International Kittens of Mystery

Coming in March... Kittens!

I'm a third of the way through the "Kittens' Guide" book and, deities willing, should have the book completed next month for a March/April publication date.

It's going to be full colour with, if size constraints permit, larger, higher quality pictures than the original series. And most of the stories are new.

What I've done is take the original blog posts and bring them together under a central theme. The old posts were a random collection of fun stories illustrated with cute kitten pictures. The book is different with new interpretations of the pictures and a story running from beginning to end.

Currently the plan is to produce an epub version (primarily for the iPad) and a pdf version (for people without eReaders)

There might also be a slimmed down version, with black and white pictures, for the Kindle, Sony etc eReaders that don't display colour pictures.
International Kittens of Mystery

Want to Appear in my Next Book?

Book View Cafe are running a Twitterfic competition to mark the launch of Magical Crimes. First prize is a Magical Crimes ebook, a SHIFT ebook and ... your name appearing as a character in my next story!

Second and Third place winners will each receive a Magical Crimes ebook and a SHIFT ebook.

PLUS . . . some or all of the winning entries may be added to the Magical Crimes promo page, and may even appear in subsequent editions of the book.

It's so simple to enter, completely free ... so, what have you got to lose? Other than your life in my next story:)

All you've got to do is come up with a witty spoof review of Magical Crimes in less than 140 characters. You don't have to have read the book. All you need is to look at the cover, read the blurb and let your imagination do the rest. 

Links, rules, instructions and everything else you could possibly need is here.


International Kittens of Mystery

Magical Crimes - CSI, Magic and a Giant...


Yes, it’s out and it’s big! Today’s the official launch date of … Magical Crimes, a fun CSI with magic and ‘a little something else’ novelette. The little something else being two foot long and lurking in the hero’s trousers. But don’t worry, the p#@%$ in this story is used purely for the purpose God intended – humour and crimefighting – not lustful titillation.

And it’s only $.99, available DRM-free in all the popular eBook formats.

And there's a competition - details below.

Seb Kemp is a psychic profiler with a problem. After a night out drinking, some men wake up with an unexpected tattoo. Seb woke up with a floor-length penis and no memory of how, when or where it happened. To make matters worse, magic doesn’t work well with living tissue. The results are unpredictable. The spell might fade after a few days or … something might drop off.

He needs help but, Pete, his forensic magician partner, is 3,000 miles away working on another case and Seb’s new partner is of the young and female persuasion. Not to mention extremely hot. The two of them are thrown together to solve a high profile locked room mystery where the utmost tact and diplomacy is required – not easy for a man with unpredictable trousers.

Praise for Magical Crimes:

“I want my detectives like my murderers – well hung,” Dorothy L Christie
“CSI with a big dick – and I don’t mean David Caruso,” The Miami Enquirer
 
Hmm, think you can write a funnier review?  Why not enter the BVC Twitter Fic contest and do just that.

There are prizes – including a ‘walk on’ or maybe ‘drop dead and be dragged off in several pieces’ part in my next story.

Magical Crimes can be purchased here or from the Amazon Kindle Store here.

International Kittens of Mystery

Things Your Writer’s Group Never Told You


With Magical Crimes due for its official launch on Tuesday I think it’s time to spill the beans about what happened in the four months before Resonance, my first book, was published.

As with all my tales it’s both unbelievable and true. And something no new author should ever have to experience.
But it has a happy ending so – yay!

And it’s funny.

Back in June, 2005 I was floating along on a white fluffy cloud of authorial bliss. I had a book coming out in November and people were already buying it on Amazon.

Then July happened and my book disappeared.

I’d clicked on my bookmarked page to check the Amazon ratings and ... another book had replaced mine. It had my ISBN. It had my publisher but ... everything else was different. It was now called Blackcollar by Timothy Zahn.

I checked the Baen website and there was my book with the right ISBN. But, there too, was Blackcollar by Timothy Zahn. It was due out three months after mine. Could Amazon have switched books? I checked Amazon using Blackcollar’s ISBN and found ... Blackcollar. It had two listings and two ISBNs. How many did it need?

I emailed Baen to tell them and they told me not to worry. It was a mistake and it would be soon rectified.

Along came August and things got worse. Other booksellers followed suit. It wasn’t just Amazon that had the wrong details but Barnes and Noble and the independents. Little by little my book was disappearing. The forces of Blackcollarness were sweeping the planet laying claim to my ISBN wherever they found it.

I emailed Baen again and was told not to worry. These things take time. There was plenty of time before publication.

But I was a new author with a new book and a past history with Fate. If there was a way for everything to go wrong, Fate would find it. She knew where I lived.

(And I speak as a man who was impersonated, robbed, arrested, pursued by wasps across a roof top and menaced by a ten-foot long caterpillar – all within months of moving to France.) 

 So I took action. Amazon had an email address for authors to correct their book details. I used it. And they replied telling me how book details were supplied by distributors such as Ingrams. I tracked down an email address for Ingrams, explained the situation and gave them the correct details.

They were very accommodating and told me they’d have the new details out in a day or so. Yay!

Calamity. Fate must have been listening in – either her or Timothy Zahn – because if early August was bad, late August was worse. Resonance re-appeared with the correct ISBN but I was no longer the author. Timothy Zahn was.

Aaarggghh! All suddenly became clear. This is what life as a new author was like. All the big author kids hanging around the school gate waiting to snatch the little author’s new book from his hand. Would Timothy Zahn and his gang come asking for my dinner money next? 
 
Only one thing to do. I’d write to his mother.

I redoubled my email campaign. I emailed Baen, B&N, Amazon, Ingrams, Mrs Zahn. I tracked down Australian distributors. Everywhere there was a mistake I tracked it down and left no one in any doubt what the correct ISBN for Resonance was.

Then came the September bombshell. A mistake at Simon & Schuster back in April had caused the ISBNs of Resonance and Blackcollar to be swapped. The error had been discovered in July when they’d been swapped back but the message hadn’t got through to Baen.

And everyone I’d emailed in August assuring them that, as author, I knew my own ISBN ... I had to email again assuring them the opposite.

Fate hates it when I get pro-active.

And if I thought September was bad...

Along came October and the book disappeared again. Then reappeared. Then disappeared. One month to go before publication and suddenly it started mutating with the verve of a randy fruit fly. Strange books started appearing - Blackcollar by Chris Dolley, Resonance by Timothy Zahn. Sometimes they had a November publishing date, sometimes January. The pages could by 400 or 608. The descriptions and covers were interchangeable too. And often we were co-authors of both books.

Somehow I’d entered the world of Quantum Publishing. A world where your Amazon cart could contain a book by me or maybe one by Timothy Zahn. The only person who knew for certain was a cat and, after last time, he wasn’t saying.

With three weeks to go to publication I’d almost got a correct version up on Amazon.com. The only thing wrong was having Timothy Zahn as a co-author. I emailed Amazon and they removed one of the authors. Do I need to say which one?

There is no adequate word to describe the panic and frustration I felt. And if there was, Timothy Zahn would have stolen it.

Seven days to go and I managed to get my name back on the book. Only as a co-author but by that time I was just glad to get a mention. And I wasn’t emailing Amazon.com ever again.

That was a joy I was saving for Amazon.co.uk. They’d just put back the release date of Resonance from November to January – thank you, Blackcollar. Even though they’d started shipping the book to eager customers they promptly stopped. People would have to pre-order it as it’s not out until January.

BUT YOU’VE GOT ALREADY GOT THE BOOK! You’ve been shipping it for days! Uh-uh, that’s not what our database says. The January release date rumour spread to Australia. Bookshops turned away customers in the November/December period because their database (which can never be wrong) said the book wasn't published until January.

Where’s the happy ending?

Here. In December Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit, ordered a copy of what he thought was Timothy Zahn’s latest. Later, he posted on his blog that he’d just read a book called Resonance by Timothy Zahn and Chris Dolley and how good it was. Within twelve hours Resonance hit number 32 in Amazon’s SF bestseller list. 
 
 
International Kittens of Mystery

Pssst, It's Not Official Yet But... Wanna Buy A book?

The official publication date hasn't been agreed yet - we're still loading and distributing copies. The book's half up on Amazon - the ebook's there and available but the description isn't yet. Amazon say it'll be another day or so.

But... all the files are up at Book View Cafe. So, if you happen to accidentally click on this link it'll take you to the page where you can buy Magical Crimes for the giveaway price of 99 cents US. You pay by Paypal or Credit Card and download the book in whichever format (Kindle/Mobi, EPUB, PDF, prc, lit or lrf) you want to your hard drive. So there are no extra phone charges and it doesn't matter if you live in Australia or Latvia. Anyone can buy the book. And there's no DRM so you can make your own back up.

To purchase you'll have to register a username and password with Book View Cafe. This is so you can come back at any time in the future and download the book again. Hard drives crash and people change eReaders so it's handy to be able to re-download the book in whatever format you want. There's no extra charge for this or time limit or 'number of times' limit. 99 cents buys you Magical Crimes for life.

And, yes, I went with the sandy yellow.

To coincide with the official launch BVC will be running a TwitterFic competition - write a funny review of the book in less than 140 characters. To give you an idea as to the kind of thing I'm looking for...

"I like my detectives like my murderers – well hung," Dorothy L Christie

"CSI with a big dick - and I don’t mean David Caruso," The Miami Enquirer
International Kittens of Mystery

Book Cover Design 101: Unleashing the Monster

As promised on Saturday here's news about my upcoming eNovelette, Magical Crimes. News and some sample covers. I've cross posted this post to the SFNovelists and BVC blogs. 

Authors are capricious gods. We’re always interfering in the lives of our characters. We hate it when life’s too easy for them. We crave conflict and struggle and whenever the momentum sags, we think: what can I do to really inconvenience my characters?

Some authors send for the ex-boyfriend that the heroine never really got over, or give the main suspect an unbreakable alibi or instigate a betrayal by a close ally. Very few think of interfering in the hero’s trousers.

Until now.

Warning: If you’re easily offended or a time traveller from 1950s Eastbourne, step away from this screen now! But if you’d like to know more and help me choose a book cover then keep reading.

For years I’ve been trying to write a funny CSI with magic story. I’ve written several outlines and attempted several stories ... but they all lacked that spark that turns a passable story into something memorable.

Cue the two-foot long penis. Why not have my detective wake up one morning and find he’s suddenly over-endowed in the trouser department? Naturally this would be a penis used purely for the purposes God intended – humour and crimefighting – not for lustful titillation.

But...

I’m a person whose characters rarely discuss matters below the waist. Could I really write something like this – even in a fun way? Would anyone read it?

I started plotting and the more I plotted the funnier the story became. I had mystery, I had magic and ... I had a detective with an enormous complication.

A quick note before anyone thinks I’ve written a thirteen thousand word long penis joke. I haven’t. Like Jeffrey Deaver’s paraplegic detective, Lincoln Rhyme, my detective’s condition, though central to the plot, isn’t the plot. He has a locked room mystery to solve.

Okay, I’d written the story, now, I had to sell it. But there are only one or two traditional outlets for a 13k urban fantasy with or without a floor-length penis. How about selling it myself direct? As an ebook. After all, eReaders were on the verge of making the crossover from niche gadget to mainstream product. And I’d just joined the Book View Cafe author co-op so I could pick their brains about the best way to proceed.

So I found out all about ebook formats and ebook creator software like Calibre and MobiCreator and ... the fact that I’d need a book cover.

This proved to be my biggest problem. My first idea was to spoof the archetypal urban fantasy cover – rear view of hot woman in tight jeans cut low enough to show the obligatory tramp stamp. I’d do the male equivalent with something large coiling around his left leg – inside his jeans, of course. I was going for bulge not porn.

Not having a budget or Fabio’s home number I decided I’d have to model for the picture myself. I wriggled into my tightest, most elastic pair of jeans. I stuffed a vacuum hosepipe down my trouser leg...

Too weird. I tried rolled up towels, stuffed socks. I had several pictures taken.

None were ideal but I mailed the best I had to Lori, one of my BVC author colleagues who had PhotoShop. Now mailing a picture of yourself with several large socks stuffed down your jeans is not the usual way to become acquainted with a fellow author. Neither is beginning your email with, ‘I am not a perv.’

But what choice did I have? I didn’t have PhotoShop and I needed a dark urban background for my cover and cool fonts for the book title.

The title? Well, see if you can guess. My psychic profiler had a twenty-four inch penis and his partner was called Tulsa. Gene Pitney would not have approved.

Lori added a background and title text to the cover and sent it back. That’s when I began to have second thoughts. The cover was turning out nothing like I’d pictured it in my head. It wasn’t Lori’s fault. Neither of us were artists and we were having to cobble together a cover from our own photos and public domain work.

I sent the cover to a handful of writer friends for a second opinion. Remember what I said about sending out pictures of yourself with socks stuffed down your trousers? Add the title ‘Twenty-Four Inches from Tulsa,’ a liberal spattering of the word penis in the text and you’re on the road to spam block hell.

But Jim Hines and Jennifer Stevenson were gracious enough to respond and confirmed my fears. I had a cover that neither said spoof, nor fantasy, nor fun nor magic. If it did say anything it said porn. Self-pubbed porn.

But their comments make me think ... and analyse what I’d written. I was writing a funny CSI with magic tale with a hint of 1950s seaside postcard humour – risqué in places but essentially innocent. I could magine an embarrassed Colin Firth playing the lead in the movie version.

And with that epiphany came a name – not Colin Firth but Donald McGill. Donald McGill was the seaside postcard artist. He sold over 6 million and was a national institution. So, I Googled his images and couldn’t believe my luck. There it was. The ideal cover. It was eye-catching. It said fun, it said tongue-in-cheek, it said ... ‘giant penis.’

So, I licensed the copyright and here it is. One of the most famous postcards in British history. A postcard that, coupled with the caption ‘Stick of rock, cock,’ caused such apoplexy in 1950s Britain that the artist was charged with obscenity, fined £75 and ordered to burn every postcard. The borough of Eastbourne even banned him from ever setting foot in their town.

With the artwork purchased, it was time to look at the title. The cover said monster penis, so the title didn’t have to. It had to say something about magic and crime. I toyed with CSI: New Magic but then settled for Magical Crimes. It described the tale and it was the name of the unit my psychic profiler and forensic magician worked for.

Now all I need is to settle on the look of the title. I used the colour of the sea for my name and thought I’d use the red of the rock for the title but an all red title was difficult to read against the darker blue in the top right. So I experimented with fading it. What do you think? Do you prefer the even fade from red to light pink or the redder version? Or is the red-orange-yellow version the best? Or plain black?

*Update* I've added another two: A dark blue and a contoured yellow sand

I can’t decide and would like to throw this open for comments.

Magical Crimes will be coming to an online bookstore near you in early January. Price $0.99. Free download available for reviewers.

Red FadeRedder TextRed Orange YellowBlack
International Kittens of Mystery

New eBook!

I'll be posting more about this next week. The story's done, I've got permission to use the cover art, I've created some test ebooks in various formats. Now I'm finishing off the cover design and working on the press release.

So, what is it and what's it about? It's a 13,000 word CSI with magic novelette ... with something very different.

It's called Magical Crimes. It'll be priced at $0.99 and it'll available for download in all the popular ebook formats (epub, lit, lrf, prc, mobi and pdf), DRM free, in early January. Yes, there will be free snippets and, yes, there will be a competition. You'll be able to purchase it from Book View Cafe and all the major online book retailers.

I'll be posting the cover next week. It's ... eye-catching.
International Kittens of Mystery

Fashion: The Spring Lamb Catalogue


With Christmas fast approaching it’s that time of year again. The time when every ewe starts thinking about Paris and the Spring Lamb Catalogue. Will ears be up or down this year? Will fleeces be long and curly, white or brown?

Above we see a picture of supermodel Naomi Lampbell from last year’s Spring show. She does look a tad surly in this picture but that’s Naomi for you.

As for this year’s show, thanks to a groundbreaking agreement with haut couturier, Jean Paul GoatHair, I can bring you – straight from the sheepwalks of Paris – the 2010 Spring Lamb Catalogue!


Here we see our favourite size zero waif, Kate Fleece, modelling the latest in ear styles – Le Flop. Note how only one ear is allowed to flop, the other has to remain straight or it’s not stylish and all the other lambs will laugh at you.


And here we have a startling new look, Le Lapin, modelled by Claudia Scheepfer. Yes, ears are up and down this year.
International Kittens of Mystery

The Memory of Water and the Gallic shrug

Has anyone else noticed that water’s sentient?

Our roof started leaking last week – not an inundation but an annoying drip, drip, drip through our ceiling. Out came the buckets. And then the long wait for the rain to stop so I could get up on the roof and take a look. It rained for a week. The leaks moved, seeking out those places just beyond the rim of our bucket. Water’s like that. Vindictive and sneaky.

I have the proof.

When we put a new slate roof on our log shed – a tornado having taken the old corrugated iron roof off in one piece and deposited it thirty yards away in the top of a cherry tree (it became a tourist attraction) – I had to leave a gap between the roof edge and the stone wall of the stable it abutted. The stone wall was a couple of hundred years old and made of rough-cut granite so it was impossible to cut the slate to make a perfect fit. So there was a gap four yards long and, in places, half an inch wide. Plenty of room for water to get in.

You’d think. But it never has. I check the log shed after thunderstorms, after weeks of persistent rain. Nothing. No streaks of water staining the wall. No damp patches. You can stand inside the log shed and see daylight. But rain just looks the other way.

Next witness: our house chimney. When it rains hard, water starts to drip down our sealed chimney and onto the register plate above our fire. It rarely gets any further as we cunningly covered the register plate with a layer of absorbent mortar. But it’s persistent and it’s annoying.

So, what do I find when I climb onto the roof and investigate the chimney? Nothing. No holes, no obvious cracks. I scan the entire stack, I gouge out suspect cement and replace it. I deploy mastic. And for a few days the chimney’s watertight, then back comes the drip, drip, drip.

That’s when I embrace paranoia. How come rain can’t find a way into our log shed when there’s an enormous great hole and yet find microscopic gaps in our granite chimney. Only one answer. It knows where I live.

But after ten years and a dozen trips to the chimney with a tube of mastic and a magnifying glass we’ve developed a French attitude to the problem. The shrug.

We were introduced to the shrug some years back in a neighbour’s kitchen. We were all sat round the kitchen table sipping Calvados and sampling cake when it started to thunder. The rain poured down in sheets. Then came in under the kitchen door. No one said a word. I watched, transfixed, as a pond formed on the flagstone floor. Still no one said a word. It wasn’t until the pond was ten feet long, five feet wide and in danger of lapping against my chair leg that our hostess acknowledged its existence. She smiled, shrugged and said ‘pluie’ in a ‘what can you do about it’ kind of way. Today it rains, tomorrow it will be dry. Why worry?

This is a much less stressful way to live. When we lived in England a leaking roof was seen as a disaster. Carpets would be ruined, walls and ceilings would have to be replastered, wooden floors and joists replaced. But in rural France we’ve learned to shrug. We don’t have carpets. We have tiled floors you can mop and a ready collection of buckets.

So, what did I find when I inspected the roof yesterday? A cracked slate? A hole?

Of course not. Everything looked fine. So I started removing slates until I found the source of the leak – a place where water defied gravity and decided to travel up the 45° roof, push through a gap between the upper and lower slate that I couldn’t insert a flat bladed knife between, keep travelling upwards for another three inches and jump into our house.

I looked at the two slates in question. There was nothing unusual about them. They were the same size as all the others and posed the same way. There was nothing strange about their position on the roof. No reason why that junction, out of all the other places where one slate sat upon another, should fail.

So, I added a strip of roofing felt under that area and replaced the slates. In spring we’ll strip the roof and do the job properly.

Then we’ll move into the log shed.