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Michelle's corner

Michelle Knight. Writer, photographer, programmer, truck driver and general, all round nut case. Life is a journey and that's what this blog will probably end up being. Let's see where we go, eh? ;-)

Currently reading

The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter
Greg Toppo
Progress: 114/256 pages

Review - Last Orders - 3.5 out of 5 stars

Last Orders - Mel Croucher

I tossed and turned about my final rating. 3 or 3.5. I ended up with three point five.


The book is a brave volume to write. In today's society few of us think of what will happen to our on-line yammer and chatter after we've snuffed it. This book is a brave step in to that world.


The majority of the book, however, still covers the more usual and mundane elements of death. It doesn't really enter the philosophical discussion and in some places it is already out of date.


Facebook, for example, will automatically memorialise the account if they get the heads up. Also, the "executor" will get one chance at a final post before it is locked for good. The only thing that the family can do then, is get the account deleted. Even friends can't terminate their relationship with the deceased. An interesting question is what would happen if the friend later deleted their own facebook account. I bet there is shed loads that Facebook itself hasn't thought of yet.


From Facebook's own page at the time of writing...

If Facebook is made aware that a person has passed away, it's our policy to memorialize the account.
Please keep in mind that it's always against the Facebook Terms to log into another person's account. We'll only be able to give you access to an account if we can verify that it’s your own account.
If you believe we've mistakenly memorialized your account, please let us know.

So even if you leave instruction in your will, there's very little in the way of effective orders you can actually leave; and you're going to have to keep your eye on it because you can bet your arse it'll change as further challenges are made in court, because I believe that society in general hasn't really sat down and thought this through.


I was also expecting more from the book in terms of humour. Croucher's a man of the world and has a wit to match. The business of tidying up your affairs is a very important one and a large number of us don't bother at all; opting to leave it up to those that follow.


It is a very dry subject and I was counting on that old Croucher magic to make the subject more palatable. Sadly, I was disappointed in this regard. There was the occasional bit of spice, but it was still very dry reading.  It also can't cover everything. One example is that if you happen to have authored works, for example books or photography that are generating income/revenue, then that needs careful handling as copyright exists for decades after the death of the author. (and even this is under relatively frequent review thanks to Disney who are loathe to let Mickey Mouse pass in to the public domain.)


In my opinion a physical vault is a damn sight more secure than a digital vault. I have people who come to me having put everything in the cloud and deleted their local copies of things, only to find that the cloud service has gone west. It's happened to me a few times as well; companies have gone bust and I haven't been allowed on to the server instances to get at my files. Also, some file formats go stale as codecs come and go over the decades.


It is a worthwhile book if you want to engage in the task of writing your will but don't know where to start. There are plenty of services out there who are willing to wheedle every last penny out of you. Corporates won't suddenly stop wanting to get hold of your money after you've croaked it... when you're not on this mortal coil you can't fight back. Mind... you're probably  not in a position to care either. Such is life... and death.


I would still recommend getting solid advice. If you're in a union, for example, sometimes they have resources for members that include free legal services. It's worth checking out.

Audio book this year

I have the technology, I have a reasonable voice, and I have a book that I want to make in to an audio book. The only thing I'm missing, is time to myself. That should happen later this year. So, fingers crossed, I'm going to have a try at recording Check Mate as an audio book, and we'll see how things go.

Hidden paintings in old books

Wow. Something else I never new existed. Apparently there are images hidden in the edges of some old books. Search for it on YouTube, apparently there are a few out there... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KD42h0k99k


 Apparently Fore-Edge painting was a thing in the 17th Cent and there's a collection of them here - http://twistedsifter.com/2013/09/hidden-artworks-on-the-edges-of-books/


My Website News Update

I don't often update my writing web page with news, because things are so slow. In fact, I was due to update it in January but... yeah... like that happened :-)


But this is the update that I decided to put up this morning, if it's worth anything to anyone...


OK, so the updates turned in to something more than the usual joke, because it's March before I get around to updating the news. Which probably tells you all you need to know about the news around here... there isn't any !!!


The next book is in the pipeline. I've started on chapter 1 and had good feedback, but I've immediately put it on hold. I'm waiting for feedback from someone before starting on re-writing Companion and Leader. The Submissive Heart series is what I personally regard as my legacy, the message I want to give the world, so I want to get it right. In reality, I should have written several other books before starting on that series, but it was only ever intending to be book-and-done; I never envisaged writing going this far, so... yeah... that's how things rock sometimes.


The next story is going to be more science fiction, set in the present day, and not too far unbelievable. Basically, it's Blue Thunder and Airwolf, brought slightly up to date and given a little twist. Looking back at them (I own the DVD's of all, except the re-boot of Airwolf) they push all the right buttons except their believability. They feel shallow. That's one of the things I want to tackle. Yes... while also trying to convey the feeling of flying an attack helicopter to the reader... when I've never even been in a standard helicopter. So... no pressure then!


My research is already under way. I have links to a few aircraft people and the research in to supersonic helicopter flight has been going on for decades, so there is a good foundation there. I've sent some e-mails to helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky, and as it happens, the current US presidential dust up with the intelligence community, is fertile ground for plot. So... the scene is set... as long as the current pres doesn't get impeached sometime in the next four years... but that's another story.


Yes, I have books lines up to be written. I grew up in the age of Knight Rider and Airwolf. I actually have the re-recorded sound track to the latter. I might have actually reviewed it on this channel before. If you're as insane as I am, then you can find it here - http://airwolfthemes.com/


Anyway... after I've re-written Companion and Leader, I know what my next book will be, and I have the threads lain out. However, I need to do research. I need to know the effect of flying attack helicopters and jets have on the human body... how it feels to pull G's. I need to know how effective radar is at low heights, and I'm going to have to start researching missile systems.


When I did the weapons research for Check Mate, I was fortunate that the police didn't come knocking at the door. Somehow I fear that looking up ground to air launchers might attract entirely the wrong sort of attention.


But I know where I'm going after the re-writes.  And now... I'm going to bed to let my unconscious brain work on the plot... and the challenge of writing air battles in a way that brings the reader along.


Why the hell do I do this to myself?

So funny....

I just thought this quote was so funny, I sat here for a while debating whether or not I, of all people, should be posting it...


It's snowing out the window, and raining in my heart.

I've just received an e-mail from my publisher. I won't go in to detail about what it contains, but it makes sense and I can't argue with it. There are commercial forces at work in a hell of a rough market.


The long story short, is that if you, as readers, like a book then please tell the world about it. Print on demand is expensive and there must be a clear market for a book now, before it will make it in to print. Amazon are killing CreateSpace in favour of Kindle, and along with it come a barrow load of changes behind the scenes.


Authors have been caught doing all sorts to game the system. Whether their motivation is pure greed, or just trying to find a way to battle against the one book that is published every minute in the US and UK alone (actually, more than one a minute if the stats I've read are anything to go by) ... whatever the motivation, it's still seen as a dishonest way to go.


But whatever way you slice the pie, that leaves authors at the mercy of our readers.


I've already said that no-one owes me a review. Even as a result of giveaways, if someone leaves a review, then it's a bonus... but it isn't something I expect, much less demand. However, that doesn't do away with the bottom line... if you like an author (even if it isn't me *cough*) then they need your support to grow and continue.

Future Publishing stored passwords in plain text...

...and got hacked. More details here... https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/02/09/filesilo_lost_plaintext_passwords/


Apparently, they stored customer passwords in plain text. You'd have thought that they'd have done a better job of it than this.


So if you're one of their customers, and you were using the same password in other places... time to change more than just your Future, "File Silo," password. Fast.

So... what's been happening?

Today was Post Office day. Everything has been dispatched and people now have their tracking numbers. Fortunately, I got in to town quickly and there wasn't much of a queue. Had five things on my list and four got done. The ironmongers didn't have a clothes rail for inside my wardrobe, so I'll have to e-bay that one.

I'm in dead time. A period where I'm getting my feet under the table at work and getting to grips with my new duties, which seem to be getting larger by the day. I'm also using the personal time to catch up on other things that have fallen down, and tidying up loose ends. That way, when I do return to writing, I can do so cleanly.

It is amazing the number of things that can just jump out of the woodwork. As you'll know about me from my early books, I'm in the BDSM scene and spent some time in a certain location, in the company of like minded people. Enjoyed the conversations thoroughly, and set some more creative plans for the future.

A bit of extra news that people might like to be aware of, is that credit card processing firms ganged together and forced web site, FetLife, to take legal material down from its web site, or they would stop processing their transactions.

Now, the particular things that were the subject of this censorship didn't affect me... but I'm damn sure that when payment houses club together and start using their weight to force legal things off the Internet... that affects me badly. If they succeed, then they will get the green light to work their way up, from the thin end of the wedge. So if you're the type that values freedom from corporate censorship, you might want to keep your ears open.

I hope, by the end of March, to report that I've started the re-write of Companion. We'll see. If all goes to plan, then I should be launching a give away for five copies of GENIE, at the start of March. Stay tuned.

No prizes for guessing....

...what these are. But if there's any left over after mailing friend/family/contributors, etc.... then I feel a giveaway coming on in a few weeks...


Ransomware hits St Louis libraries

Well, ransomeware hit another target - libraries. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-38731011


This isn't anything new. The criminals behind this have even been hitting hospitals in the hope of a quick extortion. Get yourself some external USB hard drives and copy your critical files like accounts, family photos, etc. off to it.


There are also fake ransomeware scams going around; software that says you've been encrypted, hoping you will panic in to paying money when actually, you haven't been hit at all.

Apple and Amazon audio book deal comes to an end



In a statement, competition regulators at the European Commission said they "welcomed" the ending of the exclusivity contract. "This step is likely to improve competition in downloadable audio book distribution in Europe," said the statement.

Reading Habit Tag

-    Do you have a certain place in your home for reading?
No. There isn't much space in my home so I end up reading on my bed, or in the small home office (read, converted bedroom)

-    Bookmark or random piece of paper?
Usually bookmark but I'm not adverse to using a piece of paper if I have to. There's usually a small supply of bookmarks handy as almost every book I buy over the internet comes with one. Not that they are of any use as advertising gimmicks; I rarely read them.

-    Can you  just stop reading or do you have to stop read after a chapter / certain number of pages?
I frequently have to stop reading. Life is full of interruptions. A book can go weeks before I find enough peace to pick it up again. I like to finish a chapter if I can. Fortunately because I don't read multiple books simultaneously, it's easy for me to pick up my thread. To some degree, if I can't, then that's a sign that perhaps the book isn't registering with me and I should consider DNR'ing it.

-    Do you eat or drink while read?
Sometimes. Not often.

-    Multitasking: music or TV while reading?
No. Can't even listen to music as it will take my concentration away and makes it pointless reading the book.

-    One book at a time or several at once?
Normally one at a time, but can be two. However, there are usually strict delineations between them; like one for entertainment, and then I'll devour a factual book because I need the knowledge.

-    Reading at home or everywhere?
Usually at home, because if I'm travelling I'm usually driving, and I can't really concentrate on an audio book. I will read on a long coach trip, but not usually on the train or on a short local bus journey.

-    Reading out loud or silently in your head?

-    Do you read ahead or even skip pages?
Not usually, no. I'm aware that if I do, then it wouldn't make much sense without what's gone before it. That's enough to stop me.

-    Barking the spine or keeping it like new?
Depends. I don't make a concerted effort to keep the book like new, and if the spine doesn't need breaking, then I won't deliberately break it. Not a conscious choice, in other words. (never actually heard of Barking the spine.)

-    Do you write in your books?
No. I didn't even write in my text books once I got to University. I don't think there's usually a need to... like why would I need to mark anything while watching a film? So again, it's not a conscious choice... just never had a need to.

It's here

Book 6, GENIE, is finally here in physical format. When it reaches this point, the heart-pumping excitement I used to have when opening these boxes, is very much muted.


It will be next month before my credit card can withstand the purchase of padded envelopes and international postage... but it will happen :-)


What next? Probably a re-work of Companion and Leader. I have flip-flopped between doing this, and not doing it... but as that is my legacy series I do want to at least get it to better than it is now, although it will never be a classic.


Once that is done, I can look to the future and will take whatever few reviews and feedback Genie generates this year, forward in to the next project. I don't expect this book to come anywhere near to a fraction of recouping the cost of its creation; and certainly not even begin to recompense the labour of not only me, but the other people who have given their time and energy to shape it.  That's not a big deal to be honest. I came to a conclusion some time ago, that if it was ever about the money, I should have given up before I even wrote the first book!


So, February will be a time of queuing at the Post Office and coming away with an arm full of receipts and tracking numbers :-) ... oh joy !!!


The Insectothopter

In my science-fiction, GENIE, I wrote of a fly-like robot carrying a camera.


Actually, the CIA developed and trialled Insectothopter in the 1970's - https://www.cia.gov/library/video-center/video-transcripts/insectothopter-the-bug-carrying-bug.html


Fact. Beats fiction every time... :-)

Looking at 2017

So... it has been a crazy few years. Somehow I've put out six books while holding down a day job with a crazy commute. I'm still not sure how the hell I did it. Perhaps the lack of an incidental personal life played its part. Now, however, this year closes with me being back at my original work place, and a rejuvenated fitness regime. How writing is going to fit in to this, I'm not sure.


The other question is how reading is going to happen. I still have a pile of books in my wicker basket by my chair. It's overflowing, in case you couldn't guess. Many of those books have surprised even me. I never thought I'd end up with a copy of "Molly Weir's Recipes." At some point next year I'll be trying my hand at a touch of traditional Scottish cooking.


At work, we have key people who cover specific roles. As I was returning to site, I had to ask the obvious question as to whose turn it was to have Christmas off. After a quick discussion it was evident that I was the only one with enough holiday left to take the time off, so I return to work on the 3rd. That leaves me with enough time to finish, "The Game Believes In You," before picking up the next challenge.


At the start of the month I should also get the physical copy of, "GENIE," in my hands. And if Royal Mail loose THAT parcel, I'll go down to the sorting office and sparks will fly. I've already got the Executive Resolution Team involved in one parcel that was miss-delivered to someone else... and they still haven't recovered it.


I do want to re-work Companion and Leader in 2017. I may or may not write other books, but the Submissive Heart series is my legacy. It's the message that I leave for the world, from my own heart. It has to be right.


Friends haven't seen me for ages. The commute means some of them haven't seen me for four years, so I have to build in some time to do a tour of the UK. That's going to be interesting and, as I meet people and visit other locations, I'll have my notebook with me, you can be sure of that!


Not being religious, this time of year is when I slow down and think of friends who are absent by both distance and dimensions. That emotion will be added to on New Years day. You can bet that tears of memory will roll down my face; but it's OK. As one of my previous Dominants said, "If it doesn't hurt, then it didn't mean anything."