Tag Archives: writers

One of my Books is in a Library!

I phoned my oldest and best friend, Joyce, in Kaslo (British Columbia, Canada) the other day and part way through our conversation she said excitedly ‘Hey, your book, A Red Waterproof Jacket, is in the Kaslo library!’ I was amazed and asked her how it got in there but she wasn’t sure. I had no idea how books are chosen for libraries, so I’ve just checked on Google and found an interesting post. Although written in 2010 I’m hoping the same information will be true today. This is on an American blog but I’m thinking maybe Canada has a similar process for choosing books. If you’re a writer you may find it interesting to know how your book may be chosen.

http://www.sfwa.org/2010/04/guest-blog-post-how-libraries-choose-books-to-purchase/

Quite a chunk of A Red Waterproof Jacket took place in Kaslo where I lived for ten years, so I suspect someone who knew me back then may have read my blog or heard about the book somehow and enquired about it. I may have to give the library a call because my curiosity is killing me! Either way it gave me a real little feeling of pride to know it’s there, and I do hope people enjoy it.

Kaslo, B.C Canada

A Little Poem to Keep You Going

One should post regularly on ones blog, but sometimes one has difficulty thinking of something new and original – so one digs a beetle out of ones photography archives and posts it with a poem – that one was forced into reciting on stage at primary school – which brings back memories of being scared shitless!

A little  green beetle

Flew in from the damp

And dried his wet wings

By the warmth of my lamp

He hovered a moment

Green-gold in the light

Then flew out of the window

And into the night.

 

Isn’t that sweet!

(I just wasn’t born to be on stage)

Amnesia

New Year 2015

The New Year’s party was in full swing. Queen was blasting out Bohemian Rhapsody and then someone turned the music down and turned on the TV just in time to catch Big Ben booming the first strokes of midnight. A chorus of ‘Happy New Year!’ started up around the room and the bubbly flowed even more freely. Party-poppers popped, and the party goers launched into a slightly slurred rendition of Auld Lang Syne.

It was after three when the last two guests stepped out of the farmhouse door.

‘So you lucky sods are off skiing,’ said Geoff Harding, who owned the farm across the valley from the Blakelocks, ‘Where did you say you were going?’

‘Austria, we’re driving.’ Simon Blakelock pointed over to the new silver BMW X5 with the ski-rack perched on top and two sets of skis in smart zipped carry bags. ‘Linda hates flying and we’ve got plenty of time.’

‘I can’t wait,’ said Linda, sliding an arm round her husband’s waist and grinning up at him with huge blue eyes.

‘You’re lucky to have found that one,’ said Sue Harding attempting to wave a finger in Linda’s direction as she listed slightly and grabbed Geoff’s arm for support.

‘Don’t I know it!’ laughed Simon just a smidge too heartily.

‘Who else would put up with you!’ giggled Sue.

Geoff steadied Sue as she nearly missed the next step, ‘Come on,’ he said, ‘Just because he’s been married a dozen times doesn’t mean he’s that bad.’ He let out a huge guffaw.

Simon hugged Linda too him, ‘Hey! Steady on! She’s only number four!’

‘Well you guys have a great time, we’ll see you in a couple of weeks,’ said Geoff.

‘Send us a postcard,’ burbled Sue as Geoff guided her to their car.

‘Come on darling,’ said Linda, ‘There’s a lot of cleaning up to do before we leave.

Three Weeks Later

Simon came round slowly. There were bright lights. Someone was shining a torch in his eyes. What the hell …

‘Simon?’ said a pleasant male voice, ‘Mr Blakelock?’

Simon came to a bit more. His vision cleared. The man with the pleasant voice was wearing a white coat and had a stethoscope around his neck. Then he realised he was in a hospital bed.

‘What’s happened?’ he stuttered in a panic.

‘It’s OK Simon, you’re going to be fine, you’re in hospital. My name is Doctor Zigler, and you have had a bit of an accident, a pretty bad bang on the head in fact.’

‘I … I don’t remember!’

‘That’s not entirely unusual with a head injury,’ reassured Dr Zigler.

‘But I don’t remember anything!’ said Simon.

‘Not even your name?’

‘No.’

‘Your home – where you live?’

‘Nothing.’

‘OK. Well the worst thing to do is to worry, and stress yourself, because that won’t help your recovery. I can tell you that your name is Simon Blakelock and you live at Foxburn Farm, just outside Foxton. You’re forty-six. Two days ago you were on your bicycle when you had a collision with the post van. Apparently your brakes were in bad shape and you shot out into the road from your farm drive and into the path of the van.’

‘Lordy!’ mumbled Simon. ‘So when will my memory come back?’

‘That’s impossible to say. You’ve had quite a severe injury. The CT scan shows slight bruising to your brain. Some people can take quite a while to regain all of their memory; it often comes back a bit at a time.’

‘Hello!’ said a voice. Dr Zigler looked around and Simon looked up. A woman with a cheery smile and a shock of dark hair had poked her head through the curtain surrounding the bed.

‘Ah, Mrs Harding,’ said the doctor, ‘Simon, this is Mrs Harding, she and her husband are your neighbours. They’ve been keeping an eye on things at the farm for you. I must get on now. Maybe you two would like to have a little chat.’ He turned to Sue Harding, ‘Simon is suffering from memory loss, thanks to his bump on the head, maybe you could try and fill in a few blanks.’ Sue’s face dropped. Simon looked at her blankly. Why did the doctor’s request seem so unwelcome? ‘I’ll see you again tomorrow morning,’ said Dr Zigler.

After he’d left Sue Harding eased herself onto the edge of Simon’s bed.

‘Hi,’ said Simon.

‘Hi Simon, we – Geoff and I – didn’t know about the memory loss. What do you remember?’

‘Nothing, absolutely nothing. Not the accident or anything before it.’

‘Shit,’ muttered Sue.

More bad news surmised Simon. Could things get any worse? ‘Please,’ he said, ‘Tell me, whatever it is, just tell me. I need to know. I’m living in a massive blank at the moment.’

Sue drew in a huge breath. Why me, she thought. But someone was going to have to tell him. She moved onto the visitors chair next to the bed and took one of Simon’s hands in hers. Very bad news thought Simon.

‘OK, your name is … ‘

‘The doc has filled me in with name, age and address,’ he said quickly.

‘Right, OK. So … you were married Simon, last year you married Linda. Then at new year you guys drove to Austria and went on a skiing trip. Because you were both experienced skiers you went off-piste in the glacier area. You shouldn’t have been there, but you both love a bit of risk taking. There was a terrible accident and Linda lost control and fell into a crevasse, a deep crevasse. Bottomless. There was no hope of reaching her.’

Simon’s voice trembled, ‘My wife is dead?’

‘I’m so sorry Simon. You came back from Austria in pieces. Nothing would comfort you. You were still trying to get your head round it all when this accident with the bike happened. You’ve just not been with it.’

‘Have I got any kids?’

‘A son from your first marriage, but he’s in Canada.’

‘Parents?’

‘Your dad died some years ago, your mum is in a home.’

‘Great.’

‘Geoff and I have the farm across the valley from you,’ said Sue kindly, ‘We’re going to help you as much as we can.’

September 2015 – Eight months later

Simon poured himself a second cup of coffee and stared out of the window. Harvest was over. Sue and Geoff had been great this year, helped him with the farm and filled him in on various bits of missing memory, but there were still some great big holes. ‘A memory like bloody Swiss cheese,’ he muttered. The gleaming yellow of the stubble field in the distance beckoned in the sun. He must get the plough out; start preparing to get the winter wheat sown. He sighed and shrugged off a sense of loneliness. How could he be lonely for someone he only knew by name, and from information given to him by friends. Emotions were all still a blank. He finished his coffee and went to get his coat. Might as well get the ploughing done.

It was just after lunch, the big tractor droned steadily in a nice straight line as the plough turned the moist earth into orderly furrows. A small flock of seagulls had come inland and were following the plough, scavenging for worms and any other grubs and insects. A few rooks had joined them. Simon liked the birds. Not only the feathered kind he mused to himself. He must find himself a new woman. What if he wanted to marry again? Did the law require him to wait a certain number of years because his wife’s body couldn’t be found? He had no idea. He chuckled, if he met a fit bird he’d just have to live in sin. It was at that point that the birds behind the plough suddenly became seriously active, diving and wheeling and squawking excitedly. Simon heard them and looked back. Something pink – material of some sort. The birds were going crazy. Simon stopped the tractor, hopped down and walked back to whatever it was that had them so excited. He got within a few yards and stopped dead with shock. A mess of partially shredded pink material lay exposed above the earth. Entangled in it was a skeletal human hand.

‘Jesus Christ!’ Simon just stared, eyes fixed in horror. Then he dug out his mobile phone and phoned the police.

Some weeks later – in the Foxton Gazette

Farmer With Memory Loss Ploughs Up Wife He Murdered!

Simon Blakelock told friends and family that his wife had fallen into a crevasse while skiing in Austria, but detectives have proved that no such incident took place. Blakelock murdered his wife and buried her in one of his fields. It’s believed that he would come into a large inheritance on his wife’s death. Police are looking into the deaths of his three previous wives.

The Word Jug!

Sitting here today wondering what to write on the author blog. It’s easy with the photography blog, having a huge library of photos to choose from.  I don’t want to become repetitive and keep putting up short stories, and there’s not much news on my books at the moment. Then I thought about words. Some words fascinate me and there are just so many that I don’t ever think of using, and many that I don’t even know the meaning of. They say that most of us have a pretty small vocabulary in fact. Anyway I wondered about doing a word post once in a while – explore the meaning and the sound and maybe the history of a word. Or even just talking about a word I particularly like. As I was thinking about this the word bumptious leaped into my mind, I haven’t a clue why. It’s a word I remember from childhood, a word my mum used to use when referring to a cousin. ‘Sally’s rather bumptious,’ she would say, in a slightly disapproving tone. I didn’t know what it meant but from my mum’s tone I suspected it wasn’t good. So here is the first word out of the jug – a very old jug now, that my mum used for flowers when I was a kid.

Bumptious: presumptuously, obtusely, and often noisily self-assertive : obtrusive,  unpleasantly confident, someone who is proud or self-assertive in an obnoxious or irritating way.

Do you know someone like this?

Etymologists (that was a new one on me today as well!) believe that bumptious was probably coined, perhaps playfully, from the noun bump plus -tious. (Think of the obtrusive way an overly assertive person might “bump” through a crowd.) When bumptious was first used around 1800, it meant ‘conceited’.

My mum was born in 1903, and so this word was probably pretty common to her, but language changes and evolves and some words probably never see the light of day any more.  I like the word bumptious, it’s got a bouncy sort of sound to it! How many of you are familiar with it, or ever use it?

Beware the Dust Bunnies! (a short story)

June 2017

Canada:

It started suddenly without rhyme or reason. No one knew why. It was like the beginning of life, when the first creatures crawled out of the sea. Only this time they were born from dust.

Every night it grew. The whispering. Every night as Teresa slept. It was so faint that even the the old dog and the ginger cat couldn’t hear the dust bunnies communicating their terrible message under the bed.

‘Grow!’ breathed Fred gently, he was the biggest and hairiest of all. And at his command tiny particles of fluff and dust and hair gravitated towards them. And they grew bigger.

France:

The woman of the house had become obsessed with writing and for too long had ignored the housework. The vacuum cleaner, unemployed for weeks, had allowed the dust-bunnies to congregate. They had received messages on the air. Messages from the grand master hundreds of miles away in Canada. Now they grew softly, surreptitiously, under the beds, couch, and easy chairs, pulsing gently, whispering. Spiders gave them a wide berth, terrified of being caught up and fluffocated.

Australia:

Bruce lived alone in the outback. He was a simple man with simple ways. His ancient broom was dragged out every so often to do a minimalistic sweep around the kitchen while his arthritic knees defied any attempt at cleaning beneath anything. His guests, only one or two old mates a year, were hardly going to be peeping under the furniture. The dust bunnies picked up Fred’s message which reached them on the Australian breezes. The grand master must be obeyed.

Two years later

And so it was nearly everywhere in the world, under anything that could harbour them, the dust bunnies waited. Inconspicuously and stealthily they listened for the call. Compacted now, condensed, and hidden, crammed under any available shelter, they were ready.

In Canada Teresa had just got up when it happened, it was eight o’clock and she was sipping her first coffee. In France it was five in the evening and Jude was on the computer trying to think of a plot for a short story. In south-west Australia it was eleven o’clock and Bruce was sitting on his porch, eyeing the stars, his old sheepdog by his side and a cold beer in his hand. They all stopped what they were doing at the same moment and listened. A strange groaning was sounding throughout their houses, a creaking and a stretching and then the sharp splintering of wood. The dust bunnies were free at last.

Bruce glanced back over his shoulder at the open front door, wondering what the noise was. His jaw dropped. All he could see was grey fluff – a huge compacted writhing ball trying to force its way out onto the porch. His dog whined and cowered beside him. Bruce got unsteadily out of his chair, wondering how many beers he’d had, and backed across the yard, eyes glued to the front door.

The monster bunny was squeezing and squeezing, pulsating and pushing. Suddenly it burst forth and rolled out into the yard, rocking gently and expanding by the second to astronomical proportions as Bruce stared up at it. ‘Christ! It’s breathing!’ he said. It could engulf his house! But it didn’t. It suddenly took off, rising fast into the night sky, as though pulled by some unseen force, and in a flash it was gone. Bruce shook his head. Had he been on the whisky before the beer? Had it been a bad dream? He walked cautiously back to the house, put the TV on and sat down. The TV was showing a news bulletin; film of large balls of something in the sky, videos shot with mobile phones from all over the country. Then the newsreader was back, animated and excited.

‘These same sights are being reported from around the world. From just about every corner of the earth we are witnessing enormous balls of something, initially thought to be fluff, bigger than houses, travelling across the sky. Reports would suggest that they are all heading towards north America but nobody knows why. Fighter aircraft, scrambled in the U.K the U.S, here in Australia and in a number of other countries have reported that the balls don’t in any way appear to be dangerous – unless they fall on you!’ The newsman chuckled at his own joke. ‘Stay on this channel for further reports on what are being called the ‘Behemoth dust bunnies!’

Bruce was right, he hadn’t had too many beers! And it hadn’t been a bad dream.

Teresa, bare-foot, stepped through her shattered front door and gazed up in horror at the thing that had obviously been lurking under her bed – now overturned in a corner of the bedroom. It hung in the sky, a pulsating hairy monster, expanding by the second, blocking out the morning sun as it grew. All the neighbours were out gawking. ‘Mrs Clean’, as she was known, from three doors down, was in the street staring up in fascination.

‘Looks like a dirty great dust bunny, to me!’ she laughed, ‘I wonder where it came from.’

Apparently you could eat your supper off ‘Mrs Clean’s floor, it was that clean.

‘Who knows,’ muttered Teresa. Certainly not from under your bed she thought. She went back into the kitchen and picked up her phone. The front door needed fixing where the monster had burst through it. She watched the news on the TV in the corner while she waited.

The Breakfast News had just started.

‘The Behemoth Dust Bunnies appear to be heading right here!’ said the newsreader, ‘Reports say they are joining together at times to form even bigger balls.’ And almost as she said this the light faded. Screams from outside made Teresa drop the phone and rush to the door. Bumping and crackling sounds were coming from the sky as more giant bunnies came in fast from all directions. Open-mouthed the people in the street stared up in stunned silence as the new arrivals merged with Fred the master. And they kept coming. And a great shadow fell over the earth. And there was darkness.

The world held its breath. And then light, faint at first, started to return as the dust bunny as big as planet earth itself slowly rose, higher and higher, way past the clouds, further and further. And then it suddenly it gathered speed and in a flash it was gone.

Teresa stared up in awed relief as the sun fell on her face. She brushed some fluff off her bare feet and cursed the dog for nicking her slippers again. Then she went back in to phone the repairman.

Six Months Later

Teresa put her coffee on the table and switched on the TV. Someone was interviewing an astronomer called Bill Moon.

‘And you discovered this last night?’ asked the interviewer eagerly.

‘Yes, yes! It’s quite phenomenal,’ said Bill who was being photographed next to the biggest telescope in the world, ‘I’m really just an amateur, but sometimes I do get lucky and spot something really good. I discovered it last night, right at the end of the Milky Way. It’s the fluffiest planet I’ve ever seen! I got some rather amazing close-ups.’

The TV camera zoomed in and Bill’s close up filled Teresa’s TV screen.

‘It appears to be made of fine hairs, feathers, cobwebs and many other fibres,’ said Bill, ‘What I’m not sure about are those two small, but prominent, bright pink protrusions on the left hand side there.’

The camera zoomed in for an even closer shot.

Teresa sat bolt upright, and nearly spilled her coffee.

‘Those are my frigging slippers!’ she cried.

Creating A Cover For Your Book

Once you’ve written your book, edited it to perfection and decided that you can do no more, it’s time to think about the cover. You only have to Google ‘book covers’ to see the many companies offering their services. A lot of authors prefer to have a professional create their cover to be assured their book will look its best. But you can create your own if you have the tools and maybe a little experience of photo editing with Photoshop or GIMP.

I thought some may find it interesting to see the process I used for A Red Waterproof Jacket. I chose this book because the book has a wide spine and my other two paperbacks don’t. Books with very narrow spines don’t have enough space for any writing.

I published with CreateSpace who provide templates of different sizes. There are plenty of trim sizes to choose from. For this book I chose 5.25 x 8 inches. Here is the template I downloaded for my cover:

Above you can see how the entire cover, back, front and spine need to fit on the template. Note the width of the spine has already been worked out by CreateSpace, based on the number of pages in the book and the type of paper (cream). You can also see where they will put the book’s bar code, so you need to make sure that there’s nothing in that space that you don’t want covered up.

I looked at lots of paperbacks to see how the well-known authors have had their covers set up, and noticed a lot are done as a ‘wrap-around’. Basically they’re using a picture that covers the whole template, as opposed to separate pictures for the back, front, and spine. Your picture needs to be good quality – 300 dpi is required for printing. My photograph was 3563 x 2475 pixels.

This is the original picture I chose for the cover. I took it in Blois on a visit there a few years ago.

I loved the picture but the trouble was I wanted the steps on the front of the book, so I needed to horizontally flip the image.

Then there were the two people on the steps who needed to be removed. The photo also needed some improvement – a white balance, some sharpening, and a bit of extra light to give a stronger impact.

Next I wanted the figure in the red waterproof jacket on that top step. I wanted to try and add a touch of mystery – a figure waiting. I had a good photo taken some winters back.

He needed cutting out of this photo, shrinking, turning around, and placing on the top step.

Now the back cover was going to be exceedingly dark which I didn’t want. So leaving the area for the spine dark I lightened the back cover. This meant I could use black font for the back cover blurb. I notice I’ve still got a couple of small red markers, top and bottom, to show me where the spine finishes and the front cover starts.

Next I needed to decide on fonts for the author name and title. It wasn’t easy and I hummed and hawed and pondered and changed my mind many times. In the end after I’d eventually reduced my choice down to two I sent my choices to a friend for a second opinion and she agreed with me. (A Google search will throw up all sorts of sites with free fonts available to download). I put in the title and author for the spine first. And also my logo.

Next the title – but I needed to put the red word in separately .

Then the ‘Red’ and the author name.

Lastly the back cover blurb – to tell a prospective reader what the book is about. Notice the space left for the bar code with the ISBN.

I hope this post might be a help to anyone thinking about creating their own cover. I’m not an expert but if you have any questions that I may be able to help with then please feel free to get in touch.

‘A Red Waterproof Jacket’ has arrived!

I am just so thrilled! The proof for A Red Waterproof Jacket arrived yesterday! I published it as an e-book a few years ago but this year decided to go for paperback with CreateSpace for all my books. The proof looks so good. I love the way the cover has come out. I obviously got my design pretty much spot on. It really does look professional. I was sitting here staring at it and thinking ‘It looks like a real book!’ Then I thought ‘Stupid! It is a real book!’

In a nutshell I wrote this book to inspire anyone who feels stuck, who keeps telling them self ‘better the devil you know’, and to urge them to believe there can be another life. Maybe the best way to tell you a bit more about the book is to simply post the back cover blurb …

What if you were a woman of fifty-six, emotionally unable to disentangle yourself from a long-term bitter-sweet relationship with no future? Too often you find yourself staring out of the window across the fens dreaming of new horizons. Depression shadows you. What do you have? A dull, routine job and a motorbike.

Change was easy when you were young, when you set off to Canada aged twenty-two, heart full of hope, romance, and optimism. But now middle age and loss of confidence has withered hope. Relationships have never worked out; always an imbalance. You decided some time ago that better the devil you know was the safest route. Besides, the very thought of a new relationship is tiring.

But what if out of the blue a man walked into your life? A man with a motorbike. A man ten years younger than you, who couldn’t possibly find you attractive. Could he? He wants to meet for coffee. You’re scared to death. He’s attractive. He wants you to go to Spain with him. Would you dare? Could you dump your job, sell your house, and risk running off into the sunset once more, with man you’ve known for a little over a week?

A Red Waterproof Jacket is now on sale on Amazon, as either an ebook or a paperback.