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Wednesday 30 December 2015

Continuous Blood Glucose Monitoring Petition

This is a plea to all UK based readers to sign a parliament.uk petition calling for continuous blood glucose monitoring to be available on the NHS to all insulin dependent diabetics. Continuous blood glucose monitoring (CGM) is a system of sensors that constantly check blood glucose levels without the need for repeated finger prick testing. It's more accurate and less arduous (and painful) than finger prick testing and it's safer as it works 24 hours a day, but it isn't routinely available on the NHS, only to those who meet certain criteria. The petition is asking that it be available to all who need it.

Please take a few moments to consider lending the petition your name.

Many thanks, and a very Happy New Year to you all.

Tuesday 15 December 2015

Major Tim

Good luck Tim Peake, first British astronaut to go to the International Space Station (ISS). Wishing you a safe flight and a fantastic and productive 6 months in space.


Wednesday 9 December 2015

New Christmas Story

As promised, and seeing as it's December once more, there is a new story in the Christmas section of the Quirky Tales library. This one is called 'The Christmas Shakedown' and it's an appropriately daft story about three Christmas characters who decide on a change of scene.

I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday 3 December 2015

Christmas Commercial Break

It's that time of year once more, roll out the decorations, swear at the blinking (or not) fairy lights, panic over undelivered parcels and ... yes, the annual Christmas advert competition! The papers have been discussing them at length, but I've picked out three that stand out for me:

This year's contenders are pretty good. I rather like Lidl's different take on things, with its School of Christmas, Sainsbury's  Mog's Christmas Calamity has to rate highly, after all, it combines a monumentally clumsy cat with a heartwarming story of neighbours helping each other, what's not to like? But I think the best is one from the left field - the advert for the Spanish lottery. Don't worry, you don't need to speak Spanish to understand the story, there are no spoken words, just a really sweet animation about a night janitor who fills the lonely hours by ... well, I'm not going to say any more, it would spoil it.

I'm working on another story to add to the Christmas section in the QT library. Hopefully it should be up in a few days.

Happy Advent everyone.

Friday 13 November 2015

Affinity and Boldre Wood

I haven't done quite as much practice with Affinity as I had hoped. I've been occupying my time with a psychology course (coursera - University of Toronto) as well as looking at further work on the Boldre Wood Trilogy (more on that to follow).

I have however been looking at improving my logo/ emblem. The reader beneath the tree is nice enough, but I think Quirky Tales deserves a stronger image. What that will be I have yet to decide, but whilst I was mulling ideas I ended up creating a keyboard:

It was surprisingly easy, using Affinity's 3D effect to create the buttons, along with a metallic gradient for the case of the board. The more I use the software the more I like it. Hopefully it will inspire me to come up with a really strong image for Quirky Tales.

Now to Boldre Wood. I realised some time ago that the three books were perhaps a little long for the youngest readers in my target audience. With that in mind I am working on a shortened version of the story. At the moment I'm ploughing through the three books, working out which are the key points and which can be cut without changing the story too much. It's tricky. Some of my favourite scenes will have to be cut from the finished book, but the three full books will still be available even when the shortened version is released. It's going to be a long job, but I'll issue updates as I progress.

Have a great weekend.

Friday 30 October 2015

Free Books for Halloween!

My entire collection will be on free promotion tomorrow, Saturday 31st October. So, if you get bored with the witches and ghouls why not curl up with one (or two, or three, or even all seven) of my books.

Have a great, and safe, Halloween.


Thursday 29 October 2015

To Affinity and Beyond ... (I'm so sorry!)

A recent operating system update forced us to consider replacing some of our older software, predominantly our ancient version of the Creative Suite. Of primary concern was Illustrator, a vector graphics package I use extensively. As much as I love the software it has grown ever more temperamental and clunky over the years and I knew the day would come when it would throw all its pencils out of the box and flat refuse to operate any more.

Luckily he who fixes the computer put me onto a relatively new package called Affinity Designer. With a deal of scepticism I approached the free trial, fully expecting to hate it. Within minutes of my first 'play' I had fallen in love with it. Sometimes it's so nice to be proven wrong.

I haven't yet worked out how to do everything I did in Illustrator, and I admit to being confounded by its Transparency tools, but I shall persevere. It's definitely worth it. No more hanging, or laggy refreshing and zooming, this package has been designed to be as intuitive as possible, with the possible exception of the Transparencies (this is of course user inadequacy, I shall keep working at it until I finally get it!).

The creation of buttons and logos is always a good place to start in feeling your way into a graphics package, so with that in mind, here are two of my early efforts:

This one will hopefully be familiar to Linux users. The strange little 
chap in the corner is my line drawing.
This is my Union Jack button, just because I was feeling

The practice continues. I will master transparencies, I will, I will! Perhaps once I've familiarised myself with the software I'll have a look at redesigning some of my book covers, just for fun. If I have any major breakthroughs I shall of course share them here.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday 7 October 2015

Seal of Approval?

Allow me to set a scene, you're sculling along in your boat on a leisurely 25 mile trip from Woodbridge to Ipswich - okay, if you're anything like me, sculling 25 miles is pretty incomprehensible, but it's important to the story so stay with me.

So there you are, paddling along, when suddenly a seal appears beside you. That would be nice enough, but then the seal jumps on board your boat and lies down to have a little snooze while you do all the work. Well that's what happened to Terry Davey. He says he managed to complete his journey in five hours, 30 minutes of which was in the company of his new friend. He said of the trip, 'I'd have done it a lot faster without that bloomin' seal!'

I suspect there could be a few more intrepid scullers out there over the coming days hoping for a similar encounter.

Friday 2 October 2015

New Story

Just to prove I have been writing over the summer, there is now a new story in the Quirky Tales library. It's called 'Leaving Glairownie', and it's a lighthearted look at four old friends watching the younger generation with rather misplaced disapproval.

I do have several projects in varying stages of completion, in that some are almost finished while others are still just a page of scribbled ideas. Focus has been somewhat lacking lately, but I've had a long talk with myself and have set myself certain targets. Failure to meet them will result in another longer and even sterner talk with myself, and I'm anxious to avoid that. Updates on the nearly completed works will follow shortly.

I hope you enjoy the story. If you like what you see in the library, there are three collections available on Amazon.

Have a great weekend.

Friday 31 July 2015

Free Books!

All seven of my books are on free promotion today, 31st July. That's the entire Boldre Wood Trilogy, the adventure stories of Billy as his ancient homeland comes under the threat of invasion by a terrible enemy - Lucky Dip, the fun Henshall family saga, and the three Quirky Tales Anthologies packed with short stories of varying lengths and genres.

Perfect for filling your Kindle for you summer holidays! Just click the link in this post or the books on the right. Have a great summer.

Friday 24 July 2015

I Think I'll Have Seen Everything ...

... when I see a Basset Hound fly. Well, technically he didn't fly, but he did survive a plunge out a window 30ft above the ground, and his owner is convinced he was saved by his ears.

When I was a child we had a Basset. She used to do the most spectacular somersaults. Not deliberately, you understand, but by the simple expedient of falling over her own ears. The Basset ear is almost a species in its own right, driven almost entirely by mischief and mayhem. So, I suppose it's possible that Remy the Basset managed to deploy his ears like a parachute but it doesn't seem likely. In our experience, they don't have a lot of control over them.

I heard a suggestion on the radio that the most likely scenario was that he did a combat roll upon landing. That conjures comical images of Bassets in cammo gear and night vision goggles, but they are surprisingly flexible and roll quite well. With ears like that they don't have much choice.

That said, I far prefer the image of Remy parachuting down, ears outstretched, to touch down like a feather. Good on you Remy. But stay away from top floor windows from now on.

Thursday 16 July 2015

Beach School

What do you do if you're running a school on limited funds and desperately want to give the children a day out at the beach? If the school is Banks Road Primary in Liverpool, you think outside the playground. They approached local businesses with an idea and requests for help, and those local businesses stepped up and brought the beach to the school.

The result was ten tonnes of sand, donkey rides, fish and chip lunch, palm trees, coconuts and, according to the article on the beeb, children burying each other. I have slight reservations about that last one but kudos to all involved.

School sure has changed since my day. Can I start over please?

Wednesday 8 July 2015

Return of the Nomad

Good grief, it's been a while since I found my way to the QT blog. The motorhome has been a fantastic addition to our lives, but it's come at the detriment of other things. In short, I spend less and less time at the computer.

We recently returned from a great trip to Devon, unaware of the Tunisian terrorist attack, or the Greferendum/ possible Grexit brewing in Greece. In all honesty, it's completely true that ignorance is bliss, however it's a heck of a shock when you come back to it all and find out what's been going on.

I've ploughed through catching up with the news and, while most of it's depressing and demoralising, there was one gem in the form of a young boy being issued a 'ticket' by a police officer for parking his ride-on motorbike in a no parking zone. I do love it when the old bill allow themselves to be playful.

Hope the sun's shining for you.

Wednesday 29 April 2015

89 Year Old's Touchdown

I had to share this story with you:

An 89 year old former University of Kansas football player returned to the field to play a game, and even made touchdown. There may have been a little assistance along the way but the look on his face is priceless. I particularly like the footage of opposition players diving to the ground in their efforts to 'stop' him.

Hope that put a smile on your faces.

Wednesday 22 April 2015

Technology Breakdown

A man in Colorado Springs became so enraged with his misbehaving computer that he took it outside and shot it. Eight times. According to the Colorado Springs Gazette the computer is not expected to recover.

The man's relief was short-lived as he was arrested for discharging a firearm in the city. Perhaps a sledgehammer would have been a safer bet, legally at least. Still, it's hard to imagine any judge punishing him too harshly. After all, haven't we all dreamed of wreaking similar vengeance on our baffling technology at times?


Thursday 16 April 2015

Back to School?

Oh, how I remember that feeling - arriving at school in the full and despairing knowledge that the homework due in the first period lay in my bag, untouched, blank, a glaring testament to my utter inadequacy. Ah, that ten minute panic before registration, trying to find an obliging friend who would let me look at their diligent and carefully crafted efforts so I could attempt to throw something together that would pass muster. And the recriminations, the self-loathing, why was I such a flop as a pupil? Well, actually, it was because I could always find something much better to do with my time than homework, but such self knowledge was little help in those desperate minutes.

So it was that I read of Ben Bloom's disastrous live blog with tremendous sympathy. I imagine he was experiencing the pre-registration panic ten-fold. You see, he was attempting a live blog of a footbally type press briefing (don't ask me, I'm even worse at football than I was at homework), only to discover that the entire thing would be delivered in German, something his GCSE study of the subject had left him woefully ill-prepared for. The result was wonderful. What Ben Bloom lacks in international linguistics he more than makes up for in humour. How he kept his head in the circumstances I have no idea. According to the Telegraph, he has now gone home to start his German lessons and they have, thankfully, decided not to sack him. Well, they obviously recognise a star when they see one.

Tip: scroll down to 12:37 of the Telegraph's link and work your way up from there - Ben's blog reads from the bottom up.


Tuesday 7 April 2015

Public Service Announcement!

In the interests of preserving sanity, this blog shall be a strictly PFZ (politics free zone) for the duration of the British election. I can't take any more of it! I may have to emigrate to escape it! Or perhaps I'll settle on just sticking my fingers in my ears and 'lah-lah-lahing' very loudly.

Just to let you know, all my books are on free promotion this week. Tell everyone!


Monday 23 March 2015

GNU Sir Terry Pratchett

The internet is paying a truly beautiful tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett, simply by adding a hidden line of code to web addresses. I can practically hear the frowns forming. Let me explain, if I can, which I probably can't because it's technical and I'm only pretending I understand:

Terry Pratchett's 'Going Postal' centred heavily around the Discworld's clacks system, which was a means of speedily sending messages via semaphore towers. In the story the clacks was bought out by an unscrupulous consortium who cut back on investment leading to breakages, and even deaths of the linesmen who operated the towers. John Dearheart was the son of the creator of the clacks, and when he was murdered his father inserted a special hidden message with his name into the clack's code. This code would be continuously re-sent but never logged, secretly keeping his son's name alive in the 'overhead'. The message was referred to by the code GNU. The internet tribute, started by the Reddit community, adds a similar hidden message, or GNU, keeping Sir Terry Pratchett's name alive over the Earthly equivalent of the overhead: the internet.

Quirky Tales is now GNU, thanks in no small part to the fact that one person here at QTHQ is technically super competent, while the rest of us just nod in what we hope is a knowledgeable way.

For more information, and a far better explanation than I've managed, take a look at these pages:

GNU Terry Pratchett
Telegraph coverage


Friday 13 March 2015

Sir Terry Pratchett

I was devastated last night to hear of the passing of one of the greatest writers of our age, Sir Terry Pratchett. The 'embuggerance', as he termed it, of his early onset Alzheimer's disease has robbed us of any further voyages to the Discworld, but it was good to know that he died at home with his loved ones at his side.

His writing constantly inspires me to write, and to strive to write better. His capturing of the human nature is unrivalled, and his wonderful humour makes me smile on the darkest of days.

You will be very sadly missed, Sir Terry.

Monday 2 March 2015

News in Colour

The Daily Mail has an article today from inside the American factory that makes Crayola crayons. Just looking at the pictures took me right back to one of my proudest possessions as a child:  a humungous box of Crayola crayons that had every colour imaginable, as well as its own built in sharpener for keeping my crayon's points pointy!

I would have loved a job in that place. What am I saying, I still would love a job in that place. So many crayons, so many colours, that glorious smell ... that's not work at all!


Tuesday 24 February 2015

New Story on QT

The Quirky Campervan is progressing well. The weather is dampening any urges to head off on our adventures at the moment, but at least it's given us time to organise and fit out. If the Atlantic ever stops throwing storms at us I'm sure we'll hit the trail pretty speedily.

In the meantime, there are books to promote and stories to post. Speaking of which, there's a new short story on the QT website today. 'Miscoms' is the result of a challenge set on the Writers Reign Forum and is a quick reminder of the perils of predictive text when sending text messages. I hope you enjoy it.

'Lucky Dip' is on free promotion today, 24th Feb 2015. If you haven't already downloaded it, it's the story of Connie Henshall, a wife and mum who battles to keep family and home together through the strains of redundancy and potential financial ruin. The book follows her somewhat disastrous and at times comical quest to find new work, whilst supporting her children, husband and dog, Bentley, through the daily traumas of family life. It's funny, heart-warming and hope-filled. Just what you need when the wind's howling at your windows.


Friday 30 January 2015

A New Forum for Writers

For anyone interested in writing, be it poetry or fiction, or any other sort of writing, we are setting up a new forum. It's still learning to crawl, walking is some way off yet and running is but a distant dream, but we are definitely open to any new members who love to write. The idea is that the forum is a safe place to share your work and get a little helpful feedback and lots of encouragement from like-minded people.

If you're interested, find us at Writers Reign Forum.


Monday 26 January 2015

Quirky Campervan

It's been quiet in Quirky Tales land, partly because I've had a sore throat, but mostly because the search for a motorhome intensified with the start of the new year. With the lengthening days and the promise of warmer weather hopefully just weeks away, I have to admit a degree of panic set in. We clocked up many miles driving from dealer to dealer in the increasingly forlorn hope that a suitable van might be waiting for us, but each time returned home dispirited. It was looking as though we might never find what we were looking for, but then a chance call at Marquis at Newbury turned up a diamond.

Yes, we've done it! We've finally found our van. We pick it up next month once all the admin is in place and Marquis have given it a full service etc. This has prompted even more frenetic activity as we hunt out all our old camping kit, replace what the mice have eaten or that simply cannot be found, and scour the internet for information on our beautiful new (to us) van.

All of this is by way of an apology for my despicable absence from the blog. I've been somewhat distracted. To celebrate our acquisition I've set a free promotion for all my books for this Sunday, 1st February. Happily, that coincides with the end of dry-January. Sunday could be a good day.


Thursday 8 January 2015

The Cartoonists' Response

This post follows the murderous attack at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, where radical thugs used a perverted version of Islam as an excuse for killing cartoonists. In reaction artists around the world have taken up their pens and drawn responses that make the point far quicker and more poignantly than I ever could.


Thursday 1 January 2015

2015 Already?

Wishing you all a very Happy and Prosperous 2015! (Drat, I'd just grown used to writing 2014.) And so begins the DryAthlon, bring on the ginger beer and grape juice! Cue the endless retrospectives on the news channels. And the annual question of just how many video replays of various nations' firework displays it takes to drive the sanest among us quite bonkers.

Look out for many more new stories in the Quirky Tales library in the coming year.

Happy New Year.