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Monday 31 December 2012

Last post of 2012

I always feel a bit strange on the last day of the calendar year. The optimistic part of me is going "Oh, maybe next year will be better. Maybe (insert year of choice here) will be THE year."  The year you win the lottery, sell a million books, meet your future mate without running in terror because you're commitment phobic. The usual, right?
The rational part of me says quietly - "You realise this is a man-made break in time, right? Right? Put that egg-nog down and LISTEN, damnit." Then rationality wanders off to sulk in a corner and we can enjoy the rest of the evening.

There's this peculiar mixture of hope and nostalgia and the realisation that Tempus Fugit, and doesn't need the help of a bunch of sparkling alcohol to do so. Once you get to a certain point in life, time doesn't just fly. She straps your butt to a high-powered rock and lights the fuse.

I don't make resolutions for the new year. I have a few goals I'd like to achieve, but resolutions are fixed and brittle, like glass rods on a beach, and tend to shatter when the tide comes in and circumstances change. Goals are flexible, and you can move them when you need to.

I think about the people gone, the opportunities missed, the goals achieved. The highlights and lowlights - the stuff that broke my heart and the things that made me think there might actually be hope for the human race. Then I put them into my memory box for the past year, and close it. I'll come back to it a few times over the next few years, I reckon, and some of those memories will still be bright and shiny and probably bigger than what they really were - some things grow bigger in the dark - and some will have lost their sheen. They'll be dusty and cracked and hard to focus on. Some will have shrunk to nothing, and I can take those out and dispose of them without a twinge of guilt or remorse.

I think about my blessings, as my mom would say. I look at them and sort them out, and folks, I have a lot to sort out.

There's the material stuff, that internet sages tut over and reckon can't buy you happiness, but go a very long way to not making you miserable. I have food in my belly, clothes on my back, a roof over my head. I have books and art supplies and internet access, and a job that pays for all that stuff.

I have a body that functions pretty well when it isn't falling over it's own two feet, and a mind that still gets pilots the body okay, even if my family think I'm a little strange. (But it's okay to be strange, as my mom explained to me the other day, because you're one of those arty people. Arty people are different. Moving right along, then.)

I have my writing, which is huge, because writing makes me happy in a way that chocolate can't even touch.
I have my artwork, which is pretty good stress therapy, and more supplies than some small craft stores. (I love painting, and probably always will, although I don't need it the way I do the writing. There are moments when it feels more important than others, but it doesn't feel like I need to finger paint to stay functioning. Miss a few days in front of the keyboard, though, and I get very, very cranky.)

I get to say I love you a lot. To family, to a couple of friends. Out of everything listed, that's the biggest blessing, I think. If you offered me the winning jackpot for the lottery on one hand, versus the people I care about on the other, the people win.
Because everything else is just stuff. It's shiny baubles that decorate space in your life. It's a way to flash what you have on a material level, it's our way of validating ourselves - get the latest smartphone, the newest Wii, the best new coffee machine - and feel successful. And it's pretty and shiny and a socially acceptable way to rub your enemy's nose in the fact that you've beaten them, and in the end it means pretty much nothing. In less than year, that stuff ends up obsolete, or the T&Cs change and turns that shiny new phone into an albatross.
People, though, especially people who value you for who you are and not what you can do for them - you can't buy that.

I am lucky. I am blessed. For 2013, I wish the same for all of you.

Sunday 30 December 2012


Got a couple of easy recipes for you today. The first is the gingerbread sauce - it takes about 5 minutes or so and is brilliant with meat and poultry. I wouldn't try it with fish; I think it would totally overpower the delicate meat.

Gingerbread sauce:

7 or 8 ginger biscuits. (You can add more, but this sauce makes up a pretty big batch, and it thickens fast.)
1 tablespoon butter
250ml light cream or milk (I've used both. The cream just makes it a bit richer.)
salt to taste
pepper to taste
Fresh rosemary sprig
Splash of hot water if the sauce thickens to fast.
Optional extra: Gingerbread syrup - you can get this off of Amazon or from food suppliers in the UK. It's advertised as coffee syrup, which it's great in, but also works for anything you want to add flavour to. I believe you can buy it in stores in the USA, but could be wrong - however you can still get it on-line there.

Break the ginger biscuits up and put them in the pan on low heat with the butter. They start to disintegrate fast.
Stir in the cream, salt &  pepper, syrup if using, and the rosemary sprig. Continue stirring. If the sauce thickens to much, thin it out with some hot water.

Time : 5 or 6 minutes.

The sauce can be frozen, and it keeps in the fridge for about 4 days. It works great with red meats and game poultry.

Easy Eggnog:

I'll be totally honest here - I rarely measure the alcohol strictly. The usual raw egg warnings apply, although I've read a few stories claiming that the alcohol kills any potential salmonella bacteria off. How true that is, I have no idea.

The quantity below makes a pretty big bowl. Feel free to adjust to suit yourselves.


250ml light cream (Heavy cream can be used, it just takes longer to beat the mixture, and it will be a lot thicker)
1 x tin light condensed milk (This is the diet version. You can use normal condensed milk, but it's a helluva lot sweeter)
6 eggs, separated (not mandatory, but beating the whites separately makes the mix a lot frothier)
1 tsp sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup Rum
1 1/2 cups Brandy
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
Optional Extra : About an inch of vanilla pod, split open & scraped. Cinnamon gives this a nice warm kick as well.

Beat the egg yolks and sugar together until creamy.
Add every thing else except the egg white, beating after every ingredient for a couple of seconds.
Beat the egg whites separately until frothy, and fold into the main mix. Stir gently until thoroughly mixed, and pop in the fridge until ready to serve.

Time: About ten minutes, unless you drop eggnog mix into your shoe and have to hop to the bathroom in the middle of things to wash your toes.

No idea on the lifespan of this; it's never lasted longer than 48 hours because we drink it too fast. I've seen recipes that recommend ageing it for a week, but since I don't really want alien life forms spawning in my fridge, that idea doesn't really appeal.

On a slightly more serious note - there's a good bit of booze in this, and it will affect you, so if you're driving, don't over do it. I like you guys in one piece.

Friday 28 December 2012

Moments of Ow, or Friday as it was.

Today was special, even by my standards, for the sheer quantity of whoops moments.

I got up and zombie-shuffled to the kitchen for my coffee. I use a little plunger thingy since I'm the only one in the house who mainlines filter coffee. There's a bit of trick to it: you put the coffee in,  top it up with hot water, and wait for a few minutes. Then slide the plunger down slowly unless it meets resistance, in which case you draw it up again and wait some more. For some reason there was absolutely no resistance this time around, so the plunger moved a lot faster than it should have (probably because a bleary-eyed yours truly was clutching it like a teddy bear), and the result was impressive. Coffee grinds on the kettle. Coffee  grinds on the tab (missed the sink totally). Coffee grinds in my hair dripping onto my nose. Pretty much no coffee left in the plunger.
Take 2: Put the kettle on again while I washed my hair. Got back to my bedroom and put the mug down on the floor. Forgot it was there. Tripped over my own two feet and knocked the mug over.
Take 3: Get back to bedroom with 3rd cup clutch to breast like holy grail. Start sipping coffee. Someone bangs on the front door. Wear coffee. Open door looking like semi-rabid, dripping wet wolverine. (That courier company may find themselves looking for a new driver. Poor guy looked terrified. Sorry about that.)

At that point I said sod it and went back to bed for an hour (I love holidays. I can reboot my days on holidays. Kind of.)

Take 4: Tried coffee again. Part of delivery was a milk frother. Coffee was fine. Ceiling ended up with milk froth trailing off it like lace. There was also milk froth in my eyebrows and left ear. The froth left in the cup was great.

Take 5: Finally had a full cup of coffee. With milk froth, and no incidents. Encouraged by this, I decided to put my storage cubes together. The reviews on Amazon reckoned it took about 15 to 20 minutes to put together.

He. Hehe. He.

Approximately 2 1/2 hours later, the tally is as follows:

1 x throbbing nose (not broken, for which I am thankful.)
1 x throbbing wrist (which was what I bitch-slapped myself with) with tooth marks. (It was a genuinely impressive slap, ok?)
1 x complete inability to follow instructions that appear to have been designed and written by a drunken moose with ambitions to install an inter-dimensional time rip in my living room.
1 x near-miss with the window when the 2nd or 3rd attempt imploded and fired 3 plastic connectors at high velocity across the room.
1 x mark on forehead where 4th attempt imploded and I didn't duck fast enough.
2 x spare connectors. Have no idea where they go, and I've given up looking.
1 x 1/4 quarter bottle of honey mead, which got me through the construction process after the bitch-slap moment. Currently feeling no pain.
Several very amused twitter buddies, who followed the whole process via my tweeted howls of desperation.
1 x storage cube organised.

Never again. Anyone who ever encourages me to do DYI work will be referred back to this post.

I am waiting to get feeling back in my various body parts before I decide whether I can write or not. I'm hoping so - there is still a lot to work on and I really want to get through it before heading back to work next week - but as the mead wears off I feel like I've been mud-wrestling a chimp, and part of me just wants to climb back into bed and whimper gently until the sun rises.

Thursday 27 December 2012

Ravens snippet

Anyone up for another snippet of the next Crescent book?

The usual warnings apply - this is still going through editing/final re-writes, so the scene below may or may not change. At this point in time I rather like it, so odds are it's going to make the final cut.

To set the scene - Vianna and Neill are undercover investigating a very disturbing case - and things are about to go pear-shaped.

Strong language warning applies.


‘Vianna, where are you?’
Lady Vera covered up her stumble with an airy remark about provincial cobblestones, and snarled back down the mind-link at Tarmien.
‘I’m about to have tea with one of the creepiest bastards I've ever met in my life. Why?’

The creepy bastard offered his arm to ensure against further stumbles. With a well-concealed sigh, she fluttered her eyelashes at him and accepted.
‘Where is Neill?’
‘Stalking next to me looking majestic. Why?’
The wolf rolled a beady eye at her and let his tongue loll out in a toothy grin. Vianna shot him a brief mental vision of a good fur coat.
‘Don’t let any of them touch him.’
‘I’ve already warned him off. I told him he bites strangers.’
‘Not good enough. Can you get out of there?’
‘Not without causing a fuss.’
Her escort had steered her into a small tea-room, enjoying the bowing and scraping his entrance caused.
‘Then cause one.’

The creature escorting her – she refused to think of it as a man – held a chair out for her to seat herself, then reached down and patted Neill on the head while she was distracted by her skirts.

The mind-link ripped apart.

Vianna was thrown backwards, the dainty little chair beneath her splintering into so much kindling. Her nose and ears were streaming blood.

Neill was screaming, still in wolf-form. The councillor that had stroked his fur was on his knees beside him, screaming as well. The wolf had torn his hand off at the wrist, but what dribbled out was thick, stinking black bile instead of  blood.

The other patrons in the shop cowered at their tables, unsure of what was going on.

The wolf screamed, and screamed, and screamed.

Vianna tried to move and realised her skirts were tangled and twined around her legs. She ripped the hated mass of silk away from her legs and kicked them free, then crawled over the splintered mess that had been her chair to reach Neill.
She felt wood and nails claw into her flesh and ignored it. The only thing that mattered was her heart, screaming on the other side of the table.
She crawled into a pair of legs and start to push around them, frantic.
She snarled at the alien voice in her head – that wasn’t a mind-link, she had no idea what that was – and she didn’t care.
*If you touch him he will die.*
*Get out of my way!*
*He will die, hawk. You will both die. Hear me, damn you.*
*I’m a healer. Now get the fuck out of my way.*
*You cannot heal this.*
*Fuck. Off.*
The legs stayed where they were, immobile, enfolded in soft cloth. A cloak, Vianna realised. Whoever or whatever this was had on a cloak. It was spattered crimson from where she had run into it.
The voice sighed into her mind. *This is pointless.*
And Vianna realised that there was a blade, rising so swiftly she couldn’t track it.


The blade fell.

The silence in the room choked her, followed her down the spiral into unconsciousness.

Tuesday 25 December 2012

Christmas Menu

I'm writing this while I wait for the roast potatoes to finish up, so I'll probably have drool marks on the keyboard by the time I finish.

To be totally honest, I'm just not all that keen on turkey, so I've gone for some ox tongue with trimmings. I love tongue - it's a mission to make, but it's pure meat, with no bone to worry about. Once it's skinned, there's no waste at all. I'll probably eat off this for the next week.

Today's Menu:

Brown Mushrooms with lychee, in a garlic, thyme, butter & wine sauce.

Creamed spinach

2 cheese cauliflower  cheese

Ox tongue basted in lime & lemon marmalade, with a gingerbread sauce.

Potato & garlic roasted in duck fat

Yorkshire pudding

Dessert :

Warm cherry pie & cream

Side drinks:

Honey & Apple Cider
Honey Mead
Cherry Coke (yep, I'm a barbarian. Also known as, eat & drink what you like, and not what people tell you you should like.)

Chocolate (made from scratch yesterday, with lime & lemon & real vanilla flavouring)


Where ever you are, and what ever you eat today, enjoy it! Merry Christmas, everyone.

Monday 24 December 2012

Best Books of 2012 finale - part 3 - & free Quarter the Moon Download

Right folks - it's Christmas Eve here in the UK. Here's wishing you and yours a wonderful time, and best wishes for the next year.
Quarter the Moon, the first collection of the Basement Blues series, is free to download from December 25th up until the 30th. Merry Christmas!

M Ruth Myers - Maggie O'Sullivan series. A series following a pre-WW2 female detective, with a wicked dose of humor and definite style.

Jeffrey Poole - The Bakkian Chronicles. This through-the-portal fantasy is fast becoming my new comfort read, with outlandish situations, BNP's (Bugs of Nightmarish Proportions) and totally laught-out-loud situations. I dare you to finish these books and not have a smile on your face.

Lilith Saintcrow - Jill Kismet series. The only issue I have with this series is that they aren't all on kindle, and I already have 5 bookcases overflowing with tree-format books. Following a female bounty-hunter in a world where demons and shifters are real and nasty, this is top stuff. Gritty, hard, in-your-face-action.

B. Throwsnaill - Hemlock & the Wizard Tower. Following the adventures of Hemlock, a cut-purse, who discovers she has more power than she ever expected, this is a great traditional fantasy ride. So far, two books in this series, and I'm definitely hoping for more!

Rob Thurman - Cal Leandros series. I'm also enjoying the Trickster series & Basilisk Brothers books by this author, but the Cal series is what I keep coming back to. An ingenius take on the dark elf myth, with lots of blood, guts, gore and attitude, and some pretty strong language. And a puck that stops the darkness becoming just a little too dark.

G. David Walker - Everything. Although he only has a few books up at the moment, I'm hoping he releases a lot more. This author combines traditional fantasy with stunning, intricate twists of sci-fi. Some very powerful stuff, and it delivers more than one sucker punch twist that the reader doesn't see coming.

Sweet Dreams - Various authors. Full disclosure on this one - one of my stories is in there (zombie pot-plants - you've been warned!) and a fair number of the authors mentioned in this and the previous two best books round-up. The folks involved donated their stories to raise funds for a young woman with terminal brain cancer. In August, we achieved the goal of sending her on her dream holiday to Vietnam and Cambodia, and it wouldn't have been possible without people like these writers giving their time and stories. You guys, every one of you, humbled me with your kindness and spirit of giving, and made me proud to part of your community.
And despite my own possible prejudice, there are some of the best shorts I've got my grubby little hands on in there, ever.


So there we are. My personal list of the best books I've read this year. If you click those links, I hope you enjoy them. While I'm doing the sappy stuff (it doesn't happen often, so enjoy it), I'd like to thank my readers - both of the books and this blog - for making this an awesome year.

Let's hope 2013 rocks us out of the ballpark!

Saturday 22 December 2012

Best books of 2012 - part 2

** Edit note: This post was slightly delayed due to me donning my superhero tights and making Cthulu my bitch in order to avert the apocalypse, and absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I forgot my password and couldn't publish the bloody thing. 

Let's jump straight back into this shall we - same rules as the first post: these are the best books I've read this past year, no matter their original publishing date.


Ultracool resource of the week - check out the Why Authors are Crazy Tumblr. If you know anyone who writes, you'll end up giggling through these pages.

Richard Herley - The Penal Colony. A futuristic thriller set on an island turned prison. Bleak, dark, and powerful, with more than a touch of Lord of the Flies. The author has a number of books out, and all of them are good, but this one hits the possible genius level for me.

Allyson James - Storm Walker series. Paranormal/urban fantasy with some ultra-steamy scenes. Definitely not grandma safe, but the characters are fascinating and the world-building intoxicating. And the MC like bikes, tattoos, and shares her first name with me. I'm hooked.

Jason McIntyre - Everything. I started with the Night Walk Men a little over a year ago, and it's a deeply disturbing, beautiful little story. None of these are light or easy reading; and if you want something to flip through while your brain switches off this author isn't for you. If you want something that shakes you, with an occasional side of gore and violence, and makes you close the book when you're down feeling slightly stunned, then get everything you can. (Word of warning - if you write, you may find yourself whining at your keyboard afterwards and wondering what the hell you are doing wrong.)

Jason McKinney - Dog World. Still one of the most bleakly disturbing werewolf stories I've ever read. There are no happy endings here, and no cute or fluffy romantic escapades. This is a brutal, horrifying look at apocalypse via werewolf, with a good dose of black humour thrown in, and by far the most unique take on the genre I've read. I can't wait for the sequel.

Darynda Jones - Grim Reaper series. Hysterically funny paranormal romance series with a side order of steam - and the best t-shirt quotes I've ever come across. I hope this series continues for a long, long time.

Stacia Kane - Downside Ghosts series. An alternative future where ghosts are real, and very, very dangerous. Warning on this one - the MC is a junkie, and there is no brushing over the harsh realities of addiction in this series. For me, it's part of what makes for compelling reading. If you have issues reading about drugs, leave it alone. If you take the chance though, it's an extremely gritting, compelling series with a strong horror and romance element.

Lee Killough - Garreth Mikaelian series. Cop turned vampire series with an interesting take and some great characters.

Stephen King - 11.22.63. I preferred this to The Dome, which I struggled to get into. 11.22.63 reminded me strongly in places of The Dead Zone. It has that same sense of nice guy trying to make good in a strange situation, and for me it just rang all the bells.

Naomi Kramer - Deadish. This is one of the funniest shorts I've read in a long time. Lots of strong language, so if you don't like the F-bomb, avoid - but if you want to grab it, it's currently free on the kindle store. Paranormal Ghost humor.

Michael Langlois - Bad Radio. One of the strongest debut novels I've ever read, this is a great take on the immortality trope, with lots of action and very likeable characters. When someone can take a fantasy precept and ground it so strongly in reality it seems utterly plausible, they've got my attention.

Stant Litore - The Zombie Bible series. If you only read one zombie story in the next year, make it one of these. For my money, the first - Death Has Come Up Into Our Windows - is still the best, probably because it was such a unique concept - retelling biblical scenes and characters with zombies. And the ending is simply heart-breaking. That's the thing - these books aren't about the zombies so much as the people dealing with them and it's compelling, powerful story-stelling at its best.


That's it for now folks - I'll post the 3rd and final list just before Christmas. In the meantime, happy reading!

Monday 17 December 2012

We should remember victims, not perpetrators

I was going to do a post on my team Christmas party, which involved laser quest, my tripping over my own two feet, and the best Long Island Iced Tea I've ever had.

This happened Friday night. On Friday afternoon, at work, I saw brief glimpse of a school shooting in the USA, and my first reaction was  'Another one? Sheesh!'  Saturday I crawled out of bed and saw that it was so much worse.

See, the problem is that we are used to high school shootings happening in the USA now.  It seems like every year or so a kid picks up a weapon and decides it's time for payback, and marches into his (or her, but interestingly enough most of these involve young males) high school and shoots the hell out of everything he can find. Then you get talking heads rounded up by the media for their fifteen minutes of fame, and hysterical finger-pointing at everything from movies to video games to music to books to gun legislation, all of which ignore the fact that what it boils down to is someone losing their shit, and deciding to take a bunch of people with them. If you're going to die, might as well be famous, right?

What happened Friday is worse for a couple of reasons. The majority of the victims were small children, and as a species we're hardwired to protect them. (I'm not counting the aberrations of sexual predators or abusers in this.) We protect our young. Simple. End of.
So when a man forces his way into a place where they should be safe, and opens fire with a rifle, every rational person reacts with horror and outrage. (Westboro Baptist Church doesn't count. There is no rationality there, just bile and darkness.)

The guy that did this on Friday didn't even have the dim excuse of revenge on his peers. There were no cheerleaders laughing at him for asking them out on a date; no jocks giving him wedgies in passing in the halls.
I have no idea what the motivation was. Until it is found, discovered, and released, anything regarding that side of things is speculation.

The media have never acknowledged their part in creating this celebrity killer culture. But on Saturday, there were reporters shoving cameras and microphones into the faces of kids that had just been led out of a killing field. Every tear lovingly focussed on by the camera, every bewildered look recorded.
There were media pages devoted to celebrity tweets about the incident. There were interviews with profilers, shrinks, and anyone who could be loosely associated with any of the speculation around what had happened - and this was Saturday, well before the coroner had finished his heartbreaking work, long before the crime-scene teams had left the school.  Every news cast, every web page, mentioned the shooter by name and age, before his ID had even been confirmed.
They've released the names and ages of the victims, but I doubt in 6 months time anyone who didn't live in that town or didn't know them personally will remember who they were. The name of the shooter (which I'm not typing here. Just. Not.) will be remembered for years.

The finger pointing and speculation and misinformation started Saturday. I imagine it will only get worse over the next few weeks. What will be in very short supply is common sense and rationality; emotive perspectives are rarely crippled by either.

News stations will look at the music he liked. If it was metal or hard rock, they'll get at least another trashy headline out of it. If he liked violent PC or video games (and someone please show me an interactive game aimed at over ten year olds that doesn't involve violence), they'll get another few rounds of professional talking heads on. If the guy liked fantasy RPG or anything like that, I imagine the conservative channels will have a collective orgasm talking about family values and Our Deteriorating Society.

And they will all miss the point.

If the shooter was mentally ill, and previously diagnosed (not always as easy as it sounds), then you have 28 people dead because of gaps in a chronically unstable health system.

If he was not mentally ill, then the only blame falls on the person who planned this. The guy who picked up three different guns, a whole bunch of ammunition, and strapped on a ballistics vest. The one who forced his way into an elementary school and started firing.

There is a lot of talk about gun control again. There always is after one of these. The problem is, humans are very, very good at killing. They banned handguns in the UK after a similar massacre in a primary school in Dunblane in 1996. It means that most guns are now carried by armed police and very dangerous criminals. Then they banned carrying knives because there was spike in knife assaults. The problem is, people are still killing each other. Kids are still killing kids.  In the past couple of years in the UK, there have been mass stabbing attacks, assaults with bats, pipes, automobiles and bombing attempts.

Tighter gun control will probably be a good thing, if the USA can figure out how to make it uniform, and legislate it properly. Since every state has different legislation on gun control, how that could be effectively implemented is a different story, especially when politicians will seize the opportunity to oppose anything proposed by a different party or outside influence.

I don't have a solution to this, and I've got no horse in this race - my friends in the USA are safe, my family is nowhere near there, and I don't live there. But for what it's worth, I have a couple of observations.
We are a species that thrives on conflict. We demand it in our entertainment, from books, to comics to movies to theatre. Our media gorges on it. Our politicians revel in it. But worse than that, we find excuses for it. We blame exposure to violent games and t.v. shows for "influencing" the guys that pick up weapons and start using them on others who can't defend themselves, instead of stepping back and realising that most of the time they made that choice. They planned it, they dressed for it, they chose to pick up a weapon and use it on the targets they selected.

Whatever the fall out is from this, the accountability belongs to the shooter. Feeding the desire for fame - or infamy - by remembering his name over those that died? That belongs to the rest of us.

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Best Book/Author Round-up of 2012 - Part 1

As promised, I've put together a list of my favourite books from 2012. Some of them are indie authors, some traditional. Some of the indie folks I know through social media like Twitter & Facebook, the rest wouldn't know me if I did the Funky Chicken on their keyboards. Some of them you'll probably know, a lot (I hope) will be new adventures waiting for you to discover them.
Not all of these were published in 2012, but that's when I read them, so they make my list. What they have in common is that I loved their stories. I'd also say that I discovered at least 70% of them through free book uploads and ended up buying everything I could get my grubby little paws on and afford to buy in my budget. (My budget rules are simple - I can't afford to pay more than £4.99 for a book, and that only happens if I'm feeling very optimistic and my bank manager hasn't send me love-letters in pretty red ink for a few months. The average price tends to be lower.)

One of the best resources for new indie books has been Scot over at Indie Book Blogger. Be warned, once you click that link you're going to lose a few hours, but it's very much worth it. The blog is constantly updated with give-aways, author interviews and guest posts, and it's put me onto some truly amazing authors.

So - I'm going to try to keep this alphabetical by author surname, with a brief description of the genre and what hooked me about the series or book. I'll try to link straight to on the author name (bear with me, gentle reader, for I have the uncanny ability to nuke the internet and/or my computer, but I'll try. Ahem.)

I'm also trying to keep it only to the very, very best (all my opinion) which means a few very good books might not hit the list, but if I don't, I'm going to be writing this list until 2013. So I'm selecting the
books that grabbed me by the heart and mind and often, funny bone, and made me wish I'd never reach the end of the story.

Part 1 of the list is below for you - Part 2 coming soon.

Ben Aaronovitch - PC Grant Series. This is an urban fantasy series set in London, with a great wallop of humour, moments of darkness, and a fresh take on the genre. Addictive.

Ilona Andrews - Kate Daniels Series. Post-magic-apocalypse action with some real laugh-out-loud moments. I've picked on the Kate series because they are just some of the best out there, but I've never read a book or story by these guys that didn't totally rock my world.

Thea Atkinson - Water Witch. A nicely dark fantasy tale, with elements of romance and a good deal more gore than I expected when I started. I've referred to Thea Atkinson elsewhere as one of the most elegant writers I've ever come across; this story points out why beautifully.

Philippa Ballantine - Order series. I picked up Geist and was blown away. Creepy, dark and gorgeous world building. There is nothing cute and fluffy in that first book, and I loved every word.

C.L.Bevill - Bubba Series. This series falls under comedy mystery, I guess. It's a great feel-good series, with characters I thoroughly enjoyed.

Naomi Clarke - Deva Chronicles. Urban fantasy with a good dose of mad scientist action thrown in, plus strong romance elements. The main character is flawed, headstrong, and great to follow.

Charles Colyott - Randall Lee series. Mystery series following an acupuncturist and martial arts expert who seems to fall into trouble a lot. So far, only two books in that series that I can find, but great reads.

Richard Crawford - Soul Mate. As of right now, that first book is free. Hit that button if you like spooky, intense stories that linger.

Joseph Garraty - To Rule this Broken Earth.  Garraty  took a step away from his previous horror, sci-fi and urban fantasy mode and went into fantasy with guns blazing. There's a strong element of what I'd call cowboy fantasy in this, and it just floored me. (By cowboy fantasy I meant the feel of outdoors, rough-and-tumble-Wild-West with magic, not Brokeback Mountain.) Once again, I'd recommend everything you can get your hands on by this author. Strong language warning, but it's dark, gritty, Oh-crap-I-didn't-see-that-coming stuff, and in between he can break your heart in a single sentence.

Kelly Gay - Charly Madigan series. Great alternative reality/urban fantasy cop series. Fun sense of humour and high stakes make this a must read.

Glynn James - Diary of the Displaced series. If you like dystopian fiction/nightmare alternative reality, get your hands on everything you can.

Amanda S. Green - Nocturnal series. Following a cop who gets turned into a shapeshifter, this is a great ride. Often stories about shifters "passing" as human are clumsily done; this one makes perfect sense and a lot of fun to boot.

There you have it folks - the first part of the best of 2012 list. I'll post part 2 in about a week for you. In the meantime, if you have recommendations you'd like to share, mention them in the comments.

I did promise a quick review of my writing plans for 2013, so here goes:

The WolfSong follow-up is starting to shape up nicely (several re-writes down the line). Although I'm not going to make my Christmas deadline (sob), it's the first book I'll be releasing next year. Apologies for those of you waiting for it, but I want to make sure it's worth the read, and hopefully you'll think it was worth the wait in the end.
In the meantime, and if my PC co-operates and remains on the planet for the next few weeks, I'm hoping to release a new collection of short stories very soon.

The next Blue Moon Detectives book is called Fur Thing. I'm aiming for release of that one in the second quarter of the year, between April and June. There are another two Blue Moon books planned over 2013 as well, beta readers willing and happy.

Overall, 2012 was a great year for me. A few nasty migraine attacks & other assorted Moments of Life mean I didn't hit my publishing schedule as planned, but that's not always a bad thing. If it means the final writing product is better (and I think it will be), then that's actually a very good thing.

Until next time folks, when if I can figure out how the GIF thing works I can present highly public evidence of my ability to fall over my two feet. Stay tuned...

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Festive stuff

Since I'm spending this festive season at home for the first time in years, I decided I wanted a tree. Since I never get the point of killing a living tree to stash the corpse in my lounge (not to mention the mess as it sadly sheds needles all over the place), I decided fake was great.

It arrived Saturday. It's short, black and slightly lop-sided. It has built in lights and runs off a battery pack, so I won't add to the electric bill which is a very good thing - if I could figure out how to generate my own power in a rented flat, and fork two fingers up at the utility company, believe me, I'd do it - and my cousin has sniggered at it ever since. I love it.

Last Sunday we headed up to HobbyCraft. They've just opened up a branch in my little town, which bodes ill for spare money in the future. I ended up under-spending on my budget, which was a first for me, so I left feeling slightly virtuous. I grabbed some cinnamon sticks and a twig wreath base, and some pop-up glitter stickers which I think are actually for cards, and I made my own little Yule wreath:

Despite the fact that I ended up discovering why my mother never let me play with glue much (I had a butterfly stuck to my ear at one point. No idea how. They have sticky pads, and I swear I never put it near the blasted staff.) I reckon it came out quite well. I got the little berry bundles from the cheap shop across the road because it just needed a touch of something, and stuck them through the twig base. Then I sprinkled it with a few drops of essential oil - clove, cinnamon and orange - and it's now on top of my little dwarf tree:

I'm going to wrap a box in some bright paper and stick the tree on it, so I feel a little less like Alice in Wonderland when I stand next to it.

I've got my eggnog ingredients and my meat pre-cooked, so all I'll need to do is fix the gingerbread sauce and vegetables on the day.


It was snowing this morning - no photo's of that, because I was too busy trying to find my ice-grippers (no idea where I put them). I hauled out the snow boots and used those, but because I'm utterly useless at walking on snow, the normal 7 minute walk took me nearly twenty. On the way to the train station I got passed by two little old ladies (one on a walker), and elderly gent who appeared to be wearing slippers, and a guy walking his dog. I'm pretty sure the dog was laughing at me.

I still did better than my first year of navigating the snow in London, which consisted of:

1) Lurch
2) Swear a bit
3) Wall
4) Lurch
5) Lamp post
6) Wander how the hell everyone else is doing this?
7) Lurch
8) Postman

Thankfully it was the first day of snow that year too, and the Postie took being dive-tackled at waist-height by a shivering, swearing, apologetic South African rather well. He picked me up (after some persuading - by this time I was hugging his knees and whimpering), and got me to the edge of the road, and rather sweetly explained that I needed boots with a decent tread in them.
Today, all I kept feeling was walker-envy.

The commute was horrendous. By the time I got to work I had been snowed on, stood on, and dive-bombed by a pigeon, all of which equalled one grumpy little worker growling at her PC this morning. The trip home was slightly better, apart from the kid that had an accident in the carriage on the way home. (Said accident being of the unbelievably smelly variety. Which he announced, by screaming, just in case everyone's nose was malfunctioning.) Unfortunately, this occurred three stops from where I had to get off, and the now squalling toddler was headed to the same station. I've rarely been so grateful for fresh air, never mind how cold it was.

The snow had totally melted so although the pavement was cold, it was navigable, and I got home, discovered that fried cauliflower is bloody amazing as a hot-dog topping, and defrosted in the bath.

Next post: I'm going to do a round-up of some of the best books I've gotten my paws on this year, and some of my own book plans for 2013. 

Friday 30 November 2012

Moments of Oops (Part 367,0000)

We live in an old Victorian house that has a lovely little shop on the ground floor, below our converted flat. The fun part about our area is that its built on clay, so when you get a lot of rain, which the UK has had for the past couple of weeks, everything gets waterlogged.

This includes our front door, which I'm personally convinced has demonic powers and hates me. I can't open it, because it swells shut. I can only close it by repeatedly slamming it, and during very rainy periods, I can't get it closed enough to lock it from the outside without repeated screaming, rude words, and periodic chanting.

About a month ago my cousin got tired of rescuing me from the Wooden Door of Evil, (probably brought about the day when I stubbornly refused to shout for help getting ye Portal of Darkness open. So I planted my feet on the wall next to the door and pulled. I moved backwards. The door didn't budge. She peered around the corner at the moment I was air-born. Let's just say the landing was undignified, shall we, and leave it at that.) and fixed a large handle to the inside of the door. It worked great for about a week, and then the rain started again.

By Tuesday, I had my own Door Opening Ceremony:

1) Growl at door
2) Insert key
3) Turn key, whilst either (a) kicking bottom of door hard enough to loosen it or (b) shoulder charge door very hard to get it open.

Tuesday night, I was carrying an extra bag, and it was raining. I choose option (b).

What I didn't know, because my cousin had forgotten to text me (and yes, this was pointed out to her. Repeatedly.), was that Chris from the shop had come in to get something that morning, and spent twenty minutes doing his own version the 'Close, you bloody thing' dance.

Chris being a friend, and an absolute genius at handy work, popped back in the afternoon and fixed the door.

It now opens like it's on oil-slicked ball-bearings. Smooth as glass.

Unfortunately when you choose option (b) on the door now, (and you're me) the Door Opening Ceremony has the following additions to the program:

4) Make anticipatory "Oof" noise as your shoulder connects with door. Note: To get into this position requires you to be standing on the door step. Your entire body weight is aimed at the door.
5) Barrel through door, slightly breaching the sound barrier. "Oof" turns into something like "OooooooH!"
6) Realise you are heading straight for boxes in hallway containing very expensive and breakable thingies. (No idea what they are. They tinkled, ok?)
7) Somehow change direction in mid-air, and aim for very hard carpeted hallway instead.
8) Realise in mid-air that your hand-bag is still sitting on the doorstep, holding the door open so that the entire commuter train-load of people trudging down the road behind you get their evening entertainment. Beats the hell out of Survivor.
9) Face-plant.
10) Consider staying there for the night.

I finally got up when I realised that nothing was broken, the only real damage done was to my pride (Ha! I write as a part-time job. I ate pride a while ago), and apart from the raging headache I had no side-effects. I do however, need to vacuum that carpet. That didn't taste good at all.

Monday 26 November 2012

Beating up the Common Sense Fairy - again.

This week, the Church of England managed to shock everyone who hadn't realised the institution was run by a bunch of misogynistic dinosaurs by rejecting the idea of allowing women bishops. In other news, apparently Saudi Arabia is now notifying male "guardians" when their women leave the country via a text message alert. It makes you wonder just why certain males are so terrified of acknowledging half the species as capable, functional human beings.

Since I'm lucky enough not to have been born and raised in a society which appears to give females slightly less rights than the average domestic animal, I'm going to concentrate on the first issue. It applies to the second, but since the only way to get someone that hysterically terrified of an empowered woman to listen to reason might require either a major miracle or a medical lobotomy, I'm going to leave that alone right now. It just slaps reason in the face repetitively until it gives up and sulks in the corner.

As for the CoE thing - well, apart from alienating any parishioners with ovaries and a functioning brain cell, as well as good many with testicles and a functioning brain cell - what, exactly, did this achieve?

An institution that begs and cries for support from the public, and beats its breast over waning support happily swapped its comfortable slippers for a pair of good strong boots, and kicked the Common Sense Fairy's teeth down her throat. Well done, there.

To be perfectly honest, the whole thing bores the hell out of me. Why? Because this should no longer be an argument. This should no longer be a debate of any sort for reasoning human beings.

It's the same stupid, condescending reasoning behind designing little pastel pens for us "dewicate wittle flowers", or special needs laptops because we can open the latch without spoiling our manicure - and ooooh, look, a scrap-booking app, because girls like that kind of stuff, right?


It's boring because by now it should be perfectly obvious that females are capable of functioning, and even talking in public without fainting on demand.

It's obvious because if you trust females to be teachers, nurses, doctors, pilots, sports players and journalists, not to mention CoE priests, why do you have an issue with a woman performing any other function on the planet?*

Why was this even a bloody debate/vote to start with? And what, exactly do women need to do to prove their worth as intellectual equals? Go into space? Been done. Play sports traditionally associated with males? Done that. Start their own successful business? Done that too. Run a country? Check. Fight for their country? Yep. Become serial killers? That's been done too.

Defining someones ability by their genitalia makes as much sense as allocating them jobs based on their zodiac sign. Just because some people believe in it, doesn't make it valid. It's about as smart as deciding someones worth based on their religion, race or sexuality, which shouldn't ever be tolerated or condoned.

Unfortunately bias almost always has its roots in fear. Now, I have no idea what the males in the CoE synod are afraid of, and I've never understood the threatened masculinity argument. (Check your pants, sunshine. If you have dangly bits you're probably male, and by definition masculine. It's not going to vanish if you clean a plate. I don't think they make dishwashing liquid that works that well.)

Is it an ego thing? Once again, not sure of the argument here. It's a pretty big planet. If our bodies still fit on it, the egos probably will too. All of them. Girls and boys.

There is no logical argument to exclude women. There is no logical argument for treating a female as a possession instead of a person, or a mentally deficient child that needs to be rewarded with pretty shiny things for dressing up and talking without dribbling down her chin. There is no logical argument for attempting to remove a woman's control over her body, thoughts or emotions. And yet it happens, day after day, all over the world.

Why? No idea. The Common Sense Fairy still has concussion, and couldn't give me an answer on this one.

*Arguing that a woman should know her place will result in me pointing at you and laughing. I know my place. It's anywhere I want to be, on my terms and in my time.

Saturday 17 November 2012

The little mugger that wasn't

So the Weekly Moment of Mortification was a bit different this time around.

I was walking from the tube station to work, and not paying as much attention to my surroundings as I should have. My body was stomping along the pavement, my ears were being treated to some pretty good old Queens of the Stone Age, and my mind was trying to catalogue everything I wanted to do when I got home from the office.

QOTSA gave way to The Killers, and I was absently humming along to it (as you do), when a large gloved hand descended in front of my face. (It's pretty easy for anyone's hand to do this to someone who is smaller than the average twelve year old. Just saying.)

My reaction? Raised back-fist to push the hand away, and pull my other hand round to punch my would-be mugger - who turned out to be our fairly new team-member, looking horrified and making squeaky "Nonononono!" noises. Ahem.

On the bright side, as I pointed out to him once he stopped dancing all over the pavement, I never actually touched him. I never threw the punch either, since I realised who it was almost immediately. (The other bright side would be that as he's over 5'10", and I make 5'3" by the skin of my docs, I'd have to be standing on a box to actually do severe facial damage. He didn't look convinced.)

I apologised for nearly smacking him, and advised him firmly never, ever, to do that again. He just looked confused, because he didn't understand why my first reaction was to get physically defensive. He's a really nice guy, and I didn't have the energy to explain the whole lone female on a street dynamic, because I think this is something I could tell him until I was blue in the face and he still probably wouldn't understand it.  Most nice guys wouldn't. In case any of you read this blog, this is why:

As a female walking alone on a street, you are always aware that you are vulnerable. It's not so bad in daylight, surrounded by people. After dark, unless you are cataclysmically inebriated or utterly stupid, you are hyper-aware of this. And even surrounded by people, you never lose that sense of vulnerability.
(If you really want to understand what this feels like, strap a couple raw steaks to your shirt and wander through any large group of dogs, cats, or carnivorous beastie. I don't recommend wild-life parks for this one though. I'm not trying to say males are like any of these, btw. I'm trying to say this how vulnerability feels. Alternatively, you could walk down your main street naked, which will get you arrested, but might get my point across without someone screaming about me comparing them to a beast.)

So when a very large, very male hand enters into your field of vision unexpectedly, obviously headed for your shoulder or neck, and you are a female walking by yourself, your first response is fear. That's it, in the simplest possible way.

My only concern was not letting that hand land on me; it was moving fast and I'm a small girl. You don't need to punch me to knock me off my feet; an open-handed slap would do just fine.  When you're looking up at a descending limb it's hard to discern the difference between a potential slap and someone waving to get your attention.
Quite a few women would have screamed at the top of their lungs when that hand appeared. (Personally, I prefer saving my breath for running like hell - which would have been the step immediately after delivering that punch I was winding up for.)

The thing is, I don't think that most guys can comprehend the fact that someone they know - a friend, a colleague, a relative - can ever be afraid of them. They might "get it" on a logical level, but when they tap a woman they know on the shoulder and she jumps, or shrieks a little, or steps sideways and raises her arms defensively, their reaction is puzzlement. Because its them, and they know you. Most guys don't go through life knowing that there is a portion of the population who sees them as prey, as easy pickings.
Most women never forget this, because forgetting it will get you hurt or killed.

So guys, here's a bit of advice: if you see a female friend by herself in the street, don't run up behind her and grab her arm or shoulder. Call her name. If she doesn't hear you, walk until you're in front of her, in her field of vision, and get her attention that way. The response is likely to be a lot friendlier.

Sunday 11 November 2012

Why we remember

One of the biggest regrets of my life is that I do not remember my maternal grandfather. There are photo's of me being bounced on his knee as a baby, but I'd love to have known him as an adult, or at least a child old enough to have known him.

My grandfather served in World War 2, in the Seaforth Highlanders. He went through Europe and came back home and never set foot in a church again apart from weddings and funerals. For a presbyterian Scot raised in the earlier years of the century, that's huge, and startling. My mom said he would never talk much about the war and what happened, but he'd mentioned seeing a camp - I'm not sure if he was seconded to a separate regiment involved in liberating one, or if he was captured and interred, as a number of the Highlanders were - and what he saw there destroyed his belief in any kind of benevolent god. The war broke his faith, but from what I've been told it couldn't change his basic decency and belief in doing the right thing.

My great uncle on the paternal side was involved in those hellish beach landings in Normandy. He was an absolute character in daily life, and thought nothing of an hour-long walk. He also loved his whiskey and headed up to his local club almost daily. He was a short man, but dynamic - he went through life with an impish twinkle in his eye and the willingness to laugh at almost anything. And at night he'd scream.
I stayed with him the first time I came out to the UK, and hearing those noises was heart-breaking. The first night, I thought someone had gotten into the house and was attacking him. When I pushed open the bedroom door (armed with a poker, of course), he was weeping in his sleep.

I went back to bed and had a little cry myself. In the morning, he asked me if I'd slept all right, and mentioned that he sometimes got "a little restless". He looked horribly embarrassed. I made us both a cup of tea, and lied to him. Slept like a brick, I said, and watched the relief flood his eyes.
Then I visited his daughter and found out what had happened - her dad had suffered nightmares since he came back from the war.
That's one lie I have never regretted, and never will.

Because of men like my grandfather and uncle, Hitler was stopped. Because of people like them, we have the freedom to walk the streets of our countries without wondering if the state will kick our door in and drag us to hell because of our ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs. Despite all the faults of Western countries - and they are myriad - we can state our disagreement with a politician without facing a firing squad.

So this is why we remember the men and women who serve - and often die - on our behalf. They fought, and still fight, and whether you believe in the reason they fight or not, they serve their countries.
Whether they come back physically whole or not, none of them come back unscathed; the scar tissue on hearts and minds still twists and contracts. It still hurts, even when you are 70 and winking at life.

They held a gun, so I do not have to.
They faced horror, so I didn't see it's face.
They suffered the nightmares so that I can sleep in a safe bed.

Thank you.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

New hobby - whoop!

I got stuck into making some hand-cream this past week-end (blame Naomi Clarke for this one, her blog posts and tweets had me remembering how much I enjoyed this stuff years ago) and I'm hooked all over again.

So far I've made a bergamot, rose-oil and cinnamon version, which was snatched up almost immediately by friends and my cousin, and another version with rosemary in place of the bergamot. Bonus side effect was some relief for my hands - they usually swell up and throb in wet weather, to the point where I look like the Stay-Puff Marshmallow dude, just in short, grumpy female form. Monday I woke up and could flex my fingers with hardly any swelling, so I'm seriously in love with that blend. I'm going to play with a few similar ideas that are a bit gentler smelling, since although I like cinnamon there are a lot of folks who don't. Should be interesting.

Then I went a bit nuts and ordered a bunch of scents and equipment and tins for the stuff. The plan is to make a bunch of lip balms and hand creams for presents. If nothing else, the flat will smell pretty fine for the next few weeks.

So far; excitement for the week has been nearly getting run over crossing the road at work, because some dahlink didn't think the red-light applied to him, and having the lift doors close on me today - not a fun experience, and it happened so blasted fast I didn't process it until afterwards - but there were a few seconds of getting hugged and squeezed by two giant metal doors, and the guy inside who'd pushed the close door button as I was stepping in looking horrified. (And yeah, to repeat - I really would have haunted your ass.)

I'm not sure if the lift doors count to my tech malfunction talent, but I'm pretty sure there's supposed to be a sensor thingy that stops things like that happening.

On a definite tech malfunction note - I now have a new iphone (refurbished - sooooo much cheaper) and got my sim today. Excitement reigned! I made squeaky noises! And then upon inserting it - no signal. *sigh*
Hopefully the IT gods at the shop can figure this one out, because my brain just melted out of my ears.

Sunday 4 November 2012

Amazon censorship & the saga of entitlement - a rant

There were no posts last week because in my usual effect on tech, blogger wouldn't let me log on. No idea why, it just decided it hated me. *sigh*

Be warned, since what follows is going to develop into a bit of rant. There will be Strong Language, because this whole unnecessary situation, plus a certain author, has frankly pissed on my battery.

There's a very unsatisfied rumbling amongst indie authors right now - because Amazon is removing reviews posted against other authors books. Check out Joe Konrath's blog here for a run-down on it. There's even a petition being started.

There has been mudslinging from some the authors behind the NSPH story (some of whom are now bewildered as to why they've lost reviews), and I can say that a glimpse of certain twitter feeds makes certain authors come across as self-entitled brats, with a side-order of issue. The folks concerned seem to have developed a hysterical loathing of indie authors, which would be funny if it wasn't so sad.   It's like the publishing equivalent of Burn the Witch. More on that later.

My issue with Amazon removing reviews is slightly different. One of the reasons given to authors who've queried why their reviews was removed is that you cannot review a product you are competing with, as a published author. I have a couple of problems with this.

First of all, I don't consider other authors as competition.  I'm a very small fish is a very big pond. There's plenty of room in this pond for authors - viewing someone as the enemy and developing a "Kill!Kill!" mentality is just plain silly. Other authors sales do not hurt me. In fact, I think other authors sales probably help me, especially if my books are listed under the "other customers who bought this also bought..." list.
(Sure, there are people out there who view anyone else who writes in their genre as foes worthy of hidden land-mines and nuclear reviews. These are probably the same folks who scream at reviewers who don't give them five stars and have their mothers write fifty slavering praise-ladden reviews on their work. Not my problem. Their sales have no correlation to mine. They also quite possibly wear their underpants on their heads. Again, really not my problem. It's pretty hard to start an internet war with someone who simply couldn't be bothered with that level of silliness.)

I actually keep hoping I'll get a few low star reviews on Amazon, because a large amount of the buying public now views books with only 4 or 5 star reviews with great suspicion. I'm definitely not complaining about the high starred reviews; because I'm not a moron, but I do wonder why they are all high. There has to be a few readers out there who read my stuff and thought 'meh.' They just don't seem to be posting reviews. The point is, low star reviews are part of doing business. You don't take them personally, the same way you can't let your ego bloat of high star reviews.

Secondly - as a reader, I've posted a LOT of book reviews on Amazon. A lot. These range from traditionally published authors to indies. Some of them I know, through social media or other places, the majority I don't. I've reviewed everyone from Tess Gerritsen (who I'm pretty sure doesn't know I'm on the planet) to Joe Garraty (who does) and both of whom write the kind of stuff I dream of achieving.

I'm not just an author, I'm a consumer, and a pretty avid one. I have a monthly book budget, for crying out loud, because without reading I would probably go utterly nuts on the daily commute and strangle the moron next to me with the soul-excrutiating techno version of Metallica pumping out of his ipod so loudly my teeth rattle.

So removing my reviews, which I've been posting since well before I became a self-published author on the kindle store, insults me as a loyal customer. I take time over these reviews. I try to make them coherent, and point out why I either liked or didn't like parts of the book, and if this new rule means I lose that ability, that's a pretty sharp slap in the face. You are telling me that I do not have the right to my opinion on goods I bought and paid for - and where I haven't bought them, I state so. Whether I bought them or not, my opinion is still valid.

On a cautionary note, I have no idea whether Amazon has removed any of my written reviews or not. I know they've removed some reviews on my books, which is ironic because it's made my star average increase, and I didn't know who the folks were that published those reviews. So in this case, Amazon have removed genuine reviews, written by people I do not know and have never met. I'm not sure how their programme decided those were unacceptable reviews, and to be totally honest, I don't really care.

What I do care about is that this seems to be an arbitrary form of censorship, brought on because of a vocal minority whose publishers actually have, and continue to, buy reviews, and the media that happily climbed on the bandwagon and turned a fifteen minute wonder into competition for Everest.
I care because your demands to police free-speech, dear NSPH authors,  have resulted in my right to said free-speech being compromised, to my being treated like my personal opinions as a reader are the equivalent of typhoid, and you are now whining because this has impacted you as well.

Right now, my personal feeling is that you ought to shut up and take your medicine with the rest of us. You asked for it, you got it, and I have zero patience for you right now.  What the hell did you think was going to happen?

As to the comments made by a certain author on twitter about being "pissed off because we can't pimp each others books any more, and there  still being plenty of places to pimp each other to hell" -  whether you aimed those comments at particular indie authors or not, you've got a history of utter disdain for this section of the writing community - who the blue fuck do you think you are? **

You've just compared a couple of authors to a section of industry that has zero relation to writing. (On a side note, that particular industry makes a lot more money than any of us.) Why? What right do you have to look down your pontificating, self-righteous little nose at anyone? Especially considering the published blurbs on Amazon from other best-selling authors for your books. This not only makes you arrogant, this makes you hypocrite, and shows you as having all the integrity and moral ethics of a hopped-up weasel. Well done. Your publisher and agent must be so proud.

Oh, wait - those blurbs were obtained by your publisher? Obviously that pulls you out of the pimping category, since you don't sell yourself. Someone else sells you instead. Well done on that. We couldn't accuse you of being a pimp. Not at all.

Get over yourself, dude. Seriously.

**Yes, I'm well aware that the authors concerned do not need my being defensive on their behalf. I'm not actually being defensive at all, what I am is annoyed, and not on their behalf.  I'm annoyed by the fact that a jacked-up, self-righteous hypocrite thinks it's fine to snark any other writer in this way on social media, because they are not published with the big 6. Irony here is that the authors concerned probably outsell this jack-ass on a regular basis, and used to have traditional contracts. They dropped their publishers to make more money.

Monday 22 October 2012

Easy Caramel Tart Recipe

This is pretty much a quick, ultra-rich sugar fix. You can make the caramel the long way, but the key words here are quick and easy.

Shopping list:
Ginger biscuits - 1 pack is fine
Butter (2 x tablespoons for the biscuit base)
Tin of Caramel mix (I used Carnation brand)
Vanilla bean pod
Coconut cream
Ground Nutmeg
Ground Ginger
Ground Cayenne Pepper
Chocolate (1/2 family size bar)

Pre-heat the oven to around 150 C, and oil a small pie tin. A dab of butter works fine. Make sure you do the sides as well as the base, otherwise the result will be a very sticky mess and you won't get the tart out of the tin.

Biscuit base:

Melt the butter and crush the ginger biscuits. I used about 3/4 of a pack, and crushed them by running a rolling pin over them a few times. If you want a very fine crumb, you could blitz them in a food processor, but I like the texture of coarse crumb in this. Mix the crumbs together with the melted butter. You should end up with a damp, but not too wet, mix that holds its shape for a few seconds if you scrunch it together in the palm of your hand.

Press the crumb into the base of the oiled tin, packing it down firmly. You want a depth of around 10mm here, to give the caramel a decent base to rest on without turning into mush.

Pop the crumb into the oven for ten minutes, then leave aside to cool. I put mine into the fridge to cool it down faster; do not add the caramel until this cool.

Caramel process:

Combine the caramel and a teaspoon each of the salt, nutmeg, ginger & a pinch of cayenne pepper. Scrape about an inch of the vanilla pod seed into the mix. Using a fork to mix this is fine.

The caramel mixture will have thinned quite a bit due to the mixing, so let it rest for a few minutes before moving onto the next step.

Add the caramel mix to the biscuit base, and pop it straight into the fridge while you get the topping ready.

The salt and spices just add a bit of dimension to the caramel; you still get an incredibly sweet taste but it knocks it slightly away from just being glorified condensed milk.

For the chocolate topping:

Break the chocolate apart and melt it over a low heat. I used white chocolate, but this is purely personal preference. (*Smart tip - place the chocolate pan over a pot of boiling water - it's way too easy to burn chocolate on direct heat, and that's a horrible thing to do to chocolate.)

As the chocolate melts, add a tablespoon of coconut cream. You could use dessicated coconut here as well, I simply had the coconut cream in my cupboard as it's brilliant for savoury sauces. Scrape out another inch of vanilla seed and stir it into the chocolate.

The chocolate mix is ready to drizzle over the top of the caramel. You can lay it on in a thick coating, but be warned that this will make for a messy experience when slicing the tart up later - the caramel will  remain slightly liquid, and ooze up through the chocolate layer - and will also make the tart almost too sweet to eat. Once the chocolate is on, place it back into the fridge until you're ready to serve it. In this case, serving portions definitely follow the less is more rule.

I meant to add mint to my chocolate mix, but honestly forgot all about it - I'll try that the next time I make it, and see how it goes.

In the meantime, you've got a yummy, sticky treat to try - the ginger biscuits add a texture that cuts through the caramel sweetness, and the base holds up surprisingly well.

Hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday 16 October 2012

The End of the Spawn

Well, the eight-legged Spawn of Satan is now an ex-Spawn. I'm arguing extreme provocation due to lack of sleep, severe arachnophobia, and the discovery of the bugger on yet another suit jacket at 7 in the morning. The last one appears to be unsalvageable.

I'm not sure if arachnicide is a word, but it'll do.

Last night was me, myself and I, all trying to get to sleep and failing miserably. I haven't had a bout of insomnia for a while, and I'm not a happy camper without enough sleep.

I got dressed. Got a few visitors to the office today, so I went to grab the suit jacket - the cheaper one, that hadn't, until this morning, been desecrated by spider silk.

The positive here is that I didn't grope the Evil One by accident this time. I moved the hanger back, and there it squatted, wrapped in white fuzz. It looked like the face-hugger from Alien, wearing a negligee. All it needed was fuzzy slippers and a hair net.

And then it - it lunged at me. The Spawn of Satan lunged at me. It had hi-jacked my wardrobe - again, mind you - and now it was acting like something out of a bad creature feature.

In hindsight, this turned out to be a fatal mistake on the part of the Spawn.

I stayed spider-free because I moved backwards pretty damn quickly, and also because it was so tightly wedged into the bundle of silk it couldn't move more than a couple of centimetres. The part that did move appeared to be mostly composed of fang.

I stood in my room, watching my biggest phobia struggle to wriggle free of it's cocoon, still aiming those fangs at me, and then it got the first pair of legs out.  At which point, dear readers, this little author lost her shit.

I don't often lose my temper. When I do, the results are, em. Interesting.

This morning was interesting to the point of me bouncing repeatedly on Spawn with a pair of heavy boots, shouting at the top of my lungs.

Considering said shouting consisted of a whole lot of "Die! Die! My SUIT!" (and other words that will not be used on this blog, because there are limits to what is fit for public consumption, and also, my mother would kick my ass), I'm mildly surprised the neighbours didn't call the cops. Explaining that one to the Flying Squad would have been awkward. I left the house feeling slightly insane.

I spent the rest of the morning with shaking hands, and I've been skittish - every time something moves too fast around me, I jump. You don't want to know what happened to the first cup of coffee I tried to drink.

So the Reign of the Spawn has ended, with the final chapter involving the Dyson and the ceremonial Ew, Don't Touch the Carpet with Your Bare Feet Dance.

At some point over the next week, I'll probably feel guilty. But right now, I'm just glad that damned thing's negligee weighed it down.

Sunday 14 October 2012


I haven't been on-line for a couple of days since I've got a lovely dose of the flu/plague/just-shoot-me-now that's being going around the office. Not to mention the tube, train, and my own home environment since my cousin has been lurching around the flat like a fully made-up extra from the Walking Dead.

It's annoying, since this is the second time in two weeks I'm down with something. Dear Immune System, all is forgiven. Please call me soon. 

Right now I can't really talk, because it hurts, but the headache seems to have backed off for a bit and I can look at a screen without whimpering. This is progress, although most of my body feels like it's been systematically beaten by an enraged leprechaun armed with a lead pipe, and every gland in my body appears to have tripled in size, including the one on the back of my head and neck. (Yes, this is a real thing. Google it before you scream at me in the comments, because right now I lack the energy to point and laugh.)

I look like a short and very irritated rugby player, with jock-itch. This is not a good look for me, dear reader. I'm hoping that that particular swelling goes down and I can actually get into work on Monday, because being unable to put on your trousers does not bode well for your working day.

To add to my misery, and probably because the only reason I'm eating once a day is because my cousin is dragging me out of my Lil Pit of Doom to feed me, tonight my p.j. bottoms decided to try and become ankle warmers. This is particularly distressing when it occurs on your way down a couple of stairs, holding dirty plates in one hand and cutlery in the other. Nothing says "I've lost 5 pounds" like a groin grab while holding a fork. Also, it's a good way to realise you can still swear in Klingon. Apparently the husky, dulcet tones I applied gave it extra depth and dimension.

No recent sign of the Spawn of Satan. Maybe the piteous whimpering has driven it to quieter pastures?

In the meantime, if you're a Walking Dead fan, have a giggle at this:

The follow up, which ends with one of the funniest pay-off's I've ever seen is here:

Also, if you're a fan of urban fantasy, Ilona Andrews is running a weekly serial that's pretty addictive. If you haven't read their stuff (this is a husband and wife team) you're missing out on something pretty good. That link should take you straight to their website.

And Richard Shury has just released a new collection of shorts on Smashwords called Wading All, which looks to be as hypnotic as the rest of his stuff, and for $1.

No other news, apart from the fact that my junk mail is currently being targeted by people who think that I:
1) Need viagra (fairly sure I don't have the right equipment for this one. Maybe the fork incident scared it away?)
2) Really want to watch bad porn (*sigh* Not really. Watching an idiot in a bad wig have sex does nothing for me.)
3) Am American, and entitled to a variety of credit cards (Nope. Got a few friends there, but pretty sure I need to actually live in the country)
4) Am still owed PPI repayments (Oh, boy, do I wish that one were true)
5) Am over 50 and desperately need health insurance (Bwahahahah! Of course, if I actually make it to 50, talk to me then. Right now that feels a bit optimistic)
6) Am jewish/christian and desperate to date like minded people (No, no, and hell no. Dating someone with a mind like mine would probably result in some sort of time-warp, and/or planetary destruction. No.)
7) Have won three different non-existent lotteries in the past week. (Could we try something that doesn't insult my intelligence, just once? Please?)

Still, I guess it's nice to be popular, even if the spambots have sadly misread their data. The Nigerian scam fund emails seem to have eased off a bit since I offered two goats and an Oyster pass in marriage, though. Maybe I came across as a bit desperate, but it's been a while.

Monday 8 October 2012

Moments of Aarrgh!!

This might have been one of the most frustrating weekends ever. I made the horrible, horrible mistake of updating my iphone (mainly because the Apple reminder kept shrieking at me, and it was driving me buggy. It's like an attention-seeking 3 year old, bouncing at me every time I looked at my screen). It's a pretty old iphone - 3GS - but it works. I use it for twitter, to check mail, to torture little green pigs - what more could a girl want? It hiccuped at me every now and then, but considering the life expectancy of most tech around me, it's lasted pretty well.

All of my music promptly quit playing. When I checked the iTunes store, it told me that the only thing I had was Pumped Up Kicks.
Now, I love that song, and I had indeed bought it. What I hadn't done was buy 15 versions of it, which my itunes store insisted I had. I found a lot of my music in the trash bin (Apple, WTF?) and moved it back. It vanished again. Then I realised I had it backed up on a removable drive, so that was sorted.
Still no joy getting the music to play - if I moved into my playlists the songs just scrolled by on the screen, like demented puppies on acid.

I deleted the playlists, but couldn't actually delete the songs - puppies on acid again, with extra helpings of "Bite me, Technophobe."
So I decided to bit the bullet and do a restore. I figured I had the weekend to return the apps & get the music sorted out.


iTunes decided I didn't have a sim card in my phone. The one that had been functioning perfectly well until then. I took the sim out. I put the sim back. Rinse, repeat, ad infinitum.

The phone itself won't move past the activation screen, because it says the server is down. iTunes still reckons the sim card is a figment of my imagination. My imagination is pretty Apparently the iphone now has no capacity, no software version, and no serial number. Um. WHAT????

The only solution I've found on-line is to abuse the emergency services number, and I have no real urge to phone my mother from jail next weekend.

Author say naughty word.

Author check warranty. Warranty pretty much keeping company with the pterodactyl.

Author say naughty words in several languages.

If anyone wants to buy a funky buzzing paperweight, let me know. It doubles as a mood-destroyer, supplies ambient lighting when you least expect it to, and is large enough to club yourself repeatedly on the head. The intermittent vibrating noise (must be plugged in) might be good for teasing your cat.


In other news, although the 8-legged spawn of Satan that destroyed my suit jacket has not (yet) re-appeared, I had two close encounters with mini-spawn.

One committed suicide by bouncing in front of my nose and onto my kindle (I tried to get it off gently and it broke. the spider, not the kindle. Cue guilty moment.) and the other one scrambled over my face. Bitch-slapping yourself as a reflex is not recommended, by the way. I evidently slap quite hard, judging from the lovely red welt I left on my own cheek-bone. I either missed that mini-spawn altogether, or I pulverised it so finely it left no trace. I'm hoping for the miss, mainly because I don't think spider-guts are considered effective beauty treatment in any culture.

Both of these, by the way, while howling at iTunes until the early hours of the morning. Neither one has helped my temperament, or my writing this weekend.

Sadly, folks, until I either get this sorted, or win the lottery and can buy a new phone, I'm going to be scarce on twitter during the day. I promise to try and catch up in the evenings and on weekends though.

In the meanwhile, tips, hints and sympathy will be gratefully acknowledged and appreciated.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Pardon me, I seem to have lost my cat ...

This morning had one of those events happen that makes me view my life as a random series of strange (and frequently entertaining) moments. (I get these a lot; they just happen to be linked by happening to me. Often.)

I got to the barriers at the last tube stop, and couldn't find my Oyster card. For any readers not in the UK, this is the card swipe system that lets you travel on London public transport. You can get them as weekly, monthly, and annual versions, all at an eye-watering price that is the equivalent to TFL (Transport for London, the darling pirates running the system) bending your bank account over a chair without any KY.

After ten frantic minutes of slapping, then digging into, every pocket and pouch I had on my bag and jacket, a member of the tube staff wanders over to me. By this time I'm trying to not to whimper out loud.

TFL guy : Are you alright there?
Me (not-quite-wailing) : No - I can't find my Oyster!
TFL guy : Where did you get on?
Me : Walthamstow. (Technically Chingford, but you need to swipe through when you change at Walthamstow, so I knew I'd had it then.)
TFL guy : Let's have a look.

At which point I had the fun experience of describing my Oyster sleeve to him.

Me : White, with a bald cat holding a lightsaber.
TFL guy: A what with a what?
Me : It has a grey robe on. The cat, I mean, not the Oyster.
TFL guy starts edging carefully away...
Me : Didn't you ever watch Star Wars? Obi-Wan? I AM YOUR FATH - no?
TFL guy moves faster, shaking his head. The British transport cop who's been watching our exchange starts towards us.
And then - I see something lying in the corner, next to the escalator. It's white and grey and has a bright neon yellow streak of colour that winks up at me. With a joyful squeal, I stampede past TFL guy, swoop on it, and wave it triumphantly in the air at both him and the cop, who must have moved VERY fast when I made that cooing noise and dived at the floor.

Cop : Alright here?
Me : We're great! I thought I'd lost it!
TFL guy : Me too...

I went bouncing through the barriers and down the road to work. It was only afterwards that I realised that the TFL guy (who is probably 3 times my size both vertically and horizontally) was actually a bit unnerved by me. I'm guessing the Darth Vader impression didn't help.