Archive for the ‘Canada’ Tag

Hallowe’en

This blog has been neglected of late. There’s been a lot of life stuff getting in the way of the writing, which I hope to talk about at a later date.

Today, though, is Hallowe’en. As a horror writer I feel I can’t let the day go by without comment.

The irony is that for the first ten years of my life, Hallowe’en completely passed me by. Living in the North of England in the 1970s, we didn’t really celebrate Hallowe’en – possibly because we have Bonfire Night five days later, which was a much bigger deal – when the whole neighbourhood would throw their scrap wood in a pile on a vacant lot all year, and then on 5 November it would be lit to create a big bonfire, and everyone on the street would gather to watch fireworks and light sparklers and eat Parkin and black peas. And if none of these things mean anything to you, you’re probably not British.

Anyway, in January 1980 we moved to Canada, and in October of that year I experienced Trick or Treating for the first time. I was a week past my eleventh birthday. I dressed up as a princess. My sister and I went out with my mother and stepfather and a couple of friends, and we hit three or four of the neighbourhood streets. I came back with a haul of candy so large it lasted me pretty much until the following Hallowe’en.

I didn’t get many trick or treating years in, as two years later – a week past my thirteenth birthday and in Grade 7 – I decided I was too old for trick or treating and volunteered to sit at the front door handing out the candy. I ended up serving it up to quite a lot of my classmates that year. Which they seemed to find quite embarrassing.

What I’ve always loved about Hallowe’en, though, is the concept of dressing up – of being somebody I’m not, just for a day. In high school everyone was allowed to turn up for school in costumes for Hallowe’en. One year I decided to go as a punk. This was so far removed from what I usually looked like at school that most people didn’t recognise me. Which was the idea, of course. And it was quite liberating, to shed my usual goody-two-shoes image and pretend to be a bad-ass. Even if it was for just a few hours, and it was entirely theoretical because I was way too timid to be a bad-ass for real.

Nowadays I’m in the UK again and although Hallowe’en is more of a thing than it was when I was a kid, it’s still not as big a deal as Bonfire Night. Trick or treating happens, but not everyone buys into it and for stores it’s pretty much nothing more than another retail opportunity. Some kids may get to go to school in costume, and some retail outlets let their staff dress up in spooky costumes for Hallowe’en, but I don’t know any offices that will let you do so, and as I sit here typing this at my desk at the day job (I am officially on my lunch break, so even now I’m not breaking any rules), it’s just business as usual.

But in spite of that, I still want to acknowledge the occasion.

Happy Hallowe’en!

halloween2

Monday’s Friend: Judy Penz Sheluk

Today I’m pleased to welcome mystery writer Judy Penz Sheluk to the blog.

SJT: So you hail from Canada, like my amateur sleuth. What do you think makes Canadians stand out from other nationalities?

Judy Penz Sheluk (2)JPS: I don’t know that we do, or perhaps if we do, we’d rather not, preferring to keep a low profile (although our current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, don’t seem to be particularly camera-shy!)

Canada, and by definition, Canadians, are changing, especially in the major urban centres, which have become very ethnically diverse. Toronto, where I grew up, has changed dramatically over the past two decades. Once quite one-dimensional, it’s now a huge International melting pot. If there’s a food you’re hankering for, you’ll find the real deal in Toronto, from Vietnamese to Indian and everything in between. I’m not sure if that’s so different from any other major city. Probably not.

I think, though, as Canadians we are often compared with our neighbours to the south, and there is a difference. One thing that always makes me laugh is the way we look at travel. A Canadian going to the U.S. will say, “I’m going to Chicago or New York, or Miami or Dallas.” An American will say, “I’m going to Canada.” Doesn’t matter if that’s St. John’s, Newfoundland or Vancouver, British Columbia. I suspect the same would hold true for travel to the UK. A Canadian would say, “I’m going to London or I’m going to the Cotswolds.” An American would probably say, “I’m going to England.”

SJT: When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?

JPS: Destined? I’m not sure if it was destined, but always knew I wanted to write (although it took me years to do anything about it). As a kid, I used to make up stories in my head all the time. I’d have a storyline going on for a couple of weeks, like a TV series, until it came to an end. Then I’d start another one. I always thought everyone did that. I found out later that’s not the case. Part of it is because I was an only child of very strict immigrant parents (they emigrated from post-war East Germany (mom) and then-Yugoslavia (dad) to Nottingham, England, where they met…and then to Toronto in the 1950s, when they married). They were both teenagers during the war, and I think the memories made them a bit overprotective. Anyway, I spent a lot of time in my room, reading Nancy Drew and L.M. Montgomery, and making up stories in my head. Put like that, I suppose it sounds quite horrid, but it wasn’t. I loved going to my room and sometimes I’d purposely get into trouble so I could go there to be by myself. I still value my alone time. I can be social, but I’m happiest in my office, writing stories, my dog under my desk.

hanged mans nooseSJT: Who would you cite as your influences?

JPS: Agatha Christie had a profound impact on me. I read every one of her books (including her six romances penned under the name of Mary Westmacott) during my teens/early twenties. I always knew I’d want to write a mystery, when I was ready to start writing.

Truman Capote. His book, In Cold Blood, was nothing short of spectacular. In a time when there were no 24/7 news cycles, Capote captured the horrific murder of the Clutter family, and he humanized murderers Perry Smith and Dick Hickock while doing so. I can remember reading it as a young girl and thinking, “Wow, that’s how you paint a picture with words.” I’ve reread it as an adult, and while it doesn’t pack the same punch today (we’re so desensitized to violence), it’s still beautifully written. One of my favourite movies is Capote, starring the late Seymour Philip Hoffman. Hoffman won an Oscar for his portrayal of Capote and it was well earned. If you haven’t seen it, you must.

SJT: Have you always written mysteries, or have you ever ventured into other genres?

JPS: I wrote a few “literary” stories in the early 2000s. That’s when I first started trying to write and started taking workshops. Three of those flash fiction stories were published in THEMA, a literary publication out of New Orleans. I self published the collection on Kindle (Unhappy Endings) earlier this year.

Once I started to write mystery, however, I never looked back. It’s my go-to genre to read, and reading is the best teacher. I also want to write stories that I’d like to read.

SJT: What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

JPS: I always quote Agatha Christie when I’m asked this. “There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.” It’s the best advice I can offer. If you decide to wait for the muse to pay you a visit, you’ll grow old without a single word on the page!

SJT: Tell us about the new book.

JPS: I’m ridiculously excited by it, and it’s gotten some amazing advance reviews. It’s very different than The Hanged Man’s Noose (my first novel, July 2015), which is told in third person, multiple POV. Skeletons in the Attic is told in first person, one POV. Here’s a brief synopsis:

Skeletons in the Attic Front Cover (2)What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there…

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.

Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?

SJT: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

dogJPS: I love being outdoors. In the summer, I golf in two ladies leagues. Only 9 holes, more because of time than anything else. I’m a runner. I’ve done four marathons, and a bunch of half marathons, 30ks, 10ks etc. These days, I’m not training for anything in particular, so I’ll run 5k three times a week. You can always ramp back up (though it does get harder as you age up!). I also enjoy walking my ten-month-old Golden Retriever, Gibbs. I’d like to get running with him, but his leash training needs to come a ways first. I’ve had Goldens most of my life. I can’t imagine life without a dog (although I would not miss the dog hair). I also enjoy going to our cottage/camp on Lake Superior in northern Ontario. It’s a far drive from where we live (8 hours) but it’s beautiful and a great place to write while my husband, Mike, does his man cave stuff (moving rocks, splitting firewood).

SJT: What’s next for you, writing-wise?

JPS: I’m currently working on the sequel to The Hanged Man’s Noose and hope to have that into the publisher this fall. I’ve also been asked to write a sequel to Skeletons, so that is a priority. And I’m planning a new series, novella-length. Another mystery series, but a bit more light-hearted. To quote Erica Jong, “When I sit down at my writing desk, time seems to vanish. I think it’s a wonderful way to spend one’s life.”

Thank you for having me.

Author Bio:

Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, was published in August 2016.

Judy’s short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, Flash and Bang and Live Free or Tri.

Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers and the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

Find Judy on her website/blog at www.judypenzsheluk.com, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life.

Find Judy’s books on Amazon: Amazon UK

 

 

A Home for Shara Summers

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

I’m very pleased to be able to announce that the second novel in my amateur sleuth series has found a home with MuseItUp Publishing.

The first book the series, DEATH SCENE, introduced my amateur sleuth – Canadian actress Shara Summers, summoned back to England because of a family crisis.  One of the things I wanted to explore in the series was the concept of cultural alienation.  Shara makes observations throughout about things that are different in England, compared to her home in Toronto.

It proved a tough sell.  One of the most common reason for rejection for both books was the fact that my contemporary amateur sleuth was not based in America.  I got told many times over that such things do not sell in America, and therefore there was no market for the book.  Americans like books set in America, apparently, or historical English mysteries featuring people like Miss Marple or Sherlock Holmes.

When Lyrical Press took the first book I started writing the second.  Officially titled DEAD COOL, my working title for it was “The Case of the Defenestrated Rock Star”.  Mostly because “defenestrated” is such a great word, and how often do you get the opportunity to use it in a sentence?

However, by the time LPI released DEATH SCENE, they’d stopped taking mysteries and were focusing on romance and erotica, so I knew there was no market with them for the sequel.  And so Shara Summers was adrift, without a publisher.

Not to mention that by the time I finished the third draft of the second book, I’d developed some serious insecurities about it.  You know how it goes.  It’s rubbish.  It’s full of plot holes that can’t be fixed.  Why am I deluding myself that I’m trying to be writer?  I crawled into a hole with the book and didn’t want to come out again.

Then on holiday in France a couple of years ago, I met a retired London Metropolitan Police copper who used to be on the Murder Squad, and I asked him if he would read my crime book, to pick up any glaring procedural errors.  He agreed.  When he came back to me, he told me he’d really enjoyed it.  It was a good holiday read, he said.  And he hadn’t picked up any major problems with my procedurals.

Which is exactly what I need to hear, and it gave me the confidence to finish the book.  Said retired copper will be getting a mention in the credits, but I owe him a lot more than that.

Now I am delighted that my Canadian amateur sleuth has come home to Canadian publishers.  No release date has yet been set, but it is likely to be the latter half of 2014.

I am very much looking forward to working with my new publishers, on Shara’s continuing journey.  I hope you will come along with me for the ride.

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

When we first moved to Canada from England in 1980, I was ten years old.  There was no email, in those days.  The World Wide Web was not available to all.  In order to stay in touch with all the people I’d left behind, I’d started writing letters.  There were a lot of people I wanted to stay in contact with.  School friends.  Aunts, uncles and cousins.  Grandparents.  My father and step-mother, who were still back in England.

Most people wrote back.  I would look forward to getting home from school and checking the mail, to see if any letters had arrived for me.  I made a point of replying to every one.  I became very good at writing letters, and the process became a ritual.  I kept every letter I received in a letter rack, stacked in order of receipt with the oldest in front.  When I sat down to write a reply, I would reply to the person whose letter I’d had the longest.  If the person had asked any questions in their letter, I would make a point of replying to them, whether it was something generic like “how is school?”, or as specific as, “how did that play go you were rehearsing for last time?”  I would also write about any news that had occurred since last time I wrote to the person.

My letters were long, generally running to at least six pages, sometimes more.  A lot of people gave me stationery sets when we moved to Canada.   Generally they contained a number of decorated front sheets, the same number of envelopes, and half as many continuation sheets.  I never understood this, because it wasn’t enough.  I used up all the continuation sheets within two or three letters and then either had to use more than one of the front sheets, or carry on with pieces of ordinary lined notepaper.  I always wondered why there were never more continuation sheets than front sheets.  How could anyone possibly have so little to say they could do it in a letter only a page long?

Somewhere in the last 20 years, the art of letter writing has been lost.  I admit I don’t write letters any more.  Many of the people I used to write letters to are now on Facebook, so I keep up with their news that way.  Pretty much all of them are on email, and I will occasionally send people newsy emails.

I write emails the way I write letters – in fact, the way I write anything.  Sentences are complete, with all the punctuation in the correct place.  They tend to be very long.  Sometimes I miss writing letters, but it occurs to me that writing this blog is, for me, the modern equivalent of writing letters.  I can relay my news via the World Wide Web, and I don’t have to repeat myself – something of an advantage over letter writing, I must admit, as in my letter-writing heyday I was repeating the same news in every letter.

Nobody writes letters anymore, and not many people write long emails, either.  I can’t decide if this is down to laziness, to the fact that life has just got so busy, or that people’s attention span has got shorter in the last 20 years.  We are used to being fed instantaneous information, in short bursts – Tweets; texts; 30 second commercials.  Now nobody wants to be bothered to read to the end of a lengthy email.  A lot of people seem to write emails the way they write text messages – devoid of grammatical structure, and full of crass abbreviations (“u” instead of “you”) and erroneous spellings.

Most people do not communicate via lengthy emails.  Some people communicate entirely by mobile phone.  I have always been a person who prefers written communication to verbal.  There are very few people I have long telephone conversations with.  If I’ve not seen you in a while and I want to chat, I am more likely to send you a long chatty email than I am to pick up the phone.  But, I am a writer.  Written communication is and always has been my strength.

Sometimes I mourn the lost art of letter writing.  I sometimes regret we can’t go back to those long-gone days when I used to look forward to getting home and reading a letter that had arrived in the post for me.

I also mourn the correct use of English.  I don’t know if grammar has been removed from the school curriculum these days – the appalling state of some people’s Facebook statuses makes me suspect it has been – but certainly letter writing has been.

It may be that people have no need to write letters any more, but kids should still be taught how to form a sentence.  Effective written communication, even by email, is an essential life skill.  What chance have you got of getting the job if the cover email that accompanies your CV is written in text-speak?  If I received a job application like this I would delete the email without even bothering to look at the CV.  If I get an advertising brochure from anyone featuring a misplaced apostrophe in the word “its”, I will make a point of avoiding whatever product it is advertising.  There is no excuse for poor grammar, and no excuse for not knowing how to form a correct sentence.

If we were all taught how to write letters, we’d all be aware of that.

On Being Weird

When I was a child, I was very girlie – into dolls and dresses and such things. I didn’t climb trees, and I didn’t like getting dirty (this is still true, and one reason why I never got into gardening). I never really thought I was ‘different’. Then when I was 10 I was displaced from my home and moved to Canada, and suddenly everything was different. My new classmates talked differently, dressed differently, watched different TV shows, had different cultural references. When I moved back to England eight years later I was still the odd one out, because things had moved on in that time and I had become, to a certain extent, ‘Canadianised’.

I’ve been the odd one out ever since. It took me a while to accept it, but I’m OK with that now. My colleagues have always thought I was weird. I don’t like football, I don’t like curry (going out for curry is a Great British Pastime), and I don’t watch the same TV shows they do. The other week I joined my colleagues at the pub for someone’s birthday lunch, and they were talking about some reality show – which I don’t watch. The conversation went on for 20 minutes without me being able to contribute a word, because I had no clue who any of the people they were talking about were.

My social circle consists of people who I have met through common interests – writing; love of horror and crime books; amateur dramatics; D&D and live action role playing. But even amongst my friends I often feel I am still the ‘odd one out’. Most of my writing group are fans of fantasy and science fiction. They all read the same novels growing up. I didn’t. If you’ve been following the ‘My Life in Books’ posts, you may have noticed that THE LORD OF THE RINGS has not been mentioned. That’s because I’ve never read it. My tastes in books were fairly mainstream until I discovered Stephen King, age 14, and then discovered VI Warshawski at age 19 which triggered my love of crime featuring kick-ass women. I like fantasy and science fiction films, but I don’t really read books in these genres. I dabbled in SF for a while in my teenage years, but I never got into fantasy.

Whenever I meet with fellow members of the British Fantasy Society and we talk about TV shows such as Warehouse 13, The Walking Dead, and Grimm, and they all know what I’m on about. The BFS social nights are always fabulous evenings, and I meet an array of interesting people. I will emphasise that when the BFS was started in the 70s, ‘fantasy’ was a term that embraced anything containing supernatural or other wordly beings. It still promotes British horror, fantasy and SF writers and film makers, even though ‘fantasy’ is no longer a generic term to cover all these genres. I joined initially because of its support for horror writers.

Friday night was the BFS Christmas social gathering. As ever, when you put a bunch of writers into a room with a bar they drink a lot. It was fairly late in the evening and the booze had been flowing, I was sitting with a couple of fellow T Party writers when a lady asked to sit in the vacant chair at our table. She looked vaguely familar, and I assumed I’d seen her before at previous BFS events – you often see the same faces there. She joined us, introduced herself as Pat, and started the conversation by asking if we were all writers. We said we were. She was an actress, she told us. When we asked her what she’d done, she said that her most well known film was “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. Then I suddenly realised why I recognised her. She was Patricia Quinn, who played Magenta.

I’ve never ‘got’ his particular film. I’ve started watching it on numerous occasions. I even tried watching it late one night whilst drunk, having come back from a party. It didn’t help. Every time, I get about half an hour in, decide it’s just too weird, and switch off. I just don’t get it. It’s not scary, and I wouldn’t classify it as horror. I don’t find it particularly funny, so it’s not a comedy. It’s just weird.

I did vocalise these thoughts (perhaps unwisely, but I’ve never been one to hold back), and Pat looked a bit taken aback. At gatherings of SF/fantasy/horror fans, she probably doesn’t meet too many people who don’t like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. A conversation ensued about why geeks love this film, and I started to understand its appeal. Those who grow up feeling like the odd ones out, go to see the Rocky Horror show and suddenly find an audience full of like-minded weirdos. And they realise they’ve found their tribe. They belong.

This hasn’t happened to me. The geeks and weirdos find me a bit too mainstream to fit in with this particular tribe. But the mainstream crowd think I’m a weirdo.

What do I conclude from this? Maybe I don’t have a ‘tribe’. Even the people I have things in common with find me a bit of an oddball. Perhaps I’m just a lone wolf. A unique brand of weirdo.

And that’s OK. I am me. I am comfortable with who I am. If it means I am forever destined to walk out of step with absolutely everyone else, I’m OK with that, too.

And incidentally I had a fabulous night at the BFS open night, Patricia Quinn was lovely, and we all had a very interesting chat. I do hope she wasn’t too offended by my not liking the film that made her famous. Tact has never been my strong point…

Introducing Shara Summers

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

With less than a week to go before my amateur sleuth Shara Summers is unleashed on the world, I thought it was a good time to talk about how she came into existence.

I’ve always been fond of strong female characters, and been a fan of kick-ass female sleuths since first introduced to Sara Paretsky’s VI Warshawski. When I decided I wanted to create a crime series, I looked to my fictional heroines for inspiration – as well as VI, these include Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone, Linda Fairstein’s Alex Cooper, and Kathy Reichs’s Tempe Brennan. But they are all American, and I wanted – being British – to base my sleuth in the UK.

British private eye stories are an entirely different kettle of fish to US ones, due to the differences in the law (not least of which is the UK’s much more stringent gun control laws). And I am not a big fan of research. Writing about a private investigator or a detective inspector involved far too much homework, to my mind.

I decided instead to create an amateur sleuth. Then you can perhaps get away with a bit of creative licence, as people are prepared to suspend belief when it comes to the fact an amateur sleuth trips over dead bodies far more often than a normal person could reasonably expect to. And I wouldn’t have to do quite so much homework into the workings of a police department, which I’ve only really picked up from cop shows on TV.

Then there was another snag. Most amateur sleuth series are set in the past. History is not my strong point. There’s no era I know enough about, or wanted to learn enough about to set a series there. So that’s why I decided to set my series in contemporary South London, specifically my own stomping ground.

That did prove to be a bit of a sticking point when I started shopping DEATH SCENE around to agents, as it got rejected by more than one on the basis that they didn’t feel they could sell a contemporary amateur sleuth novel to a publisher – fans of the genre apparently prefer historicals, or so I was told.

In deciding what day job to give to my amateur sleuth, I decided to make her an actress. The theatre is an area I’m interested in, and I spent many years involved in amateur dramatics, both onstage and behind it. I thought that a sleuth who could act would open up some interesting possibilities – she could disguise herself and play a role when she’s poking around where she shouldn’t be, in order to get information. And like being a writer, actresses can get away with being incurably nosy – an actress can claim to be doing research for a role, if she’s listening in to conversations she shouldn’t be.

Finally, I drew on my own history to give my sleuth a Canadian background. I spent eight years of my life in Canada, and I still have an affinity for the place, having family and friends there I visit frequently. So I gave my amateur sleuth one parent in Canada and one parent in the UK (which is my own situation). Although she eventually relocates to the UK, I felt making her a Canadian in London might make her a more interesting viewpoint character, as she adapts to British life and British way of thinking.

And so this is how Shara Summers came into existence. Known as Shari to her friends, she’ll step out into the world on Monday, in my forthcoming novel DEATH SCENE.

I can’t speak for Shari, but I’m certainly feeling a bit nervous about her debut. I have a lot of ideas for future books about her. I really hope I get the chance to write them!

By ‘Eck It’s Parky…

…as my Lancashire grandmother might have said.

Once more London is struggling to cope with heavy snowfall. And this year it’s even earlier than usual – we’ve not had snow before Christmas here in over 30 years.

My friends and relatives in Canada are laughing a bit at the way London struggles when it snows. They cope fine with the snow, whereas here everything seems to shut down at the first sign of snow. However, most of Canada is buried under snow for nearly six months of the year. They cope because they have to, and they’re used to it. They have snow ploughs and snow boots and chains on the tyres of their cars to grip the ice. Shovelling one’s driveway is on the chores list of every Canadian household.

We don’t have such things in London. I can actually see the argument that if we get snow once every twenty years, is it really worth a council spending a huge amount of money – money that could go towards more urgent things – on a snow plough?

Living in Canada, though, taught me how to dress in the snow. This week I’ve been trudging to work in long johns, hiking pants, thermal socks and hiking boots, to get me through the ice and the slush and the snow. All these things come off when I get to work – I keep indoor shoes and a pair of work trousers in my desk drawer. My colleagues laugh at me, but I feel prepared. I seem to feel the cold more than most people do. With all these layers, at least I am staying warm.

I’ve also been leaving the house really early, expecting train delays but so far this week – and I am reluctant to declare this, in case I’m tempting providence – my journey has been relatively delay-free. Not so for my colleagues, though. It seems those who come from the North of London are having the most problems.

But it’s been this way for the last three winters. So is this the sign of winters to come and London should invest in snow ploughs? Not according to Phillip Eden of the Royal Meteorological Society in this article here from the BBC website. He says we’re just following an established pattern, and we can expect a run of mild winters from next year.

Here’s hoping he’s right. In the meantime, I’ve got another three early mornings of struggling in to work in the snow, and then I have ten days of lie-ins over the holiday period.

I don’t really mind if the snow sticks around after Christmas. Hanging around the house, with hubby and the cats, working on my WIP and blasting zombies on the Nintendo Wii, sounds like a pretty good way of spending the holidays to me.

E-books and Obstacles

(Cross-posted from the WriteClub blog)

Since acquiring my e-reader, I have been buying e-books. And I have encountered two intensely annoying problems that are preventing me from buying all the e-books I would like.

First of all, each e-reader uses different software, and not all e-books are available in all formats. If an e-book I want to buy is only available on the Kindle, I won’t be able to read it on my Sony e-reader. This I find rather irritating. It’s like buying a film on DVD and discovering that this DVD won’t run on your Toshiba DVD player – you have to have a Sony.

The other problem is the whole DRM issue (otherwise known as digital rights management). I’ve heard several arguments for DRM now, but I am yet to be convinced it’s a good idea. In practice, what it means is that if I am at my computer in the UK, and I find an e-book I want to buy that’s only available on a US e-book site, I can’t buy it.

This seems, to me, to be completely daft. As I have family in Canada, hubby and I frequently visit there. We love browsing in Toronto’s wonderful book stores, and we will invariably find books that we want to buy when we browse – generally things that aren’t in print or available yet in the UK, or sometimes just because this is the sequel to the book one of us finished reading on the plane on the way over. So we’ll buy the books, we’ll put them in our suitcase and we’ll bring them back to the UK. We’re not doing anything illegal. We are legitimately buying the books; we are contributing to the Canadian economy; and we are putting money in the pockets of the writers. And we will enjoy the books. Even if I buy a print book from the US Amazon site it’s not a problem – Amazon will happily ship the book to me in the UK – I just pay a bit more for postage.

Yet, if I try to buy an e-book from the US, I can’t. I have discovered there are a number of e-books I can’t buy, either because they are only available on US e-book sites or they are only available on Kindle. And it’s really starting to bug me. Here I am ready to embrace this new electronic technology, and I find obstacles in my way. Have publishers not yet figured out that if the books people want to read are freely available to all as e-books, there’s less of chance they will be pirated?

I will take a moment to praise my publisher, Lyrical Press, here because neither of these problems exist with their e-books. There are no digital rights restrictions on e-books purchased direct from Lyrical’s site, so you can buy them from anywhere in the world (and I’ve had people in Canada, US and the UK buying my e-book), and each e-book is available in six different formats, so you can load it onto whichever e-reader you wish.

Yay for Lyrical. Now we just have to get the rest of the publishing world to follow in their trailblazing footsteps.

Nothing To Do, Nowhere to Be – For Once

I’m having a busy old time at the moment. The bi-annual formal dinner I organise for work is on Friday, and the run-up to it is always hectic. The week after that, we’re off to Canada. As we know so many people there, I’ve been firing off emails to various people to find out who’s free to meet up with us and when as part of the trip organisation.

Hubby has spent the best part of the last two weeks working abroad, and when he comes back he’ll have to pack his suitcase for Canada. In fact, I think sitting at the airport waiting for the plane will be the first chance I get to have an extended conversation with him in three weeks. But because he’s not been here, I’ve also had to run errands on his behalf. Taking his suits to the dry cleaners so he has something to wear to the office when he’s back. Sorting out the tax disk for his car, which expires while we’re away. Booking an appointment for a hair cut for him, so he can get it done in the day or so he’s in the UK between flights.

And I’m still being diligent in getting up at 5:30am twice a week to get my ‘writing mornings’ in.

But in spite of all this, I’m not feeling stressed (rather exhausted, perhaps, but not stressed). After a cold winter and unusually cold May, it seems the warm weather has finally arrived in London. I love Spring. Getting up at 5:30am is not so bad at the moment because it’s broad daylight at that time in the morning. I love the extended days we get at this time of year, this far North of the equator. We pay the price with excessive hours of darkness in winter, but winter’s a long way off.

And there’s tonight. Tonight I have nowhere in particular to be – for the first time in ages. I have no urgent emails to send, no documents to hunt out, nothing important to do. So just for tonight, I am going to do nothing. I am going to be on the sofa with the cats, in my PJs by 9pm, watching ‘Supernatural’. And then ‘Dexter’.

From tomorrow, I’m busy until July. But that’s tomorrow. Tonight, I’m spending quality time with the Winchester boys. Bliss.