Saturday, December 24, 2011

The annual Jacobite investigation.

I don't know what the weather was like in December 1745. If it was as cold as last year, wading across that river would have been nearly impossible. If it was something similar to this evening, crossing the river would have been far less traumatic.

This year, the temperature was around 3 C (about 29 F), there was no snow, no wind beyond a light breeze and sparse cloud cover. This was both a good thing and a bad thing.

It meant that standing out there for a couple of hours wasn't a problem. However, there is not much light available for photography so a layer of snow and some low, heavy cloud would have brightened things up considerably. I won't bother putting up video, it's just a black screen. The photos are similarly dark. Next time I have a snow-free winter I'd better take along some infrared lighting.

I saw and heard nothing this time but something interesting happened. The freshly-charged batteries in my camera flashed up the 'nearly dead' warning as soon as I turned it on. Not remarkable in itself, those rechargeable batteries are capricious beasts and have been known to spontaneously die for no reason.

The battery in my watch died and stopped the watch at 4:22 pm. Freshly-charged batteries in my phone, my video camera and my backup camera all showed 'last gasp'. Having one set of batteries die at an inconvenient time would be an annoyance - having them all die at the same time is too much of a coincidence.

I saw nothing, heard nothing, the night was still, the river slow. Now I think of it, I really mean I heard nothing. No birds. No rodents in the long grass. Nothing at all. There was absolutely no sign of life.

Something happened this evening and I'm not sure what. I have a feeling I'm getting close to this one. Still haven't seen it but I am now sure I have the date, time and location right. The conditions seem better when it's a mild winter with not too much water in the river. I suppose that would be the sort of conditions that would make it feasible to mount an attack by wading across. With no snow and no clouds reflecting the town lights, it really does get very dark at that part of the river. Again, that's what you need to sneak up on an enemy.  Unfortunately it's exactly what you don't need if you're trying to take photographs!

I have not yet examined the photos in detail. Here are a couple with the brightness increased but be aware that increasing brightness can increase pixellation and that risks forming shapes that weren't really there. The pictures should enlarge if you click them. Feel free to download them and see if you spot anything.

Even with the brightness increased there's not much to see. I'm going to have to go against my own advice next year and make use of Bright lighting would just attract gawpers.

I feel as if this investigation took a step forward tonight. Not a big step, but in the right direction.

With luck, it will be mild again next year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Turin Shroud - does it matter?

Oh yes it is!

Oh no it isn't!

Oh yes it is!

The pantomime surrounding the Turin Shroud continues with the news that the image can only have been produced by a blast of intense short-wave light. Something that only modern equipment could achieve. No fifteenth-century faker could have done it.

So it's real?

The answer is, and probably always will be, maybe.

Nobody has tested the actual image on the real shroud. The Vatican will not allow it and is never likely to. Not because 'they are scared' but because they consider it a holy relic and don't want scientists poking holes in it. So it has now been proven that no ancient faker could have made the image using short-wave light, but maybe that's not how it was made. It could be made that way but that doesn't prove it was.

There was an attempt to carbon-date the shroud using a little bit of cloth from one corner. Unfortunately the shroud was fire-damaged at some point in its history (there are burn marks still) and was repaired with less ancient cloth. So the carbon-date can't be considered reliable.

At the moment, nobody knows the how, where, when or who of this artefact. It is entirely possible that nobody ever will. I don't think it matters anyway.

Let's suppose that someone finds definite proof that the image was of an actual crucified corpse, that it dates from around 35 AD, and that there is no known explanation for the image that would fit with any technique known to have been available at that time. Would that prove that it is the image of Christ?


It would only prove that it was the image of someone crucified at roughly the time Christ was said to have been crucified. The Romans were big on crucifixion. Every Saturday night they hit the town, drank wine, ate bread, impregnated women and crucified some random men. So even if we knew the time, the place and date, that still leaves hundreds, possibly thousands of victims who could be the one imprinted on that sheet.

Remember, if we don't know how it was done, the possibility remains that some grieving relatives used a technique that is lost now, and that the image isn't Christ at all but someone who once called Caesar a bad name.

It can never be proved that the image on the shroud is Christ. Never. It has also not been proven that it is not Christ and while that might be possible, it might never be achieved.

Some people believe it is definitely Christ. Some believe it is definitely not. I doubt a single one of those people would change their opinions even if some scientist spent his whole life on it. It's a religious icon. It really doesn't matter if it's real or not, all that matters is whether the religious find it affects their faith.

To me, its existence is irrelevant. I am not going to spend time proving or debunking it because it just doesn't matter. It should not matter to atheists, although some like to target it as if by proving that it's just a bedsheet once used by a painter who never bothered to wash, they will somehow bring down the whole of Christianity. Debunking the Turin shroud would have no effect on Christianity. Many Christians don't believe it's real either.

Prove or disprove, it will not affect Christianity and it will not affect the atheists. Therefore, I should conclude that any study is a waste of time. Shouldn't I?

No study, of anything at all, is ever a waste of time. If the Turin shroud interested me I would study it but I would neither be trying to support nor debunk Christianity. I would do it for my own interest, my own satisfaction.

It's really no different to my own work. I study ghosts to satisfy my curiosity. I don't care whether any sceptic is ever swayed by what I find. Let them rage and rant that I'm wasting my time. It's my time, and that's the point. I choose to use it to investigate something that interests me.

That's why I read about research into the Turin shroud, Bigfoot and all the rest. I am interested in the research and am impressed by the tenacity and methods of many of those involved. They might find proof that they consider satisfied their curiosity and maybe I won't believe them. Maybe I will look at their photos and think 'I could photoshop that'. Many people could, these days. It's getting appallingly easy.

I hope they think as I do, that finding the proof to their own satisfaction is all it is about.

Because, really, that is all it is about.

The sceptics will never be swayed. Some people just don't want their comfort zone invaded. Leave them alone, let them live as they wish and believe as they wish.

In the end, it won't matter.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Playing away.

Today I have a guest article over at the Book Boost blog. There will be a prize draw among the comments for a signed copy of each of the first and second editions of 'Ghosthunting for the Sensible Investigator'.

I have also revamped the old first edition into a pocket-sized book. It did mean shrinking the photos but it looks and feels more like a 'book' (a very small one) than a pamphlet.

There will be a third edition at some point and I think, with that one, I'll try my luck with a publisher.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Apple download

There are many reports of odd things dropping from the sky. Fish, various crustaceans and frogs seem to be most common and these are usually put down to tornadoes/waterspouts lifting them from their habitats and dropping them somewhere else.

That's certainly plausible. The UK does get a fair amount of tornado activity, not usually with the strength of those seen elsewhere in the world but once in a while a big one does come along.

Apples though, are an oddity. Especially in December, when they should all have been harvested in September and October.

There are more strong winds forecast. Perhaps there'll be another bizarre celestial delivery somewhere.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Do ghosts die?

It's nearly time for the annual (hypothermia permitting) visit to the riverside to look for Jacobites. This year is much less severe than last year, it's cold and icy but it's Scotland and December so that is only to be expected. There's been very little snow so far and none of that -20C nonsense we had last year. Even though it's now 5 am I don't have the heating on because the house insulation is enough. It's looking good for this year's visit.

This Jacobite haunting is a replay event, if it's still there. The images do the same thing at the same time every year. No ghosts, no spirits, nothing to communicate with and about as scary as a movie - because that's exactly what it is. A three-dimensional recording that repeats the same way every time. Christmas is a most appropriate time to watch repeats, I think.

These can be lost if the ground is worked over for new building or for demolition. How the recording is laid down and what makes it replay is not known and it might not be the same in each case. Some just fade over time as if the tape is wearing out. Unfortunately, since we have no idea how these recordings happen, we have no way of preserving them and no means of boosting the signal. Any meddling might ruin the thing for good.

These are, I repeat, not ghosts. Not spirits. Not time-slips and not really paranormal in the strictest sense. Somehow, certain events are recorded on the environment and can be replayed. They do not interact with the observer any more than a politician on the television reacts to the things I say to them. Which is probably for the best because you can be arrested for saying some of those things these days.

Actual ghosts interact, we can converse with them and they are mostly recently deceased. I touched briefly on one aspect of that in the second edition of Ghosthunting for the Sensible Investigator' and will go deeper into it for the next edition. We see Edwardian and Victorian ghosts, sometimes there are reports of cowboys in the USA and even a few, very few in the UK from the reign of Charles the First. Further back, little or nothing.

The few reports of ghost Romans in the UK all sound like recordings. They are re-runs. There are no signs in the UK of ghost Druids or ghost Picts or ghost Anglo-Saxons or ghost Cymric or ghost Vikings or even ghost Normans. Where did they go? There aren't even recording-type phenomena to associate with them.

The older recordings might have been overwritten. In the absence of solid data we have only speculation but suppose that some places are more likely to record events than others. A high level of a particular mineral, maybe, I don't know.  I also don't know the required conditions for the recording to start. So let us suppose that certain places can record when the 'record' aspect is active and that if that 'record' aspect is reactivated later, the old recording is overwritten with the new. If it isn't, the old recording stays but fades over time.

Let us further suppose that pressing the 'record' button is not easy and requires some specific and rare combination of conditions, and they might not occur in all recording-places at the same time. That would allow Roman recordings in York to still be there and Jacobites in Scotland and monks at various abbeys in England and cowboys in the USA and Aztecs in Peru and so on.

Back to the point. There are still old recordings around but where are the old ghosts? Scotland is littered with stone circles and menhirs and dolmens with Pictish carvings but none of them have any Pictish ghosts. There are not even ghosts of the Norman invaders here. What happened to them?

Did they all move on to some kind of spirit world or is it worse than that? Did they simply die?

The first response in most people's minds will be 'Don't be silly. They can't die if they're already dead' but they're not dead, are they?

Their physical, flesh and bone body is dead but those spirits move, think and interact. They are not alive in the sense that we are alive but they have a form of life and any form of life could potentially end. Physics demands that they must take in energy in some form. It's not in the form of burger and fries but they must take in energy in order to be active. They are still part of the natural universe and still bound by the basic laws of physics.If they run out of energy and cannot find more, does the same thing happen to them as happens to us?

Over time, those old ghosts vanish. Do they die?

Saturday, December 03, 2011

The free story experiment - first results.

Some time back, I decided to try out an idea for getting those books known at zero cost to me. I have no marketing training so the thought of throwing money into ideas that might be utterly pointless did not appeal.

From this non-marketer's viewpoint, it seemed to me that the first hurdle to overcome as a writer is getting known as a writer. Publishing is no longer such a hurdle, I have one book with a traditional publisher and prefer to send novels through that route but I have a growing number of self-published titles too. It helps if you are obsessive about spelling and grammar and it's essential to get someone to read over the book before releasing it. If you release a terrible book full of spelling errors and meandering plot lines that lead nowhere, you will certainly get known but for the wrong reasons. It will not improve your chances with the next book.

The idea I came up with was to put out a few short stories as free eBooks and include advertising for the other books in the back. These went to Smashwords because that site allows me to track page views and downloads of the free stories and to examine their effects on pageviews of the other, advertised books.

Smashwords is a terrible place to sell books. It's well known among writers but not so much among readers. Readers tend to go to their preferred large-scale online bookstores such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and others. If your book languishes on Smashwords you won't sell many so it is essential to format it and prepare it correctly so it gets through the 'premium' screening.

Once through that, Smashwords will distribute your eBooks to the major retailers (there seems to be some issue with Amazon but it's easy enough to put eBooks there yourself. It just doesn't seem possible to make them free). That is where people who read will find them.

My zero-cost marketing plan involved, so far, three short stories. These went up some weeks apart as follows:

A Little Knowledge...           25th September
Room Service                      15th October
Bernie's Bargain                   29th October

The pageviews for each peaked after two days and then declined. My guess is that two-three days is how long it takes to scroll far enough down the 'free' listings so that nobody sees it any more.

Each story caused a temporary rise in pageviews of the two short story books on there, Fears of the Old and the New and Dark Thoughts and Demons. Each subsequent story also boosted views of the previous ones. Sales of the short story books were not noticeably improved but on Smashwords, I didn't really expect them to be. I needed those free shorts to get through the 'premium' screen and onto Barnes and Noble and other sites. They did.

As of today, Smashwords downloads for those free stories are as follows:

A Little Knowledge...            200
Room Service                      365
Bernie's Bargain                  163

I don't know how this has affected Jessica's Trap but even if I assume that the same people are downloading all the free ones, then 365 people have adverts for Jessica's Trap and the two short story books. They might not have bought them yet but they are now aware of their existence - and mine - and that's a start.

The main distribution sites report roughly every three months or so. Today Barnes and Noble reported that two of those free eBooks have been picked up from their site - downloads were as follows:

Room Service                     268
Bernie's Bargain                   37

I don't know what happened to the other one. Maybe it didn't make it through the strict B&N requirements.  It doesn't matter. I have at least another 268 readers who now know I exist and who have ads for the other books. This little scheme has reached at least 633 people worldwide and it has cost me nothing but a little time. I don't yet know the figures for Kobo, Diesel, Apple etc but I do know there have been sales of the short story books on Kobo and Apple at least.

Best of all, it's still going. New readers are still trickling in through those free eBooks and I have another planned which should, I hope, boost activity again. I will definitely have one out for Christmas because lots of people will get shiny new Kindles and Nooks and they'll be looking for things to fill them up.

The frustrating part is the time it takes to get sales information. I will get a sales report for Jessica's Trap at the end of December but will it show increased sales? Well it depends. It depends on whether there has been any effect on sales and it will also depend on when the retailers report back to the publisher. If they don't report until January then those figures won't be in the publisher's December report.

It's going to take a long time but then this is a new line of business for me, and involves developing an entirely different set of skills from what I am used to. My natural impatience will have to be curbed.

If you decide to try this, here are three important tips.

First, read the Smashwords style guide and do what it says. You really, really need to get through into premium distribution. It costs nothing and it gets those books onto the sites that readers use.

Second, don't include links to books you've published elsewhere in your 'by the same author' pages. Put in your own website, put in publishers' websites, but don't put any bookseller websites. Amazon will not list books that advertise Barnes and Noble, and vice versa. The best option is to have your own website and link to that.

Third, if you have already placed books with Amazon or others, remember to opt out of Smashwords distribution for those sites, otherwise you will just cause confusion. And make sure the prices are the same.

I did this again with 'Ghosthunting for the Sensible Investigator' using a separate Smashwords account because my fiction is under another name.  You can load books onto Amazon using different names but Smashwords don't allow this unless you want to set up a publisher account. They do allow second accounts.

I put up both the first and second editions and not much happened. I then put up an extract from the second edition as a free sample and the downloads started - as did the pageviews on the main books. No sales there yet, but some on Amazon and the first edition is already selling on Barnes and Noble and Apple via, who also do the print versions. I always thought the print version of the first edition cost far too much for such a small book. The second is three times the size and doesn't cost much more in print. As an eBook, that first edition sells pretty well.

Using freebies to boost market reach does seem to be working. It is, at least, getting my name known among readers and it is not costing me anything. Any book sales resulting from this attempt are all profit, no cost.

Am I wasting a good short story? Well, if I sell them, I'll get a one-off payment of $5-$10 and that's all. It's not as if I'm giving away novels here. If those shorts result only in two or three book sales each they'll have made as much as a magazine would have paid anyway. I think this is a more effective use of these shorts, although I will also continue to send them into magazines. I no longer care if the magazines pay - the stories are adverts now.

I will return to this subject in future. There is no point looking at these figures more than once a month because they are subject to the whims of bookseller reporting and won't change much over a week or so.

There might be something to report after Christmas. We'll see.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Nothing for months...

... and then two come along on the same day.

A groping poltergeist in Canterbury, and a 'grey ghost' in Bridlington.

Both very physical manifestations, both are able to touch people and move things. The Canterbury poltergeist is not reported to have said anything but the grey ghost in Bridlington apparently talks to a small boy at night. There is no mention of what the grey man talks about, unfortunately.

There is also a rumour of a local demonic apparition which I hope to quiz some people about this week. It might turn out to be another old tale of something nobody's seen for years but you never know.

I still have hopes for the river crossing this year, as long as the mild weather holds. It doesn't need to be snow-free and warm, but I draw the line at temperatures of -20C. That's below zero Farenheit. I'm fairly sure I've narrowed down the location so I hope this winter is one of the less vicious ones.

With the sudden burst of activity, it seems this is an excellent time to publish an updated version of 'Ghosthunting for the Sensible Investigator' so having finished it, I decided to opt for self-publication. By the time it went through the publishing process, this burst of interest might have faded to nothing again.

The print version is on Lulu and I included a hardback version this time too. It was no effort and no cost which is just as well because nobody will pay hardback prices at Lulu!

Lulu also has the EPUB electronic version and it's also available for Kindle (that link is to the UK site but it will also be on the US, French and German sites). The Nook, Apple and Kobo versions should appear on those sites gradually. There are a lot of formats available on Smashwords too. The first edition is also now on Smashwords.

Formatting eBooks gets easier with practice. Having been brought up to worry about page breaks it is sometimes difficult to remember that eBooks have none. No fixed font size either, in most cases. It's strange to publish something so fluid and changeable.

I tried to keep the tone less angry this time, I really did. I think there are even one or two places where I succeeded. Well, it's published now. Maybe it will be expanded further in the future. There is plenty of scope for that.

I'll put up some extracts later.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Breaking the silence.

No, I haven't yet become one of the ghosts I look for. I'm still alive.

The long silence here has been due to concentrating on a rewrite of 'Ghosthunting for the Sensible Investigator'. The new version will be longer, more detailed and less rage-fuelled than the first edition. I hope to have that ready by the end of this month.

The first edition was definitely rage-fuelled. I wrote it in a blistering fury brought on by those celebrity ghosthunting shows and by the increasing advice from all and sundry that did no more than part people from their money. Most of the gadgetry has never been shown to achieve anything at all, none of the readings would stand up to any scientific definition of 'evidence' and yet we were hearing that it was all essential.

That was in 2006. Having finally calmed down, I am now able to write a more measured edition with fewer blasts of intense anger. I wasn't going to bother. The first edition was therapy, it was mainly to get some of that fury out of my system. I put it on Lulu and forgot about it. Once every few years, Lulu would send me five dollars in accrued earnings but I didn't do anything to promote the book.

Lulu did not forget about it. They put the print version on Amazon although only on the US site. The price was, I felt, far too high for a small book. I don't think a single copy sold through Amazon.

Then Lulu put the electronic version on the Apple iStore and on Barnes and Noble. That was more reasonably priced and was, of course, immune to postage charges. That started to sell to the point where I thought it was time to take the little book more seriously. Lulu didn't put it on Amazon Kindle and have now had some kind of disagreement with Amazon so the print version soon won't be available there either. No matter, I worked out how to put things on the Kindle store a while ago.

Again, I had not intended to bother putting the first edition on the Kindle. The print copy was there and there would soon be a second edition. When I heard that the print copy was to be withdrawn, I changed my mind. I'd like that first edition to be available to anyone who wants to compare something written by an almost-calm investigator with the sort of high-speed blast of rage that those SWAT-team-like TV ghosthunters can induce in an otherwise reasonable observer.

Besides, I won't be using all the same photos again and I don't want the originals lost. The original documents and photos from that book disappeared in a hard disk crash in the intervening years so all I have of them are the ones in the book. Fortunately Lulu still has the uploaded file so I was able to take that and re-edit it for Kindle conversion.

'Ghosthunting for the Sensible Investigator' is therefore now available on the Amazon Kindle in the US, UK, German and French stores as well as on Barnes and Noble and on the Apple iBookstore. Just type 'Romulus Crowe' in the search bar. There is only one of me.

I won't bother putting it on Smashwords because it's already on the three main sites anyway. The only other useful one would be Kobo. I'll look into that, and maybe look at Smashwords again, after I finish the second edition.

There remains the decision whether to self-publish or make use of a link SW sent to me. There are publishers specialising in this kind of book and the services of a professional editor, professional cover artist and someone who actually knows about marketing would be useful.

On the other hand, self-publishing is fast. Lightning fast compared to traditional publishing. Well, that's a decision that is of no relevance until the book is done.

So I suppose I'd better get back to it.

Monday, October 31, 2011


It's now approaching 11:30 on Halloween. Originally, it began at sunset rather than having its main focus at midnight. The Celts and other ancient races would light a bonfire at the start of the new day (at sunset) and as it died down, they'd leap or run through to cleanse themselves of the demons they might have picked up during the year. Sunset on this night marked the start of a new year.

The Celtic approach was appealing, I think. The day started at sunset, the year started with winter. So all the dark and the cold was out of the way at the beginning of the day or year and the rest was something to look forward to.

It had nothing to do with witchery or calling up spirits. Quite the opposite, it was a time to clear out all those ghosts and demonic entities that might have attached themselves to people throughout the year. That link though, that connection of the time of year with an association of the living and the dead, was always there.

It was always a time of great spirituality even though its meaning has changed over the centuries.

Now it's just another excuse for selling crap and making a bloody nuisance of yourself. This year I have been less welcoming to trick-or-treaters than in previous years. I know, it's hard to imagine that could even be possible. Those who know me will regard my idea of 'tolerant' as not planting tripwires and mines on the path to the house and not pouring boiling oil from the roof.

However, even as recently as last year, I was prepared to give out sweets to those small children. They had made an effort with their costumes, they would tell a terrible joke, and they were polite. This year it's nothing more than roaming gangs of yobs demanding money or treats with menaces. They are not 'trick or treating', they are making the rounds to demand protection payments.

The 'tricks' they apply now have led to calls for the entire event to be banned. My default response to any kind of ban is that it is another example of control freakery and ridiculous State nannying. In this case, it is a response to the actions of the children themselves. When they use an event to terrorise their neighbours they can hardly complain when their neighbours start calling for a ban.

I know they are not all like that. In the recent past, none of them were like that. In my youth, pumpkins were unknown in the UK so we hollowed out turnips, cut faces in them and put candles inside. The stench was incredible. Pumpkins are the same but bigger, so their lids don't char quite so fast. We tried to catch apples in water or hanging from strings. We did not hammer on neighbours' doors until they opened and then proceeded to demand a treat in exchange for not vandalising their home.

Here, money collection was associated with the following week's event, Guy Fawkes Night on November 5th. The Christian church moved the bonfire there so the common folk still had their bonfire, but now it was separated entirely from anything spiritual and associated with a man who tried to bring down Parliament. We used to call him 'traitor' but we don't now. Anyway, kids would make a life-sized dummy and wheel it around asking for a 'penny for the guy'. That money was put towards the fireworks. At no time was anyone threatened with tricks or bricks.

Costumes used to be home-made, now they are on sale in huge racks in supermarkets. Pre-carved plastic pumpkins and rubber bats and puppet skeletons are everywhere for at least a month beforehand. It's not as bad as Christmas yet - Christmas stuff went on sale even before the Halloween things.

Tonight used to be about spirituality, with an element of fun for the children. Now? Now it's an excuse to go marauding and terrorising and vandalising and their parents excuse it all with 'it's just a bit of fun'

Well, when I send your child home in instalments, that's just a bit of fun too. A fun way to put the death back into Halloween. We used to enjoy Halloween as children, and there's nothing wrong with a bit of fun.

Demanding payment with threats is not a bit of fun. It's a criminal act. I don't want to see the whole thing banned, so children, stop behaving in a way that will get it banned.

The current ban-freaks don't need much of an excuse, you know.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Writing about demons.

I am well aware that many people don't believe in the existence of ghosts or demons. Even those who might have experienced the attentions of the supernatural can often simply reason it away as imagination. I don't blame them, it's easier to just push it aside and just get on with life.

I am also aware that many of those who do believe in their existence of demons will have nothing to do with them. Again, I can't blame people for this, demons can be dangerous and are best avoided.

It does, however, make books about demons a hard sell. Especially for those like me who insist on using the researched demons rather than just making one up. I know the Jehovah's Witnesses will never buy any of my books because their rules forbid even passing contact with the spirit world.

So it's nice to see a good review of one of those books once in a while.

As to the experiment with free stories, that seems to be generating very interesting results. A third story should produce some data I can actually analyse. Then again, in the lead-up to Halloween, the demand for this kind of story might be skewed so I'll have to continue after Halloween to see if the trend continues.

I like writing. You can do it indoors, in the warm, with the lights on.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The appliance of science.

Since I know nothing at all of marketing methods, I decided to apply scientific ones to the selling of books. An experiment, in other words.

Smashwords is the best place to do this because they let you see how many pageviews you're getting on each book. At this early stage, this information is even more useful than sales numbers.

The way Smashwords and pretty much every other self-publishing distributor operates is that their front page shows the latest releases. So if you put a free story on there, it appears on the front page but rapidly scrolls off. Smashwords allows readers to select by genre and by price so those looking for free horror stories will see it scroll more slowly than those looking at the general list.

What happened with the first free story was that it peaked after two days, both on pageviews and downloads, then dropped away to a level of around two to three views/downloads a day, and then it died altogether after three weeks.

What's interesting was that the pageviews for the two collections followed the same pattern (these are advertised at the end of the free story). There was no remarkable boost in sales, but the free story means that a lot of people who didn't know the collections existed, now know they exist. Whether they come back and buy them, only time will tell.

I put up another free story on Friday morning. That has, so far, followed the exact same pattern with the pageviews on the collections following again. This time, it also boosted pageviews and downloads of the first free story - so those who have both stories now have two sets of ads for the collections. Will it improve sales of the collections? They are modestly priced, so it's possible.

It might take a few free stories to get those books moving but so far, it seems the best way to do this is to put up a free short story every 2-3 weeks or so. Too many and you're doing too much free work, using up time you could be applying to full-size books and collections, and swamping out the paid books. Too few and people forget about you.

Am I wasting short stories? Well, if you sell a short, you'll get a small one-off payment and that's it. No multiple sales, no royalties, just that one payment. Giving the shorts away free is not going to lose you the cost of the mortgage. Maybe the price of a beer.

If you publish in a magazine, your story is surrounded by the advertisers who pay the magazine for space. There's nothing wrong with that, it's how most magazines stay alive. On the other hand, if you give away the story yourself, that advertising space is all yours and it's free.

At this stage the free stories are not getting the other books sold but they are getting them noticed - and nobody can buy a book unless they know it exists. The experiment is in its early stages so it's too soon to say how well this will work, but it's costing nothing more than time. Time to write and edit the short story and time to produce a cover. Both of these must be treated as if they were for a 'selling' book. Don't think 'Ah, it's free, this'll do' because the advertising is not confined to the 'by the same author' part at the end.

The advert is the entire story. If it's rubbish, readers will assume the paid-for books will be rubbish too. You haven't just wasted a story, you've done terrible harm to your reputation. The idea is to get readers to think 'That was good. What else is there?' rather than 'Well, that was terrible. I'm not paying to read his other stuff'.

So these free shorts get edited, they get proofread, they get rewrites and tweaks just as the full books do. The covers take time and with little artistic ability, I use photographs and Paint Shop to make them. I only use photos I've taken myself so there's no issue of copyright. They take time but the cover is the first thing anyone sees. If it looks awful, that 'back' button is just one click away.

The sudden surge in sales of 'Ghosthunting for the Sensible Investigator' is entirely separate, and mostly applies to the Apple iBooks which I can't access. My fiction is under the name 'H K Hillman' so nobody would see an immediate connection between that and the ghosthunting book. That surge is, I suspect, due to the approach of Halloween and I wish I'd had that second edition ready! There might still be time.

I also (obviously) include ads for Jessica's Trap but as that's published by Eternal Press, I don't have instant access to sales or pageviews. I can only assess that one on the basis of quarterly reports, of which there have been two so far. The first was dreadful, the second was less dreadful, the third might reach the dizzy heights of almost good. I'll know at the end of December. For a first novel by an unknown author, it would have been surprising if it had done any better.The silver lining is that it's making money, not costing money. Not very much but it's early days.

The second novel has progressed to a full-manuscript request which is good (but not certain, not yet) and the third is just about ready to start going through the process. Hopefully this experiment will translate into the world of publishing, where the appearance of the second novel boosts interest in the first.

Publishing is just the start. Nobody can buy your work if they aren't aware of its existence and that's what marketing is supposed to achieve. I have no idea how to be a marketer so I'm applying the techniques I understand instead. Experiment, modify and experiment again.

Eventually I might get this right.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hallowe'en is coming.

I always enjoy Hallowe'en even though it's not the same as when I was small. It used to be about ducking for apples and scary stories at the fireside. Now it's all dress-up and street begging and sweets and plastic skeletons.

Still, it's fun, and the remembrance of the day keeps the ghostly aspects in everyone's mind.

I know there are people who don't like Hallowe'en although I didn't realise there was a rare phobia whereby a few people are actually terrified of it. It can't be physiological because nothing physiological happens. Like the irrational fear of the number 13 it must be a learned phobia.

It could be instilled by a religious upbringing or by an overbearing parent and it would be a very hard one to cure by traditional means. The event only happens once a year. Not much scope for getting accustomed to it.

Maybe that grouchy neighbour who will have nothing to do with the event isn't just being miserable. Maybe it actually terrifies them.

Perhaps, this year, I won't deliberately set out to scare them.


Unidentified flying seagull.

The photograph of the circular object has now been unveiled at the Cornwall UFO Research Group (CUFORG), which was founded by Dave Gillham in 1995
He said: 'The person who took the photo never saw anything in the area while taking the photo.
'It was only when he got home and downloaded it onto his computer that he saw an object - a disc shaped craft, hovering just above the sea.
'There appear to be two trails of water beneath the object which looks as though they are falling from it in to the sea. It could be that the object has just emerged from the sea.'

It. Is. A .Seagull.

An object lesson in loss of credibility parallelled only by the proliferation of 'orbs' and 'rods' since the advent of digital cameras. Proclaim an obvious piece of junk as proof and everything you've done so far, no matter how great, just falls to the ground.

The picture shows a seagull, and judging by the dark wings most likely a herring gull, flying from right to left across the camera. You can even see its eye. No more, no less, nothing at all supernatural or extraterrestrial here. It's a blurry photo of a bird. We all have those.

This UFO group have just destroyed any belief in their objectivity and hammered their credibility into the ground. Was it worth it? For a seagull? Really? Their 'trails of water' are the sails of yachts. That's what the photographer was trying to catch but they were too far away. The eyepiece of a cheap camera doesn't make that part clear.

I notice 'Ghosthunting for the Sensible Investigator' is suddenly doing well on the Apple iBookstore for some reason.

I hope it's because people are starting to take these things seriously. Time to accelerate the second edition, perhaps.

Friday, October 07, 2011

So... is it a scam or not?

The Northwest Passage across the Arctic is currently open to shipping. This is the end of summer so it'll be frozen soon. The fact that this route is possible is claimed as proof of melting ice caps and therefore global warming.

Take a closer look.

The Northwest Passage was impassable in 1978 even with modern icebreaking steel hulls. Now it's open. So that proves global warming, right?

But wait - it was navigated by a Norwegian in a wooden sailing vessel in 1905. No steel hull and no fancy gear. How is that possible?

Then there are the moths. A now-rare species, the flame brocade moth, has appeared in southern England this summer. It's come here from warmer climes in Africa. So, does that prove global warming?

Wait - look at this line.

The large numbers of the flame brocade moth, which used to live in Sussex in the second half of the 19th century...

So in the late 1800s, southern England was warm enough for this moth to be a natural resident but now it struggles to visit. Just a few years later, the 'impassable' Northwest Passage was in fact passed by a wooden sailing ship.

The article on the polar ice tells us what the ice was like thirty years ago compared to now. It does not tell us what it was like a hundred years ago when  wooden ships could sail through it and tropical moths lived in England. Afterwards, the moths left England for Africa and the Northwest Passage froze shut. Now we are gradually returning to the conditions seen in the late 1800s/early 1900s and we're not warm enough to compete with them yet.

Yet this is all presented as evidence of global warming caused by modern people, and as a reason to tax us all into the poorhouse.

For some reason I can't quite put my finger on, I am not convinced.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Another Yeti hunt.

There is to be another expedition to seek out the Yeti in Siberia. It's an elusive creature, if it's real, but then Siberia is a very big place with not many people so you could probably hide a herd of mammoths there without anyone noticing.

One of the scientists thinks Yetis are surviving Neanderthals. I hadn't thought of that before. The Neanderthals were real but were outcompeted by us. It is possible that they retreated into those places we never visit and that a few small populations still exist. Not certain, but possible.

It's only recently that we've discovered the coelacanth, a fish thought to have gone extinct many thousands of years ago. Also the giant squid, the Kraken that ancient sailors were laughed at for describing. There are huge tracts of land on this planet where humans don't go, there are Amazonian tribes nobody has contacted, there is a forest in Indonesia where animals aren't scared of humans because they've never seen any before, and expeditions into these unknown areas are still finding new species. Is it possible that there are Neanderthals still? I'd say yes, it's possible.

Are they Yetis? Well, Neanderthals were hairier than us but not nearly as hairy as the description of Yetis (and Bigfoot, for that matter). Perhaps they've developed more hair, or perhaps they're wearing animal skins sewn into an all-over suit. Or perhaps Yetis are not Neanderthals at all. We'll just have to wait and see.

I wish the expedition luck and will be waiting here (a long way from Siberia) to hear what they find.

This time, I hope it's more than a few snapped branches and footprints in the snow.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Science by magician.

Another stage psychic has been toppled by a stage magician who admits he was once a fake psychic himself. Is it just me, or is this new world where stage magicians operate as scientific debunkers disturbing anyone else?

Paul Zenon is a magician. His magic isn't real and he does not pretend that it is. It's clever and it's often hard to work out how it's done, but it's done with physical trickery. Not with wands and pointy hats. He states that he has used cold reading in the past to trick audiences. Other magicians have done the same.

I recall one British magician who 'proved' that astrology was bunk by writing a newspaper-column-type generalised reading and showing that it applied to everyone. No big surprise, pick any star sign in the newspaper and you can work it into something that's happened in your life. That does not prove that a full reading done by an astrologer who has your precise birth details is wrong. All it proved was that the newspaper columns are generalised junk. We already knew that.

I have no faith in stage psychics. Finding the right number of ghosts to fill a show, with no long blank spaces and no ghost that doesn't relate to the audience, looks dodgy from the outset. If they really are calling up the spirits of the dead to order, that's not mediumship. That's necromancy and anyone involved in that is best avoided.

I don't think any stage psychic is a real medium. A real one would be constantly distracted if they just threw themselves open to any and all ghosts around them and there's no other way to run such a show. Ghosts don't form orderly queues.

One line in that article caught my attention - is still illegal in this country to claim to be a medium...

Well, it's illegal to make money from the claim, but it seems to be just fine if you say 'psychic' instead. The law here is a shambles.

I really don't think you'd ever see a real medium on the stage. It doesn't work to TV schedules. As with the magician's debunking of newspaper astrology, it does not prove there is no real life counterpart. Actually speaking to ghosts is not a profitable occupation, they rarely have anything interesting to say and they don't know the lottery numbers because they can't see the future. Many are a bit hazy on the past, never mind the future. They also tend to turn up more by chance than anything else. Mediums do not summon spirits. That is a different and much darker practice.

Worse, if you go around telling people you see and hear the dead, chances are you'll soon have your very own rubber room. This society is not very forgiving of those who are different from what it defines as normal. So getting mediums to come forward isn't as easy as it sounds.Those who do speak out know they are likely to find themselves on some pretty hefty medication.

Medicine will tell you that 'the voices aren't real' and hold up proof in the form of 'well, the drugs stopped the voices so they were never real'. Were the voices never real, or did the drugs merely block the patient's ability to hear them? Medicine doesn't care. The symptom is gone, the patient is cured. Next!

I agree with the magician's statement that stage mediumship is almost certainly entirely a con. It's entertainment and as long as you see it as entertainment, no problem. Just as you know the magician is using trickery, be aware that the stage psychic is also using trickery.

That does not mean that ghosts don't exist nor does it mean that nobody can see them.

Even so, it does disturb me that this sort of thing is left to stage magicians while science merely dismisses the entire subject with 'I don't believe it'. Science is not supposed to be about belief.

Increasingly, in many areas, it is.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Old dog, new tricks.

When I wrote 'Ghosthunting for the Sensible Investigator' and put it on Lulu, I did it in what can best be described as a fit of truculence.

It's not much of a book, a mere 30-page pamphlet really, and it happened because I kept reading 'manuals' that told the reader they'd need this or that device and they'd need this or that preparation and all of them were concerned with electronics and gadgetry

There is no such thing as a ghost detector. EMF meters measure electromagnetic fields and fluctuations in such fields might or might not mean there's a ghost around. They might mean the fridge has just switched on and caused a voltage spike throughout the mains. You don’t have to be in the same room as the fridge to measure it.

These new tri-field meters are expensive, and are sensitive enough to measure EMF changes caused by the cash in your pocket moving around. They are useless in the hands of anyone who is not used to handling such sensitive equipment and are a waste of money. They are not ghost detectors. Until we have some idea what ghosts are made of, we cannot devise any machinery capable of detecting them.

All that infrared gadgetry is likewise useless unless you understand infrared. When you point one of those infrared thermometers at a ‘cold spot’ it does not magically stop its measuring range just where you want it. It’s measuring the temperature of the first solid object it hits and the further away that object is, the wider the circle of measurement. That means moving it slightly can change the temperature reading because it’s averaging over a wide area. It is not, under any circumstances, measuring air temperature.

See? Just a mention of all that nonsense and I’m in rant mode at once. Don’t even get me started on orbs or I’ll run this post into thesis size. There is much more but I’ll save it for the revised version, which will be big enough to be actually worth calling a book.

The point is, I wrote that book, put it on Lulu and that was enough to get that rant out of my system. I did nothing to advertise it and forgot about it until Lulu sent me a tiny amount of money. It came as a surprise to find that people were buying it.

Well, now I have branched out into actual fiction and so I’ve had to learn about marketing. I had absolutely no idea where to start. It’s not something that science training is much help with – we investigate and write it up in a dry and dusty manner for a journal. Then we move on to the next project.

When I was just hobby-writing short stories, it was pretty much the same as writing papers except the papers were all in past-tense, impersonal, passive voice and the fiction needed an entirely different approach. Writing the occasional newspaper article had helped with that but even so, the attitude was the same as with papers. It’s done, it’s published, move on. There was never any point in ‘marketing’ a short story. I was paid at the point of acceptance and there was no royalty to push for.

I’m fortunate in that the first book – Jessica’s Trap – was taken up by a publisher, so they took care of editing and cover art and some marketing. However, I still need to push it myself because publishers release loads of books and don’t care too much which ones are big and which fail. They’ll concentrate on the successes and ignore the failures. That’s how business works. If you want to be one of the successes you have to work for it. That's how life works.

The other two so far are short story collections. I self-published those because unless you’re already famous, short story collections are nearly impossible to sell to a publisher. The first one, ‘Fears of the Old and the New’, was made up of stories I’d published in the past. The magazines and online sites had either scrolled those stories off the page or had gone out of business. The rights had reverted to me but with first rights already sold, there was no profit in hawking them round again.

I made that book so I wouldn’t lose the stories and again, was surprised when it sold. Then came ‘Dark Thoughts and Demons’, a second collection of shorts. By now I was starting to take writing seriously so this one, along with the earlier one, I put on Kindle and Smashwords as well as in print and PDF on Lulu. Look for my writing 'name' - H. K. Hillman - on those sites.

Writing, editing, proofreading, production, even half-decent covers – I can do those things. Maybe not proper artisitic covers but fairly presentable ones, I think. Still I had no idea how to market them. Finally I realised I was looking at it the wrong way. I was trying to think like a marketer, and I’m not one. Instead, I started wondering how advertisers managed to get me to pick up their ads.

Offer me a flyer and I’ll either ignore it or accept it and then drop it unread into the first bin I pass. Just as most people do. What gets me to keep an ad is if it’s attached to something that’s free.

Not something of great consequence or value. Just something free. If it’s a fridge magnet I might stick it on the fridge and maybe, one day, actually read it. I have bottle openers with ads on them, and pens and mugs and keyrings... but these are all costly to produce and difficult to distribute.

So what could I attach an advert to? Well, a story costs nothing to write. Nothing but time. Not so long ago, it would have been impossible to make use of this as an advertising medium because it would have to be printed and handed out.

Now, all it needs is a decent cover and it can go onto all the electronic distribution channels as a free short story – with ads for the full books at the end. Best of all, it costs nothing. Zero outlay, apart from a couple of evenings to bash out and edit a 3000-word story.

I have not worked out how to make things free on Kindle. The minimum price seems to be 99 cents but there are free books on there so it can be done. I’ll work on that. Hints would be welcome.

I can make it free on Smashwords which does (in theory) distribute to Kindle but that part doesn’t seem to work. All their other distribution channels work just fine. The Kindle format version is free on Smashwords anyway, as are all the other formats.

This, then, is a whole new game for me. I have, as yet, no idea of the rules so I’m working them out as I go along. One thing is clear – don’t attach ads to a rubbish story. The story is the advertisement and if it’s dull and full of errors, those reading it will assume the same will be true of the books.

While I didn’t pick one of the best to give away free, I made sure it was one of those I consider at least ‘good’. Will it work? I put it on Smashwords less than 48 hours ago and so far there are 91 downloads. It’s slowing as it scrolls down the ‘new free ebooks’ list but adding another in a few days might perk it up again.

I have no idea how many of those who read it will want to read more, only time will tell. As a marketing ploy, I have no idea how good this will be but as a cost-effective marketing ploy, it’s excellent. The cost is zero. Not many marketing techniques can say that.

So. Worth a try. If anyone has any tips on how to get books under the noses of readers, I’ll be interested to hear them.

This old dog is always willing to learn new tricks.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Teaching vs. indoctrination.

Creationism vs. evolution - which is right?

First of all, my declaration of disinterest. I really don't care which is right. Looking at the state of the world makes me far more concerned about where we're going than where we came from. Whether the universe was created by a higher being or popped into existence all by itself simply doesn't matter at all. Whichever stance you take, you have to base it on a belief in the teachings of others because there is no means available to work it out for yourself. So I refuse to worry about it.

What does worry me is the increasing encroachment of things like this - and it goes way beyond this one item - into schools. Children are being indoctrinated at younger and younger ages into belief systems that look like science ard are not. And before 'science' gets all smug becasue they think I only mean creationism here - I mean all of it.

Children are told that if their parents smoke, their parents will die within weeks. This is child abuse. Children are told that unless their parents follow the Green God of Climatology, their parents will die and so will they. This is also child abuse. These children are being terrified by lies told to them by their teachers/indoctrinators.

If you are convinced of the scam that is global warming, take a look at this. Yes, the warmists are now falsifying maps of Greenland to pretend it's turning into the Sudan. If you rely on that map for your next trip to Greenland you're going to get a nasty shock. Meanwhile, here in the UK, we have been warned to expect snow in October. You see, 'weather is not climate' when it gets cold, but 'climate change is proven' when it gets warm. That's what passes for science now. It has followers, like any other religion, who do not question the pronouncements of the experts (the new name for high priests) and who denounce any who disagree as heretics.

It is no longer any different from any other religion.

The 'five-a-day' fruit and vegetable requirement? A made-up number. Those who made it up have admitted they made it up but the acolytes still follow it anyway,. The 'alcohol units limits'? More made-up numbers. Again, those who made it up have admitted it is based on nothing at all and yet the acolytes follow it anyway.

Lately we have seen both Climatology and Tobacco Control departments in universities (yes, really, there are tobacco control departments in universities now) refuse to disclose their data because they say it's private. It's paid for with public money, and if it's so robust, what's the problem? It makes the rest of us wonder if any data exists at all. It makes the rest of us wonder if there is any science left.

Only the faithful now support these pseudoscientists. Oh, and public money. Lots and lots of it.

Evolution is a component of the biological sciences and should be taught in schools to those pupils who opt for biology as a subject. There is no sense at all in teaching something as complex as evolutionary theory to pupils who are going to become business managers, plasterers, bricklayers, not even those who are going to be physicists, chemists or doctors. It is of no relevance to their specialism at all. Evolution is a component of biology and that is all. Stop turning it into a damn religion.

Creationism is a component of religious teaching and should be taught to children in religion classes. Not in science classes because it doesn't belong there. Like evolution, it is of no relevance to those who do not opt for religion so it should remain as a component of religion.

Neither of these belongs in the mainstream curriculum. They are both specialised components of specialised subjects and should be taught only by teachers who know what they are talking about. They should not be attempted by teachers taking a general class of younger pupils.

Neither should the complex biology of smoking nor the medical complexities of alcohol metabolism and certainly not global climate science.

Children as young as five are bombarded with what can only be described as propaganda delivered by indoctrinators. They live their young lives in terror that the world will end any day or that they'll wake up and find their parents dead.

They leave school barely able to read or add up, their heads filled with preconceived half-truths and outright lies and with qualifications that qualify them to pass a test and no more.

Meanwhile more and more single-issue pressure groups insist that their personal prejudice is taught to younger and younger children as if it was the truth.

I am very much against Dawkins' interference in the schooling system. Not because I'm a creationist - I'm not - but because it is yet another single-issue 'We are right and they are wrong' indoctrination, and there is far too much of that already. More and more of it is pouring into schools now and there seems no end to it.

When I was at school, they taught us how to think. We were shown how to work out mathematical problems and how to construct basic English then given harder problems to which we applied those principles. We were not indoctrinated with predetermined answers, we were expected to find our own.

Now children are taught what to think, and thinking the wrong thing will get them in trouble. There is no room for alternative views any more. That is not school. That is a clone factory.

Science is never, never 'settled'. Only religious tracts are immutable. Science that is immutable is indistinguishable from religion and if you follow anything that is 'settled' you are following a religion, not science.

Therefore I remain at the fringes of mainstream science and am glad to be here. Out here we ignore the declarations of the shamans and do not accept the commandments of the high priests. You can rail and bluster and tell me you don't 'believe' in what I do and I will tell you that I don't care what you 'believe'. I am not here to convince you of anything, only to try to persuade you to leave the hive-mind and at least consider the possibilities.

I don't care what you think. I only care that you think it for yourself.

Give children that opportunity too. Unless you're happy to produce a race of Eloi?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Meddling with things I don't really understand.

I have been meddling with Blogger, as you see. I'm not sure about this template, it's a bit bright but I'll meddle some more and see if I can tone it down without crashing the whole thing.

The new interface will take some getting used to. I also have a new toy, a comment enhancement thing from some people with surreal hair, no shoes and a tree in their office. It's free but really, they should charge enough to be able to afford some shoes.

It apparently works by finding famous people's names and... doing something. So if I mention Tony Blair or Sarah Palin, for example, it should pick up on any comments referring to them. I thought I'd give it a try.

I've been meddling in computer matters a lot recently. I worked out how to put books on Kindle so I have two short story collections there now, Fears of the Old and the New, and Dark Thoughts and Demons. Both are also on for those who prefer print. When I have finished rewriting 'Ghosthunting for the Sensible Investigator' I'll put that in there too. Perhaps I shouldn't have so many projects running at once, and should concentrate on finishing them one at a time.

The weather has been desperately bad for the last few years here. Rain, wind and cold. In fact, one of the best days we had was when the rest of the country had a hurricane.This means I'm not going out investigating very much at all. I'm supposed to be looking for ghosts, not becoming one.

With all this time on my hands and all these research materials sitting around with nothing to do, I've taken to writing a lot more lately and finally took that side of things seriously when Jessica's Trap was accepted by a publisher. It was one of those 'Really? I can do this?' moments.

If I can do it, I plan to do it to the best of my ability. As with all things. How good that ability actually is remains to be seen but it will be the best I can do.

Otherwise there'd be no point doing it at all.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Supernovas and predictions.

There is a supernova in the sky at the moment and as with all such events, Scotland has laid on a thick layer of cloud to frustrate viewing. It'll be there for a few days so I hope to catch sight of it in a break in the cloud layer before it's too late.

If you're in the Northern hemisphere, look for the constellation called Ursa Major, also called the Plough or Big Dipper. It looks like a saucepan and the supernova is a little above the outer two stars of the handle.

It was once believed that such celestial events were portents of disaster. Coming, as it does, just before the tenth anniversary of the mindless murder of around three thousand people on September 11th, 2001, it could be argued that it's ten years too late. Although when we have a peace envoy like this idiot, it might be best to be prepared anyway.

Something that happened at least ten years before 2001 might also be of interest. An artist made this picture which, at the time, would have looked like the product of a migraine-induced bad dream. Apparently - and I have no way of knowing if it's true or not - the picture was drawn in or before 1989.

I suspect the artist suffered migraines because there are two stylised instances of what I call 'migraine flare' in the top right of the picture. There might be a better medical term but I do not mention all my visual anomalies to doctors because that could get me sectioned.

Is there any connection? Did the artist dream about the events of 11th September 2001 twelve years before they happened? Two towers - repeated - and two planes, but not just any planes, passenger jets. The planes are not aimed at the buildings so maybe he didn't predict anything. There is nothing to suggest a prediction, nothing to connect the picture with the World Trade Centre until after the event. But even if he had drawn planes flying into towers, who would have paid any attention?

Even if he had seen the whole event and painted it exactly as it happened and included the date and time it was to happen, seriously, would you have listened or would you have scoffed? Personally, if you had said to me on 10th September 2001 that madmen were going to fly planes into the World Trade Centre I'd have laughed you out of the room. Prophecy has always been a thankless task and to be honest, if I knew a terrible thing was to happen tomorrow I would say nothing.

Why? In the current climate of fearful, weak humanity, if it was shown that I knew anything about the disaster before it happened, I'd be blamed for it.

The artist made no claim to prediction. He just drew what was in his head, possibly just something he dreamed that he thought would make an interesting picture. Maybe he had no idea that anything would ever connect that image to reality.

Science laymen, of course, regard such things as 'woo' but at the same time, quantum science questions even the linearity of time. Biology has stated that all humans predict the future, all the time. We have to. The conversion of light into images on the retina, the transfer of that information to the brain, the brain making sense of it, takes time. Not much time but if you're trying to catch a ball, it has passed the point where you see it as soon as you see it. You catch the ball because your brain predicts its trajectory and moves your hand to where it will be, not to where your eyes say it is.

The world you see has already moved into the past. Nobody sees the present. So is it at all conceivable that anyone could see the future?

There is the process of logical deduction. If I see a ball moving I can predict where it's going. So can you. We don't even have to think about it. World politics is more complex. However, take some current world events.

Bin Laden has been killed. The tenth anniversary of what is possibly the most evil action since the Holocaust is approaching. The demon-faced 'peace envoy' to the Middle East has declared he wants 'regime change' in Iran and we all know what that means, as does Iran.

So it is no stretch of logic to predict that something will be attempted on Sunday. Where? That's not so easy to determine logically (the variables in this thought experiment are not all subject to logical actions) but I would guess somewhere in America and somewhere important, but probably not New York. Security is going to be, rightly, very tight indeed.

What will be attempted? Well, it will involve the killing of easy targets because the madmen don't like face-to-face battles. It will be an attack on a densely concentrated civilian target. I don't know America well enough to even guess where but I am sure American analysts have been considering this for quite some time. I can only hope they catch the swines before they do anything.

The three who recently entered America and who are being hunted are, I would say, red herrings. There have been ten years to plan whatever they plan. If something is planned, those who are to act it out are already in place. Yes, they are lunatics, but they are not stupid.

I should note here that I do not equate 'madmen' and 'Muslim'. We had quite a bit of inconvenience with the IRA here in the UK a few years ago but despite meeting many Irish people, I never met an IRA member nor indeed anyone who referred to them as anything other than 'nuts'. Likewise, I have never met a Muslim who called for my destruction - and I've published papers with two Muslim students and would be delighted to teach another. How many students can produce enough work for a full paper in eight weeks? Both of those Muslim students did.

In the UK we treat Muslims as suspect. We say 'Their first loyalty is to Islam'. How soon we forget. Only a few centuries ago we said about Catholics that 'their first loyalty is to the Pope', and a century or so before that, the King ordered the Jews out of Britain. If schools still taught real history, this wouldn't be a surprise.

I have experienced the new wave of hate against the smoker, the drinker, the overweight, well, everyone who doesn't conform to the Borg standard. These are as nothing to someone who sees ghosts. We might think it strange that fundamentalists can persuade an idiot to blow themselves up in a shopping centre but how many of you believe in second hand smoke, the evil of alcohol, global warming and so much of the current wave of pseudoscience blasting out now? It is incredibly easy to persuade almost anyone to believe almost anything.

My grandfather smoked and so did my father and so did I for a long time. Still do if nobody's watching. I grew up in homes with coal fires, I set off fireworks and burned bonfires, I made my own explosives, and the odd thing is, I'm not dead after inhaling all that smoke.

Yet now, I hear of parents who wash and change clothes before touching their children because of third hand smoke. I hear of grandparents excluded from their grandchildren because they smoke.

The point is, these people will believe anything at all, even the utterly ludicrous. I've tested it far beyond the old cold-reading tricks. The fun I've had...

Yet they do not believe predictions even though scientifically, it is at least not impossible whereas scientifically, harm from third hand smoke is impossible. The quantum vision of time means that the past and future can leak into the present and once in a while someone will see it. Maybe as a dream, maybe as waking vision, as might have been the case in Versailles in 1901. Quantum science allows that, yet popular science denies it. The drones, those who are not scientists but believe in the power of the great god Science, will dismiss any deviation from their indoctrination at once, but real science does not. There isn't much of that left.

Maybe some people see the future. I don't see that as a magical paranormal ability, but more as a quantum-time accident. Or maybe as a simple result of assimilating information and predicting on the basis of logical extrapolation. Some people can do that without knowing what they are doing.

Predicting the future is possible. It can happen. Although in the world we have now, if it happens to you, I'd advise you to keep quiet about it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Money and Justice.

If you get the chance to see 'O Lucky Man' (1973), don't miss it but be warned - in parts it goes far beyond simply weird.

The UK news sites often link to stories from around the world, and this one illustrates the establishment obsession with money very nicely. The judge made the right call, I think, in jailing this 15-year-old in this case, even though he only stole seven cents.

No, I am not turning into a Victorian flog-them-and-hang-them type. Despite the bleating of his lawyer -

“For seven cents, now you’re making someone a felon for the rest of his life,” she said.

He was not jailed 'for seven cents'. He was jailed for beating up an elderly man, then forcing him at gunpoint (they say they were BB guns but in that situation, would you take a chance?) to hand over the contents of his pockets, then denying it even though both the victim and his accomplice identified him.

The contents of the victim's pockets are not relevant. If they had stolen no more than a piece of string, or taken a million dollars, they were not convicted by the amount. They were convicted for what they did. They assaulted an elderly man and robbed him at gunpoint. That is what they did, not 'stole seven cents'.

Trying to use the small amount stolen as a defence is pathetic, but it is typical of the attitude of so many these days. It is good to see a judge who takes the right approach, not so good to see a lawyer grade crimes by the amount stolen rather than by the severity of the attack.

Unfortunately there is a lot of this happening now. Keep in mind if you're ever in court, you are less important than money.

Except in Judge William Walsh's court. I hope his attitude catches on.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Facts and fiction.

Another washout summer is nearly over, and the economic woes have ousted anything paranormal from the news. There's been little to investigate and apart from a new experience of my own that's keeping just out of sight so far, nothing at all for me to do. So I've been writing some short stories and novels instead. Well, why let all that research go to waste? If I can't use it on facts I might as well use it on fiction.

For me, though, it is important to distinguish fact from fiction. An attitude that seems sadly lacking in many areas of alleged science lately. Often, the science is twisted to fit a political agenda and objectivity is abandoned in favour of preconceived conclusions supported by tortuously twisted figures.

So we hear that biscuits cause cancer and that fat people cause global warming, the reduction in smoking prevalence that matches with the exponential rise of asthma means that smoking causes asthma, the gradual decline in alcohol consumption is evidence of an outbreak of binge drinking and aliens are going to kill us all because they don't like us having power stations.

That last one is not something I made up. Neither are any of the others. They are all things that were made up by people employed as scientists. Paid, I might add, from tax revenues. I would prefer to have the likes of Clive Barker or Stephen King paid through taxes. At least they make it clear they are just making up stories.

Not all scientists are like this. There are still quite a few who believe in the actual principles of science and who seek the truth rather than the money. There are still some out there.

You won't hear about them very often and when you do, you will hear them decried as heretics. They are not following the plan.

I remember a head of department retiring in the days before I became self-employed. One line of his speech really stayed with me. He said "When I started in science, we were chasing knowledge. Now we're just chasing money."

Since he retired, things have become much worse.

The truth has a way of coming out no matter how hard the control freaks try to suppress it. They never learn.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Money and reality.

I'm often told, in my line of interest, that 'ghosts don't exist'. That I should concentrate on real life and the here and now and making money. So I can buy lots of things I don't want.

A long time ago I had a running argument on this blog with an Australian and missed a golden opportunity. When he gave me three options, one of which was true, I should have told him which was true without letting on how I did it. This was a case of transglobal cold reading. He had already told me the answer without realising. I could have pretended that the online 'readings' were all genuine and he would not have heard me scoff and snort as I typed it. I have demonstrably achieved cold reading from the other side of the planet and I was playing for free. Do you really imagine the phone lines and internet readers are about anything more than money?

The world is obsessed with money. Every lifestyle choice is derided as 'costing the health service money' even though we (in the UK) have no option but to pay into that health service whether we use it or not. I've made a little use of it but if I hadn't had to pay for it, I'd have gone private and had change to spare.

Problems in the world? Oh, we'll send money. No matter that sending money into a corrupt regime simply makes the corrupt richer and the poor notice no difference. We've sent money, the problem is solved. Oh, it isn't? Send some more.

There are those in the world who are religious. I'm not one. I've seen ghosts (spirits/demons if you prefer) and experienced things that convince me there is much more to life than we can normally see, but I have seen no evidence that anyone is in charge. I don't 'deny God', I just have no evidence. So I don't call myself atheist because that's becoming a religion too, and one of the nastier ones. I'm an apathist. There might be a God but as long as he leaves me alone I won't bother him.

The religious are also subject to this 'get into reality' mantra. Get a job, knuckle down, earn money. Money is the only thing that's real.

You know what? Money isn't real at all. Most of it simply does not exist. At all. If everyone wanted their money out of the bank in cash there is nowhere near enough cash to achieve this. Most money is numbers on a screen. It's not real. Look at your national debt. You do not owe all the money in the world. You owe more money than exists. Every country owes money. To whom? To banks.

You go into the bank for a loan, the bank says okay, and what happens? Do you walk out with a bag of cash? No, the numbers in your account go up - but there are no numbers going down anywhere else. That money has not been transferred, it has simply been created out of thin air. You have to pay back the non-existent money plus interest, and the interest is real money.

Okay, you can claim that you can spend the loan but how? With cheque, credit card, bank transfer, online account? Where's the cash? You go to the car dealer, show them the loan certificate, sign the form and you have a car. But where's the cash?

So you repay the loan plus interest, all from the products of your work. If you can't pay, the bank takes your car and then what? They write off the loan of money that didn't exist and they now own something that does exist - your car. Or your furniture, your new kitchen or even your house.

Modern money is no longer backed by gold or silver. It made the transition from there to paper and from paper to database digits. It is less real than telepathy, remote viewing, ghosts, religion or Bugs Bunny. You can at least see some evidence, whether you agree with it or not, for all those things. Money? No, you can't see it. You can see numbers that represent it but that's all. No, not even a cartoon rabbit. It never manifests into anything close to reality.

Why do governments insist we have to keep the economy going? Well, because if we stop using credit cards and other means of moving this ghostly currency around, it will stop moving. If it stops moving we might see what it actually is. Illusion. Fake. A charlatan's greatest confidence trick. We have swapped faith, life and independence for nothing at all. Some paper with famous people's pictures on them. We are trading bubblegum cards and calling it investment.

The modern obsession with money is a religion. A Puritan one but backed up with neither scripture nor science. We must stop people smoking/drinking/putting on weight/eating things we deem bad for them and it is not about health, although many have been fooled into believing this is the reason. No, plebian, nobody cares about you. They care about Money.

Look at any report on smoking, drinking, the overweight, anything. Look at the comments. Do you see 'Oh, these poor people, we must help them,' or do you see 'Kill them all in the most appalling way imaginable and do it now'?

About health? No. It's about money. 'Our tax dollars'. Have you ever paid tax? I haven't. I've signed cheques, I've authorised bank transfers to the taxman, I've worked where tax is deducted before you get paid but I have never handed over one single thing I actually cared about, and not one note of real cash. All I have ever done, where tax is concerned, is move numbers around. That is all it takes. That is all there is where modern money is concerned.

Money is everything and nothing. The appropriate demon here would be Mammon, I believe, although I have yet to look into that in detail.

It used to be said that 'the love of money is the root of all evil'. Often corrupted to 'Money is the root of all evil' but really, neither is exactly right.

The worship of money as if it were the Saviour of the World is the problem. Throwing money at drug barons to stop them dealing drugs cannot work, but we do it anyway. Throwing money into regimes where the problem is the creaming off of money by officials cannot work but we do it anyway. In the UK we had riots by Reebok-wearing and designer-hoodie clad thugs who believed they were entitled to more than they were ever interested in earning. The Great God Money must come into their wallets, not their hearts (I doubt they have any) and feed them plasma TV and laptops they have no clue how to use.

Yet when faced with real life's astounding events, pictured in the news, all Mammon's disciples can shout is 'Photoshop'. To them, nothing amazing can happen unless Money is involved. At the same time, they claim to despise religion while following one of the most fundamental religions in existence. Money. Is this not a religion? Tell me why.

Money was devised as a tool. Let's say I catch fish and need a table. The guy who makes tables doesn't like fish. So I sell my fish for cash and use that cash to buy a table, and the table maker uses the cash to buy chicken. That was how it was supposed to work.

It was not supposed to become a god variously described as 'our money, who art in tax heaven, wasteful be thy spending' or as 'economy'. It has. We can think of nothing else. We have become thirteenth century peasants spending every waking minute worrying about whether God (Economy) will permit our crops (Investments) to grow this year. Go on, explain why I'm wrong.

In olden days, some people became hermits and just said 'The hell with it' to society. The reasons might have changed a little but I think I can understand why they did.

When the reality you are ordered to embrace is less substantial than the one you are expected to leave, you have to wonder if there is really any other sensible way to respond.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The most pointless thing in the world.

There are many toys and models based on film characters and old comic book heroes and villians. I don't have any because I'm too old and too uninterested.

I have a friend's birthday approaching so I was looking for something inconsequential and generally just fun as a present, and happened across the most pointless item that has ever been on sale.

It's a little slab of black plastic. It's a 'model' of the black slab from '2001: A Space Idiocy' and it does... nothing at all. Not a thing. It's a slab. That's it. An extraordinarily expensive lump of plastic in a packet.

For the price, I'd at least expect to see stars inside it.

What would make an interesting study for me is this - is anyone really stupid enough to buy it?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Midsummer night drenched.

Tomorrow is midsummer day. Normally I like to stay up to watch the sunrise. Not for any religious reason, it's just that sunrise is around 4 am and staying up to see it isn't much of a task.

I'm not bothering this year. The heating is on, the outside temperature is 7C / 44F and that's from the sensor that's inside the greenhouse. The sky is completely overcast and it's raining. There's no point staying up to watch the clouds get brighter.

Meanwhile, the cost of heating is going up even more to counteract 'global warming' even though in years past, I spent many evenings drinking cider in the garden at this time of year. In my attic is an electric fan that has not been used for the last three summers. The heating used to be switched off completely from May to September but not any more.

Global warming has been the biggest con trick of the century. It kills more and more old people every winter because they can't afford the huge cost of heating. It's destroying businesses with ridiculous carbon taxes and setting us all up for no power at all in the future when all we have to rely on will be solar panels in the dark and windmills in calm weather.

Al Gore should be facing charges in every country that's fallen for his scam.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Heads up!


There has apparently been a bit of a fuss on the surface of the Sun and while the eruption isn't aimed in our direction, some of it might come our way.

Possibly enough for a decent Aurora on the night of the 8th, 9th and maybe 10th June.

At the moment it's after 2 am on 10th June (GMT) and no sign of activity here. If it happens, it might happen tonight in other parts of the world or it might be tomorrow night.

Although with the current state of science, it might not happen at all.

I hope it does. It's years since I last saw it.

Update 12th June: No sign of any auroras here. Looks like it was just another baseless scare story.

I suppose we'd better get used to them. So-called 'science' gets most of its funding this way now.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

It's not the end of the world.

The end of the world came and went again and nothing at all happened. There have been a great many of these. It's a bit like the boy who cried 'Wolf'. One day someone will be right and nobody will take any notice.

My own prediction was absolutely correct. I didn't win the lottery.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Saving the world.

I bought a lottery ticket today. First time in a very long time. I won't win, never have and never will. I am convinced God finds it amusing to make sure I have the numbers right next to the winning ones every time.

The draw is at 7 pm tomorrow. Unfortunately the end of the world is scheduled for 6 pm (UK time). So, if God wants to continue his unbroken run of ensuring I just miss the lottery numbers, he will have to postpone Armageddon.

There you are, I have just saved the world and it only cost one shiny British pound.

LinkSo on Sunday, assuming we are all still here, six billion people each owe me a pound. I think that's a fair price for saving everyone and it'll be the easiest six billion I've ever made.

There is one possible drawback. If I have the winning ticket, we're all doomed.

Unfortunately for Harold Camping, he is doomed either way because what he is predicting is not Armageddon, but the Rapture. That's the part where the faithful get called to Heaven before all the nasty and weird stuff begins. Actually, looking at the news, I think the Rapture must have already happened some time ago.

The thing about the rapture is that unless you're included in the Holy Removal Company's list, you won't know it's happened. Some living people will vanish but most of those on the list are already dead. So even if he's right, nothing will happen at 6pm Saturday, at least nothing anyone will notice. Harold Camping is going to face ridicule whether he's right or wrong. Unless, of course, he's on the list.

Camping, a civil engineer who once ran his own construction business, plans to spend the day with his wife in Alameda, in northern California, and watch doomsday unfold on television.

Somehow I very much doubt that God planned to distribute Armageddon via reality-TV, although these days it's the only thing he could use that most people would notice. I have planned a book called 'The Armageddon Show' but I don't think I can finish it by 6pm. I certainly can't get it published by then. It would be intensely irritating to find the story on TV before I've even finished writing it.

I was going to cut the grass tomorrow. I don't think I'll bother. If Harold is right, I'd have the deaths of millions of blades of grass to account for.

If he's wrong I can do it on Sunday.