Friday, 31 July 2009

Postage costs for my books

I wanted to draw attention to the postage costs on the hardback copies of The Silver Knight. As you may recall, late last year it became apparent that the publishers were being held to ransom as all hardcovers shipped from the States, which meant that (for reasons I could never quite define) the postage was somewhere in the region of seventy pounds (Yes, that’s seventy). However, this came down to a more realistic fee earlier this year, albeit with tracking options removed. Not the best situation...

Now, at present, there are four postage options for the hardback. Two are still massively expensive, but they have also added “Economy Rate” at £14.21 and the more realistic “Flat Rate” at £6.46. Although these are hardly likely to break any records for being cost-effective, I think you’ll agree that it represents a huge improvement on the previous options. I will be monitoring this throughout the course of the remainder of this year as I am hopeful that there will soon be a UK dispatch option which will reduce the price yet further.

Of course, if this still proves too much, then there is always the paperback version which is far cheaper postage-wise...

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

By Popular Demand – Sky Television

I have had a request to expand on my somewhat cryptic musings on the pitfalls of Sky yesterday evening. Indeed, why should I begin to call for methods of medieval execution for Call Operatives who are simply doing their job with a smile on their face and a kindly tone in their voice.

Well, the reason was due to a number of matters. Firstly, our Sky Box has broken and I ended up waiting a whole day for an engineer to come out, only to be told that he was due the following day and that “someone had made a mistake.” It’s still broken and I’m still waiting for an engineer.

Secondly. we moved house a couple of months ago and they cocked up by sending confidential information out to our new home before we had moved, causing some embarrassment. Somewhat ironically, however, once we had moved, they continued to use our old address to contact us. A call was obviously made to correct the error, but still the problem persisted. A second, third and forth call was made. Each time, I was informed that “Oh, yes, it hasn’t been done properly, but I’ve updated the address now. You should have no more problems.” Still the magazines arrived to our old address. A fifth and sixth call was made. I even offered to drive up to Scotland and change it myself, but they assured me my efforts were not necessary and that the issue had been resolved.

So, you’ll excuse me for being slightly fractious when I discovered yesterday that another communication has arrived to our old address. Thus, I was forced to make my seventh call regarding our change of address. Seven. That’s SEVEN calls spent asking them to change our address. I could understand their difficulty if Id asked them to split a couple of atoms on our account, or distil some pure elixir from a Russian Valley, but to merely change three address fields on a basic customer database, one has to wonder.

Well, I did wonder. In fact, I stopped trying to be clever and simply told them what I thought of them, which merely resulted in being asked “not to curse and shout” as they would simply put the phone down. So, not only are they less competent than a drunkard hybrid of Frank Spencer and Manuel from Fawlty Towers, they have removed the only weapon left at my disposal – aggressive rage.

I sometimes wonder what it must be like working in a Customer Services department, then I check myself by considering that many of the people who have answered my queries have claimed to be “Technical Support.” Actually, though, you don’t have to have any knowledge to work in Technical Support, as I’ve been told on numerous occasions by people who work in Technical Support. These are just people who want a job – any job. And, as unemployment is rising, so will the number of people on the street, without any relevant skills, who apply for jobs in Customer Service and Technical Support Departments. So, whilst I am last seen tossing my useless Sky Box across my driveway in a fit of fury, only to be carted off and locked away in a lunatic asylum along with all the other people who made the mistake of contacting a help line, the situation is only going to get a whole lot worse...

Oh and incidentally, we’ve run up a large phone bill for all the complaints – that’s the third matter I raised with them...

Monday, 27 July 2009

Im not sure what to complain about next...

I had in mind a piece about speed cameras and the fact that I have to slam on the brakes to avoid a fine, thus creating more danger as a direct result of their "safety measures." Then, after another half-hour argument with Sky, I thought about doing something on their appalling customer service. Then, I wanted to revert to geeks and I.T people. Then my wretched computer...oh it just went on.

It is, after all, Monday. Let us not speak of this again and hope for greater success tomorrow. (That's gone and blown it)

Saturday, 25 July 2009

First Henry Allingham now Harry Patch

It must have been my praise for Henry Allingham a few weeks ago that put the jinx on him, but he's now joined by Harry Patch as having passed away - meaning that there are no more British survivors of World War One, save for Claude Choules who fought in the navy and who lives in Australia.

Apparently, Mr Patch was conscripted into the Army aged 18 and fought in the Battle of Passchendaele. This was a battle that saw more than 70,000 British soldiers lose their lives and nearly took that of Mr Patch when an explosion killed three of his friends and nearly took his life.

That he went on for the best part of another century is a incredible feat and I think we should all raise a glass to him and his comrades this weekend.

Friday, 24 July 2009

How to Subscribe to my RSS Feeds...

Okay, now I’ve successfully got this working, Id better give you the explanation/instructions/call it what you will. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and it's basically a computer-readable summary of the content of a Web page. (It could be just the headlines of the articles on the page, the headlines plus a sentence or two excerpts of the articles, or even the headlines plus the entire articles). The RSS feed is usually depicted by an orange graphic button on the webpage or browser. The real benefit of subscribing to an RSS feed from a site is that you no longer need to visit the site itself to stay up-to-date on what's being discussed - so you can stay current with dozens or even hundreds of Web sites, quickly and efficiently.

So, how do you subscribe to my feed? Well, the feed already updates Twitter, so it you follow me on Twitter, then you already get the links to these postings. However, Twitter is limited by 140 characters, which means you only get a snippet. If you subscribe to my feed through an RSS reader, you’ll get the whole post, each and every time. Lucky you!

Here’s how you do it...

You need 2 things – an RSS Reader and the URL of the RSS feed you wish to subscribe to. Mine is
http://danielcure.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default?alt=rss

I would recommend the Firefox RSS Reader (If you aren’t using Firefox as your default browser, then you need to do it immediately as it is a trillion times better than Internet Explorer – although this is another story for another day...)

You can add this feed to the RSS Reader and it should automatically update.

The other way of doing it is simply to go to the url (you are already at my bklog url right now!) and hit the RSS button if installed. This will automatically add the blog feed to your feeder.

Hey presto...

Testing Technology...

Having benefited from the automation of blogs and microblogs, I am determined to automate this Blog into Twitter, thus saving myself another task (all of several seconds, but still)... I therefore seek to keep my fingers crossed and my patience levels high. If anyone hears a blood-curdling howl of anguish, you know that my efforts haven’t worked. If the sound of contented silence prevails, then my attempts have come off. We’ll live in hope...

Monday, 20 July 2009

One Small Step for Man, One Giant Leap for Flintoff...

It is no doubt already a headline that will appear in tomorrow’s papers, however, I wanted to get there first! The question is, though, which measures the furthest – Neil Armstrong’s historical first step onto the Moon’s rocky surface forty years ago, or Flintoff’s seismic follow through after another 95mph thunderbolt? Andrews on a postcard to the usual address.

And, in the meantime, I won't even think of gloating – too early in the series for that.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Circulus -Something good to say about something...

Too often I write about things I hate. Well, not exactly true, as my books tend to be positive in nature, it’s just that I tend to fill the pages of this blog with the tears of my annoyance. So today, I thought Id share some happiness instead.

The new Circulus album, Thought Becomes Reality. Psychedelic medieval pixie folk rock. A concept album about the end of Earth and the journey to a new planet, set to a background of crumhorns, flutes and spangly guitars. Or, at least that is what I think it’s about – it’s always difficult to tell with them as the overall sound is often so bizarre that it sidesteps reason. The thing is that this is a band without a proper record deal or marketing drive and yet they are about a zillion times more creative than anything in the charts at present. There is no justice.

But it is really very good, so you need to buy it. Go on – buy it now.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

The Emperors New Clothes

Some time ago I wanted to start a regular thread where I review music and films, but I think it would be a little pointless and somewhat arid. After all, if people are fed up with Channel Four’s “The Hundred Greatest” Series, then what hope have I got? However, I wanted to take the opportunity of dispelling some myths that have annoyed me for some time now – those albums that regularly feature as being amongst the greatest ever, but in all reality are an absolute load of drivel.

I am going to select three here – ignoring a whole host of other quite valid contenders. My specification is that they have been produced by bands who have offered better content elsewhere, or who have simply just gone for the commercial option with their particular effort. The first is the self-titled debut album by the Stone Roses. Bland, boring, meandering Mancunian pop. A complete waste of time and money – their second offering was marginally better, despite it being slated by the music press. The second is the Oasis album What’s the Story Morning Glory. Crap! This is the only cd I’ve ever given away, which says something. Perhaps it is fitting that they stole the vocal idea for the first track from Gary Glitter, because that album really should be locked away for the good of our souls.

And finally, ladies and gentlemen, my number one “over-rated album of all time” is the one and only, bucket of pointless, bland gibberish that masquerades as their defining work. Well, if that was their defining work, then I would have long since discarded the other records I own by them. Of course, I can only be talking about the eternally awful Exile on Main Street by the Stones. Sandwiched between two genuinely class efforts in Sticky Fingers and Goats Head Soup, this absolute cowpat of an album has irked me for many years and indeed, I’ve often felt like the little boy who shouted “he’s not wearing anything” in the street whilst the Emperor proudly showed off his naked torso, believing himself to be adjourned with the finest clobber available. Fleeced is the word Id used. I shall not blame the albums turgidity upon Keith Richards drug taking (as he was a user before and even more heavily afterwards, yet managed to produce better offerings) – simply the legion of elevator fans they have seemed to acquire since the mid seventies, who are conditioned by the self-proclaimed Glimmer Twins to believe that they have got better with age. No they have not! They have got worse! And Exile on Main Street is the worst example of their predilection for pap which has become more apparent since Brian Jones departed (and when one considers that was forty years ago, what a lot of rubbish they have fashioned in the meantime!). With Exile, not even the talented Mick Taylor could save them.

So can I boldly state, ladies and gentlemen, that Exile on Main Street gets my award for most overrated album of all time. Some achievement!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Ordering books from Lulu - just to clarify

I spoke to someone recently who asked if I could get them a copy of one of my published novels. “Certainly,” I replied, ‘”but you could just order one yourself online.” They then proceeded to state that they could not see the point if it only meant that I had to post the book anyway...

Now, just to clarify,
Lulu is an independent retailer of books. Well, actually they sell online, so they are an e-tailer. But the point is that they print the books and sell them just as the likes of Amazon or Play would. I don’t get involved! You place the order as a normal customer and they print the book and deliver it to your door – I am not contacted during any part of the process!

It may seem like a simple point, but I believe that it is one worth making. Now, you have absolutely no excuse – go and order Daniel Cure novels right now!

http://stores.lulu.com/danielcure

Monday, 13 July 2009

Films, Cinema, Going Out & Staying In

We have been talking about going to see a film recently. Not sure what – the selection appears to have been narrowed down to the latest Harry Potter, Bruno, or Ice Age 3. It would appear, however, from our speculative musings that we have not been to the cinema for over a year – the last film being Indiana Jones and the Whatever it Was. The truth is that we’ve been busy – really busy – plus the fact that there hasn’t been a standout film that we were prepared to go out of our way to view. And that's the thing - to have to go out of your way that tends to be the deal clincher these days.

Petrol, stress in the car, traffic – you can get depressed before you even get to the place. Parking – always fun. Then, getting hold of the tickets (usually overpriced) and timing it just right not to arrive too early that you are standing around for hours but early enough that you get a half-decent seat. Then there is the predilection to gorge oneself with an assortment of chocolate, peanuts, popcorn, burgers, candyfloss, crisps, nachos, pick n’mix, coke, diet coke (!), lemonade, pizza, beer and whatever else is no offer. You then have to carry your trough of greed through a line of fat bodies, whilst items of junk food leak precariously over into the laps of the other cinema goers (actually, we don’t really eat much, but you get the idea). Next comes the gradual irritation that builds from the constant chatting all around, whilst an endless stream of adverts play. This is followed by an assortment of half-a-dozen trailers to diabolical films that you would never consider watching in a million years, but which are cut and edited (and narrated over by that bloke with the extraordinarily deep voice – “It was a time of heroes ..etc..”) to look vaguely attractive. Finally, just as your mind is about to slip into jaded oblivion, the main picture is announced and as the opening credits appear, you realise that you are now desperate for the toilet...

Anyway, you get the idea. I haven’t even bothered to include the bit about the punch-up that follows the inevitable request for the people sitting in front of you to shut up whilst the film is on. The problem is that, other than the fact that it is an opportunity to “go out” and the fact that the screen is massive, there is almost no reason why anyone would really want to go through the trauma of visiting the cinema when a DVD can be bought for less than the cost of the cinema ticket, without having to leave the house, get in the car, or spend a fortune on rubbish, and when it can be paused and rewound at the click of a button. Now, I know that this sounds like the most ridiculously intolerant gripe, but I genuinely believe that many people are starting to think the same way. And I am actually (as hard as this might be to believe) on the side of the cinemas, in the same way that I am on the same side of pubs, clubs, hotels and restaurants across the United Kingdom.

For a plethora of reasons, going out has become a hassle. A pain. An inconvenience. If these places are to survive, then someone – and I’m pointing in the direction of a higher entity than just the cinema manager – needs to do something – anything – to make it more enjoyable. Quite what they do is another matter entirely. As far as I was aware, the European Humans Rights Acts forbids us as a nation to shoot people who talk during movies, or flay drunkards alive, or throw chavs into a pit of boiling oil. Conversely, though, it is the government who continue to increase taxes on alcohol, as well as corporation tax and VAT, so they must share some of the blame. In fact, they also allow thousands more people to flood into our country every month, which means that the sheer overcrowding of the roads and infrastructure does not lend itself to making a quick journey down the road. In fact, as I probably demonstrated with my recent blog posting, The Story of a Key, I don’t think such a concept is possible anymore.

So, really, why would you want to go out?

Friday, 10 July 2009

Discussion of The Silver Knight

Following on from my latest review posting, I thought some people might be interested in a discussion on The Silver Knight that has taken place at Litarena...

http://www.litarena.com/discussion/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=985

It explores the idea that I have created (whether intentionally or otherwise!) a brand new style, which has been dubbed "speculative historical fiction" or even "novelistory." The general gist is that The SIlver Knight is both an attempt at a history book and a novel, with core elements of both and without truelyplacing itself in either camp, thus creating a new genre. The question is whether it is too much of a niche from which to appeal to a wide audicen...

Both the review and the discussion have introduced new dimensions of perspective to me that I had not properly considered, but that of course is the idea of introducing one's work to the greater public - the opening up of constructive debate. Some of the feedback I have received has been genuinely positive and really interesting. I would encourage you to join in the debate and also explore other areas of Litarena as it is a great site.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Review of The Silver Knight


The clue is in the title, as the Ronseal advert would infer...however, always eager to add fresh content and ideas to my latest novel, I thought Id share this latest review of The Silver Knight with you...

http://www.litarena.com/books/TheSilverKnight.php

The Litarena website is very interesting, with an assortment of small-press releases, plus a number of discussion boards and reviews. Worth a look.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Castles in Ruins


Being an author of medieval novels, it is no surprise that I happened to have visited quite a number of historical buildings, including a great many castles. I imagine many people will have seen the episode of Grand Designs where an architect and his wife bought the decrepit ruin of a medieval castle up in Yorkshire and transformed it into a home. The project cost the best part of a million pounds and it is fair to say that their actions saved the castle from extinction.

Now, it was not all plain sailing for them. Due to their plans (which included a roof terrace and a number of en-suite bedrooms which were completed in a variety of styles, the English Heritage had quite a lot of influence throughout the work, almost to the point whereby the project had to be abandoned. However, compromise prevailed and the building was complete – a triumph for an alternative approach to restoring and rescuing one of our prized pieces of medieval architecture.
The question in my mind, though, is why this approach cannot be taken with other such piles of ruins – after all, many such sites are at the point of desolate desperation across the United Kingdom as I speak. Very few castles manage to stir the imagination to the point of total satisfaction. Whilst we are often amazed by the sheer might and majesty of their walls and towers, it is almost impossible to then make the leap whereby we can imagine their interiors home to roaring fires, bright furniture, a succession of servants, nobles and soldiers with water in the moats, glass in the windows and

Why then, have we never undertaken such a project? To actually restore – properly mind – a decrepit medieval castle to the point where it resembles a working, functional building? Imagine the educational value! Imagine the inspirational qualities – not to mention how it would enhance the surrounding area! Why haven’t we done such a thing to any of our ruins? After all, they will not last forever.

Why? Two things. A lack of imagination within the powers that be (after all, when you have the likes of John Prescott calling for historical buildings to be destroyed to hide our Imperialistic past, what hope have you got?) and a lack of money.

So, after all this, it comes down to money. All the cash spent on invading Iraq . All the money wasted on pointless social engineering projects, bailing out banks, MP Expenses, the extended welfare state, sex change operations and the Olympic Games.

It makes me miserable enough to build my own castle and lock myself up away from all these idiots.

Do send your complaints to the usual address.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Book Promotional Woes

I am absolutely exhausted and therefore I am in the process of breaking a golden rule of mine, which is not to allow myself to engage in meandering and pointless waffle about my current state of mind - something other blogs do with irritating frequency.

The point is that I have been engaging in numerous activities in support of The Silver Knight, the first Jack Templeman novel. It is always strange to begin revisiting a piece of work after such time, particularly when one is immersed in another project (namely the sequel!). However, it is all for a good cause, as it will mean further exposure of the book in (hopefully) more outlets.

Trying to do ten million things whilst focusing on a day job is never that easy, but I am starting to see a level of interest in the book - something that will hopefully generate more reviews and discussion over the course of the next twelve months. And by that time, who knows, I may have more news on its sequel...

Remember, as ever, if you have any questions, do feel free to contact me at my website, www.danielcure.co.uk