Sunday, 10 December 2017

Social Media - Good or Bad

A lot has been said about children being upset, targeted or abused because of social media, either mentally or physically. I think the same applies to adults as well. I frequently see posts from ‘friends’ on Facebook saying that they have been blocked by people, insulted by people or generally upset by something someone has said. I think it is time to look at what we expect from social media and whether we should be using it.
   Facebook started as a way for students to share what they were doing and have a laugh. It has grown uncontrollably as everyone and his cat wants his/her voice heard.
   Let’s think about how it has changed our relationships. Before Facebook and Twitter (although I don’t use Twitter that much on a personal basis) the only people I knew were those I met face to face. I freely admit I’m not a very good face to face person. I don’t make friends easily, never have, never will. That’s me. I know a fair few people, but no one I have ever worked with has kept in touch, even the people I met through my Guiding days never contact me apart from one true friend. And that’s me. I have one friend from my childhood, one friend from Guides, one friend in the village and one recent friend who shares my love of writing; but I have lots of acquaintances, or people I know but who never visit me and I never visit them. Even family barely keep in touch. That’s me. My early childhood was one of isolation even though we lived in London. For the number of people we knew and called friends, we could have lived on the top of a mountain somewhere.
   I am now on Facebook and have lots of ‘friends’. I put that word in inverted commas because they are not real friends. They are real people and I am very grateful for knowing them. They have widened my world enormously. I know people in America, Germany, Australia, as well as every corner of the UK. They share their lives, sometimes a bit too much, and their views, and have made me think about things I would never have considered before. For that I wish Facebook had been around when I was much younger. I might have gone out and done something constructive with my life instead of just letting it drift by.
   I have been lucky with my ‘friends’. I have never been insulted by any of them. I would dearly miss going through my newsfeed every day (although I really must limit myself) to see what is happening, and going back to being isolated in my own little world. I joined Facebook in the first place to promote my books. Everyone said you have to be on Facebook. Well, I don’t think that is true. I have a Public profile, whatever that means, I think it means anyone can see my posts if they want to and I want everyone in the world to see my posts because I want them to know about my books. So I try to be careful and not share anything but news bulletins and such, not personal stuff that someone might not want the world to know.
   But what about other people, what are they looking for?
   Facebook has been a nightmare for careless users. People getting their homes trashed by strangers because they mentioned they were having a party and not realising who they were inviting. People getting their characters assassinated (and I’m not talking about characters in books being killed off) because someone they don’t really know decides to take a potshot at them. Children being groomed by unsavoury people wanting to do despicable things to them. So everyone needs to be aware of how to stay safe.
   What rules are there to keep everyone happy?
   Very few as far as I can see. You can request posts be deleted. You can block people you don’t want to associate with. But there is very little check on whether anyone is who they say they are; that what they put on their profile is correct; that any groups that are set up are fair to their followers. After all there are millions of things posted every day and it is impossible for every single one of them to be monitored. I’m sure the people who do monitor it have horrendous stories of the things they have taken down.
   With this in mind everyone should be aware of what they are looking for from Facebook and other media. Keeping in touch with family? Fine. Great way for instant contact with family spread around the world, but don’t forget other people on your friends list can see you posts. It might be better to text direct, Skype or Facetime them. Remember when you post pictures of your children those pictures will be there FOREVER. And despite your security settings they may well end up where you don’t want them seen.
   Sharing general chit-chat? Fine. But keep it general. Don’t give out personal details. Don’t bare your soul to the world, because, surprise, surprise, not everyone in the world is as nice as you think you are (don’t we all think we are wonderful). The world is full of people who are richer than you, poorer than you, more intelligent than you, more stupid than you, etc. etc. And you never know how they are going to react to the things you say. Or the things you do.
   I am sure Facebook benefits a huge number of people who are isolated and lonely. But to be safe, to be happy and secure, it is very important to be careful about what you say and do.

Stay safe and enjoy.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Shadow of Extinction

Now that I have given up trying to do everything for everyone, well, all the writers who were published through Blue Hour, at least, I have finally been able to concentrate on my own writing. I miss working with other people but it was too much and, sadly, the stress was making me ill. Publishing is a lot harder than I thought. The getting the books ready is the easy part, getting people to buy them is the hard part and I have to confess I haven't got the marketing skills required, nor the time to pursue this on the behalf of half a dozen other people. Not to the extent I would like that would do them justice.

So given the freedom to sit down and write for myself I have been busy clearing my head of all the stories that have not had time to emerge. The first is the prequel to my very first published novel, Edge of Extinction. Edge underwent various formats before it finally made it to publication. One had what has become Shadow of Extinction. I have always wanted to tell Kianda's story from birth to death and Shadow deals with the first part. Not so sure I want to see him killed off, or how I would write that, but that is for the future if this is a success.

So Shadow of Extinction is the beginning. A baby born and a child growing up in a remote part of the Amazon in the halcyon days before the trauma that arrives in Edge.

Available as an ebook or paperback Here

Saturday, 26 August 2017

The Dragon Who Lost His Hearing

Once upon a time in a land far, far away lived a Dragon. His home, for it was a He, was 
in a cave near the top of a tall mountain. At the base of the mountain, surrounded by lush 
green fields and a mighty forest was a village of gentle country folk. They tended the land, 
ploughing the fields, growing wheat and raising sheep for their wool and meat, and cattle 
for milk to turn into cheese and butter.

All was peace and tranquillity. The dragon kept watch over the village ensuring no wild 
beasts or robbers harmed them. If ever danger threatened all the villagers had to do was 
call out:

‘Dragon, oh Dragon, please come and protect us’ and the Dragon would rouse from his 
slumbers, for he spent a great deal of time sleeping, and come roaring down the 
mountainside, scorching the earth before him with his fiery breath, chasing away any 
robbers and gobbling up any wild beasts.

In payment for this protection the villagers would leave coal and wood for the Dragon 
to keep his fires burning.  That’s all he ever asked for. The robbers had long ago learned 
to keep away from the village. The wolves and the bears kept well within the confines 
of the forest, even when the fields were fall of lambs, tempting the wolves to test their luck.
And so it went on until only the people of the village believed in the dragon for they 
were the only ones to see him. Eventually knowledge became rumour, then legend, in the 
wider world. The wild beasts of the forest didn’t forget, of course, because they saw the 
Dragon when he came to collect the coal and the wood. And every now and then one of 
their number would disappear for the Dragon was partial to a bit of meat.

So it came to pass that one dark night in the middle of winter some robbers crept into 
the village. They stole the silver from the church; money from the bank (no sympathy 
there for no one liked the bank manager); and precious things people had hidden under 
their mattresses. The people gathered together, trembling in fear as the robbers pillaged 
the entire village.

‘Dragon, oh, Dragon, please come and protect us,’ they cried.

To no avail. The Dragon did not come. The robbers laughed at their foolishness and 
left feeling pleased with a good night’s work.

The next day the mayor called a meeting of all the villagers in the inn, The Fiery Dragon.

‘The Dragon has deserted us,’ he declared. ‘Obviously the offerings we usually give him 
are not enough.’

‘What should we give instead?’ everyone asked.

‘I think he wants a proper sacrifice,’ someone said. ‘We must give him a young maiden. 
That’s the usual price, isn’t it?’

There was much nodding of heads and mutterings of dissent. The people who had sons 
thought this was a reasonable bequest. Those who had daughters were not so happy. 
But it was finally agreed. A lottery was held and a beautiful young maid was chosen as 
a sacrifice to the Dragon.

The day came and the girl, her name was Gilda by the way, was tied to a stake where 
the people usually left the coal and wood for the dragon. No one stayed to watch what 
happened next. No one wanted to see poor Gilda gobbled up by the Dragon.

What happened next was this.

Gilda was tied to the stake, trying very hard not to cry. Crying made her eyes red and 
she wanted to look pretty for the Dragon, maybe then he would not eat her.
The Dragon flew down from his cave and landed a few feet away from the stake, 
looking for the piles of coal and wood that should have been there. He didn’t seem to 
notice that Gilda was tied to a stake and with a lumbering gait he wandered closer to her.

‘Where is my food?’ he asked, for that’s what the coal and wood were to him.

‘I am your payment this year,’ Gilda said.

‘What, speak up, don’t mumble so.’

‘I said I am your payment this year,’ Gilda said raising her voice.

‘What? Why? What good is one little girl? Tasty maybe, but no more than … than a 
single lamb or bear cub. I would need a whole flock to keep me going.’

‘The villagers thought you wanted a blood sacrifice,’ Gilda told him, making sure her 
voice was loud and clear. The Dragon shook his head. A small ruby popped out of his 
ear and lay in the grass. He did not seem to notice.

‘Why would they think that?’ he asked.

‘The other night we were robbed. We called to you but you did not come. The village 
elders thought you were angry with us.’

The Dragon shook his head again. A diamond popped out of his other ear.
‘Why would I be angry with you? You give me coal and wood to keep my belly nice 
and warm. Those are far more useful than skinny little girls with no flesh on their bones. 
Or even fat ones, for that matter.’

‘Then why didn’t you come when we called. I know it’s been a while, but we thought 
that agreement still stood.’

The Dragon shook his head, quite emphatically this time. A whole shower of tiny 
gems filled the air.

‘You didn’t call. I would have come. I’m programmed to wake to the words. What 
did they say?’

Gilda looked down at the scattered gems that twinkled in the grass. The Dragon took 
no notice of them. A thought occurred to her. Keeping her head down she whispered:

‘Dragon, oh, Dragon, please come and protect us.’

‘What!’ roared the Dragon. ‘Speak up girl, tell me what they said.’

Gilda looked up at the Dragon who towered above her. He lowered his head to just 
a few feet from her. She could smell the strange Dragon-breath of burning coal and wood.

‘Dear Dragon, don’t be cross when I say this, but I think you are a little bit deaf.’ 

The Dragon frowned, if Dragon’s could frown. ‘I don’t think it’s permanent or anything 
to do with how old you are. I think your ears need cleaning out. Every time you shake 
your head things fall out of your ears. Look at the ground.’

The Dragon turned his head and looked at the ground.

‘Well, I’ll be blowed,’ he said. ‘I sleep on my pile of treasure. Could be some has got 
in my ears. What can we do?’

‘Release me and I’ll look,’ Gilda said.

The Dragon couldn’t untie the rope that held Gilda to the stake, but he took the stake in 
his strong jaws and pulled it out of the ground, gobbling it down with a few snaps of his 
mighty jaws. Gilda climbed up onto the Dragon’s back and along his scaly neck until she 
reached his left ear. Dragon ears aren’t like other ears, they are just a hole with nothing 
around them. Gilda gently pulled the skin on either side of the hole apart and peered in. 
Indeed it was packed with tiny gems.

‘Let me get some tongs and I’ll clear them out. Wait here.’

The Dragon stretched out on the grass and waited. Gilda returned with her father who 
had brought a ladder with him and a big basket. Gilda climbed the ladder and with the 
tongs she carefully plucked the gems from each ear, dropping the offending gems into 
the basket. By the time she had finished there were enough gems to make a crown!

‘Now can you hear me?’ she asked in the softest of tones.

‘You don’t have to shout, I’m not deaf!’ the Dragon replied.

Gilda showed him the basket of gems and offered it to him.

‘These are rightly yours,’ she said.

‘No, they are yours now,’ the Dragon said. ‘Payment for restoring my hearing.’

The village rejoiced that night. They gave the Dragon all the coal and wood he could 
eat. The ladies of the sewing circle decided they would make him a giant blanket to 
cover his treasure so that never again would the small gems get into his ears while he 
slept and make him deaf.    

All was well again and they all lived happily ever after.  

The End.

Copyright©Kristen Stone 2017

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

The Island of Hope

He paddled the small boat in the darkness, following the star he had been told would lead 
him to the island. The island of his salvation. The island of dreams. The island where the 
streets were paved with gold. The island where all you ever need is there for you. It 
had been a long journey but it was almost over.

Paddling in the dark kept the dreams away. He didn’t like to sleep these days. Sleep 
brought reminders of the nightmare he had lived through. The war that had raged in 
his country, a war he did not understand. The bombing and the gunfire. The men who 
charged into his shelled home who raped and killed his mother and sister. They had 
not seen him buried under the rubble of the house, but he had seen them. He wished 
he hadn’t. He wished the falling wall had knocked him unconscious. No. he wished 
the falling wall had killed him.

Amazingly he had not been hurt but he was now alone. The menfolk of his wider 
family had either been killed or conscripted into fighting for the war whether they 
wanted to or not. It was mere luck that he had avoided this for they took everyone, 
even boys younger than him. All the women had fled or had suffered the same fate 
as his mother and sister. He did not know where to go for safety.

He wandered the ravaged city for days, scavenging food from bombed out houses, 
until time and the heat had turned all the food bad. He joined a line of people with 
all their possessions in packs on their head heading for what they thought would 
be shelter and safety. A refugee camp, although he didn’t know what that meant.

At the camp he told his story to strange people who spoke a different tongue 
which he didn’t understand. They filled in forms and gave him a label then sent 
him to join other boys who had arrived on their own, all lost, all without family, 
without hope.

It was here that he first heard about the island. It sounded like a myth, a fairy story 
you told children. But people spoke of it as being real. It sounded like a good place. 
A place without war. A place of prosperity, where you could get food every day. 
And work. He wasn’t afraid of work. He had frequently helped his father in the 
shop, had risen early to go to the warehouse to collect what goods they needed 
before the shop opened. He was not stupid. He could do his sums. He could read 
his own language.

Some of the older boys and young men who had escaped the war began to talk 
about going to the island. They didn’t really know where it was or how to get 
there but it seemed like a good idea. Better than sitting around in the camp all 
day. They let him join them. All they knew was it was towards the setting sun 
and so they set off in that direction. Some were lost in skirmishes they encountered, 
the war ever present. Some were lost to the heat of the desert as they crossed the 
wasteland. Some simply gave up, turned back or went to join the fighting for
whatever side would have them. By the time they reached the coast there were 
only three of them left.

The island was in the sea. It would be, one of the three explained, that’s what an 
island is. They found a small boat, a rowing boat, but as none of them had ever 
seen a boat before, they paddled it facing the direction they wanted instead of 
rowing it. They paddled for three days before the storm came and two were taken 
by the sea. Now he was on his own, unsure of where he was, unsure of where 
the island was, exhausted but afraid to sleep.

Up ahead something loomed out of the sea, something solid and still. The island. 
Weeping with joy he paddled harder. As dawn lit the sky he was confronted by 
steep cliffs which gave him no landing site so he followed the contour of the 
island until he reached a beach.

He guided the small boat up to the beach and all but fell onto the shore. He had 
been paddling for so long his body had forgotten how to stand, at least that’s 
what it felt like. He crawled up the sand to where the land became firmer. 
Dunes covered in grass. He stood up and walked through the dunes. He could 
see houses in the distance and wandered towards them.

The first people he saw were not friendly. They threw stones at him and shouted 
in a strange tongue he didn’t understand, just like the people at the refugee camp. 
Some big men came and dragged him away. They did give him some food, something
to drink and some clean clothes. But that was all. After that they took him away and 
locked him up in another camp with more strangers.

This must be the wrong island, he decided. There were no streets paved with gold. 
No opportunities. None of the things his former companions had told him about. 
The island he wanted was still a myth.

Copyright©Kristen Stone 2017

Sunday, 13 August 2017


Imagination,  we all have it. If you tell someone you are a writer, they will probably say 'I 
couldn't do that I have no imagination.' They have, they just don't know how to use it.

Child home late for  school. 
Imagination - something has happened, they have been kidnapped, never did like 
the look of that person who just moved in down the road.
Reality - dawdled home with friend from class and spent 30 minutes at the end of 
the street talking about nothing and needs to phone her friend as soon as she gets home.

Partner late home from work. 
Imagination - has had an accident on the way home. Or run off with the new receptionist.
Reality - was held up in a meeting with the boss then caught in a traffic jam. 
Phone battery ran out so couldn't let you know. 
Want to believe but imagination still playing up.

Unexpected telephone call. 
Imagination - it's Camelot telling me I've won the Euromillions roll over lottery!
Reality - Have you checked if you are eligible for a PPI  refund or 
Have you recently beeninvolved in an accident that wasn't your fault? 
To be honest you have to buy a lottery ticket before you can win!

Answer phone message from Doctor. 
Imagination - oh my God I'm dying, that blood test showed I have any and all 
fatal diseases known to mankind.
Reality - blood tests were fine. No action required.

Knock on the door. 
Imagination - Long lost relative calling to share an expected inheritance.
Reality - Have you found God? Didn't know he was missing, close door quickly.

Everyday we are faced with such situations. Doesn't everyone immediately have 
their imagination spring into action or do the non-Writers of the world walk around 
with completely empty heads? 

Don't answer that! 

Copyright©Kristen Stone 2017

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Only In America

I have recently joined a group of writers in my local town. It's a very informal bunch of random people who like to put things down on paper for no particular reason. I'm not expecting to find any great knowledge there, I'm possibly the second most experienced writer there, but I do feel the need for some social interaction with real, not virtual, people. I'm not saying my Facebook friends aren't wonderful, they are, but I'm getting too isolated in the virtual world.

The thing about this group is they meet every week, not monthly, and they meet during the day. That maybe says something about the members, no one has to be at work, but what does that matter? The weekly thing is great because you have to get on with the task in hand instead of putting it off until, oh my god, it's the meeting tomorrow. Not that it is compulsory to do anything, neither is it compulsory to attend, but the challenge is there if you want to take it up. Every week a topic is chosen and we go away and think about it.

I have decided to share what I have done for this group with a wider audience, ie my blogging readers, if I have any, still.

This was my first offering on the subject of Only In America.

I know a lot of fellow indie authors from America through Facebook,  so I am aware, maybe 
more than most, of what is happening over there. A good friend has also travelled extensively
to many parts of the States and has given me extensive insight into the varying levels of
society there. The contrasts in that conglomeration are enough to make the sane mind boggle.
It must be remembered that America is not one country. It is a collection of separate states
that have their own laws, their own education systems to name just a couple of things.
So maybe it is not so surprising that only in America you can find the following contrasts.
Although it is some time ago now, I also visited in 1995 when my husband was secondment
with his job.

Only in America can you find some of the world's top scientists, doctors, engineers, 
innovative technology pioneers and yet have the most backward and ignorant people in
the western world. People who believe and promote the idea that dinosaur bones were
planted by God to test a person's faith.

Only in America will you find a space program with scientists who want to go to Mars 
alongside people who claim the moon landings were fake, global warming is a conspiracy
and burning fossil fuels is fine.

Only in America do people wear wristbands telling bystanders not to call an ambulance 
if they are found unconscious because they cannot afford the costs involved in using an
ambulance, while at the same time American doctors lead the way in innovative treatments,
surgeries and therapies.

Only in America are corporations running roughshod over the health and safety of the 
citizens of said country...well maybe the same can be said in some less desirable parts 
of the world,  but America is quickly becoming one of those less desirable places instead
of the leader of the world to be admired.

The world often views America through the eyes of the TV shows it produces, but real 
life varies from state to state, town to town. In many places it is lagging behind much
of the Western world in terms of infrastructure,  technology and knowledge. The
level of general ignorance amongst even those in power is staggering. I read a cringe
making post from an Air America service desk worker at Washington airport not so
long ago quoting questions that had been posed by Senators. I can't remember them
all but one that stands out in my memory was one complaint from someone who 
doesn't like flying because they couldn't get a train to Hawaii.

When you hear these things it is no wonder that in America you can have someone
like Donald Trump elected as President. Sad, very sad. But the saddest thing seems
to me that our own government seems to admire the American health system and
would love to privatise our own. Let's hope we don't start saying 'only in the uk'!

No offence meant to any sensible Americans who may read this!

Copyright©Kristen Stone 2017

Saturday, 15 July 2017

What Have I Been Up To?

Well, since my last post I have changed my way of life a little. After a spell of bad health which was eventually put down to stress, probably, no one really knows the cause, I have taken a step back and stopped trying to publish other authors and am just concentrating on my own work. This has not been hugely difficult as most of my other authors haven't written much recently! Sorry for the jibe, folks, but it's true. I do wish all my fellow writers all the best in their very complicated lives and hope they manage to achieve what they want. I do care for you all and wish we could have flown to the stars and back.

I have been writing, but have still failed to find my true place in the world. If The World Hadn't Changed was a project I had to get out of my system but has not really struck a chord with readers...yet. You never know, it may one day.

So I'm back to writing about people and their lives, which seems to be my most popular genre. Human Interest, someone called it. This one is about someone who goes blind and the relationship he builds with a young woman who comes to help him. Haven't decided on a title yet.

I'm also working on a prequel to Edge of Extinction, putting down ideas that I had when I first developed the book. I thought jumping straight into the action would make Edge more exciting, but have always had a desire to tell Kianda's whole story.

And there is a prequel lurking to The Penhaligan File, too. Again, not far from completion. My aim is to get these finished and then publish them a few months apart. I spent so much time editing for other people that my own work has fallen way behind. I enjoy looking at what other people have written. I do not regret one minute I have spent doing it, but it has been at the cost of my own work. So I think my editing services will be disappearing from wherever I advertise them.

And, of course, my blogs have been few and far between in recent months. Non-existent even. I will try to remedy that, but it's a bit like being told to write an essay for homework at school. Write a story on a set theme and pages would flow. Write an essay and all I could manage was half a page!  But we will see. Onwards and upwards as they say. I'll try to get back soon!