What’s coming next?

It’s been a few months since the release of my last book, The Colour of the Soul, so I thought it was worth writing a few words about what’s coming next.

One of my short stories, The Offer, is included in The Corona Book of Science Fiction. You can buy it from 15th October 2018.

As far as full length books go, I’m nearing the end of the first draft of a new thriller, provisionally named Assassin’s Web. The story is about a school teacher who finds a note containing the login details for a site on the dark web. Within a few hours he is running for his life, pursued by a ruthless assassin. In a change from my previous books, I’m switching from third person to first person to give a more immediate feel and place the reader closer to the action. I’m expecting to launch the book half way through 2019.

Looking further ahead, my current plan is to write a sequel to Decimation. I have a few plot ideas that will see a return of the surviving characters from the first book. Does Rosalind Baxter survive or not? You’ll have to wait and see! The working title is Annihilation, but that may all change. You can expect a 2020 release date.

Finally, I would like to say a big thank you to my readers. Discovering that somebody has enjoyed reading my work makes it all worthwhile.

The Corona Book of Science Fiction

Out 15th October 2018

My short story, The Offer, is the first in this new anthology by up and coming UK publisher, Corona Books.

After a traumatic rail commute into work, Laura Donnelly sees an advertisement for a week’s free travel in a driverless pod. But is the offer too good to be true?

UK (£1.99 on Kindle)
US ($2.56 on Kindle)
AU ($4.01 on Kindle)
CA ($3.90 on Kindle)

The Corona Book of Science Fiction

Evolution of a cover

The Colour of the Soul recently received a gold star award in The Book Designer April cover competition. They even sent me a badge (woo-hoo!).

My badge

Most of the credit belongs to my cover designer, Michelle Arzu, not least for her boundless patience as I dithered between alternatives. As it happens, the cover design went full circle, ending with one that was very similar to the first she proposed. I thought it might be interesting to show the evolution of the cover.

This is the first one.

Draft 1

At this stage, the staring eyes came as a bit of a shock. I wasn’t sure the purple colour sent the right message.

Onto draft 2. This was an attempt to go for the menacing hooded figure. Not menacing enough in my opinion.

Draft 2

Draft 3 (below) didn’t do it for me either.

Draft 3

Draft 4 was my least favourite. This one screamed Young Adult at me rather than psychological thriller.

Draft 4

Draft 5 went back to the original concept but changed the purple eyes to blue. Unfortunately it still wasn’t threatening enough for me.

Draft 5

The sixth draft was one I created from the fifth. The knife with the drop of blood at the tip certainly added menace. The original concept was for the knife to be pricking the skin of one of the letters. I quite liked this but it still wasn’t quite right.

Draft 6

The seventh draft was starting to get close. Notice how the eyes are much darker and the whole thing gives off a sense of menace. The text still wasn’t quite right in my opinion.

Draft 7

In the eighth version, the text became red and dripped blood. I deliberated over this one for a long time but eventually came to the conclusion that the blood was a bit over the top.

Draft 8

So here is the final version. This is pretty much the same as the previous one but minus the drips.

Final version

The dark colours and the red of the title were both things the judge (Kit Foster) picked up on. Here is what he said.

KF: It’s very unsettling – those eyes staring out at you! The use of eye contact is very powerful, and can draw the reader in. It breaks the ‘fourth wall’ and makes a direct connection (eye-contact!) with the potential reader. I like the sporadic use of colour here. The distinct patches of red, green and blue are given lots of power by their stark surroundings. The deep, muddy red of the title subtly reminds us of blood, upping the sense of threat even more. ★

For any authors who want to contact Michelle for their own book cover, she can be contacted at the One Stop Fiction website.

You can buy a copy on Amazon as an eBook here, or as a printed book here.

I can see the colour of your soul.

Can anyone see the colour of a soul?

In my latest book, The Colour of the Soul, the main female protagonist wakes from an eleven month coma with the ability to sense auras. But how common is this condition? Can anyone really see the colour of a soul? In this short article, I’m going to explore the science behind auras.

The first question to answer is what is meant by the term aura? Definitions vary, but an aura is generally described as a subtle field of energy surrounding the body of a living creature that is regarded as an essential part of the individual. Auras are often associated with spirituality and reflect the mental or emotional state of the emitter.

Artists’s impression of an aura

The most common explanation for people who claim to be able to see auras is that they are suffering from synaesthesia. According to Wikipedia, synaesthesia (or synesthesia in the US) is a perceptual phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. In layman’s terms, this means one sensory organ is cross-wired in the brain and affects other senses. Examples include people who can hear colours or see sounds.

The proportion of the general population suffering from synaesthesia is unknown, but it is estimated to be around 3%. That’s a HUGE number. If the figure is correct, that means as many as 200 million people in the world experience the condition in one form or another. Of course, not all will see auras, and for many, the symptoms will be very mild.

If we consider the five senses (touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste), there are twenty ways in which a synaesthete might experience an unusual sensation.

Senses and stimuli

What about seeing a flavour? How about tasting a sound? Even smelling a texture? Scientists have studied the way the senses combine and have found that even in non-synaesthetes, one sense can have a strong impact on another. For example, a study conducted by Oxford University concluded that users perceived the taste of crisps differently depending upon the sound of the crunch.

Going back to the original topic, do some people have the ability to see the colour of a soul? Based on the evidence, in my opinion the majority who claim to possess this skill are probably experiencing synaesthesia.

So what exactly was Annalise seeing in The Colour of the Soul? In the first chapter, she has been in a coma for eleven months when a mysterious woman injects a dangerous drug into her drip. The nurses use a defibrillator to restart her heart and she wakes with the ability to sense auras.

When I wrote the book, I envisioned that during the resuscitation, the areas of her brain associated with picking up subliminal clues from the way a person behaves became mixed up with her sense of sight. Effectively, her subconscious was informing her conscious mind about somebody’s persona by overlaying colours on her vision.

But why is her mother’s aura dark? And why can’t she see an aura around her boyfriend?

To get the answers to those questions and more, you will have to read the book!

You can buy a copy on Amazon as an eBook here, or as a printed book here.

I can see the colour of your soul.

Writing About the Future

This is a copy of an article I wrote for Emma The Little Bookworm’s blog.

It’s May 2017. A deadly new virus has emerged. Within weeks it will sweep across the globe and infect every living person. The true horror of the pandemic will only become evident when pregnant women start dying moments after giving birth. This will have a catastrophic effect on the global population and in less than twelve months the birth-rate will reduce to practically zero. For the next seventeen years, scientists will strive to develop a cure. They will be unsuccessful.

Welcome to the world of Decimation: The Girl Who Survived.

The book is set between 2033 and 2034 and follows the lives of the last children to be born before the outbreak, all now aged sixteen. The world is a very different place and I spent a lot of time thinking through how it would differ from today. One way to do this is to extrapolate from the past. What was changed since the year 2000? Can we use that to determine what will life be like seventeen years in the future?

I’ve broken this article down into a number of areas.

Transportation

In 1828, Ányos Jedlik, a Hungarian, became the first man to build an electric car. In those days the rechargeable battery was still a distant dream, so it was never a practical proposition. By the end of the twentieth century, car manufacturers were putting serious investment into electric vehicles, prompted largely by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Even so, the only mainstream options were the Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight hybrids, both of which first went on sale in 1999. Whilst the market in pure electric and hybrid vehicles is rising, in 2016 they still only accounted for less than 1% of global car sales.

First iteration of the Toyota Prius (courtesy Gnsin)

Battery energy densities are improving all the time and Tesla has proved that an electric car can perform just as well as any petrol vehicle. The efficiency improvements gained by converting braking forces back into electrical current provide another persuasive argument for electric powertrains. By the time 2034 comes around, I predict that petroleum-based vehicles will be a rarity.

So what else will be new? Flying cars may come one day, but they are unlikely to become mainstream transport within the next seventeen years. Self-driving cars are another matter. The likes of Google and Uber are currently trialling the technology, so it’s not unreasonable to assume that driver involvement could disappear altogether. In one chapter of my book, a character who is a passenger in a twenty-year-old petrol vehicle, asks whether manual control isn’t a bit dangerous. A computer driver will have far quicker reaction times than a human and won’t be distracted by phones or other gadgets. We better just hope they don’t suffer from the “blue screen of death”.

Google self-driving car (courtesy Michael Shick)

Phone Technology

In 2000, the Nokia 3310 entered the market. It was to become one of the most popular mobile phones of all time and would go on to sell over 126 million units. I even remember having one myself. It had state of the art features including a calculator and a stopwatch and even came with four games. The first device with mobile Internet was still two years away.

The original Nokia 3310

So what will devices look like seventeen years from now? Voice-activated command is commonplace today, and I expect the technology to grow in sophistication to the extent that you will be able to talk to your phone as the default method of data entry. Three-dimensional displays will become more prevalent and I predict that iris recognition will develop into the main form of user identification. Where keypads are required, I forecast that haptic devices will lead the market. This clever technique uses ultrasonics to create tactile feedback for virtual objects. In fact, it’s already in use in a relatively crude implementation on the iPhone 7.

The Birth-rate Problem

I thought long and hard about the implications of the virus in Decimation. Pregnancy is a death sentence, so very few women would willingly have children. Artificial wombs are one way of avoiding the problem and have been in the news recently. Scientists have grown lamb foetuses up to four weeks. I suspect there will be major issues bringing a human baby to term and I would be surprised if it’s possible by 2034.

In one of the early chapters, the Prime Minister asks for suggestions to raise the birth-rate. For every son that is born, a mother dies, thereby reducing the overall proportion of women to men. One of the characters suggests adding drugs to the water supply both to boost the ratio of female to male babies and also to increase the chances of multiple births in those who are unfortunate enough to fall pregnant. As she says, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” You’ll have to read the book to see whether the members of the cabinet go along with the proposal.

Declining UK population in Decimation

Fashion

I want to end this article on a lighter note, so my final topic is fashion. I find it hard to remember how clothing tastes have changed since 2000. Lace-up jeans and velour sweatsuits were apparently popular, as were Uggs (those hideous furry boots). Britney Spears was at the height of her fame and Hip Hop dominated the music charts.

So what will be fashionable a third of the way into the twenty-first century? I like gadgets so I came up with three technology-related ideas for my book. First up is the trainer with an illuminated red pulse that sweeps along the stripe on the side of each shoe. The energy is derived from the wearer’s movement.

My second idea was a T-shirt with a miniature camera on the back and a wearable screen on the front. The display makes it seem like there is a hole through the user’s midriff, complete with a gory representation of the owner’s internal organs.

Artist’s impression of the hole in the stomach T-shirt

My final creation is the Marilyn skirt. I imagine everybody has seen the iconic photograph of Marilyn Monroe holding her skirt down while standing above a subway grate. They’ve even commemorated the scene with a twenty-six-foot high statue which is currently touring California and Australia. My fashion statement of the future is a skirt that will move up and down in a simulation of that famous moment. The computers controlling the smart materials will ensure that the wearer’s modesty is preserved at all times.

26-foot-high Marilyn statue

I hope you have enjoyed my predictions. Seventeen years from now, we’ll know whether I was correct. In the words of Mattie Stepanek, even though the future seems far away, it is actually beginning right now.

Decimation is available as an eBook from Amazon at a price of £0.99 / $0.99. It can also be bought as a paperback.

The Colour of the Soul

AVERAGE SCORE > 4.5 OUT OF 5 ON AMAZON


I can see the colour of your soul. 

Buy from Amazon

Annalise Becker wakes from an eleven month coma with the ability to sense a person’s aura. But why won’t her family tell her what happened? What dark secret is her mother hiding? And why is there a guard outside her hospital room?

Hunted by a psychopathic killer and accused of a crime she can’t remember, she must use her new skill to separate the truth from the lies before it is too late.

Coming soon – The Colour of the Soul

The editing is nearly done on my next book, The Colour of the Soul. Here is the blurb:

I can see the colour of your soul.

Annalise Becker wakes from an eleven month coma with the ability to sense a person’s aura. But why won’t her family tell her about the accident? What dark secret is her mother hiding? And why is there a guard outside her room?

Hunted by a psychopathic killer and accused of a crime she can’t remember, she must use her new skill to separate the truth from the lies before it is too late.

I’m aiming for a March release, but things may change. Join my mailing list to keep up to date.

Using Animated GIFs in Facebook Posts

Decimation: The Girl Who Survived. Buy at Kindle UK Kindle US

This post is just a quick tip about how to put an animated GIF onto a Facebook post. See how the tear in the above picture is flashing on and off? It doesn’t go into how to create an animated GIF – more on that in a later article.

Firstly, you need to upload your animated GIF to another site – your WordPress site for example! You can use any website you like. If you don’t have your own site, you can easily create a WordPress blog at https://wordpress.com/.

Next, copy the link to the GIF file (from whatever website you have uploaded it to) and paste into your Facebook post. The easiest way is to right click the picture and copy the image address. This is a screenshot from the Chrome browser.

In my case, the link is http://www.rjne.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Decimation-animated-tear-small.gif.  When you post to Facebook, just make sure it’s the first link in the post. Facebook will follow the link and embed the picture, together with its animation.

That’s all there is to it.