Photo app...

My new photo app promised I'd look a lot more handsomer! The results are incredible!

Creepy Baby...

I've been called a creepy baby by a child in his third language. I have just looked up "creepy baby". I have never been so offended in my life.
And here's the same child making the claim that he has just killed Batman.

Russia acknowledges no military solution inside of Syria

By Special Correspondent Spiderbot Aggregator

On the plains north of Damascus, Russian war planes target armaments dumps but kill many civilians. The start of Russia's bombing campaign - according to video footage -found it quite closely aligns with the bombing of domestic accommodations, hospitals and schools through special indiscriminate "cluster bomb" technology - it is claimed that 35 civilians were killed yesterday.

The crisis has a lot of complicating factors that don't de-conflict inside the villages that have been targeted by or Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipis cing elit.

Ecigarettes Rebel Alliance military of people the center of the world economic Tooley Karen supermarkets in real estate every square meter Coutts what makes a property the hardest property you want to prosper in property with us Darn of recently been some very high profile consumer products good software have bugs and issues what is the technology businesses to respond to this effectively customer relationship management software is often used to implement business policy Dar-es-Salaam protection flight to St place full employment lawyers hopefully will get things right if I am a small business person this isn't a problem this a big problem many of the large businesses already do this I have to be careful small and medium businesses have to be careful you could have very small retailer who is Talent buy this. Hey boss! Buy your exercise ball here!

Pair of gulls...

A pair of gulls (in the photo to the upper left, behind the tree on the green) was spotted off the beach today hassling the locals. These two big gulls ought to be approached with Caution, the hot n spicy maize-based treats that you can get from the local newsagent's to be used as a distraction. You can find out more about the excesses of seagull behaviour here.

10 Questions with Thriller Writer Charles Peterson Sheppard

Charles Peterson Sheppard is a California-based author of action thriller The Specialist: The Costa Rica Job. A glance at his Twitter profile reveals that he's clearly very supportive of the network of independent authors on social media. 

Charles was raised in New York State and comes from a large family. His brother Phillip was a participant on the reality show, Survivor, which in part inspired Charles to write the novel, an adventure-fueled, high-octane actioner set in the private security services industry (where there are at least a few good guys, one of them being his novel's narrator). 

Charles answered ten questions below.

Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? What informs your writing? And how long have you been writing?

Well, I grew up in a very small town in upstate New York, the eleventh of twelve children. I am a country boy at heart. I have lived in Southern California for all my adult life. I was a school teacher for twelve years, a prison counselor for seven years and a field parole agent for twelve years, so I have a good feel about the thinking and motivations of criminals, and how they conduct their business. I also have a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and a Master’s Degree in Education. I’m retired and now I am preparing to begin my doctorate studies in Education, so I guess I have had a pretty full career and a unique educational background. I do not consider myself primarily a ‘writer’ actually, but more a reader, a researcher and an intellectual scholar type. At the same time, over the years I have written lots of poetry, news articles, job related reports, and the novel The Specialist.

Do people ever call you Chuck? Or Charlie? Have you got any nicknames?

That’s an interesting question to me. My family and my friends all call me “Pete” which is my nickname. Everyone else calls me Charles. I think “Charles’ is the outer formal me and ‘Pete’ is the inner real me, if that makes sense.

Do you write every day? Tell me briefly what your process is, and what inspired you to write The Specialist, and what inspires you more generally.

I write every day, but some days more than others. My process is deliberate and very business like, in that I tend to write shorter passages, process them, then move on. Thus, I seldom write long, free form thoughts. It is hard for me just to ‘flow,’ because
Spanish version of The Specialist
if it doesn’t sound right in my head, it is hard for me to move on until it does. I guess I edit as I write, and so the writing (I am told) is rather precise, but also easy to follow. I think I do well describing things and writing actions sequences, and that the dialogue simulates speech minimally. Generally speaking, I write to inform. My favorite writer is Ernest Hemingway: Basically, his style is simple, direct, and unadorned, perhaps even journalistic. That is how I try to write.

The book seems well-researched. How long did it take to write The Specialist: The Costa Rica Job?

Many people tell that it reads that way. I research everything. I like the challenge of having a factual feel but writing it in such a way that it flows into the narrative and the dialogue. I wrote the first half of the novel in serial form over six months, presented in a blog. I wrote the second half in about a month of straight writing. Now when I read it, I can sense the two halves as being very different in flow.

There are elements of detective fiction here, with the blonde secretary, and the femme fatale seeking assistance. How conscious were you of that in the course of writing the novel? Did you consciously play within certain rules with which the reader would be familiar?

Yes very much so. The first half is very much influenced by detective fiction. The voice of the character is like the old radio detective dramas, I think. All the elements are there, as you note. Probably the biggest influence for me was the old TV dramas like Mannix and Barnaby Jones. Those guys had the trusted secretary. The femme fatale is pretty much stock detective fiction, I suppose. I also tried to incorporate the jaded observations that most genre detectives have. I guess you could say I knew what buttons to push, and did so deliberately.

Of the female characters (including Charity and Mimi) - who is your favorite in the book?

Definitely Charity. Charity Fields was based upon an administrative assistant I knew working field parole. The character is an example of one who began as merely a prop but who “stepped out’ of the cardboard and became more real as the writing went on. I didn’t want the hero to be a superman, and Charity became the means to comment on his foibles, and then a means to provide a heroic female heroine, an unexpected equal to The Specialist (rather like the TV secretary who has a particular episode dedicated to her, if you know what I mean). I wanted to hint at a semi-romantic interest as well. I see her and the Specialist as a team. I also like the character Chava Cresca, and she is based on my best friend ever; very smart, beautiful and capable but also very mysterious and secretive.

The hero Phillip cites some very rough previous experience in the same region, almost as if the backstory is part of an earlier novel. Is there an earlier novel? Even a prequel, in the pipeline? 

There is no prequel, but I think it would definitely work. I actually want to write a sequel that deals with the characters Ze’ev Pinsky and Charity Fields, which I think would be very interesting! Another possibility is to write a whole new Specialist character altogether.

I note you chose first-person voice. Men like to think they could be Bond, or put on a wife-beater and wander around a skyscraper bumping off terrorists. Is there a hope that your readers can easily look to your hero Phillip and think "That could be me" (an element of wish-fulfillment-identification with the hero)?

Yes, very much so. The thing is, I wanted the main character to be capable, but also average in a way. I did not want him to be too Bond-like. It’s interesting, because there is a screenplay based on the book, and the screenwriter did just the opposite (made the Specialist much more capable and pushed more decisive action through him). It’s an obvious difference that maximizes his strengths and focalizes his abilities, which follows the typical “action hero” pattern.  

What is The Specialist most like, in terms of other novels? And who is he like in terms of heroes?

The Specialist is most like a plethora of pulp detective fiction novels, the tough guy who is reluctantly drawn into more than he bargained for. As a hero, I view him mostly as a Mannix type. It follows the pattern of the show, in that oftentimes Mannix would get beat up halfway through the show, then ultimately prevail. That is basically what happens in the book.

Phillip appears to be a realist and a pragmatist, in the sense that - to cite one example - he is dismissive of the piety of prayer, but he's not averse to using meditative techniques to reduce his exhaustion and maintain his strong frame of mind. Discuss.

The character is a thoroughly fictionalized version of my brother, Phillip Sheppard, who appeared on the Reality show Survivor, and who called himself “The Specialist” as a nickname of sorts. I attempted to “heroize’ the character, to give Survivor fans a sense that this was an actual life experience. The book is really a form of fan fiction, with specific elements designed to pinpoint the character as my brother, and to make him bigger than life for the entertainment value. I also think the character is an amalgamation of all my brothers in one form or another, with a bit of myself in there too, naturally! I definitely aimed to make him a pragmatist, with a Buddhist element, which I think made the character more like my brother and added a layer to the personality that might be further explored in a future work.

You can follow Charles Peterson Sheppard on Twitter and Wattpad and like him on Goodreads. You can like his Facebook page here.

What has JJ done for me lately?

A response to the critics who say that JJ Abrams has taken Star Wars's best bits to make a reboot of the original franchise. Si, si. I agree!

There are many similarities between TFA and Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. From [SPOILER] little droids with important data, and fathers and sons, to big ships swallowing up the Falcon and a weapon of mass destruction, that is what JJ did. And he did it very well. I'd prefer he did that than George spawn a new mess. Lucas has been throwing shapes about the lack of originality. I'm sorry, but have you seen The Phantom Menace? #Formula

Phantom's a mashup of Star Wars and Return of the Jedi, with JarJar and the Gungans replacing Wicket, Logray and Chirpa of the Care Bears of Endor.

JJ's mashup of Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back is - firstly - a stronger choice of template and secondly, a far better movie than the first prequel.

According to some critics, JJ Abrams hasn't yet earned his stripes with the original movies he's made - so there's a touch of ad hominem shtick going on. They say he'll never rise to the heights of Spielberg. But is JJ Abrams an auteur? A creative genius? Is he a visionary? Is he a family-friendly postmodern magpie, an antidote to the NSFW Tarantino? You could argue that he is. And his movies - such as Super 8 - are characterized by nostalgia for an earlier cinema age. Cloverfield was a high-budget Blair Witch type thing that was probably more costly than it should have been.

What was some of the stuff he was responsible for before he was given the Trek and Star Wars franchises?
On TV:
Felicity, Alias, Alcatraz, Person of Interest, Fringe.

The only watercooler series he's arguably had his hands on was Lost, and he didn't stay hands-on for long. The storytelling dynamic of Lost shook up the syntax of TV drama in a very in-yer-face way.
By golly, the multi-arc storytelling, with long gaps of three or five eps between picking up the same plot again, was terrific. What's more, fans were happy to pick up that last thread after a cliffhanger the previous week, which would be all but forgotten till we joined that thread again four episodes later. All very commendable entertainment. That's not even mentioning the in-episode flashback etc concepts, the creative bluff of the first flash-forward, and much else. They sorta dropped the ball at the end of Lost, and what's more, signing up for a crashed airplane on a tropical island does not necessarily mean you want to watch time-travel sci-fi with electromagnetism and huge dollops of New Age kook.

But whatever he is, JJ Abrams has at least reasonable form at collaborative film-making, harnessing talent, and apparently directing with a rare generosity for all the participants in his projects. Whether his work stinks or smells of roses, he tends to get people talking and he generates revenue for the studios. And whether behind or in front of the camera, I imagine people would prefer to work on an Abrams set than on many another director's.

10 Questions with fantasy author JL Clayton

JL Clayton's Chosen Saga comprises A Spark of Magic, A Blaze of Magic and A Ghost of Magic. A planned fourth book and a number of short stories will round out the series. She has a strong - and frequently funny - social media presence on Facebook and Twitter. In keeping with her generosity in supporting colleagues, she recently held an interesting Facebook event for the third book in her series, A Ghost of Magic, book-ending the launch of The Chosen Saga between a number of other authors, who also promoted their work via the live social media event over a number of hours.

First, some biography: Tell us about yourself.

I love my family, my husband Robert and my daughter Shyla: They are my rock. 
I love the color blue: I have ever since I saw my eyes, I don't think that's conceited it's just the truth... I was like five years old, so I'm sure you can't really be considered conceited that young. 
I love to read: Any and all books except nonfiction, but there are always exceptions. 
I love to laugh and make people smile: Laughter is good for the soul, plus I laugh very easily. 
I love to be silly and do random things: All the time, especially around my daughter. 
I love embarrassing people: It’s fun and funny, but I can get embarrassed easily too. 
I love tattoos: I have some, but I wouldn't go crazy. 
I love piercings: I have some; again I wouldn't go too crazy. 
I love life and doing new things: I'm always up for a challenge.
I love to hug and be hugged:
Hugs make me feel good, but it has to be a good one...not a pat on the back. Those I do not love. ☺

1. You're very sweet to your fans and followers. You're one of the few writers on social media who seems to pay-it-forward and give back in a big way in terms of engagement. Does promotion take up a lot of your time? 

JL: It can, that's why I haven't been on Twitter as much, but I love all my fans, friends and followers I've made since becoming an author. 😉

2. Is the Chosen Saga a trilogy? Is Ghost of Magic the last book?

JL: It is not a trilogy, it's a series. There will be 4 full novels and depending on if I am good at it, 3 to 4 short stories in the Chosen Saga series. 

3. Thematically, what word or words would you use to describe A Spark of Magic, A Blaze of Magic and A Ghost of Magic? Keep it short! :-) 

JL: Short and sweet: Dynamic, powerful and sexy.  

4. Do you find the stories are self-contained enough for your readers, with The Chosen Saga? Is there an element of having to weave in backstory from the previous novel? And can they be read as standalone books?

JL: My series is not self-contained, you have to read the first book in-order to understand the next. However, my short stories in the series ( I'm currently working on one now) I believe my readers will be able to read them as a stand alone.  

5. Your heroine Charlie is funny and sarcastic. A typical cynical teen in some respects, but she's got enough insight to know it. How much of you is in her? And what of the other characters? What inspires you to write a character such as Crispin?

JL: I think Charlie is her own person, in my head she has her own life. Yes, I know how that line reads - crazy, but that's how I feel. I love my characters (even though they have a mind of their own, and sometimes I want to kill them 😉) but I put my heart and soul into everything I do, and I just hope you can read it in my novels. Everyone has and needs a little dark in their life: Crispin is the bad guy that I feel needs love...I'll leave it at that. 

6. You've established your protagonist and antagonists in a wonderful way so that there are good guys, and then not-so-bad,
misinformed characters, and then a full-on bad guy. Is this kind of shading important?

JL: I think maybe to some writers it is. To me yes! I love a book that can make you cry, laugh, be afraid and want to kill someone. Haha. That makes for a wonderful book! Shading in the good, kinda bad and down right evil I think makes for an amazing read. 

7. In Star Trek. physicists were complaining that Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle ruled out the possibility of transporters. So the writers started adding in the "Heisenberg compensators" as a piece of technology to obviate the problem. I see you have "leyline transport" in the novel - I want to ask about your world-building, and the science or folklore basis for all that. Talk to me about leylines! How much of your novel is JL, and how much has a grounding in research about myths, ancient belief or science?

JL: Well believe it or not, everything in my book I pretty much made up, except about leylines. I read about leyline jumping in Kim Harrison series, The Hollows. If you haven't read them, you should. I did a little research on that, but that's about it on the researching. 

8. Did your own background inform your choice of mythos and world-building? Are you a werewolf fan? Any Native American connection? Do you study ancient history or paganism? Are you "New Age" at all? Are you in fact a very beautiful hippy? :-) 

JL: Wow that's a lot. Haha. No on my background in mythos and world-building, I contribute that to reading books. 😉 I love werewolves, it would be amazing if I was one. Ha. I have been told by my pawpaw that I have some Native American blood. I do not study ancient history or paganism, everything in my books comes directly from my brilliant mind. Ha. I'm sure watching movies helped. I love New Age, but no I don't believe in it or study magic. Yet, it would be awesome if I could spark up a little magic sometimes. I've never been told I was a beautiful-hippy, maybe I'm beautifully-happy! I love to laugh and smile. 😊

9. Your writing process: Are you a plotter or a pantser? How long does it take to complete a novel?

JL: I'm a plotter! On writing it all depends on what groove I'm in on the length of time it would take me, sometimes I am feeling it and sometimes not so much. 

10. Finally, what are you working on now? 

JL: I am working on one short story: A Darkening of Magic Crispin's story. I'm also working on an adult novel.
JL Clayton is on Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter.

Beautiful professional seeking date

Randy Agnes across the way set off the alarm last night to get the fire service out for the fifth time in two years. Time-wasting Agnes (36) is keen to flirt with the fire officers whenever they come out.

Agnes has already been in three short-term relationships due to the call-outs. A total of €2700 worth of fire damage to her home was the result of the first two emergencies. Since then, thankfully, "Fireman mad" Agnes has chosen to press the alarm button rather than committing acts of arson in her kitchen.

It has not yet been established whether she made any dates this time around. But if you'd like to go on a date with Agnes (who is a qualified solicitor frequently working in the public sector) please get in touch.

Clever animation...

Watch this clever Facebook GIF from reddit user 73_moror. It gives you an indication of how much time you waste on the Internet. It should run automatically:
If you have audio, you might want to turn down the volume because it's NSFW. If it doesn't stream here, click this link for the FUN-tested version.

Do you hear it? It's the sound of me wasting your time. Now get back to work.

My New Year's Resolutions

1. 20 hours anaerobic exercise and 10 hours of cardio per day

3. Limit vodka intake to between meals and during meals

4. 60% less unintentional felching

5. More toilet breaks. (Stop skipping number twos.)  

6. Eat a lot more sweets.

7. Do one thing this year that you haven't done before - create a Recovery or Backup Disk when prompted.

What's on your list?