes him nervous and stressed. I can usually manage to avoid any unfortunate encounters with the true depths of my muppetthood but yesterday the veil slipped for a moment* and it was all a bit grim.

* this is an understatement. Basically, it got torn off and is hanging on a tree about thirty miles away.

Unfortunately, I’m also still adjusting to the way the school communicates. Yesterday, they sent an email reminding me that it was harvest assembly today and I needed to send McMini in equipped with items for the food bank. Luckily, as we were putting McMini to bed, I read said email and, feeling inordinately smug, I managed to cobble together a nice selection of the suggested items and sent McMini in with them. Phew.

I woke from a strangely disturbing dream about McOther knocking down all the interior walls in our old house and covering everything in some very unpleasant pink and white paisley carpet to discover I felt worse than yesterday. Today was not a day to be late up, so I ditched dressing in favour of going downstairs and doing the morning school prep in my pyjamas so as to ensure I was there, doing the THING on time for McMini to leave – McOther takes him in on Mondays Tuesdays and Fridays.

Off they went with the bag of harvest stuff. Woot, in the face of total twattery MTM pulls it out of the hat at the last minute!

… Or not. There was an even bigger, more monstrous balls up waiting …

Yes. It was a home clothes day today.

McMini went to school only to discover that every other child was in mufti.

Fucking fuck.

The humiliation.

Poor little lad.

Turns out there’d been an email sometime last week, McOther told me, rather tersely, on the phone (although he may just have been tense).

There had? I hadn’t fucking seen it. Had McOther seen it, I wondered. He hadn’t mentioned it. In my defence, it was, apparently, lost among many others and one of the mums on the Facebook group had to pretty much force her son into home clothes at gunpoint, because he didn’t believe her. This school is much more laid back, which I like, but sometimes I miss the rather imperious text messages the other school used to send, reminding me that x, y, or z was happening the following day, because they were a godsend for those of us who are a bit dim.

McOther sent his version of the email to me when he got to work. In order not to bombard us with about a million emails, each dealing with a separate thing, the school sends them out as one long one. This is a good thing. The trouble is, I haven’t quite got my head round their propensity to do this. Yes, it turns out I did get the email, I just I read the first one, thought it was all there was and scrolled no further.

So it’s my fault. I’m not going to admit this. But I hope McOther’s forwarding it to me wasn’t his way of insinuating that he knows and I should have fucking read it. Gulp. If it is, we are in for a rather strained evening.

—————————

OK, it’s tomorrow now, but let me add the rest of the story. After writing this, I went to collect McMini from school. We went to get his sports bag to take home because he’s doing a rugby workshop today and so he needs his boots and kit. I waited with his other bags while he trotted off to get it and a few moments later back he came.

‘Mum, my bag isn’t there,’ he said.

‘Are you sure?’

‘Yes.’

Both of us looked at one another and McMini put our thoughts into words.

‘Dad isn’t going to be in the mood for this,’ he said.

‘No.’ I agreed. We were so in the shit it wasn’t true. There was a short silence, while we both did a lot more thinking on that topic but neither of us said anything.

‘Right, let’s search every single place it could be, explore every option and cover off every avenue so we’ve done absolutely all we can to find it.’

‘If we do find it,  you won’t tell him, will you?’

‘Not until he’s less stressed.’

‘What if we don’t find it?’

Luckily, McMini had had an after school club last thing and so he was wearing his PE kit.

‘OK, look. You have your tracky bottoms, on I have a spare rugby top and shorts at home because I washed them this morning, I can whizz up to town tomorrow morning and buy you a boil in the bag gumguard, you have some school tennis socks so then we just need boots. We might be able to borrow some football boots from one of your old school friends. I’ll see. I’ll also email your PE teacher and explain and see if you can still play, you’ll probably pick up a lot from watching anyway.’

So we searched. We went to the school office, really just to see if a teacher had moved it and mentioned it in passing, we looked where it was supposed to be, where McMini had left it and we even went into the boarding house. The only upside was that there were two other bags where McMini had left his.

‘Where, exactly, was your bag?’ I asked him.

‘On top of that one.’

‘This one here with the red ribbons tied to it?’

‘Yes.’

‘On top?’

‘Yes.’

Hang on, red ribbons?

‘D’you think the chap who owns this bag might have taken your bag home?’ I asked. ‘I mean, looking at these ribbons, it would suggest he has form.’

McMini brightened, ‘Thinking about it, yes, he could have done. He’s in my year, I know him.’

‘Right, all may not be lost. It’s true that I might end up having to drive to Holt or somewhere tonight but sod it, let’s go home. We’ll check the sports centre on the way so we’ve covered off every single option here, and then, I have a spreadsheet of contact details for parents in your year, I’ll ping his mum a text and ask.’

‘I’ll email him,’ McMini said.

A quick word of explanation to anyone who hasn’t seen a British public school. They’re massive. I grew up in one, lived in it for 18 years and there were still places on the site that I had never been to. What I’m saying is, all this searching had taken us about half an hour. Still we knew now that the bag could only have been confiscated, which seemed unlikely given that there were two others there, or the lad with the bag with the ribbons on had taken McMini’s instead of his.

McMini goes to Boys Brigade on Fridays, which is a brilliant organisation, I can’t praise it highly enough. It starts at seven so the poor lad had about five minutes to eat a plate of hastily cooked sausages and peas when I got home, before it was time to go to that. Meanwhile, he’d emailed his friend and I’d discovered, to my horror, that the lad’s mum’s number was not on the list of parents contact details.

Bollocks.

McOther arrived with inconvenient timeliness and looked disapproving as he realised I was making McMini’s tea late. I suspect his disapproval was compounded by the fact I was tapping away at the screen of my phone while Mr Ticky, our kitchen pinger, counted down the minutes until I should drain the pasta. Little did McOther know I was putting a desperate plea for help on the school’s parents’ Facebook group and sending an email explaining our situation to the sports teacher, too.

In the face of McOther’s stern disapproval, I explained that we hadn’t got home until after six but not why. White face and tight lipped, he went to take his bag upstairs and stopped in the hall.

‘Where’s the sports bag?’ he asked.

Fuckity fucking fuck!

‘Ah. Um … about that.’

I explained what happened, being careful to list the extensive search we’d conducted and to outline the phorensic thoroughness of our investigation into the whereabouts of McMini’s bag. A couple of people had already replied to the Facebook post wishing me luck and saying they didn’t have the bag and after a bit of deliberation, I had named and shamed the child we thought might have it, adding that I didn’t have his Mum’s details and couldn’t be 100% sure it was him.

McOther was seriously unhappy but, thank god, demurred from actually going into orbit. He was just paler and even more tight lipped than before. He went upstairs to change and dump his bag in his office. I took McMini’s dinner through and apologised to him for the speed with which McOther had rumbled us. The PE teacher replied saying it was fine if McMini came wearing what we had, so that was a relief. Unfortunately, McMini’s friend hadn’t as yet.

When we got to Boys Brigade we were late and had to bang on the window to be heard so they’d come and let McMini in. After the day we’d had it was probably par for the course. Never mind, on the upside, I hadn’t had time to notice how utterly ill I felt so that was a bonus.

At home, still no news. I sat in the kitchen with McOther and he asked me why I wasn’t wearing my pyjamas. I explained that I had to go up to town to collect McMini from Boys’ Brigade. McOther said that he would go.

This was an Olive Branch. The worst of his rage had passed.

Then it happened. The mother of errant child replied on Facebook. Yes, she had the bag and yes, she was coming over right now.

Hallelujah! (You have to imagine that as the sung Handel version to get the full effect).

I want upstairs, had my shower and when the other mum arrived, I greeted her in my pyjamas. She looked a bit surprised but I just carried on as if wearing pyjamas at seven thirty in the evening was perfectly normal and she relaxed. I could see her thinking, OK, if you’re not bothered I’m not. Luckily she hadn’t had too far to come. Apparently her son has managed to come home with his friends’ back packs on several occasions and the red ribbons on the PE bag were due to the fact he’d come home with someone else’s already that week!

I thanked her profusely and off she went. McOther visibly relaxed as I rooted about in the bag, removed the dirty stuff and bunged it in the washing machine. And of course, it was very good for him to understand that he really is in the top five percentile of organisedness and that, while McMini and I are probably in the bottom 40% we are, by no means, as bad as it gets.

Moving swiftly to the up side …

Two completely chuffing marvellous things have happened this week.

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

This is now available for preorder. If you are interested there is a page which gives you link to the main book vendors. Just click on the picture or follow this link here …

http://www.hamgee.co.uk/infosb.html

There will be print links, to follow, but the print version probably won’t be through the hanging about stage until sometime next week. So there’ll be some more good news next Saturday, which is nice.

Why am I stoked? Because this is my first new release since 2015! And though my mother is standing at the top of the same hill as my father was then, maybe, in the short breathing space I have before it starts to hurt too much, I might get the next K’Barthan series of long books finished, or possibly sort out Space Dustmen. Anyway, I’m optimistic. Plan for the worst but always, always hope for the best. That’s my motto.

Box Set Release … Gorge yourself on free sci-fi!

What Box Set? I hear you ask. This box set! Future adventures.

This features full length novels from eight science fiction authors. And seven of them are really accomplished ‘proper’ authors and all. The other is me! Woot yes, that’s my name on the cover there and yes, I am way above my pay grade here. I haven’t read the books in this volume but I have read other works by these authors and I can vouch for the quality. This is what I shall be reading on holiday. Yes!

No new releases for three years and then two come along at the same time like badly scheduled buses, although I suppose this isn’t a new book, per se, since my offering in this one is Few Are Chosen, the first book in the K’Barthan Series.

But, if any of you haven’t read that, and would like to, it’s in this book, which is free, but more importantly it comes with all these other brilliant stories by seriously accomplished wordsmiths who really know what they are doing. So, you can grab a copy of Few Are Chosen with seven other books by authors who are seriously gifted and of whom I am, frankly, a bit in awe. And all for zero pence. If you want to pick up a copy, just click on the picture to visit a page of links to find it on all the major stores … or click on the link below:

http://www.hamgee.co.uk/infofa.html

K’Barthan Audio Books

So the third thing is that, despite all the forgetting things I’ve done this week, and the irritating issue of feeling like warmed up pooh, it really looks like K’Barthan Audio Books are actually going to be a thing, too. I’m listening to the third version of Unlucky Dip at the moment and it’s bloody brilliant! I can’t quite believe this is happening, it feels slightly unreal. I think Gareth (the voice) Davies and I are both feeling like that, even though we know we’ll only make pence on this project. Although with any luck he’ll make stacks of cash reading better selling books for other authors on the back of his work on mine. I hope so. The thing is though, it’s another income stream, another avenue through which to reach people. Blind people can read my books now, or at least, they can hear them read really well as opposed to by their kindles in the voice of Professor Sir Stephen Hawkins. So yeh, that’s all good.

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When it feels right but is … wrong. #writing #indiebooks

This week: you have another opportunity to benefit from the vast store of wisdom I have earned by royally fucking things up so that you don’t have to.  

It started like this.

Wednesday; visit the parents day, and this week I arrived in extremely dire need of a wee. It is fairly usual that the pint of water and two cups of coffee I need to kick start my day turn into about five pints by the time I’ve driven fifty miles or thereabouts and I drive the next ninety in some agitation. This Wednesday was no exception.

At Mum and Dad’s the downstairs loo is just off the lobby before you go into the house proper and I usually use it before I announce my presence, otherwise the ten minutes of hellos can be a bit excruciating for my poor bladder. Into the loo I rushed, and breathed a huge sigh of relief as what felt like about a gallon of wee went into the pan. Except that each of the lavs at Mum and Dad’s has a riser for people with dodgy hips, and if you sit on the riser in the downstairs loo wrong, the wee runs down the inside of it and despite being positioned over the bowl, the gravitational wonders of surface tension bend the wee round and under the edge of the riser and it then falls over the side of the pan onto the floor. Well, it came from a skip, still in its wrapping, you can’t look a gift horse in the mouth. But yes, you guessed it. A significant portion of my wee deluge had missed the pan entirely and puddled on the floor.

Joy.

The original dribbly-wee loo riser of doom (centre) among other skip scored offerings.

There I was. I’d done the right thing, sat on loo, weed into hole but somehow, despite following the instructions it had all gone somewhat awry. I spent the next five minutes wiping it up with loo roll and anti bacterial floor spray. It’s not just me, the foibles of this particular loo riser are a known problem and I soon had it all ship shape again with no harm done. The point was, sometimes, even when you do things the right way it all goes horribly wrong.

So how does this tale of substandard urinary aim have any connection with writing?

Well, it’s like this.

There’s a quote that appears on something I use – my Kobo Writing Life dashboard, I think – that goes like this:

‘If you want to read a book that has not been written yet, you must write it.’

Way back in 2008 when I finally finished my first decent novel that is, exactly what I had done. But to be honest, while this is great advice, it only works if you are in touch with the popular Zeitgeist on some level. I sell my books on the internet which, to all intents and purposes, is American. It is devilishly hard to reach non Americans but back then it was even harder (except on Amazon at that point).

Therefore, I shot myself in the foot instantly by writing a very British book set, mostly, in a fantasy world but when it came here, it came to London. Yes Dr Who is like that but it was put on by the BBC and when they first did it, they had a captive audience comprising all of Britain. I wrote British because I was bored of books and films where the main protagonists are American and the setting America. I wanted to see some shizz go down in my own country. What I failed to grasp was that there is a reason the vast majority of books are about Americans in America. It’s to connect with Americans; the biggest and most easily reachable group of readers in the market place.

Yes, I’d done kind of the right thing but … wrong.

The problem wasn’t even that I was writing a book that could well hold more appeal to British or Australasian readers. It was that I hadn’t researched my market – I thought I had but, no. That’s why I didn’t understand how hard to find they would be. It hadn’t even occurred to me that I would be unable to reach British readers without taking special measures. OK so that was 2008 but even now, in 2017, you have to work at finding international readers and even harder at finding readers who buy from sites other than Amazon.

Likewise, I’d read a lot of Victorian and Edwardian fantasy: the Narnia Books, The Five Children and It, The Incredible Mr Blenkinsop (I think that was its name) the Borrowers, the Wind in the Willows, The Lord of The Rings. I’d seen films like Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Mary Poppins and Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang, I’d read Harry Potter and Terry Pratchett. In most of those books, the writer has invented a completely new world, or a new creature, or a new something. The point is, while they may have broad themes that are similar, good versus evil baddie, etc, each one takes place in its own fantasy world or hidden world within this one, often there are specific and new creatures created for purpose of the story. The notable exception is Terry Pratchett, who took the tropes other people used and poked gentle fun at them.

In the same way that I thought, at my parents, that rushing into the bog, sitting down on the ice cold, thigh freezing riser and letting it all out was enough, and discovered that oh it so wasn’t, I genuinely thought putting my book on sale and supporting my efforts with advertising on the big promo sites was all it would take to find readers. It wasn’t. I wrote weird books, that are funny and I had covers made expressly to say, ‘this book is like nothing you have ever read’ because when people saw my books, I wanted them to think, ‘Pratchett’. When I got reviews that said that, I quoted them. I wrote my book the old way. The E Nesbitt way. And I sold that as an asset … the wrong way.

When people talk about wanting ‘different’ I suspect that what they really mean is that they want the same old ware wolves and sparkly vampires but with … say … slightly different lighting.

That is where Sir Terry cleaned up. He kept to the standard tropes, and spun them differently. If you want to succeed financially, I think, possibly, the trick is to write something bang on genre that has a different angle; a standard, boilerplate, trope made interesting enough to you for you to be able to stand writing in it.

When it comes to making choices, I guess it’s wise to think through the ramifications, but with writing it’s hard to anticipate what they might be sometimes. If you like writing wacky but want to produce a well edited book with a professional cover, it’s worth looking at how much cash you have to throw at it and how long for. When I started this game, the estimate was that once you’d produced six books you’d reach tipping point; momentum would be easier to maintain and sales would rise.

‘Great!’  I thought, ‘I have budget for six novels.’

Now that I’m writing my sixth book, that magic tipping point number is more like twelve! Things change and move. How long can you sustain your business without making a profit? OK now double it. Hell, quadruple it to be safe.

Likewise, when you plan what you’re going to do to reach readers, I’d thoroughly recommend keeping as much of it under your control as you can. This is why so many writers ask readers to sign up to their mailing lists. I had an amazing three months back in 2014 when I optimised my book listings for UK readers and started getting a ton of downloads on Amazon and, even better, a really good read through rate – seriously it was massive, about 20% of the folks downloading the first book bought the others But then Amazon changed the algo – which they do around April or May each year, it seems. Overnight the downloads of the free book ceased. And that was that.

These days, however many author lists readers are signing up to, I still believe that if you can make your emails personal, fun and interesting enough they will stay with you. Just don’t make them too fun or your readers will sign up for the emails rather than your books or if they do, be prepared to monetise your blog posts, newsletter etc – either as non fiction books or paid content. The great thing about mailing lists is that if someone doesn’t get on with your books they can unsubscribe so you should end up with a list of folks who might, eventually, read your books! If you’re really lucky, some will part with cash for them.

Once you have some readers, it’s also worth listening to them. I always sold my books as fantasy and when asked to cite comparable writers I’d suggest Holt, Prachett, Rankin … When people started reviewing them, the bulk of them cited Douglas Adams. I now publish them in sci-fi. They don’t sell as well there as they did in the days when I could put them in fantasy and they’d be actually visible. But now that fantasy is kind of, ware wolves and shifters with a small corner for epic, my books definitely do better in sci-fi! Sci-fi seems a bit less rigid in the genre factors required, too, hence the next series, Space Dustmen, is going to be sci-fi with the odd planetary visit.

To sum up, what I am trying to say, I guess, is that now, more than ever, you need to think long and hard before you even start to write that book and you need to keep pretty nimble afterwards. So, if you’re thinking having a pop at writing or are working on your first book, maybe you should ask yourself these questions:

  1. Who are you are writing for?
  2. Where you you find them?
  3. Can you find them easily and inexpensively?
  4. How often do the authors they read release new books?
  5. Can you keep up with book production rates for your genre? or to put it another way …
  6. How much time do you have? Even if you give up your job.
  7. What kind of writing career will fit with your life?
  8. How and where will you sell your books – it’s no good being wide if everyone in your genre whose books you like and who might like yours too and do mailing swaps or promos with you is in KU.
  9. How long before you need your books to start funding themselves to keep going?
  10. Are there other ways you can monetise your writing to support book production until such stage as your book business is self financing.
  11. How big is your social media following? Are you up to a kickstarter to fund book production?

The way I see it there are two broad choices about what you decide to write.

The first choice is to conform. You, write to market, so if it’s fantasy, you write about ware wolves or witches and yes you light them differently or whatever it takes and you write about six books (minimum) a year. And you thank your lucky stars you’re not in Romance where you have to write one a month!

Alternatively if you really can’t face the prospect of writing about creatures someone else has already invented or making your hero American, or 101 other must haves for the best selling book, accept that you are unlikely to earn diddly squat for a long, long time and just go for it writing the kind of stuff you love, that fulfils you as a reader and writer, stuff you want to read that hasn’t been written yet. But if you choose this route, you have to be extremely pragmatic about your chances of earning anything for many years and extremely lateral and original about what you do to earn from your books in other ways.

It’s quite good if you can avoid combining motherhood to a small child and trying to look after sick, elderly parents, at the same time as trying to have any sort of career, too.

This is where I am right now. But hey, my sixth book will be out next year and who knows, 2027 I may even have written twelve and if I market the hell out of them, well who knows, they might pay for the thirteenth book.

Mwahahahargh! I can dream.

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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.

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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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Women writing sci-fi? Disgraceful!

OK, a controversial one today. I’m going to talk about Mad Americans.

Sorry my American friends but when your compatriots turn barking they really go for it, you guys do mad better than any nation on earth. Not even we British can touch you. And that’s saying something.

Have you heard the latest? Science Fiction Writers of America, an organisation which, by all accounts, makes… well… even Republicans look open-minded has been in the news this week. Some of its members have expressed a view that women shouldn’t write sci-fi. This is, apparently, because they think that too many of the Sci-fi novels written by women have – gasp – romance in them! Mwah ha hahargh. I do ‘get’ that, I loathe and detest sparkly vampires but they’re just a trend, a fad and they’ll go away. They’re not caused by women! However, members of the SFWA are putting forward women sce-fi writers as the reason for this. Are you hearing a teeny bit of Sheldon Cooper on this one? Are you?

So, that’s the basic gist. Because of a passing trend for intergalactic bonk busters and the odd instance of characters falling in love in recent sci-fi, the SFWA has decided this:

Women authors = too much coitus. Phnark.

Well, they didn’t decide the ‘phnark’ bit I said that.

Well of course! That’s it, it’s our fault because we all know that Sci-fi, like D.I.Y. is serious hard-core man work that should not be attempted by women. Snortle!

Well, I got most of my info from Cora Buhlert’s excellent blog here. One of the articles she links to is a cracker here. I can recommend checking this site, it features sci-fi stories from around the world, properly around the world. It’s interesting, definitely worth a look.

To be honest, would anyone outside the United States see SFWA as the flagship organisation of the sci-fi genre? In Britain, perhaps, although I wouldn’t but then, I think that the ‘special relationship’ was made up by Winston Churchill to salvage some semblance of dignity after Yalta. History is always skewed by the perspective of those who write it; he wrote it, after everyone else was dead. But other English speakers/readers? I don’t know. The SFWA speaks for Americans, which is great but that’s not the English-speaking planet. From outside the US we foreigners can get the impression that, to an awful lot of Americans, their country IS the world which is fine so long as they don’t treat us as if, by being beyond their receptive parameters, we have no right to exist.

However, the thing that strikes me most forcefully about all of this is that if the SFWA wasn’t an American organisation, there probably wouldn’t even be a debate raging at all. How can a country be so forward and yet so backward at the same time? How do the nutter Americans get so het up and more to the point make so much noise? Zero tolerance or what? Some parts of the States must be stifling to live in. Check this! Mwah ha ha hargh, it’s absolutely hilarious but the sad thing is, it’s real. Do they not see the comedy in what they’re saying? Who stole their sense of humour, their sense of fair play? Then again, I’m British when we go to ‘protest’ on racial or religious grounds this happens http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/may/27/york-mosque-protest-tea-biscuits

See? Muslims aren’t bad people even if some bad people happen to be Musilms.

Sorry, tangent there. What I’m saying is that more and more people are learning to speak English every day. Right now the US represents just under half the English speakers on this planet – but that’s in countries where English is the national language, totted up by me looking at the population figures. It doesn’t count the people in other nations, where English is not the national language, but lots of people speak and read it. So the US is the noisiest market and it’s the biggest single market but it probably represents a lot less than half the population reading in English.

This also raises a broader question: What choice for a non American sci-fi author? You can address the US market, but it’s pretty conservative so you need to tailor your books specifically and then they may not fit so well elsewhere. You may well need to spell your book in American, write about American people and use American settings. If you’re writing sci-fi your protagonists, if they originate from Earth, will have to be very American in their outlook and culture, no-one will ever be allowed to wear a jumper or a jersey, the word will always have to be ‘sweater’. No-one will be allowed to use the interesting swear words because the Americans only know two; all in all, a bit dull.

Alternatively, you can write in your own voice, accept that the scary Americans won’t listen – but do you want them to anyway – welcome those who do, and speak to the other English-speakers of the world; Africa, Australasia and Eurasia. Places where there are millions of people who are willing and far more readily able to enjoy a story written from a differing cultural viewpoint. People who see English as a global language so understand that a faucet and a tap are the same thing. Also, BONUS, these are emerging economies where people have money to spend on books, unlike the US whose economy looks, from the outside, as if it’s almost as far down the lavatory (or the John) as ours.

I loved the quote from the South African writer along the lines of why would I join the Science Fiction Writers of America, it has nothing to do with me? Do you think the worm might finally be turning? It really is time organisations like the SFWA and more broadly, certain sectors of the US began to try and understand other cultures  – and more importantly were educated to do so – the way we understand theirs.

Could it be that, if the SFWA becomes more of an anachronism, and remains US-centric, it will come to realise that it is only the representative organisation of bigoted, male American sci-fi writers? It could be a world player but not without a change of attitude. Otherwise, it will be marginalised as the rest of us get bored of doing everything a certain way ‘so the Americans can understand it’ and another more outward-looking, inclusive organisation will step up and become the world ‘voice’ of the genre.

Homework: Read that ‘vox popoli’ post again and try and list the differences in attitude between that and the comedy skit shown below.

Answer: There are no differences.

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