The Demise Trilogy

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An Agent’s Prize

Available for Pre-Order – The sequel to An Agent’s Rise and the climax and conclusion of the Demise Series which started with An Agent’s Demise

The conspiracy is over, the mistakes and cover up are hidden and buried for good. Both sides of the Atlantic can concentrate on the threats from Islamic Terrorism. That is what they all hope. They want to enlist a hidden black asset in the chase, but there are risks to that approach.

Meanwhile, the FBI is still investigating what really happened. Is the conspiracy really over?

Al Qaeda plan new atrocities and MI6 with Homeland Security will try to stop them.

The newly-wed Michael Johnson can help but his wife is still recovering from her injuries and she is suspicious of her husband and the authorities. From the streets of San Francisco to the suburban towns of England the terrorists are plotting an outrage.

Cover Plain

The book is also available from Amazon,  UK, USA, Canada, Australia and in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and selected other Amazon sites.

Blog-less Blog

That is the current status of this blog. I am supposed to write regularly and hopefully providing articles and comments of interest. All instead of just spouting updates on the progress, or lack of it, on my books.

The idea is to write other stuff which will attract interest form a broad readership. In turn this will lead to readers investigating this site and then hopefully clicking on a book description and consequently purchasing one of my offerings. Notice no links or embedded spam – is this a new approach? No, it just seems to have no impact so I’m trying a bit of reverse psychology. The statistics from this site tell me about click through traffic and pages read. Since my last post advertising my latest release and associated discount on the first part of the series, I have started several blogs but time and my own interest stopped a post going out.

I was going to comment on the Google tax deal and Apples quarterly sales in a hopefully witty way. Googles amount of tax paid to HMRC and the city’s reaction to Apple’s disappointing revenue and profits. If only more of the UK’s home industires had such disappointing results. Then there was the humour in watching the UK’s Labour Party trying to explain how we would still have a nuclear deterrent if we let our submarines sale without nuclear weapons. For real entertainment we can all enjoy the US Presidential Election Candidate Selection Process. This seems to consist of a group pf people from all parties who demonstrate their unsuitability at every occasion. Only another 9 months till the election. This is on the UK news almost as much as the other big story, namely the UK’s referendum.

As of this morning, 20th Feb, the UK apparently has a new deal agreed by the other member states. Does this indicate the sunset of the UK’s EU Membership or a positive renewal of our commitment. This is being described as meeting Cameron’s (the UK’s current Prime Minister) objectives and thus allowing him to campaign for a yes vote in what will probably now be a June referendum. I stated current as if he loses the referendum he may have to resign.

The yes vote is to stay in the European Union based on the changes agreed.  At the moment the polls (Remember them in the last UK election) seem to provide a very mixed response. The Daily Telegraph had 51.5% in against 48.5% out. YouGov with The Times this morning has 45% leave against 36% stay. As with the 2015 election – more guess work.

Flags_of_European_UnionOne annoying point that the scaremongers report is how the UK would be suddenly isolated outside the EU. The UK would still be one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. It would still be in NATO, World Health Organisation the IMF etc. It would still have too numerous to mention direct treaties with nation states including other EU members e.g. The Lancaster House Treaties between UK and France signed in 2010. It would still be a part of other pan-European organisations and legal processes. It would still be the 6th largest economy in the World. The sun will still rise in the East and set in the West. It will still rain – often.

For those scaremongering the other way, the same applies. The Common Market has changed out of all recognition. Some of this is good, some of this is done badly. The horrible farce that is the current migrant crisis and the never ending Euro crisis ( no it has not gone away, Greece was requesting more concessions as a condition fro backing the UK’s negotiation only this week) are caused by EU treaty and process failure. The EU like any organisation can be reformed from inside i.e. stay in and fix it. Some of the reforms the UK has asked for other member states want as well, they would not have agreed otherwise.

I must be honest – I am on the fence. The previous European referendum was on staying in what was then called the European Economic Community (EEC). The UK had actually joined The Common Market without a referendum and has not held a referendum since despite the vastly different environment that the EU now represents. I was too young to vote then. England, Wales and Northern Ireland were not asked about Scotland staying in the UK in 2014. The only referendum I have voted in was one on Alternate Voting, in 2011, where only 42% of people could be bothered to vote at all. The Alternate Voting and the EEC remain the only UK wide referendums ever held in the UK. Yes the mother of Parliaments, the cradle of modern democracy, has only bothered to consult the voters twice. The first of these was after the fact.

If it takes place in June, the planned referendum will be held before any legal treaty changes are made and before the European Parliament votes to accept the changes. It remains unclear what happens if the European Parliament rejects the changes agreed by the European Council (Heads of Government) or the Treaty Changes are not made. Many of partners in the European Union (Ireland, Netherlands etc) require their own referendums to approve treaties. Previous changes have not had a smooth ride through this process. The European Constitution vote or Lisbon Treaty is a good example. The first referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon held in 2008 was rejected by the Irish voters. A second referendum followed in 2009 where it was accepted. The UK was going to have a referendum but this was postponed after France and Holland rejected it. The Treaty was then changed. Others voted but the then UK Government signed it albeit after various concessions were created.

The Lisbon Treaty also states the explicit legal right to leave the EU and a procedure to do so. If the UK votes no in June, we will all get to see whether this procedure works, but don’t be surprised if there is not another round of negotiations and another referendum.

By the time the US elects it’s next President or even has the agreed party candidates the UK could be in the middle of a very major change. I might even get around to writing another book!

Intervention – The Observer Series Part 2

Part Two of the Observer Series will launch on 30th January on Kindle – It is available for pre-order now:

Amazon.co.uk  or Amazon.com also other Amazon sites worldwideIntervention cover

The continuing story of Cathy Rodriguez – a Senior Observer in the Interplanetary Geographic Service. The story follows on from Part One The World of Fives

Cathy is recalled from her Observer duties as she is asked to establish first contact with a new life form. Meanwhile the Conspiracy to prevent humans changing their non-Intervention policy continues to try and kill her. Together with Marta De Jaste, a Senior Investigator, and Tony Briggs her former jailer and security officer, they travel to the chosen planet.

On the planet Tullymeade, Karloon Niesta, a disgraced scientific observer, detects a strange anomaly. A discovery that will change his planet forever.

In deep space two groups of survivors try and recover from their battle in orbit above the planet Freevur

A Tinfoil Hat – Data Protection and Security

For those of you that know me in my regular life, you will recall I can get a bee in my bonnet about data protection. Partly this is due to my previous professional roles and responsibilities. A frequent comment is that tin foil hats are needed as if my concerns and others are exaggerated. Using the Internet and any part of modern society means that your personal data is not personal or private it belongs to big corporations and government agencies. I do not believe that governments will deliberately misuse the data. That is the way of conspiracies and tin-foil hats. The scope though for data loss, data selling to third parties (who will misuse it) and data errors will grow. Then there are the criminal risks. If the security services need a backdoor through encryption then that back door exists for anyone that can find it. Ashley Madison anyone, to name one hacking case.

This also goes to some of my more reclusive tendencies. Reclusive? I hear you exclaim, a sometimes writer with a twitter feed, email, Facebook page as well as this blog. However, when it comes to data, this tendency can become overactive. I do not have a personal Facebook page and my on-line activities are covered by occasional blogs and comments on Goodreads. I have author profiles on Amazon and other sites, I have a Linked-In profile but my other personal details do not appear. I do not share my birthday or medical details on-line and I would prefer it if the companies I interact with did not either. Nor my financial details, spending patterns or other marketing led data. But we are in the era of big data. Having worked for one of the big credit reference agencies, I am aware of just how much data is known about me. More interesting is the analysis applied to that data to be sold to other companies which then results in marketing.

I recently received a mail shot from a marketing company offering me contact details on 5 million company directors. My details are probably in that list. How did they get that data (It might not be accurate of course, but how? I did not give anyone permission to give my data to this company. But of course I probably did when I forgot to tick or un-tick a box on another web site opting in or out. Of course I could have just wanted to run something and hidden in the EULA was an explicit clause along the lines of “We may use your data with selected third parties, if you do not wish this to happen etc….” To use the product you have to agree. Next thing you are offered US Car loan deals in Wisconsin – I kid you not. Not helpful in rural Englan not New England – the original.

Why is this relevant? Well last week saw the European Court of Justice (ECJ) rule that one of the data safeguards used by many companies, including Facebook and many cloud providers, the so called Safe Harbor (US Spelling) rules, were not worth the paper they are written on. Under that scheme the European rules on data protection are upheld in the USA where most cloud providers and social media companies reside.  This comes not just on the back of the Eric Snowden revelations about security service activities but also due to the USA’s Patriot Act. Under the act a; American companies are effectively obliged to hand over all data.Then there is the ongoing dispute involving Microsoft being asked to hand over data by the FBI held in an Irish data centre via a court order in a US Court without going through the existing legal agreements with the Irish authorities.

For cloud providers including WordPress what does this mean. In legal terms it means that no European citizen or company can handover data to a US company and know that the data is legally protected from misuse i.e. selling on or using for a purpose other than which it was provided. Something that US companies do not seem to understand. The UK’s Information Commissioner Office (ICO) provides a very simple set of principles for managing data which meets European requirements but they too have been relying on Safe Harbor and other contractual protections called Model Clauses when data is processed outside the EU.

The EU and the USA are negotiating new data protection rules but the bottom line for all of us is that if you use any cloud based provider that has any connection to a US company for any corporate or personal activity you cannot expect any privacy. You cannot expect that any of your data will not end up in the hands of the US authorities or sold on at the whim of a company. Expect more spam and more targeted marketing built on analysis of everything from your inside leg measurement to who you discussed fashion with on a social media outlet.  The terms of service issues by the providers with all their associated privacy policies are worthless and overriden by the activities of the US agencies and corporations.

A tin foil hat won’t help.

Mischief for Scotland Join My Petition

It is a year after the Scottish Referendum with a result with a clear majority in favour of staying in the UK. This was supposed to be a once in a generation decision, and the SNP leadership agreed that it was. Still if you don’t like the result you can always change your mind. Perfect EU principle as Ireland discovered.

It is only four months after the UK’s general election result. Despite this, we still have the SNP calling for another referendum or how the UK government has no democratic mandate to rule in Scotland. This is because 56 of the 58 regional MPs are from SNP. This opinion carefully ignores the views of the other 594 MPs representing other areas of the UK and in particular claiming that the 331 Conservative Party MPs have no democratic mandate to rule in the UK. Full result here. I make that a democratic majority just in the Conservative party without taking into consideration the views of other parties on the subject of the Union. I am unclear what the new Labour leadership believe.

Although I believe that the United Kingdom is better together, that does not mean I am not heartily sick of hearing the SNP moaning about how badly treated Scotland is. Still it keeps the public’s eyes away from their actual record as the governing party of Scotland, with the current devolved powers of the Scottish Parliament. How about a few questions about that BBC and the rest of the media.

So in the spirit of helping the SNP out, I want to start a petition, not for them to have a referendum, but to be expelled from the Union. This should be a much faster process and for once, the rest of the United Kingdom might get a say in the matter. You can sign up via the UK Governments petition web site.

Click this link to sign the petition:
https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/108874/sponsors/MJjAp4IjbnqBhJ1kg8

My petition:

Expel Scotland from the United Kingdom

There are only 56 MPs from the SNP, but they believe the rest of the 650 should carry out their wishes, whatever the consequences for the rest of the UK or what the UK voted for in May this year.

The SNP continues to press for an new referendum on membership of the UK. The Scottish people voted less than 12 months ago to stay; however, the remainder of the UK has had no say. If Scotland continues to ignore the democratic wishes of the rest of the UK it should be expelled.

Migrants and Refugees

It seems ages since I wrote a blog, work and proper writing interfering with Internet broadcasting.

As it is all over the news I thought I would add my views on the current crisis impacting Europe. Refugees and migrants are attempting to escape their own countries and find a hoped for better or safer life in Europe. The European politicians of all persuasions struggle to come up with a suitable soundbite that can demonstrate a caring attitude whilst maintaining their pre-held opinions.  The UK is held up as either not doing enough or doing far too much, whilst facts are mangled and as usual the politicians throw as much mud as possible. There are multiple aspects to this. First some of my definitions:

  • Migrant – an immigrant or transitory person for whatever reason
  • Refugee – someone escaping persecution or seeking safety – can be internal to a nation as many in Syria already are
  • Asylum seeker – Someone who claims that there is a fear of persecution or worse in their own country and thus seeks asylum – but can also be some person hiding out in the Ecuadorian Embassy.
  • Economic migrant – someone seeking a better life for themselves – in and out of UK

The humanitarian urge to do what we can, evidenced in Hungarian people doling out food and water to walking migrants (most may well be refugees), is only one aspect. There needs to be a practical assessment of what can be done realistically. For example Turkey is host to 2 million Syrian refugees escaping the civil war of which ISL or Dash is only one element http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/country.php?id=224

So let’s try and stick to facts – the UK net population increase (official government 2013 figures) due to migration was 300,000.  The vast majority of these 200,000 were from the  EU. These are either family and friends of existing residents or economic migrants searching for work in a growing economy. These are all legal migrants as no one has accurate figures on illegal migrants i.e. persons form outside the EU. The remainder are those that have temporary or permanent rights to stay e.g. students or key workers.

We then have asylum seekers, some key points from http://migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/briefings/migration-uk-asylum

Key points

  • Asylum applications (excluding dependents) rose from 4,256 in 1987 to a peak of 84,130 in 2002. They stood at 24,914 in 2014.
    More…
  • Asylum applicants and their dependents comprised an estimated 8% of net migration in 2013, down from 49% in 2002 but up from 4% in 2010.
    More…
  • In 2014, 59% of asylum applications were initially refused. A majority of refused applicants lodge appeals. In 2014, 28% of appeals were allowed.
    More…
  • Men made up nearly 3 out of 4 (73%) main applicants for asylum in 2014.
    More…
  • In 2014, the UK received 5% of asylum claims made in EU countries (plus Norway and Switzerland), making it the sixth highest recipient of asylum claims.
    More…

The latest estimated migration figure for 2014 is 330,000 of which the asylum seekers make up approx 25,000 so 7.5%

I heard Kent Council state on the radio that the numbers of migrant unaccompanied children under 14 had gone from an average of 240 per year to 720 last year all of whom needed initially foster parents, schooling and support. A huge increase in workload http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-34139364

At the same time we have an alleged housing crisis with organisations like Shelter claiming we need to build 250,000 new homes per year just to keep pace with current population growth http://www.thehomesweneed.org.uk/ The UK’s population is now also growing for many complex reasons see the ONS statistics here but this adds a further 200,000 or so on top of the migration impact. Therefore, we are adding a city population the approximate size of Sheffield to our overall population every year.

On the BBC this morning it was explained that during the 1956 Hungarian uprising the UK took over 40,000 refugees. This has also been discussed as one of the tens of thousands estimates and comparisons for asylum to be offered.Note on 7 Sep the UK Prime Minister announced the number is 20,000

In terms of the overall net migration and population increase numbers this would be a further 10% increase.

The problem for the UK and many other countries is not the humanitarian support. We have the money and the food and water we are after all a rich nation in GDP terms. It is the very practical question of where they are going to live, go to school, get health care. We do not have many large old military bases sitting empty but they can help. Do we want tented villages near ports of entry? Where in the UK will they go. How will they be transported there? For all the claims that we must do something we need to have answers first.

Using Scheduled Post

Aside

I’m supposed to be something of a techie so I have just surprised myself by using a feature here on WordPress for the first time. I’m referring to scheduled Post – why I had not used this before is beyond me. I should have used this before to link a post which is automatically tweeted, repeated and posted around other social media.

In this case I have used it to coincide with a book promotion starting – all done whilst I was safely tucked up in bed snoring away. I then awoke this morning to find re-tweets, new followers and so on. – Now what else can I do on WordPress that I’ve not used until now?

The Writer’s Craft

I thought I would take a break from actual writing to show you some of the tools I use to put the story together. As an example I am using Intervention the second part of The Observer Series. Whether what I display makes it into the final cut we will have to see. I am over 50,000 words into the story.

The main tool I use is Scrivener, the chapter manuscript is in the centre of the screen with the list of proposed chapter headings, characters and places/scenes on the left. All my writing is done here and the formatting for eBooks and Paperbacks using Scrivener’s Compile feature.

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 10.21.39

In the continuing absence of an iPad version for Scrivener, I use Index Card when I am away from my desktop Mac. It does link with Scrivener but it s not the same.

MainCorkboardStackCount-300x400

The next tool I use is to keep my timeline straight. This is Aeon Timeline which integrates with Scrivener. This one shows a couple of Arcs (chapters or scenes) with events and then cross linked to characters, scenes etc. I do not need this for all my stories but when it gets complicated i.e. with travel, synchronous events, etc.  it keeps things organised

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 10.21.20

Next comes the ever present Excel. Nothing very clever here, apart from all the ratios and calculations to convert Earth measurements and time into my alien settings. Of course I do not need this for every story but I find it essential in my SciFi. I like to think that my stories could work if you ignore the faster than light etc elements. Before I used Scrivener and Aeon, I also used it for character lists and timelines i.e. calculating how old people are and what day of the week it was/will be.

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 10.22.03

Finally, there is, of course, research. In the screen shot below, from a Physics site, (http://www.physicsclassroom.com/class/circles/Lesson-3/The-Value-of-g), I was checking up on how G is calculated, then using the formula in Excel to calculate for my other planets. Research varies considerably from Google Maps for other stories to University research papers that I read when writing To The Survivors about how viruses spread.

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 10.23.46

I know that many writers use other tools from simple text editors to complex design systems for covers. I use PaintShop Pro for that. One of my last Windows only tools. Keep trying to learn others but have not found a layered system one (that can import my old ones), as easy to use – I just wish there was a Mac version – come on Corel anyone would think Macs were new!

I have also used  a CAD program for laying out physical buildings. I have also used mind- mapping software – that was in An Agent’s Rise and I actually created the mind map I had the characters do.