Saturday 27 February 2010

Greg McQueen - Guest Post

I am delighted to welcome my first ever guest on this blog, Greg McQueen the inspiration behind 100 Stories for Haiti. As Greg is quick to point out, he hasn’t achieved this on his own, but without his initial inspiration, drive to get something done and flat out hard work this would never have happened. Over to you Greg.

Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Because today I want to talk about ebooks ... WAIT! Those of you running away screaming and waving a dog-eared copy of your favourite paperback ... STOP! Whether you're a writer or reader, you can't bury your head in pulp and ignore ebooks any longer. Digital books are here to stay.

This isn't one of those blog posts about The Death of the Paperback either. Every time I read a headline like that, I cringe. Nor will I bore you silly with lots of market analysis, or harp on about the marvels of e-ink, or write a lame comparison between the Apple iPad and the Amazon Kindle. You can read plenty of that elsewhere. What I'll share with you are my reasons for choosing Smashwords to publish the ebook edition of 100 Stories for Haiti.

The biggest reason is freedom. Smashwords aren't tied to a particular device or software platform. In fact, they have made sure that ebooks on their site are readable anywhere. Once you've bought your ebook you can load it onto your ebook reader, view it on your computer or smart phone, or even print the whole thing out if you choose.

Let's get this out of the way. If you buy a paperback, photocopy it and give it to your friends, that's piracy. There's nothing stopping you from doing it. But it is piracy nonetheless. The same applies to digital books. I am not saying this to wag my finger and nag about copyright. Everybody shares. It is human nature. If you read a book that you like, you want to share it. I lend books to friends. We all do. I borrow books from friends. But if I borrow a book that I like, I usually end up buying my own copy ... I am a book lover, it's what we do!

Smashwords understands this. That's why they don't waste time with Digital Rights Management.

Another reason for choosing Smashwords is because they make writers and publishers responsible for their own work. If I upload a book full of typos, that's my fault. But Smashwords will make it available, allowing readers to decide for themselves whether they want to buy it.

Writers and publishers on Smashwords also get to set their own price for their ebooks. Smashwords usually take a 15% commission on sales, whatever the price, leaving 85% for the writer/publisher. That's not just generous, it's fair. In the case of 100 Stories for Haiti, Mark Coker (Mr Smashwords), has agreed to waiver their usual commission. So when you purchase the ebook of 100 Stories for Haiti on Smashwords about 90% goes to charity.

I won't kid you. I'd love it to be 100%. But it isn't. As with the paperback edition, PayPal takes a cut of the money, as do banks for moving the funds around. They won't shift on that (they are banks, how else do you think they fund all those juicy bonuses?). Still, 90% to charity is pretty darn good.

So what is the cover price for the ebook edition? Well, I am glad you asked because it is another reason why I chose Smashwords. As I said before, writers/publishers can set their own prices for ebooks on Smashwords. BUT. Smashwords also give readers the chance to set their own price too. What that means is that you will be able to buy your copy of the 100 Stories for Haiti ebook edition for ... Whatever price YOU want to pay for it.

So, if you want to pay £1, that's what you pay. If you want to pay £5, that's what you pay. If you want to pay £50, that's what you pay ... with a hearty thanks for your generosity. Of course, if you want to pay nothing, you can do that too.

If you buy the paperback, feel free to grab a copy of the ebook. Pay for it if you can. But if you've forked out £11.99 + P&P for a clump of glue and paper, I'd certainly encourage you to download the ebook for free.

And while you're on the Smashwords site, click around, there's some great authors there. Some books are free, others aren't -- but Smashwords is a fantastic site for book lovers, especially those yet to discover the joy of digital books.

Thanks for allowing me to guest post, Teresa. The next stop on this blog-until-you-drop tour is Sylvia Petter's blog:

100 Stories for Haiti comes out on March the 4th, as an ebook and paperback. You can pre-order the paperback NOW:

Thank you, Greg!

Friday 26 February 2010

Crime Writing Competition

The TV channel Alibi is running a crime writing competition with HarperCollins and Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival, Harrogate.

You are given the first line of a story and have to come up with between 2000 and 5000 words and you have until May 16th to get your entries in.

Entry is online and if you go to the website there is an interview with Stuart MacBride and several videos with tips.

Read all about it here

Friday 19 February 2010

Meet Max!

Isn’t he gorgeous? Max is an eighteen month old Mastiff. He’s micro-chipped, castrated and fully vaccinated.

As you would expect, Max needs a firm hand, but tell him “No!” and he understands.

Della Galton passed on the info about Max because he is desperate for a home.
We're hoping a blog appeal will help. Someone out there may be looking for a dog just like him and you may know that someone.

Time is running out for this beautiful dog.

I grew up with big dogs and if my circumstances were different I’d have Max like a shot.

If anyone reading this knows anyone that might be able to help, then please contact
Thank you.

Thursday 18 February 2010

Brenda Carter?

Brenda - if you're reading this and you wrote a story called Past, Present and Future, please get in touch with Liz Smith as soon as poss (it's good news)! See the comment by BigFatLion under my blog post "Do Something Special" for more details!

Monday 15 February 2010

Do Something Special

Greg McQueen has done it! He had the idea and he pushed it through and now the book is available for pre-order.

100 Stories for Haiti. As it says on the cover, all proceeds to the victims of the Haiti earthquake.

Please buy it if you can. Just click on the 100 Stories for Haiti link on the right. The book is being published by Bridge House Publishing and will cost £11.99 plus postage and packing and remember ALL proceeds go to helping the people of Haiti.

Thank you.

Sunday 14 February 2010

New Moon - Turn your money over!

No this isn’t a hold up. I don’t mean you have to turn your money over to me, but of course I won’t stop you if you really want to.

I know my picture isn’t of a new moon, but it’s the only decent moon picture I have, taken by my son Rob, and I rather like it.

When asked to do a bio recently, it occurred to me that I could say I was the daughter of a witch and a sailor. Although the witchery part comes down on my mum’s maternal line, my grandad, Pop taught me a thing or two.

One evening he asked if I had any money in my purse. As I remember it was a little beaded thing with torn grubby lining and a zip – and it was empty. So he gave me a couple of coins and told me to put them in my pocket. Well he was a generous chap was Pop and I wasn’t one to disobey, so in they went.

Then he took me up the steps right to the top of the back garden and explained that as it was a new moon, I should turn my money over in my pocket. Turning over your silver coins in your pocket under the new moon is said to ensure your pockets won’t be empty for the coming month.

I had forgotten about this until recently when it came back to me out of the blue as memories often do. Will I be turning my money over? Well, why not?

The new moon is a good time for starting new projects too. They will grow along with the moon.

When you think that the moon controls the tides and our bodies consist almost entirely of water, then it isn’t too hard to believe that the moon has some influence over us.

And apart from all that, it’s beautiful isn’t it? A lovely sight in the sky whether it is a slender crescent or a full silver orb.

Whatever you are celebrating, Chinese New Year (year of the Metal Tiger), Valentine’s Day or the new moon - have a good one.

Friday 12 February 2010

There and back again

School has been a lot on my mind recently and as so often happens there has been a knock on effect in the memory department.

For one lesson we were asked to bring in two newspapers. A tabloid and a broadsheet. I think I chose the Sun and the Telegraph. We then had to find the same news story in each and write about the different methods of reporting.

In another lesson we were told to take a subject we felt strongly about – I chose fox hunting – and do two write ups about it in the style of a newspaper article, one by someone pro and the other by someone anti.

It was an interesting exercise and although I am and always have been anti fox hunting I stepped into the mind of someone who is for it. It didn’t change my opinion at all, but I was flattered when the teacher asked me which was my view as she hadn’t been able to tell from the pieces I’d written.
She may well have been humouring me. She knew very well my opinion on animal cruelty since it was the subject of all of my class talks.

For the past few days we’ve been treated to a variety of stories about the weather, ranging from “We’re all doomed” to “There may be a few snow flurries” – well okay, I’m exaggerating, but you know what I mean.

During the January snow one newspaper reported that we were on the verge of a mini ice-age while further down the page they told us that this summer is expected to be the hottest on record.

So where is all this leading? There and back again to see how far it is? Maybe.

When I write a story I don’t consciously choose whose voice to use. It’s just there. Once I start wondering who should be telling the story it turns down the road to nowhere.

I suppose in my usual meandering way what I am trying to say is to get it down as it comes to you and let your creative mind do its job without interference from you.

At the moment I am on the road to somewhere so I’d best get back to it before someone comes along and overtakes me.

Wednesday 10 February 2010

Mr Wallace - An Inspiring Teacher

I had some wonderful teachers and one of the best was Mr Wallace. Thanks to him my last year at primary school was probably the happiest of my school life and during my time in his class I actually looked forward to going to school.

Considering I had on occasion been dragged into school kicking and screaming, that’s saying something.

As a third year at primary school, I went on a camping trip to a dew soaked field in Danbury in Essex.

While there, we were introduced to Mr Wallace during a sing-song round the camp fire.

He was lovely – fun, funny, bearded (I’ve always liked men with beards) and as far as I recall he used to wear a lot of brown – brown trousers, brown check jackets. We were told at camp that year that he would be joining our school in the September and I was going to be in his class. Yay!

He had a large box full of pictures at the front of the class. We’d pick one out and write a story about it. He also had a box full of things to do – you’d stick in your hand and pull out a plum. One of my plums was to find out what I could about Socrates and write about him. Daft the things you remember isn’t it?

He used to encourage us to bring music in – I brought my mum’s Scheherazade LP in - and he’d play the music while we wrote whatever came into our minds. He was a great encourager of imagination and he had a wicked sense of humour.

Remembering him has reminded me about using music for inspiration. Try it. Close your eyes and let your imagination soar.

Friday 5 February 2010

Folly Folly

I was thinking about a teacher who came out of retirement to teach my class. He was ancient, even older than my grandad.

In my memory he looks like Professor Stanley Unwin and do you know what, on reflection there is probably some childish logic in that. He did speak a kind of Basic Engly Twentyfido, but I do not recall the experience with deep joy and my teacher certainly didn’t have the lovely smile of Stanley Unwin.

On further reflection he actually looked more like the teacher in Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”. Those two images could hardly be more different could they?

He wore his trousers high and was constantly pulling them right up to his armpits. The trousers would soon descend back down to his waist, so he’d hitch them up again.

I found this fascinating since my mum was always telling me off for hitching my knickers up and yet here was this man who was plenty old enough to know better doing the same sort of thing.

Sometimes he’d stand with one foot on a chair. Perhaps this stopped his trousers sliding down quite so quickly. Who knows?

He was tall and thin and although I only had him as a teacher for a few months he made a lasting impression on me.

Wasn’t the trousers or the foot on the chair that I remember most vividly. He drummed a piece of knowledge into us as if it was something of vital importance. I was about eight at the time and when someone talked about something important, I damn well listened.

“Library is spelt the same way as February – it is libruary – lie-brew-arry. Repeat after me . . . lie – brew – arry. It is spelt exactly as it is said. Libruary.”

I won’t embarrass myself by telling you just how many years it took me to learn the correct spelling.

Ah, they don’t make teachers like that any more. Or do they? My daughter had one who crossed out her spelling of skates and replaced it with scates. Sigh.

Thursday 4 February 2010

My Life, My Death, My Choice

To quote Sir Terry Pratchett.

I hope he’d forgive me for pinching that line as my post title, but I was so inspired by his lecture and those six words say so much.

I have always believed very strongly that human beings should have the right to decide when to die, yet in our culture prolonging life at whatever cost seems to be the norm.

And I mean cost as in the price of human suffering, not financial terms.

There are several instances I could go into when life should have been ended painlessly with dignity and compassion instead of the painful, frightening, confusing and pointlessly drawn out end inflicted even after all hope had gone - but this isn’t going to be a long post about human suffering.

Those who are anti-assisted death seem to think it will somehow become compulsory, but the whole point is choice.

I would never allow an animal that I loved to go through what some people I have known and loved have had to endure in their last days, weeks, even years of hell. And if I did, I would almost certainly be liable to prosecution for cruelty and rightly so.

I respect the views of those who believe that their life and death is in the hands of whatever god they believe in, but equally they should respect the views of those of us who don’t share their beliefs.

Long live Sir Terry – but allow him to write his own ending.