Short story week UK, don’t mess with editors:) & Freebies!

 

It is now half way through the month and I have reached just over 30,000 words towards finishing The Children’s Tale: the fourth of The Sefuty Chronicles.  Very satisfying to be able to report so.

I had hoped when this was over I could concentrate on two WIPs however, my friend from forever/editor has been here this weekend and has made clear I am to do some modern fairy tale short stories next year.

One doesn’t mess with editors! so short stories it will be:)

Speaking of short stories, next week, 17th November – 23rd November is short story week here in the UK. A week to celebrate the short story.  This site has many interesting reads, ideas, advice etc well worth browsing through as well as a chance to read short stories from adults and children alike.

This week, in line with short story week I am also offering my short stories free from smashwords,  they are available in most formats on smashwords.

The stories themselves are a mixture of types and genres. Mostly fun sometimes odd and occasionally a bit creepy!:)

1)   The Fiddling Feline,the Flea and the Frog et al – a collection of re-worked fairy tales and nursery rhymes

free coupon code XC44W

2)  A Patchwork of Perspectives -Vol One  Coupon Code JY26X

3) A Patchwork of Perspectives Vol Two     Coupon Code YJ89D

4) A Patchwork of Perspectives Vol Three   Coupon Code SL78H

 

I have written about Kate Atkinson here , one of my favourite authors and a short review of Started Early, took my Dog. About Nano here and for ROW 80 followers here.

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Ellen and the Storyteller free until the end of December.

Well, I decided to join the madness which is NaNoWrMo again this year.  I had thought I might as a rebel, and then discovered the rules had changed this year and one’s entry no longer needs to be a new novel but the time can be spent finishing one – so I wont even have to go underground!

People say to me why nano? – just do it.  I could, I have done often. However, there is something about the whole set up of this challenge which create a buzz of adrenalin.  The daily word counts – the word sprints – the community of frenzied writers all competing to reach that goal of 50,000 words in a month, all this bouys one’s life up, makes the act of writing less of an isolated one.

50,00 words. That will just about complete The Children’s Tale – so bring it on.  The book is written in my head, but circumstances these last few months? – couple of years more like have worked against moi. But now, this moment, I feel fit enough, happy enough to take on the world – nay the universe and all the others which scientist claim are out there. With that in mind it is head down, starting today, and Children’s Tale look out I aim to finish you.

To further boost my resolve, as The Children’s Tale is the 4th in The Sefuty Chronicles I have decided to offer the first two in the series, Ellen’s Tale and The Storyteller’s Tale, as e-books from Smashwords, free until the end of December.  Smashwords can deliver the e-book in any format your device need. these two introduce the main characters and give a tast of what the series is about.

To read more about them explore this page for descriptions and videos or go here where there is also a sample chapter to read.

Smashwords: coupons for free edition.  Follow the path to payment and then enter the number when requested.

Ellen’s Tale: free coupon number BW88X

The Storyteller’s Tale: free coupon number LY76W

Happy reading.

Next month I will be posting a special offer on my short story collections- ideal for Christmas.

 

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A tree lays gently and the plasticity of the brain

 

Despite good intentions am again late in posting all. I can find excuses, can’t we all? First I had to contend with a little dispute involving food and digestive system. I know these arguments of old and know that really it is best left for the squabbling parties to sort themselves out for themselves. I leave them to it and take to my bed!, for three days or so, feeling hungrier and hungrier by the day.

Then, oh joy, oh rapture, the day I arose – empty but ready to go, a tree fell across the drive for no apparent reason, that I could see – it had to be cleared then and there if we were not to remain entrapped, fairytale like, within it’s boughs.

Fortunately, for my complaining back and shoulder muscles, I then had a few days of gentle sewing at a workshop. I soothed the week’s travails away with creating a brand new silk counterpane (it has come to my attention that not everyone knows this word, so a brand new bedspread)

I have now returned to keyboard and have posted a review on The Little Stranger, blogged on the plasticity of the brain and discussed that dratted tree:) Have decided to indulge in NanoWrMo again this November which is mentioned in ROW80 and I will enlarge next week.

As the mammoth task of re jigging and de-cluttering my abode wends it’s way to a close I am more inclined back to the writing. Maybe it is true a less cluttered space is conducive to creativity – note the word ‘less’:) there is no way in the world I could ever be non cluttered!

The Children’s Tale will, I hope, be finished during NaNo and sent to friend from forever/editor for sorting out. With good luck and a following wind maybe it will finally see the light of day early next year. On that hopeful premise I will putting up some offers on the back story at the beginning of November – so, watch this space for your chance at some freebies over the holidays and festivities:)

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travels past and future

I have finally returned after an unexpected summer retreat.  LIFE caught up and time and energy for writing came skittering to a halt for a few months. Ah well, I guess it happens.

In the interval I have changed the structure of my writing day and also of the presentation of blogs. This blog will be the entry point to find out what I have been up each week – each week? – well it’s an ambition, however, my track record for keeping to dead-lines is not crowned in splendour bright.

I will try, I will try.

The 4th part of The Sefuty Chronicles unfolds slowly – oh so slowly, but although the pace is slower than I would wish it is unfolding in it’s own time and resists efforts to speed the pace up.  Patience seems to be the name of the game!

There is a very loose connection between blogs this week, concerning travel in some way or another.

I discuss one of the reasons for the delay and the direction  ‘The Children’s Tale’ is  now taking, on sefuty chronicles.Displacement, and inter cultural conflict is something which can bedevil children in times of social upsets.

 Finding a way out of the black depths of depression and moving on concerns me over on kiss a frog and

I review The Sea of Poppies over on alberta reads, a great book, involving movements of people and a ship.

Last, but not least, one of the quirky little books I have read this summer has given great delight to moi, and will to anyone who likes words, word change and connections that span centuries – a short trip from Vikings to chats over coffee on albertaross.  For those looking for ROW80 update it can be found at the end of the last. Haven’t quite worked out to isolate it yet.

 

 

 

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Book Trailers are easy-not!:

Sometimes I wonder if I am totally crazy:)

 

So make a trailer?

Words spiral dizzyingly in one’s head, words such as -what, how, why and so forth. I researched, I began, it takes time. Doesn’t everything? First of all,

What does one want to say?

How best to say it?

This is a visual, I write, I am not artistic. I searched for trailers on You Tube and watched dozens, some were amazing, some dire. Leaving me with the nervous sweats. I had first thought about making this trailer during 2011 and I had signed up for a workshop on savvy authors, this workshop used Microsoft’s own movie maker software to show us how to make a book trailer.

Keep the writing sparse – minimal, do not write complete blurbs, we were advised. Find the relevant pictures for the style of your book, music to set mood and pace. I already knew where to find royalty free pictures from my blogging. We were given links for royalty free music and I listened to hours of clips. I began to learn another language but didn’t actually find any I was passionate about.

 

One of my fellow students left a link to Magix Music Maker, which I investigated immediately. A wonderful piece of software which delivers little loops of music in many various styles, and in a myriad instrumental sounds, from guitars to wind. The combinations that can be made are endless. So is the time spend listening to each little loop, testing it against /with another. With this process of testing & retesting you can invent a tune.

Magic.

 

Another student put up a link for a piece of software called Pro Show, which I couldn’t afford at the time. So I was assembling a collection of pictures that I could use to depict the end of the world, as we know it. I had decided to do the first trailer about the background to The Sefuty Chronicles and then smaller trailers for each of the books in the series. So this first one was all about doom and gloom!

I built the music loop by loop while I simultaneously collected the photographs necessary. It took hours and months to put together as I struggled with transitions, timing, special effects and the storyboard. I am not known for my minimalistic tendencies, so cutting words to barest was the hardest.

 

This first trailer was finished by the end of 2011 but I didn’t load it up onto You Tube until 2012.

‘Jack’s Tale’, the third in the series, just managed to obtain the 2011 publication date by a whisker. So I began 2012 with the goal of creating another three trailers, and uploading them all! As well, of course, as writing and publishing the fourth in the series.

 

Yeah, well, good intentions – road to hell – make the connections.

Ellen’s Tale trailer wasn’t in fact too bad to put together. I had Pro Gold software by then (Christmas pressie), the story was about sweet love and danger, much easier than the end of the world:) The Storyteller’s Tale now, that was a difficult one, how to portray mad and bad in just two minutes? That last one seemed to take over my life for a couple of months but I was more confident since the two previous trailers. I had learnt how to use effects to manipulate pictures, but each trailer was still learning work in progress and each one taught me more about the software I possessed.

 

All was going well; I would achieve my goals. Hur!

 

 

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E-books are easy, honest!

E-books are easy, honest!

According to many reports we are downloading e-books by the thousands, buying eBook readers and generally enjoying an electronic revolution. I personally do not believe on the demise of the ‘proper’ book. What after all is a proper ‘book’ – words contained by paper? Words in audio form and now words delivered electronically.

Back in early 2010 I had a printed book, which was exciting. During that summer I was well on the way to deliver a second, when I read a post on Facebook – written by one of the first authors to befriend me there – about his latest addition to the Smashword stable.

Intrigued, I followed the link and stared at the site with mixed emotions. I had not at that time bought my own reader, had never read an e-book. Could I do it? Would I be able to master this new technology? It appeared to one who was finding the whole cyber world as difficult,an incredibly hard mountain to conquer.

Smashwords offered a free book explaining the process, I downloaded it as a PDF and then printed it off so I could take it to bed, stuff in my handbag and generally read it and read it and read it until I was sure it was easy.

Easy? Yes formatting for Smashwords is easy.

It’s boring; at least to someone like me it is. It is boring, painstaking and very slow, but easy. The easy bit was turning the entire font to Times New Roman (a font I dislike intensely, but hey easy to change it) the most painstaking was eliminating all the spaces between words, at the end of sentences, between paragraphs and sections. Hundreds of them, how could there be so many. Some, of course, came from the fact that I was taught firmly that there should be two spaces after a full stop (I still think this looks better and reads better, but only one is allowed) so those were taken away that still left so many. It takes hours of word by word editing to eliminate them.

The print copy had been justified, which accounted for some (for e-books no justification is allowed) sloppy use of the enter button had resulted in others. Page breaks must go, so too must the fancy positioning of chapter headings and pauses in the narrative. Hours spent over creating just the right look of the printed page, all swept away. The button which showed up in these spaces became for a while my enemy as well as my editor:( spaces vanished one by one until there was a ‘clean’ copy.

I checked the dimensions of the cover and after hours of procrastination, I uploaded Ellen to the ‘meat grinder’. I had done it, my first e-book.

I had learnt the hard way- all subsequent books were formatted for e-booking as I wrote them, two files running alongside. I like Smashwords, for the ease of use and the multitude of formats their machine could turn my words into. Every reader including the kindle could be accommodated in one upload. I decided if I was to sell e-books, maybe I should own one, so am now a proud owner of a Sony and when my arthritic wrists complain at holding one of those ‘real’ books I turn to my lightweight friend.

It was many a month before I turned my eyes to Amazon for e-book and only because so many places I wished to show off my books needed an Amazon button before it could happen. I am reluctantly kindled, I have barely mentioned it unless asked, Smashwords always come first for me. As an aging cynic, I disapprove of monopolies and exclusivity; and those who wish to take over their own world I view with suspicion. Smashwords offers instead, choice and more choice.

So I smashed and kindled my books and by the end of 2011 felt quite comfortable doing both (I have to add by way of fairness that kindling one’s book is almost as easy as smashing it – honest) Then at the end of 2011 there was a great hike in print costs and my printers wanted a price I wasn’t willing to pass on to my readers and so decided I must do the whole job myself and turned to Lulu. I had helped a friend of mine upload her book to Lulu so I had some experience and again, anyone who is hesitant, if this old fool can do it anyone can:) I have managed to Lulu them all now; I am probably not going down the Amazon route for print.

By the end of 2011 I had finally mastered two new processes and felt ready to try a book trailer! Couldn’t be that difficult surely? Well, yes, it could.

This post was first published for Indie Authors

 

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New connections:friends in cyberspace

In this exciting world of networking I will have a try at many things.  So the first one?  New connections.  This blog is meant to be only about writing, self-publishing and the Sefuty Chronicles. My challenge is to endeavour not to stray too far off this path.

 The Sefuty Chronicles, a work always in progress as the series progresses, has at its dystopian heart reconnections and new connections.  As the struggle to reunite the survivors continues, as people have to learn to live with the manipulated people coming to help and live alongside them.

 I have had a fascination with how people connect with each other, I suspect, all my life.  Due probably to my own problems in this regard.  I have dyspraxia; it is a condition where, within the central cortex, connections between neural pathways are weak or inconsistent.  Somewhere between sensory information gathering, storing, and then the planning and execution of such, the messages don’t connect or not sufficiently to produce the correct results.  Motor skills are the obvious problems presenting with this condition, but social skills too are often frail.  Mine are.  Years of ‘people-watching’ to work out how to interact though, has resulted in working around the problems.

 I spent many years working with the under fives and all of you who have had experience of these early years know it is a period of intense development when new connections are made, it seems like in the hundreds every day!  Exciting times to be alive if a trifle exhausting for all concerned!  During this time I also travelled extensively and fell in love with humanity and all its diverse and fascinating cultures and went on to study anthropology in my 40s.  As with people and children, watching the connections was what drew me in, how they were made, how different cultures and peoples made sense of what was around them.  How they connected with the world.

 So where to start on ‘New Connections’?  Well, obviously the spangled web is all about connections.  The beauty and the wonder of it, all those tiny millions making a gigantic whole, a new species of spiders that work ant-like for each other.  It never fails to leave me amazed and bedazzled.  Maybe the younger members here do not share this wonder, but consider, I come from a time when a home  land line telephone was an unheard of luxury!  However the connectedness of the web is not the only connection I wish to write about.

 I joined the network of social sites reluctantly when I  published because research had suggested it was the way to go in selling a self-published book.  Hmm.   I had, of course, read about Facebook and Twitter and amongst my elderly peers, heard the comments of ‘just mindless chatter about breakfast and trains missed’.  They also said that about mobile phones when they appeared, but what a boon they are!  I dipped a toe, had an account with Facebook and Twitter and stood staring at them for the longest while.  What to do?  How to do?  Where were these so called ‘friends’ to come from?

 I watched; added people I already knew.  Responded to posts.  Followed leads which led to other sites.  To other groups of like-minded folk.  Slowly the list of friends grew.  I found I cared about these strangers in their day-to-day lives.  It ceased to become just a way to launch my writing, but a meeting of like-minded minds from around the world.  Pen pals without the stamps. 

 After a lifetime of stressful social intercourse I found the social networks relaxing and encouraging.  The ‘delete this post’ button is soooo good for someone who has trouble saying what is ‘inher mind.  (Quite often words come out in the wrong order and we all know the trouble that can cause!)  I find in this fast-talking world I now have time to respond, time to consider.  Great!

 I have found these new ‘friends’ of mine are kindly, generous, supportive and helpful.  As are humans in general.  They laugh and cry with you.  We may never meet and maybe it is not the general meaning of friends, but it is one interpretation of the word.

 So in the last year in the interests of my Sefuty Chronicles publications, I have made new connections with many, many people.  Through them I have been able to connect with many other new sites to aid me in researching a time I do not know.  Many new sites which have helped me forward in learning new skills, such as those for e-books, informed me about new software to aid me in my endeavours, and, maybe even better, led me to new ‘friends’ and sites of new interests. 

 I am connected to the world to people in a way I never have been before.

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world building:some influences

 

There are those who are strong-minded enough to research a subject without being diverted on the way; I am not, I have to confess, one of them.  Even in the days when reference books ruled I could end up reading diverse tomes that really had little to do with the matter in hand – sparked by some reference or throwaway comment.  Now, when the cobweb that stretches across the globe can trap information in seconds, whole hours can be happily spent following one strand to another until I might hesitate to name the original thought.  Wonderful fun and who can honestly say that finding out anything new is a complete waste of time?

 Ellen’s Tale is, of course, just that: a tale, a story, a work of fiction and not a proven piece of research.  I realise that the premise on which the book is based will not be to everyone’s way of thinking; however, I will nail my colours to the mast and say I follow the opinions of the current climate change faction who claim change is being accelerated by mankind. Now obviously one cannot know for sure what, if anything, will happen but the facts seem, to me, to support some kind of drastic climate change and whether or not it is change caused by man’s activities or just another in a continual cycle of change is, I feel, immaterial really.  The difference between climate changes previously and that predicted for the near future is the fact of the present human population; it is not just primitive life forms or prehistoric animals at risk but millions of our fellow companions.

 Ellen’s Tale didn’t necessitate much extra research as my reading had already encompassed climate change which fuelled the story in the first place. For those who are interested in the subject and who have not already read around it I found the following interesting, but they are probably not for the fainthearted or for those who depress easily!

 ‘When the Rivers run Dry’ by Fred Pearce, is an excellent account of how perilous the world’s fresh water supplies are and one which ends on a more hopeful note than his ‘The Last Generation’ does.  But the ‘Last Generation’ gives an interesting historical perspective to climate change.

 Mark Lynas books ‘High Tide’ and ‘Six Degrees’ are also two I found interesting.  The first outlines the degree to which climate change is impacting on the world today and the second tries to explain what each degree of warming could do to different parts of the world. 

 Another readable account which shows the impact of climate change on the world today is ‘Field Notes from a Catastrophe’ by Elizabeth Kolbert.

 Lester R Brown’s ‘Outgrowing the Earth’ explains very well the very real problems facing future food security in a world where population is outstripping water supplies and land suitable for producing food; a must have book.

 ‘The Weather Makers’ by Tim Flannery presents us with two choices for the future: one catastrophic and one where we could thrive, albeit in a changed world.

 These aforementioned are relatively recent publications but one of my older books was published in 1989 ‘The Greenhouse Effect’ by Stewart Boyle and John Ardill and shows that my interest in the subject stretches back into my history and that concerns on climate change are not recent.  I also remember, when much younger, stating to great derision from my peers that I thought the next global war would be caused by the desperate starving of the undeveloped countries and this was well before the first televised famines of Africa.  I cannot, at this distance of time, remember what sparked the comment but I still do fear the consequence of ignoring the food and water supplies of the world.

 So these are just a few of those who have helped form my opinion about the subject but also, over the years, I have followed the arguments, for and against in science journals, listened to the increasingly concerned debate over the past three decades and these, combined with the travels of my youth, when I discovered how marvellous our planet can be, have fed into the brain cells.  An accumulation of theories, facts and opinions.  All of which I realise may well evolve and change as new theories, facts and opinions materialise.  Nothing is ever fixed.

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World building: what’s behind the Sefuty Chronicles

 

The whole premise of Ellen’s tale and the Sefuty Chronicles was based on climate change, and my interest in genetic engineering. 

 I have been following the Genome Project, discoveries in genetics, cloning and all relevant side shoots for more than two decades even though I did always understand.  I might have a Science degree (it was in Anthropology and Nutrition) but I am no scientist, but I was always interested and fascinated. 

 Our family has over the years owned all manner of breeds of dogs all  of which are the result of being genetically engineered over the centuries for specific purposes.  Many people ride horses which have been altered in the same way, and do not let us forget how different farm animals are today from even Roman times.  I do have unease in the applications of  some aspects of this science; mine is not a whole-hearted endorsement, well aware that the greatest ideas can be hi-jacked by the humans that use them.  And I do understand the differences ethically, of selection of the fittest and creating the fittest.

 In the creation of a world in the 22nd century it seemed inconceivable to me that, whatever happened to our civilization, some form of genetic tinkering would not be used, either funded or a done deal from the decades before disaster.  After all we already have GM crops and cloned pets in many parts of the world. 

I have already expressed some views on food security  and will no doubt do so again as I grow more agitated at the lack of will to address these very real approaching problems.  What kind of world would exist in the time of Ellen was much more of a guess as no one seems to know the what?  The when?  Or even the if?  However if there is massive climate change then conflict, mass migrations of populations and food shortages seem to be inevitable.  If these are inevitable then what else would happen?

This was the question that exercised my mind a lot the summer that Ellen was coming to fruition and even more so when I decided there was more than one book to be written.  How much of the world, we know now, would survive?  How would human nature change or not?  Could we cope?

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World building: drawing board? what drawing board?

When I started the Sefuty Chronicles I had no very clear idea of the world I was writing about.  However, before I was half way through Ellen’s Tale I realised I would have to find out and fairly quickly.  I had an impression, of my own making, of the downsides of climate change; I needed to find out how realistic these were.

 Apart from checking climate change scenarios the most important idea was how my survivors outside the city walls would fare.  I grew up here in the UK after the 2nd world war with a romantic mental picture of farming.  Story book farms with cows, milked by hand! sheep, an odd pig complete with little pink piglets  eating scraps from the table. Dozens of chickens in the yard, ducks on the pond, and jolly fat farmers and their families.  It was a place of endless sunny days and the whole family would bring in the hay on the back of a hay wagon pulled by a shire horse, settle down to cream teas and merrymaking.  It never seemed to rain, harvests never flattened by the wind, never frozen into the ground by ice and snow.

 Of course I became aware through my growing that life is different from the books.  However when I started writing I still had the mixed farm in mind.  All I had to do post climate change was eliminate the tractors and land rovers and bring back that Shire horse wasn’t it? Simple? Well no.  There may not have been fossil fuel any more, but neither would there have been many Shire horses, they are almost gone now.  I went back to medieval times to see if there were clues on survival for my country folk to be found there.  It seemed easy.  Take away the feudal lord of the manner and the tithes due to him and the church.  Calculate how much of everything they grew and survived on. 

 As I researched it was with growing dismay I remembered I had put rings of landmines around every settlement.  In the ‘olden’ days they shared the heavy draught animals, as todays expensive tractors may be shared, between villages and farms.  They exchanged foodstuffs they had with those that didn’t at markets.  They would share the bull, the ram. Between communities.  I had taken that mobility away with never a second thought.

 I searched self sufficiency books of the now, the articles and books about the past.  I travelled back as far as the Stone Age.  But everywhere the greatest difference was the mobility the other ages had.  I had myself, that year, in my garden, a plague of snails which demolished an entire harvest of cabbages before even the Cabbage White could get to them, and I realised that, all through the ages, harvests fail for so many reasons. While I continued buying cabbages from the village shop my survivors would not be able. 

 While you can live without cabbage until the next season my research had been throwing up disasters a plenty with universal starvation from a ‘poor’ season.  It is of course always going on, we do though in this country think of famine and plagues of insects as happening somewhere else.  I had to try and think the impossible.  How would they survive without the ability to seek further afield, how would they survive if the weather wasn’t kind for a whole growing season.  What would then change in the ordering of societies as they faced this constant challenge to live? 

In my anthropology studies I had been fascinated at how environment and climate dictated so much of the social differences we find puzzling in our dealings with ‘others’  now I would have to work out if our social conventions could remain intact within the maelstrom of such a catastrophe.  It seemed the more I thought of one thing, i.e. how to farm, I saw the dominoes of consequence tipping, falling and sometimes landing lying askew.

 It always came back to food.  Everything about the survivor’s way of life would begin with the security of their food.  As with the City I had placed Ellen in, food security was to be all.  However the world Ellen inhabited had the science and the wherewithal to secure the feeding of the survivors, had a certain mobility to travel further afield.  Not depending only on themselves they had an army to defend them.  My wilderness survivors had no science, and land mines not an army.  It was not a case of back to the drawing board as it was evident in writing my ‘short story’ of Ellen I had not visited a drawing board at all!

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