Happy New Year, and happy birthday to Edge and co.

This blog introduces my new mailing list, and if you sign up you get a free Lawns story as a thank you, and notifications of pre-publication special prices, and other general sweeteners to encourage you to stay subscribed. After this blog, the offers will likely only be on the emails. Go sign up now, I’ll wait, it’s the button at the top of the sidebar.  Oh, and there’s a free book offer in the blog too.

This is also happy birthday to Edge, Vivian, Donald and William, who were officially born on the 1st of January 2013, when I got a New Year resolution sorted in recordNOT USED time and published my first novella on Kindle. The book – which very nearly went out with this cover, don’t laugh – was very  nearly a textbook for newbie ineptitude.

I doubt I’ll stop making errors any time soon, but I’m not quite the naïve writer who with much muttering and cursing and referring to help topics, published  One Two on Kindle and shyly sat back, thinking the job was done.  Such an innocent. But if I had known then what I know now, a year down the line, I probably wouldn’t have done it. Far from job done, it was job barely begun.

The joy of novellas is that they’re a pleasure to write; forty to fifty thousand words is a piece of cake.  Writing a thousand words an hour is the easy part. Editing, pruning, tidying and rewriting, updating feedback from beta readers, waking at three in the morning to suddenly realize I hadn’t actually explained a key timing issue (the moon phases in Five Six) is a job. A very badly paid one, and the hours are brutal.

The Lawns books are also now in paperback, and an omnibus Kindle edition of One to Six is coming out tomorrow, January 1st, to mark the anniversary.  It’ll be $5, so, since the books are $2.99 each, there’s a saving of up to $3.97. I should probably have said that earlier. I’m still rubbish at marketing.

2014 is all about getting serious. I want reviews, and the experts (independent publishing may still be in its rebellious spotty teens, but there are experts, and when they are best-selling experts, you listen) say each book needs at least a hundred reviews to make a ripple in the general reading public. A hundred! One Two has around a dozen scattered over the Amazon websites around the world, and the others are trailing behind even that. Readers say they like the books, they tell me on Twitter and Facebook and even on LinkedIn, and they must be telling each other for the sales to carry on trickling in (Five Six sold better in its first week than the first two combined, in their first weeks, and all of them are selling slowly but steadily) but they don’t tell Amazon.  I gave away 500 copies of One Two and got a big jump in sales on the other two, but only three reviews out of it. So that didn’t work, I’m not sure I will do it again.

Instead, anyone who emails Elizabeth.Lamprey@yahoo.co.uk with the link to a review they’ve published on one of my books gets their choice of the books listed at the end of this giant blog, or, if you already have every book written to date (thank you!) goes on the list for the next. I’d much rather give away a free book to a reviewer who has already taken the trouble once, and if they enjoy it, might do so again, than in random promotion. I don’t know whether I mentioned it yet but reviews are really, really important. I did? Worth saying again.

I’m having silhouettes drawn of the characters (rough draft at the end of the blog), and eventually there’ll be sketches (why, why did I not spend ten thousand hours drawing as well as writing?) but until then here’s your very rough visual shortcut to the birthday kiddies.

the group

 

The list of Grasshopper Lawns books by EJ Lamprey (with clickable links where the book is already on sale) which can also be claimed in Kindle format by existing reviewers 

One Two Buckle My Shoe unpopular resident Betsy Campbell called the police to report a murder, but was dead when they arrived. The police could do with some inside information, and luckily Sergeant Kirsty Cameron’s aunt is right on the spot. 

In Three Four Knock On My Door it’s handsome devoted nephew Simon, and the enigmatic Dallas from Louisiana, who come knocking. And Death, complete with scythe. The amateur sleuths solve murder in between unexpected family, winter picnics, mad dogs and Englishmen.

Five Six Pick Up Sticks   Website dating for the over-fifties is definitely a boom industry, but for some it has been a dead end, and the Scottish police want to know why.  Sergeant Kirsty Cameron’s aunt Edge is the right age to be the bait in their investigation, and she’ll be monitored at all times, so nothing can go wrong . . .   

Seven Eight Play It Straight is due out early in 2014  Edge’s stepdaughter is appearing in a Fringe production during the Edinburgh Festival;  but  as always when the four friends are around, murder is never far away. Sergeant Kirsty Cameron can’t help much this time, she’s been suspended during the investigation, as her aunt is a suspect . . .

There’s a ghost story called The Passing Of Mrs Parker Woodburn , by EJ Lamprey (the link is to the lovely short story site Alfiedog.com, which at 39p is a better price than Amazon.) Mrs PW was quite put out about being murdered. . .

Science Fiction novelette Time after Time, published under the name Joanna Lamprey. Being different can be hard to live with. Finding out that what makes you different is going to change your life, in ways closed to nearly everyone else on Earth, is pretty heady stuff. You can’t blame a girl for getting a little carried away. This is a story about travelling back through time. And the importance of not acting without thinking, when twenty or thirty thousand years hang in the balance.  Oops.

(Be warned, one of my usual beta readers did not like this book, and one, who doesn’t like SF, couldn’t carry on reading. Two refused to even try as they don’t like the genre. The other beta readers for the book don’t read my Lawns books, they are SF only. So, only one beta reader who likes both this and the Lawns books.) 

There’s also a handbook, Beta Reader (and how to prepare your book for beta reading) which is on Kindle at 99c and also available in paperback. Most reference books are more convenient in print but frankly, because of the way this one is set up, Kindle works well. If you are using it as an edit guide, you’re working through one task at a time, and that fits with a Kindle screen just fine.  If you’re reading it to learn more about beta reading, why pay extra for a paperback? And if you’re beta reading for me, or generally claiming it as a free book, but don’t for whatever reason want the Kindle version,  it’s not too big for PDF, I think about 75 pages.

 group 3

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December 2013: The Red Cloak

THE RED CLOAK
(The theme for December was Midwinter Solstice, and the elements were fear and not here, not now) 

red cloak

Warmth spread to his horn-nailed fingertips with the first gulp and he drank again greedily. Wonderful. Wonderful! Between the firebox walls, even the delicate web of flame flickering overhead, this excellent drink, and the cloak slung around his shoulders, he, who had thought warmth and life lost forever, was alive again. He fingered the cloak wonderingly. It was soft, fine, red, the most magnificent thing he had ever seen. As they brought him in, half-dead with the cold and fear, a young Galan in the startled crowd had pulled it off his own shoulders, and, at a nod from an older man, rushed over to fling it round him. The same youngster stood by him now, attentively waiting to top up his drink, beaming at him as though he were the most wonderful sight in the world. It wasn’t a look the traveller was used to, and he wondered uneasily whether he was being wooed. These primitive Northern folk, one heard strange tales—but on the other hand, one couldn’t be a traveller and turn down new experiences, and the lad was, for a Northerner, very taking. He looked back to the glossy-furred Elders smilingly watching him.

‘The cloak,’ he asked haltingly in Galan, ‘how make?’

‘As our Lady returns, we comb ourselves every day.’ The woman picked words he could understand. ‘The combings are spun, then dyed and woven into cloaks. There is only ever one red cloak, it is sacred to us.’

‘We have no thing like this.’ He marvelled. ‘But our fleece are short.’ By Southern standards he was shaggy, with a winter mane of which he was secretly proud, but he felt positively svelte among these hirsute people. His people thought the Northerners wild, with their flowing pelts, but the cloak was superb. He wondered what he could trade for it. Sacred wasn’t a word he knew, maybe it meant friendly, in which case they might even give it to him. ‘You said your—Lady?’

‘Our Lady of Summer. While she reigns, we grow our food, hunt, and raise our young. As the Winter Lord’s dark shadow grows we turn to learning and inventing. Every year, a day comes when there is no daylight at all, and on that day we light the fires, because fire is their link. We spend this day in worship, we sacrifice to him, and he lets the Lady take us back, day by day, to the summer. We do this also on the day there is no dark, because we crave the knowledge the Lord brings us.’

‘We had hear you superstitious!’ He was delighted to get the stories confirmed.

‘What else do Shorthairs—Southerners—say of us?’ one of the men asked with interest, and he felt a warm rush of affection for these friendly, lovely people.

‘We say,’ he confided, ‘that you primitive. Hostile. Must not to visit in winter.’ He shivered. ‘Now I know why. So cold!’

The Galan looked puzzled. ‘Are you cold?’

‘No, no, not now! I ready to die for cold when you find me. Now warm. I not ever see fire like this.’ He pointed a claw at the delicate tracery of flame above. ‘Beautiful. This drink, you call moonshine? I never taste drink like this. Make me warm, happy. Is good.’

‘We learn much during the reign of the Winter Lord,’ the old woman repeated. ‘Fire is precious, for two days a year only, for the rest of the cold time we use the heat that we stored during the months of the Lady.’

He was puzzled, but his Galan wasn’t up to pursuing an explanation and he returned to an earlier comment. ‘You say sac-ri-fice,’ he used the barely familiar word carefully. ‘That is to kill a beast, yes?’

‘No, for the Lord we draw lots. One must burn so the rest can live. This time, it was to be Gered.’ She gestured at the handsome lad who was so attentively caring for him, and he felt a shock of protest. This promising and charming young man? Barbaric!

‘Was to be, not now?’ He looked up and Gered bent forward eagerly, tilting the jug invitingly. Flame reflected, dancing, in his eyes.

November 2013: The Worst Time To Travel

THE WORST TIME TO TRAVEL
(The theme for November was The Unwanted Gift, and there were two elements , Travel, and Forgetfulness)

delayed flights

‘You look, if you don’t mind me saying so, absolutely fed up.’ The fat man, having thanked her for lifting her bag off the seat next to hers in the crowded waiting room, now seemed to want to make conversation and Carol sighed inwardly. But if it passed this interminable waiting time …

‘I hate travelling at any time. But most of all at this time of year.’

‘So why are you?’ He unwrapped a burger, his obvious anticipation undimmed by the soggy bun, flabby burger patty, and wisps of tired vegetable matter being revealed by the process, and she averted her eyes.

‘Oh – my daughter. She sent a note and a gift saying I had to open it immediately, and join them for Christmas. I’ve not been able to reach her, so there was nothing for it but to book. I don’t want it to be an emergency, but I’ll be a little cross if it isn’t. She knows how I hate to fly!’

‘Did you bring the gift?’ He lowered the sad limp burger, and looked interested. ‘What is it?’

‘You tell me.’ She produced what looked like a steel powder compact. ‘It does open, but there’s nothing inside. And anyway, who needs a powder compact these days? I’ve got a powder spray. She gave me that, too, last year, so she knows I don’t need a compact.’

‘Well, now,’ he said thoughtfully. ‘And those powder sprays – last year, you said? But they only came on the market a few months ago.’

‘Yes, I know, but she works with new inventions. Did you ever watch that TV show, a Town Called Eureka? A bit like that. No direct contact with the outside world, that’s why I couldn’t reach her.’

‘And that’s where you’re going?’

‘Yes.’ She eyed him warily, suddenly aware she’d said more to this total stranger than she should. Holly had asked her never to discuss anything about the Centre.

He gave the compact back and took a bite of his burger, and she blinked. Just for a second, as he bit into it, the patty had looked thick and delicious, topped with crisp lettuce, juicy tomato and a generous supply of fried onion rings – the sort of burgers she’d made for Holly and Nicholas, when they were young. The impression was so vivid she could actually smell it, and her mouth watered automatically – then he was chewing, and for all his obvious enjoyment, the portion left in his hand looked as tired and limp as it had before. She looked away politely and focused on the tired, irritable and fretful passengers around them, staring with dulled eyes at the departures board which flickered again. ALL FLIGHTS DELAYED.

‘Not much Christmas spirit, is there?’ He really was a very rosy man, against that snow-white hair and tidy beard. ‘Tell me, did you ever ask her for anything in particular?’

‘No. Well.’ She laughed despite herself at the memory. ‘I asked her not to expect me to travel ever again until they invented a teleporter! I’d forgotten that. So did she, obviously.’

‘She didn’t.’ His eyes lit with laughter. ‘Carol, for security reasons she sent the instructions separately, and they got stolen. You go find a private corner, open the compact, and tell it to take you to Holly.’

She stared at him and he twinkled merrily.

‘I’m by way of being in the Christmas business, Carol. And I love the way your family names reflect my traditions. Now off you go and have a wonderful holiday with your family.’ With that he started to laugh, an old-fashioned belly laugh. ‘I’ve got some planes to sort out!  Ho ho ho!’

 

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I know, I know, cheesy. But it was the winning entry for that month so go ahead, laugh.

October 2013: Back to Basics (William’s in this one)

BACK TO BASICS
(The theme for October was Deception, and the element was Fire.)

firepot

The brief, three years ago, had been electrifying. Interstellar travel was a reality, with the first exploration ship due to launch in five years.  Nick Taylor had been one of three thousand experts pulled onto the project, and the years since had been the most exciting, exhausting, alarming, and thrilling years of his young life.

His section covered crew wellbeing—even at interstellar speed, the closest promising-looking planet was four years away. The ship would transport a team of experts, spend a year on the planet—all going well, of course—and return. Most of the passengers would travel in stasis, since it wasn’t logistically possible to provision up to ten years for so many people, but the minimum crew of nine—three at a time on duty, twenty-four /seven—was their main worry. How could nine people be kept from going stark staring mad in eight years, during the hours they were neither working nor sleeping?

The section personnel were gathered today for an update on that vital issue, rehashing the many suggestions that had been tabled—revolving all the personnel in and out of stasis, or choosing only crew who shared a single language; loading ship databanks with thousands of films and books; hurriedly inventing a Voyager-style holodeck. That one never drew many laughs; it was so obviously what was needed. Entertaining a crew, even a multilingual one, wasn’t the impossibility; relaxing them, however—the five volunteer teams living in trial conditions were all stressed almost to incoherence within months.

Overall coordinator Tom Burkett tapped a pen against his glass for attention, and the heated conversations died. ‘You’ll remember at the original brief we invited some SF writers, in the hope they could think outside the box on this? We’ve got a presentation from William Robertson coming up next. We’ll go through now.’

William Robertson! Nick had been a fan all his teens, still was if he had time to read, and craned eagerly over the heads of the people walking in front of him for his first close-up glimpse of the author.

Robertson was taller, heavier, and older than anyone in the room; he nodded unsmiling greetings as they entered the room, where nineteen chairs were grouped around a steel fire bowl. Fire? Nick took his place with the others, and Robertson, leaning on one of his trademark sticks, bent to touch a lighter to the bowl.

Flames leapt and Burkett spoke up. ‘No talking. Relax and watch.’

This was stupid—there couldn’t be an open fire on a spaceship!—but Nick watched obediently. His frayed nerves eased; he could smell wood burning, and an elusive faint trace of something else. Someone, presumably Robertson, threw a chunk of rock salt on the fire, which sparked and burned blue. There was something else . . . people, shadows against shadows, and the plaintive strains of a harmonica. Horses snorted nearby, and stars burned huge in the night sky. One of the men threw a log on the fire in a flurry of sparks—

Nick flinched, and was back in his seat.

‘How the hell did you do that?’ he exclaimed involuntarily. The others were looking equally startled, and Robertson grinned into his tidy beard.

‘Since we first learned to summon fire,’ he rumbled, unexpectedly Scots, ‘it has been our comfort, our safety, our dreamy pleasure, triggering our most primal feelings of wellbeing. I released a permitted narcotic—milder than a wee dram—to prime you. The crew will have the same narcotic. Imagination—memory—you’ll have all experienced summat different. And will, every time you look into the flames, no matter how often you look. Our trial team use it a few times a week, and their stress levels have dropped back well below concern levels.’

He swung his stick at the fire pot, which flickered as the stick went straight through the image.

‘It’s not real?’  Ann Moore wasn’t the only one to gasp, but she was the only one to speak.

‘Och, it’s real, burning right now, and it will for the next two years. Every flicker, every added log, all captured on holographic film for the journey. Smoke and mirrors, ken? Smoke and mirrors.’

 

September 2013: The Recruiters

THE RECRUITERS
(The theme for September was Humour, and the element was Outer Space.)

recruiters

‘I’m afraid it’s out of the question.’  The Daolan looked apologetically around the four men facing him.

Admiral Hansen leaned forward. ‘Because we’re from Earth?’

The yellow-skinned alien hesitated, then inclined his head. Humans have met many strange variations among the intelligent space-travelling races, but Daolans, acknowledged as the finest navigators of all, are odder than most, with a gelatinous body shape that can change at will. The Daolan had braced himself into a sitting position with four pudgy tentacles, and used two more to make gestures. The upper part of his sac-like body was fringed with silky follicles, which moved of their own accord as though sniffing the air.

Admiral Hansen looked round at the others, then back. ‘Gorman, we brought you here at some expense for this interview, you must have known we would be asking you to join our crew. I’ll be frank—we were really excited that you agreed to meet us at all, so this is a great disappointment. I accept you won’t take the job. I would like you to explain why, because yours is not the only race keeping their distance. ‘

Gorman shrugged, his follicles rippling, but answered honestly. ‘Earth people have already accrued a reputation for a certain, uh, oddity. I wanted to meet you, because I didn’t believe it could be as disturbing as I’d heard, but . . . you say things that don’t make sense, then look at each other and pull faces. Sometimes you even make odd noises. It is—unsettling. Each voyage lasts at least twenty epochs; I think in your calendar that translates to a year. To be unsettled for that long would be deeply distressing, so I have to say no.’

‘He means joking and laughing!’ Smith realized.’ I once tried to tell a Gannan a pub joke, changing it to a Gannan, a Doonong  and a human entered a bar—he looked at me as though I was deficient.’

‘What, you guys don’t laugh? So a pompous, very dignified Daolan slips on a banana peel—okay, okay, forget banana peel, slips—and is suddenly on his back with his legs waving in the air—you don’t laugh?’ Jackman smirked and looked round for support.

The Daolan looked disgusted, all his nostrils pinching. ‘I’m afraid you just made my point.’

Hansen shook his head at Jackman, annoyed. ‘So, your children—do they play? How do you know when they are enjoying themselves?’

‘They jiggle, and their follicles vibrate. Sometimes their tentacle ends change colour.’

‘And does that disgust you?’ Hansen persisted.

‘Of course not.’

‘But it would be unsettling to anyone who wasn’t a Daolan.’

‘Yes—which is why our young put aside such things when they are of an age to meet other races, at least in public. It is something entirely private.’

‘Well, our smiling and laughing is the equivalent of your jiggling and vibrating. Does that help?’

The Daolan pondered, then nodded. The admiral scrawled quickly on a piece of paper and handed it over. ‘Would you at least look at our offer?’

The Daolan took it delicately in a tentacle and read in silence. Then to their astonishment he started to shudder, and the follicles on his upper body started to vibrate.  The tentacle holding the paper turned blue, then purple, and the admiral grinned fiercely.

‘Oops,’ he remarked, ‘I gave you the wrong paper. Here’s the real offer. I think you’re going to fit in just fine.’

 

Christmas Kindle – the gift of a portable library

kindle bookmark

 

I loved this tweet when I saw it and hope Rossetti Rogers will forgive me for borrowing it here, but it is oh so relevant to this post.

A very successful blogger with a huge readership invited independently-published authors to toot their books on his blog today for the Christmas market. His website may yet collapse, I think I darted in at number 285.

If you want to know who and where, ask. I find it very odd that I have more readers all the time, yet you drift silently in, read (often more than one entry) and then drift away. Yes, you. What for you do that, you doan wanna talk, eh? Eh? Am I scary?  

The older I get the more prone I am to these little conversational detours.

Anyway, I pitched quite the persuasive spiel, all the while knowing the chances of anyone making it down to #285 without having spent their entire Christmas budget were slim to non-existent. Maybe, I thought, I should be pitching my spiel, not on a passenger liner, but in my own tiny canoe. And maybe you, the silent passers-by, will be struck by the logic and force of my argument and I’ll rack up a sale or two. Well, I might have, if I hadn’t already aggressively italicized you away.

But here’s the pitch. (If WordPress font permits, in big loopy letters.) (nope, WordPress preferred to stay understated. Bold and italics yes, Algerian 24 no.)

This entry is for those of you buying a Kindle for a slightly older relative who has never had one before. You KNOW you’ll have to download the first book for them, because they’ll never do it themselves and there’s a real chance your lovely gift will end up being a coaster otherwise. But what to download?

What you need is a cozy whodunit, clean as a whistle, perfect for the armchair detective, novella length (making it easy-read AND affordable) and the first in a series so they’ll be motivated to go looking for the next. One reader, converted. Oddly enough many of my readers are in their forties, even thirties, but the books work all the way up to ninety plus, have a look, you’ll see why. You’ll thank me.

One Two Buckle My Shoe

Of course if they’ve ever done any website dating for senior singles, you’ll want to download the newest one in the series instead, because that’s all about our heroine diving into the deep end of the dating pool, the end where the predators lurk, and it’s proving the best seller so far: Seems we’ve all done some website dating.

I even quoted one of my 5 star reviews, trying to make it sound as though there were hundreds and I had picked one at random. That’s salesmanship. I hope that’s how it comes across, anyway.

Five Six Pick Up Sticks

 

5 star review on Amazon.com from Scottiedog “I enjoyed both the earlier books, they’re fun to read and neatly solved. I like the characters and the retirement village setting, and there’s always a twist I miss, even though by this book I was watching closely for clues because they’re so obvious in retrospect! This book is slightly different in that Edge is put squarely and deliberately in the firing line and even though she’s a main character and I know she won’t be killed off (right?) I was reading faster and faster as the end approached. I think it’s the best so far- fun and exciting”

We may never know. But I’d kick myself for not even trying. And the point remains, getting a Kindle is lovely but, er, what next? You’re a lovely generous person for giving it, but you have to follow through.

Happy to help.

 

 

Coffee – Cake And Crime Event – With E J Lamprey

There’s been a murder, how great is that for a blog title? And it’s a grand blog, Lynsey really knows her stuff!

THERE'S BEEN A MURDER

image

Life may not begin at (nearly) sixty but it certainly takes some unexpected turns for golden girls Vivian and Edge, fellow residents at the Grasshopper Lawns Retirement Village in Scotland, after the murder of an unpopular resident. Edge’s niece is a sergeant in the small local police force, so they are not only kept up to date, they start picking up clues that no-one is passing on to the police.

The murder sparks off a lively investigation, friendships with bon vivant William (a vast and charming SF writer) and sardonic new neighbour Donald, and will be enjoyed by armchair detectives everywhere.

This is the first in a cosy whodunit series set in the beautiful Firth of Forth area just north of Edinburgh.

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In One Two Buckle My Shoe the engaging Edge and Vivian solved a flurry of murders at Grasshopper Lawns with their new friends Donald and William, but life…

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