Merry Kindlemas!

Harlequin/Mills&Boon rock the freebies on Kindle

Hey folks! ūüôā

If you’re looking forward to getting a new eReader or tablet this Christmas, either as a gift or when out shopping for yourself, I thought I’d share what it’s possible to get free from Amazon Kindle – not just in the occasional promotions, but as regular items.

Like many tablet-owners, even though my very basic Wi-Fi Android colour touchscreen was a steal at only ¬£44.99, I have¬†the Kindle app installed, and I do browse the store for free books. Buying a Kindle, after all, is about spending a hefty chunk of cash, on what is essentially an empty bookshelf that you then have to buy books for. So I’m not going to cough up print list prices when I can wait a few months and buy those print editions for a penny, just¬†the same as¬†usual… ūüėČ

Those of you who know me as a reader/writer will know I have a soft-spot for romance fiction (even though I generally write about hit-men, zombies and psychos myself), especially Mills&Boon. What I’ve recently discovered is that you can get a great many of the books in their recent back catalogue, completely free on Kindle.

This is a fantastic idea for M&B books. Especially for readers like me, since my local supermarket no longer stock them.

Being category romance, set up for subscription readers, their turnover of new books is possibly the largest of any publisher. Keeping them available in the Kindle store as free books is no loss on the company’s part.¬†It may round up many new readers,¬†plus supply fans of their current authors with access to a hot and professionally-released backlist.

The best way to find these freebies is to type one of these titles in, or a favourite author name, and look at the ‘Customers also bought…’ list on the product page.

It’s worth noting that although the books I’ve included here are the usual novel-length M&B books, which you can currently find free in the Kindle store, you’ll also find Harlequin/M&B short stories and novellas, in both paid and¬†free sections. A useful guideline is that anything under 200 KB file size is¬†a shade short for a novel – some may say ‘short story’ or ‘novella’, while others are given away by customer comments, who perhaps didn’t realise the book wasn’t the expected full-length read.

If you’re new to Kindle books this Christmas, it’s worth looking at the file size to figure out if it’s your kind of read length¬†– for example, some may be as short as 90 KB, while my own special extended ebook of¬†Death & The City: Heavy Duty Edition, is a whopping 1277+ KB. Some ebooks have a ‘print length’ in the details to give you an idea, while others show from the ‘Look Inside’ 5% preview feature how short they are. (My Look Inside of the¬†Death & The City¬†leviathan is four and a half chapters!) I have seen previews of stories so short that the preview was only the title and copyright pages –¬†invest a bit of time¬†learning your way around.

Other books I’ve recently downloaded as free, include A Little Bit Of Everything For Dummies by the reknowned ‘For Dummies’ collection, and Alice In Wonderland. You’ll find every classic you could possibly want for free on Kindle, from Jane Austen to Bram Stoker.

You’ll find promotional offers on ebooks as well, in short freebie slots, so you’ll find¬†different books in the Top 100 Free every¬†week – so worth checking back in for surprise treats. These short slots¬†can be¬†anything from 24 hours to 5 days, depending on the author or publisher’s schedule.

You don’t need any special Amazon membership to ‘purchase’ (download) books listed as free to buy. If you want to borrow books from Amazon, the current scheme is for Amazon Prime membership US customers, where¬†Kindle readers can borrow one title per month. I imagine if I was there, I’d be looking at the NYT bestsellers, listed at that controversial print price for my library loan borrowings ūüėČ

Death & The City: Book One

On that note, you’ll be able to download Death & The City: Book One and Death & The City: Book Two by yours truly (check to see whose blog you’re reading, that’s a clue), both free from Amazon Kindle on the following dates:

25th and 26th December 2011 (48-hour free promotion, PST)

1st and 2nd January 2012 (48-hour free promotion, PST)

Death & The City: Book Two

Lara Leatherstone ‚Äď not her real name, she got it from an internet Porn Star Name Generator‚Ķ
‚ĶAnd Connor Reeves, also not his real name, as it turns out ‚Äď how he came by his, is less clear‚Ķ
Both are obliged to work their way through the To Do List of ‚ÄėHollywood Hit-Men‚Äô ‚Äď a breed mostly preoccupied with gold chains, impressing barmaids, and shady contracts ‚Äď erasing these unwanted pests with the minimum of paperwork. Or pay.

Both books will be completely free in both promotions scheduled. No catch, just Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from me!

And enjoy those Harlequin/M&B freebies – let me know how many more you come across!

ūüôā xxx

So, I expect you’re all wondering how that DIET is going?

ūüôā

Been abandoned? Been swept quietly under the rug?

Nope! ūüôā

I’m happy to say that so far, I am winning against the Evil Pasta (same calories as sugar!! Boooo!)

Since the summer I’ve lost the weight I wanted to lose, and a bit more. My only secret, I guess, is just counting calories and watching portion sizes of starchy carbs. I wouldn’t eat 500g of sugar all in one go as a meal, so it makes sense not to eat the same weight in uncooked pasta, which has virtually the same calorie-count. If I cook a portion of pasta for myself, I’ll weigh out 75g dry before cooking, have a small dollop of tomato sauce and mix in some tuna, basil leaf and a few chopped olives. Jacket potatoes or sweet potatoes are good too – or a thin-based veggie pizza. Also I make fritattas – like a Spanish omelette – just two eggs¬†for protein content cooked with onion, peppers and mushrooms, occasionally sliced potato or a small handful of cooked pasta to bulk out. Very filling.

I do still eat otherwise¬†– I’ll have one day off dieting every few days, but find that I’m not that hungry or craving anything anyway, now I don’t have to haul extra weight around. And diet shake mixes (I use Tesco’s own brand) are more digestible and effective for me, when¬†mixed with soya milk¬†instead of¬†cow’s milk. It raises the protein content of the drink, at the loss of carbohydrate content. I have my shakes for breakfast, and sometimes before bed if I’m hungry then. Never go to the supermarket on an empty stomach now¬†– bad for the wallet as well as the scales…

Latest thing I changed was switching from regular tea to Roobois (Redbush) to cut down on caffeine. Now I’ll have a coffee once or twice a day for caffeine, instead of caffeine in pretty much every drink.

Still hula-hooping for exercise and for fun. Was outdoors the other day hooping for an hour in a scarf and mittens ūüôā Maybe not in the hailstones that we had earlier though…

So, next thing I’ve got to look forward to is Christmas! And I am going to eat! It’s not a big deal really, only a day or two – same as if I was taking a day off my diet to get a Chinese takeaway, or make any other roast dinner. It won’t be any different from when I made Thanksgiving dinner for DS-10 last month to teach her a bit of an¬†American history lesson.

It’s weird, the main feeling I get from losing a bit of weight when I need to, is re-gaining a sense of self-control again. Like I don’t really notice it slipping when I’m depressed, just that I know I’m comfort-eating – and when I get that more positive feeling of self-control returning, I know I’m not depressed any more. Mood-wise¬†this year¬†hasn’t been great up until recently, gaining new scars and waiting for more surgery. So besides always hoping that the next eye repair will be the last – anything else that I can do to improve on my inner self-image in the meantime is a bonus.

Now, bring on dinner! I’m ready for ya ūüôā

All Books Great and Small ~ Book Events & Promotions!

Click on the photo for my author interview by Hannah Warren!

It’s been very exciting in the past month!

I’ve attended three book events on all levels – the publishing house London hotel¬†soiree, penthouse Royal suite, small invited crowd, free signed books for every guest¬†(HarperCollins/Avon for Miranda Dickinson’s It Started With A Kiss):

The British movie-star celebrity house-party, decadent gourmet food, books selling as quickly as they could be handed out (Sophie Neville, Funnily Enough Рwhose childhood pets even stole the screen, on shows such as Animal Magic and All Creatures Great And Small):

And the intimate Oxford bookshop in steampunk fancy dress, great company, cups of tea and beer, open to the very friendly browsing public (Eight Cuts presenting both myself and Raven Dane reading from our books):

What I’ve learned from this is that there’s no wrong way to go about it. Whatever your budget, whatever your intentions, and whatever your personality, you can have a book launch or live event to suit you. Whether it’s busking on the street fielding the heckles, or gold-leaf invitation-only, Gucci dark glasses and red carpet compulsory – a book event is memorable. It puts a real person, the author, behind the world of the imagination.

Today I’m having another book promotion event of my own – online. I don’t have a pet celebrity, but I can give away free books for all you Kindle appsters!

Death & The City: Book OneFREE on Amazon Kindle today (Sunday 11th December), you can get both the full-length crime/humour/romance/lit-fic ebooks of Death & The City: Book One, and Death & The City: Book Two. (Click on the cover images for the Amazon Kindle Store links Рpromotion is valid in all Kindle stores worldwide).

If you miss today’s promotion – never fear. There’s another longer free listing, 48hours,¬†for both Kindle ebooks again on Christmas and Boxing Day (time from midnight to 23:59 PST, or starting about 08:00a.m. Christmas Day GMT). So if you get a Kindle for Christmas, you know where to find a pair of good chunky free reads to get you started!

Death & The City: Book TwoAnd if you can’t get yours working on Christmas Day – don’t panic! Both ebooks will be FREE again on New Year’s Day and January 2nd 2012.

And if you miss any of the free promotions, all hope is not lost. You can still buy the 2-in-1 version (plus bonus feature screenplay) DEATH & THE CITY: HEAVY DUTY EDITION for only 0.86p/0.99c.

You can read the blurbs on my eBooks page above.

I¬†wish I could¬†be there to give you a sample reading in person, so to make up for the loss of laughs and chat, here’s a couple of tasters…

DEATH & THE CITY: BOOK ONE

…I slide the car sideways into a parking space on the snow and get out, pulling the Skellington hood over my head and face, and lock the car, catching my reflection in the car window. I look determined and businesslike and efficient through the eyeholes, like I know too well what I’m doing, sulky and resentful or not. I always surprise myself that I don’t look desperate or anxious. Why don’t I look scared of people, of what I’m about to confront? Maybe because I’m wise to the fact that the scariest things are inside my own head. I look like someone who has read a hundred psychology books and understood them all, and turned my own mind inside out applying all of the rules and finding the answers. I look like I know what I’m thinking and why. I look like I gave the laws of nature a fair chance, analysed all of the options and possibilities, and I’m just here to iron out a small kink in it, change a light bulb or battery to set the order of the Universe back to rights, replace a fuse. Not so much as even rewire a plug or do any painting. Something so minor that anyone with the right knowledge could have done it. Nothing to get dressed up for or flash any special identification, or make a big song and dance about. Nothing to advertise on the side of a Transit van, or open a shop for, or launch a website to tout for business on. I look like I’m just stopping off to buy an extension lead that no-one else has thought of on my way to a party, which will turn out to be crucial later on. Even on a bad day, I look like I know what I’m doing and that’s the reason it’s me there doing it. I intimidate myself, seeing that in the mirror every day. I think I’m the person who expects more of myself than everyone else expects of me. And that’s the reason I expect to look nervous, because I FEEL nervous, on the inside. I just don’t understand why it doesn’t show. I guess something in my past taught me to hide emotions.
 
I pass a postman as I head towards the City Centre Council offices, swinging my baseball bat cheerfully. We both grin and say good morning. He thinks I’m walking home late from a party. I think he’s a postman. It’s all good. Just goes to show, there could be a postal services employee tied up, minus his clothes in the back of a van somewhere, and someone was about to get a very special delivery. Anyone can put on a uniform. It’s the conduct of the person wearing it that counts towards its reputation. Postal uniform at 7:30 a.m. indicates postal worker going about their business. Skellington outfit at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday indicates party straggler. We share a humorous thought about the snow falling around us but don’t voice it. It would be too much like stating the obvious. The eye language says it all, the snowflakes melting into his sideburns, the flurries stirred up by the loops of my bat as I swing it. Snow in April. Wicked.
 
I look up at the roof of the Council offices. So, he’s up there now, with the seagulls and pigeons, thinking about his career and how it had led to this. Inflating himself psychologically, whether he was compensating for something deficient elsewhere or not. He’s earned the right to be up there, in his world and his life and in his mind. He’s styled his life and image and personality around it, seamlessly meeting his destiny, waiting patiently 300 feet above the nearest decent toilet – while 300 feet above him he IS the nearest decent toilet for the sky denizens that like to crap on the town from a great height. He’s got through eight cans of Red Akuma just to get through the night, and will be lucky if he doesn’t have a stroke driving home afterwards. Who’d be a hit-man, I ask you?
 
He doesn’t look very comfortable as I step over the parapet. Looks like cramps, possibly a dead leg. A nice massage would sort him out. Shame I’m not in therapist mode. Could have made a good future customer contact. He looks itchy and cold and tired and that snowfall wasn’t on his agenda either. How do you expect a clear shot 300 feet below you through snow? Any normal person would have gone home. He obviously wants this one badly. Either for his ego or his reputation. The cold obviously means higher likelihood of his gun jamming through metal contraction anyway. He’ll have frostbite, cramps, probably break his collarbone if the gun actually fires with the kind of recoil it would give him, and the dead leg would mean he won’t be able to make a nice clean escape. He’ll be a sitting duck, 300 feet above a dead or injured body, with the police looking speculatively upwards while he tries to rub pins and needles out of every limb. If he had a plan before, I’d have loved an insight onto it.
 
I cut the City Council flag down with my penknife, wondering why he hadn’t thought of using it to keep himself dry and a bit warmer, then I walk up behind him. I don’t hesitate, exactly – I just sort of wait a moment. Maybe it’s just me. I always speculate about this. Natural selection. A tiger never attacks from the front. The survivors are those with eyes in the backs of their heads.
 
I look over my shoulder. A seagull is watching me from the parapet, and I put my finger to the lips – or rather teeth – of my Skellington mask. I look back at the sniper lying at my feet. He hasn’t looked up, and I’m disappointed. I’ve yet to meet another doorman with eyes in the back of his head. Some of them even seem to have problems with the ones in the front. I guess it’s me that’s waiting to meet my match, at the end of the day. When one of these guys finally turns around and clocks me standing behind him, I’ll have met my match. Then again, I probably don’t deserve that, doing what I’m doing. Maybe no-one’s coming for me. Maybe I’m alone in the Universe. I’ll get to the end having erased all the undesirables from the List, having made no friends out of it – just done what was expected of me, finished the job and gone home…
 
Lisa the bouncer

DEATH & THE CITY: BOOK TWO

A staff meeting at The Zone prior to opening reveals that after tonight, those of us on loan from The Plaza will be heading back there (to the sound of much groans and moans by those not looking forward to returning to Mgr Diane’s clutches), as enough new door staff have now been recruited for the venue to run on. And also a heads-up about a fire drill Evac at some point tonight, as the Fire Brigade are due to check our new alarm system and evacuation procedures.
 
I notice already that Hurst and Jag Nut are absent, replaced by new recruits, and also Niall Taylor, which gives me a small amount of relief. So it’s pretty much only me, Animal, Cooper and Salem left of the original reinforcements, that I’m on familiar terms with. Cooper is looking kind of deflated, like he can’t wait to leave and get back to his comfortable Plaza, with its dozens of secret links, corners and offices he can hide in. And Salem can’t wait to ditch the neon pink Zone front-door hi-vis, which he says is only suitable for Downtown Willy’s gay comedy club, opposite The Dog Star, where I shot camp hit-man Phil Preston the other day.
 
The new guys, in contrast, look serious and overly-professional, like an Airfix model Army. Probably recruited straight from the membership list of Heath Gardner’s gym and sauna, then vetted by Mgr Stacie’s eye for sun-bed use and good dental work. Hurst would call them shirt-fillers – new licence-holders, no old school experience in any of them. Just the one goofy-looking guy, who is probably the token First-Aider, perhaps from leisure centre pool life-guarding or the Territorial Army. Solange is flirting relentlessly with most of them, while Pascaline ignores everyone, texting on her phone in a corner, or vanishing to the toilets to make calls. Apparently those two girls are staying on here. Solange is happy, with so many Action Man dolls around her to choose from, while Pascaline just looks pissed off. She used to do Downtown Willy’s front doors with Phil Preston. Funny, I haven’t heard anything about who might have been sent to work there, as replacements. Mostly the two managers stand on the front doors of the club, as per their SIA licence-holder status entitlement, so Phil and Pascaline were the eye candy. Whose eye – it’s hard to say.
 
Mgr Stacie looks happy with her own new eye candy, anyway. I imagine it won’t be long before Mgrs Diane and Melanie are sneaking up here, with their camera phones, or arranging V.I.P. staff nights out to The Zone in order to Facebuddy the new door supervisor talent. Mind you, most of the Zone’s barmaids also look like supermodels, so it’ll be a full claws-out competition if they set their sights on anyone working here. Would be a relief to the likes of Ryan, Joel and Harry though, to get a bit of breathing space for themselves. Doorman Harry’s actually married, although you wouldn’t think so to look at him, and by the way he behaves. Apparently his wife’s a geriatric nurse who likes to pole-dance when she’s drunk. My psychosis has a problem with trying to picture this, having never met her face-to-face. I don’t know if it means she’s a pole-dancing retired elderly nurse herself – or a nurse who treats older persons, and I don’t like to ask. Either would be believable – Harry has celebrity crushes on everyone from Shakira and the Olsen twins to Tina Turner, Ruby Wax and Joan Rivers. His only regret in life is he’s too young ever to have met Mae West. Bit of a strange lad at times.
 
I think I’ve missed his greetings of announcing he wants to punch someone, over the last week. It’s all a bit uptight and image-conscious here in The Zone.
 
Cooper hangs around the end of the bar, chatting idly with me as the shift starts on my bar island position, and I have a weird sense of him looking for his own reality check, which I can’t help noticing I don’t have a copy of on me tonight. He seems a bit too random, a bit too escapist in mood, like someone’s been trying to pin him down of late. I can imagine who that might be. He seems to want to talk work, and general doorman gossip, in a way I realise makes him feel more secure in his senior door role. Even though he’s several years younger than me and I’ve been doing the job twice as long as him, I’m always polite enough not to point this out. Not to his face.
 
“Have the others gone back to The Plaza already?” I ask instead, encouraging him with my lack of inside knowledge on current migratory door staff events.
 
“Hurst and Niall are back there tonight, Jag Nut went to his uncle’s funeral today, so he’s on annual leave,” Cooper divulges. He accepts a glass of water from one of the bar staff, and looks at the swirling bubbles from the tap suspiciously, putting it down on the bar and watching to see if they settle.
 
“What happened to his uncle?” I ask. “I heard it was something sudden.”
 
“Old landmine. He was clearing No-Man’s-Land ex-security checkpoints with his team abroad. Tripped a twenty-year-old roadside bomb. Unlucky sod. Puts me off the thought of going to war for real.” Cooper shakes his head as a thin cloudy layer of scum gradually forms on the surface of his glass of water. “What the Hell is that stuff in the water, are we really drinking this shit?”
 
“Might be residue from the glass washer tablets,” I point out.
 
“Don’t think I want to drink that either, the last thing my intestines need is a diamond-like sparkle to them,” Cooper remarks, and feels in his pockets around his phone and keys for change. “Another crappy tight-wad venue that won’t give its staff free drinks. Do you want a can of pop? It’s all right, I’ll sort you out.”
 
I accept a cola and we both snap our tins open in front of a passing Mgr Stacie’s cold nod of disapproval. Cooper glugs half of his in one gulp in order to summon a deliberately mutinous burp.
 
“Lara,” he teases, blaming me humorously. “Gross.”
 
I know it’s immature, but I grin anyway. The situation needs lightening up generally.
 
“Doesn’t matter, we’re out of here for good at the end of tonight,” he reminds me. “Might as well do what we like. Have a wander. It’s this bunch of stuffed shirts who have to impress the managers now, not us. I’m off to see if there’s anything not nailed down that would look good in the boot of my car.”
 
He grins at me and saunters off. This time I know he’s joking. Everything here is nailed down.

 

Happy reading!

ūüôā xxx

 

The Facebook Pub Crawl

Best pub-crawl on record ūüôā (Pics by Jason Kay for the OC)

In the old days, a pub crawl was a handful of close friends trying to make it across the village to the last lock-in.

Nowadays, it’s a combination of fashion show, Mardi Gras, and most of all, social networking. Tagging everyone in photographs within seconds of taking them, and uploading onto Facebook.

Is nobody actually enjoying themselves anymore without the endless posing, stalking, and trying to be your own paparazzo?

I remember when taking photographs in the pub was strange. Only on Christmas and birthdays (in defence, the photographs above were for a birthday). And occasionally, for a police crime scene. (Ahem…)

Nowadays, most people are photographed most of the time.

No wonder women daren’t leave the house without dressing like it’s Oscars night. Everywhere is now a photo location. The bar, the toilets, the car-park…

I have a feeling I was among those whose started that, with my Screen Kiss Scrapbook in 2003. Just getting my prints on a CD from the developers and adding them to my own webspace, so my university friends could email the link to friends and family back in the USA, China and wherever else, to share photos and a joke commentary of their night out.

And they said I took ‘too many’ photos. Nobody normal brought a camera on a night out back then. And they were 35mm disposable flash cameras, too. That was all you had the choice of. Less than ten years ago.

Strange how things catch on, isn’t it?

ūüėČ