National Novel Writing Month now a sham

Writing 50000 words in 30 days is always a challenge. NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month, was dynamic and fun, and for three years I, like tens of thousands of other writers, took part in the fun contest.
Then along came a new CEO, and new staff, and suddenly it was no longer about writing, but about money. Every communication from NaNoWriMo was accompanied by a plea for donations. Every page or posting, or e-mail, begged for donations. Even the reply from the CEO when I complained, had a plea for a donation attached. I threatened to withdraw if the donations persisted. They took no notice. So I have resigned. It is now a sham.
So come November, I’ll still try to write 50000 words in 30 days, but it’ll be my own challenge. Why not join me?

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It’s Christmas time !

2013 has been a busy and difficult year, and an expensive one! It is our fifth year in the UK, the year in which we can apply for indefinite leave to remain here, a step that will leave us one year away from being able to apply for full citizenship. I arrived in the UK some months before my girls, and I was granted my ILR status in October. Ongoing problems with migrants to the UK, and the open-door policy of the previous (Labour) government, has prompted the present government to change the rules on ILR and citizenship since we landed in the UK, and applications for Colleen and Lynn were stressful. Now we wait for an answer.

Tonight the stress was forgotten. Carol and Colleen and Lynn and Adam and I, went to Arundel, my most favourite of UK towns, and celebrated the start of the Christmas season with local ales and spiced cider, hog-roast rolls, German sausages and twisted chips, as we listened to a soprano singing in a small square in the town, a steel band, and a choir. The little town was buzzing, happy, and even the cold air couldn’t dampen the spirits of the people. What fun it was to wander the streets of the ancient town, with the 10th century castle staring down on us, and the town-crier mingling with the crowds.

It’s Christmas time!

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Summer days and Birds.

A great English summer has descended on us for the past three weeks, with clear skies, sunshine, and birds calling all around us.

It is the latter that I miss most from life in Africa. Birds. There just aren’t as many species here as I have been used to seeing. But those that are here, are trying hard. It has been fantastic to hear and watch Swifts every evening, and to see and hear small flocks of House Martins chirrupping overhead. The Blackbirds have been in full breeding mode, shouting the odds from the roof-tops, chasing other birds from the breeding territory, and even attacking the dozy cats as they lay in the shade trying to escape the heat.

The tiny, but striking, Goldfinches, perch on the TV aerials every evening, and sing their little hearts out. They have become favourites, and I see them almost every day now.

There have been more Barn Swallows over West Sussex this year any other year since we moved here, and they have been great to see as I drive to work each day.

Magpies are found in all environments, and are bold and successful – the top of the pecking order in most cases, and not averse to robbing nests of other birds.

The biggest thrill still comes from looking up at a passing falcon, and knowing that it is likely to be that iconic species the Peregrine. Before moving to the UK, I had only ever seen Peregrines five or six times in my whole life. I now see them regularly, they breed in Chichester close by, and hunt over the farmlands that surround our village.  Their successful recovery from the DDT poisoning now seems to be a memory.

An iconic bird of a different kind held my attention two weekends ago. The superb Supermarine Spitfire, that war-winning aircraft, displayed over Littlehampton Harbour here in West Sussex, leaving us breathless at the spectacle. The occassion was Armed Forces Day in the UK, and the display brought home how much we in the west owe to men who flew the Spitfire.

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Review: Stop Dead by Leigh Russel

This is the first of Leigh Russel’s novels that I have read, and it will probably be the last.
The story was pretty average, the plot struggled to remain credible. I really struggled to keep on reading this novel.
The characters are unremarkable, and Geraldine Steel, for all her success in climbing the police ladder, is pretty boring. The book irritated, because it had to showcase the woman DCI who has succeeded despite the odds, the female sergeant Sam, who, in my opinion, was only in the story to provide the lesbian interest, the inane pathologist, the rather scatter-brained Police Chief, the anti-lesbian colleague, the stolid sergeant from the old patch. All characters who have been done before, and done better. Sam, the sergeant, brings nothing at all to the story, and left me with visions of a petulant child, rather than a professional police person.
The capture scene is rather amateur, the heroic police officer entering the killer’s home against her better judgement, no longer washes, especially since it is not how the Met. would do things.
The mutilation of the victims provided a twist of sorts, but could have been dealt with in a way that shocked more.
The positives were the way that the story moved away from the first suspects, by-passing them as their relevance waned and died. This was realistic, it is how such investigations proceed, and it was well handled in the book.
The most irritating thing about the book was the formatting. The use of the block method for starting new paragraphs was really disconcerting, and on more than one occasion I thought that a new chapter or section was starting, when all that was happening was a new paragraph. On a number of occasions I put the book down in irritation at the poor formatting.
The prose was average, there were a number of grammatical and language errors, all of which should have been caught in editing.
Overall, a very ordinary, unremarkable and stereotypical murder mystery.

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E-Books not the answer

The excitement that e-books generated amongst aspiring authors has pretty largely proven to be unfounded. And it could be thanks to the organisations which supposedly support the new author. To get market share, Amazon, amongst others, promotes the notion of free e-books, and tells new authors that giving their books away helps to promote the author to the reading public. In reality, readers now don’t buy e-books, don’t support new authors, they simply look for the freebies. Amazon looks good in this process, and very few new authors see sales of any significance.

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When I Was Five I Could Fly

My newest book, a memoir called “When I Was Five I Could Fly” is now available to sample and buy on Smashwords by clicking on the following link. My newest book, called “When I Was Five I Could Fly” can be seen and downloaded on Smashwords at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/256289

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NaNoWriMo 2012

‎22000 words written in the NaNoWriMo contest. The story is strong, and developing nicely. 28000 words still to write though!

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