Clean Reader? You Can Stick It Up Your Mother-Fudging Bottom….



I generally don’t include lots of naughty words in my blogs. But today is an exception, courtesy of the marvellous Joanne Hall and her opinion on the new Clean Reader app. Her take on this technological intrusion on the author’s right to write is worth reading…

Originally posted on Joanne Hall:

Recently it has come to light that a couple of American prudes people have created an app which they’ve called Clean Reader, using the catchy slogan “Read Books, Not Profanity.” (No, I’m not going to link to it – have a quick Google. These numpties don’t deserve the hits).

The app works – I’m vague about how apps actually work, having a Bronze-age phone, but anyway – the app works by replacing the “naughty” words in a text with non-offensive “clean” ones. There are several levels of swear-filter depending on how mortally offended you are by shit, fuck, bugger, damn, Jesus, penis, vagina…

Yes, I’m not kidding. Medical names for parts of a persons anatomy have been deemed by the creators of Clean Bandit Reader to be “offensive” and replaced with the handy catch-all term of “bottom”. Apart from being anatomically wrong, it’s just… bonkers.

Can I say bonkers? Is…

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FICTION FRIDAY – Running Out of Space


As I’m planning to release the first part of my space opera series, The Sunblinded trilogy this summer, I thought I’d post a short extract from the beginning of the first book, Running Out of Space


Yeah, I know – Basement Level – what were we thinking? But penned up on punishment duty with only the prospect of a single chaperoned shopping trip had driven us to it. Though the charms of Basement Level wore thin as soon as we set off from the lift. One light in four was working – and then only in Dim mode. The corridors were half the width of the upper levels; a big problem as I’ve seen sewage tanks more wholesome than those walls. You wouldn’t want to brush against them wearing anything other than throwaways, while keeping off the walls was harder than you’d think, because we were wading ankle-deep in… stuff.

Donice punched my arm. “Must be homely for you, Jezzy. Floor looks like your cribicle after you done tidying.”

Alita and Efra started sniggering.

“’Cept the smell isn’t as vile as your boots,” I replied.

Our laughter bounced around the filthy corridor, easing the mood for a couple of minutes but did nothing about the putrid smell. We struggled on a bit longer, until a grimy woman scuttled past, forcing us far too close to the walls. She didn’t even bother acknowledging our efforts to make room for her.

Efra and Alita stopped.

“Let’s turn round. Unblocking the heads is more fun than this.” Efra wrinkled her nose at the empty tunnel ahead. “Even the natives got sense enough to be someplace else.”

Alita began to mutter an agreement, but Donice silenced it with a scowl. “We’ve gone promming around for less than a nanosec. And you wanna run back ‘cos the scenery isn’t the same as on board?” Donice clicked her tongue in scorn. “Starting to sound like those old ship-abuelas.”

Efra flinched at the derision in her voice, but – being Efra – wouldn’t lock horns with Donice.

Breathing through my mouth, I straightened up. Donice is right. So what if this is a dank disappointment? We didn’t come down here for the view – we came to prove a point.

But Alita grabbed Donice’s arm. “Efra and me reckon this is a vile place. We vote to head back. Tramping through filth is a tragic waste of shore leave.”

All argument ceased when the floor crud rustled and heaved behind us. A cat-sized rat scuttered through the litter into the gloom beyond.

I shivered. “It’s gotta get better sometime, soon. We’re snagging the next lift we see, amigas.”

We continued trudging onwards for another ten minutes. Just as I was beginning to think the scuzzy corridor was leading into infinity, we turned a corner into a small plaza. With a blast of relief, I spotted the lift in the far corner and relaxed – now we were nearly out of here, we could do the tourist bit. Truth be told, the word ‘plaza’ probably gives the space more credit than it deserves. While the lighting was brighter and the floor litter had been trodden relatively flat, the buzz that normally goes with buying and selling wasn’t here. Under the stink of rotting rubbish was the sharper stench of desperation.

I passed a trader’s eye over the ratty stalls. Everything I could see on display would’ve gone straight into our ship’s recycler. The food canisters were crud-caked and filthy without the benefit of even the most basic steri-scrub. And the water on sale might have shown on the pacs’ Purity Scales, but the readings must have been blixed, because that cloudy stuff wasn’t fit to pass your lips. Even the powdered water looked like sweepings off a shower-stall floor.

If we hadn’t come down here, I’d never have known this place existed. How many on ‘Estrella’ know about it? This is what I joined the ship for… My heart was thudding with a mixture of fear and excitement. I felt alive. This was a hundred times better than trailing around the overpriced shops on Trader Level with a grumbling chaperone.

Though the people were a shock. There were no shades of yellow, brown, black, or white here; everyone’s skin was grime-grey. All wearing rags pockmarked with holes which only showed more scabby tatters, or dirt-scurfed flesh. I’d tried to blend us in; we were all in scut-gear – worn overalls and battered workboots. But we stuck out like a supernova on a dark night. Mostly because we were clean and well fed – everyone here was stick-thin. Even the niños

The Cap always says that we Iberians take care of our own better than anyone else. What if he’s right? Because I couldn’t recall seeing any children in this sorry state back in Nuevo Madrid.

Efra gave some creds to a pathetic, sunken-cheeked toddler sitting on the trash-covered floor – and in no time flat we were mobbed by a bunch of snot-nosed kids. None of us could resist their pleading, so we handed out all our shore-leave cash. Of course, one of us should’ve kept an eye out for trouble. But we didn’t. And when the niños started melting away, I looked up to see we were now ringed by another group. Far more grown-up and dangerous.

POEM – Pennies on the Pendulum


I was fascinated to discover they ensure the most famous clock in the world keeps time by

piling old pennies on the pendulum… and decided to write a poem about it.

They put pennies on the pendulum
of the clock with Big Ben’s bell.
To ensure that all keeps steady
and the tock is ticking well.

It takes two men to tinker –
adding coins to the swinging pile.
Pennies fashioned for a time
when Victoria was in style.
The small chink of modern pence
are too cheap and mean and light
to keep the City working
every day and throughout the night.

Brokers and businessmen –
battling with suits and smiles –
Are all in thrall to ancient pennies
swinging in their piles.


Review of “Slow Lightning” by Jack McDevitt



This is one of my early posts that was only seen by a passing insect… So I thought I’d unleash it once more on an unsuspecting public – mostly because it’s a cracking read. The book, that is, not necessarily the review.

Originally posted on Brainfluff:

I don’t know quite how it’s happened – but this is the first Jack McDevitt book I’ve read.  This seems a great big black hole in my book list.  Worse – I encountered him by accident.   However, after wandering around the house with a mile-wide grin on my face after completing Slow Lightning, I’m not about to forget him.

slowlightningKim Brandywine, sister and clone of dead Emily, cannot let go of her sister’s ideals.  Despite a thousand years of intensive searching, Space seems dead – other than humankind.  But Emily didn’t believe it, convinced that other intelligent species were out there.  Right up to her final mission, which ended in disaster and disgrace for the returning survivors.  Kim has always suspected that the official version didn’t tell the whole story; and twenty-six years later, finally determines to get to the bottom of what really happened.   Maybe, if she’d realised…

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Slices of Spring Magic…


Water vole @ HighdownWe went for a walk in one of our favourite places on the planet – Highdown Gardens, a wonderful garden created by Frederick Stern on the south-facing side of a large hill just outside Worthing. It sounds ideal until you realise said hill is looking straight out onto the sea and takes the brunt of everything an English maritime climate can hurl at it, especially those salt-laden winds…

Water vole @ Highdown2On this particular sunny day, we were treated to the sight of this water vole busily gnawing through leaves and scuttering along the bank. We watched her (we decided it must be female – the male was probably stuck indoors watching the cricket…) for nearly half an hour. During that time several people wandered by, but she seemed unconcerned. The name water rat seems all wrong – her fur was far thicker and her body shape quite different to a rat. What we did notice was the way she bobbed in the water as she flung herself back into the pond periodically and disappearing below the surface, before reappearing again.

Water vole @ HighdownIt was when we were toiling up the hill, I heard the buzzing coming from the hellebore shrub and caught sight of this gigantic bumble bee. It’s difficult to judge from the pics, which I have enlarged, but this beastie was HUGE. Easily the size of a 2p coin and with a vivid orange bottom, and teddy-bear furred – she was the antithesis of aerodynamic. Yet there she was, grazing the flowers. Bumblebee on hellebore8I only have a point and shoot camera and find photographing bees quite tricky. They are easily spooked and don’t stay still all that long so was delighted when she obliged by continuing to crawl around the flower. I like to think she was bunking off from her daily toil and having a bit of a sunbathe in the spring sunshine…

Bumblebee on hellebore6

Bumblebee on hellebore7

Top Ten Tuesday: Books You Would Classify As ALL TIME FAVORITE BOOKS from the past 3 years



Reblogged from Book Minx… So – what would be YOUR top ten reads from the past 3 years??

Originally posted on Book Minx Reads:


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme is Top Ten Books You Would Classify As ALL TIME FAVORITE BOOKS from the past 3 years!

I’m doing this as the top 7 books I’ve read in the past 3 years that I would classify as my all time favorites.

bayou moon

Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews

Cerise Mar and her unruly clan are cash poor but land rich, claiming a large swathe of the Mire, the Edge swamplands between the state of Louisiana and the Weird. When her parents vanish, her clan’s long-time rivals are suspect number one.


The Moor by Laurie R. King

In the eerie wasteland of Dartmoor, Sherlock Holmes summons his devoted wife and partner, Mary Russell, from her studies at Oxford to aid the investigation of a death and some disturbing phenomena of a decidedly supernatural origin…

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A Posh Night and Musings on Power…


You may or may not know that Number One Son is an actor – and this week-end we travelled up to Salisbury where he was appearing in Posh to see him. Obviously, I am not in a position to give a proper review of the play – but I did think I’d share with you my thoughts and impressions of the production.robbiejarvisposh1

An elite Oxford dining society has hired a gastro pub for their termly dinner with the sole aim of getting totally ‘chateaued’. As the evening progresses and the booze flows, tempers fray and things get disastrously out of hand. Darkly comic and disgracefully entertaining, Posh isn’t just one big party: the boys are planning a revolution. Laura Wade’s critically acclaimed play is inspired by the real-life Bullingdon Club, which counts the Prime Minister, Chancellor and Mayor of London among its former members. As we approach the 2015 General Election, this razor-sharp play portrays what Boris Johnson himself described as superhuman arrogance, toffishness and twittishness. Welcome to the Riot Club.

Glowing maternal pride aside, what first struck me was just what a very high standard of acting and ensemble playing is achieved. There is all sorts of business going on, with rowdy drunken games, eating and drinking and other 100_3827darker activities during the meal – plenty of opportunities for things to go wrong. And most of the time there are ten plus actors onstage, with the dialogue constantly firing between them. More opportunities for actors to lose their place, tread on each others’ lines and generally mess up. None of which happened. Neither is there a single weak link – everyone on the stage could be easily heard at all times and conveyed their parts with conviction and skill.

I knew the dialogue was funny, I was expecting a fair amount of mayhem – what I hadn’t expected, was to come away with such a prickling awareness that the class warfare which has hampered this country for generations is alive and thriving. As one of the Boomers growing up in the 60’s and 70’s when we were all telling ourselves that class boundaries were closing up and by the next century would be a thing of the past, I find it profoundly depressing.

Whatever the reasons – I’ve all sorts of STRONG opinions as to the various causes – the simmering anger against ‘the other lot’ is exemplified by the shocking climax in the play, and the chilling closing scene. And when we met up after the show, Robbie was telling me that as the first half came to an end when they were in Nottingham, a woman stood up, shouting, “Yeah – we hate you, too!” and regularly people have walked out of the show. In this election year, however, it behoves someone to shed some light on one of the long-running faultlines in British society, an undertaking that the cast of Posh delivers with energy and skill.

100_3844The following day before heading home, we visited Salisbury Cathedral. It was the first time I’d seen it since I was nine – what immediately struck me was the sheer size of the building, compared to Chichester and Arundel cathedrals. And as we went around with one of the wonderful guides and were shown a succession of tombs and artefacts, the most impressive being Salisbury Cathedral’s copy of the Magna Carta, I was again struck by just how much religious and political power has rested in the building since its consecration in 1258. So while some of the statues and images were a bit knocked about during the Civil War, the cathedral was sufficiently wealthy and powerful to protect its treasures – it’s no accident that the Salisbury cathedral’s copy of the Magna Carta is the best preserved. Unlike Lincoln, for example, they were never in the position of having to exhibit it around the country to raise funds. Power – who has it, and who wants it – is a theme I constantly return to in my own writing.

However, the real reward this week-end was appreciating the sheer quality of Posh and feeling very proud of Robbie’s part in it.

Review of Fledgling – A Liaden Universe novel by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller


After having thoroughly enjoyed reading Sharon Lee’s Carousel Sun – see my review here – Himself scooped up anything else he could get together that she’d written. And came up with this science fiction space opera that she has co-written with her husband, Steve Miller.

fledglingDelgado is a Safe World. That means the population is monitored – for its own good – and behaviour dangerous to society is quickly corrected. Delgado is also the home of one of the galaxy’s premier institutions of higher learning, producing both impeccable research and scholars of flair and genius.

On Safe Delgado, then, Theo Waitley, daughter of Professor Kamele Waitley, latest in a long line of Waitley scholars, is “physically challenged” and on a course to being declared a Danger to Society. Theo’s clumsiness didn’t matter so much when she and her mother lived out in the suburbs with her mother’s lover, Jen Sar Kiladi. But, suddenly, Kamele leaves Jen Sar and moves herself and Theo into faculty housing, immediately becoming sucked into faculty politics. Leaving Theo adrift and shocked – and vulnerable…

This coming-of-age novel is largely in fourteen-year-old Theo’s viewpoint. But it isn’t particularly aimed at the YA market – although I’d have no problem with any teenager reading it. The world is deftly realised and it took me a few pages just to absorb the strangeness and different customs, as Lee and Miller don’t hold up the pace with pages of explanation. So readers need to keep alert. However, this book is a delight. My very favourite sub-genre is accessible, enjoyable science fiction and when I read a cracking example of it – I realise it is the one sub-genre that I never tire of. Mostly, because it is also in relatively short supply…

There is an interesting backstory to this book. Apparently there are some seventeen novels set in this particular world, though some of them have had a bumpy ride after one of their publishers went bankrupt. Fledgling was written and released in 2007 online as a chap-book and eventually taken up by Baen and published after its popularity with readers.

Theo is clearly a major protagonist, whose story arc is going to extend over a number of books – and that’s fine with me. Lee and Miller manage to pack a great deal of everyday, routine details into this book without any of it dragging, as it is all enmeshed within the evolving plot. And those who claim genre fiction has to be all about constant breathless action that whisks protagonists from one major emergency to another, should sit down with a Lee and Miller book.

I also am delighted to report that the book is fairly upbeat most of the time. Of course there are times of tension and some danger – but it is of the subtle, utterly believable kind. I read this book in one greedy gulp, literally unable to put it down until I’d finished. And hours later, I’m still fizzing with pleasure and excitement… If you like family-based science fiction with a wonderfully described world and plenty of enjoyable characters, then give yourself a treat.

Interview Special: Stargate author Sally Malcolm Takes To The High Seas



This is a fascinating interview for both fans of romantic adventure – and those of you who love Stargate, so I thought I’d share it with you…

Originally posted on A Woman's Wisdom:

Sally-Malcolm---pic 2014

It is a pleasure to welcome author Sally Malcolm to AWW today. I first met Sally when she took me up on my book promotion offer and asked me to feature The Legend Of The Gypsy Hawk, her new romance and one which I am very much looking forward to reading! I found out that Sally also writes Stargate books and, knowing a few authors who would jump at the chance to follow a similar path, I had to find out more about that too! You can find Sally on her website,TwitterandGoodreads.

Sally Malcolm lives in London, England, in a small Victorian terrace, where she writes in a corner behind the wardrobe. She shares her home with her American husband and two wonderful children, who generously put up with her stepping through the Stargate, or sailing the high seas, when she’s meant to…

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Review of Two Weeks’ Notice – Book 2 of The Revivalist series by Rachel Caine


I enjoy Caine’s writing. Her Morganville Vampires series stood out in a cluttered sub-genre as a classy, chilling take on the blood-sucking varmints – see my review of the first book, Glass Houses, here. The series I suspect she is more famous for, the Weather Warden series, is such a sharply cool idea that I recalling grinning with the pleasure of it as I read the opening pages of the first book in the series, Ill Wind – read my review here2weeksnotice.

So when I came across this offering, I immediately scooped it up figuring that Caine’s take on zombies was likely to be worth reading – and I wasn’t wrong.

After dying and being revived with the experimental drug Returné, Bryn Davis is theoretically free to live her unlife – with regular doses to keep her going. But Bryn knows that the government has every intention of keeping a tight lid on Pharmadene’s life-altering discovery, no matter the cost.

Thankfully, some things have changed for the better; her job at the rechristened Davis Funeral Home is keeping her busy and her fragile romance with Patrick McCallister is blossoming – thanks in part to their combined efforts in forming a support group for Returné addicts. But when some of the group members suddenly disappear, Bryn is called in to find out what is going on – and suddenly her life is once more turned inside out…

That is most of the blurb. I hadn’t read the first book, Working Stiff, but Caine is far too an experienced and canny a writer to lose readers like me who still insist on picking up mid-series books, so it wasn’t a major problem. I soon came up to speed as slices of necessary information interleaved the action. For the more squeamish among you, I’d like to reassure you that although this is a zombie-chick book, stomach-churning descriptions of rotting corpses are kept to a minimum.

Which doesn’t mean that it’s all sweetness and light – it isn’t. There is a torture scene where the torturer waves a spoon threateningly near the victim’s eyes and mentions how she doesn’t have to hold back. And then we cut to the aftermath. Leaving the reader to join the dots and realise the full horror of being subjected to an extraordinarily painful procedure – then left to regenerate, before having to relive the ordeal all over again.

The pacing in places is a tad uneven, and the story did take a while to get going – which those of you familiar with Caine’s other work, will know is uncharacteristic. But it wasn’t a dealbreaker – I liked Bryn and enjoyed the premise far too much to be remotely tempted to abandon this entertaining book.

Caine brought the narrative to a satisfactory conclusion – while leaving a particular plotpoint regarding Bryn’s relationship with Patrick at an intriguing impasse. So I’ll be looking out for the next book in the series called, Terminated, and if you enjoyed Caine’s other series but haven’t yet given this one a go, then track it down. It’s worth it.