December 30, 2011


I know, I know. I haven't posted here in too long.
Well then, have you noticed my Poem Page on this blog?
Seven poems, written over the last six years. Very erratic production. Will never produce enough for a whole book, but may as well post them so some might read them.

I have published another Sherlock Holmes story, The Pink Jewel Conundrum, and people are buying it. This is the first finished product from the Nanowrimo effort. More will follow, though I'm spending more time online or otherwise occupied than in editing & revision.

Then, I put Stone Song into the Amazon Select Programme, which allows Prime members to borrow 1 book per month free, and allows authors to have books free on Amazon for 5 days in a 90 day period.
Stone Song was free on the 25th & 26th December, to benefit from the feeding frenzy of new ereader owners. It was downloaded 50 times in the UK and more than twice that many times in the USA over the two days. Then it went back to $3.99 until today, the 30th. It will be free for 3 days this time. My hope was there would be less free books now, while people would still be downloading at a high rate. From the big gains in rank garnered from few 'sales' today, I was right.
So far (4:30 pm) 10 downloads in the US and 7 in the UK have got it to ranks (Amazon Free) of #5,900 US & #2,500 UK.

October 26, 2011

Eland Dances new cover

Some good news today.
First, Hannah Warren has posted an 'author interview' with me on her blog.

Secondly, I have permission from the Bradshaw foundation to use one of their images of San rock art for the cover of Eland Dances.
I chose the image they call the 'Rossetta Stone' of San rock Art, the picture of a dying eland with a shaman from Game Pass shelter in the Drakensberg.
Click on the Title to see the new cover on Amazon UK

October 7, 2011

Sherlock sells

Rambling until I think of something brilliant -- I don't know why the writing I invest the least in proves most popular with readers with whom (as far as I know) I have no contact. I am thinking here of the fact my Sherlock Holmes stuff does sell, while the novels don't. Could be the blurbs, covers, etc are just not eyecatching enough? Could it be the demographic of ereaders who browse in the underworld of the Hundreds-of-thousands from-the-top Best-sellers are looking for plain take me away entertainment, no heavy stuff?
Whatever the reason, the message is plain, write more Schlock (Holmes I mean).
I'd better get on that today, really, what with Nanowrimo coming fast. I hope to get out a Sherlock shortie, and then plunge into November writing frenzy, and emerge into a brilliant December buying frenzy on Amazon, while I edit and rewrite whatever might emerge from NanoWr.
Also, of course, I have to get in winter firewood, decobweb the house (grandaughter wont visit a House of Spiders), finish the basement in the London house now the tenant is moving out, while there's still money in the bank. Then another higher paying tenant or sell??

September 28, 2011

Fish Hoek shark attack

My friend Chana Martens posted this video of the aftermath of a shark attack on Fish Hoek beach, Capetown, today, Wednesday 28th September.
This is actually the mouth of the Silvermine River, and in the background there is a row of houses against the mountain. We lived in a cottage next to the red roofed house, where there is now a larger building.
That was around the time of the events recorded in my short stories Sunbird & Finding the Eland. The second of those stories is also included in modified form in Eland Dances. Part of Ch 6 I think.
Click on the post title to watch the vid.
We didnt usually swim right in this area because of strong currents, and quicksand around the rivermouth.

September 26, 2011

Eland Dances

Eland DancesEland Dances by Philip van Wulven

Click on the title of this post to link to the book on smashwords.
I think because I wrote this, I am disqualified to review or rate it.
That is my response to the standard Goodreads request to review & rate every book you 'put on your shelf' on their site. I know others do actually rate their own stufff, but seriously, what is the point of that?

View all my reviews
Peter Fitt instinctively dislikes the power-hungry men who see others as ego-food or enemies. In San beliefs, passed down in his family, the eland opposes the selfish and destructive carnivores, the men with 'lion spirits.' Healing power is found in dance, in trance, and the strong should defend others, not prey on them.
When he uses a Soviet airplane in a development project the Russians use this opportunity to supply arms to both sides in the Rhodesian independence struggle. They intend to escalate the civil war so their cadres can climb into power. Shit rises to the top when stirred.
Now also available from and

Eland Dances now published on smashwords

I finally took the plunge and Published 'Eland Dances' on smashwords.
This book has been a lot of work, with a lot of learning. I began it back in 2004, so it has taken 7 years to come to this point.
There is still something not quite right with the formatting, because the epub version from their meatgrinder conversion software does not have the proper functional hyperlinked Table of Contents. The epub version done by the iPages software on my Mac works perfectly, as does the Mobi version from the Meatgrinder.
Which means at least one more re-formatting attempt from a clean copy.
The point is that it is published, and any changes from now will be minor, to fix errors.
With that much time invested in it I want the final version to have a seamlessly efficient Table of Contents, so some effort is going into the formatting for sure.
There is a coupon code, so I can give free copies to people who might offer opinions or reviews. If anybody actually reads this post, and wants a copy, contact me for now. I will post the code on this blog when I am happy with the formatting in all versions.
I am going to email a few people who might like to read the final version, having read parts at some point.
Ideally, it should be ready for distribution to all of smashwords' retail network, and on Amazon Kindle, by the end of this month.

September 14, 2011

New Covers

Well now, almost halfway through the month. What have I achieved? Not much.
Fiddled with all my book covers, edited 'In the Valley' to add in a linked Table of Contents, so now you can click on a story in the list and whizz, you are on the first page of that story. Click on the story title/header inside the book and you go back to the Table of Contents.
I took 'Heavy and Light Tales'ebook version down from Amazon. None have sold. Maybe I should split the stories in that to try as freebie short stories, or perhaps simply try a better cover and some directed marketing. I dunno.
After the first week of September, 5 had sold of each of the Sherlock books in the USA,1 of Voodoo Dolls in Germany, and 1 in the UK. Then everything stopped. Just 1 copy of Voodoo Dolls has sold all this week, in the UK.
I don't know if this was because I changed the covers so Amazon froze sales for a day. I didn't think they'd do that, since the new cover was up on the site in a couple of hours. But now I'm thinking that has to be the reason all I have are dropping rankings. Once momentum is lost, it is simply gone, it seems.
Lastly, I tried a site which 'animates' gif images - or more precisely, they rotate a series of images you supply. I have added their code to this post. Curious to see if it works.

September 4, 2011

Sherlock Holmes Investigates. The Case of Lady Chatterley's Voodoo Dolls

Yesterday I uploaded my latest Sherlock Holmes story to Amazon for kindle and Smashwords. Just over 10,000 words, set in 1890/91 in Hampshire; Winchester, the New Forest, and Portsmouth.
I had sorta fun writing it, and did a lot of historical & natural history research online.
This started out firmly placed in 1890, after horseless carriages were allowed to travel without a flagman in front, so that Dr Watson could emulate Toad (Wind in the Willows)with a Need for Speed. In search of details about events of the era in Portsmouth, I found that Queen Victoria was present to launch a ship in February 1891 by means of an electrical machine. She preesed a button, the champagne fell, and the ship slid into the water. A gala occasion, and very apt for Sherlock to Save the Day.
Now the timeline presents difficulties, because they go to the Winchester Cup racemeet first. This took place in August (historically), yet they must be at the ship launch within days, which actually happened in February.
In the end I exercised my almighty powers as a fiction writer and moved Victoria and everyone at the event in Portsmouth back a few months to August, when the weather was more congenial.
January 1891 was very cold, February fairly bleak, and I didnt want my guys to drive an open vehicle in nasty weather. So Victoria had to just suck it up, and schedule her do for August of the previous year.
Other than the time warp, I have kept fairly close to history as it actually happened.
As of writing this post, 3:30 pm, Sunday 4th September, just one copy of the story has sold, in Germany. Woohoo!

August 15, 2011

My Fishoek stories

'Sunbird' - published in Joyful magazine.
The first of two stories I've written based in the time and place of my childhood - Fishoek, near Capetown, in the late 1950s.

The other, 'Eland' is included in Ch 6 of 'Eland Dances', my forthcoming novel.
Both of these stories are included in 'Heavy & Light Tales'
The very last paragraph of 'Eland' is relevant to some degree to everything I've written.
To me, the experience of finding the rare, the unique, and the unexpected became a much stronger possibility than it is for most people. Something leads me to suspend my disbelief quite readily.

They went up the mountain in the morning, when bright sun sparkled on the dewy twigs, the leaf
tips and spider webs, and mist rose from the grass and rested in the hollows. They were three together, barefoot boys. They slipped through the seaside bungalows and white fenced gardens to the wild slopes beyond. There was a rough dirt track that led up halfway, and then a footpath through the rocks and heath, the scent of wild geraniums strong as they brushed by. They had sticks in case of snakes and a bottle of tap water and three oranges, some marbles and a catapult, slingshot to you, made with carefully cut rubber from an old car inner tube. They took turns to carry the provisions, which they were all going to eat later, but only the two older ones carried the catapult in turn, because Rich couldn’t shoot properly with it, and what good would it do if he was carrying it and they met a leopard, say, in the middle of the path? Of course nobody had actually seen a leopard around here for a couple of hundred years, but you never knew.
When they got to the branch in the path, after the zig zag climb through the rock bluffs, they turned left, along the more used trail. They would take the fainter right branch on another longer day when they didn’t have to be back by lunchtime. They ate the oranges quite soon after they
were up onto the different terrain above the steepest slopes. Here the bushes were mostly heath, flowering pink and white, and proteas, with their big stiff blossoms.
There were insects and birds busy all around. They harvested pollen and nectar, and of course others were after the harvesters, spiders and lizards and a hawk who wheeled high above, against the sky. They watched him watch. Probably hopes we will scare something into the open that he can swoop down and grab, they decided. The lizards just duck into cracks in the rocks, and the small birds stay low among the bushes, so it must be difficult to get hold of something, even when you can see so much busy life all around.
They trotted and walked, stopped and watched, made their way towards the lookout station with the flagpole, where the watcher signalled to the fishing boats in the bay when shoals of fish came into view. There was only a bare pole today, the rope slapped in the wind, and the dark green door was padlocked. Blank windows in the whitewashed walls of the square concrete building overlooked the steep slope down to the sea.
You could see the mountains on the far side, blue in the distance across the bay. Cloud shadows, sunlight, and wind squalls shaded the water in shifting patterns, all shades of blue from almost black to the light blue-green along the beaches, where the surf showed as white lacy lines.
“Must’ve carried stuff here with a donkey,” Pete speculated, more interested in the building than the view.
“Maybe a whole lot of donkeys,” chimed in Rich, “then they wouldn’t have to stop building to go down and get more stuff, they could have just brought everything at once.”
After contemplating this image, of a whole train of donkeys strung along the rocky path, Pete objected, “But the fishermen don’t have lots of donkeys, they only have rowing boats and maybe a couple of donkeys. So they probably did it a bit at a time. Every time they came up to watch for the fish they would bring some stuff and build a bit.”
This seemed to be older brother John’s opinion too, because all he said was, “Probably they put a roof up first, after they put up the flagpole, so they could shelter from the rain.”
Although of course both the younger ones immediately thought that it would have been difficult to have a roof with no supporting walls, they left it at that.
They tried to spot a fish shoal, but couldn’t see anything that looked like a fish, or a whole lot of fish, so turned back to the mountain to look for other interesting stuff around.
Bright birds zipped through the bushes, hovered by flowers and darted off again. Iridescent blues and greens shimmered on their heads and backs, bright orange flamed below. “Those are sunbirds,” said eldest brother authoritatively.
There were brown little birds with them, which were the females. Other brown and yellow birds trailed long tail feathers. These John confidently identified as sugarbirds.
They tried a few flowers to see if you could get any of the nectar that the birds fed on, but the most they could do was to get their noses dusted with yellow pollen, which tasted faintly bitter if
anything. “What about if we find a bee’s nest, a hive ? There should be lots of honey.” Pete suggested.
“They’ll just sting us,” said John. “You need a fire and lots of smoke, then they don’t sting, but we don’t have any matches. Maybe we can find some of those black bees that don’t sting. Mum said there are black bees that don’t have stingers, remember?”
They wandered among the wind-tossed bushes, searched for the legendary black bees, and found bumble bees in several sizes, lots of ordinary bees, some creatures that looked like bees but didn’t act like them, and several kinds of wasps. No black bees.
“If we find a black bee, what are we going to do ?” asked Rich, “One bee won’t have much honey, will it ?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” came the answer, “if we follow, it will lead us to its hive, and we can get honey there.”
“Hey, here’s a nest, a bird’s nest,” Pete called. In the middle of quite a thick and sturdy protea bush there was a tiny cup, twigs and grass tightly woven onto a fork in the main stem. He parted the leaves and leant forwards, as he tried to see if there was anything in it.
A yellow branch moved, and revealed itself as a great snake, a cobra thicker than his arm. Its muscular length trailed from just below the nest down into the tangled grass. The mouth opened a little, showed fearsome teeth and a forked tongue as it turned to him, black blank eye locked to his from a distance of three feet.
The body rippled as it seemed to flow up into the bush, gathered into an S bend, and lifted the head free to sway back a little. Pete held his breath and slowly brought the catapult up with his left hand, stretched the rubber back with his right at the same time. His hands moved without volition, his attention was focused on it’s eyes. He hoped to be able to jump back and away if it began to strike, but he didn’t want to precipitate things.
Sunbird struck. Blue and orange blaze, a tiny bundle of feathers hurtled at the snake’s eye. Attached itself there.
As he shot and jumped back into the open, he saw the sinuous yellow column blossom into a crown of glorious feathers.
Shaken, Pete watched from a good distance as the whole bush seemed to fly apart, lashed by the body as it writhed in it’s final spasms. Snakes don’t die quickly, the body moves long after the brain is gone.
Not so with birds. This one was thrown clear in a few seconds. He was dead before he hit the ground. Pete picked him up, careful of the spatters of venom on his feathers, and marvelled at tiny perfection. The tip of the beak was broken off. Probably right inside the snake’s eye. There was the mark of a single tooth on his belly.
They came down from the mountain, three brothers, honeyless. One of them mortal now, he bore the memory of death through the garden gate, his bright saviour in his hand.



Flames and black smoke covered the upper slopes over Fishhoek. After it had burned for three
days across the wild mountain, the fire had now come perilously close to houses across a wide front. The fire engine had been there since the evening before, and this morning most of the men had gone up the track with sacks and axes and shovels.
Where else would three boys go on a Saturday morning, breakfast bolted down and pocket money already spent? Not that there was any prospect of actually participating, but all the action made the area interesting, especially from the house on the far side of the valley, where the flames were visible, way taller than the ant sized men who moved around in front of them.
As the boys got closer the flames were lost from view behind the houses and trees on the lower slopes. Firstly ash and black burnt grass and leaves, then hot and sometimes glowing bits began to drift down on everything. Smoke and hot air swirled around, so that it was quite unpleasant. The three brothers began to wonder if this was such a good idea, with the roar and noise of the flames louder as they got closer, when the wind dropped away suddenly, and the noise of the fire seemed to change.
There was an outburst of noise from the men up there, shouts thin with distance, and then the wind switched around just like that and began to blow from behind the boys. The men cheered and yelled now. Something had happened and they weren't there yet! They wanted to be a part of this adventure, the Great Fire. They hurried up the track past the last houses.
The fire engine was parked where a big rock blocked it from going any further uphill, and on any other day it would have rated a good close inspection, unattended as it was, but not now. They hurried past on the footpath through scrub and tall grass, where the air hummed with insects disturbed by the fire, and birds darted around with full beaks.
A great brown-mottled mantis came out of the smoke. It whizzed along and landed on Peter’s right shoulder, turned its head on the thin neck and waved its barbed front legs in an agitated way. Pete called to his brothers, “Hey look here, he’s trying to talk to me!”
“What’s he say then, is he telling you there’s a fire and lots of smoke?” joked John, and they all laughed.
“Probably, though now he’s just waving his one leg and pointing it thataway, off to the right a bit, which is the direction he came from. Maybe he wants us to rescue his eggs. Maybe he’s a she that is, and wants us to save her eggs,” answered Pete.
So of course, since they had heard somewhere that mantises were thought by the Bushmen, the San, to be messengers from their version of God, the boys kept a close watch on the grass and bushes on their right as they climbed the winding path. About a hundred yards further up, the mantis took to flight again, and flew into a clump of tall spindly wild geraniums.
The boys followed, and were startled by a lunging brown shape that erupted into visibility as they neared, an antelope that took off headlong, and crashed away across the slope, “Wow that’s an eland!” exclaimed John, “Must have been driven down from the Game Reserve by the fire.
Where’s that mantis though? It landed somewhere in here, lets see, maybe it does have eggs here or something.”
They fossicked around among the strong-scented plants for a bit, and John was just getting impatient and had started to move on, when Pete saw a flicker of movement. The mantis spread it’s yellow and orange underwings as it sat on something that looked like a rock, until he looked closely. “Hey! Here’s a baby buck! The mantis is sitting on it, come see.”
They watched as the animal struggled to stand up, then wobbled for a few seconds before it collapsed again with a sprawl of impossibly long legs.
“We should leave it here, then the mother will come back and it’ll be ok,” said John. Since this seemed like the best thing to do, they started back towards the nearby path, and waited quietly as two men crashed and stumbled past downhill. One with his arm all red and burnt, and the other one helped him.
“You boys shouldn’t be here, it’s dangerous,” called the burnt man.
“I’ll be back in a bit, as soon as I get Joe to the nurse,” said the other, “You better be gone by the time I get back.”
They looked at one another and shrugged. Just because that guy got himself burnt didn’t mean they would too.
Right at that moment the wind changed again, blew down the slope at them, carried choking black smoke and a rain of burning debris into the surrounding bush. Several minor fires started up where flaming leaves landed in dry grass, and in a few seconds their feelings of security and eagerness to see more action changed to unease and some apprehension.
“That mother eland won’t come back if it starts to burn here,” said John. “Let’s carry the baby down the hill a bit, where the fire won’t get it.”
They quickly went and picked the little animal up. John crouched down and they draped it over his shoulder with its legs dangling front and back. He said that was a “Fireman’s Lift.” His younger brothers were impressed, as they hadn’t known there was a special way to carry animals when you rescued them from a fire. They would have done it all wrong without their eldest brother.
The mantis came along too, seated comfortably on Peter’s shoulder, with quick side trips over to the baby eland every few minutes. On one of these check-up visits Rich noticed something that looked like a little wasp’s nest stuck to the hair under the buck’s neck, almost invisible in the hollow where the neck and chest merged, “Here’s the mantis’s babies too,” he cried. “Look here, that’s why it was so worried!”
They stopped for a bit and examined this for a few moments while John rested, then Pete picked up the load and they set off again. Soon they reached a smoke free area just uphill from the first houses and stopped again a few yards off the path, out of sight in case that man came back. Here they noticed a single bump in the middle of the baby’s forehead.
“That must be its horn,” said Rich.
“There should be two horns,” said John. “All animals have two horns, if they have horns.”
“Unicorns don’t, they have one horn,” said Pete. “That's what their name means. Uni means one and I suppose corn means horn.”
“So why don’t they just call them one horns, then?” asked Richie.
“Same reason lots of things have several names,” said John. “Men are guys and fellows too, and buck are also antelopes. So this is a baby buck, and an eland, and a unicorn.”
Nobody felt like arguing. It was quite hot and everyone had itchy eyes and throats from the smoke.
“His mother won’t find him here, the fire is coming down the mountain and it’ll burn where we found him, so what are we going to do with him?” Pete asked. John just shrugged, and Richie looked down and started to dig his toe into the ground with great concentration. “We could take him home, and ask mum if we can keep him,” said Pete. “Unicorns are special, more special than dogs and cats, and mum did say maybe we should get a dog soon, so she probably won’t mind.”
This seemed like a reasonable assumption to all three, so they set off home through the quiet Saturday morning streets, carrying the baby unicorn in the Fireman's Lift and the mantis anyhow she chose to ride.
About half way home, the baby began to struggle and bleat, so they stopped again and sat in the shade of someone’s tall wooden fence.
“Maybe we aren’t doing this right,” said John. “When they catch a Unicorn they have to have a Maiden, and then it’s tame and does whatever they want.
Well of course this sounded like important technical information, so they decided that probably baby sister Isabel qualified as a Maiden, and could actually help with a project for a change, instead of being an annoyance, as all kid sisters tended to be. Richie was volunteered to go home and bring her, and some orange squash and perhaps some apples, and not to get lost on the way, while the elder two waited.
The mantis seemed to approve of this arrangement. She nodded her head up and down vigourously in time with the movement of Pete’s head when he asked her opinion. “That’s a good idea, right mantis? Rich should go and fetch her and we’ll guard you guys here.”
The clincher came when Richey objected loudly. “Hey no fair, it’s just moving it’s head because you are.” The mantis turned to look at him and spread her wings and waved her front legs threateningly. He shut up right away then. He didn’t realise that his loud voice could have produced the same reaction without any understanding of his meaning.
When the two youngest arrived, all four sat and drank orange squash, and Issy was introduced to the Unicorn, which didn’t seem particularly impressed by her, but allowed her to stroke his nose and feel his horn-bump. He didn’t seem interested in the orange squash and just sniffed the apple they offered, so they decided he probably only wanted milk. Naturally Issy couldn’t carry him, so she walked behind where he could see her when they set off again, with his front legs dangling down the carrier’s back.
Soon after they got to the main road a grey car pulled up, and the driver, a tanned man with a black beard, asked, “Where are you going with that eland?”
So John explained about the fire on the mountain and the mother that ran off, and the one horn, but didn’t mention the mantis, until she flew over and perched on the car’s steering wheel.
Then Pete showed him the egg case, and he listened solemnly to the whole story before saying, “So do you live on a farm then, where an animal like this can live? Because you know it will grow quite big and it’ll need space, just like a cow or a horse. You won’t be able to keep him in a small garden. Why don’t you all climb in? I’ll give you a lift home and see about getting milk for this little guy. Best if I take him to my farm, up in Swaziland, when I go back next week.”
Riding in a car wasn’t something the children did every day, so that was pretty good, and they got home in a few minutes and ran in all talking at once to tell mum about it. She came out and looked in the open window at the young animal on the back seat and said, “Well, Mr. umm,”
“Riley,” he said. “Pleased to meet you ma’am.”
“Well Mr. Riley,” she said. “if you could take care of this little fellow, I’m sure that would be best. Thank you for helping, and I hope they weren’t too much trouble. They do get into all kinds of things, but they mean well, you know.”
Naturally these grown- up arrangements weren’t quite what the boys had hoped for. They had vague expectations of marvellous events, and fully expected to be proud Unicorn guardians for some indefinite time yet, before the baby could manage on it’s own and go out in the world and do, well, magical things. Trying his best to extend any protection he could, Pete said, “He can have my name, I don’t have anything else that he could use, and be sure and let the mantis stay with him and help him, I’m sure she’ll look after him and her eggs too, and that way he’ll have something from his home with him. That is a special kind of mantis you know, because she laid her eggs on him. My dad said there is a kind of mantis that always lives with grazing animals and eats the insects that fly up from their feet.”
Mr. Riley seemed to find it quite easy to talk to children, because he just smiled, and didn’t argue or laugh, he just quietly said, “Well, I will leave the egg case where it is, but the mantis can do as it wants, if it flies out the window I won’t stop it.”
That was that, he drove off with the baby in the back seat and the children went into the house, and then back outside to rinse off the worst of the black dust from the fire with the hose, before they washed their hands and faces for lunch.
After that day Pete always had a sort of low level, background belief, that there was some basis of fact behind many old myths and practices. It gave him a niggling feeling, when he heard some superstition or folk belief expressed, that it did seem like nonsense, but perhaps somewhere in the wide world the Little People still sang their songs, or other unicorns drifted across the mountain meadows.

August 11, 2011

New first chapter

I took a good hard look at an aspect of my book that's worried me for a while, and decided to make some changes.
That old first chapter started where the story began for me, with the solution, since the 'problem'I saw was actually wider than just that in this book.
However, when considering the book itself, the problem was only presented after the solution. Not a good structure, and likely a boring read.
So now the Stonehenge episode begins in the second chapter. The new opening is a bit earlier in the protagonists' journey.
Ty and Jen encounter mindless violence and looting in an English town when they stop to draw money from an ATM.
With my dislike for direct confrontation, they are not personally attacked, but clearly are endangered.
Let's see if more readers are tempted to read further. Still quite mild for a thriller.

Stone Song
©Philip van Wulven 2011

Chapter 1
I was busy at the ATM, concentrating like you do, when a crash of breaking glass brought me to quivering alertness. I felt as violated as if someone’d kicked open the bathroom door while I was doing my thing.
I looked up, and saw Jen’s back view. Red hair spread across her freckled shoulders and flowed over her back as she turned towards the noise. Her right fist clenched around her water bottle, and then she shifted her grip to hold it like a club.
Across the road there was a confused swirl of hoodie-clad people around the shattered window of a jewellers. Some darted in, grabbed stuff, and slid out again, while others seemed to be venting a grudge against any unbroken glass or intact display. Mindless rage, not just a smash and grab.
The machine beeped for attention. So bloody annoying. I turned and kicked the wall, which hurt nothing but my foot.
“Dammit! I’m working out the exchange rates.” Machines don’t listen, but usually I feel better for a bit of release. Breathe deep, get the cash, and get out of here before we were roped in as witnesses, or something.
I punched in the numbers, the machine coughed up a bunch of notes, English Pounds, and I was outta there.
“Let’s go, Jen.”
She looked daggers, but kept her lips closed, and we hurried along, away from the trouble-spot. I hoped none of that lot would turn their attention our way. Never mind being tied up as witnesses, we could end up as victims here. There were at least ten of them. One or two wouldn’t be a problem, but no-one can fight off a swarm.
Jen grabbed my arm and hung on tight. She didn’t look up, just plunged on, head down. I tried not to go too fast, to act confident and not draw attention. If I’d noticed them earlier I’d never have gone near the ATM. Should have just left without the cash. Dumb. Dumb. Setting us up as targets like that. So much easier to rob cash from us than try to pawn rings or watches.
I felt better very quickly, as we moved out of the area. So did Jen. I could see her shoulders loosen up as we walked.
We’d parked next to a white van, with a logo of a black bird, a raven or a crow, on the side, and it was still there when we returned. As we walked up, I noticed something bright pink moving inside, visible through the small windows in the back doors.
“What’s that? Can’t be an animal, that colour, can it? Day-Glo pink, for gosh sakes.”
Jen didn’t answer, but pressed her nose to the glass and looked in. She burst out laughing, and waved me over, “You have to see this, Ty. Unbelievable! Look.”
I humoured her, and stood and looked through the window in the other door. Inside was a fairly orderly jumble of what you might expect in a tradesman’s van, an electrician or maybe a cable or alarm guy. Amongst the rolls of cable and boxes of screws and bits and pieces was an animal cage. Inside was a very active bright pink ferret.
“Hoy! Get outta there. Go on, beat it. If you’ve nicked something you’re done.” A large man in grey coveralls walked up. He had a two wheeled dolly loaded with wire and several cardboard boxes. Couldn’t help noticing, the backs of his hands were covered in faded blue tattoos. Crosses and some kind of writing.
“Sorry, we’re just looking at your pet there. He’s cute. What’s his name?” said Jen.
“Never you mind. That’s a working animal, and this is company property. Get out of here before I have you arrested.”
I took Jen by the elbow and pulled her away, against some resistance, the few feet to our rental Ford Fiesta. “Come on, Jen, climb in.”
She got in as soon as I opened the passenger door for her. “I suppose you’re right, Ty. Best to leave people like that alone, but he didn’t have to be so rude. I mean, he could see we don’t mean any harm.”
The guy opened the doors and started putting his gear away. One wide-swung door blocked our car in. I was about to climb out and make a big deal of it, but Jen’s hand on my shoulder changed my mind, with a squeeze. Her turn to keep me out of trouble. We were turning into a real team here.
Another man wearing the same coveralls arrived. “Hoy, Fred, this is the disc for the jewellers. Thought you said you’d put it in and start the broadcast?
“’Course I bloody said that, and I did. I put the bloody C.D in and got it going, packed up the gear, and collected the wire we left at that gift shop last week. All while you was swanning around buyin’ coffee.”
“You must have used the wrong disc, then. This is the one with the Teen-Annoyance frequencies. The only other one we had in the van is that experimental stuff Hancock wanted me to work up for him. I better go change them right away. That other one might cause a riot or something, instead of just annoying. It has some strong emotional enhancement frequencies.”
The van door swung closed, out of our way, so I reversed out, and we were off again.
“What was that all about, Ty? What were they doing? That must’ve been the shop they were working on, that had the window smashed.”
I had no more idea than she did, so I said, “Never mind what they were doing, who’d want to work with someone as bad tempered as the tattoo guy?”
I did wonder at the intensity of the mood changes we’d both gone through in such a short time. Probably jet-lag had a lot to do with it, I decided.
That bit about the disc ‘causing a riot’ was disturbing, when I thought of how those fools had behaved. Then too, he’d said something about ‘emotional enhancement’. Did that mean their C.D. somehow pumped up anger, or fear, or whatever?
Out in the traffic again, we made good progress, and moved at a fair clip despite the congestion.
“This is the right way, Ty. Now we’re off the Motorways and past Andover it should be easy. Just a bit further on this road and we’ll be there.”
“At least there’s enough traffic going the other way to remind me which side of the road to drive on.”
“Next stop, Stonehenge.”
Jen had the map on her lap already, so I just kept driving, and let her navigate.

July 28, 2011

Stone Song

Stone Song is now available on kindle and Smashwords and will soon be at other outlets.
Here is a sample.

Chapter 1

Jen got out and held her arms up high and wide, like a dancer in Swan Lake. “We must go up there right away. We have to be inside the blue stones by sunrise.” She didn’t say anything about the fence, mind you. I knew it was there from some of the recent pictures, but maybe she hadn’t noticed. They often focused on the Stones close-up, used old pictures, or they just edited the nasty wire out.
Anyhoo, here we were. Couple of hours over in England and I was about to bust into a National Monument with a New Age Goddess freak. Okay, a twenty-something red headed Goddess freak who seemed to like me, had enough sense to read a map, and could do foreign exchange in her head quicker than I could count the coins out.
“Come on, Ty. Never mind all that mundane stuff on the road, they won’t bother us. The car’s parked well away from all the fuss, and we’re here! You have to think peace and joy, feel the magic in this sacred place. Hold my hand and just radiate good thoughts.”
I held her hand and radiated. Still couldn’t see much but wet dark. She pulled me onwards. Maybe she could see better in the dark than me, so I followed, sorta slid my feet forwards through the short grass, in case there were sudden bumps or holes or whatever. So far just quite smooth longish turf, though.
Lights flashed farther up the highway. Police and ambulance. One of each at least. Looked like a big transport had jackknifed and tipped across two lanes of traffic. The jam-up snaked away a couple of miles already. That must’ve happened a short while ago. I’d concentrated on my feet, on not falling in the rough grass of the slope up from the road to the fence around the great megaliths, so I didn’t notice until we stopped at the barrier
Well, this was supposed to be a real mystical place, right. Stonehenge. So far just a long slog through wet grass and sticky mud, with a nasty cold wind and drizzle. No stars or moon, just the stream of headlights and the snaking line of red on the other side of the road.
Couldn’t see much of this famous prehistoric site. Was that a moth? Something soft fluttered against my cheek, and disappeared on the wind, but something cold stuck right under my eye. I put my hand up and came away with a soggy piece of paper. Candy wrapper. Smelt like chocolate and that artificial cherry flavour. The sticky smear on my cheek transferred to my hand when I rubbed it. I almost licked my hand, in my jet-lagged state. Gross, even to think. I wiped my hand on my jeans and rubbed at my face again.
Almost morning. A few sleepy bird chirps and a fresh smell on the wind, almost covered by the hot rubber and burnt gas smells of the road behind us. I drifted into a dreamy, sleepy recap of just why I’d got myself into this. Walk up a hill in wet grass in the dark? Been there. Climb a fence? National monument? Okay, no spray paint in sight, or likelihood of anything ambitious in the excavation or ‘I wus here’ lines. Not that it seemed like a good idea, exactly, more interesting and harmless. Then too, she was going in whether I did or not.
Seat mates across the Atlantic, we’d eyed one another with a degree of, what? Mutual mistrust? Until we found we were both headed for the same little town. We’d sat next to each other on the plane for a couple of hours before I managed to get her to be more than distantly polite.
She’d eagerly agreed to swap my window seat for her aisle one. I’d paid extra, but my legs needed to stretch more than I needed to see the occasional light below. She smelt faintly of sandalwood incense and something floral, maybe rose water. Naturally the old hormones kicked in when she sat in the seat next to me.
I finally caught her attention when I told her, “I’m going to hire a car and drive down to Glastonbury. Always wanted to go to the Festival.” She frowned slightly, so I said, “I know, that was last week, but the place is still worth seeing, and I’ve got a buddy who lives near there. Chris persuaded me to come over even when I knew I’d miss the big do. Said there’s something going on he could use my help with.”
She turned in the narrow aeroplane seat and looked at me, really inspected me, and said, “You’re definitely going to drive to Glastonbury then?”
“Yep. I booked a rental car online, and the place will be open when we get in, so I want to drive there right away. I mean, London is really interesting and all, but big cities and me don’t mix too well. So I don’t want to spend much time there. Of course, before I go back I might go see some of the big sights, like the Tower, and buy something for my mum in Harrods. Well, she’d like something from there.”
She said, “You know, I want to go there too. Glastonbury, I mean. Not Harrods. I’ve on-line friends to meet, and I want to spend time there. I was going to get a bus from Victoria Coach Station, but if you’re going there by car, well,” she paused and chewed her lip. “I suppose it could be the Goddess,” she muttered. Then she looked me in the eye and smiled. “How would you feel about some company on the drive Ty?”
“You mean you want a ride to Glastonbury? Sure. I mean, definitely my pleasure.”
“Right then. So we are companions on the road, then.” She stuck her hand out and we shook on it. Her hand was soft but fairly firm, like I mean soft skin over a bit of muscle, not just a limp bag of bones like some girls.
She’d seen the sunset over the sea, with her nose pressed to the glass like a kid waiting for her dad to come home on her seventh birthday. I’d seen a lot past her shoulder too. Gold and rose pink, orange and bright, then silver moonlight on the tops of the clouds.
Coming down had been just that, a descent into a lower world in every sense. Dark, cold, drizzly, dirty. Pale people, dull clothes, narrow packed streets even long after the rush hour. Cars and buses threaded between lines of on-street parking. Most places had no garages, no other place to park. Built before cars.
My fingers ached from the chain link, and her heel had ground something into the base of my right thumb when I boosted her.
She ignored the mud on my hands. Barefoot, carried her sandals in her other hand, so her toes must be quite squidgy by now. What did they call that, way back? Grocking. Yeah, I watch old movies.
The sky glow, the lights reflected off the low clouds, was strange All that light, so much you couldn’tve seen stars even if it was clear, didn’t help much, just gave a dull yellowy hazy effect on the clouds’ bellies.
Something loomed up. Big, solid, black. Must be a stone, one of the much famed Sarsen stones, or perhaps a Blue Stone. I did my homework, read the tourist stuff while we were somewhere over Ireland. “Hey, we’re here. There’s a stone, see?”
“Of course there’s a stone, Ty. That’s the outer ring. Come on, let’s get into the power centre. I want to soak it all in. The peace and the healing this place radiates.”
She tugged my hand, and I felt a sharp twinge as she pressed on something still wedged into the flesh at the base of my thumb.
“Ow, hang on. Something’s digging into my hand.” I twisted my hand, she let go. I could feel her frown and try to think of something enlightened to say.
I felt with my awkward other hand. The second finger worked fine; just the tip gone from the index finger, and it didn’t bend all the way. There was a small chunk of stone bedded right into me, about like a bread crumb in size and shape, but of course much harder. I dug my nail in and got it between thumb and second finger. Came out quite easily, and then blood flowed. Not much, but it ran down my fingers and dripped off into the grass. I reached out and wiped my hand against the rough rock beside me, dropped the stone-crumb into my jacket pocket absentmindedly, then pressed the wound with my other thumb, to dull the sharp pain and give the blood a chance to clot.
“Okay, carry on. Here, grab my other hand.”
We carried on. She smooth, me a bit stumbly in my stiff hiking boots. They’d done better than I expected over the chain link, lucky the big cleats on the sole fitted the size of the mesh. Bit hard on the ankles and back. Don’t even think about what the wire did to fingers.
The ground shook like a buffalo stampede was headed over the hill.
“Hey! What’s that?”
We both turned back, and saw a black outline against the sky-glow. Tall as the fence. Big, and fast.
“Jump! Over here!” I leapt to get that big chunk of stone between us and the Thing.
Crash! Like a pile of scrap tipped off a truck, the fence went down.
With the squeal of a steam engine on a very bad day it tromped over the remains of the fence, then swept past us. We crouched against the stone, pressed against the rock as if it might protect us if we kept close enough.
“What the hell?”
She clapped her hand over my mouth. “Ssh. Shut up. Don’t say things like that, like that word. If you name anything here, you’re calling it. Please”
She was shaking. “Okay, okay Jesus girl, it’s just an animal. It’s not some supernatural being or whatever, you know.”
I knew it was as mundane as white bread, because a large dollop of evidence had flopped down. Generously covered my foot and a couple of square feet of turf, and lay there all warm and soggy. It smelt of fermented hay and methane gas.
“Look here, it pooped on me as it passed. Believe it or not, that’s an elephant. Somehow there’s an elephant loose in, where are we, Wiltshire is it? Maybe it was in that big pileup on the road over there, and got out of the wreck and ran off all panicked. Gotta be tame, you know, like maybe from a zoo or even a circus.”
“There are no coincidences Ty. Just as you and I were destined to meet and come here together tonight, so the Goddess has sent her great servant here too.”
“Whatever. Look you realise now we’re in shit. I mean, they’re gonna come here to catch Jumbo there, and we aren’t meant to be here, inside the fence and all, you know.”
“Oh don’t worry. Think about it, all we have to say is, we saw the elephant and followed her, and the fence was down when we got here. I mean, what are they gonna do, seriously?”
Buddy must’ve heard our voices, and came over for company right then, because suddenly we were between two big grey masses. One rooted, one restless. It shifted from one foot to the other, and I knew it was very interested in us, because hay breath blew into my face.
Jen scrambled away from it, hit hard against the standing stone, and fell over. Something metal clanked against stone, and resonated, like a struck tuning fork. Jen had a big copper and silver pendant around her neck, that swung between her tits as she bounced along, usually. Must have swung out against the stone as she scrambled onto hands and knees.
Something vibrated in a much deeper note, and a harmonic awoke in the stone. Then a third note began, so deep I could feel it through the soil I stood on and the rock against my back, but not hear it.
Jen stopped trembling. Her arm was pressed against my leg, is how I knew. Her pendant still swung, but I couldn’t hear it after the first couple of seconds. I mean it wasn’t like a bell or anything, more a “tinggg” noise. The other notes, the deeper tones, they were something else. As if the high note was a signal or a catalyst or something, you know? That starts something going.
We could both feel and hear the same, but she didn’t seem to notice anything.
Maybe I overreacted, looked for something special and different about the place, and paid more attention than most people do to slight sounds, like you do in the bush if you’re hunting, or even just in bear country.
Well, of course bears don’t make noises anything like the elephant rumbles I was picking up, but you know what I mean, right?
Jen stood up again. “Now just be quiet Ty, don’t say anything, and try to follow what I do, and be worshipful and properly reverent.” She brushed dust off her butt, and then wiped her hands quickly on my jacket. It was a tired old denim, so no problem.
She put her hands together and began to chant, “Great Mother give us of your wisdom. Ommmmmm” She nudged me with her elbow and hissed, “C’mon Ty, just say Ommmm.”
“Ommmmm,” I said. The elephant made a couple of rumbles like a big bellyache and flapped its ears, as it shuffled its feet.
I started to feel really good, deep down. Maybe this would turn out quite nicely. I’d been on a bit of a losing streak lately. You know me, the guy who got stuck in a ditch on the way to a friend’s beach cottage, so his best girl thought she’d been stood up, and went and got drunk and partied all weekend.
Come Monday early she dumped me, so I didn’t go to work all week. Had a long session of flexing the elbow, which I don’t remember, and ended up in Toronto with a winning lottery ticket in my pocket and a hangover like a wall had fallen on me. When I collected my winnings I decided to go somewhere far away, and there was an e-mail from Chris. He’d got this really great job on an island, and the photos looked so inviting, all peaceful sea and distant blue mountains, with birds nesting on the cliffs. Perfect refuge for heart healing.
All the way across the ocean I’d carried a burden of loss, a hole where there’d been an ‘us’ with a future not clear or in any detail, but definite and reassuringly inevitable. With the breakup I’d been left swinging in the wind, as they say. Now, over a minute or so, it was like light poured in to fill the hollow place.
When I looked up I saw light too. The big stone right by us had a flicker of blue radiation. Light flowed along in curling, changing lines. Now dimmer, now sparked to life again, like a fire in a gusty wind. As the last echoes of the resonant sound faded out, the way a bell chime goes, slowly so you can never quite be sure exactly when it’s gone, that blue glow went also.
Then I could see my shadow cast on the stone by something behind us.
There was a long, slightly diffused light beam reaching out from one of the cop cars several hundred yards away, on the road, and the beast was clearly visible in silhouette. Another panda car drove along the shoulder and swung up the side road towards the ticket office and official entrance.
“Shit,” muttered Jen, reverently.
Chapter 2
“Okay, now maybe we should just stay in the shadows here, out of sight. C’mon.” I took her hand again and pulled her along. We kept the big stone between us and the searchlight beam as we slipped farther into the complex. The stones are big, and easily hid us from view, especially in the dark, with just the one bright bar of light showing everything in its path, while it threw everything else into deeper obscurity. We followed a sort of spiral path, so that we had as much cover as possible from the light beam, as well as from the car approaching the gate.
“We’d better get down in cover and stay quiet until the excitement dies down.” I hunkered down behind a large chunk of rock, and pulled her hand. She resisted a bit, but settled beside me.
Someone dressed in coveralls and rubber boots walked into the enclosure, through the trampled gap in the fence. The two uniforms at the main gate (still locked, of course) shone their flashlights, and one shouted, “Hoy, stay away, this is a National Monument, no trespassing!”
“Oh don’t be silly, I have to calm Lakshmi down, and bring her out of there. Poor girl is frantic.” Came the reply.
“Here Lakshmi, here girl.” Sounded like calling a dog out of the bushes on a walk in the woods, or something.
The elephant responded much like a dog too, just turned and ambled over to the caller, and stood by him, just a bit restless but obviously familiar and comfortable with him.
The man turned and walked away again, with the great animal docile behind him. They walked over the swell of the earthworks towards the road, but didn’t appear out of the hollow again. I could see the top of her head and back as they stood in the bottom of the old boundary ditch. Nice quiet place to wait for someone else to sort out the traffic and get the rig back upright, I supposed.
The cops must’ve seen the sense of that, because they switched off their searchlight, and then you could hear the radios going back and forth for a bit in usual cops-at-the-scene style, before the doors slammed and the panda eased back away from the gates and drove back to the crash scene.
Darkness flowed in again, and the quiet. Lot of the tension drained out of me. It was so peaceful I started to doze a bit, I ‘spose.
“Don’t fall asleep! Haven’t you got any sense of the importance of this place?” hissed Jen.
She was still tense, then. “ Okay, okay, I’m with you. Yup, very mystical and umm, significant. Nice and peaceful now though. All that fuss and action down by the road just seems to be far away, somewhere else. Feels like a different place, just the wind and grass and the clouds closed over the stones and us.”
Jen had intended to do some kind of ceremony or chant or something, but she stayed hunched down beside me and shivered. The reality of almost being arrested, of cops in a strange country, hit her now. Trespassing could be serious stuff here.
“Let’s get out of here as soon as we can,” she whispered.
I laid on my back and cloud-watched for what seemed like a short time, but had to be at least an hour or so, because when I looked to the road they’d got the rig back on its wheels and the traffic moved freely again There was still lots of action, of course. Looked like they were loading Lakshmi into her trailer. We eased out of the enclosure, over the trampled chain-link, and back to the rental car, half a mile down the road from the accident scene. Fortunately we could just start up and drive on without going past the cops and all. We headed off towards our next stop. Avebury. More stones.
When we got there the day had blushed up brighter. I was bagged, but totally bagged, so I parked by the pub, and closed my eyes. “Go on then, if you want to see the sunrise from amongst the stones. I’m just gonna rest a bit, wait for someone to open up so I can get something to eat.”
Jen didn’t argue. She slipped out and crossed the road into the field where a whole bunch of stones were, like the guide book said. The wind was stronger, and brought some real rain, beyond just the mizzle that was falling earlier. Nasty. I closed my eyes.
The car door shut with a dull thunk. I looked blearily around. Daylight. A grey soft day, with rain in beads and trickles on the windscreen. Jen’s hair hung heavy, straggled and drippy, from under her knit cap. Wool didn’t keep the wet out very well. Smelt like a sheep.
“This is an incredible place, you know. You’re missing so much.”
“Right now my stomach tells me it’s past lunch time back home, even if it only just got light here. We haven’t eaten in a while, you know. When my stomach’s happy again I want to explore for sure, but just wait a bit. This pub has to open sometime soon. Or maybe we should go on to the next town and eat, then come back, you know?”
So we drove on up the A303, until we came to a little place with an open cafe, and had us an expensive breakfast. Awful coffee. Jen was smug about drinking tea. The prices would’ve been at the high end of normal if they were in dollars. The exchange rate really added a kick to the sticker shock.
There was a newspaper on the table with local news, “Jumbo invasion at Stonehenge.” Nothing about us; we hadn’t been spotted or anything, then.
The big story was about terrorists and some new plot to bomb trains, with backpack bombs and so on. The intent was to cause disruption and fear, more than physical damage. Right then I was somehow more indifferent to feelings of anxiety about the return flight in a couple of weeks than I normally would be.

July 20, 2011

Danger with a waning moon

Research in Tanzania shows that lion attacks are most successful on dark nights. Lions hunt at these times, when darkness allows a greater chance of surprising prey. Moon phase particularly affects attacks on humans.
The moon sets early when in the growing phase, but provides light in those evening hours when people are still active. Danger is moderate at these times. Full moon brings an interval of relatively little danger, but leaves lions hungry, so that as the moon rises later and smaller the evenings are a dangerous time to be out and about.
Other prey is available all night of course, but humans rarely leave safe enclosed huts or bomas after 10pm.
This pattern must be very old, and extend worldwide wherever predators and humans lived together. Surely a lot of the mystique associated with the phases of the moon muststem from such observations.
Our ancestors must have dreaded the time of the shrinking moon, the darkness outside the firelight more intense and more dangerous than at any other time.

July 7, 2011

Stone Song published

Big step around 2AM this morning. Finished one more edit/run through of Stone Song, tried out the hyper-linked Table of Contents, and uploaded it to Smashwords. So my first ever published novel is now available.
Priced it at $2.99, classified it as a scifi/adventure/thriller/romance. Let's see what happens.
Perhaps a little short for a traditional novel at 48,000 words. The trend for ereaders, and especially for those who read on their phones, is for shorter works.
I will hold off on Amazon for a few days, in case there is some sort of booboo I've missed, but it should be there by next week.
I do have a web-presence, lots of Twitter & Facebook contacts, as recommended. Many of them are also writers. Not sure how much weight those contacts may have in getting book sales, but can't harm anything.
I haven't done a buildup to a preplanned Launch, or sent review copies or anything similar. I shall possibly get a Smashwords Coupon, to give copies away.

July 6, 2011

Book Covers for ebooks

Book covers for ebooks? Actually an image which draws possible readers to take look at the title, the blurb, and perhaps to read at least a sample of the writing.
When deciding on mine, so far I've tried to get distinctive, even evocative images. Bright clear colours with not too much clutter.
They are viewed onscreen as thumbnails, so writing has to be easily legible.
The other aspect which occurs to me is what happens on the ereader screen? Those colours are useless on a Kindle or Kobo or whatever, because everything is black and white. These images have be distinctive in grayscale.
Few indies seem to have realised this.
Readers looking for books on Kindle or Chapters etc do so with their ereaders. They can't see those fancy colours. Ok there are people browsing with their iphones, colour Nooks etc, but let us try to have images that work on all screens.

July 4, 2011

Stone Song

Stone Song is complete at 47,000 words. Should it be longer? Should I get someone to edit it? Cost is an issue, for a doubtful return. Will people buy it, edited or as is ? No way to know beforehand.
I think there will be a few typos, and probably a good editor could improve things, but I am very wary of 'improvements' which just might not actually help the story. I'm tired of messing around with it. Once published I can get stuck into the next big project, which might be one more go at Eland Dances, or might be something completely new. Stone Song is not Great, I just hope it is entertaining.Then too, I must finish the next Sherlock story, S. Holmes and Lady Chatterley's Voodoo Dolls.
I have added a bit more motivation/tension by way of the death of a character; however we never actually meet the guy, everything is at a remove & hearsay. To be a real thriller all the action should be up close and happen in front of readers. Also, the protagonists need to be directly endangered, which is not the case. There is tension, but not really direct threat or danger. Should there be? Should i write in another couple of thousand words with Hancock, the Baddie, gunning for Ty, perhaps running the car off the road with his van?

June 26, 2011

Sunday, life details & hyperlinks

The sky is cloudy, but at least it's warm. Been raining a lot the past few days, and cloudy when it's not. Lawn is half mowed, and that's the way it has been for the last four days. In a burst of energy I set out to mow my meadow, until rain stopped that enterprise. Since then either I've been busy or it has been raining, or the grass has been wet fron morning dew or rain. All the dew it gets means I never ever water the grass, and it stays green.
In other news, I had a Real Estate lady bring some possible buyers through the London house; she dropped a note saying she had people who want to buy, did I want to sell? So Saturday 2pm they duly went for a look. Asked me 'how much'and my reply was 'dunno, but municipal tax valuation gives a figure, how about that?
As for writing stuff, I have started adding more Thriller elements into 'Stone Song'- as with any such thing, every change has a snowball effect down the line, meaning more changes further on. Might get to a reasonable novel length ultimately.
Also, spent hours working out how to create a Table of Contents in Pages with active links. Exported to Word, and uploaded to Smashwords. Hopefully that will translate into a proper clickable TOC in the various formats. Hyperlinks, which i always thought just take you to some web-page, apparently are the means which link the Table to chapter headings. This is all in Heavy and Light Tales, by the way. If successful, I can do the same in Stone Song when that is finished & published.
My attitude with the short story book(s) is to use them as practice, finding out how to format properly, make covers, linkable TOC, build a web-presence and all that stuff.
Then the novels will have all the groundwork done when I get to them.

June 21, 2011

Heavy and Light Tales

Okay. My new little short story collection is live on Smashwords, and will probably be uploaded to Amazon Kindle later today.

I'm experimenting with pricing. Since I don't expect much in the way of sales, this is priced at $2.99, to get that 70% return from Kindle sales (if any).

The other thing I must do is remember to include at least 'Addendum to Dog' in the 'shorts' listing for Kindle.

Going through my old stories I realized some of them are fairly good. Some small rewrites, an extra sentence or two in some, seemed to give just a bit extra zip, and of course some pruning too. One longish speech in 'the Shot'is gone without any loss.

I'd intended to use the same cover image as on the paperback edition, but couldn't find the digital version anywhere. Instead I used a photo of a very spiky plant.
Not too happy with the title font and placement, that should be a bit lower, further from the top edge. Will have another go at that also, later today

June 20, 2011

BunoWrimo, new short story collection, & new Sherlock

I'm in BunoWrimo, which means I'm supposed to write a total of 50,000 words, an entire novel, in the month of June.
Didn't actually attempt that, but have directed that energy into finishing projects mostly, rather than start a big new one.
Mind you, there is 'Sherlock Holmes and the Case of Lady Chatterley's Voodoo Dolls', but that won't be traditional novel length. As a Graphic novel, the page count may reach 100, but the word count will be much lower. I have the plot roughed out, and it is perhaps half written.
The last couple of days I've been preparing to publish another short story collection, originally intended to be an ebook version of Heavy and Light Tales, my 2006 paperback short story collection. After some editing and pruning, I decided to add a couple of excerpts from my novels, both to raise interest in them, and because they're not half bad as stand-alone stories. This is especially true of bits from Eland Dances.
So, quite a productive month, and if you count editing, with bits altered, added, or slashed, I should have something like the target figure by month end.
As for 'Stone Song', one Beta reader has told me 'go ahead and publish it' Mind you, I think he only read the first half. Silence from the others, which likely means they find it heavy going. Oh well.
Click on the title of this post to see Heavy and Light Tales on Smashwords.

June 16, 2011

Latest projects

I've been busy with several things at once - of course, the only way to be busy, since projects and 'things to do now' are like city buses when it rains, they travel in convoy.

So presently; roof shingles, next Sherlock Holmes story - going to be a graphic novel - wowsers, finishing Stone Song, keeping the garden going in the face of a marauding hungry ground hog. -

The next Sherlock Holmes story has become a graphic Novel in progress, in collaboration with a virtual friend in England.
Title is going to be 'Sherlock Holmes & the Case of Lady Chatterley's Voodoo Dolls'
So far a few more than 2,000 words written, the main characters decided on, and the skeleton of the plot outlined (mostly). Portraits of the main characters are being worked on, which will be used as the basis for the many smaller pictures needed.

We think something like a 100- 150 page minimum, with at least one small picture per page. Text may be alongside the illustrations, as Sherlock tends to be quite long-winded, and so those little dialogue-bubbles won't do.


The roof needs new shingles. Not this roof, the one sheltering me as I write this, but the house in town, where my daughter and grandson live. Fine, how much, let's do it shall we?

Not so fast. This is a semi-detached and so anything like a roof repair involves the people in the other half.

They are Believers, in one of those Churches that tell them everyone else is Profane, & only True Believers will be Saved. Fair enough. Now with the roof repair, one of their Church Brothers has been picked by them to do the roof. Both sides.

Problem I have is the guy hasn't left me a written quotation or contacted me. His verbally passed on figure is high, I think. So I got a quote from a well known, very respectable, company. The sort of place you'd expect to be expensive for this sort of thing. Their figure, with written warranties & a few bells, is several hundred dollars lower.
Next I asked the guy doing several roofing jobs in our street for a quote, and his figure is $900 lower than the big company. No response whatsoever from neighbours, except that they have a Brother who will do the whole roof, theirs and mine.
So I am expected to pay over an extra $1000 because their Brother has been picked by them?

Stone Song has gone out to a few Beta readers. Waiting for feedback.

Groundhog has been stymied by a careful fence. Unfortunately all that's left are potatoes, tomatoes, a few beets sprouting again, and two tiny cucumber plants.

June 8, 2011

Wednesday already

My gosh. Flying along. Lots of time so far this week doing the web-presence thing; now have 223 Twitter followers & 75 'likes' on my Facebook author page. If that is achievement, I'm making progress.
So far 9 copies of Sherlock Holmes & the Zombie Affair have sold this month/week on Amazon Kindle USA. One more and that'll equal the 10 sold in May, though it was live for just 12 days, from the evening on 18th so not a big leap.
Now, all that effort comes down to $7 in actual money earned. The only real justification could possibly lie with future earnings from Stone Song and other writing to come.
Drawback there is the totally different genres - the tiny 'Sherlock' niche as against the much larger and more competitive SF/Thriller/Adventure of Stone Song.
I have no idea how many have read the sample available to be read online fron Amz kindle. That would be useful to know, for sure. Have to assume some percentage of those who read the sample go on to spend $0.99 and buy the rest.
If web presence counts for anything, it should show in a fairly quick start to sales of Stone Song when I publish.
Which is going to be within weeks, certainly, even if I do some rewrites; Jury is out on that. I have a reasonable & coherent story as is. Do I want/need to juice up the tension & conflict?

June 5, 2011

Sunday sunshine

Managed to do quite a bit of in-filling in Stone Song, 2 hours out in the sunshine, squinting at the laptop, back inside so it could charge again, while I went through and edited.
Paul Kater has been sending me emails about the chapters I sent him for his input, and I've been integrating his suggestions as I go. Then more new stuff again.
Not sure how many words total, but it feels like progress. Couple of important scenes sorted, and continuity and some minor motives/decisions written in several places.
Yesterday was a low achievement day, because I was in London from midday on. Supposed to meet a guy to see about the roof there - needs new shingles. He didn't turn up.
So I stayed, because my grandson's 9th birthday party was from 5pm on. More adults than kids, as it happened. Lots of food and conviviality, while kids surged around. Someone kindly gifted several mini marshmallow guns, which found eager testers. Expect the raccoons will enjoy the marshmallows all over the garden.
Ended up by toasting hot dogs on sticks, with Birthday Boy the last kid standing.We did Octopus Dogs. What you do is split the ends of a hot dog sausage into several parts, with the middle section left as is. Then jab a sharp pointy stick into that middle bit, and hold over hot coals. As it cooks the ends curl into twisty fingers. Fun to watch, and of course eat.

June 4, 2011

Sherlock Sales, book covers, Dead Road

I have the cover with St.Materiana's Church seen through the lower gate, and the Dead Path, on the Smashwords version. The Litch Gate is the other name for this gate, because bodies were carried along this route. Traditionally, these Dead roads were left unobstructed so the souls of the dead could fly directly to hallowed ground. So very appropriate for a story involving a zombie. This is quite an eye-catching image, even if you don't know exactly what it shows.
Saint Materianas is in Tintagel, Cornwall, and is a very old church.
I have the anonymous cemetery on the Amazon version. Tumbled gravestones in hues of grey and green, fairly spooky.
Whether the cover influences sales (much) is very hard to judge.
I know, I know, big yawn, who cares about the miniscule sales of a very short ebook? Obviously I do, and so --
As of yesterday, Friday 3rd there'd been 6 sold by during June, which would be 2 per day. Since it went 'live'during the evening on May 18th, there were 10 sold on .com & 2 on .UK, so a bit less than 1 per day.
Forget about Smashwords, nobody goes there to buy, it seems. Fellow writers, certainly, and there've been 14 'sold' there, 13 with use of the coupon. Now, the other retailers they supply might be different, but it'll be a while before it gets out to them.

June 2, 2011

Espresso Book Machines

I posted a couple of days ago, saying there were around 21 of these machines world-wide. Wrong. Click the link(ie click the title of this post) to see the current locations. University libraries are early adopters, in Canada and the USA, from Australia to Egypt, they are spreading very rapidly.
If you are an Indie Author there is a very direct interest here; you can list your books with them for any customer to get a real paper back copy anywhere there is a machine.
I'm in, as soon as I've posted this update.
Something definitely worth looking into is buying or leasing a machine, opening a bookshop.
Not sure of the cost, though someone mentioned 75,000 GB Poundsfor one. Not bad if you have a decent market to serve. One in the University of Toronto, another at Waterloo are the closest to me right now. Wondering about setting up in one of London's malls (Ontario's London)
Certainly going to try get my book(s) into their system.
This is absolutely the future of publishing and book retailing. Perfect combination of most of the advantages of ebooks and paperbooks.
For Indie bookstores this has to be the answer. Low storage and display costs, combined with a huge inventory.

June 1, 2011

June - summer's here at last, time to do stuff

This spring has been mostly miserable, cool, if not downright cold, and wet. Farmers couldn't get into their fields to plant in areas where their soil doesn't drain very well. My own garden is almost bare still, just a few spuds sprouting, since the deer jumped the fence and ate my lettuce, beet tops and brussels sprouts.
But never mind meandering in the garden, this month is Buno-Wrimo month. As of today, a strict (hah) regimen of 1,800 words every day, or else. Else what? No beer, that's what! Wish I could see the bloody computer screen outside though, cos that's where I want to be, in the light and air.
If they bring out an e-ink screen device you can write as well as read on, I'm on it.
For the month I'm not going to try to write 50k words of a new novel, but rather finish Stone Song, including editing, and also do another Sherlock shortie + start a cook book, simple stuff for singles, aimed at carnivores who eat some veg but aren't into lots of ingredients,stuff that needs attention while cooking, and so on.
My daughter suggests wild/gathered foods eg fiddleheads with self caught trout, dandelion wine/ greens, daylily fried in bacon fat etc. Stuff I do, well I would if I ever caught a bloody trout anyway.

May 28, 2011

The future of Publishing.

From an article in The Independent I learnt that there are 21 Espresso Book Machines in the world. These are capable of printing and binding a paperback book in less than four minutes. One of them is in a bookshop in Charing Cross Rd, London. The others, I believe, are in University libraries and other non-commercial locations.
They can print any book with a download from the internet.
I have speculated about these ever since I first heard of them. To me it seems obvious that any bookshop would do well to replace their shelves of multiple copies of in-stock books with displays of just a 'cover' image and a blurb, perhaps one copy only in stock for people who just have to handle a book before buying.
In my concept anyone could pay for a coded card which would enable them to either get a hardcopy immediately from the EBM or get an ebook copy downloaded onto their ereader or a thumb drive storage device. Those same cards could also be used in the same way as gift cards currently.
Combining the coded card concept with an Espresso machine in a display area would eliminate many of the costs borne by suffering publishers and retailers. No returns, no need to guesstimate the size of a needed print run, no shipping and storage costs (or much reduced) and much less retail floorspace required.
Drawbacks? For a start these machines are expensive. Secondly, so far they don't do hardcovers.
But this has to be the future of book retailing offline. Online is another story, as we know.

May 26, 2011

Sherlock Holmes and the Zombie Affair

Sherlock Holmes and the Zombie Affair is now on Smashwords and Amazon Kindle sites. As of now - May 27th 12:12am - 2 have sold on Kindle UK, 6 on Kindle US, and 13 on smashwords - of those 12 were free with the coupon.
This is the first week. Should be distributed to Sony, Apple, Kobo etc soon, via smashwords.
This is a tiny niche in the publication world, so the good thing is not much competition. Fiction-Mystery-British-Detective

May 16, 2011

Sherlock Holmes and the Zombie Affair

Finally! Just finished my 2010 Nanowrimo effort, and it is now available from smashwords. After much procrastination it is now a complete work @ 13,000 words, which is barely Novella length. This would have needed vast padding to reach the Nano-novel length of 50,000 words, and i think it is fine at the length it now is.
Priced at $0.99cents, I have a coupon code available; if anyone reading this would like a free copy, use coupon code AL89Q.

May 5, 2011

Hindu concept of sound

“Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu also confirmed that in this age of Kali, Krishna has descended in the form of sound vibration. Sound is one of the forms which the Lord takes. Therefore it is stated that there is no difference between Krishna and His name.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Elevation to Krishna Consciousness, Ch 6)

This is very close to Creation as in the Old Testament, with the Word as prime original manifestation of Being

February 23, 2011

Active noise cancellation in autos-as postulated in Stone Song

"The use of active noise cancellation for fuel economy benefit on Terrain is among the first at GM," said Paul Beaker, program engineering manager for GMC Terrain. "It has strong potential for implementation on other four-cylinder vehicle programs."

When GM engineers set out to deliver segment-leading fuel economy on Terrain they chose to lower the 6-speed transmission's gear shift points to enable the Ecotec 2.4L four-cylinder engine to run at lower rpm torque. In this "Eco" mode, which the driver can activate with a click of a button on the console, the torque converter clutch engages at lower engine speeds to help save gas. While the engineering action improved fuel efficiency by up to one mpg, it also created an objectionable low-end frequency boom. To counteract that boom the engineers turned to active noise cancellation technology.

Terrain's noise cancellation system relies on two microphones embedded in the headliner to detect the hum and prompt an onboard frequency generator to create counteracting sound waves through the audio system's speakers and sub-woofer. The system also reduces higher rpm engine noise at highway cruising speeds to help keep the vehicle interior quiet.

February 8, 2011

Ancient shells meet high-tech: Stanford researchers study the sound of pre-Incan conches

The sound is ancient and eerie. For a palpable sense of time, blow into the sawed-off spire of a conch. Feel the ache in your lungs and hear the oceanic roar as it vibrates the hefty shell in your hand.

In the Sanskrit epic the Mahabharata, the warriors blew conches to announce battle. In Buddhism, the conch's deep and penetrating drone proclaims the far reach of the dharma. Tibetan monks still use them to summon devotees.

But in the Andean sierra of South America, what did it mean when, three millennia ago, the pre-Incan residents of Chavín de Huántar raised those ornately decorated conch shells to their lips in the underground corridors of their temple?

Nobody knows for certain. But a few Stanford researchers are determined to find out. The result has led to an unusual collaboration between archaeologists and acousticians, under the auspices of Peru's Ministry of Culture, leading into the rarified realms of psychoacoustics and archaeo-acoustics.

Seed funding for the project came from the Stanford Institute for Creativity and the Arts, a featured program of The Stanford Challenge, a fundraising campaign launched in 2006 and now in its final year.

"Conches are attention-grabbers," said John Rick, associate professor of anthropology and part of the Chavín team. "They're rarely used trivially. People don't play them for entertainment. They're ceremonial – shiny, noisy, highly labor-intensive things.

"This is something that literally has an effect on the human being, even physiologically."

Conches figured prominently in the iconography of Chavín, a UNESCO World Heritage archaeological site about 150 miles north of Lima. "They were clearly important. They were carried in important processions," said Rick.
L.A. Cicero Professor John Rick holds a conch shell similar to the ones discovered at the Chavin site.

Professor John Rick holds a conch shell similar to the ones discovered at the Chavin site.

In July 2001, Stanford archaeologists working at Chavín's 3,000-year-old ceremonial center came across a conch buried in the dirt in one of the temple's underground galleries. To get a sense of the scale of the discovery, remember that only a couple of decorated conches had ever before been found in Peru.

But that wasn't all: "The first one we hit we knew exactly what it was, but we never had a clue that we'd be lucky enough to find 20 intact ones that were still playable," said Rick. The decorated shells, about 10 inches long and weighing 3 to 5 pounds each, had been used for centuries. Their thick pink shells were worn through.

"Once we started to find them, it was imperative to know more," said Rick.

In the unique acoustic landscape – stone-walled underground architecture, with twisting corridors, hidden alcoves and ventilation shafts – how did the conches sound? What role did they play in the ceremonial culture?

The questions weren't new. In the mid-1970s, Peruvian archaeologist Luís Lumbreras, director of the National Institute of Culture (now subsumed into the Ministry of Culture), described the interior structures at Chavín as a set of connected, resonant chambers. He called one of the structures an "acoustic canal" that would produce a loud applause or thunder-like sound when a barrel of water was poured into it.

In other places, conch shells might have created the disorienting impression of sounds coming from several different directions at once.

"We have evidence of the manipulation of light; we have acoustic spaces where it seems that they were playing around with sound. We've got evidence of the use of psycho-active drugs," said Rick. But what other effects were they using in this very early multimedia show, and why? Was it a kind of mind control using sensory manipulation exercised by the priestly elite?

Time for the acousticians to enter the picture, beginning with John Chowning, music professor emeritus, one of the fathers of computer music and the founding director of the renowned Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA).

The CCRMA team included consulting Professor Jonathan Abel and former CCRMA director Perry Cook.

"My chest was rattled, and I was nauseated for the rest of the day," said Abel, who first heard Rick play a conch as he was standing in a stairwell at CCRMA. "Serious subharmonics were involved." But he also was hooked.

As a result, "I was exposed to this incredible culture that seemed to be able to control the senses in a way through the architecture, through the features of Chavín, and, in particular, these Strombus shell trumpets," he said.
L.A. Cicero Jonathan Abel with a microphone array like the one used in the Chavin site

Professor Jonathan Abel with a microphone array like the one used in the Chavin site.

Since the archaeo-acoustic team's visit to Peru in 2008, CCRMA graduate student and Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellowship recipient Miriam Kolar, whose dissertation studies the psychoacoustics of Chavín, has been making on-site measurements in the temple complex. She is hoping to recreate "the aural experience of an ancient ceremonial center."

Using sprays of flexible microphones, amplifiers, low distortion speakers, analog-to-digital converters and computer audio interfaces, she measures "how the architecture of these spaces affects auditory perception, which can provide clues about the site's purpose."

In her experiments, "participants listen, in the real acoustic context, to sounds that could have been authentic in Chavín times," and then respond to questions about what they hear.

Supplying the support research back at Stanford, Abel explores the "auditory texture of the place" and tries to "quantify the gallery acoustics." He and the rest of the team are in a race against time: Chavín needs conservation work that will forever alter the mysterious acoustics in the sharply twisting passages and underground alcoves.

Were the priests using these techniques to draw people into the cult? Rick said that this period marks the emergence of an elite in the Andes, a class that could issue orders and command labor and fealty.

"We don't see the public here; this is for the elite. You don't see anything like, 'Thank you, St. Chavín, for saving my leg,'" said Rick. "If you're not an aspirant or not a member, you're probably not there."

Perhaps it marks an early kind of capitalism, as well: "The Chavín priests are in a business. This isn't a free cult, any more than the Mediterranean cults or anything else."

The conches were engraved with elaborate patterns. "But whose patterns were those?" Rick asked. "At first we thought those were all Chavín designs. We started to study those and realized that they were contemporary designs to Chavín culture, but they weren't of Chavín themselves."

Apparently, the shells had stopped at other sites in the central Andes, in their journey from the seas off what are now Panama, Costa Rica and Ecuador, and were converted to trumpets en route. The Chavín touch was the characteristic V-shaped notch carved into the opening of the shell, which allows for bendable notes. It also possibly enabled priests in the procession to see where they were walking as they blew into the shells.

So far, Abel said, the conches haven't lost their charm; one can make the shell sound like an animal, or the wind, or a whisper. "Let me make it sound like a jet engine," he said. "It's completely fun."

Abel praises the interdisciplinary side of the project as "the only way we can make certain kinds of advances."

"Archaeology, anthropology, electrical engineering, signal processing, acoustics, mechanical engineering, physics, music, art – it all comes together," he said. "It's completely fascinating. I'm learning a little bit about culture, and a lot about acoustics, actually."

Rick, in turn, praises the "acoustic magicians" of CCRMA: "The most important thing I've learned is that acoustics is not some sort of soft science. Acoustics is real science. I've had my eyes opened time and time again by the analytical work that I've watched.

"You could say the acoustics people are the new priests of Chavín," he said.