The Venus Transit.

No, I’m not talking about a sordid enterprise in a van. The planet Venus passed in front of the Sun this morning.

I was all ready for it and as usual, the sky was a uniform slate grey from horizon to horizon. All I saw was cloud getting brighter. This happens every time there’s something to see in the sky and I’m beginning to take it personally.

Oh well. Only about 105 years to the next one.


Sometimes, silence is the best option.

Stage psychic Derek Acorah has claimed that he has heard from the spirit world concerning the long-missing child Madeleine McCann.

Maybe he has and maybe he hasn’t. My own views on the likelihood of any stage psychics being genuine are well known to anyone who has read much of my writing. In this instance, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he has.

He claims the child is dead. Naturally, this has greatly upset the child’s parents who (obviously) hope she is alive. That outcome could have been predicted with no recourse to any form of psychic ability.

Acorah can provide no proof. No medium, genuine or otherwise, ever could. It’s just not possible.

In which case, making such a claim with no possibility of proof, knowing that it would certainly cause distress, is not the action of a sensible man.

Even if he is right, in this instance he would have been better to remain silent.

There are many things that people simply don’t want to know and unless you can prove that what you say is true, speaking out will only invite ridicule and derision.

Why invite that?


Samuel’s Girl.

Samuel’s Girl has been accepted for publication by Damnation Books, the same publisher currently selling Jessica’s Trap.

This one is bigger. Jessica’s Trap weighed in at around 60,000 words. Samuel’s Girl is 97,000 and that’s after I cut the original story in half. It was my first full-length novel and I filled it with astounding levels of unneccesary detail. Writing Norman’s House and then Jessica’s Trap taught me to be more concise. Then I went back over the first two and ripped the nonsense out. It’s worked with Samuel’s Girl and I have since been doing the same with Norman’s House. That gets submitted next. It tells of what happens in Jessica’s house when the demons return to finish what they started, three centuries later.

I’ve checked Samuel’s Girl and made sure the words are all in the right order. I spent the weekend applying the publisher’s format requirements to the book and now I have some details to deal with. Hints for the cover artist, the back-cover blurb and so on.

Having produced a 97,000-word novel, you would think it would be a trivial task to write the back cover text, wouldn’t you? It’s not. It’s murderously difficult. It has to intrigue a reader but not give away too much. It has to tell you what the story is about without telling you what the story is about. I have around 500 characters to achieve this.

I’d rather write another novel than work on the back cover blurb. It’s easier. Still, it must be done and it must be done right, so I have to stick at it.

I won’t get the cover art until I’ve done my part, so best get to it. I hope this one will be out in time for Halloween.

Ideally, I’d like to see it out in September. Jessica’s Trap opened on April 30th, 1647 and was released, with marvellous timing, in April 2011. Samuel’s Girl takes place in late September so if it could come out with the same miraculous timing, that would be quite something. If I can do it again with Norman’s House then I’m going to suspect the intervention of some supernatural agency. It wouldn’t be the first time. Many things started happening on and around this Beltane Eve, all entirely coincidental, of course.

This has inspired me to return to the blog, which has been lying fallow for some time now. I have been learning how to be a book-marketer and that’s not easy at all. I intend to document my learning curve and experiences and put them here. When it’s complete it’ll be edited into a little eBook which will, perhaps, allow others to skip the early, wasteful stages and move straight to the low-cost and effective strategies.

Meanwhile, I still have to learn the ins and outs of WordPress. It can do some amazing things…


Update: Samuel’s Girl is scheduled for release on November 1st 2012. I have seen the cover art but can’t post it here until it’s finalised by the publisher. It’s extremely good.


New blog and broken Email.

Well, here we are. Still fiddling with the layout and finding my way around but this place is absolutely full of features. It even allows nested pages and I think (if I can work out how) I can have a different image at the top of each page. The Blogger blog ported in perfectly, I think, so everything is here now.

Commenting here requires me to approve your first comment and then you can comment freely. I don’t need full moderation, and the spam filter looks pretty efficient. Spammers won’t get through the approval system anyway,.

I have a lot to learn here, bear with me while I find out how this all works and inevitably make an occasional blunder.

Email is currently broken on both my romuluscrowe domains so I have a Gmail account for the time being.

Well, better get back to blogging, I suppose…


Email problems.

My Email is currently broken. I didn’t break it this time, it’s broken at source so I have no idea how long it will take to fix.

If you’ve sent me Email in the last few days, it’s lost in Email limbo until I get it sorted out.

Hopefully it won’t take too long.

UPDATE – Fixed, sort of. The is still broken but the same Email using .com now works.  Either I get the fixed or I have to hunt down all those places I’ve used that Email and change them!

Lake Vostok.

I’ve been very interested in Lake Vostok for a long time. It’s not in Russia as the name suggests. It is, in fact, about as far from Russia as it’s possible to get because Lake Vostok is in Antarctica, in Russian territory there, and it’s under roughly two miles of ice.

It’s not frozen. There are two miles of ice above it but the lake itself is liquid because of geothermal heat from below. Needless to say, it’s under enormous pressure.

Russian scientists have been trying to drill into it. A very risky operation considering the area it’s in has recorded the lowest temperature anywhere on Earth – minus 89 Celsius. It’s literally cold enough to freeze your eyeballs solid.

I won’t ever visit the site. It can reach minus 20 here (although this year it’s been quite mild and stayed mostly above minus 10) and that is plenty cold enough for me. Drilling through two miles of ice into a reservoir of pressurised water that could come shooting up that hole -and if it did, it would probably freeze everything it touched instantly – is a job for other people. Not for me.

It’s estimated that the ice formed over that lake two million years ago, when Antarctica had just finished being a green and pleasant land and developed an ambition to be the least green and most unpleasant place on Earth. An ambition it has almost fulfilled. It just needs to get rid of the penguins and it’s done.

So, could there be anything alive down there? Well, extreme cold and high pressure are not friendly conditions for life, but there are forms of life in the deep oceans where the only real difference is that they aren’t isolated. It is possible.

It does depend on how the lake formed. Did it freeze entirely at first, before the mounting ice increased the pressure and forced the land down far enough to re-melt the lake? That initial freezing could have killed everything, leaving a big pool of sterile water. Not ‘pure water’ as the eco-folk insist, because that lake would have had mud in the bottom of it and decaying creatures before it froze. It might be sterile but it’s unlikely to be pure. Humans are not the only creatures to crap in the water supply.

Then again, some bacteria survive freezing. They could have multiplied again after the lake thawed, and many species can live on very basic materials, without oxygen and without light. I’d guess anything bigger than a bacterium would have frozen to death when the lake was first covered but you never know. There’s really no way to know what’s down there until they get their first samples, which they are due to get any time now. Maybe they already have.

Unfortunately the scientists, who were close to reaching the lake last time they were heard from, have been silent for a week now. Did they penetrate the ice and release a fountain of supercooled water, to be locked forever in ice? Maybe their radio is simply broken. Or maybe they’re just too busy to chat. I hope they’re okay and are simply excited by finding something extraordinary.

Even so, it’s at times like this I wish I hadn’t watched a film called ‘The Thing’.

——–Update 6th Feb

They’re okay and they have samples. Oh, and apparently there’s another of those secret Nazi bases nearby but nobody has actually seen it. Just like the ones on the moon. At the rate these invisible bases are turning up, they’ll probably find one on each of those planets we have only just discovered.

Ghosts in the Amazon machine.

I have been advised by more than one person that I should use CreateSpace to get books onto Amazon. So I have. It wasn’t easy. That program is fussy enough to force me to re-do all the photographs.

The second edition is now on CreateSpace and will appear on Amazon US in a few days. Then I can look at wider distribution.

There is a free story coming up that has a dig at the fake psychics. I just need to get the formatting right. The cover is already done and looks like this:

None of those people are me. It uses my ‘fiction’ name as usual, to separate it from my more academically-inclined endeavours.

There’ll be another post when it’s ready.


Turned out it wasn’t a short story at all. It was a Chapter One. There is now a Chapter Six and counting.

It won’t be as quick as I expected.

What’s that thing?

It looks like the result of some deranged cross-breeding experiment involving a guitar, a banjo, a violin and a hubcap.

He’s using a bottleneck on his left hand and banjo picks on his right. It makes an impressive array of sounds but I’ve never seen one of these in the UK.

So what is it?

Free stories update.

A month ago I mentioned a scheme by which I would give away free stories with adverts for other books attached. The reasoning behind this was that if I put a story into a magazine, I could expect a one-off payment of ten dollars/pounds at best. It seemed a better use of a short story to forgo that little payment and use it to advertise the books.

The end-of-year roundup seems a good time to see how it’s going. A new trick in this game is the release of an unannounced free story, ‘A Christmas Contract‘, which I put out early Christmas morning without much fanfare because I wanted to see how it would do on its own. It has not yet passed Smashwords approval and escaped into the world but that’s not surprising. Smashwords’ approval system is manual and there won’t be anyone working over Christmas. If they were based in Scotland then judging by my own experience of the last few days, they wouldn’t be sober yet. I was still at a party at 5 am on January 2nd and am only now regaining control of my fingers.

Likewise, none of the booksellers will report over this period so it’s a good, quiet time to take stock.

For the Smashwords downloads, the figures for each story are now –

A Christmas Contract          129
A Little Knowledge           229   (200)
Room Service                      404   (365)
Bernie’s Bargain                   190   (163)

The figures in brackets are those from December 3rd.

The most popular is Room Service which is odd because it’s the only one that doesn’t have a five-star review. Once again, even though I didn’t push this new story, the stats for the previous ones rose when it came out. The way these free stories work on Smashwords is that they appear in the order they arrive, so they scroll off the screens after two to three days and few people bother looking that far. A new story links to the older ones so interest is renewed until the new one scrolls away too.

I’m trying the same with an extract from ‘Ghosthunting for the Sensible Investigator’ but it’s too early to say whether that’s doing any good. I see it selling on Amazon and Apple in the first edition but the second still has to get through to those sites. More on that when there’s something more tangible to say. It will need another freebie soon because that one will have scrolled away by now.

The retailer downloads of free books via Smashwords up to the end of 2011 were as follows:

Barnes and Noble   305
Sony                       172

I haven’t split them into individual books because that would take ages, but Room Service is definitely the most popular. If I’ve learned nothing else, I’ve learned what those readers like best.

There is small uptake on Amazon for Kindle but that’s because I can’t work out how to make them free on there without giving up all copyright. Free Kindle versions are on Smashwords but those who don’t know about Smashwords have the Amazon minimum price of 99 cents to deal with. On Amazon, it seems ‘A Little Knowledge…’ is the favourite.

Reports can be intermittent and these don’t include paid sales (not many as yet, but free and paid sales are reported separately by most retailers) so at this stage it’s too early to tell whether the ads are having an effect. I see nothing coming via Diesel so will concentrate on those that are generating sales. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple and Sony seem most effective so far. I run the Amazon uploads directly, Apple is almost all through Lulu, Barnes and Noble through Smashwords for some and Lulu for others and Sony entirely through Smashwords.

Smashwords also distribute to Diesel and Kobo but I have no updates on those yet.

As for Jessica’s Trap, no evidence of the ads producing results yet but then I started this experiment with the first free story on 25th September and given the long delays in booksellers reporting, it might be too early to be sure. Kobo and Diesel might yet have surprises in store.

I’ll continue the experiment since it costs nothing, and hopefully will see some results when it’s been running for six months or so.

It’s probably best to wait until the end of March for the next update unless something spectacular happens in the meantime. By then I should have a better idea of how well this is working.

Now I have to fiddle around with the ePub version of Ghosthunting 2 so that Lulu can get it onto B&N and Apple. The first version is doing well there and if I can get the format right on the second, it might do well too.

I can but try.