The ancient art of accidental preservation

This is a follow-up to the blog written on May 12th titled, “Did the written word make us who we are?”

It’s a catchy little title for a blog that discussed the advent of the written word, and the invention of the printing press—I know, I know, fascinating stuff. You can read it for yourself below:

This post has a solid tie-in to the original. One of the immediate unforeseen problems the printing press caused was a shortage of binding materials. Suddenly everybody—well those who could read I guess—wanted access to more and more books.

The answer lay all around. Hundreds of thousands of those antiquated, fallen-out-of-fashion parchments. Like an old iPhone 6 nobody wanted, manuscripts were suddenly yesterday’s technology. Those old stiff pieces of sheep or goat skin with handwritten and hand-illuminated gospels, poems, Roman laws, and religious scripts, now all outdated and no longer needed. A wonderful and free resource, perfect for the 16th Century bookbinder busy assembling the new cutting-edge technology of the printed word.

Many works dating back to the 6th Century and before were destroyed in this manner. Scholars have known about the practice for a long time, but it wasn’t until recently that they had the technology to read what was hidden within the bindings.

Computational imaging and signal processing advances opened up a whole new way to read these texts

Mark Walton, senior scientist at the Northwestern University-Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies (NU-ACCESS).

The book that initially caught the researcher’s eye and made it worthy of further investigation was a 1537 copy of “Works and Days” by the Greek poet Hesiod, a writer who likely lived during the same period as Homer. It was evident that the spine and inside cover were composed of much earlier parchment.

What was revealed in the spine and manuscript inside the cover was a sixth-century Roman law code with notes referencing the church’s canon law.

OK—so that one turned out to be pretty dull to everybody except scholars of 6th Century Roman bye-laws, but, believe me, those guys, they are losing their shit right now.

What is important is that thousands and thousands of these manuscripts were re-purposed in this manner, and who knows what wealth of history and information lies hidden in the spines of all the books printed in the 16th and 17th centuries? What secrets, scandals, and schemes that could have been lost forever are waiting for modern scholars to unveil?

Somehow, inadvertently, all of this history that might have otherwise been lost, burnt, or otherwise destroyed has become assimilated and preserved into the structure of the first modern books. And only now, through 21st-century technology has it once again become retrievable.

Probably just me and Greta, but we think that’s pretty cool. Right?

I would love it if you could find time to follow the blog or give me a like. A share would be amazing and always feel free to give my own books a read on Amazon Kindle Unlimited.

The essence of our ancestors

A line in a book I am reading made me think rather too deeply about something. And that surely is the power of the written word. Something banal and taken entirely for granted can spark a sudden feeling, an emotion, and all of a sudden it inspires a change of perspective.

The book is “The Splendid and the Vile” by Erik Larson. The book details the first few months of Churchill’s tempestuous months in power as the world stepped slowly but inexorably towards inevitable global conflict.

The line that sent me reeling describes the first days of the Blitz of London. That Hitler would bomb civilians in London was inevitable, he had done the same to Rotterdam in his recent conquest of the Netherlands.

Death and destruction was to be expected, and the residents of the great city were prepared, or at least as much as they could be, for the human cost of the 5,300 tons of high explosives the Luftwaffe would drop over the course of the first 24 nights.

What wasn’t expected is what Larson described in vivid detail. It was the thick red-brown fog of dust that was disturbed by the detonations of the bombs that rained down on the ancient capital. The explosions caused buildings to shake and caused the dust to billow out of ‘eaves and attics, roofs and chimneys, hearths and furnaces—dust from the age of Cromwell, Dickens and Victoria.’

But not only of the age of Cromwell and Dickens but actually of our ancestors who lived in that era. Dust in our homes can be constituted of up to 50% sloughed off human skin cells. The rest is a mixture of human hair, pet hair, clothing fibers, dead bacteria, dust mites, soil particles, pollen and the desiccated exoskeletons of insects. The dust dislodged by the German bombers, the dust that clogged the throats and coated the faces, clothes and belongings of those Londoners was in fact the skin cells and hair of those who had lived in those residences before them.

I mention this not to urge you to run to the cupboard under the stairs were you keep the vacuum cleaner but to marvel at how reading can invoke such sentiments.

‘Reading Is just looking at a dead piece of wood for hours and hallucinating,’ said somebody in a quote on the internet I couldn’t attribute correctly, and I think thats startlingly true.

I hope to achieve something similar, in some small way with the books I write.

https://andycwareing.com/books/

To KENP or not to make any moolah?

A good friend read my latest book using his Kindle Unlimited account (five star review btw – thanks Dave). As we chatted, something occurred to him and his voice took on a guilty edge.

“You do get paid for Kindle Unlimited reads right?”

Kindle Unlimited is an additional subscription service that provides Amazon users access to over 1,000,000 titles published as ebooks at no additional fee after the subscription fee is paid. In the USA the monthly charge is $9.99 a month and in the UK £7.99 a month.

The short answer to Dave’s question is that yes, I do get paid on KU reads.

The longer answer is – nowhere near as much as I would like.

An author gets paid from the KENP global fund allocation. KENP stands for Kindle Edition Normalized Pages, so I am guessing the name was made up by some old bearded guy in IT rather than some seventeen year-old whizz kid in the marketing department.

Essentially, it equates to the royalty an author receives for each single page read. The current global fund for August 2022 is $45.1 million. I know, I wet my pants a little when I first saw that number. But of course that pot is shared between all page reads in all territories.

What it works out to is a payout of $0.004263264 per page read. Jinkies! So I need to have somebody read 3 pages to get a single cent in revenue.

I decided at the beginning of the year to focus not on unit sales, although please believe me, ebook, paperback and hardback sales will always remain the bee’s knees, the mutt’s nuts if you will. Instead, my focus for this year is on growing my Kindle Unlimited readership. All three of my published books are currently available on KU.

Amazon are also smart (I know you already know that), they only pay once per any individuals read of a page. If the reader love your book so much they read it again and again, tough luck, no additional payment, which is also true of a physical book of course.

The bigger issue for a writer is that KU members tend to download books for later reading, so it becomes tremendously difficult to fathom how your book is doing. It might take months (years?) for a KU member to get around to reading your wonderful little book.

Reporting is also skewed, at least in my experience, by markets and time zones. I tend to see a large jump in KENP reads overnight, which I assume is due to the AWS servers consolidating data in Seattle, and another smaller bump around midday in the UK, the only two markets my books really sell in. I also don’t see page reads if a reader goes offline for a while, so sometimes I will go a day or two with almost nothing in my sales dashboard, and then all of a sudden a page read spiking in the thousands.

Being a dumb optimist I always get over excited when I see a jump in sales, and assume it is the start of an upward trend that will make me fantastically successful and immediately start the search for ocean going yachts, only to see my sales drop all the way back down again the next day. It would be less sad if I didn’t let this pattern surprise me over and over again.

Of course being part of Kindle Unlimited has plus points. One huge advantage to being part of KU is access to those precious members. If I run a free price promotion on one book, Amazon will market my book for me for free, That puts my book in front of tens of thousands of users on their Amazon product pages, Sure I might give a few hundred copies away, but I also get free advertising to all of those wonderful KU members. It’s almost a win/win. If I am lucky I get some reviews from the freebie hungry crowd, but I also get paid on the page reads from the Kindle Unlimited glitterati.

I have also got better at back matter in all of my books. I used to think that back matter was that thick greasy hair you see on fat blokes lying face down on the beach in Benidorm and the Florida Red Neck Riviera, but it turns out to be a way to instruct and cajole a reader who hopefully enjoyed book one to immediately find and download book two, and three, and four.

All my books now have back matter formatted and structured in the same way. It is comprised of a sincere thank you for the current read, a suggestion (begging letter really) to leave an honest review and step by step instructions on how to find my other works.

If you have downloaded or bought a book, I thank you. Do please leave a review if you can spare the time. Follow, me, follow the blog, follow your dreams, follow the yellow brick road, just don’t follow clowns holding balloons. Or any clowns now I really come to think about it.

Thanks for reading….

More out of order than a Pulp Fiction movie

I was thrilled at the beginning of this month to release my third book. Ignoring, for a moment, my supernatural thriller novel, it was book two in my travel memoir series and was aptly titled, “It’s not as bad as it looks.”

Book two continues and completes the story started in “Mistakes were Made” which was inspired by our unfortunately timed attempt to move from the USA to a beachside idyll of retirement in sunny Spain. It was badly timed because we began preparations for the journey in March 2020 and, if you cast your mind back for a moment, 2020 was forever immortalized by something else of some small consequence that was to happen later that year.


With “It’s not as bad as it looks” bringing the tale up to current day, I was left thinking about what to write next.

I have two other work in progress (WIP) projects I am currently working on, and to be honest I should really be focussing on them instead of writing this blog and thinking of yet another side project, but I enjoyed writing the funny travel memoirs and people seem to enjoy them. Then I had a thought…

It brought to mind a series of travel adventures I took part in during a miss-spent youth, when I was both single and the fortunate owner of large and rapid motorcycles. This was in the mid-1980’s, a period during which I was in my late teens and early twenties. Unlike all of my friends, instead of flying to Ibiza to drink copious amounts of cold fizzy lager and chase girls, each year I took a few weeks off work and picked a suitably remote and challenging destination to ride my bike to.

Without exception, the trips were all lonely and arduous. Both too hot and too cold, too wet and too arid; every one an arse cheek pummeling slog of endurance, and looking back I have to say, I wonder what on earth I was thinking. But I am certain that those trips hold pay dirt, a veritable cornucopia of humorous anecdotes and interesting trivia about a world long gone. If only, thirty years later, I can coax the increasingly feeble bag of grey tapioca that is now my brain into remembering a single one of them.

There were the usual easy trips to Europe, France and Italy mainly, but I also rode through the entirety of Scandinavia to reach Nord Cap, far inside the Arctic Circle, and one fateful year a scary ride through the communist Eastern Bloc to reach Istanbul and eventually Asia.

I do recall there were dead horses and armed checkpoints, reindeers eaten and tortoises run over, all amid a smattering of crashes, injuries and lasting friendships. I was terribly young and most of the time entirely ignorant of the danger I was barely skirting in my exposure and isolation.

That’s me below, stood beside my woefully uncomfortable GPZ1000RX, wearing a giant condom, and enjoying myself not one bit at the crossing into the Arctic Circle.

Ibiza? What were they thinking, those sun-kissed fools!

Andy C Wareing crossing into the Arctic Circle

Unfortunately, it means that book three, if it does get written, will be way out of chronological sequence with the other two. It doesn’t seem to have done Star Wars or Pulp Fiction any harm, but I do wonder how to market that and how it would be received.

Let me know your thoughts if you can, and follow the blog, and give me a follow if you are interested in hearing more about this and other projects.

Oh, and don’t forget to read book one and book two in the laugh out loud travel memoir series. Available to buy on your local Amazon store and always free on Kindle Unlimited.

And, last thought I promise, writers need hugs too and the biggest, squeeziest hug you can give to a writer is an honest review.

Thanks for the kind read.

Give a hug - leave a review

The challenges and opportunities of writing in multiple genres.

In traditional publishing it has long been the mantra that an author needed to pick, and subsequently stick to, a single genre.

“You need to specialize, because a publisher can’t afford to try and reach a whole new audience with every single book. As an author, neither can you.


– Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

Certainly, writing in multiple genres creates significantly more work and less opportunity to leverage existing, publications. But the quote above relates more to traditional publishing. The Indie publishing world allows for a little more leeway even if it brings with it additional challenges.

A newsletter is a good example, People subscribe, usually, because a book resonates, it speaks to them, and through it they make a connection to the author. They want more of the same. If somebody subscribed because they enjoyed ‘Mistakes were Made,’ my humorous little travel memoir, then they are unlikely to be interested in hearing about my next Science Fiction or Paranormal book.

Proof in point, this year I have been remiss with keeping my newsletter up to date for that precise reason.

It also makes advertising and marketing more of a challenge, for similar reasons. There is little point offering a discount on my little travel series to a reader who wants more gore and horror (although there has been a fair amount of terror in some of the Airbnb’s we have stayed in on our travels).

Still, somehow, I find that is the path that I have chosen to tread. To date I have published one amusing travel memoir and one supernatural thriller. There is also a fully completed manuscript out there, circulating around literary agents, written in the Science Fiction/Fantasy genre.

And, today, (drum rolls please), I am excited to announce, that Book Two in the travel memoir series, ‘It’s not as bad as it looks’ has just been released on Amazon stores worldwide.

Click on the image below to buy a copy or read it for free on Kindle Select.

It's not as bad as it looks

The latest book follows on from our journey documented in Mistakes were Made. It begins in Somerset and then…well, you will just have to read it to find out…

With that WIP completed, my attention shifts back to finishing the sequel to ‘The Haunting of Edgar Allan Poe.’ It is currently about 50% finished and should be published by the end of the year.

I simply enjoy writing in different genres. I have ideas for several new books circulating in this crusty hairless, old noggin, and relish the opportunity and challenge of writing in whatever genres they end up dropping into.

I recognize that by doing so I have probably made the path to any commercial success steeper and more slippery than it perhaps needed to be. I guess, if I wanted to take an easier path I could have written something commercially more viable, something about sex craved bitey vampires from Mars clothed only in boob tubes and mini-skirts (oh, there’s an idea—one sec while I make a note).

I think, in the end, two things resonate for me. Write what I want to write and do it as well as I possibly can.

Abraham Lincoln said it better than me.

I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.

Follow the blog, give me a like and a share. Check out the rest of the books and don’t forget to feed the author’s ego and line that threadbare pocket and leave an honest review!


Mr. Crowley – did you talk to the dead?

In the iconic words of the legend who is Ozzy Osbourne:

“Mr. Crowley, what went on in your head?

Oh Mr. Crowley, did you talk to the dead?

Your lifestyle to me seemed so tragic

With the thrill of it all

You fooled all the people with magic

Yeah, you waited on Satan’s call”

Songwriters: John Osbourne / Randy Rhoads / Robert Daisley

If you don’t know, Mr. Crowley refers to Aliester Crowley, and Crowley would have spelled ‘magic’ here as ‘magick’.

He was a late 19th century occultist who founded the religion of Thelema based on a modern form of paganism. Crowley was often accused of being a satanist, although he refuted this and countered that he could not worship “satan’ as he didn’t believe in the Christian biblical version of the fallen angel. Not much of a denial really, when you stop and think about it…

Crowley was also a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a sect founded in London in 1888. The Golden Dawn was a secret magical order devoted to the study and practice of the occult..

Aleister Crowley in his Golden Dawn regalia in 1910

William Woodman, William Westcott and Samuel Mathers were the three freemasons who founded the society with a focus on spirituality and self improvement. Crowley joined in 1898 and soon rose to prominence, although he was largely disliked due to his bisexuality and libertine lifestyle. Most of our modern concepts of magic, wicca and the paranormal still stem from the philosophies of the Golden Dawn and the teachings of Crowley himself.

The Rose Cross of the Golden Dawn

It is also the same secret society that Doctor John Carter belongs to in my novel, “The Haunting of Edgar Allan Poe.” It is from the Golden Dawn that two errant members, not willing to be constrained by the ethics and limits on power that the society imposes, decide to leave and found their own order—The Dux de Obscurum or The Commanders of Darkness. A sect much more willing to embrace the inherent darkness of the underworld.

As Doctor Carter states as he explains to Joseph Snodgrass, Edgar’s would be savior, when they first meet in Baltimore:

“of course, knowledge of power is one thing, to become adept at its summoning and control is another thing entirely. My order is a peaceful one, we seek knowledge, its members are dedicated to the advancement of humanity by the perfection of the individual on every plane of existence. Like your venerable profession doctor, we seek to do no harm.”

An extended silence fell across the room, broken only by an ember from the log that spat and cracked, musket shot loud in the silent chamber. Carter looked up, his eyes wide and glassy.

“The spells however are from an ancient world, a realm where harm, torture, and immolation was more commonplace. To re-enact their full efficacy and master true dominion, sacrifice is required.”

Unlike the Golden Dawn, The Dux de Obscurum will stop at nothing to master true dominion. The scholar of esotericism Wouter Hanegraaff asserted that Crowley was also an extreme representation of “the dark side of the occult”. In my sequel to “The Haunting of Edgar Allan Poe“, The Order of the Golden Dawn once more pitches battle against the Dux de Obscurum. I am currently writing the book, and who knows, given much of the action takes place in London, perhaps Mister Aleister Crowley himself might make an appearance!

Once more in the words of the great Ozzy:

“Uncovering things that were sacred

Manifest on this Earth

Ah, conceived in the eye of a secret

And they scattered the afterbirth”

You can read book one by clicking on the link below. It’s available in ebook, paperback and hardback and always free on Kindle Select.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Check out the re-branded website for similar posts and random musings. I will post some more on other supernatural elements that are used in my books – Furies, Scrying and Goetic circles amongst them, so sign up and give me a like, a share and a follow 😉

Back to the Paranormal

I am currently querying literary editors for representation of my latest Sci-Fi book tentatively titled “River is Rising.” You can read a blog post that discusses the main themes of this book by clicking on the image below.

Māori warrior with facial Tā moko

It was a real challenge to write, although the research for all of the hard Sci-Fi elements was fun (between just you and I, I am starting to think that I really should be a researcher rather than a writer). The intent is that this book will be the first in a trilogy. The problem is that while I wait to hear back from agents, my passion for the themes of the book have gone off the boil. Not to say they couldn’t be instantly rekindled, they just need a positive push from the publishing world to get me back on track.

So, what to write in the meantime. Well, I really enjoyed writing the paranormal story surrounding the last days of Edgar Allan Poe. That story was self-published and the rights are entirely within my control. It also turns out that I left the ending open for a sequel, where the unlikely assemblage from book one (spoiler alert – most of them) get to fight another day. With at least 50% of the characters already written I just needed an idea.

I really liked writing within the atmosphere of “The Haunting of Edgar Allan Poe.” If you haven’t read it yet (shame on you, you must!), the tale carried an American gothic theme. Gas lit streets, steam ships, wet cobbles and large rooms full of ancient mirrors where beasts and secrets could lie concealed within.

You can read a sample and buy a copy here:

So, where to set book two. There was only one place – 19th century London. Where better? Massive overcrowding, crippling poverty for the masses, open sewers, narrow twisting unlit streets and Brasses a plenty to act as my unwitting victims for a new denizen of the dark to pick off in awful ways.

Brass in this context is Cockney Rhyming slang. The slang was claimed to have been invented to obscure the meaning of words to allow criminals to speak freely without being easily understood by the Ducks (see below). Only the first word of the rhyme is typically spoken, so the listener needs to already know the complete phrase to ascertain the meaning.

So? Brass? Well, its meaning has one of two derivatives. Brass Door (whore) or Brass Nail (Tail). A prostitute to you and I. And this in an era in London when the number of Victorian women working the trade was staggeringly high. Poverty and lack of opportunity for the working classes led to as many as 80,000 women and girls working the streets in 19th century London. A great backdrop for a re-inventing of the Ripper story perhaps? One where the killer slips through the shadows with ease, not because he has Royal connections, but rather because he (it) is bestowed with supernatural prowess.

19th century London

I am finding that the slang of the era lends an additional element of authenticity to the time and place, which was already a dark and dangerous time and place to live, even without a murderous creature living in your midst

Here are a few more examples of popular rhyming slang words. Note of caution, this was the language of the street and so can be a touch on the colorful side.

Boat Race (Face)

Brown Bread (Dead)

Ducks and Geese (Police)

Dustbin Lid (Kid)

Gypsy’s Kiss (Piss)

Some require some minor linguistic mental gymnastics

Titfer = Tit for Tat (Hat)

Porky = Pork Pie (Lie)

Whistle = Whistle and Flute (suit)

Richard = Richard the Third (I will let you figure that one out)

And some have come into popularity through more modern vernacular, which I love, although its use for the book is more than doubtful. How about:

Rockford Files (Piles)!

So, the book is about a third written. One element I have added is much more depth around the paranormal antagonists from the first book. In book one the motives and main actors of The Dux de Obscurum were only hinted at. In book two, they play a much more central role and I am busy fleshing out two of the central characters. There will be a few blind alleys and several surprises woven through the tale as well. The plan at the moment is to finish book two by Summer and drive straight on to the final book three in the series to publish them all together by the end of the year.

Follow the blog and subscribe to the newsletter to get more updates as progress (hopefully) continues.

Wiccan’s wearing tin foil hats

Writing is a hard and lonely business and personal motivation can be a real challenge. I often go for weeks without a single idea and then, when I finally begin to focus on a project and lever open the lid of my dusty trusty Mac to tap at the keys in an effort to make magic happen, five new competing ideas leap, distracting antelope like, into my mind. Instead of writing, I procrastinate and, instead, check Twitter to see what Boris Johnson and our other world leaders have decided to lie about today and what new conspiracy theory has leapt to to the forefront of the hive mind. While busy not writing, it got me thinking, how do conspiracy theories begin and how do they propagate through a society?

Beginnings

Conspiracy theories are nothing new, although when I was a kid they were confined to such fanciful but brilliantly chilling tales about folks randomly spontaneously combusting or staggering into deadly quicksand. And, of course, the hardcore staples of the Bermuda triangle and the fake moon landings.

As it almost always turns out with these types of theories, I spent way too much time as a ten year-old worrying about quicksand.

My 10 year old brain the horror!

But why do people believe and even propagate such bunkum? COVID-19 was a stellar case of such a phenomenon. Most people, around the world, believed that the virus began as a mutation in a wet market in Wuhan China, but in the United States as much as 28% of the population believe it was manufactured and distributed with malign intent or simply did not exist.

Wiccan

SALISBURY, UNITED KINGDOM – JUNE 21: Summer Solstice participants wait for the midsummer sun to rise over the megalithic monument of Stonehenge on June 21, 2007 on Salisbury Plain, England. Crowds gathered at the 5,000 year old stone circle to celebrate the Summer Solstice; the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

I was doing some research for a new book which is centered around the Wiccan religion. Wicca is the name given by its practitioners to the New Age religion of Witchcraft. The word ‘Wicca’ derives from the Anglo-Saxon word for witch and has been used since the religions founder, Gerald Gardner, coined it in the 1930’s. Turns out spirituality is one of the three groups of motives that can be seen as crucial in drawing individuals to conspiracy beliefs.

Motivations

Turns out, people cannot help themselves but to seek meaning in randomness and try to obtain definitive knowledge of any given situation. People also have a tendency to find patterns in random events, named Illusory Pattern Perception (IPP). Both of these were found to drive conspiracy beliefs. This can be viewed as an Epistemic behavior.

Existential Motives, are reflected in the desire for control and security (Douglas et al., 2017). Lacking individual control, people turn to external authorities, such as government, David Icke or religion…

David Icke 2020

Which leads me back to spirituality and the Wicca. Spirituality, like religion, has been consistently seen as a way to seek meaning in life, feel secure and connected with others. A solid reason why spirituality might have an important role in conspiratorial thinking comes from the combination of ethnology and sociology: as Ward and Voas (2011) noted, a new philosophy named “Conspirituality” has emerged, based on the core convictions of New Age spiritual beliefs and conspiracy theories, namely the idea that nothing happens accidentally, and that everything is connected.

As Gardner himself put it “Witchcraft was, and is, not a cult for everybody. Unless you have an attraction to the occult, a sense of wonder, a feeling that you can slip for a few minutes out of the world into the world of faery, it is of no use to you.” (Gardner 1954, p.29).

Bit like reading a good book then! Join the blog and give me a follow below or click here to check out (and buy) a book on the website!

‘Oti Rawa Ati’ – Finished at last

Six months and 73,000 words later I have finally finished my latest WIP – “River is Rising.”

Well what a long slog that was. The book began simply enough. Set in the not too far distant future, antimicrobial resistant pestilence forces humankind’s hand to strive for the stars. Three vast galaxy cruisers are created and set off for the far-flung reaches of the galaxy.

The twist that gave me complications as a writer, but hopefully depth and interest to the reader, is that a chance discovery based on an abundance of Bismuth in New Zealand, leads to the discovery of a highly oligodynamic metal compound, one that kills bacteria on contact. The race that rises to sudden wealth, and to fill the political vacuum, are the Māori people. At once the book took on another angle, the richness of the Māori language coupled with their ancient myths and legends, all set amidst a world ready for decolonialism, provided the flawed character of River Te Toa with a broader path to travel.

River has to navigate a new world founded on the brittle friction between ancient Māori traditions and science, while she strives to understand why the fleet of galaxy cruisers are being destroyed by some unknown means.

It was complex to write, but at the same time, carefully weaving the threads of custom, language and song into the tapestry of the story was a joy. I love research, so to gain an insight, even at a very basic level, into that rich culture was fascinating. The symbolism of Tā moko and moko kauae became central themes. You can read about the meaning, and the resurgence, of this art form by clicking on the image below.

Moko Kauae

I have moved to querying to see if I can hook a literary agent (any out there who happen to be reading this – don’t be a stranger!). In the meantime I have started book two, in what I believe will end up as a trilogy, I already have the outlines for all three books. If traditional publishing doesn’t work out I will self-publish all three towards the end of the year.

Follow the blog to keep updated on the status of the new book and the writing of the next two.

You can read two prior blog posts relating to the themes and topics within the book here:

As my flawed and personally challenging female protagonist, River Te Toa might say “Ko te tumanako i pai ki a koe te korero, whai mai i ahau mo etahi atu whakahou.”

Or in English (thank goodness for Google translate) – I hope you enjoyed the update, follow the blog and join the newsletter for more updates.

Postscript: In my earnest and honest attempt to represent even a fraction of the proud and ancient heritage of the Māori nation, I hope that any omissions or errors have caused no offence.

New Year my arse! Give me a good old Solstice anytime

Ahh, the New Year, isn’t it the worst time of year? Brimming with hope, good resolutions and rancid pies, seemingly lost, but now found, festering in the backs of dusty cupboards.

Like most things in history The New Year has moved around the calendar. For the ancient Romans it originally corresponded with the vernal equinox, the first day of Spring. But the Romans were great tinkerers with dates and many other things, you know, sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health?

If you remember Etch-A-Sketch and Hungry Hungry Hippos you are old enough to understand that reference. If not, Google it.

Anyway, after years of tampering with the solar calendar they eventually established that the year should start on the now familiar date of January 1. For the Romans, the month of January carried a special significance. Its name was derived from the two-faced deity Janus, the god of change and beginnings. Janus was seen as symbolically looking back at the old and ahead to the new, and this idea became tied to the concept of transition from one year to the next.

Here in sleepy, drippy, mud and apple filled Somerset, land of druids, witches, and Arthurian legends, we prefer the Winter solstice. A genuinely astronomical event that is truly worthy of celebration. The incredibly welcome transition from dark winter nights towards the, admittedly distant, anticipation of Spring.

In expectancy of Spring and longer days, better weather and pretty white apple blossoms, my latest WIP is finally done! 71,000 words, it is in final edit. I am going to query for six months while I write the sequel. If that doesn’t work out, it will be self-published later in the year.

Only one ask in this blog. My last book “The Haunting of Edgar Allan Poe” is currently entered into a writing competition run by Inkitt. During the competition you can read the entire book for free. All I ask, given the competition is driven by social media engagement (what is not…sigh) is that if you like it, give me a like, a share and a review.

Click on the Inkitt icon to give it a read.