Monthly Reads – February 2018

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I found something dangerous out the other day, which is, Amazon’s ComiXology app is free!

1398542416For the uninitiated, ComiXology lets you read comics and graphic novels on your smartphone/tablet. I vaguely knew about the app a while ago, but for some reason I thought it was a paid-for app. Turns out, no (though you do have to pay for the comics you want to read using it).

This could be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I can get comics cheaper on my tablet than in physical form, and I’m already eyeing up some Ghost in the Shell Manga. Conversely, it could lead me to buy more comics…and I’m already eyeing up some Ghost in the Shell Manga!

Indeed, I’ve already downloaded an X-man comic I just had to have. As you may know, I read the Essential X-Men comics, which bring together a collection of various X-men storylines into one distribution, but I had missed out on the very first comic in this most recent series. A lightbulb moment, and a quick search, and I found it on Amazon, and subsequently downloaded it. However, I don’t think I’ll be doing that for all the Essential X-Men stories from now on, as buying them in the collection magazine works out a hell of a lot cheaper. I did, however, download some free Doctor Who comics that were released during the previous years’ Free Comic Book days. Roll on May 5th when hopefully I’ll be able to get my hands on some more goodies!

I also finished off What A Fish Knows, by Jonathan Balcombe, this month, and I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Despite providing a wealth of information on fish behaviour, it wasn’t at all ‘text-booky’, and Balcombe writes about fishy facts and anecdotes in a conversational manner that’s easy to take in, and more importantly, interesting to read. To quote some of the book blurb:

“What a Fish Knows draws on the latest science to present a fresh look at these remarkable creatures in all their breathtaking diversity and beauty. Fishes conduct elaborate courtship rituals and develop lifelong bonds with shoalmates. They also plan, hunt cooperatively, use tools, curry favor, deceive one another, and punish wrongdoers. We may imagine that fishes lead simple, fleeting lives—a mode of existence that boils down to a place on the food chain, rote spawning, and lots of aimless swimming. But, as Balcombe demonstrates, the truth is far richer and more complex, worthy of the grandest social novel.”

Really, the lives of fish are way more complex and deep than perhaps a lot of people realise. If you’re one of the many people who unthinkingly wolfs down fish on a regular basis, then you should read this book to find out more about the WHO you’re eating…and the pain they suffered to get on to your dinner plate. For those who forgo fish, then you too should read this, as it’ll confirm why you’re right not to eat fish, and maybe arm you with some more knowledge on the mental and physical complexity of these animals.

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Just a heads-up; blog posts are going to be a bit thin on the ground for the next month or so as I’m working on something important to do with my novel. All will be revealed at a later date!

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Marketing Misery

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The biggest suck-fest about being a self-published author is having to do your own marketing. Of course, if you have a publisher, there’s no guarantee of help, but as an indie author, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have to go it alone. What’s more, it’s usually a huge time-sink with very few (if any) returns.

Unsurprisingly, I have neglected marketing my novels in favour of writing a third instalment, plus university study, and volunteering. Given that I’ve only sold a grand total of 10 copies, this needs to change. Trouble is, how?

Smashwords provides a free ebook with marketing tips and advice, and I followed a lot of these when I released my first novel, but to be honest, it didn’t do much. However, with us having just landed in a new year, I’m going to give the tips another shot and see if anything helps. I’ve already covered some of the easy ones from way back when, like having a Twitter account, publishing more than one book, having a blog, and updating my email signature. Conversely, some will be impossible to do, like a book tour, because if no one’s buying my book, no one’s gonna want to see me have an anxiety attack in the back room of a bookstore (or maybe they will; there’s no accounting for people’s sensibilities!).

There has been one doable addition to the list since I last perused it, and that’s the ability to publish an in-depth Q&A interview at Smashwords. The site generates some pre-programmed questions and I write my own answers. Therefore, the crux of this post is me inviting you to go read it (here), then comment on this post and suggest additional questions you’d like to see answered in my interview. If I get any, and as long as they aren’t trolly, I’ll answer them too.

Additionally, you can go ask me questions over on my Goodreads author profile. I’ve already answered some pre-generated questions, but I would love to get some interesting Qs to A. And while you’re there, you can also friend me!

5 Reasons to Fall in Love With Self-Publishing

Why self-publish? Outskirts Press has some answers….

Self-Publishing News for Self Publishing Authors

Times have changed, haven’t they? And self-publishing has changed the world … and the publishing industry right along with it. There are so many reasons why authors, including those who may have previously been traditionally published, are eschewing the old ways and trying something new, and February is the perfect month to try it out yourself. Once you learn more about self-publishing, you may even find that you love this option, too! Here are five reasons why publishing in the lead up to and in the immediate aftermath of Valentine’s Day might just be exactly what your year needs to kick into gear.

1. Timing

It’s a new year, yes, but it’s also not quite brand new anymore. Which is to say, the hectic holidays are past, and the doldrums of spring are opening up before you. What better time of year to knock out that project you’ve always wanted…

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Monthly Reads – January 2018

20180118_123659.jpgSo I managed to finish off Crimes Against Magic (Hellequin Chronicles, #1) just before the New Year, and I have to say, I enjoyed it immensely. The narrative switches between early fifteenth-century France and modern-day London as we learn about warlock Nathan Garrett’s past, as he tries to remember it in the present to save the lives of himself, and his friends, after a job he takes to steal a scientist’s laptop goes monumentally awry.

The story itself is full of action, is well written, and the characters are all fleshed out. The genre is urban fantasy, but even though it contains vampires, werewolves and gargoyles, they don’t seem at odds with the setting of today’s London.

Steve McHugh’s Hellequin Chronicles has quite a few more books to it, so I may well read more of them in the future. I hope there’s more on Thomas the werewolf, as out of all of the side characters, he seemed the most interesting to me.

That done, I worked on my comic and manga backlog. I’m still enjoying the Deathnote series, although L’s asides do leave me a little lost as he second guesses second guesses that second guess second guesses. But confusion aside, I’ll continue to buy instalments anytime I need to make up a free delivery on Amazon.

January now sees me doing a complete change of pace, thanks to one of the books I got for Xmas, namely ‘What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins
by Jonathan Balcombe. It’s all about intelligence and behaviour in fish, and why they’re not just dumb, unfeeling things only suitable for being overfished for the dinner table (vegan rant over). Interestingly, the author is on the advisory panel of one of the charities I volunteer for; The Aquarium Welfare Association. Given that it’s quite long, it’ll probably take me at least until the middle of next month to read, but just a couple of chapters in and I’m already enjoying it, so that bodes well.

Jumanji!

the-1865639_1280.jpgNot hard to guess what this post is about! Yep, after the false start, where I ended up watching Star Wars due to a packed screening, I finally managed to catch my originally intended film, Jumanji.

Overall, it was an enjoyable movie, with some laugh-out-loud moments (though tbh if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen most of them). Despite it being a fun film, I still don’t get why it was more packed out than Star Wars, but each to their own I guess.

What always amazes me though is just how good an actor Dwayne Johnson is, especially when it comes to comedy. Compared to other wrestlers (or muscle-bound hulks) who have gone into acting, with varying degrees of success, he has a remarkable natural talent for it. Hopefully, he won’t quit Hollywood for a try at the White House.

Now I’m just counting down the days till Black Panther.

Happy New Year!

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So how were everyone’s festivities? Mine was the usual stuff-fest of mince pies, cakes, chocolates, nuts, misc. nibbles and what-not. I started off in Yule, where I celebrated the shortest day of the year by eating homemade vegan pizza, a rather crappy sugar-fest of a brownie pudding from Tesco, and watching a Ghost in the Shell marathon courtesy of some DVD’s I’d purchased a while ago so I could get free P&P on Amazon. It was the original anime version of the movie in a double set with Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence. Having rewatched the original anime, I realise how much better it is than the dumbed-down Hollywood version. And yes, I’m still enamoured of Batou!

I managed to burn some of the excess calories off on my cross-trainer before Xmas rocked up, which brought more food, nibbles, and something I haven’t eaten in a while (despite being vegan), namely nut roast. It was another Tesco’s offering, but unlike their travesty of a pudding, it was a lot better, although I was in danger of breaking a tooth on its overly hard nuts.

Then, shortly before the New Year, my mate and I headed off to the cinema to watch Jumanji. We also wanted to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi at some point, but figured as it was the holidays, as the film had only recently come out, and as it was Meerkat Wednesdays (2 for 1 on tickets), it would be rammed. Boy, were we wrong!

We were greeted by the desk clerk telling us that the only free seats in Jumanji were right at the front, and the next showing wasn’t for another couple of hours. Given that it had been a 45-minute drive to get to the cinema, we couldn’t exactly pop home and wait it out. It was then my mate asked about Star Wars. We were told that it too was fairly full, but there was still good seats available, so that’s what we went and saw. Turns out, the theatre was probably a little over half full by the time it started. I still can’t get my head around the fact that Jumanji was busier than Star Wars, I mean c’mon! It’s Star Wars!

I also can’t get my head around all the hate that’s been going on over the film. I thought it was great, and I liked the difference in the storyline and direction. Yes, it was quite a bit different to The Force Awakens, but let’s face it, that was just a rehash of A New Hope, complete with exploding Death Star. Also, watching the film was a little bitter-sweet, as shortly before reaching the cinema, the news reminded us it was the anniversary of Carrie Fisher’s death. I’ll be honest, I got a little teary-eyed at times when she came on screen. Personally, I’m glad it’s done well at the box office, despite the concerted effort of a bunch of nay-saying fanboys to make it bomb. Seriously, the f*ck is wrong with some people?

I saw the New Year in with yet more nibbles, a dickie tummy (apparently, rolls in the freezer can go off), and my yearly alcoholic drink (thank you Aspall Cyder).

So here’s to 2018, and to hoping the orange one doesn’t cause the extinction of the Human race!

And who knows, maybe I’ll actually get a paid job this year (I know, I know, pigs have got a better chance at flying!)

❅ S-no-w Fun (Part 2)

Continuing on from Part 1….

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During the night, whilst the snow made its merry way to the ground, I was running through multiple scenarios in my head. Being in the middle of nowhere with no transport had caused me a problem. My initial plan had been to get the National Express coach back to Exeter, but as my hotel checkout was at 10.30am, and the bus didn’t depart until 5pm, I had been looking at a long and cold day Sunday spent in a closed Bridport. Thankfully, Maya had offered to give me a lift back to Exeter on her way home, but that left me with a similar problem. She needed to leave a 9.30 am (hangover notwithstanding) which would get me into Exeter at 10.30, needing 3 and a half hours to kill before I could check into my hotel.

I toyed with the idea of saying hotel booking and shitty wi-fi be damned, and getting the train home a day early, but there was industrial action on part of the route, meaning a long bus journey between connections, with no guarantee it would be on time (especially if it was having to travel snowy roads). Then I remembered that one of the other volunteers lived in Cardiff. If I could get a lift with him to Newport, then I could avoid the bus journey, and be closer to my goal. Plan hatched, I finally fell asleep.

The talk at breakfast revolved mostly around blood-alcohol levels and snow. Word was that Birmingham airport was closed, but I checked British Rails website, and the only news they had was regarding the industrial work. The Cardiff-based volunteer was happy to drive me to Newport, so I was good to go. I bid farewell to my original lift, Maya, and got ready to head off. As I waited for my new lift, I tried to get into contact with Premier Inn to cancel my room, but after 10 minutes waisting my money on hold, I gave up. And boy am I glad they have shitty customer service, because my new lift reappeared to tell me that Arriva Trains was reporting the route I needed to take after Newport was closed due to snow. It seems British Railways was blissfully ignorant of the snowy hell that was breaking loose in south Wales.

That plan screwed, I had to scrabble back to my original plan of overnighting in Exeter and hoping things cleared. Unfortunately, lift number 2 couldn’t take me to Exeter, so on to lift number 3, who were just about to leave. They couldn’t take me to Exeter either, but they could take me past a train station that fed into the city, namely Sherborne. One rapid and bumpy car journey down narrow country lanes and I too felt like I had a hangover; at least the extremely icky stomach part. *🤢 Hurp*

Stress aside, this lift juggling worked a bit in my favour, as thanks to the car and train journey, I only had to kill an hour in Exeter train station. A leisurely pee, some internet surfing on my phone, and lunch from the WHSmith in the foyer later, and I was able to check into the hotel and fight once more with their useless wi-fi.

The following morning broke with bad news. Checking Arriva Wales’ website (NOT British Rail’s) I discovered my required route still blocked, this time by trees. Thankfully, the hotel was literally over the road from the train station. And after a panicked visit to the ticket office, I was given a new route bypassing the problems (thankfully I could use my old ticket, meaning I didn’t need to pay any extra), leaving an hour earlier, arriving back home an hour earlier, and with only one change over. I had to do a mad dash back to the hotel to get my stuff, only to find my keycard had stopped working (those cards are bloody useless!). A nice maid helped me get back into my room, I grabbed my stuff, jogged back to the train station with enough time to spare to buy my lunch, and I was back on the move once more, this time homeward-bound….

More snowy scenes 🚄❄❄ #snow #snowy #snowymountains #scenery #snowday

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The snow may have caused me plenty of problems, but boy, the countryside sure looked pretty!