Friday, December 18, 2009

Who is spying on the spies?

In my thriller KILL CHASE the villain is finally nailed by a Hellfire missile fired from an Israeli Predator drone plane in the Gaza Strip.

Information revealed today in the Wall Street Journal explains that the US built Predator has been spied upon. The biter bit, you might say.

The unmanned spy plane is flown by wire via a military satellite. Its designated pilot sits thousands of miles away at a desk. The plane has 'eyes' of its own and cameras on a gimbal beneath its nose that stream pictures to the high command. On finding its target a Hellfire tank buster delivers death and destruction from above.

Unbelievably, its video data stream has not been encrypted for the last ten years. Perhaps the Pentagon figure that Al-Qaeda isn't smart enough to work out how to exploit it? Iraqi insurgents have been using a $26 Russian software programme called SkyGrabber to intercept the Predator's pictures and discover where it is. Then, of course, they scarper swiftly the other way.

As my heroine, Henrietta Fox, in Kill Chase might say, "you couldn't make it up."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

So what's next after the e-reader?



How many times have you heard or read the bleat,

“Nobody wants to read books onscreen. E-readers will never catch on.”

Well, I’ve heard similar moans over the years.

“Television will never replace radio” (anon)

“Nobody wants colour pictures in newspapers.” (Rupert Murdoch).

“The Internet will never replace news in print.” (Rupert Murdoch)

They even said the motor car would never replace the horse. Well, this year in the US alone they will have sold 3 million e-readers by Christmas. Forresters predict sales of over 6 million in 2010. There are no sales figures for the UK but what happens in the States follows here.

Next year will be the year of the e-reader. Nine new e-readers already on the market are battling for first sales to the new generation who want to read onscreen. Storage goes up - the new Nook stores 1,500 books. Battery life extends from hours to days. Free offers abound - the Libre eBook comes with 100 free books preloaded.

All it takes now is for the retailers to get on board. They don't understand them yet. The staff are confused by the customers questions. What format can I download? Where from? Eventually the tipping point will come. If Dixons could explain all that gadgetry we bought ten years ago surely this is not beyond a modern store? Of course it will come.

But what’s next after the e-reader? It's this. The QUE.

There it is at the top of the page. Developed over 10 years by two Cambridge University professors, the Que will be unveiled on the 7th January 2010 at a trade show in Las Vegas, USA.

And this is where it gets interesting.

Made by Plastic Logic, the wafer-thin e-reader is exactly that. ALL of it is plastic, including the electronic circuitry. No silicone. This makes it lighter and flexibly shatterproof. It’s 1/3rd of an inch thick, weighs less than a magazine, is 3G wireless capable with a large touch screen of 8.5 x 11 inches. It’s format compatible with PDF, Word, PowerPoint and Excel so that it’s perfect for business documents, news media or just good old novels in EPUB.

Plastic Logic is already doing deals with publishers to download newspapers and periodicals like the Financial Times and USA Today. Maybe the print newspaper publishers’ dream of a smooth transfer to a subscription based e-reader is not impossible after all. Imagine the money they would save by shutting down all those presses? Saving all that ink and those trees?Just give one of these to each reader who subscribes.

The first Ques will be sold by the giant Barnes & Noble book group in the US. Their library enables them to compete with Amazon’s Kindle before moving later into the European market.

But what then?

Next, the ultimate dream. Research on until it becomes electronic digital paper, able to be rolled up and stuffed in your briefcase or folded in your pocket like a handkerchief. Pull it out, flatten it and wirelessly download today’s newspaper edition on the train to work.

Pure Issac Asimov!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Queen warns the paparazzi







The Queen has decided to take action against paparazzi photographers who picture senior members of the royal family on private property. She has written, through her lawyers, to newspaper editors warning them of her intentions.

With memories of the hounding of Diana, Princess of Wales, still fresh in peoples’ minds and with fears of similar treatment meted out to Prince William and his girlfriend, Kate Middleton, this might seem to be a sensible thing to do. Quite right, you might say. They make themselves available to the Press at official functions and public events, which should be enough.

Every Christmas Day newspapers in the UK rely on pictures of the royal progress to church on the Sandringham estate to fill their front pages. Indeed, there’s little else happening that day to compete. I relied on it for thirty years to get me out of trouble each festive occasion for three different newspapers. So, are they at risk?

Believe me, the royals have enough protection, both legal and firepower, to deal with a small invading army. You try approaching Her Maj without accreditation. Your tootsies won’t touch down till you hit the cell floor. So why this draconian action now?

The Christmas break always sees the royals gather at the Sandringham estate in Norfolk where they enjoy doing what they like best.

Shooting things that fly or flee.

Pheasant that are especially bred for the guns. Stags that can be stalked and brought down with a distant shot. All that’s missing is their traditional love of chasing down a fox. It’s now illegal. Prince William hunts with Kate Middleton. By definition this involves death and blood. Imagine the front pages with those pictures splashed across them?

Last year photographs captured by a paparazzo, who hid in the bushes with a long lens, caused uproar. They showed the Earl of Wessex allegedly beating two gundogs with a four-foot stick. The RSPCA were so outraged they launched a cruelty investigation. The Queen is its Patron. The prince was exonerated.

In 2000 the Queen herself was snapped wringing the neck of a pheasant injured in the Christmas shoot. The pictures went worldwide. It’s not good PR.

Interestingly, says the Telegraph, last year the Queen’s grandchild, Peter Phillips, sold his wedding pictures for £500,000 to Hello magazine. His sister earned £125,000 from the same mag for pictures of her home with her boyfriend, Mike Tyndall. Every paparazzo’s dream.

Any paparazzi trying to get a sale from the bushes this year had better watch out. They might be mistaken for a pheasant.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Please welcome Jamieson Wolf!


Hi, Jamieson. Welcome to the blog. Thanks for stepping off the virtual coach on your 14 stop tour to talk with us. You have an exciting new book for release? Tell us a bit about yourself whilst I put the kettle on. Did you always want to write? How long have you been writing?

Thanks for having me Ron. Do you have any Earl Grey? I’ve always written. Even when I was a young child, I was always writing stories and making storybooks. Something about the written words and story telling really called to me.

I didn’t start writing seriously until I was eighteen, though. I’m not sure why it took me that long to clue in to the fact I was born to tell stories; but I guess I had a lot to learn along the way.

I’m thirty one now, so I’ve been writing for quite some time; and plan to keep writing for as long as I can.


Q: Can you please tell us about your new book and why you wrote it?

Well, my new book is called HARD and it’s about a man named Owen. Here’s a bit about the book:

"Owen’s best friend makes him hard.

He’s been in love with Daniel for years, but could never tell him. If Daniel knew how Owen felt about him, Owen knew that he would lose him. And that his heart would break.

Owen dreamed of kissing Daniel, of touching him. But the most they had done was look at porn together. Owen knew that his dreams would never become a reality…

…until Daniel rents some gay porn by accident and he becomes just as hard as Owen…"

HARD came about in an odd way. Like most people, I am haunted by the past. Sometimes, when I’m not thinking of anything, memories will pop into my head; things I hadn’t thought about in years. One of these thoughts was about the first guy I ever fooled around with, a guy I’ll call Jason.

We had a falling out when Jason realized I was gay, even at that young age. But I never stopped thinking about him.

Years later, I realized that I was more than likely in love with Jason at the time. But I didn’t really know what love was. Heck, I didn’t even know what being gay was, not really. I just knew I was different; I just didn’t know how different.

When I sat down to write HARD, I had only one thought in my mind: what would have happened if my own story had gotten a happy ending? What would have happened if things had gone differently?

And the story of HARD was born.


Q: How did Hard come to be published and by whom?

Well, HARD was published in an odd way too.

I originally wrote it to be a free story that would be available at Breathless Press, a fantastic publisher of quality romance books. But they loved the story so much that they wanted to publish it instead of giving it away for free.

Even better, they wanted HARD to be their first m/m romance novel and have it launch their new m/m romance line!

So of course, I said yes.


Q: When and where is Hard available?

Hard will be published by the lovely people at Breathless Press on December 11th, 2009, just in time for Christmas! You can find Breathless Press here: www.breathlesspress.com


Q: What else have you had published? Do you have an agent or do you think you need one?

Oh gosh, quite a few books, actually. I write gay paranormal romance and erotica for Cobblestone Press, straight paranormal romance for Breathless Press, speculative fiction for Cambridge Books and Write Words Inc and a variety of other books. At last count, I have over twenty books. If you want to take a look, why not click over to www.jamiesonwolf.com

I don’t think you need an agent to get published. There are lots and lots of independent publishers that would be willing to take you on if they like your writing. In fact, its easier to get published than it is to find an agent.

The only time an agent might come in handy is getting the attention of the bigger publishing houses. But the independent publishers have a real love for what they’re doing and will treat you right. Not to say the big houses won’t, but it depends on which direction you want to go with your writing.


Q: You write on many subjects. Is gay romance your preferred genre?

I kind of stumbled into gay romance, actually. It’s what I’ve written the most of, but I actually started with speculative fiction and fantasy horror. It’s my favourite genre to write in.

But after writing so many books with speculative elements, I was getting kind of bored. At the time I started writing gay romance, I was reading a lot of Harlequin romances (still do in fact). I thought to myself: Man, I could do this, but I’d do gay romance.

So I decided to do something completely different and write a gay historical paranormal romance. Nothing like throwing it all in the fire to see if it’ll cook, right? I had no idea what I was doing, but it felt good. It was fun, enjoyable and frightening all at the same time.

That first romance novel was Valentine which was published by Cobblestone Press in 2008. I’ve had seven other gay romances published since then, not including HARD. I find that in all my other work, I restrict myself, I box myself in. In the world of gay (and straight) romance, I let myself have fun.


Q: Describe your most favourite place to write. Do you have a routine?

Well I do all of my writing at my desk in my office. I share the office with my husband, but thankfully we don’t share computers.

I don’t have a routine except to write every day. Because I work full time, this means writing for at least an hour every evening. Sometimes I get a page, sometimes I get several. It just depends on the story and where it is at the time.


Q: Do you have a ‘trick’ to make the ideas flow? Is it a ‘Eureka’ moment? How does it work for you?

Well, after I finish a novel and its been sent off to the publisher, I usually give myself a week off. I think of it like a little holiday. I usually know which book I’m going to work on next so I spend that week thinking about that book.

During the week off, I won’t write at all. Instead, I’ll let the story and the characters build up inside of me until they’re ready to come out. By the time the week is done, I’ve been with the characters for a week and have worked out most of the plot. I never work out all of it as there are usually problems with the best laid plans.

Meaning, a novel never goes the way I think it will, even with all that brainstorming. I don’t plot or keep notes, usually, except if I have to research the story behind a book. Otherwise, I just simply sit at the computer and hope that something good comes out.


Q: Have your favourite authors influenced your style?

I don’t think so. In fact, because I love them so much, I try not to write like them. I love Stephen King, Anne Rice, Armistead Maupin, Caridad Pineiro, Nora Roberts, Jasper Fforde, L. Diane Wolfe, Sandy Lender, Caroline Smailes, JK Rowling.

Because I love these authors so much, I am always conscious of making sure I’m not copying them and making sure I’m always staying true to my voice. I do learn from them though; I watch the way they handle stories, observe the way the tackle conversation and dialogue, watch how they develop characters.

Reading makes you a better writer. You just have to find your own voice along the way.


Q: All writers get rejections. Do you handle it well, or throw teacups?

It depends, actually.

On a day where I get one rejection letter, I’m okay with it. My usual attitude is “Meh, you don’t know good writing when you read it.” And I’ll move on and keep writing.

On the days where I get more than one rejection letter (the highest amount of rejection letters I got in one day was eight) then I get down on myself. I’ll brood for an evening (or for a day or two) and beat myself up and wonder why I do this, why I put myself through all of this crap…

And the next day, I’ll sit down at the computer and tell stories again. I think if I couldn’t write, I’d go crazy.


Q: What kind of responses do you get from your readers?

I’m still surprised that I have readers at all! It’s always thrilling, fabulous and baffling that people read and love my books. I love getting random emails from readers who’ve read my books; they are a highlight of a day whenever I receive one.

I don’t know that I’ve ever gotten a bad email from a reader; of course, now that I’ve said this, I’ll receive twelve emails telling me I’m crap.


Q: If you won the lottery would you still write?

Yep. If I didn’t write, I’d go crazy. If I won the lottery, I’d be rich, but I’d still be a writer.


Q: What delights you – and drives you nuts - about publishing?

What delights me:

  • Knowing a publisher loves my work enough to publish it
  • Having readers react to a novel or story I’ve written
  • Discovering what kind of story I had inside of me
  • Seeing the cover art for the first time
  • The release date

What drives me nuts:

  • The editing
  • The editing
  • The editing
  • Waiting for reviews
  • The release date

Really, it’s all about finding a balance. If there was no bad things involved in publishing, I wouldn’t enjoy the good things when they came along right?


Q: What do you plan to do next?

Well I’m between books at the moment. I actually completed the National Novel Writing Month from the 1st to the 30th where the goal is to write 50, 000 words. That’s A LOT to write in a month but I’m happy as a clam to say I did it. I am taking a well deserved break while I brainstorm the next novel I’m working on titled The Written Word Book Five: Ghosts. I haven’t been in the world of The Written Word for a while and I miss it terribly.

Then it’ll be on to Invoking Darkness: The Other Book Two. After that, I’ll be writing A Subtle Magic: The Written Word Book Six and then on to Harder, the second book in the HARD Trilogy, then I Wish I May, the second book in the Wishing Star Series.

And after that? Well I still have to write Times Malaise, the second book in the Gods of Love Series, then Keeping Beauty, the third book in the Owen Diaries Trilogy. And then, after all of that, I hope to write the seventh and final book in The Written Word Series. And then, after all of that, I hope to write Valentine’s Promise, the final book in the Valentine series…

But, then again, I could change my mind completely. But that’s the order everything is in for now. However, the one thing I have learnt is that in order, there is chaos…


Q: You also make great video book trailers for other authors. Do you see them as an expanding market for you?

I do indeed. They’re a great way for authors to promote their novels in a visual format. The advantage of book trailers and book movies is that they reach those who might night read, or who prefer a more visual media.

I started Night Wolf Design (www.nightwolfdesigns.com) because there is a growing need for authors who want book trailers. For me though, it is just like telling stories, only with pictures instead of words.

I think of it as a visual form of storytelling.


Q: Do you have other work besides writing? How can we find out more about you?

I’m also a graphic artist, a photographer (amateur) and an artist. I’m working on a web site that puts all of my visual media art together in one place, but for now if you want info on me, check me out at www.jamiesonwolf.com


Q: Our usual final question. Will the e-reader take over reading as we know it?

You know, I don’t think anything will ever take away from the incredible pleasure of holding a book in your hands and reading it. Nothing will ever take that over.

I think, though, that ebooks and e readers are on the rise and their popularity is growing in leaps and bounds. Instead of taking over real books, I think the e readers and e books compliment paperbacks and hard covers.

And think about it; e books give people the convenience of reading where ever they are, when ever they want. That’s pretty cool, wouldn’t you say?


Q: It's great chatting with you, Jamieson. We wish you great success with Hard.

Thanks so much for having me Ron, it’s been a pleasure! That tea was delicious!

Tomorrow's Special Guest

I have a treat for you male/male fans out there. Tomorrow an author of prolific talent and prodigious output will be stopping by on his whistle-stop blog tour. I can't reveal his name yet - but if I tell you he's written over twenty titles in many genres as well as being a super video maker and artist, you might figure it out from previous postings.

He has a new book released this December and it's hot. He's dying to tell us all about it!