Ahhh yes… Will Shakespeare said that music was the food of love… but we all know that it was a steaming cup of triple Mocha that got him moving in the morning. Writers and coffee go together like… like… coffee and writers. It’s safe to say that if you find a writer, you’ll find a caffeine addict lurking too. It’s caffeine that both soothes our conscience when we decide to really stick it to our characters and also gives us the chutzpah to kill off our darlings when necessary.
My own relationship with coffee started when I was quite young. Despite being born in Britain, the dreaded tea-drinkers paradise, I always preferred coffee. This was reinforced through college taking Computer Science classes and then bolstered further during my career as a software developer, team leader and project manager. All of these positions required liberal quantities of caffeine, even if it didn’t say so on the job spec.
So you see, coffee was a firmly implanted vice long before I started writing full-time. Of course, the other common writer trait I share is that I’m an extreme miser. Again quoting Shakespeare, “Verily, doth Starbucks be of an unseemly expense.”
My own specific vice is the latte. Very simple, I don’t want some strange flavoring, or chocolate sprinkles, or an umbrella with fruit stuck in it. Just deliciously creamy frothy steaming hot latte. MMMMmm paradise in a cup! So go to Starbucks or any other coffee emporium and a Latte will cost four bucks a shot, maybe more depending where you are. When you add that up, if you buy just one cup per day, you’re spending over a thousand dollars a year on coffee! Think about it. How many important things, like books, could you buy for that!
So I do what most miserly coffee drinkers do. I brew a pot of regular coffee and drink that. It hits the spot in the morning, it works it’s magic suitably…
But it’s not a frothy, heavenly -*Latte*- (imagine harps and angels singing…)
Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers. I’m certainly not going to replace the cost of buying a year’s worth of Latte’s, by buying an outrageously expensive coffee machine for at home…
But it turns out I don;t need to. They’re not so hard to make in fact. So easy in fact that even Will Shakespeare could have afforded to start a coffee shoppe himself.
First you need to find a way of making some coffee in limited quantities; because you probably don’t want to drink Latte’s all the time (do you?). My solution was simple; a very inexpensive cafetiere (sometimes called a French or coffee press). Like this:
I found mine at a local store on offer for about $15 bucks.
Next you need to get one of these little doodads. It’s called a milk frother and you can pick these up cheap too, maybe $10 bucks.
Now, get your cafetiere and put in about a couple of teaspoons of your favorite coffee. Adjust to taste of course, but you want a nice strong mixture to offset the milkiness. The coffee doesn’t have to be anything special; your regular coffee will probably do, but you could try different ones if you want to go even more exotic.
Now boil up enough water for however many cups you’re making, then leave it to cool for a couple of minutes (don’t add boiling water to a glass cafetiere, for obvious reasons). Stir the water and coffee, then leave to brew for a few minutes.
While the coffee is brewing. you make the key ingredient, the delicious foam! Take about the same volume of milk as coffee. You’re looking for about a fifty:fifty mix at the end. Stick this in the microwave in a cup or beaker and zap for a couple of minutes. Don’t allow the milk to boil over, or your wife, partner, significant other, will expect you to clean up the mess (ask me how I know…) . Now take your milk frother and insert it into the hot milk, moving it in and out until you’ve whipped up a damn good foam (why does that sound kind of kinky?).
Once you’ve done that the coffee will be ready, so press the plunger down on the cafetiere to filter the coffee, pour into a cup, then add the frothy goodness on top and there you go. Odds bodkins! Your very own delicious latte! It’s that simple and takes maybe five minutes max.
I add a little vanilla to the milk, and I also double sweeten it to offset the stronger coffee. But a little experimenting will soon get you a perfect cup. What finer treat can there be on a morning? (or any time.) And the cost? Pennies.
And here’s one I prepared earlier.
Shakespeare would be proud.
P.S. Full disclosure – I was forced to make a cup especially so I could take the pictures for this blog post… 😀
P.P.S. Wake your partner up on a Sunday morning with one of these and they’ll be impressed!
Up until now, my short-stories and my recently published short-story collection have been available through the Amazon KDP Select program. This allows readers who join Amazon Prime to pay a monthly fee of $9.99 (Isn’t it amazing how often that price seems to come up these days…) and then download any book included in KDP Select. The theory is that the reader gets the chance to read books that they might otherwise not, and the author gets a somewhat nebulous share of a global fund made available by Amazon. (They keep tinkering with the exact formula as people continually try to game the system.)
As part of KDP Select, authors can also make use of a couple of promotional tools where they can give their books away free for 5 days out of every 30 or use Kindle Countdown Deals where a book can be discounted for a set number of days. Both of these tools are very easy to set up and will often attract a lot of interest to a book. At least that’s the theory. My own experiences have shown somewhat lacklustre results and I’ve heard from other writers that although it used to be an effective promotional tool, it’s less so now.
KDP Select undoubtedly provides opportunities for writers far beyond what was available in even the fairly recent past. I do have some reservations, however. Firstly, I dislike the fact that Amazon changes its “rules” without consulting writers. I also have a problem with some of the privacy aspects (tracking what everyone reads page by page – including monitoring how long someone spends on a page, for example), though that seems to be something that few people worry about nowadays. I also don’t like the fact that Amazon controls so much of the publishing market; monopolies, or near monopolies, are never good for customers or producers in the long term. These issues to my mind are all big enough to warrant a long hard look at Amazon and its business practices. But they’re not ultimately why I’ve chosen not to continue with KDP Select.
I’m an independent writer. That means I don’t have a big book publisher behind me. All of the effort that goes in to creating my books is done by myself, my wife, and various freelance editors. I design everything including the advertising, cover graphics and video book trailers. Sometimes I make use of stock imagery or video to enhance my own (sometimes limited) skills, but for the most part I do it all. I’m not the only one in this position; many (if not most) other independent authors do the same thing to a greater or lesser extent. Some people because they just love to be in control of every aspect of their work, some because they can’t afford to hire enough professional help to do all these things. But I think the pride in their own work is something very common with independents.
So that being the case, why the hell would I tie myself to one distribution channel?
That’s the real problem with KDP Select. When you sign up, you have to agree to be exclusive to Kindle. So I can’t then sell through Apple’s iBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, or any of the other distribution channels that exist. How crazy is this? I can’t even sell you my own book, through my own website.
So while Amazon has done a lot for writers, their exclusivity clause makes the whole KDP Select program incompatible with the “independent” philosophy. How can you possibly consider yourself to be independent and proud of it, if you tie yourself to a single distribution channel? If you go to a car dealership that only sells vehicles from one manufacturer, that has that manufacturer’s branding everywhere, and only repair cars of that brand, would you think of them as being an “independent” dealership? Of course not. To me it’s the same thing.
I know a lot of people will disagree with me. Including other independent writers. But to me, “independent” “and “exclusive” don’t go together, no matter how good the Kool-Aid tastes.
Does this mean fewer people will read my books? I’m not sure. Through Smashwords I have access to much wider distribution and what’s more, my books are still available through Kindle – Smashwords doesn’t demand exclusivity. I can also sell direct through my own website if I want. It does mean that people who join Amazon prime won’t have free access to my books and I’m sorry about that. I wish there was a way that I could allow my books to be downloaded through the Amazon programs without the exclusivity restrictions.
But if you want to check out my writing you can read the samples here on my site, or through the online book stores. Or alternatively, sign up for my newsletter and I’ll send you a free copy of a complete story of your choice. I think that’s a fair way for people to try out my writing.
Happy reading everyone!
A few days ago I received an email from my Penzu journal saying “Here’s what you wrote a year ago.” The post I’d written was from just after my hospital stay last year. I’d had two toes and about a third of my foot amputated because of a severe infection, I couldn’t walk, and was sliding up and down the stairs on my arse(ass) to get to bed. It was painful and miserable and I felt wretched as I was still fighting off the infection and was on constant intravenous antibiotics.
All of that was bad enough but then as hard as it is to believe, things actually got worse.
As well as the regular nurses’ visits at home for dressings changes. I also had to attend follow up appointments with the Ambulatory Care Unit (ACU). And it was during one of these visits they hit me with the news. My foot wasn’t showing any signs of healing and they felt the best thing was to give me a lower leg amputation — cut my leg off just below the knee.
To say I was in shock at this would be an understatement. It was something so surreal that it felt like I was trapped in a nightmare. What was so bizarre was the curious pressure I was put under to make a decision on the spot . I was made to feel there was no option and that I needed to decide at that very moment. I was scared beyond belief and couldn’t really take it in at that point. That said I’m always a pragmatist, so after some thought I decided that if my leg was in such a bad state then “twere well It were done quickly.” An appointment was immediately scheduled for a few weeks later for the surgery and I returned home to wallow in self-pity.
Truth is, I’m not actually very good at wallowing. After a short period I almost inevitably start to think about options and consequences. One thing was certain, this would be a one-way trip like none I’d ever imagined and would completely change everything in my life. You don’t just lose a leg and walk away (pun intended) from it.
Actually there’s a funny thing about how the mind works. While dealing with this I came to realize just how much of the English language is foot /leg centrist; best foot forward, one step at a time, standing on your own two feet, standing tall etc. The list goes on and my mind latched on to each occurrence with all too much eagerness.
Once the immediate fight or flight (there’s another leg fixation) had stopped making my brain flap around like a Dodo on acid trying to fly, I started to consider things more analytically. I started questioning if the amputation really was the “best thing” for me. Maybe it was just the path of least resistance for a number of people (which happens a lot more than we imagine). I’ve always been a very active person. I love swimming and hiking and although I’ve not done quite as much for a few years, I’d started to push that side of my life again just before the foot troubles started. I wanted that back again if at all possible. From my research I found that people can achieve incredible things with prosthetics, but it also became clear that any foot, even one that was very compromised, was significantly better than no foot.
I started to search for other ideas on wound care, not really expecting to find anything but more in desperation. None of the healthcare people I was dealing with discussed anything other than amputation and it seemed strange that with all the medical progress we’ve made that it was the only alternative. Kind of like getting a headache and being told the only cure was decapitation.
I did find some alternatives — bariatric oxygenation therapy for one — which looked as though they offered non-surgical possibilities. It seemed at least worth exploring those before taking the irreversible step (another of those puns) of cutting off my lower leg. That was when I found out an unfortunate truth.
When I asked about it I was told that the treatment wasn’t available where I live. THAT was why no one was talking about alternatives. All we had here were surgeons, so the only option was the knife. When all you have is a hammer…
That idea got me angry and frustrated. I could understand that the other treatments weren’t offered locally, but to not even discuss them seemed deplorable, almost criminal. Toronto is only five hours drive south, not the end of the world. Post/Zip code health care at its very worst.
I took matters into my own hands and with my wife’s help endeavored to contact one of the doctors specializing in such care. The early discussions made it sound at least worth looking at and we tried to get my records sent to Toronto. Suddenly, my surgeon was nowhere to be found. Not literally, but despite many calls, messages and emails, we could no longer get any response from him or the hospital. They were all so very busy — unless I wanted to talk about surgery.
At this point I made a decision. I was not going to go through with the amputation unless the records were sent and the Toronto doctors at least had a chance to do a remote assessment as to whether what was left of my foot was salvageable.
At the same time, my home nurse was telling me that, despite the poor initial recovery, the wound was actually starting to show some positive signs of healing. This bolstered my confidence. To my way of thinking it was clear; unless my foot was immediately life-threatening, if it was fighting to heal then it should be given a chance to do that.
The day of the surgery arrived and I was admitted into hospital. Despite all attempts I’d been unable to contact my surgeon, and they were proceeding on the basis of making the chop.
I was actually prepped for surgery, lying on the gurney waiting to be wheeled in. They hadn’t accounted for my stubbornness though. I told the nurse that I wanted to see the surgeon before going in to the operating room. My request was simple; I just wanted him to take another look at my foot and tell me there was no other alternative than amputation.
Initially I was told he would come and see me, but then I was suddenly and summarily sent home with instructions to attend the ACU clinic a few days later. I did that and a second surgeon was attending. He looked at my foot and said, “Well, I’ve seen worse.” Words which were magic to my ears. The direction of the conversation changed entirely at that point,;suddenly they were talking about treatments and dressing types and processes to save my foot. It was like stepping up to the gallows, having them place the noose around your neck, and getting a last minute reprieve.
Since then, nobody has been discussing the amputation option. My foot has healed slowly (something I knew would be the case) but I’m happy to say it is very near to closing up fully. Something I would never have believed seeing the ragged mess that was left after the surgery.
I don’t have any bad feelings over this, the medical staff has been for the most part very supportive and helpful. They advised what they could on the basis of what resources were available directly and knowing the odds. But I’m pleased to say that the odds aren’t everything and I’m still standing on my own two feet (pun definitely intended!)
My enforced convalescence has also had a somewhat unexpected benefit. All of these months bedridden and unable to do much gave me an unprecedented opportunity to fully focus on my writing and as a direct result I published my collection of short-stories “Dead Reckoning.” It’s safe to say that without being able to focus on my writing I’d have been climbing the walls and probably gone crazy (though there are some that would argue that happened a long time ago!)
One thing that I can say after going through all of this is that one-size doesn’t always fit all. If you ever find yourself in such circumstances, don’t just accept what is offered to you blindly. Do your own research, make sure that you’ve explored every possible option and then make your decision on the basis of that. And question everything.
I’m taking part in the October Blog Hop organized by the talented Katheryn Kaffee and today feature dark fantasy author , Mark McQuillan. Over to you, Mark!
Raised in a military family, I lived all over the world. I’m married we have no children. We currently live in Pueblo Colorado.
Valkyrie is a combination of stories that I’ve collected over the years along with some characters that were created during the years of role playing games.
Valkyrie:Darkness Awaits Valkyrie Darkness Book 1
Gil Swanson has been battling PTSD for years from his years of combat and his lost comrades. While on a research trip to Gettysburg he runs into Mist, a mysterious woman from his past who is in reality a Valkyrie. Answering her plea for help Gil finds himself involved in an ancient blood feud between the darkest powers and the desperate warriors of the light.
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/577569 (Valkyrie: Darkness Awaits)
Valkyrie: Darkness Rising Valkyrie Darkness Book 2
(Available for pre-order now. Available 12-12-15)
Now that Gil Swanson has joined the elite ranks of the Valkyries the mystery of Malice deepens. He finds that this conflict has been raging for centuries and their enemy Malice is an evil from the ancient world. A malignant force who will stop at nothing to have her revenge. Now Gil stands on the threshold of Ghost Mountain with the fate of two worlds hanging in the balance.
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/577585 (Valkyrie: Darkness Rising)
You can follow Mark at:
The wonderful Katheryn Caffee invited me to be part of her October blog hop, showcasing a selection of talented indie authors. The first of of my featured authors is Jena Baxter: take it away Jena!
Born in Ojai, and raised in the San Fernando Valley, California, Jena always loved to read and dreamed of writing a novel. Having the ability, but lacking the confidence to do so, she enrolled in the UCLA Writer’s Extension and soon her first novel was in process. Jena writes YA fantasy, historical fantasy, and paranormal romance. She is also a screenwriter and reads for a screenwriting contest annually. When she isn’t writing she spends her free time with her husband, amazon parrot, and toy Maltese.
Cursed by her sister Brooke, Alexis Powell arrives in the Victorian Era where she meets Ezra, a man recently murdered by an assassin his brother Amos, hired. Now he’s a supernatural creature and with a touch Ezra sees into Alexis’ mind. Intrigued by her memories, Ezra offers Alexis his help only to be rebuffed for his kindness.
Alexis runs away, but Ezra can’t shake off what he saw. He follows her through the streets of London, but vulnerable after the loss of his Father, Amos’ harassment, and Alexis’ many rejections, Ezra eventually decides to leave her alone.
Alexis is unable to find work and threatened with starvation. She steals a tomato and Ezra finds her facing the local magistrate and an angry mob. He fights and pays for her freedom.
Finally accepting the help Ezra offers, Alexis moves into the manor he shares with his brother. Romance blossoms but the bond between Ezra and Amos is worse than Alexis’ and Brooke’s. While Ezra and Alexis seek a way to send her home, Amos looks for a way to kill them.
You can follow Jena at:
Newsletter sign up: http://jenabaxterbooks.blogspot.com/
Last week’s posts featured Captain America and Spiderman from the Marvel comics, and homages to the movies Phase IV and Logan’s Run. Phase IV was an original movie script, while Logan’s Run was loosely based on a novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton. Cap and Spidey took the win, but Logan’s Run was a close second. (I made a typo on the original image, which I’ve corrected here.)
This will be my last Sci-fi Coffee post for a while as I have family visiting from England. Let me know if you miss them and want to see more.
I’m very excited to announce that one of my stories – How Much Is That Doggy? – has been selected by Sudden Insight Publishing for inclusion in their forthcoming anthology.
The as yet unnamed anthology will be a charitable publication with all proceeds going to help the SPCA and I ‘m very happy to be able to help contribute to this worthy cause. I’m a dog person myself, but believe that we should look after all animals and treat them with respect, even when they are raised for food purposes.
I have owned two beautiful dogs in the past. My first dog, Jake I had in England and hoped to bring to Canada with us, so he could live out his last days here. Unfortunately he died before we could manage that. He would have loved it here. My second dog, Kyla, was a rescue dog that we got through the local animal shelter. She had no structure in her earliest months and life with her was extremely challenging, especially in the first couple of years. She developed into a beautiful and loving pet though and we loved her dearly. Unfortunately, she died under sad circumstances and it hurt both me and my wife so much, that we’ve been unable to contemplate getting another dog yet.
Keep a look out for updates on this fabulous project and a big congratulations to the other writers chosen for inclusion! You can also follow Sudden Insight on Facebook.
If you missed the Facebook announcement at the weekend, then it’s time to announce the lucky winners of the Dead Reckoning And Other Stories launch contest.
The top 3, who win a signed copy of the book, a $20.00 Amazon gift card, and a special Dead Reckoning T-shirt are:
And the runners up, who win a signed copy of the book and a $10.00 Amazon gift card are:
Thanks to everyone who entered. The response was amazing!
Update: I’ve emailed all of the winners. If you didn’t receive the email please contact me to claim your prize.
My science fiction short-story collection Dead Reckoning And Other Stories is now available on Amazon, Barnes And Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and Smashwords both as an e-book and in print and has received several five-star reviews!
Comments from reviews: