#OpenBook – What is your writing Kryptonite?

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My recollection of kryptonite is that it is a substance that makes Superman weak. So my interpretation of this prompt is therefore, what weakens me with regards to writing.

That is an interesting idea, something that weakens my ability to write is stress, particularly stress over which I have no control. I find it difficult to write when I am in the grip of this kind of stress, but usually the negative impact only lasts a day or two and then I am okay again. I am a bit of a panicker when it comes to uncertainty; politically or economically.

I also find that work stress impacts on the nature of what I write. Last year was a busy (read that as stressed) work year for me and I wrote Through the Nethergate, a supernatural, horror story. This year I am still quite stressed at work and I am writing a dystopian novel (hopefully the first of a trilogy) about the joint impacts of the fourth industrial revolution and climate crisis on society. My children’s books I write over holiday periods when I am relaxed. Light hearted stories do not come easily to me at other times of the year.

Time is the other thing that slows my writing down. I never seem to have enough time although I am exceedingly organised and don’t waste a single minute in my day. I still have to allocate time to work, children and their needs, hubby and his needs, my parents, sisters and my in-laws. After than comes writing, blogging, reading and baking. All this makes for a busy life for me so time is the enemy.

On the whole, I love to write and find it relaxing and entertaining. I enjoy reading and blogging to and regard them as my down time and not work. Writing is energising to me and I haven’t really experienced anything in the writing, developmental editing, editing, proofing and marketing process that I don’t like doing.

What about you? What takes you away from your writing?

This post was written for the #OpenBook link up party. You can join in here:

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Short story competition – August : The automated worm

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From the memorandum of Prof Thompson

31 May

What a strange and terrible day Jeff and I have just experienced. It should have been a celebration of the successful vote for a World Government, instead it turned into the biggest technological debacle I have ever seen.

At about 10 A.M. Lisa came in to see me. She was overwrought and wouldn’t get to the point of her meeting with me. I encouraged her to talk, thinking she would come around to it and eventually she did. Telling me that she was pregnant and would need time off from December to at least March to care for her new-born. She kept telling me how sorry she was to let me down by falling pregnant when Jeff and I had shown her so much kindness and consideration by re-training her as a data analyst. I told her she didn’t need to worry and that she could take the maternity leave she needed, which would be more than three months and come back to her job and her on-going training. She burst into tears at my words and I was relieved that Jeff came into my office just then and took over the job of calming her down. For half an hour or more he spoke to her and eventually she became quite quiet and went back to her desk, where I saw her sitting at her computer, gazing, unseeingly into space.

At about 11.30 A.M. I got up to go to the toilet. On my way past the IT help desk, I saw a couple of clusters of confused looking employees gathered around it. All of them were carrying laptops. On my way back to my office, a few minutes later, I saw that even more people were standing around waiting for assistance from the single IT administrator on-duty. I went over to find out what was happening.

All of the employees’ laptops were displaying a strange message in large black letters: “Sorry, your files are all encrypted.” While I was considering the implications of this message, all of the laptops spontaneously restarted.

I heard an unusual murmur of noise from the main open-plan office where the programmers sat and, rushing over to ask what the problem was. From the doorway I watched in horror as a wave of laptop and desktop screens turned black and silent. Attempts to restart them failed, with the screens returning immediately to the same blackness. The computers and laptops were all irreversibly locked. Every employee’s desk phone and company mobile phone was also dead.

I immediately rushed back into my own office and disconnected my own PC from the network, shouting at Jeff in the adjacent office to disconnect too. Due to the sensitive nature of our work, Jeff and I have specialised cybersecurity, but I wasn’t going to take any chances that the penetration tool embedded in this destructive piece of malware could hack into our machines.

Jeff came rushing into my office, “What’s going on?”

“The networks under attack by some sort of cyber weapon. I suspect it’s an automated network worm. Thank God we have backups of our work on external hard drives. Our computers should be fine anyway, the worm won’t have had time to hack their complex security software before we switched them off.”

My private phone began to ring and I noticed that my company mobile phone had gone dead. I answered it and had a short discussion with the caller. “That was Duarte Teixeira, the Chief IT administrator from the World Government’s building. He is being inundated by calls and messages from people all over London, telling him of similar situations in other World Government organisations. He said that the networks for all of the Free Zone developments have been infected. It’s also spread to all of the hospitals involved in inserting the World Government microchips. He says this appears to be a targeted attack on specific areas of the World Government administration, but we can’t rely on that and need to shut down the whole network.”

“What does he want us to do?”

“Get on the phone and call all government organisations linked to the World Government network and tell them to unplug their networks without hesitation, even if it means shutting down their entire operation. If they wait too long, their infrastructure will be lost.”

Jeff and I finished with the calls at around 3P.M. We made dozens of phone calls, locally and internationally, and in many cases, the infrastructure was saved. In many other cases, the calls had taken too long and it was already too late by the time we reached the relevant people.

Duarte appeared to have been correct in his assessment that this had been a targeted attack. Every World Government office and organization relating to the Free Zone developments, the insertion of microchips and other related benefits and services in the United Kingdom had been infected to some extent, as well as certain operations in France, Germany, Italy, the United States and Australia. It was obvious that the infection had targeted the UK.

We walked out of my office and into the general office area. Lisa was still there but all the other employees, rendered completely idle without a functioning computers, servers, routers and desk phones, had left and gone home.

“Why are you still here, Lisa?” Jeff asked.

“I wanted to wait and see if you needed me to do anything. Fortunately, the electric buses and the tube were not affected by the cyber-attack, so I can still get home.”

“Jeff and I have been asked to go to the World Government offices in Reading tomorrow to lead the IT team that will assist with the launch of Bella here in the UK now instead of February next year. Fortunately, the system is ready to launch. The delay was purely to give the World Government time to get the Free Zone developments up and running before Bella’s implementation and the resultant disruptive employment changes to the world economy. As a result of this cyber-attack, a decision has been made to launch Bella, with its sophisticated cybersecurity, in the United Kingdom now. It will be rolled out over the next seven months to all the federation countries.”

“How long do they expect the launch of Bella to take in the UK?”

“We’ve only been given ten days to get it up and running. The infected organisations, Free Zone developments and hospitals will have to operate manually as best they can during that period. It is a nightmare.”

“Do you need me to do anything for you over the next few days?”

Dr Thompson thought for a moment. “If you don’t mind coming with us to Reading, you could help us wipe the hard drive of all the laptops that were infected by the worm. It would be a good learning experience for you.”

I could feel the huge smile on my face. “I would love to come with you, Dr Thompson. Thank you for asking me.”

This is an extract from my new dystopian novel Russian Roulette, anyone? for Stevie Turner’s short story competition. You can participate here: https://steviet3.wordpress.com/2019/07/31/share-your-short-story-august-2019/

#SoCS – Astronomical

From the handwritten notes of Lisa Robinson

15 May

The nausea is on-going and I vomit most early mornings. Fortunately, the actual vomiting does pass and I am able to manage it during the working day.

I managed to get an appointment with a gynaecologist at the local hospital for 8A.M this morning. His rooms were neat and clean and the couches were his patients waited for their appointments were comfortable and covered with a soft material in a soothing dark green.

When I finally saw the doctor after a three hour wait he said that everything is fine with both the baby and me. Hearing the baby’s strong heartbeat was exiting and I almost regretted not asking David to come with me, but he would have hated the wait and would have made an embarrassing scene about it.

I haven’t decided what I am going to do about my relationship with David anyway, so my desire to have him share in my excitement is a bit silly. After the evening when I told him about my pregnancy and our resultant altercation, he had made a huge effort to pull himself together. He laid off the booze and spent time updating his CV and sending it out to perspective employers. He even pounded the streets and managed to ferret out a few day and half-day jobs doing menial tasks like packing fruit in the supermarket. It isn’t much, but the money does help.

He hasn’t, however, given up his meetings with the Modern Luddites. I know this is true because of his furtive behaviour when he receives the odd phone call. He squirrels himself away in our bedroom with the door closed and speaks in hushed tones for lengthily periods. I’ve seen him smiling a strange, bitter smile when he receives text messages on his mobile phone and I know he’s lying to me when he claims to be meeting the boys for drinks at the local pub once a week. David doesn’t have the money to meet his friends at the pub and I know he would never take charity. He’s too proud for that.

I can’t trust him anymore. Can’t trust him to do right by me and the baby I’m expecting. I think I fell out of love with him that night in our apartment when he had tried to force me into agreeing to have an abortion. I don’t want an abortion. I don’t want to terminate the life of the baby growing inside me. I also didn’t want to give him or her away to one of the wealthy and spoiled wives of the big corporate earners. I want to keep the baby.

What to do about David is not an easy decision for me to make. Raising a baby on my own while having to work full time seems like an astronomical undertaking, but I am not sure I can count on much support from David regardless of whether I chose to divorce him or not. I am worried his association with the Modern Luddites is going to cause problems for me down the line with my work and bosses. What to do? I wish I could know for sure what the best choice is for me and my unborn child.

At the end of the appointment I told the doctor that I was feeling nauseas and ill. He wouldn’t give me any traditional medications for the nausea, but he did recommend some natural remedies like eating ginger, taking slow and deep breaths and scratching the skin of a lemon to release its essential oils into the air. He said he only prescribes traditional medications when a patient is experiencing abnormal levels of vomiting and it is affecting her health. “The anti-nausea medications have their own negative side effects, including drowsiness. The nausea should pass when you are approximately fourteen weeks pregnant,” he said. He also confirmed that I am nine weeks pregnant so only five more weeks to go until it should subside. It feels like a life time.

After my appointment, I made another for my check-up at sixteen weeks. His secretary, Mrs Kowalczyk, told me that they will do blood tests at that appointment to test for foetal abnormalities like Down syndrome, trisomy 18 syndrome, and spina bifida. She also gave me a small container that I must wee in, next time I come, so that she can test my urine for protein. “Protein in your urine can be an indicator of preeclampsia or high blood pressure,” she said.

“I suggest you go to the pharmacy and buy a pregnancy multivitamin which contains folic acid, she said, her kind smile lighting up her lined face, framed by cropped, white hair. “It helps prevent birth defects of the baby’s brain and spinal cord.” I smiled at her to convey that I appreciated her suggestion. I am pleased to have the support following David decidedly negative reaction to the news of my unplanned pregnancy.

I bought the multivitamin pills from the pharmacy at the hospital. It cost a little more than it would have if I’d waited and purchased them from the bulk discount pharmacy, but I just don’t have the energy, or the enthusiasm, to go to the shopping mall after work today. I am already behind with my work because of the appointment with Dr Robinski and I don’t want to have to leave early on top of only arriving at 12P.M today. By the end of the working day my nausea returns with a vengeance and I feel horribly sick and tired so having to stop on my way home is not an enticing prospect.

Now that the pregnancy has been confirmed by the doctor, I need to start making appropriate plans for caring for the baby after my maternity leave. I will only get four months fully paid leave and I can’t afford to take a salary reduction, so my options are limited.  I am worried about how I am going to manage after the baby is born in early December. Even with the child grant, I are going to struggle financially if David is not working and can’t contribute anything to his or her care. I’m going to have to find someone to look after the baby while I am at work and that is expensive. I know that David won’t do it, even if I decide to stay with him and try to make our marriage work. We also will have to move again as our current apartment does not allow pets or children. The thought of all the packing is exhausting to me.

I also have to go and have a microchip inserted into my hand if I want to make use of the new Free Zone 1 hospital for the baby’s birth. Dr Robinski said that he has already been allocated rooms there and that his patients will follow him and have access to its state-of-the-art equipment. His words were a huge relief to me.

David is anti the microchips as he says the World Government will use them to control the masses. He is going to put up a fight about my getting one, but I don’t care. I am going to get my microchip inserted as soon as possible. The lady at the pharmacy also said that I can also use it to get any pregnancy related medications from the hospital going forward. If I’d known that I would have had it done before I went to the hospital today.

This post is for Linda G Hill’s SoCS post, Astronomical. You can join in here: https://lindaghill.com/2019/08/02/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-august-3-19/

#Bookreview – Delilah a Frontier Romance by Kaye Lynne Booth

Book reviews

What Amazon says

The exciting new Western action novel from Kaye Lynne Booth… This is “Delilah!”

An exciting new Western in the style of Robert J. Thomas, Ralph Cotton, and A.H. Holt filled with action, adventure and plot twists such as M. Allen, Robert Vaughan, and G.P. Hutchinson! This is one of THE Western adventures of 2017!

In 1882, Delilah, a tough and determined young woman, is released from prison after two years. Delilah and her sixteen-year-old friend, Sarah, head to San Luis to find out what’s left of her home. While on the trail, Sarah and Delilah get separated. Sarah is attacked and raped by two men, who take her captive. Delilah goes in search of Sarah, determined to save her and to make her captors pay. She trails them into the mining towns in the high country of the Colorado. Along the way, she has to battle wolves, bears and ruffians in pursuit of her friend. But it’s not all desperation; she also meets new and colorful characters, encounters Indians and learns to love again. Savor a sample of the true flavor of the Colorado frontier with Delilah.

My review

The blurb for this book attracted me because I found the idea of as strong female main character in a Western novel intriguing and unusual. The author’s depiction of Delilah did not disappoint me and I enjoyed how her character developed from that of an angry young woman, recently released after a two-year stint in prison for murdering her abusive step-father, to a woman capable of standing up for the underdog, acting in line with her own ethics and morals and entering into a relationship with a caring and interesting man.

Despite being her seemingly unjust jail term, Delilah has the good fortune to meet an older woman called Abby during her incarceration. Abbey is able to protect her from some of the worst possible eventualities in prison and also offers her a place to stay after her release. Abbey has hopes of a better life for her daughter, Sarah, so when Delilah decides to leave and return to her own ranch, Abbey convinces her to take Sarah with her.

Delilah’s return to her past life starts badly when she and Sarah are attacked and raped by two savage criminals while journeying to her previous home. Sarah is taken captive and Delilah is left for dead after the two men attempt to hang her. Delilah survives and sets off in search of Sarah in the hope that she can rescue her. She soon has the good luck to come across a family of Mormons who have become separated from their travel party and who are prepared to give her some much needed food and other aid. In return, she helps the father repair their wagon so that the family can continue their journey. They suggest that Delilah travels with them, which she does until fate strikes again and redirects Delilah’s life again.

This book provided some interesting insights into life among the different types of people trying to eke out an existence on the Western front from the Mormons, to criminals, miners and owners of bordellos. The reader is introduced to the Ute tribe of native Americans and learns a bit about their way of life and the conflict between the tribes and the white settlers.

Delilah: The Frontier Romance will interest readers of Westerns and also action packed adventures with a sprinkling of romance.

Purchase Delilah A Frontier Romance

#Openbook – Open book blog hop – 29 July

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This week’s topic is:

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I have not written that many books. My six children’s picture books are pure fantasy and imagination [with recipes], as is Silly Willy goes to Cape Town.

I have written two YA books, a novella called While the Bombs Fell and a supernatural/horror which will be available in early September called Through the Nethergate. I have also written short stories for two anthologies that are currently available, Dark Visions and Death Among Us.

While the Bombs Fell is a fictionalised biography of my mom’s life as a young girl growing up in Bungay, East Anglia during World War II. This book required a large amount of research as it was based on a real time period. I created a time line (on the advice of my developmental editor) and included all the major historical events on it. I then overlaid my mom’s age and memories over the historical timeline. It was quite a complicated exercise. I then set the stage for the historical event that was taking place at the time of the memory by weaving bits of historical fact into her story. It took me a year to write While the Bombs Fell. I did the timeline up front and then researched the historical events in more detail as I wrote them into the story. My mom also spent a lot off time telling me her stories and listening to my typed up and re-written accounts.

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The idea for Through the Nethergate came out of the research I did for Through the Nethergate. I discovered that an inn in my mom’s home town was haunted by over twenty ghosts. I researched the available basic facts for each ghost and then made up their story, weaving the real events into the story. As TTNG includes a number of real people and events, I had to do a lot of research as I wrote it. When you write about a specific historical person and time, everything must be correct from the clothes they wore to the coach they drove, right down to the tires (wooden in the 12th century for those few that had carriages). Here again, I did the basic research up front and embellished the stories with additional facts and information as I went along.

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The three short stories I wrote for Death Among Us are all based on real events and time frames so these also required a significant amount of research. I can’t abide incorrect facts in books so I do my best to be really careful, often checking to eight to ten different sources of information.

The Haunting of William, which features in Dark Visions, is also based on a real ghost and I researched the time period and the duties of various servants in a manor house as well as the law relating to servant girls who became pregnant out of wedlock.

The Willow Tree features a serial killer who suffers from OCD and PTSD. I already know a lot about those disorders due to my son’s suffering from these two illnesses, but I did do a bit more research to ensure the symptoms and facts were accurate.

I am currently 35 000 words into my new WIP which is about a world that is reeling from the impact of climate crisis and the fourth industrial revolution. I am building a world of smart cities for the unemployed and pensioners which sounds like a utopia but has hidden fatal flaws. This book is my biggest research challenge yet as I have had to understand and research heat waves, cold waves, flooding, the polar vortex and el nino. I have also researched genome editing including germline editing, nuclear winter and automated worms (malware) that can infect a network. I spend four hours this weekend learning how an automated worm works and about back doors and attribution techniques. I also researched preventative measures for global warming and many other things such as the Future of Jobs report by the World Economic Forum. For this book, I did upfront research on climate change, fourth industrial revolution and genetic engineering and now I am filling in the details as I go along. It is amazing doing this research. I love it.

Do you research your novels, or just write what you know?  Click on the Inlinkz link party enter button to discover what other blog-hoppers do.

Rules:1. Link your blog to this hop.
2. Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.
3. Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.
4. Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.
5. Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

#Writephoto – Aflame

From the voice recordings of Dr Jeff Harrison

2 February

I am devastated. I received an email from my mother in Australia earlier today. It came while I was at the lab so I had to suffer in silence until I could get home and give vent to my anguish and my anger.

Much as I admire and enjoy working with Ben, I didn’t want him to notice something was amiss and start asking me difficult questions, which I am not yet ready to answer. I am not a person who can share my pain until I have assimilated it myself. I feel as if I have a huge lump in my chest and it is making me feel continuously nauseous.

I am reading aloud the content of the email so that I have it here alongside my thoughts on the matter.

My dear Jeff

I am so sorry to have to send you this terrible news via email. I tried to FaceTime you but your phone just rang and rang so I have resorted to contacting you in writing.

Your sister, Joanne, her husband, Bill, and baby, Juliet, are all dead. Burned to death in the great wildfire that swept through large parts of Victoria on the 27th of January. Maybe it is just as well that I am writing to you as if I were to speak to you I might give way completely to the pain and anguish I am experiencing at our huge loss.

As you know, since the 10th of December last year, Australia has been in the grip of a constant, record-breaking series of heat waves with no reprieves. December 2021 and January 2022 were recorded as the hottest months in Australian history and bitter experience has taught us that this kind of excessive heat, combined with the on-going drought situation, creates the perfect conditions for wildfires.

On the 26th of February, the state premier issued a warning about the extreme weather conditions that were expected for the next day. A total fire ban was declared and the whole state was on high alert with a significant number of firefighting personnel on standby.

The 27th of January turned out to be an extraordinarily hot day in Melbourne and its surrounds, with the temperature reaching 44.6 degrees Celsius, winds gusting at up to one hundred kilometres per hour and relative humidity plunging to less than six percent. The first fire started in the Dandenong Ranges and by 11.30 A.M. more than two hundred fires had been reported due to spotting caused by the wind carrying pieces of burning twigs, leaves and small embers ahead of the main fire. This obviously put immense pressure on Victoria’s and South Australia’s emergency services, and reduced their ability to react quickly to new fires.

Bill’s mother, Elaine, called me this morning with the news. “A dust storm warning was issued at 1.30 P.M and people were advised to stay indoors unless it was essential to go outside, minimise strenuous physical activity and seek emergency medical assistance if they experienced difficulties breathing, chest pains or other serious health concerns. Thirty minutes later, the city was enveloped by a giant dust cloud, which extended thousands of metres into the atmosphere.

“When the cloud struck, the temperature suddenly dropped and the wind abruptly changed direction. It ripped the gutters off my house and uprooted several trees in my area, that’s how strong it was. Within minutes, I couldn’t see further than the end of the neighbour’s property, the air was full of swirling, reddish-brown dust.

“The dust storm distracted the authorities from the wildfire and no one realised that the approaching fire had developed into a firestorm. I only found that out later, when the police constable came to tell me what happened to my son and his family.”

Elaine stopped speaking. I could hear her sobs and knew she was overcome with grief. Tears flowed freely down my own cheeks as my own loss overwhelmed me.

After a little while, her sobs ceased, and with an apology, she continued her story.

“The news said that the firestorm created its own fire-induced winds which caused the blaze to spread faster. Other smaller fires started on the outskirts of the city as a result of spotting and lightning strikes caused by the firestorm. The winds spread the blaze and the change in the wind caused by the drop in the temperatures from the dust storm, activated the sides of the main fire and the smaller fires making them broader and bigger.”

Elaine drew in a long, trembling breath and said, “Bill and Joanne’s house was right in the path of one of the smaller fires. It swept through their street destroying everything in its path. They’re gone, Leonie, gone forever.”

My dear sister, Joanne, dead, together with sweet baby, Juliet, who was not yet two years old. Dead due to climate change and the resultant heat waves and firestorms. I blame all the governments of the world for their pointless deaths. It is their collective inability to take the concisive steps that were necessary to reverse the effects of global warming that have caused this calamity.

In 2019, scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies released findings that the average global temperature on earth had increased by approximately 0.8 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial levels. Climate scientists then released a report stating clearly that an increase in global temperatures of above 1.5 degrees Celsius could render earth unliveable. Who plays Russian roulette with facts like that? Short sighted governments, that’s who. Yes, they are all as guilty as if they had held guns to my sister and her family’s head and pulled the triggers.

This post is for Sue Vincent’s weekly photograph prompt Aflame. You can join in the challenge here: https://scvincent.com/2019/07/25/thursday-photo-prompt-aflame-writephoto/

Death Among Us: An Anthology of #MurderMystery #ShortStories #TuesdayBookBlog

Thank you to author Teri Polen for this lovely review of Death Among Us, an anthology of short murder mystery stories. Teri blogs over at Books and Such and writes amazing reviews for a lovely selection of books, particularly in the YA science fiction, horror and supernatural genres.

Death among us

Who knew death could be so eclectic? Relish this mesmerizing murder mystery mash-up of short stories.

The stories include the 2019 SIA Award-Winning Murder Mystery Short Story ‘The Rose Slayer.’

Murder and mystery have been the staple of literature and films for years. This anthology of short stories will thrill and entertain you. Some will also make you laugh out loud. Others will stop and make you think.

Think of this murder mystery short story anthology as a book version of appetizers or starters, hors d’oeuvre, meze, or antipasti. It can be read as fillers between books or, as is the case in some countries, as a bookish meze – in its own right.

These stories come from an international cast of authors; some with bestselling books, others are emerging or new talents. Their roots, cultures, and life experiences are as diverse as their writing styles.

But one thing binds them together: they know how to tell a story.

There’s murder mystery styles and locations to suit all tastes: detective fiction, serial killers, scifi, histfic, LA, England, The Great Lakes, Las Vegas, the Nevada desert and more in an exquisite exposition of the art of short story telling.

The ten authors who have contributed to the anthology are:

Stephen Bentley
Greg Alldredge
Kelly Artieri
Robbie Cheadle
Michael Spinelli
L. Lee Kane
Kay Castaneda
Aly Locatelli
Justin Bauer
& ‘G’ Posthumously

Each author introduces his or her stories and the theme that lies behind them.By the time you finish the book, you will agree the result is a mesmerizing murder mystery mash-up.

Continue reading here: https://teripolen.com/2019/07/23/death-among-us-an-anthology-of-murdermystery-shortstories-tuesdaybookblog/