Monday, 10 April 2017

Find the avid reader

[Image source]

I often give out free copies of my books, ebooks, and especially of  my audiobook, because gave me so many free credits to give away. Usually, I send out an email or a message to one of my groups offering these freebies and many people will accept them, and I will never hear anything from them again until it is time for the next free offering.

With audible you can give a gift of your book using the codes they give you and you can actually keep track of who downloads the audiobook. So oftentimes, I give away an audiobook, only to see it languishing forever in the audible author gift page. (And sometimes, I do think, 'well, why did you ask for a book if you were never going to download it?).

But recently one of my friends has really surprised me. He seems to be an Avid Reader.

Not only does he download the books I offer, or even the snippets of work-in-progress, but he actually reads them, or listens to them.

And what is a million times better than that: when I casually mentioned (downright demanded) that he could leave me a review if he liked (or else), he did!

To an author, someone like that is worth their weight in gold. I'm not joking, whatever he weighs, he could sit himself down on a pair of scales and he'd be worth that, multiplied by the most recent price of gold.*

The reason is the feedback.

It is not just because someone gets a free book. It is not even that they then read it. It is the combination of all 3 - the holy trinity of the author's aspirations: agree to accept the book, read the book, leave feedback or a review. (It's also what every good dinner party host wants from their guests: that they agree to participate. That they participate. And then that they leave at the end).

So, as an author, I urge you to find that avid reader amongst your friends and treasure them, and nurture them by giving them everything you write.

You're doing them a big favour, honest :)

*So, say the average man weighs 70kg. Today's gold price is £32,248 per kilo. So that makes:

70*32428 = 2269960
So, Two million, two hundred and sixty nine thousand nine hundred and sixty pounds

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Author Resources

Premade, really good covers to buy very cheaply!

No affiliation with any resources listed here.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

NYC Flash Fiction Challenge, Round 2: Alien Addiction

Alien Addiction

Alien Phoebe wants to fit in with her human husband, but the other humans are not on her side. Desperate for work, she takes a job as an exhibit in a petting zoo, but will this be her sanctuary or her downfall?

“Look! It’s eating an apple!”
I freeze. The slice of apple suspended in limbo, half way between my mouth and the plate.
I can’t see who’s talking, since they are behind me, but I imagine a gorilla in a plaid shirt, grubby white t-shirt over a beer belly, and a cap with some humorous slogan telling the world he’s ‘The Boss’.
“What? Let me see! Move out of the way!” The second voice is higher, thinner. Scrawnier. Why can’t they all be like my Martin?
I exhale and the steam shoots from my nose, then swirls lazily in the November air, released from the warm confines of my lungs to wander among the cold molecules of the outside world.
It is bitterly cold. But inside my long, brown robes, the sweat trickles down my back in itchy lines like marching ants.
I can’t react. The advisor said, ‘Don’t let them see that they can hurt you’. Then he patted me on the shoulder – short business-like taps really – and ushered me out of the warm confines of his office to mingle with the cold strangers of the outside world.
Making money by sitting in a compound doing nothing for five days a week under a sign that says, ‘Space aliens on display’. What a glamorous job! But three years after graduating as an engineer I was still looking for work. Then, when Martin, my human husband, lost his job, well… anything which pays is fine by me.
I feel something hit my back. They throw anything: cans, half-eaten sandwiches, rocks if they can.
“Hey! Brat! Lookee here what I got!”
No! I can smell that sickly sweetness, even from here. I close my eyes. Breathe! That makes it worse. Those warm, sticky bananas call to me. Everything about Earth proved totally habitable to my people after the disaster. But a banana bread loaf proved to be dangerously addictive. Some thought it was the combination of glucose and potassium. No-one knew for sure. It was a joke. A deadly joke played by the galaxy on my dying race.
The two men aren’t going to give up.
I turn slowly and glare – not at them, but at the bread in the big one’s hands.
“Look at its eyes!” the scrawny one says.
“What we have here, is a female of species, I do believe!” The big gorilla has the hairiest arms I’ve ever seen on a human and a way of elongating his vowels which makes me feel sick.
“Come on girly!” He wafts the bread towards me.  I know my eyes must have changed to purple by now. It’s a dead giveaway. The purple of desire. They will feed me that bread and I’ll be dead in a couple of days. Something in it wrecks what humans might call my kidneys.
I start to move toward it. My limber arms clamber easily up the vertical walls of my enclosure, and over the thick, steel fence. It is really there to keep the humans out. I hear someone scream far away.
“Oh no!” Scrawny yells in mock panic. “It’s coming for the bread! Help!”
Under my robes I am six feet of dense muscle. If I wanted, I could throw both these bozos over the fence with one hand. But my full attention is on that bread. I glare at it like a vampire in a B movie glares at a neck. I’m hypnotised by it. There is a throbbing in my head and my vision has narrowed to a single point of focus. It is how we hunt - how we hunted, when we still had a planet.
I could spring up… I could…
“Phoebe, it’s me! Turn your head, honey! Look at me!”
The teeth of the gorilla are stained red for some reason.  I see them as he grins and breaks off a chunk of the bread to toss in my direction.
“No!” Martin screams - a strangled sound of desperation. All visitors are searched when they come in – or I would never have agreed to do this!
“Honey! Remember why we opened this petting zoo! “
The piece of bread would have landed close to my foot, but one of the guinea pigs, which we let roam freely, darts out from under a bush and runs off with it.
“Come on, honey!” Gorilla says, elongating the final word – hurnee. “Come and get this lovely bread. You know you want it.”
What do they want? Do they want to kill me? Capture me? The part of my brain which is still functioning catches sight of a hint of black metal under the plaid shirt. ‘Kill me’ it is then. This is a group which wants us gone. They want every last one of us off the planet.
My breathing is ragged. I’m losing. In a second, the ‘me’ part of my brain will be gone and these two will be piles of minced meat lying on the ground, one, indistinguishable from the other.
I jump.
*          *          *
There was a deafening bang, followed by screeches and calls from animals nearby. I can feel rough concrete digging into my elbows and a heavy weight on my chest. I open my eyes.
Heaving sobs escape from my mouth. Martin’s face is gazing up at me, his eyes don’t move. My right hand is lying in something hot. Without looking I know that it is human blood from the smell of the iron.
“Martin!” My cry is savage. The emotion of loss is unbearable to me and my body has gone limp and heavy. The volition of staying upright is lost. What is the point if he is gone?
I hear people shouting around me and the zoo workers calling into their radios. What is the use? Between the smells of the gunshot and the iron, there is yet another smell. A sticky sweetness.

I turn my head. Just within reach, I see the slice of banana bread.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2016

This is a story written for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge, Round 1.
It has to be 1000 words or less and my prompts were:
Location: Boxing Gym
Item: Neon sign
Genre: Ghost story


“I don't want to be here! I've been sent here!”
This is new. Something happening.
The guy is built like a wardrobe, but he's hiding his size, hunching his shoulders. From my neon sign, I can see his t-shirt stretch as his muscles strain in unnatural positions.
Joe is taping him, but he's fighting that.
Fighting at the wrong time, my friend, save it for the ring.
He pulls his other hand away as Joe reaches for it – nearly socking Joe a belter. But Old Joe grabs it as if it is a dandelion seed he has plucked out of thin air.
Old Joe is not 'Joe'. He is Stuart. But we call him Joe, to his face and behind his back. Sounds return to the gym and it carries on as ever.

My neon sign has been, 'We are the hampions' for as long as I can remember. That sums up this place: No-one has ever fixed that 'C', and it is true, the joint is full of 'hampions' – also-rans, 'could 'a beens'. The sign is where I live, mostly. It is my haunt.

This is an old-style gym. But it is all I have known, so who am I to say? I don't remember much. I measure the length of my time here by the smells. What? You thought a ghost has no sense of smell? Ectoplasm is not all we deal in. Yucktoplasm, has nothing on the smells that used to hang around. Like the leather, seasoned and pounded. Once, to make a leather punch bag, and then forever buffeted and belted. Biffed until all the life was gone and then punched until even the ghost of the bag gave up its creaking protests. Like me. The fresh blood and old sweat are the same since Victorian times. My times.

But now there's more smells: Sometimes there is a woman. Even when boxing, she brings the aroma of flowers. Even some of the men smell like flowers now, sometimes.

Old Joe used to box. I know he is blind in his right eye. It is a scar wrought from battle: His sparring partner. That man was tiny. He barely came up to Joe's chest, and Joe is not big. But he fought like a strong little rat. Sneaky, looking for the chance to get one in. I still remember that crack of canvas as Joe hit the floor, and then the spray of sweat around him like so much holy rain.

We never saw him again. Can't even remember his name, but he took Joe's eye.

The new guy has been sparring for a month. I'm not sure he loves the smell of the ring like I do. He's scared of the ropes, scared of the middle. He cowers like a new born kitten if anyone comes near him, shiny with sweat. When they get shiny like that, they're slippery. If you dodge at the right time, the punch loses its impact. Come on Ben! That's common sense. There was another guy here for the first couple of weeks. Dark. You could tell he wanted to be ignored. Big, black coat he never took off. Kept a keen eye on Ben.

He reminded me of my Master back when this was a proper house; same eagle stare. That fly-ring followed Ben around for two weeks and never left till he was done training.Then one day, he stopped coming. But I'm glad Ben came back.

They call him Bendy Ben. Everyone gets a nickname if they hang around long enough. Behind his back, they call him Wendy. I wonder what they would call me, if they could see me?

Benjamin Fry. Its a proper, name.

A solid name for a soft little giant. He cowers. He's only just learned to hold his gloves up to protect his gurning gob. And he holds them as if he is the stooge in a circus knife show. But, the poor sod forgets to punch. He forgets to move. He gets hit so much, targets have formed on his chest and his sides. But its the bit when he closes his eyes – just before he gets hit, that tickles me. First time I saw it, I nearly fell out of my sign! I had to dangle on the 'C' till I remembered I could float. So I floated over to the ring.

George was his sparring partner that day. George was going for it, because George is in the semi-finals of the Nationals. He needs to practice and he's good, (still a hampion).

Poor George wanted to get it over with. Two men, closely matched for age, size, reach, power, and one of them standing, hiding behind his gloves with his eyes closed.

I saw George shrug! Then his steely eyes got a dead square look: He had to practice, and all he had was Bendy Ben. He jabbed, then I saw him pouring all his power into that right hook. Ben had no chance.

In that moment between one breath and the next, I remember.

My dress was too long. I said I di'n't want it. But the Master's daughter was getting a new one and I should have this pretty one. And it killed me.

I fell down the attic stairs carrying a tray for Sarah. I heard her yell my name: “Mabel!”.

The punch lands. George's right hook: full of rocks. It would have hit Ben's gloves, but for the first time in his life, he dodges. The punch hits him square between the eyes and I hear a crack like a whip and then a sickening squelch.

There's nowhere...

I can't...

* * *

They're shaking me. I open my eyes. Old Joe's pockmarked nose is so near my face that he looks like an old, inquisitive anteater.

Joe looks away. “He's all right, get some water. Someone call an ambulance.”

My ears are pounding...

I raise my hand.

My hand.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Free Short Story - The Stupid Prince

  Once upon a time, there was a prince. He was handsome and kind and everybody loved him. He was the only prince of the kindgom. 

  This may not have been a bad thing. For many people it is a very good thing and many a great career has started off this way, but unfortunately for our prince, there was one major problem.
  The prince was very, very stupid. He never understood when people said complex things to him and he struggled with his tutors at his studies, which he found difficult and extremely taxing.
  The people whispered behind his back. 

This prince is too stupid! How is he going to rule us if he can not even understand the complicated matters of state? Our kingdom will fall!
  It was not the prince's fault. He was extremely good looking and people generally loved him every where he went – every where he went, that is, until he opened his mouth and tried to have a conversation with them. Then they discovered how stupid he was.
I want to be loved for my brain and not just my looks, he thought sadly to himself.
No one will take me seriously or listen to anything that I have to say if they just all think that I am stupid. I need to do something about this.
  The prince went to his father, the king. The king felt pity for his son and hired some of the best brains in the country. They tutored him in the languages, logic, mathematics, history, the geography of his realm and astronomy. They taught him everything they themselves knew, until there was not a tutor or teacher around who had not taught him something about something.
  Six years later, the prince went to his father and said, “Father, I have learned everything about everything. I know all there is that these tutors of mine know themselves. Test me on anything you wish.”
  The king was pleased with his son. He held up his hand, in which he had hidden a gold and diamond ring.
  “Tell me, oh my most educated offspring, what do I hold in my hand?”
  The prince set to work. He used all the teachings he had been taught to try and find out what could be in the hand. He used his learning in astronomy and in mathematics. He used his knowledge of local geography and of the history of the realm and deduced that the king was holding up something that contained a stone. 

  He used herbal medicine and sports science and real science and astrology and he discovered that the thing in the king's hand also contained some metal and had a hole through the middle.
 “Now, my special child, tell me what it is that I hold?” asked the king eagerly.
The prince stood up from the desk where his papers lay scattered; where his workings had taken him the best part of a week. The tutors gathered round eagerly, some of them rubbing their hands, keen to show off their handiwork in producing such an amazing miracle and ready to receive the bounteous bounty that the king would undoubtedly bestow.
  The prince looked at them all with gratitude and humility. 

 "From this day forwards, I will not be known as the stupid prince, I shall be known as the Prince of Knowledge, or skill and eloquence. My kingdom will be one of teaching, where many learned men come to establish their schools and universities. For your majesty! Father! What you hold in your hand is...”
(everyone held their breath)
 A grinding wheel!
 Everyone looked at each other? “What did he say?” whispered the Grand Vizier to the mathematician.
“He said a grinding wheel,” said the mathematician in an annoyed tone. “A wheel for grinding flour. Our learned prince thinks that the mighty sultan has hands so large that he can hide a grinding wheel in them.”
“Oh well,” said the Grand Vizier. “We tried. But you can't polish a turd.”

Find the avid reader

[Image source] I often give out free copies of my books, ebooks, and especially of  my audiobook, because gave...