Category Archives: Personal

Amazing product support Osprey Rucksacks

Our Osprey soft luggage/ wheelie rucksacks are a vital part of our escapes to the Greek islands. Each year I breathe a sigh when I see them appear on the luggage carousel. They come with a ‘lifetime’ guarantee, but who really believes such things?sojourn

This year, the smallest of defects occurred, the zipper tag snapped. A minor, but necessary part. I assumed I would be able to buy one on the website, but couldn’t find anything other than a link to the ‘Mighty Warranty’ page. Not really expecting a response, I filled in the form and hit the send button.

Within an hour I had an email. Within two days I had the replacement tag.

Having spent the last few months handling my father’s estate, dealing with banks, building societies and stock brokers, I have become rather jaded with the ridiculous procedures and practice of what are euphemistically called ‘help desks’.

I’ve never met her, but I find myself a little in love with Viktoria, from Osprey. If only all help desks were as helpful life would be so much easier!

We are now ready for our next adventure, a new zip tag fitted, the bags ready to roll. I will still worry about them. Having seen my sister’s indestructible luggage destroyed (You might remember the advert, an elephant standing on a case. Well, Athens baggage handlers did a better job than the elephant.) I always marvel that our bags survive the airport baggage handlers trip after trip.

A flight, a bus ride, and a ferry to … awaits.


Thanks, Osprey (and Viktoria!)

Scrivener on IPAD

Time, the final frontier.

keyboardNo matter how much I try to make time for writing, obligations emerge to consume it.

Last time we headed off for a break I seriously considered taking my laptop along in case I got an hour or so to write. The trade off was that I would need to leave it in the car for long periods and as my entire life is on the thing, I would be constantly worried.

My next bright idea was to buy a small netbook to work on. I could load scrivener on it and it wouldn’t be a disaster if it was stolen.

Scrivener … I love it as a creative tool, it let’s me keep my notes in step and control my writing in a collection of small documents.

Of course even a netbook costs money, plus I always take at least one tablet away with us. A tablet and a netbook is too much tech! I’d never avoid a nagging.

Hang about, didn’t I see Scrivener was available on Ipad? I’d initially dismissed it as a frivolity. Plus, at fifteen quid, it felt rather too expensive. The fact I spend hundreds on PC software for my day job was irrelevant.

So, my new portable writing kit is an ipad mini 2. Much as I dislike apple, I had to buy it for a work project and I can’t bring myself to completely discard such an expensive thing.

The final piece of the jigsaw is a small bluetooth keyboard. Seeing as my ipad is a mini, I thought the screen would be too small with the onscreen keyboard displayed. Also, I’ve tried to type properly on it and the lack of feel slows me down.

Is it going to work? I have no idea. Over the years I’ve tried just about every combination of portable tech and failed to be productive on anything less than a full PC/ Laptop. From palm pilot, to tablet, I just can’t be creative on them.

One thing is certain, I am impressed with Scrivener for IOS. Of course I wish it had been on Android, but as Scrivener is primarily an Apple piece of software reluctantly moved onto PC, I doubt it will ever appear on Android.

Although it is cut down from the desktop product, it has all of the functionality I’ve needed so far.

Stay tuned for how well it works!

Reader Blogging – Eric Tomlinson (EHHoward)

(If you feel like adding to the blog, cut out the questions and include them along with your answers in an email to blogspot at shudalandia dot co dot uk)

First up is myself, Eric (Oz) Tomlinson. Computer consultant, Programmer, Author and self confessed geek.

What was the first piece of fiction to transport you to another world?

Harry Harrison, stainless steel rat. I was intrigued by the silliness of some of it and the cleverness of being able to invent advanced technologies that don’t exist, even in the embryonic stages.


Favourite Author?

CS Lewis. From the Narnia books, to the deeper theology. The Screwtape Letters is simply amazing.

Guilty pleasure author?

Kim Harrison – The Hollows. Rachel Morgan and the rest. All of the volumes. Loved it, but never wanted my hardcore fantasy buddies to know I’d read such a thing. Love/ Kisses/ Vampires … get real.

What genre(s) do you read?

Nothing that comes close to reality. Fantasy and Sci Fi. Some of the vampires and demons series. I enjoyed the mix of demons and steam punk of Cassandra Clare.

What would induce a flinging tantrum sending a book across the room?

Utterly impossible technology. Simple facts not checked. Referring to a shotgun as a rifle kind of thing.

Best book ever – in your humble opinion

Lord Of The Rings

Worst book ever – in your humble opinion

The Player of Games: I know lots of people love it, but Iian M Banks Culture series. I just can’t get near it. The viewpoint shifts jar too much. (Of course everybody hates 50 shades don’t they? – Never got past about the 30th page, never made it to the sex.)

Which fictional location would you visit?

Narnia, Cair Paravel

Which fictional characters would be at your dinner party?

Gandalf, Belgarath, Polgara, Stella (From Amara series – I love her!), Boromir

Which Authors would be at a dinner party?

CS Lewis, Oscar Wilde, Terry Pratchett, Virginia Wolfe, Kim Harrision

Ereader or real book?

EReader every time. Can’t understand why people won’t switch. I had my first Kindle when they had a keyboard on the bottom, I’m currently using a paperwhite, which I love.

Tell us a bit about yourself?

Born in 56, in Manchester England, I’ve just turned 60.

I consider myself one of the luckiest people as far as I love the job I do and people pay me to enjoy every working day.

Been married twice, have three children and up to date seven grandchildren.

I love walking the paths of the ancient Greeks. To tread the beaches of Ithaca, or walk up to the acropolis where Homer might have strolled will reduce me to tears.

I’d love my stories to be able to join the body of fantasy people feel is worth recommending to friends. I want my stories to be read and enjoyed.

Credentials – Part 1

What creates the credentials to start writing?

Many authors always loved words and books from an early age. That wasn’t the case for me. I hated everything to do with school and teacher-led learning.

Throughout my education, I didn’t encounter a single book I enjoyed reading. I struggled through the Lord of the Rings, because everybody else raved about it. I completed it, but didn’t immediately sink into the world. That came much later.

p100Leaving school as soon as I could, I was in employment at 16. Rapid career shifts placed me working for the adding machine company – Burroughs, just at the point where they were making the move to electronic computing.

I certainly attribute my steampunk/ gearwheel tendencies to fixing mechanical adding machines. I had one client, a Jewish accountant company who possessed a black cased, manual adding machine they said it had come over from America in the war.

I loved that machine. I visited it to polish the case. (The new ones were grey crinkle covered steel, or worse, plastic.)  The black enamel would polish to a shine you could see your face in.

The keyboard had deeply inlaid keys worn smooth with use. Inside the case I lavished love with an oil bottle and a cloth so that it gleamed.

Of course, I shouldn’t have been giving so much attention to a single machine, I should have been out in the rain on the streets of Manchester with my tool bag, but what the heck. I don’t take full responsibility for the collapse of Burroughs. I was just a minor cog.

Ray, an older engineer, invited me around to dinner. I was stunned to see how many books he had on the shelf. He selected Harry Harrison, Stainless Steel Rat and suggested I tried it. He wouldn’t lend me his copy. Yes, he was one of those kind of readers.

I owned my 65p copy for over forty years. Where my beloved books went is another story entirely.

At the age of 23 I started on the track of light science fiction. I became one of those readers who is reluctant to lend a book out. I developed a hate for any who might consider putting a coffee mug ring on a cover.

Change the Honours System NOW!

Watching the devastating events in France and listening to doctors, nurses and people who were simply there. These people acted without considering their own safety.

Who do we honour? Half-wit celebs, singers, actors and civil servants.

As a nation, do we honestly consider any of them worthy? How many so honoured have subsequently been discredited revealing perversions beyond belief, making a mockery of their position?

Why can’t we honour heroes of every nation? Why not reach out beyond our borders to prove we care?

Stop the mockery. Honour people anywhere in the world deserving our respect.

In two minds

EricsqmultiI’ve been talking with my sister and found out that thinking is one of the big differences between us. We live at opposite ends of the country and rarely spend time together.

Whilst we both take our dogs for walks on the beach and would both say we did meditate the effect we seek is almost opposite.

I never have an empty head. I always have at least four thoughts queued up demanding that “I think them next.”
At the moment, I go to bed with my wife, but go to sleep think about another woman and start again the instant I wake up.

Amara’s predicaments take over a huge part of my downtime thinking. She’s suffering a crisis of confidence, doesn’t want to face life and has to go into battle with a troll-like opponent. Should she let him kill her? I examine the feelings and emotions of my main character, her companions and even her enemy.

So, where my sister walks the beach and tries to empty her thoughts, I walk the beach with scenes playing on my inner wide screen.

Meditation is a reluctant part of my life. Its something I feel better having done it, but I have a constant battle with my inner voices. I confess I ended up terrified when I tried a guided meditation to send me deep into the tranquil mind. Its too quiet! I feel as if somebody has killed off my friends.

Maybe one day I’ll enjoy a peaceful mind, but it hasn’t happened yet!

My artwork – Gemma

gemma_smallBattling against my limitations and using autodesk sketchbook on an ipad, I’ve been working through a few of the characters and scenes from Shudalandia.

I’d love to see what other people with real ability can produce. If anybody out there wants to submit, I’d be pleased to show it on the website.

Never going to be famous

I doubt one of my books will ever be discussed on Mariella Frostrup’s open book programme on radio four. I’m often in the car when this is on and listen to the books celebrities choose as their favourite reads.

I honestly have to say, ‘Why?’

“Of course the tale of the vagrant nose-flute player is a metaphor. I felt the descriptions posed a delightful juxta-position to the protagonist’s past life as a Hungarian sex worker.”

Do people really enjoy this stuff, or are they ashamed to admit to what they usually read? I don’t think anybody has ever chosen a book I have even heard of, let alone considered reading.

So, I’m resigned in my writing style. The best I can hope to do is offer an enjoyable read and leave lofty literary ideals to those obviously more intelligent than I am!
Okay, anybody who knows me would spot the lie. I rarely acknowledge the possibility of there being a greater intellect than mine. Thankfully, we can all be different. When it comes to reading, I have a relatively wide range.

My reading rules:

Rule one: I want my books to take me to foreign worlds. Give me monsters, space ships, or dragons. Don’t give me misery on Morecambe bay.

Rule two: the story has to move. If I’m still wondering what’s happening by page 60, I give up. I suspect this eliminates finer literature. I have occasionally broken this rule. Usually when I am on holiday and have run out of things to read, I invariably regret it.

Rule three: surprise me! Nothing worse than everything happening in the order I expect it to occur.

A simple set of rules, but I suspect these are the reason I find most prize-winning novels a chore.

Good job we can be different, isn’t it?

Fan Art Request

I’d love to see what any of my talented readers can produce. Whilst I can manage a sketch, the fan art exhibited on sites such as Deviantart is quite amazing.

rhinaWhen I’m writing, I form an image of the person/ place in my head and occasionally I commit the image to paper. It helps me keep the person in perspective with the other characters, but probably just let’s me waste a little time when the writing juices have slowed down.

As I am the world’s most difficult person to buy Christmas presents for I acquired a wacom drawing tablet this year. This is my first attempt at using it.

This character is Rhina, from book three. I didn’t want her quite so animal-like and will probably modify the image over coming weeks, but I already kind of love her.

Getting a dog to take a tablet

We’ve two little Shih Tzu dogs, Milly an Molly.


Now they’re getting older, they need to take more tablets, but as they’ve aged they’ve got smarter. A while back, a piece of cheese or ham was sufficient to disguise the tablet. They’d take it without trouble. Now, they’ll eat cheese all day long, but the tablet will always be spat out onto the floor. They even look smug when they do it!

I trawled the internet looking for suggestions and they all seem to give the same advice … disguise it in food.

I eventually found this video.

Perfect dog taking a tablet

His ideas are almost there, but have you ever seen a better behaved dog? He pops the tablet in and the dog is already swallowing the thing!

As our vet said, the trouble with Shih Tzu’s is they have a short snout and a lot of tongue inside. The chances of forcing a pill in are really quite slim. So I’ve modified the suggestions and combined the ideas to make the perfect dog tablet bomb!

Make a Tablet Bomb:


I think this is a fish knife, but it is slim and sharp.


A decent sized hotdog sausage makes six bombs. I need to use six, three pieces for each dog, A taster, the bomb and the treat. Even if its only one dog needs the tablet, they both get the same to stop them getting suspicious.


Peanut butter! I tried it on its own, but that didn’t work. We ended up with it every where and they still managed to get the tablet out. However …


Slice the sausage into suitable sized pieces


Hollow out each piece (they all need to be done!)


Hide the tablet inside one (and keep a note which one has it.)


And seal them all using the peanut butter!

By the time they realise there is a tablet in there, the peanut butter has it stuck to the roof of their mouth. Plus the temptation of the third piece waiting is irresistible.  They swallow the tablet and beg for more.

Two months on and I’ve not had a problem with this method.

Hope it helps!