The moon as inspiration

I was stuck editing the second book in the series ‘The Song of Forgetfulness’. I didn’t know how to start a particular chapter.

I wandered around the house- didn’t take long, small house- and looked out of the bedroom window. Clouds parted in the star free night sky, and there was the moon looking down at me as if to say, “Oh, get on with it.”

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Then I took a photo of it. Thanks moon.

 

You can take a look at an exclusive excerpt from the as yet unreleased second book in the series, ‘The song of Forgetfulness on my Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/thesongofforgetfulness

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Creative use of language in novels.

Nadsat, Newspeak and Bubchat

 

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I have been reading mostly science fiction books lately, and I have begun to question why a lot of writers choose not to modify the language they use to create a sense of another time and place. It seems that in the future, vocabulary will remain the same and people will talk to each other exactly the way they do now. Which doesn’t really make sense, does it? The spoken and written word has changed over the years, and most authors have reflected this in their works: from Shakespeare to Bronte, Dickens to Faulkner, and James Joyce to Irvine Welsh.

I overheard a conversation between three teenage girls. I texted a snippet of what they were saying to my friend, who has a fifteen year old, and she said that they were talking about a boy that two of them found attractive, but one of them didn’t.

Girl 1:  Yo, see Jay? He gone all tank, well yoked.

Girl 2:  Yeah, he fully gassed narmean?

Girl 3:  Nah, you dutty fam. He’s well piff.

Girl 1: Nah, he FAF.

Girl 3:  Wa, you beefin’ me?

Girl 1:  Wa, you seriously say he butters?

So, if young people talk like this today, wouldn’t it make sense that hundreds of years in the future, people would be conversing with words that are different from the ones we use now?

In his novel, Nineteen eighty-four, George Orwell introduced words and phrases that were not familiar to readers of that era, to create a futuristic realm where language is used as a weapon to subjugate the masses: duckspeak, thoughtcrime, bellyfeel, doublethink, and speakwrite. Would it have been such a powerful read if the author had not employed the use of such evocative words? Who can forget ‘Newspeak’, or ‘Big Brother’?

In A Clockwork Orange, the use of slang is vital to the narrative to give credibility to this dystopian future. Alex speaks ‘nadsat’ a language that sets him and his friends

apart from the rest of society.

“These grahzny sodding veshches that come out of

my gulliver and my plott,” I said, “that’s what it is.”

“Quaint,” said Dr. Brodsky, like smiling, “the dialect of the tribe. “

So, bearing this in mind, when I came to write my Sci-Fi/Dystopian series The Song of Forgetfulness, I made sure that I used words that were appropriate for the world I was creating. Since it is written from the viewpoint of a seventeen- year -old, Adara, in the first person, it was imperative that her voice rang true in order for the characters to maintain credibility in this vision of the future. I created ‘Bubchat’.

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“I showed respect and bowed, then turned toward the not-right teen. He gave me a tiny smile, and for reasons I know not, I took his hand and said, “Show me where you splosh.” His face went redder than a bub about to plop and everyone, including me, let out a merry guffaw. I hadn’t meant to use such a nursery word, but when I looked at his soft brown eyes and slender arms I went all mumsly. Not like me at all. I began to wonder if the ‘dults had palmed a soother into my stew.”

You can view all of my books on my Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Nicola-McDonagh/e/B00D4NAH0S/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

I went to Lewis Carol for inspiration. I remembered I had a favourite poem from my childhood, The Jabberwoky, from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found. It is a delight in the creative use of vocabulary. The language is rich and full of evocative words that create a unique setting where his story unfolds.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun

The frumious Bandersnatch!”

Science fiction and fantasy are the ideal genres for authors to invent new languages and different ways of speaking. To shake off the confines of correct word usage and play around with narrative form. But not everyone warms to such experimentation, and critics often chastise authors for breaking the rules of grammar that ‘The Elements of Style’, by Strunk and White, have branded into the English language. There is a good anti Elements of Style essay by Geoffrey A Pullmen called, ‘50 Years of stupid Grammar’. It will make you think twice before reaching for the Spelling and grammar tool on your computer. http://chronicle.com/article/50-Years-of-Stupid-Grammar/25497

So, all you authors out there don’t be put off experimenting with vocabulary. Let your imagination fly and write from your heart, not your head. (Then go back and edit it.)

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Want to know more about me and my books? Go to my website and have a look around.

http://www.oddlybooks.com

Sign up to my newsletter and get a free download of Changeling Fog – a short story from The Song of Forgetfulness series:

http://eepurl.com/buH8qH

 

Macro Photography without using a tripod

My garden is overgrown. I like it that way. It attracts insects and birds and other creatures. I enjoy wading through the tall grass, plucking seedpods and flies from my arms and legs as I search for an interesting creature to photograph.

This year, the bee population has increased.
Hooray!
Last year there were hardly any.

On Sunday I counted eight different kinds of bees and managed to photograph about four using a macro lens. Because the flora is so wild and sprawling, using a tripod for stability is out of the question. So I have to take all my pictures hand-held. Another reason I don’t use the regular kind of tripod is that I find them too awkward to use when attempting to follow the speedy wing changes of bees and other flying insects. By the time I’ve set the thing up, the flying beastie has flown. Okay most of the pictures are a little shaky, but I do get some pretty good results.

The trick to being a good human tripod is to centre yourself. By that I mean, spread your feet to hip distance and slightly bend your knees. You should be balanced and stable. Next, try not to lean forward too quickly as this aggravates camera shake.  Breathe slowly and don’t hunch your shoulders as this causes the wobbles and a stiff neck! And finally, move the camera forward to focus rather than twisting the focus ring as that definitely adds to camera shake and out of focus images. You may look a little weird, but the results you get will be worth it

For more images of macro and beyond, visit: http://www.tracerlight.co.uk

 

 

The Inventor of Crime Scene Photography

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In my last post I talked about my Historical Crime Fiction novel and in particular, a pioneer in crime photography, Alphonse Bertillon. You can view it here:

https://nicolajmcdonagh.wordpress.com/2018/09/05/the-man-behind-the-mug-shot/

Today I continue the story on how this man influenced the advance in Forensic Science.

Not only did Alphonse Bertillon invent the Mug Shot, but a variety of ways to interpret how a crime happened. From simple burglaries, to murder, he came up with methods of measuring the amount of force used in break-ins, known as the Dynamometer. He was also responsible for using ballistics and materials to preserve footprints as clues to how a crime was committed.

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Bertillon was quite a celebrity and even appeared in a few Sherlock Holmes stories, most notably, in The Hound of the Baskervilles, when the following dialogue between Dr James Mortimer and Holmes.

“I came to you, Mr. Holmes, because I recognized that I am myself an unpractical man and because I am suddenly confronted with a most serious and extraordinary problem. Recognizing, as I do, that you are the second highest expert in Europe–”

“Indeed, sir! May I inquire who has the honour to be the first?” asked Holmes with some asperity.

“To the man of precisely scientific mind the work of Monsieur Bertillon must always appeal strongly.”

Yet it is his ground breaking use of photography at crime scenes that is his lasting legacy to present day methodology employed by detectives in solving crimes.

Bertillon School of Forensics

His use of taking a picture from above, was unique to crime procedures. Previously, an artist would draw the scene from their eye line, sketching the things that came in their limited range, but Bertillon gave the world a ‘god’s eye view’ showing the scene accurately and in more detail. Greatly improving the police’s chance of solving the case.

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He even used a special laboratory to take the Mug Shots, practice his precise methods and to process the ensuing prints.

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To view the actual photographs, Bertillon took of crime scenes, please go to my Pinterest page.

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/nikkimcdonagh56/arty-stuff-my-stories-including-glimmer-and-crow-b/

However, when Bertillon’s CSI photographs became known, they were thought of as unsavoury, even ghoulish since they showed the victim’s dead body. Yet these images gave detectives the necessary information to help them discover important clues such as body position, cause of death, wound entry, footprints, murder weapons, blood spattering and so on, that could easily be missed from an initial survey of the scene.

It is thanks to Alphonse Bertillon, that CSI has progressed from somewhat dubious facial measurements, to accurate fingerprinting, and his meticulous way of photographing a crime scene is still used today.

Berillon-Protocol

Here is another small snippet from the first draft, I shall call The Leo Katz Mysteries for want of a better title:

Chapter Three

I confess to being somewhat squeamish. As a child I could not even bear to squash a fly. Miriam had no such qualms and would race about my bedchamber with a rolled up newspaper swatting anything that buzzed. ‘Nasty things that eat dung. You must kill them before they lay eggs in your ears.’

I believed her and before falling asleep would probe my lugs for signs of infestation. I am not sure how I would have reacted if I had discovered an emerging bluebottle in my cochlea. Perhaps something akin to the way I retched on witnessing Klaus probe the severed nasal cavity of Ira Weiss.

‘Stay with us, Leopold. I need your expertise on imaging. Are you going to faint?’

I gulped hard and backed away from my tripod. ‘No, not at all. It’s the smell of the body mingled with the chemicals you use, it is overwhelming.’

‘Perhaps Herr, I mean, Leopold, would care for some fresh air? It is an acquired scent. Shall I escort you to the corridor?’ Lucy wiped her hands on a towel that hung from a nail in the wall next to the half glassed door of the mortuary.

‘Thank you, but I will continue. I must endeavour to overcome my reticence at observing the dead.’

‘Ha! There’s my fellow. Solid and dependable. Well, compose yourself, my little friend and come closer. I need a shot of the entry wounds.’

With shaking hands I lifted my tripod and placed it close to Ira’s pale body. Lucy wiped the last remaining spots of blood from his chest, and joined Klaus by the cart laden with sharp knives and a variety of different sized saws. She did not flinch from the sight of the poor man’s shredded face. Leaning close to observe the raggedness of his wounds, she said, ‘Was he disfigured before or after death?’

My next post will continue the findings I have unearthed during the research for my new book. Watch out for Madame d’Ora!

For more information about my books, please visit my website:

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http://www.oddlybooks.com/

The Man Behind the Mug Shot

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Inspiration comes at strange times on occasions. It hit me quite by chance when I was cleaning the cat litter tray. Why not write a crime thriller set in Victorian times about a photographer who has to find out who has been committing a series of murders? Wow, I thought, no one has done that before, or at least, I’ve never heard of a book quite like that.

Next I needed to set it somewhere. Vienna. Why not? After all it was the place for art and music at that time. After a bit of research, I unearthed some very interesting information about the politics of the time and how it adversely affected the Jewish population of the city. A plot was forming. The protagonist is a photographer that gets caught up in a series of brutal murders of Jewish activists in 1899 and has to solve the case via the use of photographs.

Whilst researching the history of criminal photography for the book, as yet untitled, I came upon the name, Alphonse Bertillon.  A nineteenth century French forensic documentarian.

It is thanks to this man we have access to the recording and storing of the physical details of a criminal. Before his efforts, offenders were hard to keep track of. They could give false names and addresses, so finding those who recommitted a misdemeanour, was often impossible.

Enter Bertillon.

Bertillon,_Alphonse,_fiche_anthropométrique_recto-verso-1As a records clerk at the Prefecture of Police in Paris 1879, Bertillon became irked by the chaotic way they kept criminal data. He worked on a better system to store and classify offenders to make it easier for someone to find them if they re-offended. Using his interest in anthropometry, the scientific study of the proportions and measurements of the human body, he developed a recording system for detailing the size and shape of a criminal’s distinguishing facial features.

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These facial descriptions, classified the shapes, size and breadth of the nose, eyes, ears and other facial features, which he called, “Portrait Parle”. Although the coded lexicon he Invented to use alongside his method was too difficult to use and later abandoned.

However, his idea of “Portrait Parle” lead to his definitive method of identification and recording of a suspect/criminal in the shape of the Mug Shot.

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For the first time a criminal could be photographed alongside his or her name both front and side view. Therefore, their identity could be accurately logged ready for use if they re-offended.

Bertillon’s index card system along with the photograph of the lawbreaker, identified re-offenders better than any other system before his invention, and as we know, the Mug Shot, is still used today, alongside fingerprints, to keep detailed records of criminals ready for use if needed.

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Next time, I’ll be discussing Bertillon’s influence on what we know today as Crime Scene Photography.

Here is a little taster from my book. Please bear in mind that this is just a first draft you will be reading. 

‘Oy, oy, where do you think you’re going?’

An officer broke free of the policeman chain and put his hands on my shoulders. I brushed them away and stood firm. ‘I am expected. Katz.’ I held up my case, shouting above the raised voices, ‘I’m to take images of the crime.’

‘Ah, that stuff. What do you need to do that for? The case is solved. She murdered him in cold blood. Ghoulish is what I call that.’ He pointed at my camera. ‘Some say it takes the soul from the body and the dead can’t go to heaven.’ I shook my head and sighed. ‘Oh, I wouldn’t expect a Jewboy to believe. Your lot haven’t got any souls anyway.’

Aaron stiffened and blurted out, ‘Hey, that’s not true. Take it back.’

‘Or what? Bloodsucker?’

I grabbed Aaron before he lunged towards the policeman. He relaxed a little and hung his head. ‘Do not become aggrieved at this Gentleman’s outburst. They are just words. Nothing more.’ He gulped and raised his chin.

‘Ya. Gift of the gab your lot and no mistake. Go on, get going, join your Yiddish pals.’ He spat at our feet when we shuffled past him towards the murder victim.

It was indeed a gruesome sight. I turned to Aaron. ‘You must go now. This is not a fitting thing for a boy to witness. Go home and be with your mother.’

If you would like to know more about my books, please go to my website:4632622310_242x254

www.oddlybooks.com

No, you can’t come in.

The past few days the wonderful British weather has been quite variable. From horrendous downpours causing flooding, to beautiful sunny days that lift your spirits. Flowers and blossoms have bloomed and birds are singing loudly. Nest building is well under way and my cats are watching eagerly for signs of baby birds.

Kimi watching for rats

Our hens are enjoying the fine weather, lying on the grass and soaking up the rays.

xena gabs resting

willow trixie resting

Whilst other birds have been pecking at my bedroom window trying to get in. I presume they think my cluttered space is ideal for building a nest and raising chicks. After all it’s safer than outside, isn’t it?

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Long-tailed Tit B&W 1

Not really, birds. You see, five cats live in the house, and, although I keep the door closed, it is opened regularly and well, a cat is fast. So no, you can’t come in, long-tailed tits, sorry.

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Bye!

Long-tailed Tit B&W 2

I guess they heard me because after I took these photographs, they flew away.

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Such pretty birds.

Long-tailed Tit B&W 3

I hope you love nature as much as I do. Thanks for reading.

Cleo Dalby and the Curse of the Chaos Mummies

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Today I thought I would post a snippet from my middle grade Ancient Egyptian-themed book Cleo Dalby and the Curse of the Chaos Mummies. It’s full of good and evil gods and goddesses, nasty beasts and a battle of life and death to save the world – of course. I plan to send it to some publishers. I am still in the editing stage so any feedback would be noted, and very welcome.

A brief synopsis:

Feisty twelve-year-old Cleo Dalby and her archaeologist mother, find the remains of Imhotep and Hor in the Red pyramid, Dashur, only to discover that not only are the mummies cursed but Cleo is too – with the soul of Seth the god of chaos. When the mummies are stolen by the master criminal Erica Van Clutch, the curse is unleashed along with Seth, who wants to destroy the world. It is up to Cleo and her friends to journey to Duat, ancient Egypt’s afterlife, to find the Book of the Dead to summon Ma-at the goddess of order so that she can destroy Seth.

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 Excerpt from Chapter One – We Are Not Alone

Darkness pushed against Cleo Dalby’s arms and legs as she struggled to make her way through the narrow chamber of the pyramid. Hands outstretched before her, she slid her feet forward, straining to hear something, anything. But every sound, even the skid-slap of her sandals on the stone floor, became lost in the gloom. On Cleo walked, deeper into the world of corpses.

A sigh drifted towards her. It seemed to gather a friend as it neared, and soon the sad laments of two disembodied voices surrounded her. The whispering drifted in and out of her ears like tired moths trapped inside a lampshade.

“We, the dead, quietly rest, hands on chest, faces tilted up to catch a ray of sunlight.”

“But this far below the ground, there is only blackness and the weight of stone.”

“We, the dead, no longer know who we are. Memories fade and melt into our hollow skulls.”

“We, the dead, sometimes whisper to each other.”

“Husks of words from dried up lips that stick to the cold walls, waiting for the living to listen.”

Cleo touched the limestone with her fingertips.

“We, the dead, can feel a presence.”

A breath of ancient brushed past her cheek. She shivered and rubbed her naked arms. The chill slapped onto her legs and spread upwards leaving pimples of stiff-haired unease on her sunburnt flesh. She gulped. “Hello? Is anyone there? My name is Cleo.”

“Is it she?”

“The chosen one?”

“Listen to our warning, child, or torments and madness will shadow your every move.”

“Leave, before evil takes your soul.”

The voices ceased.

There was a smell of rot so strong, she nearly vomited. “What the frog?” The stink disappeared. Cleo shook the torch gripped in her hand. “Stupid froggin’ thing. Work.” She patted it against her palm. “Work.” Something touched her shoulder and Cleo jumped.

“There you are. I thought I’d lost you.”

“Mum, don’t creep up on me like that.”

“I can’t very well do anything else, can I? It’s darker than a black hole in here.”

“I know. I can’t see a froggin’ thing.”

“What do you expect? We are half way down a pyramid. And don’t say, ‘froggin’ I know what it means.”

A sound like the noise from a beehive buzzed inside her head. She put her fingers into her ears and wiggled them until it ceased. “Are you sure we’re the only ones here?”

“Apart from the mummies? Yes.”

“I thought I heard someone say something.” Cleo reached behind her and grabbed her mother’s hand as a gasp swept across their faces. “What was that?”

“I don’t know, I can’t see anything.”

“Sorry, it’s my fault the torch won’t work. I didn’t change the batteries. Although, Mum, if you’d brought wind-up ones we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

“Oh, so now it’s my fault?”

A throaty groan billowed past their open mouths.

“Ah! That horrible sound again.” Cleo swivelled round, buried her head into her mother’s chest and waited for the hideous moaning to go away. The gurgling, growling continued despite the comforting warmth from her mother’s body.

“Why won’t it stop?”

“It has.”

“No, it hasn’t. Can’t you hear it?”

“It’s my stomach.”

“Really?”

“Yes, I’m hungry, we missed breakfast because you slept in.”

“Sorry,” Cleo said and felt her eyes begin to sting.

“Don’t sniffle. Come on, we can’t let some stale air frighten us away. That’s what they want.”

“That’s what who want?” Cleo pulled away from her mother’s tight grip.

“The architects who built the pyramids were clever. They used all sorts of booby traps to scare looters away. All this noise and freezing wind is a just a ploy to put us off the scent. Come on, let’s carry on.” Mrs Dalby tugged at Cleo’s sleeve.

“Okay, but can you light a match at least? I really can’t see where I’m going.”

“There aren’t many left. In the rush to get here I didn’t pack everything.”

“Some holiday this is.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

Cleo brushed her curly brown hair behind her ears and sighed. “It’s not really a proper holiday ‘cause you were already here as a specialist advisor on that American dig thing.”

“You mean the unearthing of King Senebkay in the ancient city of Abydos.  True, technically I am working, but we are, you know, spending time together.”

“Like a proper family.”

“Yes, except…”

“Dad’s not here.”

“No, he isn’t.” There was a wobble in Mrs Dalby’s voice and Cleo quickly changed the subject.

“Good job Curator Blench gave you that tip off about this pyramid. Now we can finish the job you and Dad started.”

There was a long pause.

“Right then, shall we carry on?”

“’Suppose so. Mum, this is our first expedition together.”

“Yes, it is. Are you okay with that?”

“Yeah, I think it’s awesome.”

“Good. Anyway, we should save the candles since we don’t have many. We’re going to need all the light we can when we find the hidden chamber. So, for now, you’ll just have to put your hands out and feel your way like me.”

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You can lean more about my work here: www.oddlybooks.com

Thanks for reading.

National Pet Day

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Today is #NationalPetDay on Twitter. What better way to celebrate the friendship and love they give us by posting some pictures of my cats and chickens.

hens napping

kimi

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rasky posing

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I don’t think I could live without a cat in my life. They are wonderful creatures that only trust you when you deserve it. If you truly love a cat it will reciprocate and be your friend forever.

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Always respect a cat’s privacy

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Mess with a cat and be prepared to face the consequences.

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Ignore a cat at your peril.

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Happy Nation Pet Day everyone.

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Author Spotlight – Stevie Turner

I am very honoured to announce an author spotlight for the multi-award winning author Stevie Turner. As we speak, her novel, For the Sake of a Child, is being read by a New York film production company after winning a silver award in the Depth of Field International Film Festival competition. To learn more about Stevie, click below:  https://about.me/stevie_turner/ 

Website:  http://www.stevie-turner-author.co.uk

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This award winning novel will be on offer until 7th April for only £0.99! I highly recommend that you get your copy now!

For the Sake of a Child:

Ginny Ford is pleased to win the coveted job of housekeeper to the directors of PhizzFace Inc. However, her joy becomes tarnished by an accidental find whilst cleaning, leading her to suspect that all is not as it should be on the managerial corridor. Delving deeper, she is shocked to uncover corruption and a secret paedophile network that has remained hidden for years, involving the very people she has come to know and trust. Unable to live with her conscience any more, she decides that she cannot keep quiet and that she must find a way of helping all the children involved. However, by trying to help the children she discovers that she has unwittingly put her entire family at risk…..

For the Sake of a Child cover

Amazon.uk:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stevie-Turner/e/B00AV7YOTU/

Amazon.com:  http://www.amazon.com/Stevie-Turner/e/B00AV7YOTU/

Amazon Author Page (worldwide):  http://bookShow.me/B00AV7YOTU  

For more information about Stevie and her work please find details below:

YouTube:   https://goo.gl/E8OHai

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7172051.Stevie_Turner

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/StevieTurnerAuthor/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/StevieTurner6

Pinterest:  https://uk.pinterest.com/stevieturner988/

WordPress Blog:  https://steviet3.wordpress.com/

Audible:  http://goo.gl/sz1cXS

Linkedin:  https://www.linkedin.com/profile/preview?vpa=pub&locale=en_US

 Google+:  https://plus.google.com/u/0/105747643789021738179/posts/p/pub

BookSprout:  https://booksproutapp.com/author/875/stevie-turner

Amazon page: http://bookShow.me/B00AV7YOTU

Blog:    https://steviet3.wordpress.com/

 

 

Victory is MINE!!

Hello and Happy Easter!! 

Clippy with ears

I thought I would share some good news with you all.

In my last post I talked about Amazon putting a warning up on one of my books, Whisper Gatherers because someone made a complaint that there were a lot of typos in it. The book has been for sale since 2015 with no complaints. The ‘Errors’  Amazon say are there are in fact not typos but the slang-based language I use to create a futuristic world. Rather like George Orwell does in 1984.

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Anyway, after a week of several emails explaining this to them, they have just emailed me to say that they have taken down the warning sign. I am very pleased about that. They did not apologise, however, but hey, whatever.

If you want to take a look at my book without the nasty warning sign, click on the links below the image.

Have a wonderful Easter!

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What if your last day at school turned out to be your first day as a rebel warrior?

Amazon US:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00YMSP1UA

Amazon UK:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00YMSP1UA