Brand new interview – Detective Angelo Lamora of NYPD

I had the pleasure of chatting with Detective Angelo Lamora of NYPD yesterday. He stopped in to talk about the Gainsford Riot, and his experiences during those horrific few days. You can read all about the events no known as the Gainsford Riot, Angelo’s experiences, and how those few days almost spelled the end of humanity as we know it.

Click here to read Angelo’s interview.

Wandering Thoughts of a Writer -Book Feature

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I had the pleasure of having The Trials of Nahda featured on my good friend Rebekkah Ford’s blog, The Wandering Thoughts of a Writer. Click here to visit her fantastic blog. I hope you enjoy the feature.

Fluffy pyjamas and a day at the beach

Something happened today that has never happened before. Mother wanted to go out and visit Lepe Beach. We used to go there years ago; it’s a place she has loved for years. Today, I told her she either had to change her clothes, or remain in the car at all times.

Yeah, I was embarrassed.

This has never happened before. Although she’s never been the height of fashion, Mother would never have gone out in loud tartan fleecy trousers that look like pyjama bottoms. These days she doesn’t seem to care as much as she did. When I told her I would not walk down the street with her dressed like that, she was a little put out. We laughed about it, but she did end up staying in the car.

Some might think me harsh, but I see it as a little sign that she has begun to give up her hold on life. She’s 83 and due to her obesity, she’s quite disabled now. It’s as if, one by one, the little things that symbolise how we cling vibrantly to each moment of life, are being let go. She used to care how she looked when she went out in public. She used to take care to dress smartly and appropriately for a large woman, and we both used to express disdain at how women we saw out and about, were dressed. “I would never go out like that,” she would often say.

Well now she is, and it’s not just that I don’t like her dress sense. It’s what lies beneath that worries me. Do I keep trying to encourage her not to let herself go any more than she has done already, or do I just let her give up little by little? She’s a grown up after all, and has the right to make her own choices and live by them.  It’s just a shame to see how far she has fallen. It is true that there is no dignity in ageing, and even less in death.

Word of the day

MUTABLE – liable or subject to change or alteration

This is the perfect word for today. It has been a mutable day. I did have plans, but due to other people’s plans changing, mine had to. I have accomplished today though, just not what I had intended. Instead of a busy day, I’ve had a day relaxing at home and just doing home stuff.

Mutable is a more sophisticated way of saying changeable, but one must be careful when using it in a novel. The type of character who would use this word would be someone with a good education and of a certain class. This word brings to mind mature scientists and scholars, definitely not the type of expression an uneducated redneck might use.

When writing our characters personalities, it is important that their mannerisms, habits, lifestyle, and speech styles reflect their social status. Whilst it is a good thing to try to make your word choice more sophisticated, you need to ensure you do so in the right way to make your characters authentic and believable.

 What kind of a day have you had, and what is the most sophisticated way you can think of to describe it?

On becoming a superhero

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Are you a woman under fifty? If so, prepare to receive a surprise gift on your fiftieth birthday. This gift is something you may have spent your younger years wishing for, and believing you could never have. It is however, something you will find out is nowhere near as cool as you think it would be. I love a superhero movie as much as the next person, and have often thought it might be cool to fly like Superman or Ironman, have X-ray eyes, or the power to become invisible. Well you can become invisible, and you won’t have to undergo any horrible painful tests,  there will be no need to drink a nasty tasting concoction, and no scary injections of dreadful chemical mixtures. What must you do, I hear you cry? It’s simple, just be a woman over fifty.

This phenomenon creeps up on you without you realising until it’s too late and then, bam, you’re invisible with no way back. Like a spectre you glide into crowded rooms unseen by those present until you throw a cup across the room and scream. You queue in stores and fast food joints and when finally you get to the front of the line, the sales person looks right through you and serves the guy behind you. Your fifty plus year old joints complain more and more, but you will never get a seat on a bus because no one knows you’re there.

Hoping to get yourself a younger toy boy? Forget it sister. Unless you walk down the street stark naked, singing a falsetto rendition of The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins to get their attention, Most men will cease to notice you. There are some men who will notice you, but that will most likely be for all the wrong reasons. The fat, balding, paunchy, toothless, beer swilling, farting sofas will notice you, but only because they know that the younger and better looking chicks won’t give them the time of day. They’re trying to ‘settle for second best’ by trying it on with the invisible older women, and assume said women will be grateful for the attention.

I turned 53 a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been aware of my superhero status for a few years now. My 83 year old mother and I have discussed this topic often and she reports to having noticed the same thing happening to her from middle age. She also informs me that this superhero status, once gained, is permanent. Once invisible, you can never hope to be seen again.  You are doomed to wander through your winter years like a ghost wandering a lofty mansion, the occasional grunt or shriek to shock people into wondering what the hell that noise was, and if their house is haunted?

This new found ability does have one or two advantages though, that help to temper the shock and disappointment. No longer must you spend hours wondering what to wear. No longer do you have to spend hours applying layers of make up. You don’t even have to bother shaving your chin or plucking your eyebrows anymore. Your middle aged spread can wobble unashamedly, and you can relax about the diet. After all, you’re now way passed such concerns. No, your priorities now are tracking down cut price life insurance deals, funeral plans, and dealing with bladder problems. The younger generation don’t know how sweet their life is, do they?

But of course, this is what society wants us to believe.

Why should we suddenly become invisible? What is wrong with our society, that a woman who has worked hard bringing up children, working, caring for elderly parents and useless husbands, is rewarded for her efforts with indifference and a yawn? Without us, the younger generation would not exist to enjoy the life they take far too much for granted, so why can’t they be grateful? Because that is the way of life today, that’s why. Old is a dirty word, something to be afraid of and avoided at all costs. In choosing not to notice us, they are admitting their fear of confronting their own mortality and the march of time. We cannot all be Judi Dench and Helen Mirren, with enough money to hire clever people who can help us come out from behind our cloak of invisibility. Most of us just have to accept that we no longer exist, and some of us will end our days alone, not found for weeks. Our mouldering corpses will still be sitting in front of the tv and finally, for a moment, we will no longer be invisible. The younger generation will shake their heads and mutter, “What a shame, how could an old person go unnoticed like that.”

Its seems the only way to stop this unwanted new superhero ability, is to become the neighbourhood weirdo, the crazy cat lady at the end of the street, the old bat who talks to her plants and probably has a body hidden in the cellar, “so the guy in bar told me.” Not all of us fancy any of those roles for ourselves. Most of us would like to be just as visible as we were when we were thirty years younger. We’re not asking for wolf whistles, (although that might be nice once in a while), we don’t want to be thought of as man eating cougars or new age converts embracing veganism. We want to be ordinary women, just like always. We want a smile, a nod, a “good morning.”

Is that really beyond the realms of possibility for a civilised society?

Happy New Year

I can’t believe how fast 2014 went by. I always thought it was an old person’s thing to comment on how fast the time is going, but now I’m doing it myself. Maybe that means that I’m now old instead of just middle aged. I don’t feel like an old person despite being 53 in a couple of weeks, I still feel 25 inside my head. I often look back and think, “where the hell has the last week gone?” It’s not just me experiencing this either, many people I speak to say it too.

2014 saw some changes for me, most of them welcome. My beloved car finally broke down and had to be sold as I could not afford to get it repaired. The head gasket had gone and I don’t have that kind of money. Having no transport meant I could no longer keep doing my job, which entailed me driving to different peoples’ homes to clean their house. This meant I’ve had to start claiming benefits, which is a laborious process designed to make you feel like a scrounger. It is taking forever, but I hope it will be all sorted soon.

My health problems have caught up with me more than ever before, and I spend a lot of time in pain. I have what is called a Pars Defect in my lumbar spine, which is now affecting my life far more than ever before. It seems to me that being forced to give up my job, which was very physical and left me in agony most days, was timely. It is nice having more time at home. Being able to lie in is a treat I haven’t experienced for years. It is a blow to my ego to  have to use a walking stick, but it does help a little so I try not to complain. I never realised how difficult it is to go shopping with a handbag, several bags of shopping, and still be able to effectively use a walking stick. It’s impossible, so I often find myself unable to use my stick. Luckily I can do the greater part of the grocery shopping online, which saves me having to haul too many bags on the bus.  That’s another thing, the bus fares around here are criminal!

2014 also saw my mother sell her house in Cornwall and move up here near me. I’ve been trying to persuade her for ages and am delighted that my persistence has finally paid off. She now has a lovely ground floor flat a couple of miles away, in a nice area near to all the amenities she did not have in Cornwall. It will also be nice to have someone to pop in for a coffee and natter a couple of times a week or go for a meal on a weekend. When she first announced she was moving away down to Cornwall, I felt very abandoned for a long time. It was weird and not something I expected to feel. It was not pleasant and although I got used to being so alone, I was always aware of how alone I was. She has been away visiting relatives for Christmas and New Year, so we will be out buying her some new furniture the moment she gets back.

My other excitement is that I am now a proud cat mommy. I named him Samelan, after the main character in my Sinclair V-Logs science fiction novels. He’s a beautiful stripey tabby and has the most hilarious nature. He has a foot fetish and will bite my feet and toes whenever I go barefoot, he likes playing football with his toys (and is a very skilled dribbler too), and is toilet training with the Litter Kwitter system. He doesn’t meow very often, but ‘trills’ all the time, and will reply when I talk to him sometimes. Every morning at 7am he wakes me up by trilling and batting me with a paw, after which he sits by my alarm clock as he knows I always reach for it to check the time before getting up. I’m fully expecting one day for him to learn to press the button on the top which lights up the clock face. I cannot express how much of a difference it has made to my mood, having someone pleased to see me, seeking my company, and eager for me to get home just to spend time with me. I’m sure he’s saved my life.

So what of 2015? I did make a New Year’s resolution to give up chocolate, and I am determined to stick to it. Rather than go on a typical diet as such, I have tried to introduce permanent healthy food habits, one at a time. Years ago I gave up sugar in tea and coffee. A couple of years ago I gave up milk in tea and coffee. Last March I gave up smoking, and this year I intend to stop eating chocolate in any form. It is an education trying to find desserts and sweet things that don’t contain chocolate. This substance seems to have infiltrated into every area of our diet. It’s even in breakfast cereals now, crazy. At the same time as I shall be learning to do without chocolate, I shall be eating more fruit and veg, which I already love so no problems there other than the cost of them. Once I have eliminated the worst stuff from my diet, I can turn my attention to reducing portion size. I hope to end this year with a far more healthy relationship with food, even if I have not lost a significant amount of weight (which would be nice too).

So far I have 2 novels to publish in the coming year. One is finished to first draft and the other will be finished to first draft within the next couple of days.  I shall probably participate in the July Camp Nanowrimo, as I have done in the past 2 years, which will take me to 3 books this year. I like to do 3 a year, it’s a comfortable workload for me.

I want to pay a little more attention to marketing this year. I am in the process of building a list of tweets that I can use with the new drip feed app I’ve found. Due to Feed 140 breaking down, I had to find another drip feeder, and Dropial is the only one I’ve found that allows you to build a list that will drip in a continuous loop. The only downside to Dropial is that it insists on the list containing a minimum number of tweets, so I’m busy building it at the moment. Once that is done, I want to blog more, and use all the other social media I am part of, a bit more often. I cannot afford to pay for advertising, so free social media is my shop window at the moment. I would like to do interviews, but no one is asking  – unless you’d like to interview me or do a spotlight for me?

One other thing I want to pledge to this coming year, is to begin re-editing and re-releasing my backlist. As time has gone on I have learned more, and I can clean up the early books and make them slicker and more error free. There is also one I want to do a new cover for. I want to do at least 2 of my older books this coming year.

As for other 2015 bucket list items, there’s always the following:

Meet Dwayne Johnson

Meet Vin Diesel

Meet Misha Collins

Have Peter Jackson talk me into allowing him to turn one of my books into a movie

Win more than a million on the lottery

Become a best seller for at least one of my books on Amazon

If anyone would like to help me achieve any of those items, let me know. In the meantime, I wish you all a prosperous, educational, and happy 2015.

U2, ‘That’ album, and the problem every indie author faces

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Anyone with an iTunes account will have received a free album courtesy of Bono and U2 in the recent past. This act of generosity has been dogged by outrage ever since and has resulted in Bono issuing a public apology.

He said it was, “a drop of megalomania, a touch of generosity, a dash of self-promotion and deep fear that these songs that we poured our life into over the last few years mightn’t be heard. There’s a lot of noise out there. I guess we got a little noisy ourselves to get through it.”

Bono’s comment touches upon a very pertinent point for us self published authors – how to get our voice heard above the din.

The sheer weight of stuff out there from which the customer can choose is so immense that the chances of your book being chosen are extremely thin unless you are already famous.  As Bono’s comment illustrates, even that doesn’t guarantee what you have to sell will be chosen above anything else that is out there, nor even that it will be noticed at all.

If someone as world class as Bono and U2 are worried about it, then the rest of us should start wringing our hands immediately. This ultra famous supergroup couldn’t even give their album away, so what chance do the rest of us nobodies have?

What is the answer?  I haven’t the faintest idea, and neither has anyone else.  Oh people will of course spew forth with their own opinion based upon nothing more than the delusion of their own superior knowledge, but no one has a definitive answer because there isn’t one to be had. The only thing we do know is why it’s happening, and that is the advent of self publishing. It is so easy to publish your own book now that everyone and their neighbour is doing it, most of whom really shouldn’t be bothering. The problem is that they are bothering, and all are convinced that their work is the best the literary world has ever seen. Before self publishing, 99% would be turned down by the few traditional publishing houses and would spend their lives dreaming of being an author. Back then, the number of books out there was much lower and the reader with money to spend was not so spoiled for choice.

So what can we do?  I don’t know. You can of course throw money at the problem, but most of us don’t have access to enough funds to finance a big international marketing campaign. Advertising space is a premium product now and the cost of those precious column inches, website pixels, or mailing list placings, is prohibitively high. If you want a day on someone’s mailing list,  not only do you have to pay a very high fee, but most demand your book has a certain number of reviews at a certain star rating. Failing that, you could pay for a billboard or a TV ad but that is mega dollars. No, that kind of ad campaign is way beyond the means of most hard working self published authors who don’t make enough sales to be able to live off their writing.

Me? Well I’m taking the zen approach.  I’m sitting back and waiting for the bubble to burst. It will do of course sometime and when it does, the books I’m writing in the meantime will give me an impressive back list. I’ve backed off from trying to market my books and am concentrating on writing. One day this monster we’ve created will die, and when it does, I’ll be there.

You will have to find your own way through that suits you, but as Bono found out, sometimes you can’t even give it away.

 

Cover reveal – Psychomanteum

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My brand new horror is now available in both paperback and ebook formats for you to enjoy.

Psychomanteum – by Merita King

From Wikipedia – A Psychomanteum – often called “mirror gazing,” is a mirrored room, specially set up to communicate with the spiritual realm. Reflective objects or surfaces, such as blood or water, were considered a  conduit to the spiritual world in ancient times.

A story of one man’s interest in genealogy, and the dreadful horror that his attempts to connect with his one famous ancestor brings forth.

Everyone is interested in finding out about their history these days, and it seems as if everyone is researching their family tree.  There is also a great deal of interest in the paranormal and communication with the deceased.  Ghost tours and ghost hunts are are common events nowadays, and it is no longer thought of as weird to have an active interest in communicating with the spirit world.  We cannot know of course, whether our attempts at such communication will bring forth the results we desire, or something far more terrible..!

Click here for all details

How not to get fat

Merita King:

I read this article by Duncan Swallow, which reflects the way I’ve thought for years. Everyone is so quick to blame everything other than their own lack of will power. It’s time to take off the rose tinted glasses and see the truth, however ugly and scary it may be.

Originally posted on nobodysreadingme:

An interesting piece of information from the University of Edinburgh. Dr John Menzies from the university’s Centre for Integrative Physiology announced this week that the whole idea of fats and sugars being addictive is nonsense. He said, and I quote, ‘It’s easy to blame food. Certain individuals do have an addiction-like relationship with particular foods. But…(we could make more progress) if we think of this as a behavioural addiction rather than as a substance-based addiction.’ In other words, it’s not foods that are addictive, but the very act of eating. The only foodstuff that is truly addictive is caffeine. Sugars, fats? No. Absolutely not. Nobody exhibits withdrawal symptoms if deprived of sugar or fat. They may get grumpy because they like them, but they are not truly addictive.

This is not good news for those seeking an excuse, is it? Suddenly, the old ‘I’m addicted to food’ get-out-of-jail-free card has…

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Negotiating the maze that is the stock photo site

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If, like me, you’re not blessed with an A-list income, then you will be familiar with the anguish that comes with the search for cover art stock photos.

These sites are huge, but their search criteria are nonsensical, and the results you get often bear no resemblance to the words you type into the input box.  You type in ‘spooky corridor’ and you get pictures of grinning kids playing on a beach, and you think, “what the fuck has this to do with a spooky corridor?”  Much sighing and scratchings of the head later, you give up in disgust or settle for something you know is not what you wanted.

The problem is caused by those who upload the photos.  When they upload their photos, the site asks for keywords.  These keywords are the words you and I use as search criteria and should reflect the subject of the photo to make sure we get what we search for.   They want you to pay to download their photo above anyone else’s.  To try to make sure this happens, they will type in keywords that bear no resemblance to the subject of the photo, so that as many searches as possible will bring their photo up on our screens.  It’s a bit like authors putting their horror novel into the ‘historical romance’ or ‘chick lit’ categories to make sure more people see it when they search Amazon.  It’s bad practice and it should be illegal.  The stock photo sites should punish these people buy banning them from using the site.

There are many stock photo sites out there, and a lot of the same photos will appear in them all.  Finding the right stock shots can be a lengthy procedure, so don’t leave it until the last minute.  Make a list of every single word and phrase you can think of that describes the image you want, even vague abstract terms such as ‘spooky, gloomy, sad, otherworldly’ etc.  As soon as you find something that is near what you’re after, click on the shot to get to its download page.  Lower down that same page, there will be a ‘see similar images’ option.  Click this and you will get a new search of images similar to that one.  By this method of searching similar images, you can often find your way eventually to the shot you want.  Download comp images before paying for the final shot, and play around with your photo manipulation software.  Only when you are happy that the images give you the final result you’re happy with, pay to download the full size version.

I am going to be self publishing a horror novel in time for Halloween this year, and the search for stock images for the cover was causing me much despair.  I searched and re-searched both stock sites I usually use, to no avail, and in the end I searched a site I usually avoid due to its high costs.  Within minutes I found the perfect shots and was so relieved I actually did dance around my living room with glee.  Never rule out a site because it’s too expensive, keep it for last resort searches.  It’s better to pay a little more for the right shot, than less for one that doesn’t really fit.  A few hours with Gimp and I have a cover I’m happy with, and one that is near to what I originally imagined for the book.

Stock photo sites are a nightmare to negotiate, but with time, planning, and strategy, you will find what you need.