May 2013
25 May 2013  ~  E-book Versions of Mr Vitriol Now Available

Mr Vitriol is now on sale at Ganxy at US $4 . It is available in Epub, Mobi and PDF formats. Ganxy accept credit cards and PayPal.

I spent over a month with another company that offered to translate my Word  version of the book into Epub. The problem was the firm relies on software only editing, which changed the look of the text. However, the manager  did agree to terminate our contract after repeated emails had failed to resolve the appearance issues.

I produced my own Epub format version by using two software  packages, both of which were relatively easy to use. 
Atlantis Word Processor  converts doc and docx into Epub. They provide a full version for a thirty day trial. After that it is  US$35 to register. Sigil is an open source editor for ebooks and I used it to tweak the look of the Epub file.  Donations  rather than payment are sought by Sigil.

The Mobi format version was produced by Calibre from the Epub file without altering the appearance. Calibre is a great free e-book package.

Ganxy do not provide editing. They simply sell for a 10% cut, which is far more generous that  the vast majority of e-book sellers, some of whom will take up to 90%.  Ganxy's lack of DRM (digital rights management) might be an issue for some. For an author like me without a ready mass market, I reckon I will make more with a 90% take of  the book's price than with a lower percentage protected by DRM.

24 May 2013  ~  Could They Be Related? / Pseudo Names

I emailed the following to  Private Eye on Tuesday. After this evening's Have I got News for You, which featured Ben Turpin and a reference to swivel eyed loons, I suspect my letter won't be used.

For those who don't know, The Eye's letters' page  has long featured featured Lookalikes, two photos, usually of people, with a question such as, Are they by any chance related?
More recently, Pseudo Names have been used to sign letters. "Ena B." is much used by Eye correspondents. I seem to recall it goes back to the days of Robert Maxwell, when someone using Ena B. Maxwell wrote, supposedly, from the press baron's home address.

Dear Lord Gnome,

We wondered if these images might be related in some way.

Madhai Muhdi
Ivel Lyde-Swoon
Ena B. St Rabismus

21  May 2013 ~  Branded a Witch  BBC  3

I recorded this programme last night  and watched it this evening. It could serve as propaganda against Christianity. However, that would be simplistic. Lets just say for now  that  "The sleep of reason begets monsters".

Accusing children of witchcraft within the African community in the UK and African countries is not new on television. Dispatches have run several programme on this topic. What made the BBC  documentary more memorable were the presenter and particularly harrowing scenes. The presenter is a British reporter who was born in the DRC and has had her own experience of abuse as a child. She visits  relatives in Kinshasa who have shunned a young woman accused  of being a witch.

The family scenes were bad enough, but there were worse scenes. The programme showed two children, perhaps aged nine and ten, with burns caused by petrol used as part of the torture to get them to admit to witchcraft. The boy's injuries were bad enough, but the  girls had severe burns on both legs.  And a child of three or four was tortured and starved in a church over three days to deliver him from evil spirits.

While Christianity is part of the problem, there are other factors.  Christian superstitions build on older local beliefs. The DRC had one of the most traumatic experiences of colonialism, which was followed by the brutality of Mobutu and a great deal of armed conflict. Education has been disrupted. The majority struggle to survive poverty, disease and corruption. Enter pastors who claim problems stem from witchcraft and charge fees for deliverance.

But none of this begins to justify the abuse of children by those who are meant to be their prime protectors.

20  May 2013 ~ Panorama Programme on the Hillsborough Disaster

Like many outside Liverpool, I didn't need Panorama to reveal the scandal of the Hillsborough Disaster or the several coats of whitewash that followed it. The existence of a massive cover up was made obvious by the grieving family members who appeared on TV over the years and their insistence that officials had withheld and distorted the truth.

However, the programme tonight reminds me that this country owes a great deal to the families and their supporters. Their persistence has not just served loved ones, it has alerted the people of Great Britain that those who hold office can be tempted on occasions to pervert the course of justice and that the state, for a variety of reasons, will look the other way. We need more not less openness in government. And the model of scrutiny provided by the Hillsborough Independent Panel should be used more often and especially when several families question official verdicts.

I posted the above on the Liverpool Echo website this evening.  Here I will add that a number of experiences have convinced me that lying,  looking the the other way and denying justice exist in many public settings when individuals and organizations  fear being caught out or more people becoming aware of institutional failings. I regret to add that membership of professions, including the the clergy, law and teaching, are among the those I have witnessed  adding to unfairness and covering up wrong doing.

19  May 2013 ~ Visual Migraines & Scintillating Scotomas

I first heard of a visual migraine (also known as retinal  / ophthalmic / ocular migraine) two years ago when I reported a visual disturbance to my GP. Twice I had noted for about fifteen minutes a circular zigzag in the form of a bright fine line superimposed over my left field of vision. I could see perfect well within and beyond the circle. I suspected the line had something to do with the lens inserted into my left eye when I had a cataract removed about a year earlier. My GP quickly responded that the symptoms suggested a visual migraine.

I continued to suspect the lens because
the zigzag forming a perfect circle suggested  the disturbance was linked to the implant. And what I read on line about visual migraines did not match my experiences. However, they did match a related condition called a Scintillating Scotoma that can feature bright zigzags.

After three other brief appearances, which were painless and distracting, but did not prevent me reading or moving around, I today had a zigzag that was far from circular. The line was continuous but nearer to an irregular oval with bays and projections. So now I accept it is
Scintillating Scotoma.

I feel lucky for three reasons. Many people who get these visual disturbances also have excruciating headaches. My episodes are not only painless but also brief and very occasional. And the presence of the scotoma is not linked to other conditions apart from migraines in  some people.

17 May 2013 ~ Short Story Competitions

The long gap since the last entry is mostly due to writing to meet deadlines for five short story competitions . Three of the stories were  new and the other two extensively rewritten. They may give an idea of the range of subjects that interest me and the varying lengths of story..

Denial, 1979 words,  concerns  a woman who cannot accept that she has terminal cancer and a young man avoiding an STD clinic after unprotected sex with a stranger.

Taphephobia,  3997 words, has nothing to with fear of Welsh people. It is the fear of being buried alive, one of several phobias that blight the life and funeral of a  contemporary Yorkshire farmer.

The Pottersfield Ivy, 4979, is a ghost story set in Wiltshire between 1880 and 1930.

Father Sweet, 4890 concerns a Catholic priest who gives advice on morality to a boy whose guilt leads him to commit suicide.  I have avoided identifying the country in which it takes places or the year..

You’ll Regret Marrying Leila, 7968,  takes place in the 1960s and 70s in New Zealand, England and on board a ship traveling between the two countries. It concerns a  throwaway remark that is taken very seriously.

I also finished today - and then found the competition closes much later than I thought, - a third reworking, Obligations, 9808 words. This concerns a girl  growing up on a Swansea housing estate and studying in England  who finds that the generosity of people comes with strings attached.

I did a count of stories that involve New Zealand and they make up about a fifth of the fifty or so that I have written. By far the most common strand in the short stories is mental health, ranging from psychoses to the impact of trauma to paraphilias.