Monthly Archives: April 2014

Crime doesn’t pay, but at least you’re your own boss.

It’s a little known fact that the fall in the number of pirates has increased Global Warming. The statistics are there for the world to see; but ‘they’ didn’t want you to find out.

Indeed when you look at the graph it stops in 2000. That being said, you can see why we’ve got this sudden plateau in the rising temperatures which has lasted for much of the last ten years. It’s the effect of those gallant Somalis whose piratical activities have managed to help restore the global balance. This slight increase in piratical activity has obviously been just enough.

 

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This came to mind because it’s just been announced that there’s been a fall in the amount of violent crime in the UK. That’s good but we have to ask why. There’s all sorts of answers, three of the more interesting ones I heard given on the radio were

 

  • The fact we’re generally nicer people than our ancestors
  • The fact we’re too poor to go binge drinking any more
  • The fact that there’s no lead in petrol

 

Who knows; but one very interesting comment made was that these figures came from A&E departments in hospitals, they weren’t from crime surveys. If this tells us anything, it is that nobody believes police or government crime statistics any more.

Given the way figures have been ‘manipulated’ by the last two governments it may be that the main growth area for crime is in deceiving the electorate. The problem is that we’ve grown too used to being lied to by politicians and civil servants.

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So what are we going to do about it?
Well I decided that I couldn’t do a lot about politicians yet, but instead I’ll do my bit to help curb global warming. If you buy Justice 4.1 (The Tsarina Sector), that much acclaimed tale of law, order, major criminality and space piracy; you too can do your bit to help push up the amount of piracy and help keep temperatures under control. You know it makes sense; we cannot leave it all to the Somalis. 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Justice-4-1-The-Tsarina-Sector-ebook/dp/B00IPTBEQW

Funny what people remember.

An old man [So at least twenty years older than me] was chatting to a couple of his contemporaries over a coffee in the front room. He started talking about this really good pub meal he and his wife had eaten the other day. One of his mates asked the name of the pub.

He thought about it for a minute or two and then asked, “What’s the name of those beautiful flowers, nice smell, but with thorns?”

His mate said “You mean the Rose?”
”That’s it,” the first chap said. He stood up and shouted into the Kitchen, “Rose, what was the name of the pub we ate at the other day.”

 

 I noticed in the financial papers that Tesco is feeling badly done to, and they’ve realised that people don’t love them any more. It’s not just Tesco; a lot of the big supermarkets have taken a kicking. Customers are deserting them.

I confess that I don’t find this surprising. It could have been ten years ago we were eating in a pub near Bristol and I went to the bar to get the drinks and the menu. There was a group of locals with thick West Country accents talking and I idly wondered what rustic wisdom was being imparted. The discussion was about supermarket loyalty cards and which were the best. Given that all of them appeared to have at least four it struck me that it was a discussion they’d done the research for. But somehow, when people have multiple loyalty cards, the issuer of those cards has screwed up somewhere.

But why aren’t the major supermarket chains liked? Here I think I can help. Last figures I saw, Tesco employs 310,000 people in the UK. ASDA apparently has 128,000, Sainsbury’s about 150,000.

So a lot of people are employed on the shop floor by Supermarkets. That’s a lot of people who are intimately aware of whether these companies are good or bad employers. If these people feel they’re regarded as cheap and expendable then they’re not going to neglect to mention it to their friends. If each person just lets family and friends know, suddenly ten or twenty times as many people know just what these companies are like to work for.

Then there’s the poor beggars trying to make a living supplying supermarkets. If a firm has been gouged by their customer, then fair enough, they’re not going to kick up a fuss publically, call in ombudsmen or whatever, because they know that if they do, they’ll never sell into that market again. But those who work for this victim of corporate greed aren’t stupid. They will know what’s going on, and they will also be able to work out for themselves why the company they work for has had to take it on the chin and not moan.

I suppose the rule is that if you go round acting like a bullying thug, people will soon realise that you are a bullying thug and you’ll experience the same love and respect people reserve for those they know to be bullying thugs.

If you get a reputation for screwing your customers and staff, word does leak out and people take note. People remember these things, you will not be loved.

 

Then there are the shared memories of our youth. I was listening to two lads [So at least twenty years younger than me] talking. They’d both been to Newton Rigg College where they’d met. They were talking about a TV programme where grim Liverpool drama was acted out against a Lake District background. This TV programme had thrown them both into fond reminiscences of their joint and distant past. I mean it must have been at least ten years previously! I’d seen one clip of the programme, a car full of young ‘ladies’ in short skirts and heels had pulled up at a Lake District pub to be met by the hero and his mates.

This led to the following conversation.

Lad one, “Did you even go drinking there.”

Lad two, “Yes, couple of times.”

Lad one, “So when you were there, did you ever see a carload of birds like those.”

Lad two, after some thought, “No, nowt but crag rats and grannies.” 

“I’m from the Government and I’ve come to help you.”

I’ve mentioned the three great lies before.

 Of course I’ll still love you in the morning.
The cheque is in the post.
I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.

 

It’s just that yesterday I was with a group of people whose long term aim is to overthrow society as we currently know it, and the discussion came round to the state.

Let’s be clear about this, having spent a lifetime in agriculture I don’t need convincing that the machinery of government is designed to run for its own benefit and the rest of us are just grit in the wheels that will have to be cleaned out or crushed to dust, (it doesn’t really matter which.)

But I realise a lot of people are under the misapprehension that it’s their government and should in some way represent their ideals. At the very least they expect it to treat them with respect.

We were told yesterday that government has decided to bring in Civil Penalties. If you make a mistake on an application form for benefit, they can fine you £50. This isn’t because they think it was fraud, this is just for making a mistake and wasting the valuable time of petty officials with far better things to do than cope with the ignorance of the public who pays their wages.

When told that my reaction was ‘Only £50? In agriculture they can take up to 30% of whatever they’re paying out, even when they accept it’s unintentional.’

 

Another thing that was commented on by several people was the need for advocacy. If you have an ‘ordinary member of the public’ dealing with the bureaucracy, things tend to go badly. But if they take with them an ‘advocate’, perhaps someone from CAB, or some other charity, then suddenly things are done with speed and despatch. The medical inspection is done absolutely by the book, or the official admits that, yes, actually, she can deal with that now and she cannot understand how it was that the ‘client’ was given the run-around previously.

Problems that dragged on for months (with the ‘client’ getting more and more out of pocket) are suddenly resolved in minutes.

 

Last year I claimed Employment Support Allowance twice, both times for a fortnight. This is because I was off sick for that long after my cataract operations. In the process of dealing with the bureaucracy to get this money (because I’m self employed and have no employer I cannot get sick pay) I was lied to, misinformed, and dealt with people who frankly didn’t have much of a clue about the regulations they were supposed to be implementing.

At one point I was told that I couldn’t be paid because I hadn’t filled in a certain form in time. When I told them that actually, on the previous occasion I had been paid without filling in that form; I was told I might be prosecuted for fraud. To this I replied that I would expect to be sharing the dock with a number of that person’s colleagues who had advised me wrongly and would ask for the telephone logs to be supplied as evidence.

At this point it was suddenly decided to resend me the form so I could fill it in and nothing more was said about time limits.

I’m literate, well read, cocky and frankly I probably have a bad attitude. I had got to the stage where I’d paid my stamp since 1975 and I was going to get the money I was entitled to if I had to pick up the First Lord of the Treasury, turn him upside down and shake him until the money fell out of his pockets.

A lot of people out there do not have my advantages. Who is willing to be their advocate?

 

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Lies, damn lies and publishing.

I don’t know whether you are on ‘LinkedIn’, it purports to be a website which allows you to get in touch with others in the world of work. The idea is that everybody gets better jobs because potential employers can look at your web page and see what a wonderful person you are. There are also endorsements where co-workers can say what you’re good at.

There was a lass writing in the paper this morning who commented that she’d read some of the endorsements on her page and they’d been given by people who knew her but rarely worked with her yet wanted to be friendly and helpful. One as a joke had even praised her downhill skiing.

We’re seeing more and more of this. You can buy glowing reviews on Amazon very cheaply, I saw someone offering $10 for six, all posted from separate Amazon accounts. Companies can buy 50,000 likes for their Facebook page or a similar number of twitter followers for what amounts to little more than loose change. And don’t even get started about Trip Advisor and the stuff that goes on there!

I’ve been involved in the nitty gritty of this sort of stuff for a few years now, ever since I started writing novels. Freelance articles are easy, find editor, sell editor idea, (or have editor who knows you ask you to do something which is even better) write article, email article, bank cheque.

Now writing books is harder than freelance journalism. Write book, pour book into kindle, publish book. That’s supremely easy. The next bit, ensure that people who might like your book find it amongst the millions of others on Amazon and can buy it. That is a nightmare.

Thirty years ago being an author was entirely different. Write book, find agent, find publisher, publish book. That was the nightmare. But actually selling the book, well the professionals in the office did that, and they’ll perhaps rope you into book signings etc but by and large it wasn’t really your job.

The world continues to evolve, and I think I can say where we are at the moment.

People, by and large, no longer give too much credence to individual reviews. With books it’s often assumed that the glowing one is from your granny anyway. (Actually it’s probably from your bank manager who’s come to the conclusion it’s the only way he’ll ever live to see you keep up with the interest payments, never mind pay off the loan.)

 

With writers and publishers there seems to be three levels.

 

Indie. These are the people who write and publish their own, normally as e-books, and occasionally they’ll produce a few paperbacks, printed for them by one of the print-on-demand companies out there. In music, ‘indie bands’ are cool, but in books, indie writers are considered the pits, accused of pouring the publishing world’s slush pile into Kindle. This is nonsense. There is some rubbish, a lot of it, but there is also some really cracking stuff out there, written by people who could get publishing contracts but frankly cannot be bothered with them. Perhaps they’re people who take three years to write a book because of caring for children, parents etc. Publishers want someone who can commit to at least a book a year.

 

Small Publishers.  Here you reach respectability. There’s a ‘real’ book as well as the e-book and when you’re here, the real world treats you as if you’ve arrived. Local newspapers are happy to interview you, you’ll find publicity easier to get. Actually you’ll work just as hard for sales as the Indie, perhaps harder, but ideally you’ll work smarter because you’ve got a publisher to guide you.

 

Big Six Publishers. At one time this was the goal. These people pay advances, have teams of interns with nothing better to do than to create Amazon accounts and write glowing reviews, they’ve got professional marketing people. Get here, you’ve got it made.

 

Except that it’s not that simple any more.

The big six give every appearance of having lost the plot and of not being sure what goes on any more.

Because publishing a book costs them so much, they’re far more risk adverse than the Small publishers who do everything on a shoe string.

What it means is they try to build on success. So you’ll probably find they’ve got a lot of authors writing about sparkly vampires attending public schools for children with magical gifts. Or they’ve got people labouring away writing erotic fiction about bondage and millionaires.

So if you’re looking for something interesting, not just the same old thing, then you could well be better going straight to the Small Publishers and the Indie writers.

 

Things will doubtless continue to evolve. They always do. The reader who wants the best should look more widely. Don’t bother with the top ten, or even the top hundred on the Amazon charts. These charts aren’t about quality, they’re about sales and given the amount of good stuff that never gets seen, sales are a poor guideline.

But best of all, don’t bother with charts of any sort, find writers whose work you like and follow them, go by word of mouth, find out what friends and others whose opinion you respect are talking about.

Read what you like. If it’s a ‘classic’ and you didn’t enjoy it, it wasn’t a classic; it was a waste of time. There are too many great books out there to waste time reading those ‘you ought to read’. 

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Funny old world

First you write a book, and then you try to sell it. In the case of ‘Justice 4.1’ I went to the extent of creating a Facebook page for it!

The Problem is, whilst I know what happens on Tsarina, it’s a beggar of a place to get photos from.

And not just photos, we want interest, we want glamour.

And then I came across the two ladies who make up Gentian. So I said to them, “How would you like to play Padro’s on Tsarina.”

Both DD and her sister Jingle are good sports and thought it would be a fun idea. Thus and so they appeared here

Since then people have asked me about them and I thought it was only courteous to give people some idea of what has been going on in their lives.

Personally I’d like to thank them, it’s great when we can work together to try and let people out there know what we’re up to.

 

So first, Jingle, she’s a musician so try and imagine this bit being sung rather than just reading it.

 

So Gentian has been a bit busy!!

After our success at Padro’s, we have been interviewed by many Radio Stations and people, We have begun working with 4 other artistes on collaborations, whilst working on a new song ourselves.

We have been trying our hand at co-presenting, something we thoroughly enjoyed, also we have been added to stations and venues across the country and are looking forward to the coming summer as we have festivals and appearances to make.

Our music is travelling fast around the area, sometimes we get our song played and we are talked about without our knowledge, that is one of the best feelings, we are very happy.

We will be realising our New song in the next month or two, then we will be starting on a video to accompany it. That’s a few busy weeks ahead, but we are looking forward to it, and we would like to thank everyone for their support of Gentian.  

 

So really you want to click on this link, listen to the music and read the next bit

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wOBfus1JPY&list=UUqOlxvwxkq1alBuI1sLlHPA 

 

 

 

This bit’s by DD, but she’s the writer and thinks to tell you that sort of thing. Anyway I’ll stop whittering and pass you over to the lady in question.

 

 

Hello everyone, my name’s DeeDee and I’m one half of Gentian, the band mentioned above. I’m also D.D. Chant: I claim to be a writer but the jury is still out on that point! This February I released my 4th novel, Broken Truce, the second book in my Broken City series, to mass hysteria.

 

Seriously, you should have seen me!!!

 

Jim has very kindly invited me to be featured on his blog and tell you all about it! (So you can blame him for all that follows!!!)

 

The Broken City series is set in a future, broken world. The first story (Broken City)

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Broken-City-D-D-Chant-ebook/dp/B005GHMH8A/

introduces us to Deeta Richards, a young woman born into a dangerous time where civilisation has ground to a halt and society huddles together in small pockets of isolation. Deeta has never seen the City outside her building and she never expects to, a situation she wishes she could rebel against. Her only link to the world outside her sheltered life is Tom, her best friend and one of the few members of the tribe who are allowed to leave the building. Tom has always looked out for her and she trusts him completely, but Tom is hiding a very big secret, one that tears her world apart…

 

Interested???

 

(Please say yes!!!)

 

Broken Truce picks up a year after the events of the first book and we find that all is not well in Deeta’s world. The truce between the tribes is crumbling, the Lewises are encroaching further in to the City and Deeta is finding it hard to adjust to life within the Andak compound.

 http://www.amazon.co.uk/Broken-Truce-City-D-D-Chant-ebook/dp/B00I6HXH3Q/

Broken Truce is the first sequel I’ve ever written and I have to admit that I was a little nervous. I had lots of worries:

 

Would I be able to recreate the same ‘feel’ as the first book?

Would Deeta’s narration ‘sound’ the same?

Would the characters be the same, or would I not be able to put them across the way I had in the first book?

 

On the other hand there were a lot of things I was really looking forward to:

 

Revisiting Deeta and all the characters in the first book to tell more of their story.

Bringing some of the secondary characters to the forefront of the story.

Introducing new characters.

Weaving new storylines in with the old.

 

And so I began and (this is going to sound weird!) I immediately heard Deeta’s voice in my head.

I loved every minute of writing Broken Truce. I had a very good idea of how I wanted the story to progress, the new characters I wanted to introduce and their back stories. Yet at the same time I was surprised by some of the twists and turns the story took.

 

I loved writing about Linus, Max and Neddie. They have a very complex and multi layered relationship and I adored the dynamic friendship and loyalty that is between them. I also love how differently they react to Tom and how Tom handles their reception of him.

 

I think you get to know Tom a lot better in this book. 90% of Broken City is narrated by Deeta and so you don’t get to see much of Tom in action. I made the decision to have the story follow Tom and Deeta equally in the second book, but Tom’s chapters remain in the third person.

 

I have several reasons for deciding to write all the chapters that don’t feature Deeta, in the third person. When you read Broken City Deeta talks to you, it’s like reading her diary, being her confidant. You really get to know her, feel her every fear, hope and excitement. I wanted Deeta to be the readers load stone; she hides nothing from the reader and so the reader can rely on her narration as being the truth as she sees it.

I wanted the reader to feel the deepest connection to her, but to read the other characters from a more subjective perspective. I wanted the reader to get to know Tom, Ryder, Jayden, Cayden, Orin and Ricky better, but I wanted them to retain some of their mystery.

 

Deeta is a very sheltered character in the first book and although she becomes more savvy in the second book she still has the warmth and kindness that separates her from everyone else. Deeta believes in people, she trusts them, wants to help them, wants a happy ending for everyone.

 

Tom’s a good man, but he’s lived too long in the City to still have that softness. He doesn’t trust easily, he doesn’t believe in people any more and it’s only since he found Deeta that he has a tentative belief in happy endings. I wanted the reader to see the ugliness along with the hope and I wanted them to question his actions and beliefs. Yes, Tom is a good man trying to protect those he loves, but are there some things that shouldn’t be done in any circumstances?

 

I also had fun with Tom’s brothers, particularly Orin, Jayden and Cayden.

Orin is a difficult character, he’s reasonable but hard to like. To him the most important thing is the Andak tribe’s safety and he is will to go to any lengths to protect that.

 

The twins Cayden and Jayden are very interesting to write. Jayden, the younger, the ladies man who loves his comfort, has rarely left the walls of Andak city and doesn’t really want to. He has no interest in the politics of his tribe or the tribes out in the City, in fact he would prefer to leave the tribes to themselves and doesn’t like the City. He is a gifted engineer but is constantly eclipsed by older twin, Cayden. He’s fiercely loyal to Cayden and the joke among the brothers is that he will back Cayden up with every ounce of his being even when he doesn’t agree with him.

 

Cayden is a genius, but he’s also a victim of his own success. The Andak compound cannot function efficiently without him and everyone is afraid of losing his expertise. He’s a glorified prisoner and unlike his twin he hates it. Cayden wants adventure; the world outside the compound intrigues him as strongly as it repels Jayden. He is opinionated and is politically very vocal, though he accepts that Tom and Ryder know more about how the outside world is run than he does. He’s an interesting mix of arrogance and compassion; he wants to do the right thing… he’s just confused as to what the right thing is.

 

I’m hoping to start book three very soon, I have it all planned out and I’m really looking forward to seeing what Deeta and the gang get up to next. One thing I can be sure of is that they’ll have a lot of surprises for me!

 

A huge thanks to Jim for letting me take over his blog; I’ve tried not to leave too much mess behind!!!

 

D.D. Chant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hi Jim,

I’ve added an excerpt just in case you want to use it, I wasn’t sure how much material you wanted! No need to put it up if you think my rambling is the right sort of length. Thanks again!

 

DeeDee.  ;-D

 

[Comment from Jim here, the universe has an almost infinite number of electrons, so it isn’t as if I’m short of room on the page, so here’s the excerpt.]

 

 

Broken Truce (Broken City, #2)

 

Excerpt

 

The keys jangle in the lock and the soldier pulls the door open, his grin displaying gaps where his two front teeth should have been.

“Well come on, stop hiding in the shadows, no need to be scared of me.”

Tom doesn’t answer him but walks past him and in to the room beyond. Presented with Tom’s back the soldier seems to lose what little sense he has, he launches himself at Tom. Tom twists away from him, catching his collar as he passes and ramming him in to the opposite wall.

A dull crack fills the room as the soldier’s head connects with stone work, he collapses, sinking to his knees and groaning. With a sharp expletive, the second soldier comes at Tom slowly, very cautiously.

They circle each other measuringly, looking for weaknesses, for any opening. This soldier is younger than the first, not so beefy, but still strong. He holds back, studying Tom even as Tom studies him.

He’s better trained, Tom realises, not the mindless thug that usually passed for a Lewis soldier. This man had been taught caution, to think three moves ahead of his opponent. This man was dangerous, but he used his brain, so maybe there was a chance that he could be reasoned with.

“We don’t have to do this.” Tom holds his hands up, palms outward. “I’ll go back into my cell and we can forget this happened.”

The soldier smiles menacingly.

“You’d love that, wouldn’t you; to get your own way here, just like you do in the City.”

His left hand falls to his waist and he pulls free a six inch long blade. One edge is curved down into a point, the other carved into jagged notches that gleam in the artificial light. Tom’s face loses all expression, his hands curl into fists and he raises them slightly.

“You shouldn’t have done that.”

“What’s wrong?” spits the soldier tauntingly. “Are you scared?”

Tom’s eyes never waver from the face, filled with fury, before him.

“You fight with fists the worst you’re going to get is some bruises, maybe a few broken bones, but you had to go and pull and knife. One of us is going to end this bleeding.” Tom’s voice drops, his tone blank. “It won’t be me.”

The soldier laughs, an angry, mocking sound.

“Arrogant son of a…”

Before the soldier can say another word, Tom’s fist crashes into his mouth silencing him abruptly. He staggers back, eyes dilated in shock.

“If you want to make it out of this fight alive, I suggest you leave my mother out of this.”

“You crazy bas…”

Tom’s eyes snap coldly.

“I mean it; you’ll leave my mother out of this if you want to continue breathing.”

With a quick thrust, the soldier slashes his knife through the air. Tom jerks back and pivots, catching hold of his knife arm. They sway together dangerously, crashing into chairs and the table.

It isn’t a pretty fight, there’s no time to do anything but react, and more than once Tom finds himself deflecting the blade at the last possible second. They struggle together a little longer, beginning to pant as their exertion slows them down a little.

Tom reflects grimly that if he wasn’t being so careful about hurting the guy, he would have finished him already. He couldn’t cause the brute too much damage, it would only mean more trouble in the long run, more of these pointless, posturing fights.

Tom knew if he gave in to his desire to have it over and done with quickly, it would become a point of honour, and the rest of the soldiers would consider it their duty to grind the prisoner into the ground. That was the last think he needed, he had enough to worry about without taking gladiatorial events in to account.

Ned’s voice interrupted his thoughts, calling out a frantic warning and Tom turned just in time to see the first solder, recovered from his close inspection of the wall, baring down on him with a chair levelled at his head.

Tom has no time to avoid the blow, but raises his arm slightly to deflect it from his head to his right shoulder. The force sends him reeling backward, clutching at his arm. The first soldier stands, the chair now a splintered wreck in his hands, and glares Ned.

“You warned him.” His voice is filled with shock.

Ned’s eyes widened in fear, and his mouth opens and closes a few times without any sound coming out.

“What’s wrong with you, shrimp?” The furious soldier advances on the boy slowly. “Forgotten whose side you’re on, have you?”

Ned backed away nervously, his hands rising in a pleading gesture.

“C-captain Max said…”

“Captain Max said,” mimics the soldier. “Take a look around you, shrimp: Captain Max isn’t here.”

He makes a lunge for the boy, catching him by the collar, but Ned manages to twist away. He skids across the floor to stand beside Tom, his retreat only making the two soldiers angrier. With a deft flick of his wrist, the second soldier throws his knife and Ned closes his eyes, bracing himself for the pain of impact.

The moments pass and the boy prises one eye open.

Tom’s arm is stretched out in front of him, on a level with Ned’s throat. The knife is buried deep in his forearm, blood beginning to ooze from wound to drip on the floor. The room is silent, Ned’s horrified gaze transfers from the gruesome sight of the blade protruding from Tom’s arm, to Tom’s white face and icy expression. He coldly appraises the men before him, and the two soldiers expressions fill with horror and fear.