War And Wisdom is finally on Kindle!

War And Wisdom rev1I said I would get there in the end. Now I’ve just got to finish the trilogy off by typing up Dreamscape.

I hope you enjoy it. I enjoyed writing it immensely, although it caused much heartache. Maybe I should not write such convoluted plots in future. There were so many loose ends to tie up.

I’m looking forward to getting on with Dreamscape. As I said in the previous post, this has been a terrible year for me for all sorts of reasons. I came as close to giving up as I ever have. For those of you who are buying my books, I’d like to say a big thanks and I hope you’re not too upset by the long wait for this book. Hopefully Dreamscape will reach you a bit faster. I don’t want to give too much away about it but I’m excited by the prospect of taking the Biform characters onwards and there are new ones to meet!

Thanks again for reading.

Marcus.

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My annus horribilis

How I changed

Above you can see that my appearance has changed somewhat over the last year. The differences are subtle, but I think you can tell that I have aged somewhat. This is due to stress, a battered body and the building trade. My doctor was astonished at the transformation that has taken place.

I am not writing this to appeal for pity, but more to apologise to my readers that the second book in the Biform Solution trilogy is not yet out on Kindle. I feel guilty about this fact.

Here’s how the year went, as a brief chronology:

January and February were hectic and I had my usual period of depression over the Christmas and new year period…I put off typing, which I find depressing at the best of times.

March saw my birthday, which I celebrated by breaking my ribs whilst trying to demonstrate the ‘safe’ way to use the brake on my daughter’s scooter. Now then: I said that I was not asking for pity but try not to snigger, even if it is a bit amusing. Actually, I’ve changed my mind: go ahead and laugh! I’ve ridden 1000 cc bikes for years without serious mishaps and I break my ribs on a child’s scooter.

Laughing is something that I couldn’t do at the time. Nor could I manage to sit at the computer and type. the chair was just too unbearable.

In April and before I’d properly recovered, I started to hack the render off the house to cure the damp in the walls. Then I noticed dry rot. I ended up damaging the unhealed ribs again. I also fell and damaged one of the fingers on my left hand very badly.

I put off the manual labour until May and worked until I was tired out each day. This did not take much to achieve: my back was playing up again.

June: whilst doing the last of the work with a hammer and chisel, the back finally went completely. I’ve been bothered by it for a long time but this was the worst ever. I’m still feeling uncomfortable sitting to type this but up until now I could barely stand up.

To make matters worse, the builder who was supposed to repair the house and apply new render, pulled out of the job just after I bust my vertebrae. I have tried for months to get somebody else but without success. The buggers say they’ll come and don’t show up. I’ve been let down by dozens of them. I now face another winter in a cold, damp house.

None of this helped my depression. To be honest, I almost burned my writing because I felt so low. I got as close as setting fire to one page but couldn’t go through with it. I hope I never try anything that stupid again.

The nett result has been that I achieved little in the way of typing or editing and I am now way behind where I wanted to be.

War And Wisdom will be completed but I have a lot of work to do. I can only ask for your patience.

Believe me, it is as frustrating for me as it must be for you. I will endeavour to start editing now. Let’s just hope nothing else goes wrong.

P.S. That’s not really me in the photos: I’m sort of halfway between the two ages, with brown eyes and dreadlocks. You probably spotted the identity fraud.

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I hate editing!

After all of that creative stuff, I eventually have to sit down, type, spell-check, proof-read and edit. It’s just the most tedious process in the world. Counting the blades of grass on my unruly lawn would be more enjoyable.

Anyhow, at last, I’m back on with creating something new. This is what writing’s all about. I wish I could afford to pay somebody to do the other stuff but beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose.

Here’s a gratuitous picture of my cat, doing an impression of a pair of road safety devices. Interestingly (?) a cat’s eyes have a specially reflective membrane behind the retina that sends unused light back through the eye enabling them to see in much lower amounts of light.

My cat, Maisie.

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New book released.

I’ve been a bit busy recently.

I’ve just self-published Fire Triangle, the first in a trilogy. It’s sci-fi again but with a twist of course. The book opens with a scene from fourteenth century Eastern Europe and features an encounter between twelve disheveled and despairing Templar knights after the collapse of the fourth and final crusade.

Should the presence of dragons not place the book into the realms of science fantasy? No. As you will see if you read it, my dragons are nothing more than an alien species. Their complex involvement with humanity is explained as the trilogy unfolds.

Since I’ve not managed to publicise Summoning Empire at all well and sales have been pitiful, despite the excellent reviews from those who did buy it I have decided on a new strategy. While I hate money, like everybody else, I’m trapped in the system. I have to try to earn at least enough money for myself and my daughter to survive on.

I’ve made the two books about as cheap as Amazon permits and enrolled Fire Triangle into Amazon’s select scheme where it can be lent from their library and I can offer it at a reduced rate (even free) for a time for readers to purchase. my hope is that this will ultimately boost sales, give me a minimum wage and still allow the book to sell at a price that is affordable to most people.

We’ll have to wait and see. Now if I can get my head around it, I’ll try and get it on offer for a time…must dash and get busy!

If you celebrate Christmas, I wish you a happy one. If you don’t, I still wish you everything that you hope for!

Cheers, Marcus Canon.

P.S. I nearly forgot: no wonder I’m useless at marketing. Here’s a pair of links to my books. I hope they work.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Triangle-Biform-Solution-Marcus-Canon-ebook/dp/B00HB7D6OC/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1387113920&sr=8-8&keywords=marcus+canon

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Summoning-Empire-Marcus-Canon-ebook/dp/B00AI7VPB8/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1387114152&sr=8-5&keywords=marcus+canon

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Run for your fall-out shelters!

DSCF0733Well…why aren’t you all scattering in panic? As you can see, I’m quite worried about what I am about to do: and with good reason.

Maybe I’ve misunderstood what the ‘Press This’ button is for. You see, I’ve been on WordPress for some time but never dared to succumb to that alluring invitation. No! I know what you’re up to, WordPress, you can’t fool me!

From my childhood I’ve read books and watched films where there was some anonymous but tempting button to press. Inevitably, some daft idiot would do just that and the consequences were almost always potentially disastrous: it took James Bond or some other super-hero to save the world after the clumsy oaf had pressed a big round red thing, just because it was there and looked tempting. WordPress may have attempted to be cunning by changing the shape of the button and not making it a vivid scarlet colour but it’s all the same.

In my eyes, left-clicking (my, how we’ve advanced since the days of Goldfinger!) this little rectangle could do anything at all. If you are reading this, that’s all well and good: it means that my suspicions were somewhat paranoid and that I haven’t launched an ICBM from North Korea and initiated World War III as a result.

Here we go then…may your God preserve you from what I am about to do.

Yours very apologetically for any mass genocide that may result from my actions,

Marcus Canon.

P.S. I am adding this after peering nervously out of my living room window for ages, having pressed the darned button. I have watched the night sky for quite some time now and have seen no suspicious vapour trails: nor have I witnessed any big mushroom clouds that are apparently bad news. Indeed, I have seen no effect from pressing the button whatsoever, which makes me wonder what all the fuss was about. I shall retire with a glass of wine and contemplate some Pink Floyd for a while. This will by no means resolve my dilemma concerning the ‘Press This’ button, but at least I won’t care about it any more. Goodnight!

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Decapitation: the facts

Wow!

Am I just wanting to boost my views with that title?

The answer to that is most emphatically “No!”, of course. Mind you, if loads of people read this for the right reasons, that’s all well and good. For those seeking cheap thrills, you’ll have to look elsewhere I’m afraid: that’s not what I do.

I’m trying to get the novel ‘Fire Triangle’ ready for publication and it’s taking some time. One part I was not happy with was the scene where a character is beheaded by one clean strike from a katana (samurai long sword).

When I write this stuff, I want it to be realistic. This is not to glorify violence but to tell it as it really is. If that takes people out of their comfort zone then so be it.

Anyway, last night I spent hours trying to find reliable information about decapitation. I wanted to know things like: how high would the blood squirt from the carotid arteries of a standing person? Just what is the truth relating to consciousness of the victim after the head is removed? How do the human torso and limbs behave in the immediate aftermath? How long will the heart continue to beat?

None of this sounds very pleasant: believe me, whilst I gained some clues as to the answers from clinical research, which was bearable, I had to go to some lengths to find it all. I even watched videos that I would not normally touch with a bargepole.

Afterwards, heading towards 1 a.m. I felt drained. I was sickened by some of the stuff that I had witnessed. Last night I could barely sleep.

At least I had my answers. This morning I have done some engineering calculations to validate some of the data. I still feel hollow inside. In the way I normally write to come to terms with life, I have decided to add a page which will relate my findings. That way, if any authors read this and need to write about decapitation or limbs being severed (which is similar in some respects), they can use my data without having to go through the revolting process that I endured last night.

Watch out for the page if you have such legitimate reasons to do so. If you are a bit ghoulish and hope to see real photos…they won’t be there!

Right, I’d better get back on with the gory details and then edit my book to reflect real life and the impact of such brutality on the witnesses to the killing.

Cheers, Marcus.

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British Gas: Is The Company A Jolly Green giant?

Well is it? I’ve had lots of conversations with British Gas in the last couple of months. Very few of them were jolly. Are they green? They would probably claim to be, pointing at their affordable warmth schemes and payments for people on low incomes. I’m not so sure. More on that later. They are undeniably a giant. I can tell you that their customer service is awful.

British Gas have been making the headlines recently in the UK and for all the wrong reasons. They recently hiked up their energy prices by a staggering 10.4% on electricity and 8.4% on gas. At the same time, 5 of their executives take home £16.439 million between them. I could see that the Centrica (the parent company) executives have reasons to be jolly. Inflation in the UK stands at a mere 2.7% (most of that’s probably down to energy price rises!). We’re told that price rises are all to do with the global energy market but that’s not quite true. Global gas prices vary widely from one country to another with the UK being one of the highest. The NBP gas price index is standing at about 65 pence/therm at the moment. Guess what it was in 2006? Yes, that’s right: 65 pence/therm. Somebody will naturally try to confuse me but to my mind if the gas price in the UK is the same as it was in 2006, how come we’re paying almost double what we paid back then?

Here’s what British Gas say themselves about making energy affordable for everyone:

At British Gas, one of our main concerns is affordable energy for all. This means making a positive impact on our customers’ quality of life and diminishing fuel poverty in the communities where we operate, as well as helping all our customers to reduce their energy bills. In difficult economic times, we believe that all UK citizens, irrespective of circumstance, should have access to safe, cleaner and affordable energy.

At British Gas, we are committed to providing the best service possible to our customers, especially those with specific requirements. Our Here to Help teams are part of that special commitment, and are in place to support customers most in need, especially those who are elderly, disabled or chronically sick.

Now I’d like to tackle them on this statement. You see, I applied for their affordable warmth scheme for a replacement boiler. I did have specific requirements. British Gas ignored them. I also suffer from chronic depression. They tried to give me a boiler that in my opinion as a professional engineer was not suitable for my purposes. Despite e-mails and several phone conversations regarding this, they would not give me, the customer, what I wanted. In the end, they told me that unless I took the boiler that they offered, I could not have a boiler from them. I am not now getting a boiler from them.

You are probably thinking that I was after the best, most expensive boiler that money can buy…I wasn’t. I was after a smaller and cheaper boiler than the one they wanted to force upon me.

Here’s how the sad tale of British Gas’s customer relations disaster unfolded:

1. A surveyor visits my house and offers a 28kW Vailant combi boiler. I am alarmed at the size and ask what minimum output the boiler has. The surveyor tells me that he has never been asked for that information and that he doesn’t know. This data is available from all boiler manufacturers. He said that he could order a 24kW boiler but it would not deliver hot water as fast. I said that it would be fine for me. I asked for the exact model of the boiler but he left without giving me details, saying over his shoulder that I could phone the team if I changed my mind about the boiler.

2. I researched Vailant boilers and found more than one model available. One of these had a 9kW minimum burn: too high for what I wanted. their 24kW unit would have been fine, though. Armed with this information, I rang the team and explained that I wanted to check the details of the boiler and change it for the smaller one if necessary. I was told that they had to stick with the boiler that the surveyor recommended. I was also told that the information about minimum output was not available. I was not told the exact model of the boiler.

3. I wrote an E-mail detailing my concerns. Here’s what they wrote back….err, they didn’t write back

4. I wrote an E-mail complaining. Here’s what they wrote in reply…err, no joy there either: they didn’t write back. To be fair, they did ring the next day…to arrange installation of the boiler. I asked what boiler I was getting and was told that the man didn’t know. When I asked if he could find out, he did and told me that it was the 28kW boiler. He could not tell me what its minimum heat was and said that I had to accept it or cancel the installation. Whilst I really didn’t want to cancel, I had no choice. I asked if there was someone I could phone about the matter and was given a number.

5. I immediately rang the other number. This time I was told that no information was available about my application at all, because it had been cancelled and the details were locked out for 28 days. I was pretty mad.

6. I speak to their complaints team and a very helpful sounding bloke tells me that he is very sorry about what happened and that he will make sure my application is re-opened. I asked him if he would give me the minimum output data because the 28kW unit they were originally offered could be fine by me. He said that what he would do would be to give me the 24kW unit that I knew was okay.

7. Buoyed by this optimistic outcome I waited for several days but when I had heard nothing from them, I phoned the following week. I was told that the person responsible would ring me back.

8. The next morning (today) their man phones…the same man who told me that he would get me the 24kW boiler. He told me that I had to have the 28kW boiler or nothing. Err, what happened to the promise given to me the week before? Not only that but he proceeded to tell me that it was because 28kW was what the house needed. Mentally, I consulted with the walls of my dwelling but as usual, they would not tell me anything with regard to what boiler they wanted. Further he stated that for a house the size of mine it had to have this boiler so that all of the hot taps could be run at once. I explained that I did not need that and surely it was what the customer wanted that was important. He said that they would be liable if future home owners complained about the boiler. I offered to write a disclaimer taking responsibility upon myself. He ignored this. Finally, at long last, when pushed he told me that the minimum burn was 9kW. The one that was too big.

I have gone to another company SIG for my boiler. hopefully they will listen to their customers. British Gas clearly don’t. I told him that I would write about them on my blog, so here it is. At that point he said that he was going to write a letter to me because I was ‘threatening’ British Gas. This is the first time they’ve ever offered to put anything in writing…I wonder why.

What conclusions do I draw from all this?

Well, firstly, there is something sadly wrong when the Company will not find the answer to what is a perfectly reasonable question.

Secondly, if a customer is given a promise, the company should not break it a few days later.

Lastly, I am seriously concerned about the motives of British Gas. They are definitely withholding information from their customers. Suspiciously, this concerns the minimum gas use of the product. I suspect that they are installing boilers that will force people to use more gas. They probably see the affordable warmth scheme as a way of paying their executives another few million a year.

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Spot the difference competition.

ImageHere are two almost identical photographs.

One is of an American football player: the other shows a science fiction author.

Can you tell them apart?

I know it’s very difficult but have a go and see if you can identify me from the two pictures.

There is a reason that I’ve posted this exciting and brain-straining competition. Marcus Canon is a pen name that I picked to avoid confusion with an existing sci-fi writer who had the temerity to share my real name. I searched for anybody using my chosen name and noticed Marcus Cannon but rather foolishly, I thought it wouldn’t be a problem with the different spelling…

…I was wrong. I recently did a Google search on the name ‘Marcus Canon’, after someone pointed out to me that they could find nothing about me on the web. Sure enough, the same thing happened to me. Google puts up the usual (and very irritating) message box that implies I can’t spell and must be looking for something that Google thinks is better. This one asked ‘Did you mean Marcus Cannon?’.

Now that’s all well and good, but what I don’t like is the fact that the results are shown for the big lad above (oops…I’ve given you a clue there, if you’re still struggling with the competition), unless I force it to search for what I actually want. I’m worried that I’ll be losing book sales because of this. I may have to change my pseudonym, which will involve hours of work, changing book covers, website details and the like.

I think I’ll contact Google and ask them just why their search engines deliberately search for something that the user isn’t interested in. Is this just a glitch in the software, or is it something more sinister to do with revenue for the company?

Back to the competition, though. Did you spot the difference? Yes? Well, congratulations! There’s no prize, unfortunately, except for the pride that you quite rightly feel, having demonstrated such awesome powers of observation!

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New! Home-made Science Fiction art

I have published a set of pages that I’ve added to let the world see what I produce for my covers: heaven help me! Most of this is unseen and relates to my forthcoming trilogy…I guess that makes it an exclusive to WordPress fans.

Please take a look at the section entitled ‘My art…for want of a better term’

Yes, I know that I suffer from depression quite badly: indeed, I’m medicated to the eyeballs in some desperate attempt made by my doctor to keep me within the region that is classified as normal, or even sane. This leaves me extremely anxious and almost paranoid a lot of the time and as a result, I seriously under-estimate my own ability.

I can therefore honestly say that I have very little idea as to how good my covers are. Take a peek at my work and let me know what you think. If you like it and want to know how an insecure person with only a few ideas in his head can produce such things for next to nothing, I’ll be happy to let you know. As far as I can see, you just need a touch of imagination and a bit of determination (which I struggle with). If I can do it, you can too!

The gallery is now open!

Here’s a preview…this is the starting point of a couple of covers. The finished article can be seen by accessing the pages.

Biform Celtic

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Hurray! It’s the rugby league world cup!

That is, ‘hurray!’ if you can watch it. I took my daughter to a match at Derwent Park in Workington. Other than an organisational glitch that meant we struggled to get to our place in the stand, it was fantastic! More on that later.

No, the problem that I have with this and all other major sporting events in the UK is that I can’t watch it, unless I can get to the grounds which is hard as a single parent with little money and the constraints of having to get my daughter to school in a state fit to learn. Millions of people in the UK can’t watch it at all.

If you’re outside the UK you may be confused by this. Let me explain. Sky TV has a huge monopoly in terms of sport viewing in this country. It is virtually impossible to tell how many homes in the UK can afford the £21 to £70 monthly Sky subscription. Sky itself claims to have over 10.5 million customers but the company is happy to take multiple subscriptions from the same address, since overseas customers can register their account to a UK address. The maximum number of UK viewers will be around 24 million (UK average of 2.3 per household times 10.5 million) but for the reason I have cited, this is likely to be way too high.

We can safely say that less than 40% have sky. Of those, since the average subscription is £31.53, much less than the amount needed for Sky sports, maybe 1 in 5 or fewer can watch the world cup in its entirety on Sky. The BBC is only showing games on Saturday. These are largely England games. There are few programmes on the BBC that show highlights and these are in the early hours of the morning.

Why am I complaining and what am I moaning about? Well, more and more, our country cannot watch big sporting events. The BBC is not entirely blameless in this. It generates over £3.6 billion of revenue from licenses, compared to Sky’s £4 billion. So why does Sky get exclusivity with regard to sport? The BBC must be grossly inefficient.

My complaint does not end there. The Rugby League are compliant in this. They have clearly accepted the highest bid, even though that excludes their premiere event from 80% of the UK public. Do they really hope to grow the sport in this country by cutting out so many potential rugby league fans and players?

The Scotland team were fantastic on Tuesday. They gave us a highly entertaining game, along with Tonga. I was saddened that the Tongan team sloped off to the changing room after the game, despite the fact that they had supporters in the ground who had travelled half-way around the world to watch them, but Scotland did not. My daughter was thrilled that they came around giving high-fives to the kids after the game. Well done Scotland! It’s just a pity for you and your fans that your fantastic behaviour went almost totally unnoticed by the UK population. You deserve better and so does the public. When will we ever get this sort of capitalist scourge expunged from our society?

Come on everybody: Sky is greedy, we all know that. It seems that the Rugby League in the UK is just as short-sighted. Maybe David Oxley, the RFL president should go to Specsavers for some new glasses?

Let’s hear from you, David. Why are you so greedy and narrow-minded? Let us know.

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