OK, over to you, 2021

In normal times, I hate New Year: all that usually passes through my head is, God, this year I’ll be another year older! But these aren’t normal times: in 2020 Covid messed with our heads and in the UK we are now in a second wave. People have died prematurely from this nasty virus and all we want is to see the back of an awful year, so this time around I can’t wait for 2021 and when my turn comes for the vaccine I’m having it.

We also have Brexit and left the EU officially today, but that’s been going on for four years. At least it’s over and done with at last!

Last night I had two ciders, two Manhattan cocktails and a dram of Southern Comfort and today I have a head like Ringo Starr’s drums, but I managed to write 800 words of Faking Attraction. I don’t do New Year’s resolutions because I always break them, but I do intend to finish and publish Faking Attraction and I also hope to blog more. I never do it enough!

Happy New Year and let’s hope 2021 is better than 2020!

Faking Attraction: the dangers of making fake friends online

I haven’t blogged for a while and I wanted to update on the progress of my new book Faking Attraction, which I mentioned briefly back then. Aimed for older teens and young adults, I’m writing it as a form of therapy. Back in 2019, I was scammed on Instagram and was very nearly blackmailed. It was my own stupid fault. I became friendly with someone who turned out to be fake, a liar and a scammer. Like many other women – and men – who use social media sites a lot, I fell for the patter, the fake identity, the sob story and the lies, and I got my fingers badly burned; but I learned from it and decided, ‘OK right, this is one of the ways I’m going to get back at scumbags like you.’

Faking Attraction is about catfishing or romance scamming. The book is told from two perspectives and the protagonists tell their stories in alternate chapters: Cherry is sixteen, British, and pretty. She is active on a (fictitious) social media site based heavily on Instagram. When she is sent to boarding-school she posts a provocative photo of herself on the site and this attracts Adam, a fifteen-year-old American boy whose parents live on a US Air Force base in the UK. Adam falls in love with Cherry’s picture, but events take over and before Cherry knows it, she’s being scammed. I’ve incorporated two elements from the classic social media scam: being American and being in the military.

The message I’m trying to convey in the book is that social media, while being useful to people who write books or music, or paint beautiful pictures, as a way of promoting their work, can be a dangerous way of communicating for young and vulnerable people, and for lonely people, too. Thirteen is too young to be allowed to post on Instagram, but any age is open to grooming in some form.

It’s not just Instagram where catfishing and scamming take place; they also happen on Facebook and Twitter, and I’ve heard that TikTok is rife with it. I don’t use TikTok, not having any interest in it, and have not had any problems with Twitter or Facebook, but on Instagram I can smell a catfisher a mile off:

  1. They generally follow more than they have followers, mainly women (if a male account) or men (if female)
  2. Their accounts are usually private
  3. Their bios might say something about how they love their son or daughter or how they love God, or how they’re single looking for love yada yada yada, or the bio might be blank (there’s no hard or fast rule), but look out for poor spelling, a dead giveaway that English isn’t their first language; mainly they’ll claim they come from the good ol’ US of A
  4. If the account isn’t private, they will post numerous photos at the same time, mostly without descriptions; these may be ‘them’ in military uniform, or in medical scrubs, or with a daughter or son, or looking successful in suits, or gorgeous models. These photos will likely be stolen from other accounts. I’ve successfully closed down eight accounts this year from idiots who’ve followed me thinking I won’t notice they’ve copied accounts from authors I already know
  5. When they send a direct message that begins something like ‘Hi, how are you?’ that’s when you know for certain that’s a catfisher; and sometimes they won’t even bother to follow your account.

So, take care when using social media and trust no one. These planks don’t care who they go for.

Sorry, I don’t like the WordPress block editor

It’s yuk and not very user-friendly. For a start, where do you add the categories? And writing in boxes, like some sort of weird table.

Thanks, but no thanks.

I’ll stick to the Classic Editor. There’s nothing wrong with that and I hope they don’t get rid of it. It has everything there that you need, whereas the block editor is just a bit TOO simplistic.

I just don’t see the point in fixing things that aren’t broken.

Another One Bites The Dust!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In an earlier blog post I championed a site called iAuthor, a UK indie book promotion site I thought could rival Goodreads. I wrote:

A few months ago, I stumbled upon iAuthor, which operates something similar to the Goodreads Listopia, known as Themes. The title of the site suggests it’s geared towards the author. Authors are invited to create a theme and other authors add their titles to that theme, the idea being, I think, for other indies to take a look at your book and think, ‘Yeah. I’ll read that one. If I’m feeling generous I might even review it.’ I’ve created a few themes myself, like this one. Guess which theme appears to be one of the most popular of them all, though? Tells you a hell of a lot, really, doesn’t it! It also tells you that there are plenty of indie authors out there bouncing about like molecules in the air vying for space to get noticed, me included.

That was back in 2015 and I wanted to add a couple of books I’d read to some themes recently. Unfortunately, when I clicked on the iAuthor link a few weeks ago, I saw this:

Dear iAuthor Community,

From our beta launch in December 2012, through 5 iterations, to the interactive platform you see today, we’ve never wavered in our mission: to give the publishing world a hub for serendipitous discovery.

Your daily engagement has made this possible, for what would iAuthor be without our loyal users? You have been the platform’s lifeblood, at the heart of everything we do. You’ve been catalysts for innovation, and your well-considered feedback has been key in ensuring an industry-leading user-experience across all devices.

Regrettably, the Covid-19 pandemic means that we’re unable to maintain iAuthor in its current form. Nothing but the best will do; and against this singularly challenging backdrop, we feel that “the best” is no longer achievable.

iAuthor is therefore shutting its operations on Thursday 27th August. In accordance with GDPR law, your data and all associated content will be permanently deleted on that date. Unavoidably, this includes your book profiles, themes and samples. You needn’t do a thing, but might consider taking a commemorative screenshot of your iAuthor profile for reference purposes. All existing adverts will be wound down on Wednesday 26th August. Any adverts created after 12th August will be reimbursed in full.

It’s been a uniquely enriching 8-year journey. We’re privileged to have shared it with you.

With warmest wishes,

The iAuthor Team

That’s so annoying, particularly because free UK book marketing internet sites are few and far between. Covid has messed things up so much in 2020. While you’d think that people haven’t had much else to do during lockdown other than to do DIY or read, they have of course had other priorities, and so it’s natural that websites such as these, which champion the indie author, would go to the wall; and so it has.

Another promotional site that’s bitten the dust recently and that displayed my books is Manic Readers. It was mainly for romance authors, but was happy to accept all genres. It still has a Twitter and Facebook presence, but the last time they tweeted was in 2019 and they posted on Facebook back in 2018. Click on the link to manicreaders.com and nothing happens. There had been a closed announcement earlier in the year.

It’s such a shame and I can see others following suit. Indie authors rely on these sites so much for promotion and there are too many paid sites trying to cash in on desperate writers trying to get their name out there.

Well, maybe it’s time I set up a free UK promo site of my own! I’ve been thinking about doing it, so maybe now is the time!

Indie authors need reviews, too, you know – even negative ones!

How many times has it been said? Readers still don’t appreciate the fact that ALL opinions count, whether good or bad.

Even if a reader doesn’t like the book, why don’t they say so? I’ve seen a lot of negative reviews for traditionally published, famous, well-known authors’ books and it doesn’t impair sales. Why should an indie’s books be any different? It continues to be a mystery to me. In fact, I should say that a negative review can do as much as a positive one as another reader will get curious and think, ‘Hmm. Let me judge for myself.’ I’ve said that before, too. I’ve also said I can live with a negative review; at least the reader has taken the trouble to read the book and say what they think and be critical.

Recently, I reviewed three indie author books and gave them each five stars because I enjoyed them and thought they were well-written, but other readers might not. So what? One man’s meat is another man’s poison. It doesn’t hurt to say what you think and there’s no pressure to write an essay, you need only a few sentences. Why take the trouble to buy a paperback or take advantage of a free download if you don’t read it and tell other readers what you think of it? It makes no sense.

These are the indie books I reviewed recently for Amazon and Goodreads:

Ascension (The Witches of Pioneer Vale Book 1) by David Combs

The Dog Poo Fairy and The Wildlife Rescue Fairy by Tracey Bryant

              

 

I wouldn’t call myself an expert reviewer – I’m definitely not – but at least I made the effort; and the authors were happy I had.

Distraction, distraction, distraction!

Usually, at this time of year, I’m busy cracking on with my writing. This is because by now the football season has finished and I have more time to concentrate on a book, not pulling my hair out over the number of times my beloved Liverpool FC have failed to put the ball into the back of the net! Football has always been a major distraction to me because I’m so into my team.

It’s been different this year, of course. We’ve all been coping with the horrible coronavirus, living in lockdown, not going out, working from home, continually washing our hands, and the football was postponed. No one knew if that was it, season over. That did in fact give me more time to get on with my new work, Faking Attraction, a young adult novel about a girl who gets mixed up with a catfisher. Yes, I said I would get a book out of my experience last year and it’s in progress: I’m on chapter 11 and I’m hoping it will be published in 2021.

Meanwhile, I was fretting about the football. Liverpool were in touching distance of their first Title in thirty years. Would we get our beautiful game back? Would we be able to finish the season? Would we win the Title legitimately and not with an asterisk, which indicates an unfinished season, as all our bitter, jealous rivals hoped we’d end up with, if the season wasn’t made null and void (which they were actually hoping for!)?

The answer is YES! Footie came back in June to be played behind closed doors and we got the points we needed to win the Title! The terrific news is Liverpool FC are Champions for the nineteenth time! Legit! No asterisk! Our rivals are fuming and we love it!

There’s just one problem: the matches are still being played to see out the season to settle relegation and European places and is back to being a distraction! Since we won the Title, Liverpool haven’t fired on all cylinders. I’m back to tearing my hair out at missed chances again!

But that doesn’t matter because while working from home as a secretary I’m also getting a few words of Faking Attraction on the page at the same time, so I’m making up for it.

You’ll Never Walk Alone!

 

 

Holiday writing is not applicable

 

Every year I bemoan the fact that I have a holiday coming up, taking time out from my writing. Every year I put my laptop or tablet in my suitcase in the hope that I can crack on with a chapter or at least make some notes, or proof read. Every year I don’t get very far and end up enjoying my holiday instead.

Thanks to the coronavirus, we won’t be going anywhere this year. Tomorrow we should have been going on a fortnight’s cruise around the Arctic Circle in Norway; instead, we’re staying at home and going for days out. It was inevitable it would be cancelled and we’re gutted. It also means there’s no excuse this time, I’ll have to get on with my new book! And at least we haven’t taken ill and we’re alive.

I haven’t said what my new book is called, or what it’s about yet.

Faking Attraction is aimed for older teens and young adults. Cherry and Adam meet and fall in love online, but the course of true love doesn’t run smooth, and it’s the start of a nightmare for both of them…

That’s all I’m saying for now. I’ve written ten chapters. There’s a ghost story element to it. It’s still in the planning stage.

So the following plans for holiday writing will not apply this year:

1. Taking notebooks and pens/pencils to jot down plots and ideas

2. Taking laptops or tablets to write by the pool and to check the internet for research

3. Sitting outside a cafe people-watching and noting characteristics and behaviour

4. Walking, sight-seeing and relaxing so you can forget about any writer’s block

5.Taking photos for memories in case you can use them in future books

Holidays can wait, lives can’t. There’s always next year. Unless aliens land. Then I think I will be stuffed!

The Angry Tide: a review

Posted on Goodreads

The angry tide of emotion is portrayed prominently in this seventh book of the Poldark chronicles.

Ross and Demelza’s relationship continues on an angry tide of rocky waters. The death of Hugh Armitage has had a devastating impact on Demelza and Ross is consumed with jealousy. He is suspicious of her feelings for the young lieutenant. Meanwhile, Ross is successfully voted as a Member of Parliament, enraging his old nemesis George Warleggan, and so has to divide his time between London and Cornwall. When Demelza accompanies Ross to London for an exciting first-ever visit, another encounter and an ensuing argument threatens their marriage even further and might even end it for good.

Back in Cornwall, the vicar Osborne Whitworth is about to get his comeuppance for recent misdemeanours, paving the way for an escape for his damaged wife, Morwenna, raising hope for Drake Carne. Elsewhere, George and Elizabeth are gliding through harmonious domesticity until a chance remark by Elizabeth’s son Geoffrey Charles causes a serious rift between them. A new arrival brings about reconciliation, and then the unthinkable happens.

The Angry Tide is well-written and the charactersation continues to be strong. The political descriptions are very in-depth and historically accurate. Book 8 The Stranger From The Sea now beckons!

 

Another five star review for Episode

This is a very important review to me because it was written by a young reader from my target audience. You can find it on ReaderViewsKids, Barnes & Noble and Goodreads:

I was pleasantly surprised how the author turned an affliction into a super hero power. “Episode,” by Tracey Morait gives the reader a glimpse at what it means to have epilepsy, but instead of writing the story about how hard this can be for someone’s day-to-day life, the author creates this world where it is a gift and not a curse.

Alisha has epilepsy, but she doesn’t let that hold her back. She is outgoing, sassy and my favorite character in the story. While on vacation with her family, because of the heat, her seizures start to come more frequently. She can’t help but feel that her vacation is going to be horrible. Until one night she notices a strange noise coming from the hotel pool. An unusual woman half bird, half human is calling her name. Alisha’s vacation is about to turn into an epic adventure, where the thing that has been holding her back all her life, gives her powers that she could never have dreamed of.

“Episode” is a fast-paced story taking the reader back to the Olympian era, where a conflict that brings about the Trojan War is beginning. When Alisha meets Travis she finds out that her seizures will open time travel portals and that she has been brought here just like him to confront Gods, Goddesses, and mythical creatures.

I think one of my favorite parts in the book was when they found a cave to escape the robots that were trying to kill them, and they noticed an enormous eye that ended up being a dragon. The story line was one turn after the other, all to save Helen from her terrible fate of marrying Menelaus, King of Sparta.

I think the author did a great job of making history a fast-paced adventure. “Episode” by Tracey Morait will surprise you from the very beginning to the ending and keep you on the edge of your seat in between. This a great story for kids in middle school and up.

 

Episode: meet the characters

Come and meet the major characters in my new children’s book, Episode, which turns the story of the Trojan War on its head:

Alisha

Alisha Dainton is thirteen and lives with her parents and sixteen-year-old sister Sal, with whom she has a troubled relationship, in Liverpool, England. Unfortunately, Ali’s life is plagued by epilepsy and she suffers seizures on a daily basis, so much so that it affects her day-to-day life. The triggers for her seizures are extreme stress and heat, so when the family go on holiday to Cyprus the seizures come thick and fast. Her mum is worried and thinks the family should go home early, but Ali doesn’t want to because she’s having a nice time. Older sister Sal is fed-up with Ali’s seizures and accuses her of ruining the holiday.

It is in Cyprus that Ali discovers her seizures are powerful enough to transport her through portals into other timelines and worlds, but she can only do this with the intervention of the Greek gods, who tell her that she’s been chosen to go to the aid of Helen, Princess of Sparta, to take her out of Sparta through a portal, and also to protect Travis, a fellow time traveller, from the wrath of Aphrodite. So begins an adventure in time travel Ali could well do without!

Travis

Like Ali, Travis suffers from powerful epileptic seizures. We met him previously in Epiworld and he is a seasoned time traveller through the portals created by his fits. Travis is also from the UK, but from Ali’s future in 2099, and he comes from a world controlled by a robotic police state and where disease is outlawed. He is also brought to ancient Sparta by Iris, the messenger god, to help Helen, but he denies the existence of the gods, disputing their claim that Selene, Goddess of the Moon, inspires the infliction of epilēpsía in humans. He states both he and Ali can see them because Helen believes in them and her belief manifests their appearance.

Travis’s purpose is to act as a mentor to Ali, to help guide her through her time travelling adventures, and they both work together to try and help Helen out of her predicament, Travis willingly because he promised Helen to help her escape through one of his portals, Ali more reluctantly.

Helen

Helen, daughter of King Tyndareus and Queen Leda of Sparta, is a young woman of seventeen promised in marriage to Prince Menelaus of Mycenae. Once married, Melenaus will become King of Sparta. Helen doesn’t want to marry him and prays to the gods to help her escape the marriage. Those gods who  disagree with the marriage, namely Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, hear her prayers and send her Travis, a time traveller who promises to help her escape by transporting her through one of his portals. Helen also meets Ali. a younger, less experienced time traveller, who comes to her as a slave, but Ali is an unwilling saviour and finds herself being swept along in the adventure by Travis and the gods.

Unbeknown to Helen, Aphrodite is planning another means of escape for her, a union with Paris, Prince of Troy, and that presents more dilemmas.

The Gods

The gods control the behaviours, beliefs, thoughts and behaviours of humans in the ancient world. The most prominent gods in Episode are:

Iris, Messenger Goddess of the Rainbow, the Sea and the Sky

Iris’s purpose is to bring messages from the gods. She travels across the sky on her rainbow and this is how Ali first meets her in Cyprus. Everything about Iris is the rainbow: the colour of her hair and her shimmering dress. She is the main link between Ali and Travis and the gods. When the other gods speak, only their lips move; Ali and Travis cannot hear their words unless they allow it, so it’s Iris’s job to interpret what they’re saying.

Selene, Goddess of the Moon

Selene is said to bestow the infliction of epilepsy on the human population. Everything about Selene is silver and diamonds: she wears a silver crescent moon as a crown, a diamond encrusted robe and travels across the sky in a silver chariot pulled by magnificent white horses. Whenever Ali or Travis has a seizure, she transports them through their portals in her chariot, although Travis firmly disputes this because neither he nor Ali can recall seeing her chariot after the first transportation.

Zeus

Zeus is King of the Gods and he decides Greece and Troy are overpopulated, so he decides to provoke a war between them. His idea is to stage an assassination on King Priam of Troy by a Greek ambassador, but Aphrodite persuades him that her idea is better, to allow Paris, Priam’s youngest son and Prince of Troy, to abduct Helen of Sparta from Menelaus after she promises Paris Helen’s hand when she judges him the most beautiful out of herself, Hera and Athena. When the war starts, the gods take their sides: those who favour the Greeks strive to prevent Ali and Travis from helping Helen escape Menelaus, but those who favour the Trojans want her to escape him. Zeus is unhappy with this aspect of the conflict between the gods and Helen is becoming too defiant of her fate.

Aphrodite

Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, is very fond of Helen and Paris. She is anxious for them to be together, but Helen is defiant: she does not love Paris any more than she loves Menelaus, so when Helen begs for Ali’s and Travis’s help to escape from Paris Aphrodite promises severe wrath. In particular, she sets her sights on Travis, and both he and Ali are stunned when they discover why.

We also meet Hera, Athena, Hermes and Nemesis, as well as the minor deities, and the messenger goddess Gna from the Norse beliefs when Ali and Travis are transported to Shetland.

Other very important characters:

The robot guards

On the hunt for Travis, a fugitive from their world, the guards travel through one of Travis’s portals and become involved in a war with the gods, destroying Troy as a result and bringing the Trojan War to an abrupt end even before it’s begun.

Sal

Sal, Ali’s older sister, is very surprising. Ali discovers something about her that sends her reeling. It turns out that Sal is not all she seems and does in fact play a very major role in Ali’s adventures.

Stasinus

Stasinus is the storyteller famed for the first poem in the Epic Cycle of Trojan War poems, The Cypria, which is now lost: of all the poems, only The Iliad and The Odyssey survive. It’s through The Cypria that Stasinus tells us how the Trojan War begins and Ali and Travis are surprised that Stasinus includes them in the first version of his poem.

Hector

The older brother of Paris, Prince Hector is the only Trojan survivor when Troy is raised to the ground by the robot guards. He joins Ali and Travis in their quest to save Helen when she’s abducted by the guards and helps them and the gods to fight the guards in the new war.

We also meet Menelaus, his brother Agamemnon, and Paris.

Episode is available in all Amazon stores in paperback and Kindle, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Waterstones, and elsewhere.

 

Penelope Burns

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