“Take a letter, Miss Jones.”

I was considering how many ways people use to record their thoughts, from long passages to quick notes.  We have longhand, shorthand (stenography), typewritten, digital and recorded voice.  Now personally, I use longhand (often illegibly!) and digital, these days.  I would use typewritten too, if I had a typewriter available.

When watching TV programmes or movies where a writer is involved, one thing is not infrequent – they have a secretary trained in the art of shorthand.  What a wonderful invention!  So much recorded with so much economy.  But alas, I never had the opportunity to learn any system of shorthand.  Or did I?

It struck me, in my pondering, that I had, in fact, learnt a crude form of shorthand quite recently, mainly thanks to my kids.  And now, there are those who raise their voices in objection to this new semi-shorthand system, predicting the demise of our language!  It is often portrayed as the enemy of good language, an evil infecting all levels of Society.  Yet, these paranoid fears were never voiced when shorthand was invented, even when it took the form of an automated system: the stenotype machine!  Why?  Is it the fact that shorthand was an utter mystery to everybody but the inventors and those who learnt to use it, while the modern semi-stenography uses recognisable letters?

What am I talking about?  Text Speak!  The rapid communication of longer words by contraction and even substitution.  Letters are left out – usually vowels – and some letter combination sounds are replaced with numbers that give a similar sound – the 4 and 8 being the most frequently used.  This quick means of creating messages has spread from not mobile ‘phones, as most assume, but from things like Telex machines, where operators used abbreviations to communicate at a more personal level when sending more official communications.  In fact, it may well date further back – to the first telegraphers!  Yes, it’s really not that new, after all.  Some of the codes and abbreviations are identical, in fact, like TTFN and C U L8R.

So you see, if I now climb down off my high horse of indignation, stupidly acquired through the mistaken belief that I would be condoning the corruption of my Mother tongue, I can safely begin using this shorthand that I have actually been able to learn!  I really don’t have to write everything out in full.  Heck, I can even adapt it to make my own abbreviated word forms – if I’m consistent enough.  Yes, I’ve accepted the modern world and will use so-called “text speak” in my personal notes!

~ Steve

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Alternate Worlds

The Voice I came across a rather odd question, recently.  I will admit that I couldn’t quite understand why it was being asked.  On reflection, perhaps I was being unfair – making assumptions based on my own ways of thinking.  The question was, in essence: how do you write alternate histories/futures?  I hope that I can put right any fault my initial reaction might have revealed.

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AWOL Sunday & Falling Behind

Lazy Sunday…

Well, kind of, I guess.  Started with dosing up as much as I dared to make a journey I really wasn’t fit for, but in a very good cause.  Why?  It was the baptism of our granddaughter Kimberly!  Sadly, the best I could manage in participation terms was arriving before everybody headed out, as the “facilities” at the church and the club afterwards were not suitable for me.  So I basically house-sat.  Still, I spent an extremely pleasant day in the back garden, enjoying the warmth and, eventually, the sun.  I dozed off for a while and then used my son’s tablet to start writing a new story (probably a short story).  It was wonderful, actually.  Being somewhere so very quiet, doing nothing of great importance.

If you’re interested in such things, I have a photo gallery of the baptism on my Facebook.  The majority of the photos were taken by my wife, Jenny, and using a Samsung Ace Smartphone (with only one exception), after the batteries died in my digital camera,  I have to say that the Samsung’s camera function provided phenomenal quality results, especially considering that no flash was used!

Not Keeping Up Well…

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been keeping up with things very well, lately.  That’s mainly because of the work involved in preparing for the book launch!  Part of it is the to-and-fro’ of getting the book into print, which will be both paperback and hardback.  I complicated matters by wanting the hardback to be the kind with a dustjacket with a plain book cover, rather than a full colour book cover.  This is probably a holdover from growing up with such things.  I used to love peeking under the dustjackets to see the smart, minimalistic titles on the covers and spine beneath.  Somehow, when I first encountered hardbacks without dustjackets but with glossy, full colour covers (often just on the front), well… to be absolutely honest, they looked cheap and tacky to me.  And yes, I know that’s silly and unfair, but it’s something I can’t get past.  Even those where the dustjacket illustration is still printed on the book cover beneath just doesn’t have the same feel to it.  A further complication because of this wish for a dustjacket is that the book sizes available are different!  Thus, I can’t have the 8 x 5 inch size.  I have to move up to 8.5 x 5.5 inches, which means that there will be a reduction in the number of pages!  The paper will also be crème instead of white.  Finally, the desire for a dustjacket means I need to come up with something for the inner flaps, without repeating anything from elsewhere, preferably.  Keith at skoobebooks.co.uk has been a huge help throughout!

On top of the print issues for the book, I have fallen foul of something I did for the release of The Sigil of Ahriman – producing a video book trailer!  There are many, many difficulties involved in the process, and I spent a considerable amount of time beating my head against very high, hard brick walls!  Without the enormous amount of help I had from Chris Graham (creator of the book’s cover illustration) with the images used in the video, and my son Damien in the narration, I would probably have conceded defeat long ago.  The task would have been, I  now know, far beyond me!  I will admit that this process was complicated when Damien pointed out that the video lost quality rather badly when watched full screen in HD!  I don’t have direct, personal access to HD.  Further, my computer seems to be suffering from serious memory problems (I know that feeling!) so many of the tricks used to persuade Windows Movie Maker to record in HD, or even pseudo-HD, simply won’t work for me.  I found a video conversion program which may have overcome the problem, but I won’t know until Damien confirms one way or another.  Finally, I haven’t yet decided on whether to superimpose the narrative on the video or to incorporate subtitles.  Both present significant technical challenges for a video creation newbie!

So I hope that you all understand why I have been struggling to keep up with other things!  If you’ve emailed me, for any reason, and I haven’t replied as yet, please accept my very sincere apologies.

~ Steve

WIPs and Memories

WIPping up a Storm!

Yeah, I know!  Terrible!  But this little paragraph is about, shockingly, WIPs.  Though circumstances forced a stall, I am working on a new book.  It will be the fifth  in the G1: The Guardians series.  It has a slightly different atmosphere to the other stories.  I decided that there was a serious risk of things becoming just ‘more of the same’, so the new tale has some very different elements, including multiple threads and some nods to European folklore and even some Christian myths.  As to more immediate WIPs, the soon-to-be-released novel is progressing well in the preparations for printing, and Shade of Evil is already heading to the final proof stage with the printers.  There’s good reason to hope that the novel will be available in both paperback and hardback print editions on the launch date!

A Memory of a Wonderful Series

Back in the 1970s, The Hamlyn Publishing Group produced a lovely set of books – the Hamlyn all-colour paperbacks.  Now, before anybody who remembers them jumps all over me, I know that the binding quality was absolutely awful, and you were liable to end up with a set of loose-leaf books!  No, for me, what made these books so special was the range of subjects and the first class colour illustrations.  I had numerous books in the series, ranging from animals to geology, from Budgerigars to guns!  As one of hose kids more inclined to learn by self-education at home, or out and about, the books were an invaluable resource.  And, most important of all, they were affordable.  The books were all written by experts but in an interesting way, without being overtly educational or, vitally, condescending.

~ Steve

“Not Another Series!”

I’ve seen some writers, and critics and readers, complaining about the number of authors writing series of books.  Now, I’m certainly guilty of doing just that, as you probably know.  But why do I write in series?  The simple answer is that some stories encourage  me to do so.  In fact, there’s a very real possibility that some of my shorter books could have been held back and put together as single works.  That said, there’s no guarantee that the prospect of a series wouldn’t have raised its head.  In truth, like readers everywhere, we writers get attached to some of our characters, and/or the worlds/universes we create for them!  And that phenomenon isn’t predictable.

Of course, some authors set out quite deliberately to write a series.  They have it all planned far ahead.  They have every reason to do so, too.  The emotional, creative and temporal investment in their invention is such that they would, in fact, be underselling themselves and their efforts.  They know this, from the very inception of the project.  I know that these circumstances exist, both from the biographies of such writers and from the fact that, many years ago, I actually planned such a series.  It was, most definitely, far more than simply a series of books!  I had to create detailed maps, not just of small areas but of a whole world.  I had to invent new languages, and even new scripts.  And then there were the numerous species, races and histories.  To contemplate going to such extremes of creativity for a single tome would, to put it bluntly, just utterly foolish!

But there are accidental series, too.  These can happen in two ways.  First, the author recognises a potential behind the original creation – and runs with it.  Second, readers can plead for, even demand, more!  Of course, the author has to be able to see what it is that has so strongly hooked those readers.  If they can’t, then no more can be successfully written.  I would, if it was in my character, envy those authors who enjoy such demands and pleas from their readers!  For myself, I’m limited to the first accidental event.  I can only hope that readers share my interest in a series which is taking an ever larger life of its own.

Let me take a personal example!  My novelette, Shade of Evil, was originally intended to be a single work, part of my experiment in genres I wouldn’t normally write in.  Even after I had finished writing it, there was no obvious course forward.  But then, during the final stages of preparation for publication, the final scenes of the book suddenly threw out grappling hooks!  They took a very firm hold.  The characters, and the organisation they worked for, piqued my interest.  It wasn’t long, therefore, before they appeared in a new story.  It was begun, and there was no turning back.  Why?  Well, apart from those sneaky grappling hooks, there was a question of a ‘tidy’ conclusion.  Sure, Harry’s story was definitely done, but I could feel the suspended story of that intrepid bunch, the Guardians, and especially G1!  So it continued, and still does.

I like standalone stories as much as anybody.  As an author, they’re a lot less troublesome to write!  That doesn’t, however, stop the need for some stories to go far beyond a single volume.

I probably haven’t persuaded those who bemoan the plethora of series that there are often good reasons for them, but I thought it worth trying!

~ Steve

Blog Browser Day

It’s very easy to become focussed on books and writing.  In point of fact, the Indie scene would be by no means so strong without blogs!  That’s right – blogs.  To give blogs their due recognition, I’m proposing a regular “Blog Browser Day”.

I recognise that not all writers have blogs, but the idea here isn’t to simply advertise our own blogs!  Indeed, not all writers publish books – many publish articles and/or write blogs, exclusively.  This means that focussing on authors who have published books actually deprives us all of some tremendous writing talents – and that’s something I’d like to rectify.  You can submit the name of any blog that you find useful to your reading and/or writing activities.  You can nominate your own blog no more than once every three months, so there’ll be no blog just sat there on every Blog Browser Day post.  Equally, while it’s very possible that a blog may be submitted for inclusion by more than one person, I’ll do my best to prevent duplication during the course of a month (preferably longer).

So what blogs qualify?  As I say above: any blog that you find useful in your reading/writing life.  There are a few restrictions: no blatantly adult blogs (that includes those containing erotica, strong language, and anything else which may be regarded as generally offensive or unsuitable for a general audience), no blogs dedicated to “self-improvement” (exercise, diet, beauty and other such blogs), no “make easy money” or “Coupon” blogs.  Other blogs are all subject to review and acceptance or refusal at my sole discretion.  Submissions must be made using the form below.  If information is missing from the submission, then I reserve the right to reject it without review – I have limited time and hunting for information is something I prefer to do for my own needs, sorry!

Note that these recommendations do not constitute nominations for the Imagineer Blog Awards!

Blog Browser Day Submission Form (maximum 1 blog per week per person):

Maggie Elizabeth Harrington: Guest Post by D J Swykert

Read about how author D J Swykert was drawn away from one path to another, and entered a wholly new world…

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Maggie Elizabeth Harrington Sometimes when writing the lines between reality and fiction become a bit blurry. I began Maggie Elizabeth Harrington intending to write a historical story about a lonely woman who loses her mind after being jilted by her lover. I ended up with a novel about a young woman in a remote northern Michigan mining town trying to save a pack of wolves from a bounty hunter. It wasn’t difficult to figure out how the transition occurred. I had agreed to watch a pair of arctic hybrids for a friend and soon found myself attached to the ten week old hybrid wolf pups and fascinated by their behaviors. My reality became my fiction. Maggie would be someone who would want to protect these beautiful animals from bounty hunters. The story of Maggie Harrington and her wolves unfolded almost as if it were writing itself and the farther it progressed the further my interest in wolves increased.

This led me to do some research on wolves, including the studies by a professor at Michigan Technological University, Rolf Peterson, who has written on the wolves of Isle Royale for thirty years. Here is a brief history of Michigan wolves. There was a time when there were abundant packs. A bounty existed on them in the early 19th century and into the twentieth century, thirty-five dollars for the head of a female, and thirty for a male. The population was decimated and for most of the second half of the twentieth century were non-existent in the state. They became protected in 1974, and the population has increased steadily since. There are about 687 recorded wolves now that live only in the Upper Peninsula, there are still none in the Lower Peninsula.

I saw my first wolf in 1994, two of them roadside near Copper Harbor howling at the Fourth of July fireworks. I have seen perhaps a half dozen since. They have been removed from the endangered species list, and managed hunting is currently allowed once again. The relationship between wolves and human beings is very ancient. We shared similar survival techniques; living in organized societies for protection and hunting in packs. Rather than compete for food sources we simply joined forces. I believe this is the origin of the bond between man and wolf, and now dogs, which are simply domesticated wolves. The gray wolf, canis lupis, and a domesticated dog, canis lupis familiaris, share the same DNA profile. You cannot forensically differentiate one from the other.

Maggie Elizabeth Harrington ultimately became a book with multilayered themes concerning social and environmental issues. I see the book as crossing genres between romance and adventure and landing somewhere in a gray area between YA and Literary. The narrator is thirteen but I believe her ideas are adult enough to engage literary readers.

Since writing this book I have come to three significant conclusions about wolves: They work together, mate for life, and protect their young. They have a loyalty within the pack hierarchy that is beyond ours. There is no divorce in a wolf pack. Only the alpha’s mate, but they mate for life. If one of the pair is killed, the next highest ranking wolf in the pack, a beta, takes its place. They protect their young, whether it’s the alpha parent, a beta, or the omega wolf, which, although relegated to the bottom of the order in the pack, does participate in pack duties, often playing the role of a babysitter while the rest of the pack hunts. If the human race lived as wolves, the earth would be a far different place.

I still cherish the memories of stuffing both of the 150 pound wolf hybrids into my Jeep Wrangler and doing some traveling. From the time I wrote the book until I moved to Kentucky I lived in five different places, and I hauled and lodged those wolves with me at each one. I’m not sure I’d want to do that again, but they are fond memories. And what is life but memories, sweet illusions that move in all directions and linger much longer than reality. Isn’t life but perception and memories of what we are, and were, and is there really any difference?

Links to the book:

Facebook
Smashwords
tlblisspress.blogspot.com
Amazon Kindle
Amazon Paperback

DJ SwykertThe author:

D J Swykert is a former 911 operator. His work has appeared in The Tampa Review, Detroit News, Monarch Review, Lunch Ticket, The NewerYork, Zodiac Review, Barbaric Yawp and Bull. His books include Children of the Enemy, Maggie Elizabeth Harrington, Alpha Wolves, The Death of Anyone and The Pool Boy’s Beatitude. You can find him at: www.magicmasterminds.com. He is a wolf expert.

Delving Into The Supernatural

I wouldn’t normally do this, but I’m battling problems so coming up with new posts is proving problematic.  The following is a post I wrote for koobug.com, which is another support site for authors and readers:

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When I was growing up, the Fantasy genre was beginning to become a very popular genre with readers, and therefore writers. However, there were still many volumes of the two genres that had vied for top spot in ‘popular fiction‘ – science fiction and horror. I consumed my fair share of both but leaned ever more towards science fiction. That was until I was bitten by the Fantasy bug. The horror tales were now appearing in thick volumes of short stories, but still reflecting something of the Hammer House of Horror take on the genre. It was a fading genre! What revived it then was a move towards gore, but the tension, the suspense, of the great tales was lost and that was almost fatal.

It was, in my mind, when horror took yet another turn – attempting to embrace Fantasy – that something new began to appear. There was a subtle kind of horror, often a blending of fantasy and old legends. Characters with strange powers appeared, to do battle with Evil in new ways, or modifications of very old ways. The forces of evil were something beyond Nature, and so were some of hose who battled them – they were ‘supernatural‘! At the same time, of course, the first hints of another new concept appeared – powers went beyond the physical. Mental powers began to come to the fore, and the ‘paranormal’ idea was born. Parapsychology, which investigated telepathy, telekinesis and other ‘mental talents’ was fighting for recognition in the real world of academia, and it leaked out into fiction, where it could be given a reality that it hadn’t (yet) achieved outside of fiction.

By bringing together elements of horror, fantasy, the supernatural, the paranormal and even science fiction, authors tapped a very deep well! Readers couldn’t get enough of it – and still can’t! Okay, so some of the terminology is being misused, and even abused (e.g. vampires are gothic horror or even supernatural, but they aren’t paranormal!), but the fact is that we have a new kind of fiction that actually resists being pinned down into a single, clearly defined, genre. It borders on just being ‘fiction’. The reader can describe it to friends and family however they like. They can feel comfortable with it because it doesn’t carry a ‘brand’ which might embarrass them. They can even call it romance in many cases!

To be honest, I never expected to join the trend. I didn’t do so deliberately. I simply wrote a story that came to me. That has, however, given rise to characters I like and can, in some senses, relate to. I regard the stories as ‘mixed genre‘ rather than as strictly one of those I’ve already mentioned. Let me tell you – that makes life interesting when submitting to websites that demand a clear statement of genre! In fact, that’s a practice I think those websites need to change! It could see a tidal wave of protest if we all begin to use the term ‘general fiction’ or even – shock horror! – ‘literary fiction’ to express our need to not be categorised so rigidly!

At the end of the day, we write one thing: “Entertainment Fiction”!

There was a day… A Guest Post From Peggy Bechko

A big welcome is extended to Peggy Bechko, who kindly relates her story as an author.  Her success is undeniable, but here we discover just how narrow the margins are!

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There was a day when I was very young, around 13 when I started writing stories. Why? I couldn’t tell you. It seemed like fun.

Then it seemed like something more and I was bitten by the “I want to see my books published and other people reading them” bug. My first novel was published by Doubleday when I was 22; a western, written in the first person, as a middle-aged man. It certainly got a lot of attention from my editor when he realized the rough western (Night Of The Flaming Guns) who’s lead was a gnarled 40-something man had been written by a 21-year-old female. Oh, and by the way, back then I was told “women don’t write westerns”. Ummmmm.

Well mostly, but I had been challenged by a friend to do it. He knew I was writing and said, “so why don’t you get a western published?”

So for the publication of westerns I became P.A. Bechko as of course they couldn’t put a woman author’s name on a western novel (was I born in the stone age?).

Disney World Guide Book Final Cover So how did it all happen and what brought me to where I am now, writing westerns, romance, SciFi/fantasy (my latest release being Stormrider, available in paperback and Kindle editions) and screen scripts (oh and don’t forget the non-fiction: I just released The New Grown Ups Disney World Guide Book)?

It’s an ongoing process – a career that’s thus far been filled with dreams, focus, determination and good luck that fell into my lap.

The first novel’s publication was chaotic. I’d signed with an agency, the agency went belly-up and I was frantic about the whereabouts of my manuscripts when I got a call from an agent who’d been associated with them with an offer from Doubleday to publish – he became my new agent as he started his agency. He sold several books for me and we became great friends.

Romances were beginning their great growth spurt so he encouraged me to write one – I did and sold that to Harlequin (you can now read a sample and get the romance Cloud Dancer in digital edition on Kindle .

Two more followed. More westerns followed that, publishing with Pinnacle, Manor and other houses. I even ghosted as Bill Haller for SideWinder’s Trail.

Stormrider Cover - New 8-23-12_j My agent retired and I had one more so-so agent after him. Then I had a very bad agent (not in the good luck category there) and broke with him after the sale of several westerns but some very bad blood between us.

From there the good luck followed again as I decided I also wanted to write for the movies and Larry Brody, TV Writer and producer was giving some classes on just that. I enrolled. I worked. Larry and I became friends (I still write guest posts for his blog at TVWriter.com) and I’ve optioned scripts in the US and overseas in addition to having written an episode for an animated series called Diabolik that was produced in France.

What it boils down to for a writer, I believe, is to create, work, learn, put yourself out there and be ready to jump when opportunity presents itself.

And new opportunity did with the arrival of digital publishing and Ebook readers. It’s a new world for writers with even MORE to learn to create, publish and market their work.

There’s still the traditional publishing as well which I certainly intend to keep a finger in, but in the immediate future I’ll be re-releasing my novel Hawke’s Indians, originally published by Doubleday, in digital format on CloudDancerFINALCover JPEG Amazon. Look for it in a couple of weeks.

My newest novel as an original release will be as an Ebook on Kindle. That release will be several months down the road; a paranormal romance with the tentative title of Serpent’s Tail. It’s a whole new avenue.

Every writer will experience trials along the way. I’ve endured a very bad agent (just having an agent isn’t always the best), long droughts between sales, frustrations with editors (one who wanted me to cut a book’s length by 1/3 – I did it by the way, but not the way it was intended and still got the sale), part-time and full-time day jobs to fill in the gaps when the sales were thin and yes, even more dark moments.

But from it all I’ve learned that for me as a writer it’s all about focus, learn, persist and value your own work. There are more critics out there than creators. Be a creator.

Find the author at:

Webpage
Blog
Goodreads
Twitter
LinkedIn
Facebook
Pinterest

The Story Reading Ape Swings By

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I’d like to start off by thanking Steve for this great opportunity to promote my blog about new (to me) authors and to divulge a few things about myself. Others have tried and failed to get me to do this, but he managed by threatening to contact my mate and have my banana supply cut off until I gave in – that worked! 🙂

Before I launch into my blog promotion, I’ll get the ME bit out of the way, so here are some personal secrets:

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In age I am mentally in my mid 30’s, but physically in human terms I am 63 years old, which, my younger friends, does NOT involve decrepitude, assistance in crossing roads, etc, no matter what you think! 🙂

My mate is a very patient and extremely intelligent lady, who not only has my heart, but also my respect and we tackle the world, with all its vagaries, challenges and variety, as a team.

I am a proud Father of one daughter and proud Brother of one much younger sister, both of whom never cease to amaze me regarding what they have achieved in life.

My work, career and travels have allowed me to meet and get to know a veritable multitude of people from every imaginable background, nationality and religious belief, plus, as a bonus, be able to call many of them friends.

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My enthusiasm for books goes way back into my early formative years when my Mother first read stories to me, then taught me how to read them for myself, so that when I started school and found that I was so far ahead of the other pupils I had no other recourse than to continue reading in order to keep learning, but I didn’t mind because by then I had learned to love reading.

Please don’t misunderstand, I am no genius and have no great talents, other than to have been able to survive life thus far. Without the ability of being able to read, I would have probably gone barking mad before I left Primary School (no sniggering, whispering, nodding of head and twirling of finger beside your ear from you at the back thank you!)

The authors of books are, in my opinion, one of the most valuable assets the human race could have – they are the equivalent of the Shamans and Storytellers whose lineage goes way back into the dawn of the species and are what have made the REAL difference between humans and other species and Hominids.

In fact, I fully agree with Sir Terry Pratchett when he surmises that instead of being called Homo Sapiens – wise man (with 1200cc brains), or even Homo Sapiens Sapiens – modern wise man (with 1350cc brains), the correct term should be Pan narrans – the storytelling ape (brain size irrelevant).

I on the other hand, could be termed a Pan audiendo – story listening ape (brain size irrelevant), an equally valuable asset to the species. 🙂

All types together have contributed to the existence of the sole surviving and dominant species of Hominid/Ape we know today.

That is basically why I have set up my blog to promote Authors (modern day Shamans / storytellers / Pan narrans) and enlighten or expand the choices of Readers (modern day story listeners / Pan audiendos).

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Since my blog about new (to me) authors and their books began on 4th April 2013, it reached its 1000 hits & 100 followers by 29th April, which surprised and encouraged me to continue and experiment with it.

By 29th May it reached 3500 hits and 200 followers which shocked me, so I fiddled around with it some more.

As I write this article now (3rd July – 3 month mark) it is reading 8,866 hits and has 335 followers, so I’m sitting firmly on my branch and holding on tight with astonishment, for it’s a long fall down to the ground!

My blog friends and followers have been very, very supportive and spread the word around all their friends, fans and blog followers and I give a BIG Thank You to them.

Why have they done this? Some of them have already been featured authors on the blog, so why bother hanging around it? Some of them are not even authors, but keep coming back time and again!

Well, I guess you’ll just have to call over, look through the articles and various sections, including wandering through the various Bookcases, read the comments and see the banter that goes on and find out for yourself if you’d like to join in the fun 🙂

You are all cordially invited to try it for yourself (it’s FREE) by clicking on the link below:

http://www.thestoryreadingapeblog.com

Many, many thanks to Chris, the Story Reading Ape!  I’m happy announce that his banana eating rights have now been fully restored.  Trust me, folks!  You really will gain a great deal by visiting his Blog Suite, which is the besst description I can give the string of blogs that he has assembled to help readers find great books, and to help aauthors find new readers.  One caution: take supplies!  You could be there quote a while!!