Thursday, 17 April 2014

A Tribute to a Superstar

On 22nd October 1994 a superstar was born who inspired everyone he met with his passion for life and cheerful attitude. Andrew was a one-off, an incredible young man who may have appeared to have many problems but tackled everything head on with that trademark beaming grin. We could learn a lot from his approach.

Andrew's prom picture

Andrew was a wee fighter from day one. Born at 26 weeks in a dramatic emergency caesarean, he then spent his first three months in the hospital being fed via a tube. However, he couldn't wait to get home with his mummy and daddy and it wasn't long before he started drinking his milk. This led to his mum advocating letting him chew his food, despite the advice of health professionals who wanted to keep using the tube.

At age three Andrew enrolled in the nursery class at Stanmore House School, a place where he would remain for the next sixteen years and which we believe helped mould him into the remarkably gifted child he became. His local authority wanted him to enrol in the local special needs school, but this didn't offer the specialist one-on-one input that Stanmore could provide. This also entailed a move from Cumbernauld near Glasgow to the Lanarkshire countryside.

School picture aged 6
During his long tenure at Stanmore, Andrew made many friends and was hugely popular around the campus. He learnt to make clear choices and made great strides in his communication through strong vocalisations and expressions. He also got to go on exciting adventure holidays and threw himself into all activities. In recent times, Andrew was investigating the use of Eye Gaze technology which would have allowed him to utter sentences by picking out words with his eyeline. He would have used this at Beaumont College, where he had been accepted for a place to start in September 2014 (he was due to start in 2013, but our local authority failed to come through with funding for his care - we had already garnered the funds for the education element through the Friends of Andrew McNaughton campaign).

All in all, Andrew was an incredibly hardworking young man who did not let anything hold him back and there is no doubt that had he completed his college course, he would have been equipped with a set of skills that would have let him enter the workplace in an area like film editing, his chosen field of study at Beaumont.

Andrew with his baby sisters - Eve (top),
Hannah (left), Emma (right)
It still feels unreal that Andrew is not with us - he was the centre of the family and at the forefront of every decision we made. The house we lived in was built for Andrew, so we have since had to move. There were so many funny things about Andrew - he was fiercely protective of his three baby sisters and ensured they were completely ruined by sticking his bottom lip out and whining if they ever got a row!

Andrew's legacy, that you can do anything you want to do despite apparent limitations, is a powerful message that deserves to be heard far and wide. We have already used some of the money we raised to help other worthy local causes, such as a young boy with autism who has had a sensory room built where he can relax when things get too much.

We love you Andrew - here are some more fantastic pictures. Andrew loved the camera, and never took a bad photo!

Andrew with his Mummy at Centreparcs, summer 2010
In Friends of Andrew McNaughton t-shirts
With baby brother Cameron, 2009
As a scary surgeon at Halloween!
On a speedboat at Strathclyde Park, summer 2009
Andrew after his operation - diplomatically
supporting both Celtic and Rangers!

Friday, 8 November 2013

NaNoWriMovember Update - Week 1

Here we are at the end of Week 1! How's everyone doing in NaNoLand? (And Movember Land, I know you're out there somewhere!) So far, I've been moderately pleased with my progress. In terms of word count, I've stayed just above the bar to stay on track, but literally by a dozen or so words. I was hoping to build up more of a bank, but in between various ailments, kids being off school and doctors' appointments, it hasn't happened yet. I'll see how next week goes.

In terms of story, so far it's been fairly linear. I'm planning to shake that up, though, with looks at other events for characters apart from my MC, and snippets of the past. I'm also looking forward to testing my MC's mettle in a big way. This is the second time I've written from a female POV, and I'm surprised by how easy it's been, although that could be due to the fact my protag is fairly "normal" as opposed to a psychopath. It remains to be seen what my CPs (all women) will make of it, though!

Here's a reminder of my blurb, and a little excerpt. I chose it because it doesn't give anything away that isn't in the blurb.

  • Novel: Truth Hurts (Working Title)

  • Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

  • Current Word Count: 13,374

  • Synopsis:
  • Sandra thought her world had fallen apart when her mum died, but she wasn't prepared for what was to follow. An overheard conversation at the funeral reveals that the woman who had nurtured and raised her - while her father was largely absent - was not her real mother.

    Confronting her booze-sodden father that night, he says that in not telling her, they had been protecting her. Sandra demands to know if her birth mother is still alive and, upon receiving no answer, storms out of the house on a quest to unearth the truth.

    Her trail of discovery starts to lead her down some very dubious and dangerous roads, and she starts to think that maybe her father was right. But why has he not come after her?

Excerpt:

There was nothing she wanted more than to run up to her room, slam the door and bawl her eyes out, but she had to see this through for her mother’s sake. She was the one, in charge, after all, for better or worse. As she made her way through the black-clad army of her father’s extended family, everyone felt like a potential enemy, even though there were some she barely knew. Apologetic smiles met her, but looked like they had been plastered onto faces. It was only five metres from the door to the coffee table, but it felt like a mile.

She straightened up, relieved at setting down her load - her physical load, at any rate. Subdued thanks emanated from those seated on the couches, who gave her the barest glance before helping themselves to more tea.

How long until everyone would start heading home? She glanced at her watch. Another couple of hours at least. This was suffocating, and she wanted these people out of the house. The grief was building up like a dam about to burst. She could be forgiven for taking five minutes to compose herself, couldn’t she? Fresh air would hopefully help. On the way to the French doors, she caught sight of her father, who had already had one too many, the glass of whisky in his hand waving through the air. She couldn’t make out his slurred speech, but he appeared to be laughing, sharing a joke with one of his brothers, relaxed and enjoying himself. Well, she couldn’t say she was too surprised.

The French doors were already open, as there were yet more mourners already out here - the smoking variety. A couple reflecting on the day’s events in between life-shortening puffs of nicotine - her Aunt Betsy and Uncle Stuart. They didn’t seem to register her presence as she stepped outside and sank into one of the ironcast chairs.

“Don’t know how she’s going to cope,” said Aunt Betsy. “We all know Michael is next to useless, and as a young girl, it shouldn’t be up to her to look after him.”

“Leanne did a good job of that, didn’t she? The woman was a saint, in my book.” Stuart took another deep drag of his cigarette and blew out a thin stream of smoke. “A lesser woman would have bolted long ago.”

“Yes, and raising a child that wasn’t even her own. You’ve got to give her credit, she loved that girl with her whole heart.”

Sandra had been staring down at the brickwork of the patio, but now everything swam out of focus. It felt as if someone had plunged her head under water and was holding it there. All sound disappeared but the roaring in her ears, and when she tried to look up, her aunt’s and uncle’s movements were slowed down, their arms making jerky movements as they raised their cigarettes, as if they were puppets. The world tilted on its axis.

WHHHHHHHAAAAAAATTTTT??? Not a word, but an earthquake going off in her head. She got up somehow, and took a couple of steps forward. To do what? Confront her father? Two steps were all she managed before everything went black.


And what of Movember? Well, here is the latest photo update (as of last night, anyway). Apparently I don't know where to look when someone's taking a picture on the iPad!



P.S. I know I said I wouldn't post anything except NaNoWriMovember during November, but make sure to check back on Monday for something big you won't want to miss!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Dragonfly Warrior Cover Reveal

Hey everyone! I interrupt my NaNo scheduling to bring you something extremely cool - the new book cover from Jay Noel, one of the nicest bloggers I know. This is the first time I've had any steampunk on my site, but I'm sure it won't be the last! Here's all the details courtesy of Jay, and that awesome cover.


Dragonfly Warrior Blurb:
The Mechanica Wars: Savage Machines Are Afoot...

At the age of sixteen, Kanze Zenjiro's bloody footprints mark the bodies of those who stood in his way to protect the throne of Nihon. Now, the tyrannical Iberian Empire is bent on destroying his kingdom, and they send their steam-powered giants and iron spiders against him.
Zen embarks on a quest that takes him on the most dangerous journey of his life. To succeed, Zen must live up to his nickname, the Dragonfly Warrior, and kill all his enemies with only a sword and a pair of six-guns. He is called upon to somehow survive a test of faith and loyalty in a world so cruel and merciless, it borders on madness.

Book Information
Dragonfly Warrior is a steampunk adventure like no other. It's a dynamic mix of Asian and European mythology, the Wild West, martial arts, traditional fantasy, and high powered steam action that will keep you turning the pages.
Dragonfly Warrior is the first book of The Mechanica Wars, and will debut on January 6, 2014.

Author Bio:
After doing some freelance writing and editing for more than a dozen years, Jay decided to stop procrastinating and pursue his dream of being a novelist. He's been blogging for over eight years, and even had a comedy podcast syndicated all over the internet. All of that was fun, but all the steampunk-inspired stories in his head just wouldn't leave him alone. Jay spends his days working in medical sales, but he can be found toiling over his laptop late at night when all is quiet.
He draws inspiration from all over: H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Shakespeare, Ray Bradbury, Douglas Adams, and Isaac Asimov.
And Jay loves cookies.

Jay Noel's website: www.jaynoel.com

Friday, 1 November 2013

NaNoWriMovember - Day 1


So here we are on the first of November. I hope no one got too spooked out last night, and for those of you partaking in NaNo, that you're ready for a month of blistered fingers and chewed nails. Erm, I mean a scintillating month of joy and creativity!

Here is the short synopis for my novel as per the NaNo site:

  • Novel: Truth Hurts (Working Title) (hopefully I'll come up with a better one!)

  • Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

  • Synopsis:
  • Sandra thought her world had fallen apart when her mum died, but she wasn't prepared for what was to follow. An overheard conversation at the funeral reveals that the woman who had nurtured and raised her - while her father was largely absent - was not her real mother.

    Confronting her booze-sodden father that night, he says that in not telling her, they had been protecting her. Sandra demands to know if her birth mother is still alive and, upon receiving no answer, storms out of the house on a quest to unearth the truth.

    Her trail of discovery starts to lead her down some very dubious and dangerous roads, and she starts to think that maybe her father was right. But why has he not come after her?


If you want to add me as a buddy, you can do so here. We need friends at a time like this!

So Day 1 is now at an end, and so far I'm ahead - by twenty words. If I can keep up that margin for the month I'll be happy. I didn't have much time to write today, because we're getting ready for a fundraising fayre tomorrow, so I made a start at midnight and wrote the first 700 words, then got up at 5am to make the quota. I think the early starts will continue through the weekend until Tuesday, as the kids have got a day off on Monday. I'm also going to try and learn how to write in the middle of noise and interruptions, though. I think one of the points of NaNo is to bend and break our routines, and become more flexible as to when we write.

And of course me and Andrew are taking part in Movember throughout the month too. We'll be posting weekly updates on our hirsute exploits. Here we are on Day 1 - a fair way to go! Don't forget you can sponsor our efforts if you so desire, all in aid of Andrew's college fund.



Doing NaNo this year? Any tips? What are you doing if not? Any tache-growing tips - JeffO? :)

Monday, 28 October 2013

Giveaway Winners Announced, NaNoWriMovember, and Curiosity Quills Anthologies

On an unusually stormy Monday here in the UK - although we seem to have escaped it in Scotland - it's time to announce the winners of my two year blogiversary giveaway. So, without any further ado...

1st place, winning a proofread and copyedit of a novel up to 100,000 words: Misha Gericke
2nd place, winning a proofread of a novella or short stories up to 30,000 words: C. Lee McKenzie
3rd place, winning a proofread of a short story or stories up to 10,000 words: Aldrea Alien

Congrats ladies! I'll be in touch ASAP about claiming your prize!



So, onto the next order of business: NaNoWriMo. I've been back and forwards over taking part this year, worried I wouldn't have time, but all the kids are now at school all day and well... I can't resist the challenge! I only got to 34k last year, so I'm on a mission. I've got an outline written out, which makes things a bit easier. It's open to change, of course, but once I've got it into a readable form that doesn't give too much away, I'm looking forward to sharing it with you all.

As an extra incentive to get to that finish line on time, I'm going to combine it with Movember and cultivate what will hopefully be a fine crop of upper lip hair at the same time as I'm growing my characters and plotlines. Andrew is joining in too - he grows a mean tache without even trying. If you'd like to sponsor us, with all proceeds going to Andrew's college fund, it would be massively appreciated - but I only get paid if I get to the 50k! As last year, I'll be posting weekly updates starting on Friday, this time with added tache pics from us two boys. Apart from this I'll not be blogging too much, but as always I will get back to everyone who comments.

And, last but by no means least... two anthologies, also for an excellent cause.


Support animals in need by buying Curiosity Quills' charity anthology Primetime. 10% of all
proceeds will be donated to humane societies on both the East and West coast
that spend well and do not stray from their “no-kill” policies.

Primetime brings together bestselling authors like J.R. Rain, Tony Healey, A.W. Exley, and more to create a spine-tingling, mind-blowing, quirky collection of short stories in
Curiosity Quills' first ever, annual anthology.

For a full list of the authors featured, and details on where you can buy Primetime, please see the Official Primetime page.



Support animals in need by buying Curiosity Quills' charity anthology After Dark. 10% of all
proceeds will be donated to humane societies on both the East and West coast
that spend well and do not stray from their “no-kill” policies.

Primetime’s steamier counterpart, Curiosity Quills: After Dark, where bestselling authors like A.W. Exley, Nathan L. Yocum, Jose Prendes, Jade Hart, and more come together to bring you hard-hitting, sexy, violent, and dark short stories to read when the sun has gone down and the kids are in bed.

For a full list of the authors featured, and details on where you can buy After Dark, please see the Official After Dark page.

Sound good, eh? See you all on Friday for the NaNoWriMovember kickoff. Have a great week!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

The 13th Floor Complete Collection Blog Tour

Today I'm pleased to welcome back the supremely talented Christine Rains as part of the blog tour for the 13th Floor Complete Collection. She's talking about something that is tricky to get right, but very effective if done well. Over to you, Christine!



We talked about all sorts of villains this year in my guest post series. The tricksters, bullies, geniuses, and gods. There's one sort of villain that doesn't make an appearance in my series. One that I consider important in the realm of bad guys. That is the sympathetic villain.

This is the sort of character that falls into the antagonist role doing bad things, but there's a reason behind it that gains the reader's sympathy. Perhaps it's done through back story or through seeing how society treats him. He has a reason for what he's doing and perhaps he thinks it's good. It makes for fantastic characterization, but as much as we can sympathize, it doesn't change the fact he is the villain.

The sympathetic villain is becoming more popular these days. Two of my favorites are Dr. Horrible (Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog) and Severus Snape (Harry Potter series). I adore these characters, but no matter what anyone argues, they are still bad guys. They are, in a way, the anti-villain. A trend rising along side of the anti-hero.

Why is the sympathetic villain more attractive to people these days? Some suggest that we relate to the urge to do bad things more than we did a few decades ago. Or it could be that the heroes are too good to believe and so we flock to what we consider the more realistic character. Whatever the reason, I can see this trend continuing.

Perhaps we'll see more of George R.R. Martin's thinking: “There are no heroes or villains. Only characters with flaws.”


Who are your favorite sympathetic villains? Why do you think there are more anti-heroes and anti-villains these days?



Title: The 13th Floor Complete Collection
Author: Christine Rains
Genre: paranormal romance

Release date: October 13th, 2013

Blurb:

Six supernatural tenants
Living in a haunted apartment building
On a floor that doesn't exist.

Six novellas telling their tales.

A retired demon acquires a price on his head.
A werewolf is hunted by her pack.
A modern day dragonslayer misses his target.
A harpy challenges Zeus for the soul of the man she loves.
A vampire is obsessed with a young woman he can't find.
A banshee falls in love with someone who's death she has seen in a vision.
And a sweet ghost must battle a primal monster to save them all.

All the stories take place at the same time intertwining their lives together on the 13th Floor.

Includes “The Shadow,” a bonus short story.



Author Bio:

Christine Rains is a writer, blogger, and geek mom. She has four degrees which help nothing with motherhood, but make her a great Jeopardy player. When she's not writing or reading, she having adventures with her son or watching cheesy movies on Syfy Channel. She's a member of Untethered Realms and S.C.I.F.I. The 13th Floor series is her first self-published series. She has eight novellas and twenty-one short stories published.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Launch of Beyond the Edge

Out now - congrats, Mary!

Some truths are better left unfound.


For two years Craze’s dear friend, Lepsi, has been missing. The murmurings of a haunted spaceship might be a message and may mean his old pal isn’t dead. The possibility spurs Craze and Captain Talos to travel to uncharted worlds, searching. Out there, in an unfamiliar region of the galaxy beyond the Backworlds, they stumble upon a terrible truth.


Meanwhile, Rainly remains on Pardeep Station as acting planetlord, dealing with the discovery of her lover’s dark and brutal past. Alone and questioning her judgment, her introspection unlocks more than heartache. Latent protocols in her cybernetics activate, forcing her to face a sinister secret of her own.


In the far future, humanity settles the stars, bioengineering its descendents to survive in a harsh universe. This is the fourth book in the science fiction series, The Backworlds. A space opera adventure.




M. Pax-- Inspiring the words she writes, she spends her summers as a star guide at Pine Mountain Observatory in stunning Central Oregon where she lives with the Husband Unit and two demanding cats. She writes science fiction and fantasy mostly. You can find out more by visiting her at: