Archive | May, 2013

Why Sharing Your Skills Is Important

20 May

We are often told that in today’s world, the key to success in life is making yourself indispensable. If you can do something that no one else in your work place can do, then when it comes to down-sizing, you’ll be the one kept on. This means we’re encouraged to specialise in ever-smaller niches; we learn to do one thing well and then hoard the knowledge, not showing anyone else how to do it. In this way, we think we can protect our livelihoods.

While this might be a good strategy for our work lives, when it comes to surviving an apocalyptic event (whether it’s the dead rising or a natural disaster) this is an exceedingly dangerous attitude. You might think the best way to ensure your survival is to be able to do something no one else in your group can do, but it’s just the opposite and it might even get you killed. This is because at some point you may find yourself incapacitated and in need of someone with your own specialist skills. If you’re the only one with those skills, you’ll be well and truly screwed. You don’t believe me? Think of it like this: if you’re the only one with any medical knowledge, who will treat you if you get injured? If you’re the only one who can navigate, what happens if you fall ill? If you’re the only one who can drive your transport, what happens if you get knocked out and those around you need to get you back to your safe house? The same goes for making traps to catch food, fixing engines, keeping your solar panels working, handling guns, making more ammo and so on.

This means it’s important that you share around any useful skills you happen to have. If you know which mushrooms are edible and which aren’t, teach this knowledge to those around you; if you know how to do CPR or set a broken bone, train others to be able to do the same; if you can read a map and use a compass to navigate, show others how to do it too. By sharing your knowledge, you’ll not only be helping others, but you’ll be increasing your own chances of survival. There’s also a flip side to this, if you come across someone with a skill you don’t already have, get them to show you how to do it too. It will expand your knowledge and you never know when you might find it useful.

This attitude of sharing skills isn’t just something that applies to post-apocalyptic survival, it applies to everyday life too. If you know how to do something, don’t just keep it to yourself; instead share your knowledge with those around you. In particular, if you are the only one in your group of friends happens to know something which could help when things go wrong, make sure you show at least one other person how to do it, or even better make sure everyone knows, just in case. Similarly, remember you can’t always rely on your friends, so if they’re the ones with the skills, get them to teach you. These needn’t be complicated skills, instead it can be very basic stuff, such as how to drive a vehicle or how to stop a deep wound bleeding. You might not think it, but this could be the difference between life and death for you or for others around you.

I can actually give you an example of this from my own life where I did something that, looking back, was exceedingly stupid but that at the time I did without pausing to think of the consequences. It was one tiny misjudgment but it could so easily have turned out to be fatal. I was out on a motorboat with a friend and her brother. While the friend had been out with me before, and so also knew how to drive the boat, her brother hadn’t. The day was going fine until my friend’s hat blew off into the water. This was in the Bahamas, so the water was warm enough that she chose to go in after it. However, she had trouble finding it because it had sunk. This is where I did the stupid thing: I turned off the boat’s engine, grabbed my mask and dived in.

Now I know what you’re thinking, how on Earth could that have fatal consequences? Well, what I hadn’t considered was the fact there was a 20 knot breeze blowing and because I hadn’t bothered to drop the anchor, the boat was gradually drifting away from us. By the time I’d retrieved the hat and the two of us started to swim back to the boat it was already a good 30 feet away. After five minutes of swimming, this distance between us and the boat had increased to about 50 feet and my friend was tiring (swimming through choppy seas is not as easy as swimming in the still waters of a pool). This was when I realised we could be in deep trouble: we were three or four miles from the nearest land, a distance neither of us would be capable of swimming, and since this was the Bahamas, there was always the worry of sharks, especially if you’re floating around in the water for a substantial period of time..

At this point, you’re probably wondering why the guy in the boat didn’t simply drive over and pick us up. There were two reasons for this. The first was that not having really been around boats before, he didn’t realise we were in trouble; after all, to him it just looked like we were swimming back to the boat. The second was more critical: he didn’t know how to do it; he didn’t know how to start the engine, let alone how to put it into gear and manoeuvre it. Before that, I’d always figured that as long as two people in the boat knew how to drive it, we’d have everything covered, and we would have if I’d simply dropped the anchor before quite freely and intentionally jumping over the side but I hadn’t. I figured I’d only be in the water for a few second at the most, and simply didn’t take into account of how quickly the wind would carry the boat away from us.

In the end, I left my friend to tread water (which is much less tiring) and swam ahead. By the time I finally caught the boat, I was close to complete exhaustion but once I was back on board I circled back and picked her up. That was when it occurred to me quite how lucky we’d been. If the wind had been just slightly stronger, I’d never have been able to swim fast enough or for long enough to catch it. From that point on, I’ve always made sure that whenever I take a boat out, everyone who comes with me knows at least three basic things: how to start the engine, how to stop it and how to drop the anchor. Beyond that, I also try to make sure I give them a go at driving it as well as other basic things like navigation and what to do if someone ends up in the water. By sharing these skills, I hope to avoid ever being in the situation again of ending up in the water watching my boat floating away from me.

These events were brought back to me recently when I heard about a similar event with a much more tragic ending. A British couple were sailing in the North Pacific some 500 miles from land when somehow the man, who was the experienced sailor, ended up in the water. He was wearing a life jacket so this shouldn’t have been a major problem, but his partner apparently didn’t know how to drop the sails or manoeuvre the boat meaning all she could do was watch as the boat sailed on, with the man disappearing off into the distance. The woman was rescued by the coastguard but despite an extensive search her partner was never found.

The critical point to take home here is that you should share around any skills you have which can help if things go wrong. Similarly, remember that you can’t always rely on others to be around to help you if you get into trouble so if you come across anyone with a potentially useful skill, get them to show you the basics in case you ever need them. Finally, if you ever go to sea, always make sure you at least know the basics of how to drive a boat because you never know when you might be called upon to do it.



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From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

What Makes An Ebook Sell?

19 May

What makes books sell? This is a question which interests all associated with writing and publishing them, but it’s something that you can rarely get a good handle on. This is because many publishers and distributors keep this sort of information a tightly-guarded secret. However, this isn’t true of all of them and a couple of weeks ago, Smashwords (on of the largest distributors of ebooks) published some very interesting results from a survey based on sales of ebooks they publish or distribute.

In total, they analysed data from 120,000 books sold between the 1st of May 2012 and the 31st of March 2013 (representing more than $12 million in sales). This included books sold through a range of outlets including Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and Amazon, and represent both self-published books and books from small independent presses. The results provide some really useful insights into the ebook market and how to get the most from it, and they are a must read for anyone thinking of self-publishing an ebook (even if they’re not going to use Smashwords).

The first thing they found was the book sales follow a power law. This means that while most books only sell a few copies, some will become absolute superstars and sell loads. This differences can be quite dramatic. For example, the number one best seller on any given day may sell four times as many as the 10th best seller, and 37 times more than the 500th best seller. This is probably not too surprising, but it does show that sales of ebook follow a very similar pattern to traditional paper books.

What’s a bit more surprising is that longer books tend to sell more copies. For example, the average length for the 100 best sellers is a substantial 115,274 words. In contrast, the books that were 250 – 500 on the best seller list only averaged 77,467. By the time you get to the 100,000th to 105,000 best seller this is all the way down at 32,533. The message here is clear; readers like longer books. This is presumably because people are looking for value for money but is has an interesting implication for would-be authors: don’t break a full length book up into a series of several shorter parts as this will potentially damage your sales. Similarly, your time would be better spent on writing one full length novel than several shorter novellas because people like longer ebooks better.

Another surprise was that readers like shorter book titles. The average length of title for the 100 best sellers was 4.2 words, but for the 1000th to 2000th best sellers it was 5.7, and 6.0 for the 100,000th to 101,000th best seller. I’m not too sure why this would be. It could be that shorter titles are more memorable (and so easier to spread by word of mouth), or maybe it’s because it’s easier to make a short title stand out on the cover design, or it could even be that would-be readers think that short titles mean snappier writing in general. Whatever the reason, it’s an interesting observation and suggests that when you have a choice a shorter title is better than a long one.

When it comes to pricing, most ebooks are priced between free to $2.99, and fewer people are pricing ebooks greater than $5.00 than they used to. This is probably not too surprising, readers are likely to prefer ebooks which are substantially cheaper than paper books. However, when you look at the sales at different prices things get more interesting. The price that generates the most sales is between $3.00 and $3.99, followed by those priced between $2.00 and $2.99, and then books priced at $0.99. Oddly, though, books priced between $1.00 and $1.99 only sold about half as many as ones at these higher and lower prices. Again, it’s unclear why this would be. Maybe readers think that $0.99 is worth a gamble to try a book from an unknown author, while the sales of books at the higher prices are ones they’ve been recommended or read reviews for and so are willing to pay more (because it’s less of a gamble).

If this is true, it suggests there’s two quite different and distinct markets out there for ebooks and that books selling at these two price bands represent purchases by different buying audiences. The readers buying books at $0.99 may be ‘early-adopters’ out to discover the next big thing before anyone else (but without gambling too much money on each purchase). In contrast, those buying at $2.00 to $3.99 are readers who won’t take a risk on a complete unknown entity, but are willing to spend more when they follow recommendations from others (such as the early-adopters) to make a purchase. If this is the case, this is a really useful insight into the mentality of the book-buying public and it’s one that can help authors target these different audiences.

There’s one last point which I’m sure most writers will find interesting. This is that when it comes to making money, while $2.99 is the most common list price (which is set by the seller), $3.99 is the price which provided the greatest yield. This is because while they may make fewer sales, the generate a higher total income.

Smashwords is providing a great service by making this information available and it provides a great insight into how readers are buying ebooks. However, authors also need to be careful how they use this information. Remember, a lot of these numbers are averages, and we don’t know the shape of the curve around these averages (for that we’d need information on standard deviations as well as averages). This means you shouldn’t go away and cram an extra 20,000 unneeded words in just to bump up your word count to the average for the best-selling books; this will just destroy your narrative rather than bump up your sales. You also don’t need to go ditching your title just because it’s a bit on the long side. Rather, try to pull on the generalities: on average, people like longer books and shorter titles so bear that in mind when your deciding how to present your work for sale.

Similarly, when thinking of a price, $0.99 may sell more books, but $3.99 will potentially make you more money. This means you might have to adapt your price depending on whether you’re aiming to make an income you can live on (where you’d want to go higher) or generate a fan-base through sales by capturing those early-adopters who are willing to take a risk, but only if the price is right (in which case, you’d want to go lower). However, it seems that it’s better to follow one strategy or other, and that a compromise between the two will cause your book to fall into the in the ‘valley’ that lies between these two points (it’s too costly for early-adopters on whose recommendations those buying higher priced ebooks depend when making a purchasing decision).

If you want to read the full survey (along with some pretty graphs), you can find it on the Smashwords blog at http://blog.smashwords.com/2013/05/new-smashwords-survey-helps-authors.html?spref=tw


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From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

Maths With Zombies

18 May

A while a go, I posted an article about using zombies in education to help teach kids and students subjects that might otherwise seem a little boring. Initially, I thought that was as far as the idea would go, but instead it sparked something in my head. I’m a bit of a maths geek (my girlfriend’s forever making fun of me when I come home with new books with titles like Curious And Interesting Geometry – and yes that’s a real book which is currently sitting on my bookshelf!), but when I was at school I remember all the problems we were set being incredibly boring (all that stuff about trains travelling between stations and different speeds and so on). What, I thought, would happen if I combined my love of maths and my love of zombies? Could I come up maths problems that would actually be interesting?

The Little Book Of Zombie Mathematics

The Little Book Of Zombie Mathematics

This led me to create a sister-blog to this one with the rather endearing title of Maths With Zombies. I’ve posted five zombie-based maths problems on it so far and will be posting a new one each thursday at 15:00 (UK time). They’re aimed at anyone from the age of about 12 upwards, but should be challenging enough to keep adults entertained. There’s also a link for each problem that allows anyone to download a PDF handout that teachers can use in classrooms if they so wish.

Once I have enough problems together, I’m going to bring them together in a book which currently has the working title of The Little Book Of Zombie Mathematics: 50 zombie-based Maths Problems.

If you get a chance, check the Maths With Zombies blog out and let me know what you think.


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From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

What Would You Do If … Dilemmas In A Zombie Apocalypse: No. 12 – The Guard’s Dilemma

17 May

You’re on guard duty, patrolling the wall they’ve build to keep the zombies out. You look down, there’s thousands of undead milling around, all trying to get through but none of them can; the infection’s been safely contained to the north of the wall. You see a recreational vehicle speeding towards the wall. It careers through the throngs of the undead and crashes into the wall. A man and a small boy emerge from the skylight as the zombies descend on the RV. The man holds the boy up and you’re able to grab him moments before the RV is tipped over, sending the man into the zombie horde where he’s torn apart. You look down at the boy as he dangles from your hands. His sleeve has slid back and you see what could be a bite on his arm but you can’t be sure. If you’re right, it means he’s infected and could turn at any moment. If you’re wrong, he’s just a scared little boy in desperate need of your help. You can’t do nothing because eventually you’re arms will tire and you’ll drop him. What do you do?


As always, this dilemma is just here to make you think, so there’s no right or wrong answer. Vote in the poll to let others know what you do if you were in this situation, and if you want to give a more detailed answer, leave a comment on this posting.

This dilemma is based on a short story called The Wall. If you wish to read it, you can find it here.


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From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

Getting Away With It – A Short Detective Story

15 May

A PDF of this story can be downloaded from here.

Constable Wainwright glanced up as door of the small office he shared with five others burst open. This was the moment he’d been dreading ever since he’d finished his report and sent it upstairs to CID. He could tell from the way Detective Inspector Ross was gripping the paperwork that he wasn’t pleased and he couldn’t blame him.

The DI threw the file across the desk towards the younger man. ‘What the hell’s this?’

‘It’s my report on the witness statements from yesterday’s shooting, sir.’

‘And you think it’s complete?’

‘It’s as complete as I could get it, sir.’ Constable Wainwright had just a touch of defiance in his voice.

‘So remind me,’ the DI’s brow furrowed as he pursed him lips and crossed his arms, possibly in response to the younger man’s tone, ‘How many witnesses were there?’

The constable shifted his gaze downwards, knowing what was coming next. ‘Eleven.’

DI Ross put his hands on the desk and lent forward. ‘And not one of them saw the guy that did it?’

Constable Wainwright could almost feel his superior’s breath on his face. ‘They all saw him.’

‘And when you say they all saw him …’

‘They were in the room when the shooting happened, sir.’

The DI straightened up again. ‘And was it a big room?’

‘No, sir. Just your standard church hall.’

‘Were any of them drunk or high or anything?’

‘No, sir.’

‘It wasn’t dark in there was it? I mean they weren’t watching a film or something like that were they?’

‘No, they had the lights on, sir.’

‘So they all saw the man walk in, shoot one of them dead and then walk out again?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘And the shooter wasn’t wearing a mask or a disguise?’

‘No, sir.’

‘How close were the witnesses?’

Constable Wainwright picked up his notebook and flicked through it. ‘Between six and ten feet.’

The DI took a couple of large steps backwards. ‘About this far then?’

Constable Wainwright bit his lip nervously before replying. ‘Yes, sir. That would be about right.’

So …’ The DI paced around the room for a minute before returning to the constable’s desk. He stood there, hands on hips, looming over the younger man. ‘So why the hell haven’t you done a photofit?’

This was the bit the constable hadn’t been looking forward to explaining to those who ranked above him. ‘Well … that’s where things get … errr … what you might call complicated, sir.’

The DI raised his eyebrows and moved his head ever so slightly forward: other than that he remained motionless. Constable Wainwright took this as a cue to continue. ‘All the witnesses agree the gunman was about five eleven tall and had short dark hair with no beard or anything like that. He was dressed in a black leather jacket, the kind that bikers used to wear, black denim jeans and Doc Martins. He held the weapon in his right hand; a semi-automatic by the sounds of it. There’s some disagreement as to what exactly he said but it was either “You know who I am, don’t you?” or “You know why I’m here, don’t you?” or possibly both. There was an accent, possibly south London; almost certainly fake …’

‘Yes. Yes. I know all that from your report,’ DI Ross looked like he was about to explode, ‘But what did he actually look like?’

‘Well …’ The constable rubbed the back of he neck nervously and flicked through his notebook again. ‘Nine of them said he definitely wasn’t black.’ He felt the urge to glance up at the DI to see if he could guess what his superior was thinking but he did his best to resist . ‘Four of them thought he was probably white but three others thought he could have been Arabic or Asian or …’ He turned the page. ‘Or maybe South American.’

The DI leaned on the desk again, and stared at the constable. ‘Thought he was probably white? What sort of a description’s that? Surely you either know or you don’t.’

Wainwright took a deep breath. ‘They were a bit vague on the age too.’

DI Ross slumped into the chair opposite the younger man and massaged his forehead with one hand as if trying to ease a headache. ‘Just how vague are we talking about here?’

‘Definitely an adult but he could have been anything between twenty and sixty.’

‘And none of them could tell you what he looked like?’

‘No, sir.’

The DI considered this for a moment. ‘That’s got to be bullshit! It happened right in front of them. How can they not know what the gunman looked like? Either one of them did it and the others are covering it up or it was someone from outside the group and they’re not giving us the description for some reason. One way or another at least some of them must be in on it.’

‘I don’t think so.’

‘And why would that be?’

‘It’s because of the reason they were there. They were having a meeting.’

DI Ross dropped his head downwards as he folded one arm across his chest and pinched the bridge of his nose with the thumb and fore finger of his other hand. ‘They’re not twelve-steppers of some kind, are they?’

‘No, nothing like that.’ Like the DI, Constable Wainwright knew the code of anonymity for groups like AA always made their lives more complicated than they needed to be when it came to investigating crimes. ‘It’s more like a self-help group.’

‘For what?’

‘For a condition they all have. It’s called …’ The constable consulted his notebook, ‘Prosopagnosia.’

The DI leaned forward. ‘Proso what?’

‘Prosopagnosia, sir. They’ve all got it pretty bad apparently; that’s why they have the meetings. It helps them deal with it.’

‘And what’s the hell’s this prosopagnosia thing when it’s at home?’

‘It’s also called face blindness, sir.’

‘So they’re blind?’

‘They’re not blind. They can see perfectly well; it’s just that they don’t recognise or remember faces.’

‘They what?’

‘They don’t do faces. And it means they’re not great at things like age and race too so it explains why they were so vague with those as well.’

The DI lent back and ran his hands through his hair before linking his fingers behind his head. ‘So basically you’re saying that even though eleven people saw exactly what happened, none of them can tell us what the shooter looked like because of this face blindness thing?’

‘That’s pretty much what it boils down to, sir.’

‘Would any of them be able to recognise the gunman if they saw him again?’

‘I asked. They were all pretty certain they wouldn’t, sir. The twelve of them have been meeting as a group for the last three years and they don’t even recognise each other unless they’re wearing name badges.’

The DI stood up and paced around the room again. ‘So we’ve got eleven eye witnesses and even if we somehow get lucky and find the guy who did it, none of them would be able to pick him out of a line up?’

‘That’s the gist of it, sir.’

‘This is ridiculous!’ The DI returned to the desk. ‘And you’re sure they’re not pulling your leg or anything like that?’

‘I’m pretty sure, sir.’

‘Why?’

‘Because the one I spoke to when I first arrived didn’t recognise me when I took his statement later and all I’d done was take my hat off. Two of the others managed to confuse me with Constable Hussan.’

A surprised look appeared on the DI’s face. ‘Hang on, you’re white and he’s Asian isn’t he?’

‘Errr … Middle-eastern, sir. One of them explained it to me. We’ve got the same hair colour and style, and we were both in uniform.’

DI Ross scratched his head. ‘I don’t get it.’

‘Because they don’t recognise faces, they learn to recognise people by other things: hairstyles, the clothes they’re wearing, how they walk, the sound of their voice and so on.’

The DI sat down on the chair again and buried his head in his hands. ‘And almost everything we do to find and convict a bad guy is based around having an accurate description of their face meaning we’re screwed.’

‘Pretty much, sir.’

‘Christ!’ There was silence for almost a minute before DI Ross spoke again. ‘I don’t know how I’m going to explain this one to the Superintendent.’ There was a hint of resignation in his voice.

‘I’m glad it’s you that has to do that, sir, and not me. This guy’s going to get away with shooting someone in a roomful of people – the way I see it, whoever he is he’s pretty much committed the perfect crime.’

The DI stood up and straightened his tie. ‘Right. I’d better get this over with.’

He picked the constable’s report off the desk and he thought about what the younger man had just said: the perfect crime. As he turned and walked away, he allowed a small smile to creep across his face: it most certainly was. It had first occurred to him that it might be when his wife told him about the odd condition one of her work colleagues had and the support group he went to to help him deal with it; he’d started thinking about it in earnest when he found out they were sleeping together; he’d been almost certain of it by the time he’d decided to kill his wife’s lover just to punish her for leaving him after all those years. Now he’d shot him dead in front of all those witnesses and he knew for sure he was going to get away with it.

***

Author’s note: Prosopagnosia, or face blindness, is a real condition and people who have it are unable to recognise others by their facial features. Until quite recently, it was thought to be a rare condition that only occurred because of some kind of damage to the brain. However, in the last few years it has become clear there’s a second form where people don’t develop it but instead they have it from birth. It’s been estimated that around 1% of the population fall into this category. People who have face blindness from birth may never even realise they have it because to them not recognising people by their faces is normal and let’s face it, have you ever asked someone how they recognise others?

I was in my late 30s before I realised I had prosopagnosia but looking back it explained some of the odd incidents I’d had in my life when I’d failed to recognise people I really should have. Face blindness can occur across a spectrum ranging from mild to severe and I’m closer to that end so it’s quite surprising I didn’t realised I had it sooner. Not long after I found out I had it, I witnessed an assault and I had to tell the police that while I could tell them exactly what happened before they got there, I couldn’t tell them what the person who did it actually looked like (I knew who he was because I saw the police drag him off the victim, my information told them the assault was unprovoked). Needless to say, I got some very odd looks when I explained this to the officers who interviewed me. Luckily the guy pled guilty (this was because he didn’t know I couldn’t actually point at him in court and say ‘he was the one that did it’ – just knowing I’d seen what happened was enough), so it wasn’t too much of a problem but it got me thinking that this could be an interesting premise for a story, especially if I took it to the extreme end of what might be possible. That was when I started wondering: what would happen if a crime was committed in a room full of people like me with fairly severe prosopagnosia? How would the police ever track down who did it when all their procedures are based around making an identification from facial features?

If you want to test your facial recognition abilities or to find out more about prosopagnosia, visit http://www.faceblind.org/.

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From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

Of Ukuleles And The Zombie Apocalypse

13 May

I don’t know about you, but I always seem to have a tune of some kind or other going round in my head, and I know one of the best ways to raise my spirits when I’m feeling dragged down by life is to dig out an old favourite and sing along to it (albeit pretty tunelessly at times) as loud as my neighbours will let me before they start banging on the walls. When the zombie apocalypse comes, there will be both a great need for music to help boost morale (provided you can find somewhere to play it without attracting the undead!) and an almost complete inability to play any recordings.

Once the power goes, so will the mighty iTunes and its would-be usurper Spotify. And while your MP3 player might allow you to fit every song you’ve ever heard in your back pocket, there will be few opportunities to top up its battery. Radios will last longer (since they don’t use as much power and you can even get wind-up model these days) but once civilisation collapses the only thing you’ll be able to pick up beyond static is automated warning messages.

You might come across the occasional CD, cassette or even the odd piece of old vinyl while you’re scavenging but you won’t have anything you can play them on so they’ll be no help; and besides even if you did, there’s nothing worse than having to listen to the same album over and over again because it’s the only one you’ve got (I haven’t been able to listen to Bob Dylan ever since I spent a month sailing off Labrador when one of his albums was played almost constantly because it was the only tape we had and we couldn’t get any radio stations).

So what can you do? The logical thing would be to make your own music, but to have any hope of staying in tune (and indeed to making sure everyone sings in the same key), you’ll need some sort of musical accompaniment. Now, this is where things get a little tricky. Come the zombie apocalypse, you can’t exactly tuck a piano under your arm and leg it. Accordions are pretty bulky too (as well as sounding awful) and even a guitar will be too cumbersome to carry while trying to evade the undead; but just when think you’re running out of options, the humble ukulele comes to the rescue.

Clearwater Soprano Ukulele

Clearwater Soprano Ukulele

Ukuleles are small, easy-to-carry and great fun to play. The one in the picture accompanying this article is mine. It’s a mere 18 inches long and weighs under a pound so it can easily be strapped into a pack or thrown in the back of a car without getting in the way.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: aren’t ukuleles, a bit, well you know, naff? Being an avid ukulele player, I’d disagree but don’t just take my word for it, take George Harrison’s (he of the Beatles fame) – He was a major ukulele fan. You see, when most people hear the word ukulele, they think native Hawaiian tunes (if you’re American) or George Formby (if you’re British) but there’s much more to ukuleles than that. With a bit of thought, you can play almost any type of music on a ukulele and it’s this versatility make a uke prefect for accompanying moral-boosting sing-a-longs no matter what your musical taste. If you don’t believe me, check out some of the many surprisingly-effective ukulele covers of famous songs you can find on YouTube (I’ve provided links to a few of my favourites below).

Then there’s one last thing going for the ukulele: it’d make the perfect improvised weapon for smashing in the skull of a rampaging zombie should you ever find yourself in need of one. You can’t doing that with a harmonica!

Ukulele Covers To Check Out:

Hey Ya (originally by Outkast)



While My Guitar Gently Weeps (originally by Santana)



Sweet Child Of Mine (originally by Guns n’ Roses)



Smells Like Teen Spirit (originally by Nirvana):



Satisfaction (originally by Rolling Stones):



Wonderwall (0riginally by Oasis)



Teenage Dirtbag (originally by Wheatus)




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From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

May Book Giveaway: Winners Announced

11 May

To mark the 5,000th visitor to this blog since I started it at the end of 2012 as well as my 100th post, I ran a competition to win five signed coped of the first edition of my post-apocalyptic thriller For Those In Peril On The Sea.

Having been running for two weeks, this competition ended today. The correct answer to the question ‘Where is For Those In Peril On The Sea primarily set?’ was ‘the Northern Bahamas’. One hundred and ninety-two of the people who entered got this answer right.

I’m pleased to say that the five randomly selected winners are:

1. Tracey Peach
2. Mark Palmer
3. Karen Barrett
4. Michelle Williams
5. Sarah Parker

I’ve emailed the winners with details of how they can collect their prize.

So congratulations to the five winners and thanks to everyone who entered. If you weren’t lucky enough to be a winner, you can purchase For Those In Peril On The Sea from Amazon as either a paperback or as a Kindle ebook using the links on the right-hand side of this page.

For Those In Peril On The Sea

For Those In Peril On The Sea available from http://www.amazon.com/For-Those-Peril-The-ebook/dp/B00BRLF8PS/

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From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.