FORMER.LY by Dane Cobain

 

Former.lyLet me just say I couldn’t put this down – it was fun, techie, and littered with bodies. The narrator, an ordinary guy called Dan, is looking for a job in the beginning. He lives in London with his girlfriend, and stumbles on a startup that seems like a dream job – coding for a new company that caters to the dead. Well, sort of. It actually made a lot of sense. Imagine keeping a diary especially to be published after your death – a special diary published on a special site, made especially for giving a voice to those who have gone over to the other side. Well, you get the idea. Even I was convinced. So Dan takes the job, and is immediately submerged in the small group of techies working on this social network for the dearly departed. Startups are notorious for being short-staffed, under-funded, and fueled by caffeine (and other drugs) and this one is no different. Oh, and there are the founders – Peter and John – who demand absolute secrecy about everything, and that means keeping even Dan and the other workers in the dark.

Dan is happy just to do his job (he loves coding), keep his head down, his nose clean, and try to appease his high-maintenance girlfriend, Sarah – who is less and less happy with Dan’s work taking over his life. Meanwhile, a co-worker, Flick (Felicity), catches Dan’s attention, but they can’t seem to get past the ‘just friends’ stage.

Bodies start piling up soon after the two founders announce a fantastic investment in the company and decide to move to Palo Alto, in the USA. One of the company’s workers decides to bail – and ends up floating in the Thames. The police are not happy with the idea of an accident. That doesn’t stop the move to the US. But things are rapidly deteriorating. The two founders, not the most stable people in the world, can’t seem to keep it together. They get more and more paranoid, while at the same time, more people seem to be having fatal accidents – not a bad thing for a company that caters to death, right? Well, I won’t spoil it for you – you’ll just have to read the book to find out what happens. It’s a quick, entertaining read, perfect for murder-mystery, techie, nerdy book lovers!

Q & A with Dane Cobain:

Jenn – Have you ever worked in a startup?
Dane –  I haven’t, actually. But there was kind of a startup mentality at one of my old jobs, and I also know a lot about social networking sites and how they operate because I worked as a social media marketer.

Jenn – One of the pleasures about the book was how well it all held together -where did you get the idea for the company?
Dane –  It’s hard to say exactly. I mean, I wanted to write about a social networking site because they say that you should write about what you know. I’m not really sure where the exact idea of how the site works came from, though.

Jenn – John and Peter really came alive in your book, and you did a great job with Dan as well. Are any of the characters based on real life people?
Dane –  Thanks! I think all of the characters are based on real life people to a certain extent, but some are more so than others. I used to work with two web developers called Dan and Abhi, for example…

Jenn – Who are your favorite writers, and can you list a couple books & writers that have had the most influence on your writing?
Dane –  My favourite writers are probably Charles Bukowski, Terry Pratchett and Graham Greene, not necessarily in that order. I’m not sure which books, if any, have influenced me in particular. If anything, I guess it’d be Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman, because that’s the book that got me really into reading.

Jenn – How do you promote your work? Is social media a huge part of it (tied into your book is a huge promotions, social media thread – I wondered if you had your own Flick, or (like me) dreamed of one!)
Dane –  I promote it however I can, mostly with a mixture of both online and offline activity. I don’t have my own Flick, but I used to work in social media marketing and so I like to think I mostly know what I’m doing.

Jenn –  Can you tell me more about yourself – how you became a writer, what your goals are & how you plan and execute a novel? 
Dane –  I’ve been into writing for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I used to rewrite the lyrics of the pop songs of the day, and I started playing guitar and writing songs when I was about fourteen. From there, I moved on to keeping a journal, writing poetry and eventually writing novels. No two novels are the same, but I tend to plot it out as much as possible before I get started and to create detailed character sheets for each of the key players. Once that’s done, I just sit there at the keyboard until it’s finished – and then after that, I go through a bunch of rounds of edits and proofreading with my editor and partner in crime Pam Elise Harris, who’s also an author herself.

Jenn – Thank you Dane – I couldn’t resist one more thing – I posted your poem ‘Working from Home’, because it pretty much sums up what every stay-at-home writer and artist is going through – I loved it!

Links:  Website // Portfolio // Email

Amazon // Goodreads // Media Kit

Working from Home
Published by Dane Cobain on 18th May 2017

So it’s my first full day
where it’s all official,
and I’m writing for Wikipedia,
talking about artists
and the art they make,
and then I’m setting up my website
and smoking a cigarette.

This is the first poem
I ever wrote
standing right outside
my porch;
I’d better get used to it,
it’s better than the alley
behind Regatta House,
and when I’m done,
I can go inside
to stroke the cat,
which isn’t a metaphor.

People say
when you work from home,
you masturbate.

That’s just not true,
I’m far too busy dealing
with kitty litter.

Then when the postman came,
I got distracted again
because my girlfriend
likes to order
from the internet.

But anyhow
it’s almost noon
and the day’s
maybe getting
away from me.

I need to make
more money
if this is to fully be
sustainable.

 

Guest Blogger Jenna Brandt

If you are an author, chances are you’ve had to format one of your books. Jenna Brandt tried several methods, pulled out all her hair (just kidding – but if you’ve ever had to format a book, you know what I mean!) and has this solution: (Welcome and thank you, Jenna!) 

“I never knew how challenging it was going to be to format my novels for eBooks, especially since I had never written them with the intention of having them published that way. When I was one week into the process, I was nowhere near finished with my first book. I had heard other indie authors complain about the process but nothing really prepared me for the actual endeavor.

Being a pretty efficient editor, I can run through a manuscript quite fast, however it was one of the most time-consuming and frustrating things I have ever done. I learned quickly, I needed to be always writing in the exposed format on Word. It changed how I planned to do things for future projects.

Two weeks later, I heard of the software program, Vellum* from another Indie author’s blog. It was supposed to be easier and I was willing to try anything. Luckily, I have a MacBook (Vellum is an exclusive Mac product).

Best writing decision I ever made. Vellum is AMAZING!!! I love all the choices it provides me and the intuitiveness of the program. I finished my whole book in two days. It generates all versions at once and to update the book is simple and quick.

I am now waiting for Vellum to release their print software (June 1st) so I can make my book available in print. I learned quickly I was not capable of formatting for print either.”

 *Vellum did not pay me for this. They don’t even know I wrote this lol. I really just heard from another author’s blog who used it. So, I looked it up, sampled it and fell in love! It’s revolutionized my life and I just want to share that with others.

Jenna is a historical fiction writer, here is her new book:

The English Proposal: Christian Victorian Era Historical (Window to the Heart Saga Book 1) by [Brandt, Jenna]The English Proposal: Christian Victorian Era Historical (Window to the Heart Saga Book 1) 

Sheltered on her family’s country estate, Lady Margaret, the daughter of an English Earl, is betrothed due to a family promise. Although Henry, the Viscount Rolantry, has been her best friend since childhood and she is expected to marry him, she never felt butterflies until she meets the Duke of Witherton. Against her father’s wishes, Margaret finds herself captivated by the forbidden duke. Caught between family loyalty and her own wishes, Margaret searches for a way to satisfy both her responsibilities and her longings. When tragedy strikes, Margaret finds herself seeking answers at church. But when she finally makes her choice, through her newfound faith, will she be able to live with the repercussions of her decision?

Buy from @Amazon,  @Barnes & Noble, @Goodreads  @iBooks  @Kobo

@Smashwords @GooglePlay @Wattpad

Displaying 13177985_10206441133811000_1529186980204341074_n.jpegAbout the author: My name is Jenna Brandt and I am a Christian historical fiction author and my books span from the Victorian to Western eras with elements of romance, suspense and faith.

I have been an avid reader since I could hold a book and started writing stories almost as early. I have been published in several newspapers as well as edited for multiple papers. I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts in English from Bethany College and was the Editor-in-Chief of my college newspaper. I’m an on-going contributor for The Mighty Website and my first Blog was published on Yahoo Parenting and The Grief Toolbox as well as featured on the ABC News and Good Morning America websites.

Writing is my passion but I also enjoy cooking, watching movies, reading, engaging in social media and spending time with my three young daughters and husband where we live in the Central Valley of California. I am also active in my local church where I volunteer on their first impressions team as well as write features for the church’s creative team.

How to save an Instagram photo to your computer

I love my Instagram – I love taking pictures with my phone – but I didn’t know how to save them to my computer until now. Open your Instagram page and open the photo you like. Right click on your Instagram photo and look for “page Source” – open that, and scan the code until you find the first “jpg“. When you find it, just highlight and copy the entire URL and paste it into your browser – open the window and lo and behold – you can copy and save your* Instagram photos.

*Please respect people’s rights to their own photos. Use your own photos. Never download anyone else’s without their permission. 

The birthday gift

It was my husband’s birthday, and his brother gave him a gift – it looked like an umbrella, and after a long speech, my brother-in-law handed the gift to my husband – who unwrapped a used golf club. We looked at it. My husband – unfailingly polite – searched for something nice to say. “Why, thank you!  It’s a three iron. Wow. It looks old. You know, I’ve seen one like this hanging in a sport’s bar – it was one of Tiger Woods’s clubs.” He turned it over and examined it. “Yes, I think the Tiger plays clubs like these. It’s really nice.  Um. How old is it?”

His brother shrugs cheerfully. “No idea, but you have to play with it. It’s old and it’s totally unforgiving. If you hit it wrong, you not only lose your ball, but all your teeth as well.” He made a shaking motion with his hands. “We’re tired of you beating us, so I got the hardest club I could find to play. A three iron blade.”

Stef – “Oh, well, of course I’ll play with it.” Hopeful tone of voice – “after all, Tiger Woods used this kind of club, right?”

Brother in law – “Not that one, in any case. Found it in the used club section in the store. Well, happy birthday!”

Stef – “Thank you, it’s lovely.”

Brother in law. “Oh, I almost forgot – I got you this one too.” (Motions to Sebi who brings another long, skinny package.)

This one was a fantastic driver, to go with the hybrid club Sebi got him. Huge smiles all around. A very golfy birthday, with a golf sweatshirt, 2 golf clubs, (3 including the old blade) and 2 club covers.

Later in the car –

Me – “Well, you certainly were a good sport about the joke present.”

Stef – “I thought it was serious.”

_________________

stefparty2stefparty1

My bolshie baby

Ahhh, zee French elections! They have passed, and the winner has been crowned (the French are still a monarchy at heart), and most people have breathed sighs of relief (or disappointment) and moved on. Most – but not all. Imagine my surprise to find my youngest deep into politics and Getting Involved! You must understand that we are a family of non-involvers.

Well, most of us. Now that I say this, I can remember my mother going on strikes, my father deeply involved with his Union to the point of becoming its treasurer – and so my family of non-involvers actually means me and my husband. We look on, (probably with expressions of mild surprise) at the world going on around us. Then I go back to my drawing and writing, and Stef gets his golf clubs out of the closet (or his boots and hat) and heads to the Great Outdoors. Neither of us has the slightest interest in meeting the mayor, listening to politicians, and painting signs for marches. We vote – after careful (and quiet) thought. I have been known to pen the political diatribe now and then – and I do take an interest in politics – as long as I don’t actually have to get involved more than putting an X in the square in front of my candidate’s name.

But not my Bolshie daughter – who threw her heart and soul into this election and impressed me no end. I admit to admiring her. I truly thought her candidate would have made an enormous change in French politics (Melenchon) – he was the far left candidate and his ideals were just and good. He lost – and my bolshie baby was astounded. How could he lose? Everyone was voting for him! (She informed me.) There must have been cheating, there must have been fraud – she hissed like a tea kettle – she was angry and disappointed. But I admired her passion and her fire. That’s always been missing in me – that passion and the ability to get involved.

Well, I got a parking ticket the other day.  I have been parking in the same spot for five years. We have parking spaces in front of our apartment and there is also a cross walk. But the parking spaces are painted over the zebra crossing, so no one minds and everyone parks there – until the other day when I got two tickets in the mail for a grand total of 150$. I was flabbergasted – furious- and taking example from my daughter, I first wrote a letter protecting the ticket, then I marched down to the police station to complain. I took pictures. I met with the three police who gave out the tickets, and I showed them the pictured and told them I was not paying, that if they didn’t want people to park there, they would just have to erase the parking lines. I was polite, but firm. I told my daughter I’d actually gone to the station. She was impressed. Then she borrowed my car to go see her horse.

Tonight, when I walked the dog, I noticed where my bolshie daughter parked. Right on the zebra crossing, in the middle of the parking space that spans it. My little car. All alone on the street – there is hardly anyone around. Except my car. On the “who knows” parking spot. If I get another ticket, I’ll have her write the letter for me. She can get involved.  (Below is a photo of the offending parking spaces – there are 3 of them on the zebra crossing. So silly!)WP_20170519_13_35_26_Pro

Perfect Summer ~Karen King on writing

Today I was fortunate to corner Karen King, and have her write a post for my blog. I’m thankful for two reasons – I learned something, and I found another book to read this summer – Perfect Summer sounds wonderful!

Karen King – Writing for a Living

People often ask me how they can make a living as a writer. To me, there are only two ways you can succeed: 1) write a bestseller (and that’s a bit like winning the lottery, it could happen but the odds are against you) or 2) be adaptable and write what the market wants. Never having written a bestseller, I’ve always taken the second option. Continue reading

Muggy

Oh boy, another blog post about rain, you’re thinking. As if we don’t have enough of them.

There’s a hole in the sky where the rain falls through, and it’s right over our heads. But no – it’s not another blog post about rain. And it is muggy, as the title says. But this post is about inspiration. It’s about being a writer – about pulling words out of your head and sticking them on paper, because that’s what writers do. We also read and reread and edit and correct and go back and do it again. But most of all, we’re sitting (or standing – I know someone who writes standing up) alone (ever try to write when someone is talking to you?) and we’re trying to get this story we have in our heads out into the world. We’re like pregnant things, gestating the story, birthing it (sometimes painful and messy), then making it look and sound good (can take years – just like a real kid!)

Once the story is out and about it’s a whole new game, with promoting and bugging family and friends to buy it (and hopefully read it, not just buy it and stick it on a shelf somewhere). But let’s rewind and go back to the part where it’s muggy and rain is falling, and there is nothing, no story, no words on the paper – just the gray sky and water falling. It’s one of those days where the light never changes. The sky looks like a flannel sheet, all soft and gray, and fat raindrops are making shiny puddles on the ground, as if they sky is making mini mirrors (that’s an alliteration). We’re back to the rainy day, and we’re sitting at our desk – alone, and we have a story to tell. Since this is a post about writing, and not about rain, I will tell you how to write a book from scratch. First, you need inspiration.

For that, you can either get it from a dream, or from an article, or from something you saw or heard. For example,  I dreamed about a horse that could go through outer space. But it was being chased by Raiders. I woke up and thought about it for a while, and Riders of the Lightning Storm was born. One day, I had the idea of making an alternative history short story about Alexander the Great and it turned into a seven book series. That was the Time for Alexander series. Inspiration took over and that was it. Another time, I was at a book conference and a bunch of us were goofing off telling the most outrageous stories with someone who used to be a stripper, and we were telling zombie stories, and somehow the zombie and the stripper idea got mashed together, and Jack the Stripper was born…undead, but hey, it’s not his fault – he got killed by the Heart Taker and Jim the necromancer brought him back to life. That’s inspiration!

If you can’t get inspired, I can’t help you there – try praying to the Muses, the nine mythological sisters in charge of inspiration for the arts – poetry, painting, writing, history, etc., and maybe sacrifice a cookie and have a cup of coffee. For some reason, coffee and writers go together. The rest is work, and it’s not easy. Here’s how it goes: sit down (or stand up) and WRITE. 

Easy, right? Some people write outlines. Some use flash cards. Some do a rough synopsis and use that, some people just wing it and write. Some people use characters to drive their stories, others use plot, most weave both together.  The important thing is to write – simply put words out there – go on! You can do it! But beware – if you start, you must finish. You have to get all the way to “The End”. Otherwise, no matter how much you write, you won’t be a writer. You’ll be a writer-in waiting. But once you finish that book and stick “The End” on it,  no matter if no one but you ever reads it and you stick it in a drawer somewhere and forget it, you’ll always be a writer. That’s inspiring.

 

Beautiful Bones

I like bones. I love fossils. The outline of something. The bare bones. It somehow means the essence to me – what really counts – what’s left when everything else is gone.

Someone asked me what gave me more satisfaction, writing a first draft of finishing the last edits. The answer is the first draft – definitely. I love the rough bones of a story sticking out, waiting to be trimmed and polished. There is something raw and energetic about a first draft, clumsy – like a teenager, full of pimples and bad habits (repeated words, dangling participles, misplaced modifiers…)! But also full of so much promise!

And speaking of beautiful bones – some skulls and bones make me want to get my pencils out and draw them. Zygoma just posted a mystery skull and I fell in love with its , swooping shape and delicate lines.

mystery304

It was mysterious -I couldn’t think of what it was until I noticed the mandible and the lack of teeth on the front (I’m so scientific, lol). But then my guess became more evident. (This is still a guess – it hasn’t been confirmed)  However, I think the skull belongs to a rather strange animal:  the genus name “Orycteropus” means burrowing foot and comes from the Greek word ορυκτερόπους (orykterópous) meaning “digging footed”. The species name “afer” refers to Africa.
The Hausa are one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa & Hausa magicians make a charm from the heart, skin, forehead, and nails of this animal, which they then proceed to pound together with the root of a certain tree.  Wrapped in a piece of skin and worn on the chest, the charm is said to give the owner the ability to pass through walls or roofs at night.

Isn’t that mysterious?

I’ll post the name of the animal when Zygoma confirms it. Until then, feel free to guess!

The Auguste Update

The dachshund is back! A HUGE thank you to Cécile & Frank – you were wonderful. Auguste was in good hands, and he is looking so much better. For one thing, he’s Hungry.  All he wants to do is eat. When I’m in the kitchen he’s at my feet looking up at me with an “I’m starving! Feed me, Seymore!” look.  He goes off on his walks with a spring in his step and trots at my heels. This does not last – soon, he’s quite exhausted by his ordeal and in minutes he’s walking slowly, pretending to be very interested in a speck in the grass so I let him rest.  Continue reading