Friday, December 30, 2011

Not so much white as wet

There's been no snow over Christmas this year. Our neighbours' children were most upset, but all the adults have been quietly saying 'thank heavens for that' and enjoying being able to get about without the aid of spiked boots, 4-wheel-drive and sledges.

Even so, the weather has been atrocious, with almost non-stop rain that's been either diagonal or horizontal depending on whether the wind was gale force or severe gale force.

We'd hoped to get out for some nice walks over the holiday period, at least at lower levels below the snow line. Sadly, the awful weather has mostly put paid to that. We can cope with rain OR wind, but put both together and umbrellas become impediments last seen flying in the general direction of Yorkshire, and not even our expensive waterproofs can keep us dry.

We did manage one walk on Christmas afternoon, as penance for the turkey. It was only short, to one of the small range of fells at the back of the town, and it was more than enough for us. The rain bounced, the wind howled, the path was indescribably muddy in spite of being on a slope, and when we crawled, slithered and sludged our way to the top it was so blotted out that we couldn't see a thing. Not even the lake, which is a pretty big target to hide so successfully. We stood there for a minute or two staring at the fog, blew rain drops off the ends of our noses, and slithered back home. Not one of our more successful outings, and since then we've stuck to the pavements. Figuratively if not quite literally. Roll on spring!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Hope it's a good one for everyone with plenty of relaxing and all your favourite things, be they food, drink, dreadful old films on telly, or good books!

I'm off to partake of all of the above but should be back in a couple of days' time, rested, fed, watered and entertained.

Happy Christmas, everyone.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Daily Flash available at Amazon UK

The title says it all, really - Daily Flash 2012, complete with four of my short stories, is now available to buy at Amazon UK. This is good news for British readers as it means you can order the book without paying shipping all the way from America.

Try this link if you'd like to buy the book.

And even more good news - the book should shortly be available in e-book format for both Nook and Kindle. I don't yet know how much it will cost, or have any links, but I will post an update as soon as I have more details.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Currently reading

A couple of charity shop finds. And they could hardly be more different if they tried.

The first is a 'two books in one volume' by David Hewson, who specialises in thrillers set in modern-day Italy but often with historical overtones. Or perhaps I should say hysterical, since the one I've tackled, 'The Garden of Evil', reads like Dan Brown on a slightly better day. The style is reasonable but the plot is a wild and indigestible concoction of murder, religious cults and medieval art and the characters are so wooden you could chop them into planks and make wardrobes out of them. Indeed, the only character who came to life in any way died at the end of the first chapter and after that I rapidly lost interest, not helped by illogical and irrational dialogue that sounds as though a mad editor has simply hacked out every tenth line, so none of the conversations quite make sense.

I've given up, at least for now, and moved on to the other book - 'The Brutal Art' by Jesse Kellerman. So far I've only read a handful of chapters but it's brilliant. Oddly, this also involves art and murder but both elements are far more original and far more gripping and the style is a wonderful mix of vivid description and self-deprecating, wry humour. I can't wait to read the rest.

Both books only cost me 75p each, which makes the latter an unbelievable bargain and the former less of an annoyance than if I'd paid full price for it.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

You know it's cold when...

...even the pigeons hunker down, fluff themselves up and huddle together for warmth. We walked down to the lake yesterday in a brief gap between showers of horizontal sleet and I managed to grab some more nice pictures, both of the snowy fells in the distance and also of one or two fun little things closer to home.

Here are the huddled pigeons, and some tourists have tremendous fun feeding the birds, as well as a shot of the fells looking dramatic again:

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Early snow

We've had the first snowfall of the winter here - lots of sleet showers over the weekend and then yesterday morning we woke to find everything white.

On Sunday after the heaviest of the showers we took the car, carefully, to the top of Kirkstone Pass where we could get great views without having to venture too far from home. It was snowing the whole time we were up there and there was snow on the verges but the road itself was fine, thank goodness, as it's 1500 feet above sea-level and can get pretty hairy up there.

The car park was quite literally flowing (there's been a lot of rain recently, even before the snow) but I managed to wade about and get some half decent photos of the fells looking their dramatic best. Here are a few to show you what I mean:

A distant shot of the fells taken from further down the road to the pass.

The top of the pass with Red Screes in the background.

Not so much Red Screes as white...

Monday, December 05, 2011

Daily Flash 2012

Once again the editors at Pill Hill Press have bust a gut (hopefully not literally... eww) in order to ensure Daily Flash 2012 is ready before Christmas. They've done it, and the book is available right now from Pill Hill themselves and also from Amazon US.

Don't forget that the anthology contains not one but four short stories by yours truly, ranging in subject matter from depressed vampires to enigmatic dogs, scarecrows to a monster in a maze.

More ordering options will be added to the list shortly, including Amazon UK for any British readers not wanting to pay shipping all the way from America!

In the meantime if anyone you know loves reading, then a collection of 366 stories, one for every day of the year, might make the perfect Christmas present.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Shark tales?

Well, not quite, but I have a snappy little story up at The Pygmy Giant today. It's called Make It Snappy and it's set in one of these fish foot spas that are suddenly springing up on every high street, all over the country. We had two open in our small village in the Lake District over the summer; sadly not even the tourist trade could keep both going and one closed a few weeks ago. The other still seems to be packed!

Sticking my feet in a tank full of fish that may or may not have been cleaned since the last pair of feet were flapping about in there is not my idea of heaven so I've never actually tried the experience for myself. I'm told the fish tickle... and that it's an effective way of dealing with all sorts of skin conditions and diseases. But... but... oh, I don't know... FEET. Ugh.

Still, I hope everyone can get over their various feety dislikes and enjoy the story. It's dark, it's slightly evil, but I'm hoping it's fun.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Heave away, haul away

We seem to be booked into a sudden flurry of concerts and events lately. Last night it was the turn of Fishermen's Friends at Birmingham Town Hall. They're a group of Cornish fishermen and artisans who have become famous for singing sea shanties and other old folk songs, often in the open air in their home village of Port Isaac.

The sea shanties were particularly appropriate last night as we could have done with a boat to row ourselves into the city centre and back - it was absolutely sloshing down!

I'm not sure shanties are my favourite type of music - they all sound the same after a while - but the evening was great fun. The men do wonderful harmonies and because there are ten of them they can give it some 'oomph', and they sang a good selection of songs including a methodist hymn, a calypso number and what sounded like a negro spiritual, which helped keep the sound more varied. And in between the numbers, the group's blogger/raconteur did a great line in 'patter' with jokes and snippets of information about Cornish history and the background to the songs. He turned the evening from a recital to an event, and was a lot funnier than two of the comedians we saw the other night.

The support band Flats & Sharps were a revelation, too. When they came on stage they looked incredibly young and we thought 'oh, no, yet another group of festival-band-wannabes'. Then we saw their instruments - double bass, banjo, mandolin... and thought 'no'. Turns out they're a teenage bluegrass band from Cornwall (now there's a combination) and they were incredibly good. I think I preferred them to the main act, actually...