Monthly Reads – April 2018

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April has been a different month reading-wise. On one hand, there’s been my ‘normal’ reading, and I’ve been ploughing through my recent ebook freebie, Golden Age,
by James Maxwell (which has been a good read so far), plus my usual X-Men comic (which brought the storyline, which began pretty much when I started reading them again, to a conclusion). On the other hand, I’ve been doing some rather more ‘practical’ reading….

I have come to realise that being stuck in the middle of rural Wales, with limited public transport options, is not conducive to finding work, travelling to job interviews (trains are effing expensive in this country!), or having a social life. So, with that in mind, I have decided to bite the bullet, learn to drive, and actually get a car.

I did take proper driving lessons many decades ago. I even got as far as taking (and passing) the theory test. Unfortunately, I never found myself in a position where I could a) afford a car, b) afford to run a car, and/or c) have some place to put said car if I did have one. Therefore, I never took the practical, despite my instructor telling me I was good to go.

However, I’ve now come to the realisation that in order to gain some semblance of independence, it’s a case of having to burn money to make money. Getting a car means getting a job. Getting a job means being able to afford my own place (even if it’s just a small rented flat someplace). Getting a flat means getting a cat (or 6!). Considering my mature age, I shouldn’t be living in the spare room of my mate’s house, and be reliant on him to drive me to the supermarket. The whole situation isn’t helping my confidence much either.

Somehow, I don’t think this learning-to-drive thing is going to be a breeze. I’m not a confident driver by any means; I struggle with gear-changing, and have the attention span of a gnat. To cover the former, I’m planning on learning to drive in, then purchasing, an automatic car, so I don’t have to worry about getting stymied by the gear stick (I don’t do gears!). The latter will hopefully improve with experience.

This has meant some extensive reading this month covering the highway code, traffic signs, plus the Official DVSA Guide to Driving – the essential skills, as I prep myself for getting behind the wheel again.

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Guess what make of car I want to get!

#DevAfter30 is one thing, #DrivingAfter30 is going to be something else entirely…!

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Monthly Reads – March 2018

20180315_112716.jpgDespite it being a busy month getting my novels prepped to turn them into paperbacks, and getting slightly addicted to playing the SIMS 4 Mobile, I managed to do some reading.

It took (literally) an entire month, but I eventually got through the coffee-table book Blue Planet II. It was a good read, certainly not the usual action-packed fiction fare I’m used to, but it was an interesting one nonetheless. As you may have guessed from the title, it covers the recent Blue Planet II TV series, and the book is full of glossy images of marine life, with short pieces on their intriguing behaviours.

There were new snippets of information provided too, at least I think they’re new, as I don’t remember hearing them being mentioned on the show. If that is the case, this book both compliments and expands on the aired shows, so it’s definitely worth getting if you were a fan of the series.

I wasn’t sure what I’d be reading next, but as it happened, I got my next Kindle freebie from IHG Rewards Club. Disappointingly, they hadn’t changed their book line-up, so I had to choose the fantasy novel I didn’t choose last time, namely Golden Age (The Shifting Tides Book 1) by James Maxwell. If the IHG Rewards Club is going to carry on sticking to the limited choice of books, come next time, I’ll either have to pick something out of my usual go-to genre, or give it a miss. Time will tell.

Anyway, the rest of the month has/will be me catching up on graphic novels and magazines. Yep, I’m one of these people who buys a magazine, flips through it, but never really reads the articles. So to save waste, I’m making sure I don’t leave them collecting dust on my floor. And once I’ve made a space, I can start on Golden Age.

Big News!

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I can finally reveal why I’ve been silent here for so long, and the reason is, I’ve been hard at work prepping my novels for release in paperback form. All you old skool book lovers (and in all honesty, I don’t blame you if you are) can now get your hands on a physical copy of my first two novels! Woo-hoo!!

And boy, has it been a labour of love…or should that just be ‘been a labour’…to get them ready. First, I updated the ebook editions, giving them another thorough once-over with various grammar/spell-checkers, plus giving in, and introducing the Oxford comma to the text.

Next was the preparing of the covers for Amazon CreateSpace. The cover for Warriors Made of Glass wasn’t too much of an issue, as I’d saved it with excessively high dpi for the ebook. It was A Candle Amongst the Stars which was the bugger, as its size and dpi was the minimum for an Amazon ebook; therefore, too low for the cover, so I had to go about manipulating it in GIMP to try and up the count without distorting the image noticeably. Hopefully, it’ll come out alright in print.

Then there was the formatting of the manuscripts themselves, and I used Amazon’s Kindle Create Add-in for Microsoft Word to automate the process. The app is in Beta, and though it streamlines the process nicely, it crashed A LOT, so if you’re thinking of using it for your own books, save your work regularly! Again Warriors Made of Glass behaved itself, and I got it exported as a pdf pretty quickly. A Candle Amongst the Stars, not so much. For some reason it wouldn’t behave when it came to page numbering, choosing to start at page 2 instead of 1. After several hours of swearing, I found a simple (typical!) solution (I manipulated the footer by hand) and managed to export the pdf before it changed its mind.

So there we have it. My novels are now in printed format. You can find them on Amazon here: A Candle Amongst the Stars and here: Warriors Made of Glass. The links take you to Amazon UK, but they’ll be available from your national site too.

Also, I’m planning to do a freebie offer on the ebook versions soon in celebration, so stay tuned for that!

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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❅ 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!

❅ S-no-w Fun (Part 1)

For the first time in forever, I had a Xmas party to attend, namely with the organisation I volunteer for; MARINElife. However, as their main base of operations is in Bridport, that was where the party was organised (in a hotel on the coast of Eype), and as I’m based near Caernarfon, that meant a long train journey, plus some hotel juggling, in order for me to be able to attend. That was no issue, albeit rather expensive, but then, for the first time in around seven years, it S.N.O.W.E.D! Literally the day I begin to make my way down south it starts, and I’m there, waiting on Bangor station, watching as the big flakes head on down to the ground. Marvelous!

Still, I carried on regardless, and headed on down to Exeter for my first stop-over. Shropshire is when things got a little dicey, and I sat on the train worrying that I was about to get stranded in the middle of nowhere…

…only to see green fields again 10 minutes out of Shrewsbury. Phew!

I made it safely to Exeter, and spent the night in an overpriced Premier Inn room (I had to pay double as they were short of rooms and I was put up in a disabled room), battling with their joke of an internet connection. Seriously, what company in their right mind toggles their wifi speed to 500K and forces you to pay out for a 2MB connection? Not only that, but the connection kept repeatedly cutting out on my laptop, forcing me to do a hard restart every 5-10 minutes in order to reconnect (cause Windows 10 is damned if I’m going to be able to toggle a switch to reconnect like I can with my android phone and tablet).

One frustrating, and very cold night later, I was off to Bridport, courtesy of an early National Express coach. There I got picked up by one of the MARINElife lot, who dropped me off at the hotel so I could get ready for the night’s festivities.

Fast forward to the evening, and I have a major problem. I work for MARINElife through the medium of the internet, I communicate with them by email, and so I was waiting for a group of people amongst whom I only knew the face of one; the Chairman (I’d pretty much forgotten what my pickup looked like by this point). The problem was compounded by the fact that the hotel was hosting a second company’s party night, so there was no way for me to know who belonged to which group. So there I was, sat on my own, nursing my apple juice, and starting to have anxiety-filled introvert regrets.

However, turns out this ignorance worked both ways. My pick up, who had briefly seen me bundled up in coat and bobble hat, didn’t recognise me sat in the corner, all scrubbed-up in my party gear. Subsequently, she, and the chairman (who had arrived at some point, but had managed to avoid the bar where I was), went up to my room to be met with silence. They hammered on the door to no avail, and even went as far as getting an emergency key to gain entry to check I wasn’t dead. Why it never occurred to them to text me I’ll never know. Anyway, the Chairman finally made his way into my line of sight, but it wasn’t until I stood in front of him and announced myself, did anyone twig to who I was.

Confusion done, the party finally got underway. I got to meet a few of the main volunteers, plus our organisation’s patron, Maya Plass who, funnily enough, did the same course at Plymouth uni as me, just a few years behind me.

As the only vegan in the group, I got my own set menu, which varied in quality. The starter of roast almond and broccoli soup was rather nice, and the main course of roasted nuts in tomato sauce on a roasted courgette was odd but tasty. However, the chef clearly lost inspiration when it came to my dessert, which was ‘fresh fruit salad’, i.e. a bowl of chopped fruit. It wasn’t even dressed up with a scoop of vegan ice cream, or a drizzle of vegan cream, but as I was hungry, I ate the lot, and it’s remarkable how filling plain fruit can be.

These days I don’t drink (other than a toast on New Year’s Eve), so socialising as a sober, painfully shy introvert is hard going. I did a lot of listening, which was difficult as all the noise and words meld together into a barely penetrable wall of sound. I didn’t dance. A few years back I would have (I used to love going to clubs and dancing to trance and dance music), but the years have chipped away at my confidence, and the dance floor now looks a scary place to be. Not that it mattered too much, as the disco music was pretty much all 70’s stuff, and not my kind of jam. I did relent to peer-pressure at one point and managed half a song on the dance floor last thing, before eventually calling it a night just before 1am, with an early morning ride with a soon-to-be very hungover Maya to look forward to.

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And all the while, it’s snowing in the Midlands and South Wales….

Thor-some Sauce

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I managed to go and see Thor: Ragnarok the other night, and boy was it awesome. The laughs came thick and fast, and there was plenty of action. The Thor series definitely went back to its roots, but this time without the tepid love action courtesy of Jane’s inclusion, which I always felt was a bit weak and shoe-horned in.

Honestly, I would have given Thor: Ragnarok 10 out of 10 on IMDB if it weren’t for two minor things. First, Cate Blanchett’s Hela was rather hammy (why do women badies have to chew up the stage so much?). Secondly, Bruce Banner was more ‘bumbling’ than he has been in the past. That being said, if I could’ve, I would’ve given this a 9.5 as these are pretty minor gripes compared to the film as a whole, which was fantastic.

Overall, I think this is one of the best entries into the MCU, beaten only by the original Avengers film. Actually, they may even be level-pegging. So if you haven’t seen this instalment, do so. You won’t be disappointed!