The Story of my First Story

Introducing Gary Kruse who tells the story of his story…

Gary Kruse - Author

A Cautionary Tale of Hope and Naivety

A long time ago (1996 I think?) in a bedroom not so far away (about three and a half miles away from where I live now), a teenage boy decided to put pen to paper for the first time.

Twenty-five years later that same boy is still writing and finally, after a quarter of a century (on and off) of trying, I’m finally seeing my work in print and online.

This year has been my most successful writing year ever, but the road to where I am now starts way back at the end of the last century.

It’s Robin Tunney’s fault, you see. Well, her, Fairuza Balk and Keifer Sutherland.

For those who don’t know, Robin Tunney and Fairuza Balk were rival witches in teen horror flick, “The Craft.”

I went to see the Craft when it came out in the cinema…

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Exclusive Excerpt of ‘We Watch You’ by N S Ford

Introducing author N S Ford who shares an exclusive excerpt of her thriller ‘We Watch You’ which is currently available for pre-order.

The Watcher

I never fail to be amazed at the human capacity for self-delusion. You tell yourselves that everything is all right, when the case is clearly the opposite. You pretend that nothing out of the ordinary is happening, when the evidence is in front of your eyes. Even if you did grasp the truth, there is nothing you could do about it. It is better that you never find out.


Do not ask too many questions.


We watch you.

Chapter 1

‘Hello? Are you there?’ The recorded voice pauses. ‘Maybe you haven’t seen the news today…’

There’s a stifled sob.


‘Lauren. Something really bad has happened. We need to talk about it. Please call me back.’


End of message. I stare at my phone. I can hardly believe that the caller is Jess. Her voice is too strange. Panicked, unfamiliar. I check the number, just to be sure it’s her.


Yes. Jess called me.


Shivering, I wrap the towel tighter around my body. My wet hair, recently combed, clings to my neck. The night sky seems to press at the steamed-up windows. I want to push it back. Closing the blinds, I worry over her words. ‘Something really bad has happened.’ Jess is normally so confident, ready for anything. What can have caused her such distress? If I hadn’t been in the bathroom when she called, I would know by now.


I put my phone down on the bed. I think about Jess.


We’ve been best friends for a long time. Since nursery school, in fact. Twenty-five years of friendship, supporting each other through all kinds of troubles. She’s always been braver than me.


‘You’ve got a heart of steel,’ I said to her once, after one of her break-ups.


‘I know,’ she’d said, smiling. ‘No one can hold me back.’


The number of friends I have can be counted on one hand. I find it very difficult to forge new relationships. It’s easier to stick to those I’ve grown up with. I know Jess extremely well, which is why I’m even more disturbed now that I’ve heard the message.


There was something else in her voicemail. Fear.


I’ve never known her to be scared of anything before.


My apprehension grows. I don’t want to call her, I don’t want to find out what’s happened, but the longer I hesitate, the more nervous I’ll become. Just ten minutes ago, I was so pleased with myself after completing a 5k run without stopping. As I soaped my aching body under the shower, I was thinking that I’d earned the pot of chocolate mousse which was waiting for me in the fridge. Now, the happiness has gone. The hunger has gone too, replaced by dread.


Reluctant, I reach out again for my phone.


I flip open the red leather case. My legs are weak. They won’t support me, so I slip clumsily to the floor. The wooden boards are harsh beneath my knees as I scroll through my news feed, my index finger pulling up and discarding the latest headlines. I shift to a cross-legged position and the towel loosens, leaving me exposed and chilly.


The national news is the same as usual. Another fatal stabbing in the capital. A terrorist plot foiled. An inquiry into an abuse scandal at a care home. All very depressing, but nothing that justifies Jess’s message, nothing that stands out to me. I move on to the local news.


Straight away, I see it. Today’s top story for the county.


A photo of someone I know.


‘No,’ I whisper.

This is an exclusive excerpt of thriller ‘We Watch You’ by N S Ford which is currently available for pre-order here. You can also find N S Ford across many different social media platforms here.

‘Sleeping Beauty and The Cursed Code’ by Emma Jean – Review

Fairy tale and STEM combine for a fun story with an important message…

Emma Jean has put together a wonderful story that contains an important message aimed at encouraging and introducing younger readers to the world of STEM – this is something we need more of in modern literature.

In a fairy tale inspired world of kings, queens, castles and princesses a young Sleeping Beauty must race against time to defeat a curse created by an evil fairy. Part of this story we’ve known and loved for generations while the newer parts are fresh, educational and pretty cool. Some familiar names appear along with some newer ones but they are given a modern makeover and this whole story has that modern inner message of inclusion, education and even morality. It’s thought provoking for those of the younger persuasion while being educational and the subject of learning new skills is at the very core.

Sleeping Beauty and a host of characters must band together to utilise those new skills that will hopefully be enough to save the day and lift the curse. With some fun moments along the way and plenty of awesome tech, magic, original concepts and a good old fashioned good versus evil story this one is guaranteed to bring enjoyment to younger and older readers.

5 Stars – A great read with a positive message that spotlights the awesome world of STEM

How about, just be kind…

You never know how far those words of yours could go.

Someone could be sitting in a break room with their bag of Doritos trying to have a rest from the shit they have been shovelled and then they come across your words while scrolling for an escape. Your message of kindness could resonate with them to the point they forget where they are just for a moment. Then after finishing the Doritos and that break they face whatever crap they have to face with a smile, with hope and with a power you have passed on to them all because of kindness. They take on whatever shit comes their way with a spring in their step and that smile, that undefeated powerful smile and for the next fours hours or how ever long, they get through. All from kindness and being nice, that stuff can resonate trust me.

That Tweet you put out to support others or just to be positive gives perhaps one other person a power to carry on. Even if you never intended for it to be loved and liked a thousand times, the message within matters more because maybe it was something they needed to hear today. Maybe whoever you reach will go home armed with that smile and fire up their own laptop and be inspired to write down half a chapter or a paragraph or something positive all because of the good you said. A passing moment where you just wanted to spread a little nice, and trust me when I say nice wins and nice goes a long way.

Through all of the things we want to be in our social media presence, how about, just be kind.

Weekly Ramble #120

And so the notifications fall silent but the words I have laid down are seemingly just as loud in my absence. In the near week I have been away from Twitter the amount of followers I’ve gained has gone up by over 300. While silence is sometimes solace, I see enough of it while writing and I’ve concluded this journey is nothing without the company I have found across social media.

I did say previously I am on this journey because of the writing but now the social media connections, the personal connections I have made with so many like me are now a part of that. The good things I have found and created for myself outweigh the bad by a lot. This always has been an eye of the beholder type deal and I know social media can be a grind, for some, it can chew you up and spit you out, but only if you let it. With my following, we made Twitter a good place to be, a place to converse and sell our work to the world while we learned from one another. We found each other and together we are going to step forward day by day and continue what we started. I value it too much to just walk away. I value personal connections as much as my writing.

The world can be a bad place but it can also be a good place, but you have to be willing to let that positivity in and embrace it because soon enough the negative will emerge. I’ve been away only for a little while and I’ve found my happy thoughts, I’ve found my balance and I’ve concluded that I am all in from now on. I was burned out but you’ll be amazed what a few days of silence will do for the mind.

There always will be others who’ll try to be the opposite of me, folks I have no time for. It’s why Twitter invented the mute, unfollow and block buttons. Tools I’m gonna be using to protect myself, because I come first, my following does too and I’m too far down the track to let a few bad interactions stop me. The bad feelings they present me with weigh nowhere near as much as the good. As I said, balance and I’ve found mine.

Five Little Monkeys -A Detective Story

Hello friends and happy Saturday, today I’m sharing this recent post by fellow author and blogger Megan

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Five Little Monkeys 

Sunday

Detective James Andrews took a final drag of his cigarette before tossing it. He took a sip of his coffee as he made his way down the taped off alleyway.

“So why am I out here on a Sunday morning?” James asked Detective Benjamin Knowles. Who was speaking with a uniformed officer in the middle of the alley.

“Good morning James. Nice of you to join us.” Benjamin said making his way over to James.

“So what do we have?” James asked, taking another sip of his coffee.

Benjamin opened his notepad. “Female, approximately 5’2” 110 lbs. 25-30 years old. Looks like a drug overdose. She has previous track marks on the inside of her left arm.”

James pulled back the sheet and looked over the pale, skinny woman. “We’ll know more after we run her prints and do a tox screen.” Benjamin said as…

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‘A Few of My Favourite Things’ by A.J. Ross-Etheridge – Review

Fun, honest, thought-provoking poetry guaranteed to put a smile on your face…

A.J. Ross-Etheridge shares a colourful collection of rhyming poetry that covers a range of subject matter that’s consistently uplifting, honest and fun. From her best friend to nature and from regret to reminiscing about days gone by there were some moments that brought a smile to my face – ‘Growing up in the eighties’ comes to mind. While I don’t read much poetry this collection serves as a great advert for personal stories that embodies human feeling through rhyme and something the world needs more of because sharing emotion and thoughts is brave.

“It doesn’t make you weak to fall…”

Many of the verses are accompanied by some wonderful art-work although I read this one in digital format it still didn’t hold back the awesome drawings and colour much like what we see on the front cover. For anyone looking to escape through some verse for a while that tells heart felt stories about life then this is the one for you.

5 Stars

Taking a Break from Twitter…

I’m writing this post more as a statement than anything else and before I dive in I will firstly say that I am fine. This is not a publicity stunt, attention grab or an attempt to cause arguments or bad feelings. I thought I would lay out in length and hopefully clarify why I have decided to take a short break from Twitter; something I have been envisioning on and off for around three months because the truth is, I have been running hot on the platform since April 2020 and I am mentally tired.

By running hot I mean that in 16 months my efforts and time on the platform has increased by probably twentyfold at least while the rewards I got for it are very much apparent. Back in April 2020 I had around 4,000 Twitter followers. The last time I checked, I have around 13,500. This is partly testament to the effort I have put in to converse and connect with so many creatives, readers, friends and anyone else on a daily basis. These wonderful people buy my books regularly and read this here blog regularly and engage with me every day – most importantly they are probably the biggest reason for my social media success.

The personal connections are the main reason why I am already planning my return because simply walking away from so many wonderful people is not who I am. When I announced I was taking a break, so many good people wished me well, if you are one of them, thank you.  

This incredible journey I have been on has also contained the odd pitfall – anything worthwhile will always have challenges and to jump to the numbers I have now is something I have always been able to process. Twitter for the most part has become partly an addiction (a healthy one, mind) but only because I was getting good results and I was getting better at it – the statistics do not lie. The style that I developed over time works well to drive engagement and I figured out the psychology of the platform while making some awesome connections who have helped me big time on this path. To successfully sell anything on social media takes a lot of effort because the algorithms are so so against you pretty much all the time – this is a mental minefield on its own and statistics don’t always tell you what’s going on under the hood because after all I am a human of the regular persuasion.

The last 16 months were intensive for a number of reasons. In that time I released Book 6 and then Book 7 – with 7 becoming the most intense editing experience of my life – I had to get Consistent Creative Content right, and I did. I also began eyeing up the concept of reaching 10,000 followers right around the time ‘CCC’ was released after a lengthy pre-order run and so things were just happening all at once. This is also without taking note of what was going on in the outside pandemic world. Part of my reason for upping my author social media game was because the pandemic gave me time to do so. I used the time I was given to thrive on social media.

When I did reach 10,000 follows, a huge amount of self-pressure lifted. I had made it into a club that as an indie author who started from zero is rare. Most of my followers are folks just like me and my appeal is probably because I am still one of them and what I can achieve is possible for them too, it really is and I am public about that, not to mention open and honest. Together we made my Twitter a good place to be everyday. But under the hood things were kind of struggling for me and that 10k milestone paved over some cracks but I continued forth. My book had just been released and there is always work to be done but I always knew the chase on social media is endless and Twitter moves quickly, very quickly.

I can count on one hand the amount of bad experiences I’ve had on Twitter. I know what stirs pleasant conversation so I tend to not have many bad moments. I don’t go looking for them and at the very core of my belief is to post something that informs, inspires or entertains without any malice. You might even see my attempt at humour but very much in an inclusive light dad-joke style. If you are kind and pleasant no matter what flag you fly or where you are from, you are welcome on here and even in my own home – that will always be who I am. I do my best to bring that attitude onto Twitter and you might have seen me talk about the power of positivity, it tends to win the day most of the time.

Before I figured out the psychology of my following or even built it I always knew that Twitter was and still is a very public place where anyone can comment or find you anonymously. I’ve even described it personally as a ‘cesspit’ before and for nearly 16 months, to me it wasn’t because I had made it pleasant for me and my followers helped with that. Perhaps I was a little naïve and perhaps I haven’t adjusted my style too much over the last 16 months which might have left me vulnerable in my own head because there are types out there who have the opposite attitude to me and three separate incidents occurred in quick sucession that ultimately drove me to walk away from Twitter temporarily – and that is with the last 16 months piled on top. I say temporarily because most of the time I tend to get pissed off with something, then I process and then I dive back in quickly. And my followers mean too much to me right now to permanently walk away.

This post is me processing because I know there will always be trolls or less desirable folks who in my opinion probably need help but instead they’ll try to drag people like me into their bullshit or their problems. This is not just me being some privileged guy having a whine because someone randomer said something I didn’t like. I’m not easily offended and I am big enough to handle 10,000 people downloading my book in day and then dealing with the influx of low ratings after. I also know there are a lot worse things happening in the world but to me, my mental health will always come first so I have to process this on my home turf and like I said at the start I am fine but this is me intervening to keep my very stable mental health just that. .

These three incidents that occurred were unprovoked because like I said, my tweets have zero malice. I am on Twitter to connect and learn with others and find a readership for my books. I’m an author first and foremost, not a social media personality, I got into writing before social media existed and ultimately it’s a resultant of that. I had been eyeing up a break from the platform since May but these incidents were probably the motivating factor to tell me it is just Twitter and I don’t need it right now.

And for anyone ever struggling with Twitter, remember that sometimes it is just Twitter. You come first.

So what happened and who did what? The specific details of who aren’t important and it wasn’t you that pushed me to take a break. In fact the three incidents were from non-followers which might have been why I reacted the way I have. I won’t give you specifics but I will tell you now from when I return to Twitter, my style will now be adjusted to one of a larger following. I was once a small business operating like a small business, but now I have grown, my approach will change it. I’m going to act like a bigger business and I have to be shrewd to protect me. This will include 3 rules that are for me to follow in order to protect myself and my mental health while using the platform.

  1. If someone attempts to correct me in any way, including my spelling they are gone. (blocked, gone sounds more dramatic);
  2. If someone attempts to make a funny comment that is actually a back handed insult or I cannot grasp their tone in that comment, they are gone;
  3. If someone attempts to spin what I say, gone.

I know as an author and blogger I sit in a very glass house and I’m not attempting to control anyone or silence anyone because this approach is to protect me and life is too short for me to be effected by people who don’t know how to converse properly on a platform designed for conversation. By glass house I mean anyone can hop on over to where my books are listed and drop a low rating – this is part of the reason why I am the way I am on social media and these three rules ultimately depend on how well someone knows me and how we interact. The majority of my wonderful following could do all three of these and as long as they are honest and decent, I probably won’t even bat an eyelid or we might even laugh about it. I am also going to look into privacy settings but approving every single follower will be a lot of time. My current daily follow rate was north of 50 a day and 90 on weekends. It is still moving up now and this is after a whole day of me not tweeting a single thing.

Personally, these rules are basic conversation etiquette and for a lack of it to come from non-followers really surprised me or maybe it just proved I have become naïve to trolls or maybe this even the sign of true prominence. I know this world is full of bad people and I am wise to that but maybe now because of my following I am a target. I also know that I cannot control others but I can shield myself from them. My larger following is an opportunity to some folk who dwell under bridges it seems and like I said, I don’t tweet about anything that deserves this behaviour. One account literally followed me minutes before backhandedly insulting me on a tweet I composed as a light-hearted humour attempt, that account then disappeared after I reported it for abuse.

Number 3 in particular is something that surprised me also but it happened twice in a week. Trying to spin my non-malicious words into something malicious will earn you a block. I am not a politician or a billionaire so stop trying to spin what I say like a cheap journalist. If someone is that insecure about what I say, then the problem is with them not me. Yes, Twitter is a public highway with freedom of speech which I fully support, and you could just tell me to grow up here but I will counter with just two words that define what all humans should be able to do:

Be Kind.

There is a human behind that handle and following. Above all, I have spent a lot of time on the platform and I can see through words, very well.

I take my online author endeavours seriously and authoring will be my primary career one day. Above all, I am adjusting my style to protect my mental health which has dipped partly because I ran hard for so long and partly because unpleasant people do not deserve me. Now I’m having a week away and very much enjoying being a writer. My mind and imagination is my greatest asset and I will do anything to protect it. Right now I am deep into editing the book I began this writing journey with back when I was 12, its way more important than a few random trolls trying to get a reaction. The writing matters, it always will.

In 16 months I gave everything to putting together a loyal engaged following on Twitter.

All of you who do follow me are worth that everything.

You can expect to see me return to Twitter late next week to do battle with the algorithms and be with the people who made this journey worthwhile. Thank you for reading.

Camera Equipment, Software, and Other Essential Tools to Launch Your Own Book Review Channel

Every so often a new wave of content creators emerges to satisfy a specific demographic. One of the most recent examples is the “BookTube” community. After all, the value of honest book reviews remains high in an age where it can be difficult to find valuable and trustworthy opinions amid paid ads. In fact, such is the demand for reviews that the aforementioned BookTube scene has amassed a large subset of creators and viewers, which according to Google, even increased by 40% over a single year.

Examples of YouTuber book lovers who have gained a lot of popularity, are Christine Riccio, Ariel Bisset, and Cindy Pham who’ve gained millions of views across their videos. With the growing success of these creators, more people are starting to join this community daily. If you’re one of those thinking of becoming a BookTuber yourself, here are the essential tools you’ll need.

Microphone

A good recording microphone will be important since your content relies on a “chat” format. You want your viewers to hear crisp audio with appropriate volume. Having a good mic can also block out any background noise (like passing cars or pets) and lessen any echoes.

There are various kinds of microphones available, and understanding the science behind them can help you pick which type best suits you. Dynamic mics like the Shure SM7B are popular because they use electromagnet effects that make them great for vocal pick-up. That said, a lot of podcasters also like using condenser mics like the Blue Yeti because they respond to higher frequencies better. This means they’re more sensitive and pick up more nuances. If you’ve never used a mic before, it may also help to use pop filters to help “clean” the audio.

Filming gear

When deciding on a camera to buy, remember not to just opt for the priciest model. Instead, choose a model that has features and settings pre-installed to lessen the guesswork on your end. Thankfully, there is a vast selection of cameras out there with these built-in features, like 5-axis image stabilization. This will reduce any shakiness or unfocused blurs that can affect the watchability of your videos.



If you’re the type that simply wants a clear picture, decent battery life, and a model that you can shoot both stills and video with little need for manual adjustments, consider mirrorless digital cameras like the Sony Alpha a7R. It’s compact, can hit 4K, and already previews exposure and contrast before you shoot. So, you can be sure your recording will look good.

Lighting equipment

Effective lighting ensures that your audience sees you clearly, and that helps them feel more engaged. That said, you may want to eventually put in the coin for umbrella and softbox lights, but you could easily start with a good pair of ring lights. These can provide light for you and any item that you want to pull focus on in your videos, especially if you’re not filming dynamically and are just in one spot. Many ring lights also have brightness settings, which you’ll want to play with to find the intensity you prefer. Because as much as viewers don’t like too many shadows, they don’t want to watch anything too blown out, either.

Video editing software

Finally, you’ll want easy-to-use and efficient software to edit your videos before you post them. There are a ton of options out there, so you’ll want to consider your budget and how intensive you need the features to be. Both Windows and Apple already have free video editing programs (Video Editor and iMovie, respectively) in their OS if you just need basic cuts and transitions.

If you require more post-edit capabilities without eating up your PC’s resources, some of the most popular software suites include Adobe Premiere Elements, Autodesk, and AVS Video Editor. These require a little more familiarity with editing software. However, they can result in more dynamic and exact end results. Alternatively, you can go for free video editing options, such as OpenShot, VideoPad, and VSDC. Like the paid programs, these also offer a wide range of features and are available for most OS variants.

After all is said and done, don’t forget that aside from these tools, what can set your content apart is your passion and sincerity. By combining this practical equipment with a voracious appetite for reading and community, you should be all set to go forth on your hero’s journey to BookTube.

Last Outlaw: A Western Sci-Fi Horror – Read Part 1 for Free

The once reputable profession of being an outlaw is dying with the times. I ain’t the type to use words of the finer persuasion but I know what’s what in this world and these times are getting harder by the day. Folks like me have got to work to survive. That’s all this is, taking from the lesser man or woman to live. Some call it crime, but I call it opportunity and there are all types of people who are struggling to fit in with this now civilised society including me.

First I watch, and if that opportunity comes then I take. Only after half a shot of whisky is it apparent to see the saloon I was sitting in weren’t anywhere near the normal standards. The people around me, all of them seemed on edge. I’ve been a newcomer in a thousand small towns but this one had something sinister hiding in plain sight, I could feel it…

Read the rest of Part 1 for Free via Patreon here.

Patrons will be able to read the rest as it releases each week.