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Friday 11 November 2016

In the Belly of the Beast

We have become what our grandparents fought against.

In the UK, people let a right-winger trample over human decency and truth in a way that would have done the old Apartheid government proud, and then wondered how they voted themselves out of the EU and why the pound was doing a gentle backstroke in the toilet.
(I've been told to get over the Brexit thing. Since I'm currently on the receiving end of open hostility in public because of my accent, and I've heard horror story after horror story from friends and strangers about outright physical and verbal abuse,  and since a fairly shallow review of history points out rather emphatically that a country that devolves to an isolationist, rabidly nationalistic stance is usually mere years away from being the aggressor in a war designed to lift the economy it systematically destroyed through that stance - no. No, I fucking will not get over it.)

Then the USA came along, dropped a turd in the same damn toilet bowl, sprayed it orange, and elected it president.

Trump spent the campaign legitimising hate speech against everyone who isn't a white male. He made it okay to sexually assault women. He let everyone know it was just fine to destroy people who are other, different in skin colour, religion, language and sexual orientation. He didn't just let the genie out of the bottle, he gave it a bottle of rum and a hand-job and fed it until it was running on its own power. He hatched the hydra.
Granted, that didn't take much; the racists in the US and the rest of the world have been having an orgy of hysterical proportions since Obama got in. Once Trump got his nomination, I imagine most of the Ku Klux Klan were in thankful tears. Isn't that a lovely, heartwarming frigging thought?

Then Trump gave his victory speech and I face-palmed so hard I have no clue how I stayed conscious. He talked about mending the fabric of society and was ever so bloody gracious. Plenty of people paid attention. The media reported it, played it ad nauseum. The republicans that disavowed him weeks ago fell over themselves to  talk about what a great start it was. The moderates who couldn't trust Hilary with the security codes but decided someone they wouldn't leave their 16 year old daughter alone with was a better alternative. They're all over social media, telling us to give him a chance, despite him operating a campaign that would have got the Nazi party in its earliest incarnation run out of town on a rail. Most of these patronising folk are, strangely enough, straight white males.

Guess who never listened? I'm guessing these guys. And these. And these. And guess what? They aren't going to. They got the permission they wanted to brutalise the other, and the person who gave them that permission is about to run the country. Their views have been vindicated. They used Trump as much as he used them.
Right now Trump could beg them to stop and they'd ignore him. They don't need him anymore. The
genie outgrew the bottle months ago; the hydra won't be stuffed back in its egg sac -  and monsters always demand blood.  Make no mistake, people are going to die over this. The only question is how many and how long it will take.

Today in the UK we celebrate the triumph of good over evil. Right now it's an empty exercise because as a species and a nation we haven't learnt a bloody thing.
For all the fancy parades and  wearing red poppies,  all the footage we've seen of cities and camps inhabited by doomed souls. The mass graves and the gun torn beaches. The things that started because countries chose to listen to power hungry men who chose scapegoats that were other.

We have become what our grandparents fought, and we should be sickened by it.

Sunday 24 July 2016


I met Odin's human a few weeks ago. Nice lady. Turns out the boy is 12 years old, which explains a lot of the weight issue, as well as the eye - that's something that happens in elderly cats.

Her house was for sale. A month ago, a sold notice got slapped up.

In the meantime, life continued. Odin came by every morning. He sat in my lap while I had my coffee, and I fed him breakfast. His coat turned glossy and soft. He head-butted me to get cuddles and loved being picked up. He'd lie on his back in my lap and drool happily. He smelled like green grass and talcum powder and rich black earth. On weekends he'd spend hours with me. He fascinated my three, who followed him around the house like ducklings.

His human was worried about the move. She took in a dog that's tormenting him, and is furiously jealous over any affection shown to him. I offered to take him, and she thought about - but in the end, she couldn't give him up. If he doesn't settle, though, I've told her the offer is open.

This Friday, the move happened. Odin came for his last breakfast, and I held him and smelled his fur.

There will be no more cuddles in the alcove.  No more loving head-butts and soft quacks and the gentle knocking of big paws on the front door, asking for breakfast. My mornings are oddly empty now.

Friday 15 April 2016

Life, Kitty News and a new book announcement

It's been a slightly insane couple of months. The house I'm in is going on the market, so it's been a frantic scramble to unclutter and clean up, which is lot easier said than done when you have two humans, 3 1/2 cats (Odin is going strong and still appears for breakfast every morning) and a hell of a lot of art stuff and books.

The next chore is finding someplace to live again, and I'm kind of despondent about that. Low income and a lot of stuff do not a happy combo make. It's frankly terrifying. I'm back to the rat again, and not enjoying it. On the bright side, stress and lack of money to buy sugary junk food means I've slid back through a size 10 and heading for the land of size 8, which I haven't seen in ten years or so. The downside of that is that my favourite jeans no longer fit (they're starting to look like a cross between those gangster-wanna-be styles and a full diaper, and if I sneeze without wearing a belt I'm likely to be arrested) and my inner bean-counter took one look at the price for a new pair and giggled hysterically before force-marching me out of the shops last week. For that price, the damn things should be giving me a daily back-rub and making me coffee in the morning.

The cats are insane in new and interesting ways. Hathor has decided that dangling upside down from the curtain railing is her new joy in life, Bast has starting introducing his kleptomania to my undie drawer (and you haven't lived until you see a cat trying to look innocent with a pair of knickers draped fetchingly over his ears) and Sheba has starting wrapping herself in my duvet and swaying to some inner music only she can hear. When the last one happened at 3 a.m., the human in the room almost tested the water-proofing on the mattress. There were yellow eyes, okay? Ahem.
Odin has figured out that hammering repeatedly on the door will get me downstairs eventually, and headed for coffee and his breakfast.

Anyway, I post a lot of kitty dialogue on my FB page, and I've had a fair amount of private messages asking about a book. Not just an ebook. A book book, with pages you turn and hey, what about some illustrations?

I'm happy to oblige, however book books cost more money to make than ebooks. Illustrations do interesting things to formatting in tree books, so I'd need to hire someone on that end. I can't do a graphic novel, because I'd still be working on it in 5 years - time is not my friend - but illustrations I can handle, so I've saved the cost of an artist. (My inner artist is sulking, btw. She likes being paid.) And I'd need an editor.

And the PMs came back and they said: Fundraise, you idiot.

So. I've got a GoFundMe page set up, with little snippets and pictures and videos if I can ever figure that part out - tech and I are still not quite buddies. I still intend to release an ebook - too many folks who prefer them to tree books nowadays - but if I get enough funding to do a good job on the physical book, I think it'll be pretty cool.

The link is here, if you'd like to be a part of it. Anything and everything is appreciated. I'll love you. The cats will give you cool, sardonic cat acknowledgements. And you'll have a nifty book to play with.

Sunday 28 February 2016

Dear idiot

This is an open letter to the man that tried to grab me in the lift this week.

Dear idiot

If I'd realised that your drunken, moronic, racist ass was going to step into the lift after me, I probably wouldn't have gotten on to it. I don't really enjoy fighting in a street situation, and the cramped conditions of a railway station lift aren't conducive to the best form of self-defence I know of, which is running like hell.

When you lurched onto the train at Glasgow Central and started swearing at the walls it was easy to ignore you. Drunks on the train are obsequious throughout the UK - it's more unusual not to see them.
And I'll admit to not paying much attention in the half-minute walk from the train to the station; my leg hurt, I was tired, and it was bitterly cold. I just wanted to get home. I was feeling good, though. The new job was going great, the migraines are at a fairly low level (thank you, new meds and a good GP) and I was looking forward to a nice cup of tea and unwinding before bed.

I stepped into the lift, nodded at the chap standing in front of me - and then you stepped in behind me, smelling like an incontinent badger, and decided you wanted a cuddle.

I've noticed in the past that a higher number of females don't Want To Cause A Scene when a male makes them uncomfortable. I don't know if this is a UK thing, but I've seen a lot of it here. I've watched women that are fiercely independent and strong mutter things like "Excuse me," or "Please stop" when harassed. It usually makes it worse, because the cock-wobbles doing this stuff get off on it. Correct me if I'm wrong, dear tosspot, but I'm 99% sure that this is what you were aiming for.  You saw a small woman in a beanie cap and giant coat and decided this would be fun.

Sadly for you, I don't respond to physical harassment the way you were expecting. Part of this is background and training, part of this is just me, because, dear arse, you triggered every homicidal instinct I have. I'm also very fast, and you are a sloppy drunk.

This is why you ended up with my knuckles resting against your throat and the other fist waiting for your  next action. To be honest, I don't remember moving, but I was in stance almost as soon as your arm landed across my shoulders, and your next grope faded into mid-air.

And I let you see that I really, really wanted to hurt you. Judging by the smell intensifying, you peed yourself a little at that point.

Make no mistake, I'm a small woman. A solid punch or even open-handed slap would've bounced me off of every wall in the elevator, which is why my knuckles were against your throat until the door opened and you got out. The reason I didn't punch? I have no wish to end up in a UK jail, and until you took a swing at me, I couldn't legally defend myself any further than I just had. This is a country where someone won a rape defence by claiming his dick slipped when he tripped on a teenage girl, and holy Cthulhu, I wish I was joking about that. It means I trust the justice system for sexual assault victims about as far as I could through it.
But, dear chunderbucket, I wanted to. I really did.

The fact that you waited until you cleared half the length of the corridor before beginning to screaming abuse at me also tells me volumes about your sense of self-preservation. I didn't respond because you weren't worth the breath or effort, and I had no intention of escalating a situation again, but I'll respond to some of them here.

"This is Scotland!" Yes, I'm well aware of that. It's fucking freezing. I also don't care if it's outer bloody Mongolia, you don't grab a woman you don't know.

"Dirty fucking immigrant." Oooh, you noticed my accent? In two short sentences*? Congratulations.

"Fucking Jewish bitch." *beep* wrong. Not Jewish. Although I'm not sure why you thought that would be a good reason for assaulting me? Or is that because you were going home to jerk off to the BNP website? I have no problem being called a bitch; it usually happens because you've pissed off a male with entitlement issues. I'm good with that.

"Got no business being in my country!" (there may have been sobbing at this point.) *beep* wrong again. My ancestors came to Scotland with the vikings, you pathetic little fuck. I just happened to be raised outside the country. And it's great to know you only have problems assaulting dirty Jewish immigrants when they don't argue back. Your mother must be so proud.

Then you went back to This is Scotland! again, and I got bored. I love this country. I was raised surrounded by traditional Scottish culture and heritage, even in Africa. My direct family fought and bled in the trenches of two world wars wearing kilts.  You, on the other hand? You snivelling, self-entitled, cowardly, pants-staining little badger's arse? You represent the very worst of it. You represent bigotry and misanthropy and drunken hyper-aggression; a slimy misogynistic stain on Scotland's shoe sole.  You make me want to puke.

Have a long life, dear idiot. Long enough to realise that you're a dinosaur, that women aren't there to be pawed at will, that hurling abuse at someone who defends themselves makes you look like an even bigger idiot, that the world is a very small place and we are all stuck on it together, no matter what race or religion or creed we come from, and that the Daily Fail is not suitable reading material for any adult with a functioning brain.

And for the love of Scotland - dude - take a bath.


*"Don't fucking touch me. I'm serious."

PS: The other guy in the lift didn't say a word, and also exited at top speed. Since the odds were high my new friend Randy the Skunk would have swung at him, I don't blame him.

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

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.