Monday, 12 February 2018

My #TheWalkingDead posts on this blog and TWD Fansite #TWD #TWDFamily

Getting ready for February 25th!

I've written so many posts about our favourite show on this blog and also for the currently dormant TWD Fansite; here are most of them.  Just click the title for the article ~ thank you for stopping by, and I'll see you back at Hilltop.... πŸ˜‰

Pivotal Episodes of Seasons One and Two

Pivotal Episodes of Seasons Three and Four

Pivotal Episodes of Seasons Five and Six

Pivotal Episodes of Seasons Six and Seven

~ thoughts on the first half of Season 8

(the review for each episode of Season 8 has a link to the review of the previous one)

in a zombie apocalypse?

Not long now....

Friday, 9 February 2018

TIPPING POINT & LINDISFARNE ~ Both books @ 99p for a few days #PostApocalyptic #Dystopian

Click HERE for Tipping Point
 Click HERE for Lindisfarne

The post apocalyptic Project Renova series

Year 2024
A deadly virus
Civilised society begins to break down....

99p/99c from 9 ~ 11 February.
Click HERE for Amazon link.

99p/99c, from 9 ~ 15 February
Click HERE for Amazon link

Associated stand-alone short stories:
Patient Zero is always 99p!
Click HERE for Amazon

The third novel in the trilogy, UK2, will be available at the end of March or beginning of April, 
(all being well, cross fingers and as long as the world doesn't end....)

Monday, 5 February 2018

Lately I've been watching.....

Previously on Lately I've Been Watching....
9 January
18 January 

Click title for more details

The Crown

The life and times of the British royal family ~ I've just watched Season 2, which was even better than Season 1.  It takes place during the late 1950s and early 1960s and deals with revelations about Edward VIII's Nazi sympathies, Princess Margaret's love life, a meeting with the Kennedys, the downfall of MacMillan's government after the Profumo affair, and so much more.  Can't wait for the next season!  Claire Foy and Matt Smith star.

5 stars


Season 5, still terrific despite the lack of Ragnar Lothbrok.  I've written a full review of it HERE

5 stars


Druids and Romans in Dark Ages England.  Watched the first episode and unimpressed; the awesome-ness that is David Morrissey didn't quite make up for the rest of it.  Struck me as the Happy Shopper version of Vikings.  I think US TV seems to do this sort of thing so much better; the actors and dialogue were unconvincing for the time, with people like Julian Rhind-Tutt playing more or less the same character as he did in Green Room. Somehow, Lagertha talking to Torvi in Vikings seems authentic, even though they're speaking in English, but the two sisters on the beach at the beginning of this just weren't.

2 stars

Last Flag Flying

Film: light tragi-comedic drama about three Vietnam vets, starring Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell and Lawrence Fishburne.  I'll watch anything with Mr Cranston in it, and he's great in this.  Loved it, definitely recommend!

4.5 stars

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Not my usual thing at all; comedy/musical series starring and created by Rachel Bloom.  New York lawyer abandons her career to chase a dream in California, stalking an ex-boyfriend.  I enjoyed the first 3 episodes of Season 1 which were really well done, but the 4th episode was a bit weak, with lots of determinedly 'zany' chick lit type scenarios, and I don't think I even smiled, so I don't know if I shall bother to watch any more. 

3 stars


Drama series starring Sharon Stone about an ill-fated, neurotic children's author.  Weird to see her finally starting to look old, though still beautiful.  Lovely mountain setting, pretty bog-standard murder plot type thing, but good.

3.5 stars 

Top of the Lake

Just watched Season 2; #1 was set in mountainous New Zealand and I really loved the scenery as well as the plot.  #2 is in Sydney.  Flavour of the month Elisabeth Moss stars as a detective with all sorts of personal baggage, around which the plots centre.  Very gripping, good stories, loved it (#1 was my favourite).

5 stars

Inside No. 9 

Just watched Season 4 of the darkly comic tales starring and written by Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith.  They vary; they're all good but some are just 'yeah, that was good', and some are great.  I liked the last two of this series the best; brilliant twisty plots.

4 stars

Safe House 

Film - rogue CIA agent thriller starring Denzel Washington.  Good, but not remarkable; I've actually forgotten what the plot was about already.  But I enjoyed it at the time. 

3.5 stars

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Ten miscellaneous tips for debut writers

Over two years ago, I wrote a post about the slip-ups often made by new writers, based on my own mistakes and the books I read in my role as a reviewer for Rosie Amber's Review Team.  It's HERE if you would like to read it.  Here are a few more miscellaneous tips that might be of use to the new writer, especially one who is self-promoting on social media.  It's based on further reviewing experience, talking to other writers and reviewers, and my excessive use of Twitter for the past 6+ years!

The book itself

1.  Make sure the names of your characters stand out well, particularly if there are a lot of them.  Don't have main characters whose names start with the same letter, or give them all common names; if you have a group of friends called Joe, Rob, Jodie, Andy, Tony, Ruth, Jack and Anna, it will be hard for the reader to differentiate between them.  One could be known by his/her initials, for instance; then there are nicknames, and the occasional Sapphire or Lysander!

2.  People don't talk in perfectly grammatical sentences.  Nor do they give exactly the right amount of information required by the person to whom they are talking.  They say lots of boring things that should not be included in your novel.  Enough ~ for a brilliant article that outlines everything you should know about dialogue no-nos, by Anne R Allen, click HERE.

3.  Before publishing your first novel, have it assessed by someone other than a friend/family member, unless you are absolutely sure that they can do so not only honestly, but objectively.  I can't advise on critique groups as I have never used one, but it's definitely worth exploring; I've seen many words of thanks to them in the Author's Notes at the back of books I've liked.  

I'd counsel research if paying for a professional assessment service; I gather that some refrain from negative feedback, which could be because of today's culture of encouragment, or simply because they're hoping to get more business and recommendations from you.  Receiving only encouraging feedback is lovely, but it won't help make your novel better.  Make sure they have proper industry experience (for instance, with a Big 5 or established publisher) before handing over any money; see link in 3, below.

4.  Always have a thorough, cover-to-cover read of the final copy of your book, after editing and proofreading, before publication.  You might spot a typo that the proofreader has missed, or a bit of bad formatting.  You should do this even if you have a publisher; always ask if you can see the finished draft before they press 'go'.  Don't just chuck it at them for the final proofread and think 'job done'.  I'd say at least 25% of self-published or indie press published books that I read have far more than the acceptable 5-10 errors  Some indie presses do not use experienced, professional proofreaders; you can read more about this HERE.

5.  If you're going to write about drink/drugs and those who use them a lot, or any sort  of 'street' culture/crime/gang life, etc, make sure you know what you're talking about.  Few crimes against contemporary literature scream 'amateur' more than getting drug terminology wrong, for instance.  You can't get it from Wikipedia or the Urban Dictionary.  You have to know about it.  And if you are not a drinker but your characters are, make sure you fully understand about quantities/effects.

For another post with some excellent tips for new writers, by Louise Marley, on With Love For Books blog: Click HERE

Social Media

1.  Your bios on your social media profiles should be about YOU, not your novel.  Of course you will mention that you are a writer, but people are more likely to check out your book if you look like an interesting person than if you have written 'check out my book' (or worse, 'buy my book here') in your bio.  There is no need to make a separate profile for the book itself, as these are clearly just promotional tools; many do not like to follow inanimate objects.  Remember the word 'social' in the phrase 'social media'.

2.  In relation to the above, please don't do tweets/other posts asking people to 'download, read and review'.  Even if your book is free.  It's a 'big ask', and it looks like begging.  The onus is on you to make your book appear interesting enough for people to want to download it, and to make it compelling enough for them to want to read it all the way through.  Few members of the reading public review; they're less likely to if they feel under pressure to do so. 

3. Don't advertise your book as a 'five star read'.  It's so 2011, and all books except the most dire have at least one 5*.

4.  If you have requested a review from a book blogger and they have provided one, thank them.  Even if you're not 100% happy with the result.  They've given up their time, free of charge; it's only common courtesy.  One book blogger told me that about a fifth of writers who are reviewed on her blog don't say thank you; some of them even have the cheek to submit another book.

I am always a little miffed when I've reviewed a book for Rosie's blog in a favourable way, tweeted it, and the writer just clicks 'like' on Twitter and retweets.  How much would it take to thank me for my time?  This lack of manners guarantees that I will never promote that review again, RT the writer, or read anything else by them.  

5.  And finally.... Twitter auto DMs asking people to check out your book/blog/website, donate to your kickstarter, follow you on Instagram, like your Facebook page, etc, etc etc.  Just DON'T.  Not even the ones that invite people to let you know if they want help in promoting anything.  I have never talked to anyone on Twitter who doesn't detest auto messaging.  This can't be underlined too emphatically, or said too often.

I hope some of this is helpful :) 

Friday, 26 January 2018

Lately I've been watching.... what else but #Vikings?

Previously on Lately I've been watching: 
9 January
18 January

This 'Lately I've been watching' is dedicated only to the first 10 episodes of Season 5 of Vikings, which I've just watched over 3 days.

Loved it, as always, though I felt it's become a little more theatrical this season, and wondered if this was the directors making up for the element it is now lacking, ie, Ragnar Lothbrok.
The glorious Travis Fimmel as Ragnar (early days!)

At the very end of last season I was much interested in the inclusion of Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Bishop Heahmund; my theory is that he's been put in as one-for-the-ladies, now that the glorious Travis Fimmel is no longer with us.  A nice bit of stuff though JRM undoubtedly is, I find his brand of actorish-acting more suited to the Hollywoodised romp type historical drama of The Tudors than the previously more authentic-feeling Vikings; for instance, his exchanges with Ivar the Boneless lacked the subtlety and depth of those between Ragnar and Athelstan.

I was, however, most pleased to see him get together with Lagertha at the end, and it was good to see Lagertha back with her shield maiden hairdo and warpaint ~ is this the 21st century ideal of femininity?  If so, I'm all for it.

It's brother against brother once more, then, in the tradition of Ragnar and Rollo, as Ivar persuades the not-so-intelligent one whose name I had to look up because a) he is so insignificant and b) I could never hear it properly (Hvitserk), to side with him against the mighty Bjorn Ironside and the honorable Ubbe, who is the only one who actually looks like Ragnar, albeit a watered down version.

Then there is Harald Finehair and the adventurer Halfdan (another favourite of mine), whose loyalty to Bjorn was cemented when they dined on a Sicilian in the desert.  I was so sad to see Halfdan killed in the last episode, and wanted Valhalla to be real for him.  Less so Astrid, who got on my nerves.  Poor Harald; how long must it have taken to grow that plait?  When all the time the father of Astrid's child might have been any one of group of four whalers; like Harald's plait, I felt this storyline was chopped off prematurely.  Then again, he did kill Halfdan, in direct contrast with Ubbe, who, when the shields were down, could not kill his own brother.  Shame that Halfdan was far more worthy of life than Hvitserk.

Harald and Halfdan enjoy a cool 99 in Valhalla

And let us not forget Alfred and Aethelred....  I expect to see Alfred become a major character loved by a Viking leader as Ecbert was by Ragnar.  Though maybe not Ivar, who has shaped up so well as the pantomime villain with the occasional weakness, though one never knows; does he just show this to keep others such as Hvitserk on his side?  He is a master war statistician, but will he meet his match in Alfred?  And will Rollo sort the little tinker out, now he's back, in his designer robes?  Has he stopped throwing his toys out of the pram and learned to do what is right?

Love the Floki in Iceland sideshow ~ I took it that he had not only thought he had seen the gods in his starving, delirious state, but also the land as lush and verdant.  I expect he'll be dissuaded from sacrificing himself, and will, at some point, be able to show them the mountain that breathes fire, thus proving that he was right all along about it being a magical land.

And so to the next ten episodes....

  • Will mad-as-a-box-of-frogs Margrethe kill Torvi or her children?
  • Will Lagertha have her highlights redone, or will she stay shocked-silver, following her reluctant murder of Astrid?
  • Will Alfred follow in the wise footsteps of his grandfather, but this time manage not to murder a bunch of Norse farmers?
  • Has Rollo arrived to side with Ivar or Bjorn?
  • Which one of Ragnar's sons will decide to chuck it all up and open an international cab firm instead? 


We shall see.....

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Lately I've been watching.....

A few more TV and film recommendations... or not, as the case may be.

Previous post with more, HERE

Dunkirk : film.  

Needs no explanation.  Stars Mark Rylance, Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, Kenneth Branagh, and, oddly, Harry Styles from One Direction.  Fabulous, we watched it in total silence.

5 big huge golden stars

Damnation : TV Series

Set in 1930s Depression in American midwest, drama/thriller about feuding brothers and evil bankers trying to force eviction of farmers.  Stars Logan Marshall-Green (lush!) and Killian Scott.  Jolly good!

4 stars

Horace and Pete 

Web series starring Steve Buscemi, about two brothers running an Irish bar.  Tragi-comedy, takes the form of a play.  Very funny, obviously!

4 stars

The Fast and the Furious: Film series, starts in 2001

Recently watched all these wonderfully preposterous car chase/action films, which were far better than I thought they'd be.  Stars the lovely Paul Walker who died during the making of #7, and Vin Diesel, who I really liked.  Great fun, terrific escapism.  I liked #2 and #5 best.

4 stars.

Hard Sun : pre-apocalyptic thriller, TV series.

Woman cop with issues and male cop with secrets discover that the world is going to end in five years when something weird happens to the sun.  Murky characters try to stop them letting the cat out of the bag.  Interesting side-stories, nicely left open at the end for possible 2nd series?

3.5 stars

Jigsaw: film

Horror, starring Tobin Bell.  Utterly clichΓ©d, predictable rubbish, hackneyed plot, appalling acting.

1 star

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Lately I've been watching....

Some film and TV comments, with trailers for your enjoyment!  Click on name of film/series for more info.

Film ~ Jungle

Fabulous true life tragic and amazing adventure starring Daniel Radcliffe - loved it so much I could have watched it again straight away, and now want to read the book.

5 stars
🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

Black Mirror Season 4

A glimpse into the technology of the not so distant future... brilliant, as always.   6 separate stories ~ my favourites were  1, 3 and 5.

 5 stars 
 πŸŒŸ 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

Stranger Things Season 2

Liked this series much more than the first.  Sci-Fi series set in 1984.  Gives me the feeling of curling up in bed reading comics, as a child.  Love that it's not all about today's technology; will appeal to the oldies like me!

4.5 stars
 πŸŒŸ 🌟 🌟 🌟

Borg vs McEnroe ~ film

About their thrilling 1980s final!  (The guy who played Borg was amazing)

4.5 stars
 πŸŒŸ 🌟 🌟 🌟

Curb Your Enthusiasm

The long-running comedy series starring Larry David, who created Seinfeld.  I watch a few episodes of this whenever I feel like something light; always great.

 4.5 stars
 πŸŒŸ 🌟 🌟 🌟

Fearless - serial drama

Lawyer tries to prove the innocence of a child killer and opens up a whole can of worms.  I did like it, but don't think I would have remembered it if I hadn't made a note of it straight away.  It's worth watching.

3.5/4 stars
 πŸŒŸ 🌟 🌟

Doomsday ~ post apocalyptic film from 2008

The first five minutes showed great promise.  After that it was preposterous rubbish, mostly.  Gangs of unruly punks in forgotten Scotland, who all happen to be really great looking with great bodies despite living on a diet of human flesh.  Breakaway gang of immunes live in a castle, and for some reason all dress in medieval attire.  Scantily clad girl beats huge man in full body armour in battle.  You get the picture.  Some good music, though.

2 stars
 πŸŒŸ 🌟

American Gothic ~ serial killer family thriller

2 stars
 πŸŒŸ 🌟

Mostly preposterous rubbish, but I watched it to the end, possibly because it starred the bloke out of Banshee who is totally hot.  Includes token beautiful, successful professional woman who happens to be a lesbian, as is usual in TV drama these days (nb, this is not a slur against the LGBTQ community, but a criticism of the patronising tokenism present in the TV industry).  

Monday, 25 December 2017

Five of my books are #FREE from Dec 25 ~29!

Five FREE from Dec 25-29

 ~~ Click the book title for the Amazon link ~~

All have stacks of reviews from book bloggers and the reading public.

Kings and Queens 
Genre: Romantic suspense, family drama.
The story of property developer Harry Lanchester and the six women in his life spans the years 1971-2007, and mirrors that of Henry VIII and his six wives.  Meet charismatic PR girl Annette Hever, former lap dancer Keira Howard... and nanny Hannah Cleveley.

...while the sequel, Last Child, is just 99p/99c from Dec 25~31.  Last Child features the three children of Harry Lanchester: Isabella, Erin and Jasper (the modern day counterparts of Mary, Elizabeth and Edward).  If you know nothing of or are not interested in the historical aspect, both books can be read just as contemporary family dramas.

Round and Round 
Genre: Romantic suspense, paranormal
A novella based up on the idea of the paths our lives might have taken, had we made different decisions ... features Sophie, at a crossroads in her life as her 40th birthday approaches, and a guardian angel.

What It Takes 
Genre: Romantic suspense, family drama, psychological drama
A tale of sibling rivalry, jealousy, stalking, and how far we will go to win the heart of the one we love.

You Wish 
Genre: Psychological drama 
My first self-published novel; it's all about being careful what you wish for!

Nine Lives 
A collection of assorted short stories.