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Thursday, 28 January 2016

Rocks & Gravel



Title: Rocks & Gravel
Author: Catie Rhodes
Series: Peri Jean Mace Ghost Thrillers Book 3



      



Peri Jean Mace knows ghosts create chaos in her life. She also knows the Mace Treasure spawns blood, death, and sorrow. They’re both trouble and she wants nothing to do with either one.

When a ghost steals secrets about the cursed fortune, Peri Jean is dragged kicking and screaming into the dangerous world of the treasure and the people who hunt it. 

Now she’s stuck between a vengeful ghost and treasure hunters willing to do anything—even murder—to get rich quick. A storm of curses, old betrayals, and murder are about to rain down on Peri Jean. Can she accept the truth about herself and save all she loves before it’s too late?


Catie Rhodes is the
author of the Peri Jean Mace Paranormal Mysteries. Her short stories have
appeared in Tales from the MistAllegories of the Tarot,
and  to Let’s Scare Cancer to Death.

Catie was born and
raised behind the pine curtain in East Texas. Her favorite memories of
childhood are sitting around listening to her family spin yarns.

Some of the tales were spooky. Some had
grim endings. Some were sidesplittingly funny. The stories all had one thing in
common: each had an element of the mysterious or the unexplained.

Those weird stories
molded Catie into a purveyor of her own brand of lies and legends. One day, she
found the courage to start writing down her stories. It changed her life
forever.

Catie Rhodes lives
steps from the Sam Houston National Forest with her long-suffering husband and
her armpit terrorist of a little dog.

When she’s not
writing, Catie likes to cook horribly fattening foods and crochet or knit stuff
nobody wants as a gift. She also reads a whole helluva lot.













Monday, 18 January 2016

Things that make you go Wut? What is happening to ebook pricing?

There are a couple of traditionally published authors I adore. Tight plots, great story, amazing sense of humour. Since I like my series books, a new release by one of these authors is a massive treat for me; it's like settling in for a new conversation with old friends and catching up on the news. Candy for the soul, ya know?

So when the latest release day hit, I went over to Amazon and looked at the kindle page. It was over £15 for the ebook.

Me: WTF? Must be a glitch.

Nope. I've gone back to that page every week for the last couple of months. As of now, it's sitting at over £9.00. The paperback is not available yet, and yes, I like this series enough to revert to tree-books if I must. But £9.00 for a kindle book - nope. That reduces my book budget, which at the moment is so tight it makes squeaky noises when I look at anything over £5.99, to something that the universe is likely to set on fire while giggling gently to itself.

It's not just that particular author, either. Pre-order on another favourite is £8.99. Yet another is £9.99, for something out in September.

Me: Um. Wut?

Google isn't showing me much conversation about the matter, but surely I'm not the only one thinking "I love you guys, but that's cat-food and toilet paper and a bunch of other stuff I can't justify giving up to read."

The thing is, those prices are publisher set. These are traditionally published authors, who get paid quarterly and have to earn out their advances. They have zero control over the final price set on sites like Amazon. They are also the ones that will likely be blamed for falling book sales, and possibly lose their contracts. (This is also the reason I'm not naming names. It's pointless calling out authors when it's the damn publishing house that's causing the issue.) While I'm seeing a lot of hissing and booing in the reviews section, most folks seem intent on blaming the writer instead of the publishing house.

A person of a cynical bent (who, moi?) might wonder if this is the latest ploy by publishers to reduce ebook sales and increase paper sales. Or whether this is an epic tantrum aimed at Amazon by the publishers after the Apple debacle last year. Who knows?

I do know that charging close to double the price of a paper-back for an ebook is price-gouging of a sort that would make loan sharks blink in envy. I also don't see anyway this is sustainable in the long run; most folks simply can't afford to pay these prices. Book sales across the board for traditional authors is likely to drop. There might be a short term increase in money, but in the long run, that income stream is on a death march. So are a number of the authors involved, unless they get their rights back and start self-publishing. Most writers - even traditionally published ones - still work a day job because their income from books is so low it's ridiculous. You don't write for the money, kids. You write because you have to.

From an indie author point of view, how does this affect our pricing? Do we put prices up in an effort to keep up, or drop them back down in competition? The time of the .99c ebook creating sales went the way of the dodo at least 18 months back; the majority of readers now associate low prices with low quality, which is a pity. I found some great new authors at that price.

I have no clue what the end game is here. If readers vote with their wallets and go back to tree-books, that gives the publishing houses a grand excuse to stop producing them. If we continue to buy ebooks for prices that would choke a walrus, publishers have no reason to drop the prices. It's an ugly game, whatever the rules and reasons, and in this case, both writers and readers are the losers. The publishers are likely to gallop merrily into the sunset, and wonder why the hell their business is in trouble over the next two years.












Saturday, 26 December 2015

Blessings: Kitty update

A couple of weeks ago, Bast threw up in the lounge. A pool of white froth, it was startling mainly because he doesn't throw up; unlike Sheba, who does so at least three times a week.

Then he galloped around like his usual self. Cats throw up. It's one of the things you learn to live with if you have a cat.

That was a Sunday. Tuesday he came downstairs and threw up in front of Stace while I was at work. She called the vet and took him in, because he wasn't being his normal self: no appetite, no running around, and his sides were shrunken.

The vet put him on a drip because he was seriously dehydrated and kept him in overnight. Multiple x-rays followed. There was some sort of blockage in a lung. Possible heart damage. They didn't think he'd make it.

The next couple of days were a blur of vet updates and cold, hard fear. Fear is a funny thing. It's one of the most physical emotions, and it settles into your stomach and heart and mind and squeezes until your lips go numb and you struggle to think past it. It's the third time this year I've had that experience, and I'd sincerely like it to never happen again.

The vet had no clue what was causing the blockage. Stace and I scoured the house looking for something the boy might have eaten. Nothing. Nada. Zip. We've tried to make the house pretty much cat-proof - no poisonous plants, no sharp objects left lying around - but still, a house collects objects and he could've swallowed anything from cardboard to cinnamon sticks.

The vet took something like 700 ml of liquid off of his lung, and sent it off for analysis. Every time the phone went we expected the conversation to start with "I'm sorry, but..."

More tests and x-rays. More phone calls. Had he fallen? (Unknown) Been hit by a car? (Definitely not.)


In the meantime, Sheba and Hathor searched everywhere for him. In the cupboards. Under the pillows on the bed. Behind the couches. Eventually Hathor retreated to his favourite sleeping spots in turn, curled up and withdrawn. Sheba sat down on the stairs and howled.

The last set of scans after the fluid had been reduced showed something out of a horror story: Bast had a hole in his diaphragm. His stomach had navigated up and into his left lung. His heart was thankfully undamaged.

Bast was transferred to the vet school in Bearsden, and Stace and I rushed over to meet the surgeons. It was operable. Barring severe complications, and provided he made it through the op, we'd get our boy back.

We went home to wait.


They phoned the next morning to let us know he'd sailed through the op. He'd ended up with both his stomach and several feet of his small intestine in his chest cavity and lung; trauma usually only seen in car accident survivors. There is a chance it was a birth defect, or possible caused by the abuse they suffered as kittens. How he survived so long without it coming to a head before is unknown.

We picked him up on the Sunday morning, and he purred and cuddled up to us all the home through his carrier.

Three paws, his neck and his belly were shaved down from the frantic efforts to save him as well as the op itself.

He was stapled down the length of his chest and belly, which annoyed him because he kept wanting his belly rubbed and we wouldn't touch him there. So he'd walk sedately around the house after us and hurl himself to the ground if we looked at him, then complain bitterly because tummy rubs weren't on the menu.

We were given vials of oral painkiller that had to be squirted onto his gums, (after the first attempt ended up with painkiller on the ceiling, up my nose, and along Stace's sleeve, we stuck him in the carrier with his head sticking out and lifted his lip to squirt the stuff in. I'm fairly sure we were more traumatised by the process than he was.)  and a tablet that was crushed into his food for the next week.

This Wednesday the staples came out. He's eating and playing and back to being our usual happy boy. Hathor and Sheba are much happier as well. Christmas was definitely good; the best present was getting Bast back safe and sound.

Here he is in all his shaved-down, post-staple glory. You know Bast is happy because he gets a smile on his face.

I hope your Christmas was just as good.









Sunday, 22 November 2015

Moment of Aargh (Glasgow series, Part 0001) and introducing Odin.

One thing definitely hasn't changed since moving to Glasgow. I am still the queen of WTF Did I Just Do? moments. I've managed to get to the train station in my slippers at least once in the last month.

Stace is on a baking kick, which is so awesome: I come in, and there's cake. And it's good cake, which is even more important.

This means that the butter, eggs, etc get used up pretty fast, so the other day when I went to make some toast, the butter was pretty much done. No problems - we have more in the freezer, one of those lidded little plastic tubs with an inner foil seal under the lid. The plan was to take it out, nuke it for 30 seconds so I could scrape enough off the top for the toast, and leave it out to defrost thoroughly, because in Glasgow you don't need to keep butter in the fridge come November. Hell, you could probably safely leave your milk out for most of the week. Our kitchen is the approximate temperature of a walk-in fridge anyway.

So, I bent down to the freezer, hauled the frozen tub of butter out, turned around to walk away, and promptly tripped over my own two feet. I didn't quite face-plant (Wahey!), but I flung out my hand to catch myself, and of course I used the hand holding the butter. It slammed off of the wall and escaped, sailing across the kitchen like The Little Butter Bar That Learnt How To Fly.

Me: Oh, crap. Not to worry, the lid's still on-

The lid must have been loosened during the bash against the wall. Half a second into the flight, it spun off of the top of the butter and tried to imbed itself in the microwave door.

A half second later, the inner foil fluttered gently down to the floor tiles.

Me: Aw, come on.

The butter, now lidless and foil-less, bounced off of the spare utensil drawer and whirred back at my face. I ducked. It slammed into the wall beside me and sailed back across the room.

Me: Holy sh-

The butter, which by all rights should've been firmly fixed by its own weight inside that bloody tub, separated from the container and dropped. On my foot. Frozen butter hurts, by the way. The container landed completely upright on the kitchen counter, spun twice, and stopped.

Me: Oh, fuck a duck.


                            *******************************************************

Shortly after we moved into the house, we noticed a gorgeous black cat wandering around. The neighbour told me he's lived in the area for years, and the woman who had him died some time ago. One of her neighbours took him on. Unfortunately, I have no idea who, or if the person is even still in the area.

The cat I saw the first couple of times was desperately stalking pigeons. He caught a couple, and ate most of them. His coat was dull, and watching the way he walks makes me think there's a good touch of arthritis involved. Our bunch aren't allowed out without a harness or going into their outdoor pen, so the old boy spent a lot of summer sitting on the deck looking in at them, with Bast in particular watching him back and chirping. He was extremely skittish around humans, though.

Then he started coming to the front door. We have a couple of spare cat bowls, so I started putting a bowl down for him. (I later found out Stace was doing the same thing. There's a reason my cousin and I get on pretty well most of the time.)
On rainy, cold days, we leave a bowl of food in the front door alcove for him and leave the one door closed so he gets a bit of shelter and a place to sit while he gets his food.

His coat is starting to shine, and he's put on a bit of weight, but he's still pretty jumpy. We've called him Odin because his one eye tends to close slowly while he looks at you. I'm not sure whether it's a medical issue, but there seems to be constant clear discharge, and he won't let me close enough for long enough to get him into a carrier. I'd like to get that looked at, because it's bugging the hell out of me. He also has an overbite, which seems to be a thing with black toms in the UK. It is pretty freaking adorable, though. He'll let us stroke him, briefly, before settling down to eat.
He missed a couple of visits during the big storm we had last week, and we were both very relieved to see him one morning, waiting patiently for the doors to open so that he could get his breakfast.

We can't let him in the house because we have no clue whether his shots are up to date (Sheba got taken to the vet the day after I adopted her and was all up to date by the time the other two met her) and I won't take a chance with my three. Introducing a new cat can also be a tricky business, and it's almost impossible to turn an outdoor cat into an indoor cat and have a happy animal. Three indoor cats with no road-sense and access to a cat door would have the life expectancy of a soft-boiled egg since we live on a very busy road. It's a dilemma I can't see a way around just yet; any ideas that are feasible would be great.

Bast desperately wants to meet him. If he knows Odin is in the alcove, he hurls himself at the door chirping frantically. There's no hissing or growling, and knowing Bast he wants to play with a new friend, but since Odin could probably dismantle him in three seconds flat, that door is staying firmly closed for the meantime.

We're planning on putting a box and blanket down for him so if he wants to snuggle up for most of the day he can. It would be good to know he has a warm place when winter hits.





Friday, 28 August 2015

Affordable Pre-Made Book Covers for Indie Authors - Available Now




I've been doing ebook covers for some time now for my fellow indie authors. It's fun and I love it, but doing book cover to spec takes a long time and can kill an author's budget in a hurry.

So I've put together a number of pre-made covers for you, at the very affordable price of $50.00 each.

All covers are one-off designs - you won't find these popping up again with a different shade or font type. (Having two different ebooks by different authors with the same cover on the Amazon store is kind of like wearing a fancy dress to the dance and having the prom queen pitch up wearing it. Awkwardness abounds.)

Font size, type and colour can be changed if needed, and of course sub-titles and blurbs will be added if you need them

Covers will be sent in high resolution jpeg files, minimum 300dpi, perfect for an ebook thumbnail.

Availability is strictly first come, first serve, and all sales are final once payment is received to avoid any awkwardness. Once a cover is sold it will be noted as such on this page to avoid dashed dreams, broken hearts, and sobbing from all parties.

Payment is through Paypal, and if you don't already have an account it is very easy to setup.

To select your cover,:
1) Drop me an email at shadowkatzdesign(at)outlook.com with the file name (under each cover on this page), your title, author name and any changes to font colour, size or type, plus the sub-title and blurbs if needed.
2) I will send you the Paypal details, and
3) As soon as the payment is through, the file will be sent to you using the email address you contacted me with.

FAQs:
Q: I don't have a Paypal account. Do I really need one?
A: Yes. It doesn't take long to set up. Trust me, if I can manage, anyone can. 

Q: I bought a cover and I want to keep it for a series with some minor changes. 
A: Something small like a colour-wash and font changes can be negotiated.

Q: I want a spec-built cover.
A: Happy to oblige - drop me an email at shadowkatzdesign(at)outlook.com, and we can discuss rates.

Onto the good stuff! Some of these fall pretty squarely into a single category, others can be used across a couple of genres.

Romance & Erotica


Erotica 001






SciFI

scifi 001

scifi 002 SOLD





  YA, Urban and Dystopia


YA Urb 002
YA Urb Dyst 001



Thriller & Mystery





Mystery 001
Thriller 001
Thriller 002



Mystery 002



                                                              


    Horror & Supernatural

                    


Ghost 001

Horror 002







Friday, 17 July 2015

Scotland, wahey!

We've been in Glasgow just over two weeks. So far, loving it - I'm surrounded by family, which is huge for me, and the neighbours are awesome.

The house is great. There's a standing joke that visitors from London will weep when they see the size of your place and hear the rent price. That's pretty spot on. I have a house with a garden for less than what I was paying for a dingy flat that had crumbling spots on the walls. Lumps would fall off whenever a bus idled outside.

The cats are having a blast. We've had to block off all the fireplaces (there are 4) because last week Hathor vanished. We could hear her crying, but the silly kit kept quiet whenever we were in the lounge.
Whenever Bast or Sheba came into the room and we asked where Hathor was, they went over to the fireplace. We thought there was just no way; there is a metal cap over the chimney. It turns out that cap pushes inwards.
We found her 3 days later, in the lounge chimney. I think she must have been licking condensation off of the bricks; 2 of those days were scorchers. To be honest, I was starting to think we were looking for a dead cat. She was hauled out, black from nose to tail, with Stace receiving a head full of soot herself.

Bast sat on the edge of the bath and watched her get thoroughly soaped and washed, right up until she tapped out with one little paw on Stace's arm. No claws, just three little taps asking for it to be done.

Then he climbed into the cupboard with her, held her down, and washed her all over again while giving her a thorough scolding. We've got her a collar with a bell; but catching her to get it on is a whole different story, since she has decided I'm the Spawn of Hell and am to be avoided unless she thinks I'm sleeping. I think she blames me for the bath.

The floors are mainly wood, and Bast has discovered that he can take a running start and skid through rooms on his bottom. This doesn't always work so well when he hits the carpeted stairs, and I'm waiting for him to get a splinter.

Sheba swops between my bedroom and the lounge, watching me work. Her greatest delight is staring sleepily out of the window, watching the neighbourhood trees move in the wind. At 3a.m. she joins in the nightly cat stampede up and down the stairs.

I'm sure winter is going to hurt, temperature wise. But the people are good, the prices are sooooo cheap - I can't remember the last time I spent £60 on groceries and staggered under the weight of what we bought - and we are happy.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Biblicalgenderroles.com, You're a Numpty

Fair warning here - this entire blogpost made me feel stabby. Allow me to show you why.

The post is called 8 steps to confront your wife's sexual refusal




Yeah. Confronting someone because they don't want sexy times instead of asking them what's wrong will definitely get you nooky.

Let's look at the first paragraph: 

"How should you as a husband handle it when your wife directly refuses to have sex without a valid reason?"


Um. Dude, your wife doesn't need a valid reason. Nobody does. Let me repeat this: NOBODY NEEDS TO GIVE YOU A REASON AS TO WHY THEY DON'T WANT SEX. 


"Is there anything a Christian husband can do about this?"
Yes. Leave her alone.


"This will be my last post specifically about sexuality in this series on “How to be godly husband”.


"Christian Husbands – let me be crystal clear here. The situation I am addressing in this post is not your wife occasionally turning you down for sex (even with a bad attitude, as opposed to for health or other legitimate reasons). What I am addressing here is the wife who consistently and routinely denies her husband sexually simply because she does not need sex as much or she thinks she should not have to do it except when she is in the mood or she thinks her husband should have to earn sex with her by “putting her in the mood” by doing various things she expects or likes."



Wow. Imagine a woman daring to only want sex when she's in the mood, or wants her husband to arouse her. Next thing you know she'll want to learn how to read.


"I have not, nor would I EVER advocate for a husband to force himself physically upon his wife or to physically abuse her in any fashion.  The issue being discussed is how a husband can confront a wife who chronically or willfully denies his sexual rights in marriage without just cause(be it legitimate health or mental conditions).  He has the right, both under Biblical law, as well as under American law, to reason with his with his wife and try to convince her to willingly(even if grudgingly) yield herself to him, and thereby fulfilling one her most important duties in Christian marriage."

Yield? Your wife is not bloody road traffic. Making someone have sex with you when they are unwilling and grudging about it is abuse. 
The phrase for what you're advocating is passive rape. 


"In two previous posts in this series I addressed these key issues:
In “Christian Husbands – You don’t pay for the milk when you own the cow!” we established this Biblical principle:
Neither the husband, nor the wife have to earn sex in marriage.
A wife cannot flatly refuse her husband, she may only ask for a delay (a raincheck) and then she needs to make good on that raincheck as soon as possible.
A husband has the right to confront his wife’s sexual refusal as a sin not only against him, but also against God.
In “Is a husband selfish for having sex with his wife when she is not the mood?” I elaborated further on this subject of sexual refusal in marriage with these principles:
A husband ought not to feel guilty for having sex with his wife when she is not in the mood if she yields, even grudgingly.
A husband needs to use prayerful discernment to discover if her reasons for “not being in the mood” are for legitimate physical or mental health reasons or if the problem is wrong thinking and wrong attitude on the part of his wife. If her reasons are legitimate, then she needs to seek medical or psychological help as soon as possible.
Now in this post we will talk about how to handle the sexual refusal of a wife when it is because she has a wrong attitude and wrong thinking about marriage and sex."

OMFG, dude. This is not how healthy relationships work. Also, you just made me throw up in my mouth a little.
Yes, a woman can totally refuse sex. This is because she is a person, and not a blow-up sex toy, and has rights over her own body. Also, did you seriously just compare women to cows? What are you going to do when you get the munchies, butcher her? 
I think you're overly concerned with the interest your God has in your sex life. You also appear to have an ego problem if you are putting yourself in the same role as a deity.
A husband that makes his wife have sex should feel guilty. He should also be in jail.
Here's an answer for the prayerful discernment: 




Then there's a bunch of stuff about husbands refusing their wives, which is being saved for another series (Oh, joy.) and lot of biblical quotations from Corinthians and Paul. I'm not pasting it because it will turn this post into something that takes two weeks to read. However:

That's not how it works.

 "Let me be clear on something, even if you do follow the steps below I give, this does not automatically mean you will get a change from your wife, or her repentance for her sexual immorality." 



Let's have a quick look at the steps he wants you to take. I'm just taking the headings, because the explanations he gives repeats them in a variety of annoying ways:

"Step 1 – Rebuke her privately"

Sure. Treat a grown-ass woman like she's 6. That's guaranteed to make her want sexy times.

"Step 2 – Rebuke her before witnesses"

Because it's always good to have someone else see what an ass you really are.



"Step 3 – Bring her before the Church"


Note: He points out that you may have an angry wife after this stage. Ya think?


"Step 4 – Stop taking her on dates or trips"

This boils down to "No nooky, no fun." Because you should always punish someone for not having sex. It's guaranteed to get you lai- 
Oh, wait.



"Step 5 – No unnecessary household upgrades"

Also known to 10 year olds as cutting your nose off to spite your face. Have fun, guys.


"Step 6 – Stop doing the little extra things"

This is so incredibly specific I'm guessing he's going by personal experience. Apparently he gives a great massage.




"Step 7 – Remove her funding"

What the absolute fuck?


Good of you to note that this only works if she doesn't have her own income. Stop giving her pocket money??? 
WHY ARE YOU TREATING YOUR WIFE LIKE SHE'S YOUR YOUR DAUGHTER?


"What if none of these 7 steps work?


If your wife remains willfully defiant, yet she has not left you, it could be for a variety of reasons."
Yeah. She could've grown up in a cult that views abuse like this as normal. She could be terrified of you. She could be trapped with no money and no skills to make a new life.

Let me be clear. This is not how Christians are supposed to behave. This is not how any decent human is supposed to behave. 

"You have the option to divorce her for her sexual immorality."


There's sexual immorality here. Yours. Quite frankly if divorce gets your wife out of the living hell you've put her in, I'm all for it.


"Why bother with the first 7 steps if divorce is an option for sexual denial?"
Blah blah blah duty blah blah blah Israel blah blah blah "we owe our wives and our marriages this fight."
Following the above steps will and should result in: 


"But aren’t these steps a form of manipulation?"


But that's okay, because husbands need to discipline their wives :

"Discipline, on the other hand is very different from manipulation. Discipline is performed by one who is in authority over one who is under their authority. It is action taken by an authority to attempt to modify the bad behavior of the subject of that authority so that they will behave correctly in the future."

Dude, I can't even.



"Conclusion
Christian husband, you are not powerless to act against your wife’s sexual refusal. But you must realize that this may be a long and costly battle. Your confrontation of your wife’s willful, sinful behavior may result in your marriage ending."


But wait: there's more!

"That is why we will talk about “10 Ways to know your wife” and then “12 Ways to honor your wife” now that we have concluded our discussion of sexuality as it relates to being a godly husband."



Make.

It.
Stop.