Père Noël brought daughter Caiti a Kindle 4 for Christmas. She’s every bit as thrilled with it as I knew she would be. I’m a Kindle addict, and she’s right there with me now, after just 36 hours of owning one!

Here’s a photo comparing Caiti’s Kindle 4 (left) with my Kindle 3:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have a gelaskin cover on my Kindle, which explains the different colour schemes. The other obvious differences are that the Kindle 4 is smaller overall (24 mm heightwise and 3 mm widthwise) and doesn’t have a mini keyboard on it. There’s a button to call up an onscreen keyboard which you navigate around using the Kindle’s famous 5-way button. It looks more modern and stylish I think, but I still adore mine! The Kindle 4 is fractionally heavier too by 26 grams. Despite appearances to the contrary, the screen on each Kindle is the same size. I was sure from the photo that the Kindle 4 was bigger but I’ve checked, and they’re identical.

My Kindle 3 was 139 dollars in early 2011. I had to buy it from Amazon.com at the time, since they weren’t available from Amazon.fr then. This meant I had to buy books via Amazon.com, but because I lived abroad, they were always more expensive than for US resident Kindle owners, something which annoyed me intensely. Caiti’s Kindle 4 was 99 euro, and I bought it from Amazon.fr. So Caits has to get her books from that website. I do too, now, since I was encouraged to swap to using Amazon.fr by Amazon.com a few months ago. Again, there is a price differential, but it’s not as great as previously. But it still bugs me that there’s one at all. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, the way round this is to get books from Smashwords as much as possible since these are the same price for everyone, wherever you live.

Onto some technical stuff. The Kindle 4’s battery lasts 2-4 weeks, whereas Kindle 3’s is more robust and can go for up to 2 months. Kindle 3 also wins out in that you have the option of WiFi and WiFi + 3G, whereas Kindle 4 is WiFi only. Kindle 4 has 2 GB of memory, of which 1.25 is available for ebooks, up to around 1,000 ebooks. Kindle 3 has 4 GB and can store up to 3,500 books.

So, my guy, Kindle 3, is probably the superior model technically, but Caiti’s Kindle 4 is neater and better looking. However, we’re each delighted with what we’ve got. Long live Kindles!

 

 

Nasty Nick was delighted. It was Christmas Eve and at last his robot was finished. It was no ordinary robot — it was a robot Santa. Nasty Nick called it the Santabot.

Nasty Nick’s plan was simple. Tonight he would programme the Santabot to follow the real Santa around. But unlike the real Santa, who would leave presents, the Santabot would take them! No-one would ever suspect the Santabot in its Santa disguise!

Evening came. Lots of excited children hung their Christmas stockings up. Nasty Nick chuckled at the thought of how they would find them still empty in the morning.

Jingling sleigh bells announced Santa’s arrival. Nasty Nick flicked the switch on the control panel in his workshop and the Santabot jerked into action. Keeping a safe distance, it called at each house after Santa left and took all the presents he had just left.

“Perfect!” cackled Nasty Nick, rubbing his hands with glee. “Nothing can possibly go wrong!”

But he reckoned without Peter! Try as he could, Peter couldn’t get to sleep. When he heard Santa creep into his room, he shut his eyes tightly and snored. He listened with delight to the rustle of wrapped presents. Santa crept out and Peter peered in wonder at his bulging stocking.

“Wow!” he exclaimed, then “Yikes!” as the bedroom door opened again. He dived back under the covers but decided to peep out this time. He saw what looked like Santa enter very stiffly, march to his Christmas stocking and then suddenly swing round — and take presents out of it! Peter was horrified.

“Hey!” he thought. “What’s going on? Santa shouldn’t be doing that! Something’s up!”

As soon as the Santabot had gone, Peter leapt out of bed and slipped out of the house behind the Santabot. He began to follow but then spotted the real Santa in his sleigh next door.

“Two Santas?” gasped Peter. He looked more closely at the Santabot walking jerkily along in front of him. This Santa didn’t seem very jolly. This Santa didn’t have a sleigh. There was definitely something odd about this Santa.

“I’d better tell the proper Santa at once!” thought Peter. Keeping out of sight of the Santabot, he sneaked up to Santa. Santa was surprised to see him.

“Hello Peter!” boomed Santa. “I’ve just left your presents!”

“I know!” gabbled Peter. “But then the other Santa took them!”

“Other Santa?” echoed Santa.

“Yes, he looks just like you but walks all funny, like a robot,” explained Peter. “He’s following you around and taking the presents back out of the sacks.”

“Goodness gracious! We’ll have to stop that!” cried Santa.

“Yes!  Let’s trap him,” suggested Peter. “Next time you climb out of a chimney, hide behind it. Then when the other Santa comes, I’ll help you grab him!”

“Great idea!” agreed Santa. “Hop on my sleigh and we’ll go to the next rooftop.”

Peter jumped on at once. The sleigh, pulled by Rudolph of course, shot into the air. It was a magical moment for Peter.

“Right!” said Santa when they stopped by the chimney. “Duck behind and wait for me.”

Santa hopped nimbly down the chimney with his sack. He was back up again in no time. He squatted next to Peter.

They waited. then they heard a faint clang … clang … clang as the Santabot walked up the side of the house. Clump … clump … clump, it plodded along the roof. Then creak … squeak , it lifted its left leg all ready to climb down the chimney.

“Now!” roared Santa and he and Peter leapt out and nabbed the Santabot. It kept on trying to get down the chimney so Peter grabbed its beard. To his horror, it came off in his hand, revealing a big red button with STOP on it.

“Press it!” gasped Santa, struggling with the Santabot.

Peter whacked it hard. The Santabot stopped.

“Phew!” panted Santa. “Now, what have we here?” He pulled out his spectacles and inspected the Santabot. He prodded it. He poked it. Then he said: “Well, it’s a mechanical me!”

Back in Nasty Nick’s workshop, the control panel registered that the Santabot had stopped.

“Bother!” grumbled Nasty Nick. “Now I’ve got to go out in the cold and fix it.”

He packed his tools and set off. Meanwhile, Santa and Peter were examining the Santabot.

“We need to reprogram it,” explained Peter who knew a bit about robots. “We must make it take the presents back and then get it to take us to the person that made it!”

“Absolutely!” agreed Santa. “But how?”

Peter didn’t know.

Just then, Peter caught sight of Nasty Nick approaching.

“Look!” he hissed. “Someone’s coming. And he’s carrying a toolbox — I bet he made the Santabot!”

“You’re right!” exclaimed Santa. “Quick, let’s hide again. We’ll grab this fellow too!”

Santa ordered the reindeer out of sight and Peter shoved the Santabot’s beard back into place. Then they dived behind the chimney pot.

They heard Nasty Nick muttering crossly as climbed the drainpipe to the roof. They peeped out and watched him open his toolbox. Then he paused. He looked into the Santabot’s sack.

“I’ll just open a couple of presents before I fix you,” he said to the robot.

“Oh no, you don’t!” bellowed Santa leaping out and grabbing Nasty Nick. “How dare you build a robot me and steal the children’s presents, you miserable wormy thing, you!”

Santa was furious. His face was as red as his coat. Nasty Nick trembled in fright.

“I’m sorry!” he stammered. “I only wanted a few presents. You see, no one ever gives me any!”

“Huh! You wanted all the presents,” retorted Santa. “And no one ever gives you presents because you’re so nasty!”

“I really am sorry!” sobbed Nasty Nick. “I promise not to be nasty any more.”

“Do you really and truly promise?” asked Santa, not so cross now.

“Yes, yes, yes!” nodded Nasty Nick.

“Very well, Not-So-Nasty Nick,” said Santa, letting go of him. “Make this thing of yours take the presents back at once — and then destroy it. I shall pick up the bits on my way home. Now, Peter, do you think you could give me a hand delivering the presents? I’m running late.”

Would Peter mind? Of course not — there was nothing he would rather do! The rest of the night was a whirl. Up and down chimneys Peter raced (Santa taught him how.)

Then at last they were finished. They called at Not-So-Nasty Nick’s. He handed them a box of nuts and bolts and bits and pieces. It was all that was left of the Santabot. Then Not-So-Nasty Nick gave Santa and Peter a present.

Santa smiled. “Thank you, Nick. I hope you will keep your promise to be good. Now, here’s a present for you.” Santa delved into his sack and pulled out a huge orange teddy bear.

Not-So-Nasty Nick’s mouth dropped open.

“Is this for me?” he gasped. “A present? I’ve never had a present before!” He hugged the teddy in delight.

Santa smiled again. Peter yawned.

“Come on, young man!” chuckled Santa. “Time you were back in bed!”

The dawn was just tinting the sky as Peter crept back into bed. He was delighted to see his stocking bulging with presents again. Santa tucked him in, hugged him and then disappeared into the cold winter sky.

“This,” thought Peter sleepily, “has to be the best Christmas ever — especially for Not-So-Nasty-Nick!”

And, not so very far away, Not-So-Nasty-Nick was thinking exactly the same thing!

 

I’m delighted to be hosting my second virtual book tour today.

I’ll begin with my review of Scorpio Rising by Monique Domovitch, which is the book in question. I was feeling poetic when I wrote it, as you’ll see!

 

Scorpio Alex, tough, go-getting,

Paris and New York as the setting,

Add beautiful, abused Brigitte

Who’s always falling on her feet;

Scatter in some scheming dudes

To bring in hate and simmering feuds,

Self-seeking colleagues, greedy men,

But one kind angel, sweet Réjeanne;

Throw in unwanted pregnancies,

Setbacks, opportunities,

Driving ambition, shining talents,

Optimists and malcontents,

Romantic love, straightforward lust,

Not forgetting deceit and trust …

Creative author, dramatic plot –

Scorpio Rising has got the lot!

 

It’s an interesting and intricate novel, well worth a read.

 

Author interview

Here is what the author says about her writing:

“People often ask me what attracted me to the life of a writer, and I have to say it was a natural extension of falling in love…with books, which I have been for as long as I can remember.

I remember my mother taking me to the public library when I was as young as four years old. That was when she introduced me to Madeline, the little schoolgirl. As teenager, I discovered Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames, and then Harlequin books. And then I really fell in love for the first time. I was in England where my friends introduced me to a book by Wilbur Smith.
I think I hadn’t read ten pages of his book–can’t remember the title anymore–when I knew this was it. I could spend the rest of my life in bed with this writer’s books.

Over the next few years, Wilbur Smith’s books made me discover Africa, where I met animals I’d never heard of, and villains the likes of which I hope to never meet. I was swept into his stories of love and passion and greed; stories from which I never wanted to walk away. I devoured book after book of his, until, of course, the inevitable happened. I caught up with every last one of his books and was facing a long void until his next book hit the stands. And I, fickle reader that I am, had an affair with a few other authors, and then it happened again. I read Dominic Dunne. And wham. I was in love again.

With Dominic Dunne’s books, I spent time with the truly rich and the truly manipulative. How can anyone forget books like The Two Mrs. Grenvilles, or An Inconvenient Woman, or A Season in Purgatory? Once I discovered them, I was hooked. Forgive me Dominic, for I betrayed you too when I discovered my next big love, Nelson De Mille.

De Mille is a master of sharp, snappy talk, and he makes all those words come out of the mouth of a sexy good cop with a bad attitude–John Corey. Now here’s the funny part. I don’t really know what John Corey looks like, except that he has scars on his chest from some bullet wounds. I also know that John Corey is almost as fickle when it comes to love as I am when it comes to favorite authors. He seems to fall in love with a different woman in almost every one of his adventures. That is, until he met and married Kate. But who knows, so far she’s only been around for a couple of novels. For all I know she’ll be dropped off, maybe even killed in the next book, and then sexy John will be available again and I can go on dreaming.

Now here’s something you might not know about me. I’m married, and—get this—my husband doesn’t mind my little dalliances with all these authors…as long as I don’t meet them in person that is.

And why am I blabbing about all these loves of mine? Because, every time I start a new project, I hope with all my heart, that I infuse my novel with enough passion and ambition and greed that when you, dear reader, read my work, you will fall—perhaps just a little bit—in love with my characters. And I promise to love you right  back, even knowing that I will never be able to write fast enough to keep your from someday leaving me for some other writer.

C’est la vie!
Monique”

 

Take part

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Scorpio Rising eBook edition has dropped to just 99 cents this week.

What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes, including 2 Kindle Fires, Amazon gift cards up to $100 in amount, 5 autographed copies of the book, and 5 autographed copies of its recently released sequel, The Sting of The Scorpio. Be sure to enter before the end of the day on Friday, December 23rd, so you don’t miss out.

Here’s how you can take part in the celecbrations. To win the prizes:
Purchase your copy of Scorpio Rising for just 99 cents on Amazon or Barnes & Noble
Fill-out the form on Novel Publicity to enter for the prizes
Visit today’s featured event; you may win an autographed copy of the book or a $50 gift card!
BONUS:  If you leave a comment on this blog post, you have another chance at $100!

…And I can win too!

Over 100 bloggers are participating in this gigantic event, and there are plenty of prizes for us too. The blogger who receives the most votes in the traffic-breaker poll will win a $100 gift card as well. So when you visit Novel Publicity’s site to fill-out the contest entry form, don’t forget to say that I referred you, so I can get a point in the poll.

What to do this week

Wednesday, Google+ sharing contest! Yup, there’s yet another awesome opportunity to win a $50 Amazon gift card, and this time it just takes a single click! Visit Google+ and share Emlyn Chand’s most recent post (you’ll see the Scorpio Rising book cover included with it). On Thursday morning, one lucky sharer will be $50 richer. Autographed copies of Scorpio Rising and its sequel, The Sting of The Scorpio, are also up for grabs. Three chances to win! How about that?

Thursday, Facebook sharing contest! Stop by Novel Publicity’s Facebook page and share their latest post (you’ll see the Scorpio Rising book cover included with it). It’s ridiculously easy to win! On Friday morning, one lucky sharer will be $50 richer. Autographed copies of Scorpio Rising and its sequel, The Sting of The Scorpio, are also up for grabs.

Friday, special contest on the author’s site! Win a Kindle Fire! Two are up for grabs! Visit Monique’s website to leave a comment on any of her posts and sign-up for her author newsletter. One person will win for each method, so be sure to do both.

My recent post about fiction book bags as Christmas presents proved very popular so here another one about creating non-fiction book bags for blokes. (Book bags for ladies coming tomorrow.)

First up, how to sew a fabric bag for a book. There are very clear instructions here on the Design Dazzle website.

I did some research and found out what some of the most popular hobbies for men are. Here are book bag ideas based on those.

 

1. Gardening

First up, a couple of ebook suggestions:

The Garden Seed Saving Guide. To go with this – pair of gardening gloves, small trowel, small flower pots, sticky labels.

Preparing a Garden from the Ground Up. All of the above gift suggestions apply as well as packs of seeds.

 

2. Golf

I don’t know a thing about golf apart from that it’s very popular, so I won’t offer advice on which ebooks to buy. There are zillions of ebooks on the subject to choose from. However, some golf balls, socks, tees or a pair of golfing gloves would fill up a book bag for a golfer very nicely.

 

3. Fishing

Again, there are lots of books out there to choose from, but this looks interesting – Fishing – Learn from the Tips and Laugh at the Tales. Into the book bag go some hooks, flies, line, disgorger, lures, small bags of boilies etc – the list of little fishy gifts is endless.

 

4. Flying

Pilots might enjoy Thunder in the Tummy, a collection of funny true tales by a pilot.

Youngsters thinking of learning to fly will benefit from this book, Teenage Pilot.

Suggested book bag goodies might be a chart, sunglasses, flying gloves, pilot’s watch, model aeroplane, tie with planes on etc.

 

5. Homebrewing and Winemaking

A promising looking ebook for all homebrewers is Beer and Ingredients here.

And for 99 cents you could add a work of fiction on the subject in the shape of Secret Life of the Brewer’s Yeast: A Microbiology Tale.

I came across one for winemaking which was 582 words long and cost $6.99 so for obvious reasons I won’t be recommending that one. Not the sort of ebook you want to see out there.

Again, there are plenty of little things you can put in a book bag – stoppers, brewer’s yeast, straining bags, funnels, tube brushes, litmus paper, labels …

 

6. Shooting

Here’s a good ebook: Why You Can’t Shoot Straight

Gifts for the book bag would be small targets, old CDs to shoot at, earplugs, safety glasses.

 

7. Geocaching

Exploring With GPS: A Practical Field Guide for Satellite Navigation

And a novel to go with it: Twin Falls

You could pop an old-fashioned compass into the bookbag, but most useful for the geocaching man in your life would be a selection of small items he can put in the caches he finds. What happens in geocaching is that you take a small item from the cache you find after signing the log, and leave something in its place. You could also put in a plastic container with a very tight seal in case the geocacher wants to create his own one somewhere.

 

Hope these ideas help.

Who Put the Eye in the Pumpkin Pie? by Stephanie Dagg

It was Halloween, about half past three,

We were sitting down to have some tea.

Mum had made a big, plump pumpkin pie,

But when she cut it open, she found … an eye!

Now as you might guess, that spoilt the meal

And gave it a very creepy feel.

Suddenly no one wanted to eat

That yummy, scrummy Halloween treat.

Mum went mad, she totally freaked,

She roared, she screamed, she yelled, she squeaked!

She glared at us all to try and see

Who had shoved an eyeball into the tea.

But none of us there had an empty socket

Or eye-gouging tools hidden in a pocket.

We weren’t the culprits, we weren’t to blame.

Was this just some ghastly, ghoulish game?

We wondered quite where to begin,

When the door burst wide and a witch flew in.

She was hunched and so bristly it made you itch,

It was Wicked Wanda, the One-Eyed Witch!

She swooped and shrieked. “What’s this I spy?

You guys have got an extra eye!”

She grabbed it and poked it into place

In her warped and wrinkled witchy face.

No sooner had she left the room

Than a mummy stepped in, fresh from the tomb.

He was followed by bats, a frog and toad,

And the mad professor from down the road.

“Has anyone seen my eyeball bomb?”

He asked. ”The wretched thing has gone!”

As we opened our mouths to tell the truth,

We heard a loud bang from the roof.

We rushed outside, and crikey! Jiminy!

Witch Wanda’s remains were stuck to the chimney!

As her tattered hat floated to the ground

We grimly, glumly gathered round.

So the moral of this tale, my dears,

Is that Halloween can end in tears.

So do be warned, please be advised,

To stay clear of eyes in pumpkin pies!

 

What do you think?

My birthday present from Benj finally made it to France from America. It was a Gelaskin for my Kindle. The design is Almond Branches in Bloom by Vincent van Gogh, my favourite artist.

The gelaskin came on a sheet of card and it was very easy to peel off and stick onto the Kindle. You just need to wipe the Kindle first with a cloth to make sure it’s not greasy or sticky.

I think it’s smashing. It’s not the sort of thing I’d have bought for myself so it’s the perfect present. I shall enjoy using my Kindle even more than ever now!

And on the subject of Kindles, don’t forget you can get my Beat the Hackers for yours from Amazon here!

 

Tweeting (I’m @booksarecool23) has made me realise I am out of touch with cyber slang. Abbreviations are crucial when you only have 140 characters, plus it makes you look more cyber savvy. So, a trawl around on the net and I’ve found this very good guide. And here’s another more Twitter specific one.

Now all I have to do is learn them and remember to use them!

I enjoying translating from French to English.

Our part of France, Creuse, is famous for its stonemasons. In years gone by, the masons left for Paris in spring and stayed there until November, working. They sent money home to their families, who looked after the farm while the men were gone.

Here’s my version of a very famous poem about the masons by Jean Petit, also known as Jan dau Boueix, written in 1855. I’ve kept as close as I can to the original, but here and there I’ve had to resort to poetic licence for the sake of the rhyme!

Enjoy!

You hear all sorts of songs 

In all sorts of styles

About lovers and warriors,

Triumphs and trials.

I don’t want to be boring

And so I will choose

Something new for my song –

The masons of Creuse.

 

On a fait des chansons,  

De toutes les manières,

Des filles, des garçons

Des guerriers, des bergères.

Pour ne pas répéter

Une chose ennuyeuse,

Moi je veux vous chanter

Les ouvriers de la Creuse.

When springtime is here 

They say their goodbyes

To their families and friends

With tears in their eyes.

Their wives are upset

As they bid their adeius

To the men that they love –

These masons of Creuse.

 

Quand revient le printemps, 

Ils quittent leur chaumière:

Adieu amis, parents,

Enfants, pères et mères.

Ah! quel grand désespoir

Pour la femme vertueuse

En disant au revoir

Aux ouvriers de la Creuse.

And so they are gone 

On their working campaign.

They head up to Burgundy,

Paris, Champagne,

Lyons and Bordeaux,

To form building crews.

They’re very hard workers,

The masons of Creuse.

 

Les voilà donc partis 

Pour faire leur campagne;

Ils s’en vont à Paris

En Bourgogne, en Champagne,

Lyon, Bordeaux, même ailleurs…

Ils ont la main calleuse,

Ce sont des travailleurs

Les maçons de la Creuse.

When they’ve arrived 

And have found jobs to do,

Without hesitation

At once they set to.

They’re never unwilling,

They never refuse.

You have to respect

These masons of Creuse.

 

Quand ils sont arrivés, 

S’ils trouvent de l’ouvrage,

Se mettent à travailler

Avec un grand courage,

Sans trop s’épouvanter

D’une vie laborieuse.

L’on devrait respecter

Les maçons de la Creuse.

How the railway lines 

That criss-cross the land

Have caused them backache

And blistered their hands.

The bridges and canals

From the Saône to the Meuse

Have cost them great pain,

The masons of Creuse.

 

Que ces chemins de fer 

Qui traversent la France

Ont coûté de revers,

De maux et de souffrances;

Ces ponts et ces canaux

De la Saône à la Meuse

Ont coûté bien des maux

Aux ouvriers de la Creuse.

They sing as they work, 

Despite their tough role.

They’re happy at heart

And have a glad soul.

Then the season is over.

No more homesick blues,

Because now it’s time

To go back to Creuse.

 

Malgré leur dur labeur 

En travaillant ils chantent

Ils ont la joie au coeur

Et l’âme bien contente.

La dernière saison

Est pour eux bien flatteuse

Pour revoir leur maison

Au pays de la Creuse.

The work is all finished, 

And so in November

The masons assemble

And go home together.

Look at the joy

Of the children whose

Fathers have come home,

Back home to Creuse.

 

Les travaux sont finis 

En novembre en décembre,

On les voir réunis

Pour s’en aller ensemble.

Vous voyez ces enfants

La figure joyeuse

Pour revoir leurs parents

Au pays de la Creuse.

Winter brings happiness, 

Long country walks,

Time spent with sweethearts,

Intimate talks.

It’s cold and it’s dark

But the skies are all blue

For the girls who have got back

Their young men of Creuse.

 

Enfin, pendant l’hiver 

C’est leurs belles journées,

Ils vont se promener

Avec leurs bien-aimées.

Dans ces tristes saisons

Les filles sont heureuses

D’avoir dans leurs maisons

Les garçons de la Creuse.

This poem’s author – 

Well, he’s no famous bard.

Just one of the lads,

Who works and plays hard.

Contentedly living

The life that he’d choose

And proud to admit he’s

A mason of Creuse.

 

The beauties of Paris,

Like the great Panthéon,

The fine Tuilieries,

The Louvre and Odéon –

These beautiful buildings

Which make folk enthuse,

We owe them all to

The masons of Creuse.

 

 

L’auteur de la chanson 

Ce n’est pas un poète,

C’est un vieux compagnon

Buvant sa chopinette,

Toujours gai, bien content,

Trouvant la vie heureuse,

Et se vante gaiement

D’être ouvrier de la Creuse.

 

Voyez le Panthéon

Voyez les Tuileries,

Le Louvre et l’Odéon,

Le Palais d’Industrie,

De ces beaux monuments

La France est orgueilleuse,

On doit ces agréments

Aux ouvriers de la Creuse.