Friday, 3 July 2015

Would you BUY or PASS (7)?

My weekly contribution to Rosie Amber's Friday Five Challenge ~ if you know what it's all about, please go down to the line of blue stars to see my choice for this week.  If not, please read on!

The Friday Five Challenge is an interesting exercise for writers ~ it shows the little things that can put potential readers off that click-buy.  We click on a book because the cover appeals to us, but can be put off a purchase by the blurb, the price, or the reviews.

Anyone with a blog can join in ~ here's what you do:


1) Go to any online book supplier
2) Randomly choose a category
3) Speed through the book covers, choose one which instantly appeals
4) Read the book bio/description, and any other details
5) If there are reviews, check out a couple
6) Make an instant decision: would you BUY or PASS?

You can check out others' contributions on the #FridayFiveChallenge hashtag on Twitter, or see links at the end of this page.


This week I put the word outlaws into the Amazon search.  I skimmed past several pages of covers showing naked but headless male torsos and very little else, and eventually my eyes fell on The Outlaws by Jason Vail.


Me and my mediaeval pictures again!  Anything that looks vaguely Plantagenet makes me look twice ~ look, I promise, I really will keep off the history theme next week....

£2.17 for... wait for it... 617 pages!  No-one can say he's trying to rip anyone off, anyway!

Eustace FitzWalter, Giselle de Hafton, and Robert Attebrook could not be more different. Eustace is the bastard son of an earl, Giselle the sheltered daughter of a dotting gentry father, and Robert the son of an impoverished village carpenter.

In ordinary times, their lives would not intersect. But when Robert breaks his uncle out of Earl Roger FitzWalter’s gaol, he sets in motion a series of events that sends their lives colliding in a maelstrom of murder and revenge that drives them all outside the laws and customs of England.

Step into the tumultuous years of the Twelfth Century, and stand alongside Eustace as he schemes to inherit his father’s title, lands, and power, using every means within his grasp; Giselle as she fights to free herself from a forced marriage and to save her inheritance; and Robert as he struggles to rise above the limitations of his birth in the face of Eustace’s quest for vengeance.

A saga to rival Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, The Outlaws sweeps from serene English villages and quiet forest glens, to French battlefields, remote Welsh fortresses, and even the court of King Henry II, where nobles and clergy vie for power and wealth, and disputes are often decided with steel and blood.
That works for me!

17, all 4 or 5*.  Not one negative comment.  I didn't see any by people who hadn't reviewed anything else.

Would I BUY or PASS?
Totally BUY! And already have.  Don't know when I'm going to get time to read such an epic, maybe after the next novel is completed.  A great find!

Friday Five Challenge posts by others:

Rosie Amber's amusing cricket book HERE 
Between The Lines' mystery HERE
Shelley Wilson's self-help HERE 
Barb Taub's summer time boxed set HERE 


Monday, 29 June 2015

I can't get that song out of my head....

.....grrrr!  I'm talking ear worms, which I was unaware for ages was the recognised term for them.

This morning, mine is a song from South Park, from the brilliant send up of Game of Thrones trilogy ~ it's not for the easily offended, by the way!  I watched the episode with this in two nights ago, and have been hearing it ever since.  It's funny, and clever, but I wish it would go away.  (For anyone who doesn't watch South Park, it follows an observation that a certain part of the male anatomy is featured in the show more frequently than the plot necessitates).

Usually, though, my ear worm is a song I hate, and they're mostly random, like  some 1970s hit that I thought was total dross even at the time.  Where do they come fromPuppy Love by Donny Osmond is a favourite (not), but I promise not to find a video from YouTube to put on here, lest you click on it by mistake and find yourself with it stuck in your head all day, too....

My most recurring one ever came about during my last job when I worked in the office of a small engineering firm.  At the end of most days I would file away the invoices for payment.  If I so much as laid eyes on one from Bookers Cash & Carry, I'd be hearing this toon for the next two days ~

Time is Tight by Booker T & the MGs ~ funny that it was never Green Onions, which I prefer, but that's ear worms for you, isn't it?!

Recently I watched all four episodes of the TV series Treme, and, thus, the theme tune was in my head on and off for several weeks.  I loved it that song, it was something I always liked hearing.  At first.....!  The theme of Treme is one of those vids that you can only watch Youtube ~ it's fab, and it's HERE, with some great bits of film, but beware.... 

I was talking about this on Twitter the other day, and discovered that my friend Judith Barrow suffers from advanced ear worm, as I do: it's not always music.  Someone else said the phrase 'spring forward, fall backwards' to illustrate the changing of the clocks, which Judith said then repeated itself in her head, over and over, all day.  However, it was not as bad as her worst one, which I'm sharing with you so you can sympathise.

What are your worst???? 


Sunday, 28 June 2015

Before I started this self-publishing thing I used to....

  • Read the papers in bed on Sunday mornings and go to the pub.
  • Feel pleased when the phone rang, especially if it was a friend who would want a long chat.
  • Spend more time with my husband (eventually he gave up and got an Xbox).
  • Be thinner.
  • Have a cleaner house.
  • Spend proper time on Facebook, keeping up with friends far away, posting photos, playing Scrabble with virtual friends.
  • Cook proper food every evening.  Now I only get round to chopping vegetables about three evenings a week.  The rest of the time I dispel the hunger with diet coke and coffee, then, when I start to feel shaky, shove something in the microwave or make a toasted sandwich.
  • Go walking in the park most days (see 'be thinner' above).  Yes, yes, I know I still could, but I don't, because I want to get on with the nov, and by the time I need a break it'll be packed with kids coming out of school, and....
  • Not have a permanently tense neck and shoulders - I start out sitting properly but it never lasts!
  • Spend ages writing articles and other general funny stuff to amuse my friends.
  • Be able to watch a television drama without analysing the plot structure and characterisation.
  • Be able to read a book without picking the editing apart.
  • Keep up with a lot of my old friends by email.

I also used to....
  • Drink a bit too much, sometimes out of boredom; didn't matter if I felt a little fuzzy the next day.
  • Know nothing of the joys of Twitter ~ all those people I would never have virtually met!
  • Only read the books of my favourite few well known authors; when I hadn't got anyone new to read I'd just read all Douglas Kennedy/Elizabeth Jane Howard/Susan Howatch/Deborah Moggach all over again.
  • Feel permanently vaguely bored and frustrated all the time because I knew I had something in me that needed doing!
  • Feel bored sometimes, full stop.
  • Worry that I was frittering away the autumn of my life by doing nothing in particular.
  • Have a sister who did the weary commute every day instead of having her own successful proofreading business - it was me doing this that gave her the idea of starting up on her own.
  • Remember when I used to write all the time, (9 novels in the 1990s) and feel a bit pissed off with myself because I didn't do it anymore.  And wonder if I still could.... 

Friday, 26 June 2015

Would you BUY or PASS (6) ?

My weekly contribution to Rosie Amber's Friday Five Challenge ~ if you know what it's all about, please go down to the line of green stars to see my choice for this week.  If not, please read on!

The Friday Five Challenge is an interesting exercise for writers ~ it shows the little things that can put potential readers off that click-buy.  We click on a book because the cover appeals to us, but can be put off a purchase by the blurb, the price, or the reviews.

Anyone with a blog can join in ~ here's what you do:


1) Go to any online book supplier
2) Randomly choose a category
3) Speed through the book covers, choose one which instantly appeals
4) Read the book bio/description, and any other details
5) If there are reviews, check out a couple
6) Make an instant decision: would you BUY or PASS?

You can check out others' contributions on the #FridayFiveChallenge (click to see them) hashtag on Twitter


This week I put a favourite subject of mine, Plantagenet Kings, into the Amazon search.  This was the first cover that appealed to me ~ Richard II is a king I know of only through Susan Howatch's brilliant The Wheel of Fortune and the BBC series, The Plantagenets.  This was my choice ~ DEATH KEEPS HIS COURT by Anselm Audley.  Alas, I didn't notice that it was a Kindle Single (a long short story of 78 pages), but my choice was made!


Sprang out at me ~ my eye always zooms in on mediaeval type drawings.  Very nicely done, I thought; I like the way the background looks like old parchment or rough sackcloth.

£1.99 ~ a bit pricey for 78 pages, but not too bad.

Richard II was young, handsome, and elegant. Last living child of the brilliant Black Prince, he came to the throne bearing the hopes of his people on his shoulders. His court glittered; his tastes were refined; his portraits shone with gold. Regal, composed, aloof, he was the very picture of majesty.
He became a murderous, capricious tyrant. His favourites plotted against his family. He rewrote the laws of England to give himself absolute power. He raised an army against his own subjects.
His subjects deposed him. Twice.

This is the story of the forgotten civil war of 1387, which saw Richard set against his brave, ill-starred uncle Thomas of Woodstock. Of how a boy’s bright promise turned deadly, provoking his nobles to fear, flight, and finally open war. Of how a humiliated King set out on a course of vengeance which would cost him his life and sow the first fatal seeds of the Wars of the Roses.

From royal banquets to battles in the mist, Death Keeps His Court tells a tale of real-life tyranny, treachery and tragedy in the age which inspired A Game of Thrones. 

Makes it sound interesting, if slightly over the top; I can't see how a story such as this could be done justice in 78 pages, and the style is a tad eccentric.  I think the tenuous tie-in to A Game of Thrones is a bit naff.

Nine very short ones, three by people who've reviewed nothing or almost nothing else, a few mentions of it being interesting but too short.  It's selling well, ie, it's at #2061 in the overall chart and #1 in three genre charts.  This amused me: one of the 4* reviewers has given classic Victorian comic novel Three Men In A Boat by Jerome K Jerome a paltry 1*; as this is one of the most stunning pieces in the history of literature, I don't rate his opinion too highly!

Would I BUY or PASS?
PASS-ish ~ I certainly wouldn't buy it at 1.99, unless it had a lot more reviews that had something to say other than 'interesting read'.  I would, however, download it via Kindle Unlimited, and probably will do once I've given one of my current ten back, just to see if it's any good.  So it's a half and half, really!

Thursday, 25 June 2015

My Writing Life

I've come across a new book blog on Twitter, called Whispering Stories.  
Click HERE to read about Stacey, who runs it.  She features promotions, reviews, competitions, a monthly poem and other stuff such as her Author of the Week section, Fun Fact Friday and her new series, My Writing Life, in which she interviews writers about just that!

This week she's featuring me ~ you can read it HERE

Thank you, Stacey, and I hope the blog becomes a great success!  Whispering Stories blog is @storywhispers on Twitter.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Would you BUY or PASS? (5)

Rosie Amber's weekly Friday Five Challenge ~ if you already know the rules, skip the next bit and go down to the row of orange stars for my choice.

(It's an interesting exercise for writers ~ it shows the little things that can put potential readers off that click-buy, and it's just quite fun anyway!)

Anyone with a blog can join in ~ here's what you do:

1) Go to any online book supplier
2) Randomly choose a category
3) Speed through the book covers, choose one which instantly appeals
4) Read the book bio/description, and any other details
5) If there are reviews, check out a couple
6) Make an instant decision: would you BUY or PASS?

You can find others' contributions on the #FridayFiveChallenge hashtag on Twitter


This week I put a random word, Oranges, into the Amazon search and this was the first cover that really appealed to me: The Orange Lilies by Nathan Dylan Goodwin.  It's a novella, a hundred pages long.


Artistic, subtle, professional, with a World War 1 theme ~ love it!


Morton Farrier has spent his entire career as a forensic genealogist solving other people’s family history secrets, all the while knowing so little of his very own family’s mysterious past. However, this poignant Christmastime novella sees Morton’s skills put to use much closer to home, as he must confront his own past, present and future through events both present-day and one hundred years ago. It seems that not every soldier saw a truce on the Western Front that 1914 Christmas… This Morton Farrier novella follows on from book two in the series - The Lost Ancestor.  

36 - 28 of them are 5*.  The rest are all 4*.

Would I BUY or PASS?
BUY!  It's a bit expensive for a novella of 100 pages, but not excessively so.  Its only potential downside is that it follows on from a previous book, but I suspect it might read fine on its own and this only made me waver a little.  The review situation is most reassuring; if a book has 36 reviews without even a 3* 'it's okay', chances are it's pretty good.  I love the theme; the first World War and a hint of time-slip - two of my favourites!  About which I'm pleased, as I haven't found a buy since week one.

I love the Friday Five Challenge; three cheers to Rosie for thinking of it, and please do join in if you have a blog and the idea appeals to you.  Just copy and paste the instructions at the top, and stick the #hashtag on when you post it on Twitter - or tag me or Rosie in it (@rosieamber1 @TerryTyler4)

Monday, 15 June 2015

Bored? Lonely? Just log on and order up your next relationship!

*warning: contains pictures of actor Josh Holloway

So, internet dating.  Have you had any experience of it?  It's perfectly fine to admit it, these days.  It is, honestly.  Nothing to be ashamed of.  Doesn't mean you're a loser.  Everyone's done it.  Or is that a claim made only by people who have?  Ah...   

My name is Terry, and I've internet dated.  Right.  I've come out.  Now you can, too.

I decided to write a post on this subject (it was always waiting in the wings) after reading Tom Angel's about same; you can read his HERE.  Because it makes you go 'hmmph' when someone writes a good post on a subject you've been toying with, doesn't it?  Go on, admit it.  Oh, all right.  You don't want to admit to that and internet dating...

I first dipped my toe in the waters of this murky pool in the mid nineties, after the break up of a long relationship.  I just thought I'd give it a whirl, for something to take my mind off the mess that had suddenly become my life.  In those days, your only choice was Dateline (remember those adverts in magazines?), dating agencies or... the 'friendship column' in the local paper.

(Talking of Dateline, wasn't it fun to fill in the form in the name of someone you didn't like, and send it off so that they'd receive their Dateline ideal partner suggestions through the post, preferably when they were having breakfast with their husband/wife?  What?  You've never done that?  Oh ~ no, no, of course, I haven't, either, I've just heard that some people have...)

In that brief period between old fashioned Lonely Hearts columns and the popularity of etc, these 'friendship' columns were quite popular.  I answered a couple of ads; you actually communicated via a PO box number.  With a letter.  How quaint is that?  A friend told me, "if they don't send a photograph straight away, they're ugly."  The first one I met did send a photograph.  He looked pretty hot.  From the side of his face from which the photo was taken.  Alas, the other side made Quasimodo look like actor Josh Holloway.  I kid you not.  The next one was a nutter, and sent me long pleading missives when I said I didn't want to see him again, apologising for getting so drunk on our first date.  It wasn't the alcohol consumption that bothered me, it was the casual revelation that he'd come out without taking his anti-psychotic medication.  Okay, I'm lying about that.  But I think I might be on the right track.

Actor Josh Holloway.  Well, it's gotta be done...

Another friend suggested I might find a better class of lonely saddo in The Guardian.  I exchanged a few letters with a guy who said people often mistook him for Mark Knopfler.  Eventually I managed to get a photo out of him.  All he had in common with the Dire Straits front man was the receeding hairline.

 Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler.  Dig that crazy 1980s sweatband.

After these experiences I went back to my normal method of choosing romantic partners, ie, happening upon men in pubs/at parties and discovering two weeks later that I'd got myself into yet another relationship with a man whose serious emotional baggage/alcoholism/general loser-dom had not been apparent on the first night.  Oh well. 

When next I decided to give this sort of thing a go, it was 2008 (I'd just got rid of another from the emotional baggage/alchoholism/loserdom crew) and everyone was doing it.  My friend Hermione had recently met her new man through Dating Direct (she's still with him, incidentally) - like me, she was a veteran of much romantic folly and couldn't be bothered with starting all over again.  "It's so much easier like this," she said.  "You cut through all the crap; you know you're both on the site because you want a partner, full stop."

Obviously some people who advertise are after something other than a partner; newspapers and those ghastly 'my ex-con uncle got my lesbian grandmother pregnant' type magazines run many stories about lonely women who meet conmen online, or married men who just want a few bits on the side.  My experience, though, has only been of men who are looking for someone with whom to share their lives, or at least a girlfriend for 'now' if not for ever; call me na├»ve but I think this is still why most of them do it.  For every bigamist scam artist you read about in 'Real Life Scumbag' magazine there are 10,000 perfectly nice guys who are just a bit fed up with TV dinners for one.  

I went out with four men.  Three I didn't fancy; you know, you sit down with them in the pub and think, oh dear, I don't fancy you at all, so you make the best of the night and go home as soon as is politely possible.  That's after you've been through the half hour of hoping you will start to fancy them once you start talking to them (even trying to convince yourself that you do...).  One I did quite like but didn't fancy me!  Look, when he put in his 'ideal woman' list that he liked size 10 non-smokers, I did tell him that the hand of my size 14 body held a John Player menthol king size approximately 15 times per day.  He didn't say I was a disappointment in the flesh, of course, any more than I did to the ones I didn't fancy.  But I could see that lack of interest in his eyes, not to mention the lack of conviction in the phrase 'I'll call you later in the week'.  When I went to the loo, I wondered if he'd still be there when I got back.  Happily, he was...

.... unlike the chap my friend Francesca met in the Red Lion, Cromer, who left her sitting at a table.  She came to meet me for a drink afterwards and said she suddenly realised she'd been sitting there for about ten minutes... and that he'd taken his car keys...!  Or the one who arranged a date with my friend Jemima, and said after half an hour that he was afraid this meeting would only be a drink after all, not dinner as discussed, as he needed an early night.  At eight o'clock in the evening....  thank you, ladies, for these tales, I managed to work them into my novel Nobody's Fault! (Yes, that was a cheap book plug in an article that's about something entirely different.  I promise I won't do it again.)  Both women just thought it was funny.  At least it didn't waste their time.  Says to me that women are prepared to give the man they don't fancy a chance, whereas for the man it's all about the physical.  No, really??!!  Well, who would have thought it, eh?

A few months later I met the man to whom I am now married (not via Dating Direct!) and thus ended my foray into that side of online life.  Would I ever do it again?  Well, I sincerely hope I won't ever need to, but yes, I think I would.  I prefer to be in a couple than not be (yes, I can admit that!), and I reckon I'd follow Hermione's train of thought; it's so much easier than meeting people the 'normal' way, especially when you've been round the block so many times that the pavement shows the grooves of your tread.  I'd say it's a good idea as long as you have realistic expectations; you are unlikely to find romance with a capital R.  But you might find someone nice to do stuff with, if fun outings are a bit thin on the ground.

My internet dating help list:
  • Be honest in your profile and post a recent photo of yourself; yes, flattering is good, but it should be what you really DO look like.
  • Don't punch either wildly above or wildly below your own weight.
  • The safety thing - meet in a public place, tell someone where you're going, etc etc.
  • Don't expect to meet the love of your life.
  • If you think someone seems as though they might be a bit dodgy, discuss your fears with a friend or two before getting involved.
  • Don't give away any personal details like phone number, address or the link to your facebook page until you know him/her a bit better.
  • For women ~ I know most men aren't keen on endless emailing first, but do get to know them this way as much as possible before meeting up.  My experience was that after only two or three, men would say, okay, let's meet; I suppose they just wanted to see if they were wasting their time on someone they weren't attracted to in real life!  But my extensive research (!) tells me that the meetings that turn into something more lasting are generally between two people who've taken the time to put in the groundwork, if you like.
  • If you have a bad experience (like someone doing a disappearing act), see it as an anecdote with which to amuse your friends, like Francesca did (she's in a very happy relationship now, by the way!  Remember, it's only ONE person in the whole world.
I think the reason many people are disappointed by their internet dating experiences is simply because it lacks that thrill, the glance across the room when you see someone you really fancy, that is-it-going-to-happen excitement, the mystery, the buzz of the chase.  It's a bit like going for a job interview.  I've actually contemplated handing out my romantic CV ("Reason for leaving: Felt I was in a rut and needed more of a challenge" "Reason this position terminated ~ Temporary contract only, terminated on return of permanent employee") ~ perhaps I'll save that for another post as this one is already getting too long!

I'd love to hear about any of your internet dating successes ~ or horror stories!