Monday 29 April 2019

Love, Death & Robots

Been hooked on this the past couple of days. It's on Netflix. An anthology of animation, mostly futuristic sci-fi and fantasy delivered in bite-sized 15-20 minute helpings.

It was one of those things that sat on my list for a while, then I ran out of other things and clicked play. I was hooked from the first episode. It's a tour de force of animation styles from super-realistic CGI through to more manga-looking characters. 

What I liked was just the sheer originality of many of the stories. They were all really quirky. If I had to pick one, I think my favourite was probably Zima Blue. It took real imagination to come up with something like that. 

It's not for everyone - lot of blood and gore in some of them - but wonderfully artistic.

Sunday 28 April 2019

A Tonne of Confusion

I do a lot of editing for various organisations. It can be really interesting, you learn a lot as an editor, reading through information on many different topics. I've covered gender-based violence, the refugee crisis in Europe, cancer treatment in East Africa, global immunisation efforts, and the lives of famous science fiction and fantasy writers, to list but a few. At the moment, I'm working on water management and soil erosion.

Not only do I learn a lot about these subjects, but I learn even more about language. It's only over the past couple of years that I've felt confident enough to edit in both British English, my native English, and American English. My confidence in American English has grown through reading pages of reports and learning common American variants of words.

It's actually come to the point where I've started automatically spelling some things in an American way, which is something my younger self would have been horrified at, but my older self is quite at home with. I mean, honestly, when did program ever need that extra me?

The thing is, just when you think you know exactly what you're doing, something mad hits you in the face, like the fact that you spell enrol with one l in the UK and two in the US, but travelled with two in the UK and one in the US.

Often, second-language English authors learn English switching between different education systems. People growing up in many parts of Africa, for example, have been through education systems developed using both American and British sources. So they see both spellings on a regular basis, but don't always know why the spelling is different or that they belong to two different spelling systems. Because of this, both spellings seem acceptable in all situations. It's really common to edit a report where the author writes organization and organisation in the same paragraph, sometimes within the same sentence. So, you really have to be on the ball and remember which particular brand of English the report is supposed to adhere to.

The one that had me stumped this week was tonne v. ton.

I'd like to simplify my findings.

At first, I thought it was another US/UK spelling variant, but it became more troublesome when I read that it actually relates to two separate units of measurement.

The bottom line is, one is metric and the other imperial. Only three countries in the world still use the imperial system, and none of those are England, where it was invented. The three countries as of 2019 are the US, Liberia and Myanmar. If the US didn't use imperial, there'd probably never be a reason to discuss this, but because America and Britain dominate the spelling of English, it's important to know the difference.

Metric Imperial
Tonne Ton
1,000 kg 2,000 lb
So, you either need to know the country you're quoting your statistics from, or you need to know the exact weight of your object in order to work out which spelling to use. One tonne is roughly equivalent to 1.2 ton, as 1,000 kg equals 2,205 lb. 

This was all rather upsetting to me, as I grew up in the British education system in the 1980-90s. Although the UK went metric in 1965, before I was born, I grew up talking about my height in feet, my weight in stone, and recipes in pounds and ounces (lb/oz). This is because both my parents and teachers talked that way. I still understand height much more easily in feet than metres and I have no idea what stone translates to in kilos. However, I did grow up using the spelling tonne. So, I was using the metric spelling but understanding the imperial system. 

Just to confuse matters further, if you're just referring to something that is very heavy, rather than a specific weight, you can use ton in both systems. Even a British person could say: That elephant weighs a ton. Meaning that elephant is very heavy, rather than that elephant weighs exactly 2,000 lb.

And the final nail in the coffin of reason, tonne is the metric spelling, but can also be called a metric ton. When you precede tonne with metric, you drop the ne. So, a ton is different to a tonne, but a metric ton is also not a ton.

And with that, I leave you to your breakdown.

Friday 26 April 2019

Six Months Since TEDx

Can't believe it's been six months since I was standing on a stage in Luxembourg desperately hoping not to fluff my lines.

And just a reminder that Henri, who I mentioned in the talk, has just released his autobiography and it's a stonking good read, so get your eyes around a copy - UK/US.

Tuesday 23 April 2019

World Book Day 2019

For the past few years now, I've been celebrating International World Book Day to the British calendar (2018, 2017, 2016, 2015). So, this year, I've switched to the US/rest-of-the-world date just to spice things up. Because nothing says 'international' like a dozen different dates.

This year has been a year of non-fiction for me. I've gone through a lot of books thanks, in part, to joining Audible, which has allowed me to get through tomes in the shower, whilst cooking and whilst pretending to listen in meetings. I'm not making any distinction between books I've read and those I've listened to.

Because I can get through twice as many books, I've added a lot more non-fiction. Pressed for time, I enjoy the escapism of fiction, but my brain does crave a bit of knowledge now and then. So, here's my top picks. For a more thorough list of books I'd recommend, check out my Juicy Reads section.


Thanks to my friend Emma Lawson for putting me onto this one. The Frighteners by Peter Laws, the Sinister Minister. No, seriously, a priest who writes, and is fascinated by, horror. This book is a lot of fun and explores the human fascination with all things gory and bump-in-the-nighty.
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari is an excellent in-depth introduction to the history of human kind and our impact on the world around us. Really engagingly written and full of fascinating facts. He's written another, Homo Deus, about the future of human kind, which is on my TBR pile. I think this and The Silk Roads should be mandatory reading in schools.
Stuart: A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters was an excellent read, I think suggested by my aunty Patsy. Can't remember how we got onto the subject, but certainly remember the story. It charts the life of a homeless man, Stuart, and how he ended up where he did, from childhood to traumatic adulthood. Very poignant read.
A much older biography, The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid written by the man who shot him, Pat Garrett. I couldn't help myself, I've always loved Young Guns, and the legend is an enticing one. Sometimes it's also nice to read yea oldey writing, something in a style completely different to today's slick prose. Something with a bit of history behind it.
Finally, this biography is absolutely worth a read. My African Dream was written by my friend Henri Nyakarundi, who you might remember from my TEDx talk. This is his life story, growing up as a Rwandan refugee in Burundi, then moving to the States for 17 years, and about the events and decisions that led him back to Africa. He's led a fascinating life and it's a thoroughly engaging story.


I fell in love with Differently Morphous by Yhatzee Crowshaw. I've read a bit of China Miéville and currently on Ian Banks at the moment, and enjoying them all, but as far as kookie characters and imagination-stretching goes, this one wins out for me. Occult institutions bogged down by bureaucracy and political correctness - and a lot of glitter.
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley is beautifully written and rather enchanting. Plus, who could ignore the sumptuous cover? Set in Victorian England, it's hard to explain this story, so pick up a copy. By the end, I guarantee you'll be in love with an octopus.
I'm including Pretty Little Dead Girls by Mercedes M Yardley because it is highly stylised and therefore completely different to anything else I've read in quite a while. It's one of the few times I've purchased something after seeing the cover on Twitter. Usually, this hasn't worked out well for me and those purchases have never been mentioned again, but this one was a good buy. Told as a living fairytale, rich with imagery.
This book, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, blew me away. Some of the best writing I've read in a long time. I'm a huge fan of Bem Le Hunte and Divakaruni, so stories of India and her histories and mysteries always draw me in. I saw this on the table at a local book swap group and liked the title, so went home to purchase a copy. I would recommend anyone does the same.

Short Stories:

My short story shout out this year is for my friend Dara Passano. I've known her as a Guardian columnist for some time, but she's released a short story in Meridian this year and it's excellent. You can read it for free online as part of a collection of short stories.


Finally, I'd like to mention Girls & Boys which is a monologue performed by actress Carey Mulligan and released on Audible. It looks at the complexities of domestic violence, but it's extremely good listening. Some very funny moments, peppered with dark humour, and a thought-provoking finale.

Well, that's my round-up for 2019, see you again in a year for more recommendations. Let me know what you've been reading - and would recommend - in a comment below.

Saturday 20 April 2019


I've just joined Instagram. I tried a few months back, wasn't smitten, but trying again. It's like a cross between Pinterest and Twitter, but with none of the usefulness to authors that Twitter has. For example, you can't include links in your Instagram posts, so you can post a book cover but no seller information, which seems a little pointless. 

 Another thing I seriously dislike about Instagram is that it's set up so that you can only make posts from your phone, whereas, as a writer, I spend my life at my laptop. There is a hack around, but my goodness, it's convoluted.

So, all things considered, it's a long way down the list of useful for writers trying to share their work.

Instagram does have a larger following than Twitter, but an audience of people more image than word oriented. So, people willing to engage with Twitter are probably more an author's audience. It all boils down to my post on Sociela Media Marketing, is it Worth the Effort?  

I'd be interested to hear from other writers what you feel is most beneficial? I find the #WritingCommunity tag on Twitter very engaging. They recently ran #IndiApril, and I know I sold a few books through that. An inspired campaign. Anyway, whether Instagram is useful to authors or not, for the time being - pretty pictures. If you're on Instagram, drop me a line and connect: authormgw.

Thursday 18 April 2019

Before We Were Yours

I picked up a copy of Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Really impressive story, based on true events.

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.

Well narrated and very atmospheric. Something of Little Gods about some of the descriptive of the river. 

Nicely handled examination of a difficult period in history, and there's an excellent note from the author at the end of the book providing a bit more insight into the real events that inspired the story. I definitely enjoyed this one, and there was a nice romantic side story which pulled you along.  

I picked this book up without knowing what it was about, and glad I did. A worthwhile read and a long, winding journey to open waters.

Wednesday 17 April 2019


An independent author, shortened to indie author, is someone who self-publishes their work independently of a traditional publisher. It can also be applied to people who publish through indie publishers, who are publishers independent of the Big Five or other established publishing houses. 

There's currently a massive trend on Twitter at the moment called #IndieApril which celebrates independently published books and writers. Lots of people asking for recommendations and book links, so get in there and share the reads you love.

Tuesday 16 April 2019

Amazon's Non-existent Contact Process

[UPDATE: Impressively, someone from Amazon customer services e-mailed me with a direct e-mail address. So, if, like me, you've been going round in circles trying to contact KDP, use this: ]

I know I have a go at Amazon quite a bit, but they really deserve it sometimes. 

Needed help with a problem on KDP. Logged in, clicked Help.

Scrolled down and clicked Contact Us. 

Which, instead of taking you to a contact form, takes you to a Q&A page. You also get there by Googling Contact KDP. It's the top search result: Contact Us - Amazon KDP, so it's rather disappointing to get the blank Q&A instead of actual contact details.

None of the answers were relevant to my needs, but by clicking enough of them, I eventually got this question:

No, of course it didn't. But telling it no just takes you to a feedback box.

Like me, you might have noticed the contact us link. Having exhausted all other options, you'd think it might just take you to a contact form. Instead...


Straight back to the Q&A.

Utterly, utterly useless.

Thanks Amazon.

Wednesday 10 April 2019


A shout out to my friend Claire Robson and her band Honeywitch (Facebook/Twitter). She's really looking forward to the release of The Children of Lir and reminded me that her band also has a song by that name. You can find the lyrics halfway down this page.

Tuesday 9 April 2019

Cover Colours

Oh my goodness! What a few days.

A few years back, just after Rosy Hours came out, my publisher also took the manuscript for a retelling of The Children of Lir. This is a story I've wanted to tell since I was a kid. I first tried putting it down in script format, thanks to Celtx. After some years, and the realisation that scripts don't get you very far unless you know a lot of people, I decided to rewrite it as a novel. 

It got as far as a front cover before my publisher ran into difficulty and offered it back to me. I tried passing it around again but didn't get anywhere, so decided to self-publish this one. It's that or it's going to be in a bottom drawer forever, and I think - after so long - it deserves to see the light.

I thought that would be the hardest decision, whether to publish or not. Turns out, that's just the start of it. My lovely cover designer, Valdas Miskinis, had originally made the cover in blood red. Then he offered up sea blue and Irish green. And we haven't stopped talking about it since.


I've asked in a number of forums, and each gives a different answer. Very few are for red, and I wasn't at first, but you have to admit it's eye-catching and would stand out on a bookshelf. Plus, it matches the colour of my website. 

Everyone's really caught between the green and blue. Green was storming ahead in Pagan Writers Community, then blue started to catch up. It's now about neck and neck if you include responses in  Women Fiction Writers and on my own page

I've also learned that blue was more strongly associated with Ireland than green originally, with St. Patrick's blue being traditional before turning him green. Like Santa Claus was supposedly green before Coca-cola, and blue was the colour for boys, and red for girls, during the time of the crusades. But, green is very established as the colour for Ireland nowadays.

It's so, so hard to choose. Sometimes choice is overrated - I'm wishing I hadn't been given options.

Which cover do you prefer?

Sunday 7 April 2019

Kwibuka 25

Kwibuka means remember in Kinyarwanda.

Today marks 25 years since the Genocide Against the Tutsi.

As a 13-year-old, I watched the news of the genocide on the telly in my mother's front room. 13 years later, I moved to Rwanda as a sign language researcher.

It's incredible to see how far the country has come in that time.

Each year, I post a reminder about this reading list for those who want to learn more.