23 April 2012

Happy Birthday... ZX Spectrum!

It's not often I get all nostalgic, but today is the 30th birthday of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum.

For those among us who have Smartphones carrying enough oomph to control a moon landing, the ZX Spectrum was the first affordable, family-friendly computer system available in the UK. It was about the size of a paperback book and had rubber keys. We didn't buy the first but got the second edition in all its glory - with 48kb memory no less. Yes, that is no mistype.

However, computer system as a description could be viewed as a bit rich. It was, basically, the keyboard. To make the thing work you needed a television as a monitor and a tapedeck, that's audio tapedeck, so as to upload the games. And word processing software.

Yes, we might have been purchasing it as a Christmas gift for our primary age son, but as soon as I saw it in action I knew I could write a novel on it, rubber keys and all. And I did. Hostage of the Heart took its first tentative steps via the ZX Spectrum.

Games? The one I truly remember was Harrier Attack where you had to get a Sea Harrier off the deck of an aircraft carrier, take it on bombing mission, under fire, to an island and get back safely before the plane's fuel ran out. We won't go into how many times I totalled the aircraft on the carrier's conning tower as I lifted off. Let's just say it was easier to write novels.

Ah, happy days...

16 April 2012

We’d like you to come on the radio…

It’s the sort of telephone call that sets the heartbeat rising and the palms sweating. ‘Of course,’ I hear a calm, professional voice say. ‘I’d be delighted.’ In my other ear is a fearful woman screaming ‘Are you mad?!

But of course, writers are. I’m on a deadline with my own work (mornings) and a deadline with client work (afternoons), but the entire day disintegrated because of eight minutes on air. I was asked out of the blue because the radio station, local BBC – let me not suggest that this was national network – was airing figures from Nielson Bookscan that UK paperback sales had dropped 25% in the last year. Was it due to the rise of ebooks? They needed someone who read them and the writer they had initially called had passed on my name.

I thought I’d be chatting with a small group, but no, it was me and a bookshop manager. Oh dear. Clearly this was expected to be a spectator, or at least a listener, sport. I spent the entire morning pulling together figures, sounding out other authors who had ebooks both via indie upload and publisher’s upload, and drinking far more tea than was good for me.

Tuning in to the station fifteen minutes before it rang so as to get a feel for the presenter’s stance, I found myself listening to a heated argument about selling cigarettes in brown paper packaging in an attempt to cut teenage smoking rates. Is this what I was letting myself in for? Before my slot came an exchange about the deaths of race horses at the country’s prestigious meetings which was so vitriolic that it extended beyond its time. Did people really want all this confrontation across their lunch hour?

I decided they didn’t, or at least I didn’t and, while my shadow was sitting in a corner with her head in her hands, I started playing the interview for laughs. And we did have a laugh, mostly at the presenter's expense, which is good radio, I guess. Me and the bookshop manager got on very well. Why wouldn’t we? We both want our readers to enjoy their purchased books, whatever form those books take. That’s what it’s all about, enjoyment.

14 April 2012

Colours to light up the World

I love this time of the year. Some days the heating is on full blast, others we are able to sit outside to eat breakfast. But no matter whether it is bright sunshine or ominous cloud and Arctic wind, there are the spring flowers to light up our lives.

This photograph is part of our garden, just in front of the patio. Beneath the yellow blaze of marsh marigolds a pond is teeming with tadpoles. Ah...

13 April 2012

Featured At...

Well, Friday 13th seems to be the day to embrace.

Beneath The Shining Mountains is the Featured Book at Guerrilla Wordfare. Thanks to Lizzy Ford for hosting. Question: how many print books did this novel sell in its original format?

Reading A Writer's Mind: Exploring Short Fiction - First Thought to Finished Story is the focus of a long interview on writing and associated subjects across on Why Did You Write That Thanks to Peter Lewis for asking such searching questions.

Dead Men's Finger's received a double accolade in the shape of a blog feature  'New Western Writer Comes To Town' on IcyStoneBlackstone.com and a cracking in-depth 5 star review from Toni V Sweeney.

Thanks to all who hosted. If you have time, do stop by to have a look or leave a comment.

8 April 2012

A New Page

After a six week lay-off to attend to family commitments, it is time to re-assess The Plan and move back into gear.

The Bull At The Gate, the sequel to Torc of Moonlight, has been resurrected and I'm going through Chapter 2. It's set in York, a city with more history per square metre than London, and in keeping with Torc the story is based in very real streets. With Torc I spent a lot of time in Hull walking the areas I was using and taking photographs. I did the same in York, but this time there is the added bonus of StreetView from Googlemaps. It is already proving a boon, and saving me sifting through digital photographs which should be filed far better than they are. [Slapped wrist]

But to start me off I have a spotlight for my Mediaeval Historical Hostage of the Heart across at Historical Fiction Excerpts What, exactly, has the Lady Dena been given to drink? And what will happen if she doesn't?