Anthology On Special at Amazon

Yes, the Speculative Realms anthology is on special over at Amazon. At the time of this post, it was selling at $11.19, however, I saw it for $5.88 last week, so the price is slowly creeping back to the recommended price of $15.95.

My story “Where Strength Lies” is included in the anthology. It’s about a woman who would do anything to save her young son, even go against strong mages who are determined to take him from her. But mine is only one of the stories in the book. You’ll also find a story about a young man stepping into Hell to say what he needs to say to his deceased father, but those who go to Hell are not allowed to leave and this young man isn’t even dead! Then there’s the story of the evil girls who play with the minds of the occupants of a dilapidate house in the wilderness. Not to forget the stories about the man who battles a dragon, the man who must shout when he can’t even talk to save the woman he loves, and the mage with women troubles.

If you haven’t got a copy of the anthology, then now is the perfect time to purchase a copy…while the price is low.

Book Review: Perfect Victim

Perfect Victim: A chilling account of a bizarre and callous murder.A mother's true story of her daughter's disappearance.

Perfect Victim by Elizabeth Southall and Megan Norris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a true story about the disappearance and murder of 15 year old Rachel Barber in March 1999 in Victoria, Australia. There are two “stories” running parallel – the story of Rachel’s family’s anguish and grief as told by her mother, Elizabeth Barber (using the pen name of Elizabeth Southall), and, an account of the investigation and court case by criminal court reporter, Megan Norris.

Because of the nature of the book, I do not feel it’s relevant to dissect the book as I usually do and talk about characters, plot, setting and voice. These things are what they are…true, disturbing, heartfelt and a complete waste of a young life. It would be wrong for me to “critique” a book which has been written out of love, need and pain, so I am going to talk about this book in relation to the loss of my son in 2006.

The loss of a child by murder and the loss of a child by suicide are two completely different things, yet they are so similar as well. The loved ones of each are left with unending questions that may never be answered. The deep feelings of guilt are overwhelming, although usually unwarranted. The grief is never ending. The lives of everyone close to the person who has gone forever are never the same.

Reading Elizabeth’s words made me cry…not only for her and her daughter, but for me and my son. As I read the Barber family struggles with accepting what had happened and their feelings of isolation, distress and frustration, I thought of my own family facing those same issues.

And then, when Elizabeth spoke directly to her daughter through the book, my heart broke. In her words I heard echoes of my own thoughts and feelings. It was like Rachel’s mother had crawled into my mind and plucked secret thoughts from my head.

Finally, Elizabeth mentioned that she wrote the book not only for herself or for Rachel…she wrote it to make the appropriate authorities – such as the police and the court system – aware of how the family of someone who has gone missing and murdered are feeling, how stressed they are. She needed them to know the anguish, frustration and total devastation felt by Rachel’s family and closest friends. It was important to her to inform and educate them of these things because she didn’t want another family having to deal with the lack of communication and isolation she experienced during the disappearance and then the murder investigation of her daughter. I could relate to the reasons, although in this regard my reasons are quite different. For me, I want to raise suicide awareness in others and I feel the need to educate people about grief.

In conclusion, Elizabeth said that at the time the book was published, it had been three years since her daughter’s death. It has been three years now since my son’s death. She said that her family were trying to move forward, although Rachel’s memory would never be forgotten. My family feels the same way. She mentioned the pain she still felt and the tears still shed on an everyday basis, but especially on “important” dates. I can attest to that as I’m the same. She also said how difficult it was to face everyday questions from strangers, such as “do you have children?” and then the inevitable questions that follow, like “how many?” and “what are their ages?”. For most people, these are easy questions and they eagerly reply. For a parent who has lost a child these questions are difficult and bring a lump to their throat because it’s hard to know how the questions should be answered as we are fully aware that whatever we say someone will feel uncomfortable.

I’ve been hacked! What should I do?

Approximately thirty-six hours ago this website was attacked by hackers. I was soundly asleep in bed and missed the whole thing, however, several friends sent me emailed in the attempt to notify me. By the time I read the emails the next morning, my provider had already fixed the problem and restored their latest backup of my site and everything was sweet. I lost nothing!

But, I did the research anyway, because that’s just the type of person I am. I wanted to know what it would mean to me (if my provider wasn’t quick to react) and what I would have had to do to fix the problem. I want to share the results with you, as many of my readers also have blogs and I believe being forewarned may prevent you losing a lot of information.

Firstly, the best policy for WordPress bloggers is to keep your installation up to date, this includes your plugins. However, this is no guarantee that you won’t get caught out. If you do find yourself compromised, then you should think about doing a complete, fresh install on a newly created database.

“Fresh” means that you must download a new copy of WordPress, your plugins, your theme and, to be absolutely safe, find the original images of everything you have uploaded to the website (this includes book covers, DVD covers, photos, everything). It sounds like a lot of hard work, but it shouldn’t be, especially if you save copies of your files to your computer regularly.

With that lovely new database sitting empty and waiting to be used, and the old database dumped, you should install the “fresh” copy of WordPress and then upload all your “fresh” files. Then, when all is up and running, you can restore a backup of your blog…you do backup your website regularly, don’t you? There’s a WordPress Databse Backup plugin that makes this so easy, you’d be silly not to grab it right now if you are not using it already. The plugin will backup your site weekly and send the backup to your email address (don’t backup to your database, because then your backups could also be compromised).

You should be back to where you started – fresh and clean.

Go to How to Completely Clean Your Hacked WordPress Installation for step by step instructions.

My site didn’t suffer any ill affects from the hacking from what I can see. I don’t feel the need to do a complete new install, but if I notice anything strange in coming days or months, I will immediately do the above.

I did, however, check to see if any users had been added to the list (even invisible ones – see the link below to find out more about that). I also immediately changed the password, checked all the files to see if I could see strange coding and will do a more in-depth check over the weekend when I have access to ftp.

Follow these links to find out more:

WordPress Attack Catches Bloggers Off-Guard but it Shouldn’t Have

WordPress Hacker Strikes: How to fix the hack that causes permalinks, url, structure error

Cut…It…Out! But What If…?

Mirror Image is a manuscript for adults which runs at about 90,000 words at the moment (I want the finished product to be around 100,000 words). It’s not a fantasy project, like most of my works-in-progress. This manuscript fits into the…paranormal genre, I think. I’m a little uncertain because the changes I need to make in the next edit seems to be pushing it into another genre and my mind is telling me “General Fiction”.

Some of you may have guessed by now, even though I’ve never actually said this publicly before, but the manuscript is about depression, grief and suicide. This makes it a very dark read, but these are topics I know and understand all to well having lost a son to suicide in 2006.

The first version was especially difficult to write. There is a lot of “our” story in the words and emotions. One of my readers, a person who experienced the loss with me, told me that he sobbed as he read parts of it because he could clearly see me and him going through the moment in real life. Of course he could because I was basing my words on what happened to us.

Anyway, writing the manuscript left me feeling strained and, sometimes, depressed. I shed a lot of tears as I wrote. But I forged on because I needed to write the story. It was important to me, and I felt it was important to educate other families – parents and their children – by making them all suicide aware. For these reasons, I battled through the sobs and depression and continued putting words on paper.

Now, the second (or is it the third) version of the manuscript has been completed and, as mentioned, I’ve had a couple of people read it. The reader I mentioned above encouraged me to keep things real, but the other reader (who has never experienced suicide) told me that the manuscript is too dark and depressing for “normal” (his word, not mine) people to want to carry on with. So what do I do?

I have attempted to make changes to the story. I have even gone back to the drawing board and tried to replan it from scratch. But…it’s not coming together in a way that I’m happy with. In the end I put it aside and haven’t done anything writing related since. There’s no doubt in my mind that my writing lapse has everything to do with the job feeling too big and, at the same time, the feeling that I’m loosing the essence of the story by making the changes.

The current version has six viewpoints. I know I keep going on and on about this, but it’s important! I want to explain why I have so many viewpoints and maybe the puzzle will fall into place…for you, for me.

Two viewpoints are from siblings points of view. Each are experiencing their grief differently and neither of them are coping that well. One, however, has someone who is pushing them to face the issues; whilst the other sibling is trying to get through it alone. The two viewpoints are deliberate and show the difference between having support and not having it.

One viewpoint is from a parent’s point of view. Grief is different for everyone, and the parent is also having a hard time of it. This viewpoint focuses on the grief, but moreso on the fear felt for the surviving children and how that obsession can be more dangerous than anyone can imagine.

Two other viewpoints are from friends perspectives. One viewpoint is a friend that thinks suppressing the grief is the best medicine and she takes it upon herself to not let her friend dwell on the death of her brother. The other viewpoint is a friend who knows talking about it is the best option, but she has issues of her own to overcome that won’t allow her to approach her friend in the right way. I think a majority of reading will identify with one of these viewpoints and it’s important to get a message across here.

The last viewpoint is another outsider looking in, this one believes grief is a short term problem that can be gotten over in a couple of weeks. It’s all about the attitude! Both my readers really liked the way I wrote this character, but for different reasons. And, believe it or not, you’d be surprised how many people really share this character’s point of view where grief is concerned…until they experience it themselves.

Six viewpoints and there’s a reason for every one of them. If this manuscript was published, I’d be trying to raise suicide awareness first and foremost, but I would also be attempting to tell onlookers that grief isn’t an illness which automatically fixes itself after a couple of weeks. I would be encouraging people to let the griever talk about what has happened to them and what they are feeling. I would be encouraging people to cry with the griever; it’s good to cry, it does help to know that you are allowed to cry and feel…and share. Support means to listen and cry with the person, not brushing the problem under the carpet for someone else to fix up later (because usually everyone is doing the same thing and no one cleans up the mess).

I feel passionate about the subject matter, the messages I want to give to the reader and the possibility of saving and/or helping another family that may find themselves in my situation. If I delete viewpoints, then I feel as if I’m only doing part of the job…so I’ve decided (as of this minute) that I will not delete any of the viewpoints. This story needs all of them and they will all remain. I will find another way to battle the “darkness” problem.

If you got to the end of this post, thank you for listening. Writing about the problem has definitely helped.

Competition: Let’s Celebrate by Writing a Story

To celebrate the new direction and change of name of this website, I am running a competition. All you have to do is write a story in no more than 500 words using three of the following ten words:

murder, mystery, fire, gates, cat, warlord, gold, dwarf, planet, ship

The story can be any genre. All entries will be posted on this website and a poll will be set up to find a winner. Visitors to this website will be able to read all the entries and vote on the one they like the best. The entry with the most votes at the end of the allotted time will win. Should there be more than one entry with the same number of votes, a tie breaker poll will be held (which could get exciting).

The winner will receive a $AU25 gift voucher to spend at Amazon and an ebook version of Speculative Realms: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

But, wait, there’s more. The authors are not the only ones able to win a prize in this competition. Everyone who votes will also be in the running to receive an ebook version of the Speculative Realms anthology.

The rules for the authors are:

1. Entries without the three necessary words (see above) or that go over the word limit will be rejected.
2. Copyright remains with the author of the entry.
3. The entry must be included in the body of the email, not as an attachment.
4. The author’s name and a valid email address must be provided in the body of the email.
5. By submitting an entry, the author is agreeing that their entry can be posted on this website indefinitely.
6. All entries must be emailed to me by 11.59pm on Friday 31 October 2009 (Australian EST). Anything arriving after this time and date will not be accepted. The email address to use is: karenleefield AT gmail DOT com.
7. Be sure to format it exactly how you want it to appear, because I will only copy and paste the entry into a post; I will not make any changes to it (including fixing spelling errors).
8. The winner will receive their prize via email and the win will be announced on this website.
9. A short “About the Author” (no more than four lines) will be posted with each entry, if provided.
10. My decision is final.

The rules for the voters are:

1. A real name and valid email address must be provided at the time your vote is cast.
2. Only one vote per person permitted.
3. At the end of the voting period, all names of the people who have voted will be placed in a hat and one drawn out. This will be the winner.
4. The winner will receive their prize via email and the win will be announced on this website.
5. My decision is final.

So, why are you still sitting there reading this? You should be writing! 😀

Book Review: The Starthorn Tree

Starthorn Tree

The Starthorn Tree by Kate Forsyth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Starthorn Tree by Kate Forsyth, I found, was difficult to get into because of the dialogue of the characters. It slowed the story down and I found it distracting. But once I got used to the way they spoke and the strange names of the creatures, the story picked up and improved from there.

The story is a classic quest. Five children (aged around 12 to 15 years of age) from different backgrounds, ranging from princess to thief, are brought together for a common cause; although some characters are rather reluctant but they don’t have much of a choice. They are joined by an old man, who isn’t all he seems, and their journey takes them across the most dangerous terrain they can imagine. There are soldiers on foot and on flying birds chasing them; gibgoblins, sprites, wildkin and other creatures prepared to kill them as look at them and a woman of the Crafty they must find before time runs out and the princess’s brother dies.

The poor children are faced with horrors that would curl your toes and they must get over differences that we adults can’t seem to do ourselves. There is a lot of action, but there’s always time for a fed after a long day of journeying, fighting, arguing, and just generally running for their lives. There’s some good humour, lots of great scenery, moments of sadness that will bring a lump to your throat and even a touch of romance. As far as I know, The Starthorn Tree is a stand alone book, which means there are no other books with these characters in it. And as all good books should, it left me feeling satisfied with an ending that gave a hint of what would happen in the future for the characters and how their journey had changed their lives.

Apart from the unsettled beginning, I found this book to be a good read – interesting, exciting and it manages to draw you in. I certainly would pick up another book written by the same author.

Recommended.

A Change of Direction Means a Change of Name

This website needs a new name. I’ve been pondering this conundrum for a while and I think I’ve made a decision. Obviously, nothing is set in stone, but I’m leaning towards a simple change that will describe the content of the website a lot clearer than the current name – Scribe’s Writing Desk.

I still see this website as my desk, however, now a variety of things happen at that work space. With this in mind, I am thinking of changing the name to “The Desk of Karen Lee Field”. It feels more appropriate to use my pen name rather than my online name, being The Scribe.

When time permits, I will work on a new banner and when I upload that, the new name will be official. At that time, I will also announce an opportunity to win a gift. But more details on that at the official opening of the renamed site…and when I’ve thought about how the contest is going to work! 😀