Through the Hostage – what’s in a name?

Through the Hostage – what’s in a name?

Always shoot the hostage

There have been books where I had to agonise over the title, and ask for help, and toss coins, and read the cards…Through the Hostage wasn’t one of them.

The title was inspired by an old, old Keanu Reeves film, ‘Speed’, where Keanu is working as an American police officer. Near the beginning of the film, his partner’s being held up by the bad guy with a gun to his head, and the partner keeps on mouthing ‘Shoot the hostage!’. In the end, Keanu’s character does just that, and much drama and manly distress ensues.

The concept seemed very appropriate for the first book in the Cortii series. Jack Connagh is the human hostage, held on a Cortiian Base, his only real protection the fact that an alien species has some very powerful leverage over the Councils of the magaii, and those aliens want him alive.

However, given that the magaii are violently allergic to being blackmailed, and that Jack is in the keeping of Khyria’s trainee unit, whose chances of surviving to full Cortia rank get slimmer every day, the chances that someone’s going to shoot him are pretty high. ‘Through the hostage’ seemed uniquely appropriate.

Websites and sub-domains and Jollyleaf, oh my

Websites and sub-domains and Jollyleaf, oh my

What do websites and trees have in common?…Well, Jollyleaf, of course.

Back in April, I went on a serious hunt for a new hosting provider for my websites. I had been with GoDaddy, and I was tired of paying through the nose for Outlook 365, having to call someone every time I wanted help…you name it. I also wanted to move my sites onto servers outside the USA, as the privacy legislation for non-US citizens took some damage in 2017.

Some intensive hunting brought me to Jollyleaf, a UK-based hosting provider that also handles domain names.

First point in their favour – very proactive business dev team that managed great outreach without being pushy. I whined (once) about my hosting provider hunt on Twitter, and a friendly message from an actual human popped up in my Twitter inbox.

I checked them out, and I may have blinked. At the time, I was paying upwards of $500 a year for four domain names, hosting for two websites, and two email addresses with GoDaddy. It looked as if Jollyleaf’s Oak package would give me all that for under $50 a year – plus the transfer fee for the two domains I was actually using. They were also offering a free SSL certificate – something that GoDaddy had been trying to upsell me on for $70 a shot every time I had to call them for a year.

Ten times less money? Hell yes. I suspect there are still skid marks somewhere on GoDaddy where I pulled out full speed ahead.

I wanted to rebuild my author website from the ground up in any case, since it had been the website I ‘learnt’ WordPress on, so I went ahead and migrated that over, set up my author webmail, and found with delight that Outlook 2007, which would only allow one of my Outlook365 addresses to handshake with it, would cheerfully handle any number of webmail accounts.

A week later, I backed up my review site, and discovered that I had no idea exactly how that would fit into the Jollyleaf structure. There were a lot of worryingly flexible options available to me in the cPanel with my account, but nothing that screamed ‘plug second website in here’. Incidentally, I can’t over-recommend the UpdraftPlus software for a simple, hassle-free (and actually free) website back-up tool. It’ll send full website back-ups zips and the database (do not omit the DB – really) to the file storage of your choice (I use Dropbox), and once you reinstall the plugin in your virgin WordPress, it’ll handle re-install of your site.

I then learnt about the wonderful world of sub-domains (see my Websites 101 post, covering the basic information I wish I’d known in April). Suffice it to say that after a few hours where I was sure I’d overwritten my brand-spanking-new author site with my review site, and another few hours where the images zip upload ate all my bandwidth and finally skewed altogether and had to be manually installed in the relevant sub-folder in phpMyAdmin, I turned out to be the proud owner of a site and sub-domain site, and two working webmail addresses, both showing up in my Outlook client on demand.

Overall, now that I’m set up, I have to say that Jollyleaf was a great find. If I’d known word one about the backend of website set-up (and I make no apologies for my ignorance, my partner works in programming and had no idea of some of what we found out either), transition would have been a lot smoother. They don’t yet have all the endless help articles and how-tos that Wix and GoDaddy have to guide the uneducated through set-up. Key words to look for when setting up a second site on Jollyleaf – ‘sub-domain’ and ‘addon domain’. Jollyleaf does have very available and professional support people, available through an email ticketing system, who will try and talk you through your panics.

Immortality doesn’t mean you’ll live forever…

Immortality doesn’t mean you’ll live forever…

The peaches of immortality ripen only once in every three thousand years. If you find and eat one, you’re guaranteed near-immortality. Not unnaturally, the business interests whom I represent would like the opportunity to acquire some. Imagine Hollywood able to buy everlasting good looks? Hell, we could buy some more property. Mars, maybe.

I took another look through my scope, and sighed. Why do people always imagine that immortality means that they’re invulnerable as well? Of course, I would never threaten to shoot the Jade Emperor, but this guy wasn’t him. Not the Heavenly Grandfather, and most definitely not one of the Three Pure Ones. If he were, the apparent age of the scantily-dressed schoolgirl in his lap would’ve disqualified him on the spot. This guy, I wouldn’t have any qualms about threatening, although not actually carrying through might be tough.

I spent a moment meditating. Fine. I spent a moment remembering how much I stood to make by not shooting the old pervert. Ancient pervert, if the rumours I’d spent the last few years chasing were slightly more accurate than the last ten or twenty times. About 2,983 years old, to be precise. My little pep talk motivated me to fold up my shooting perch and drop down to street-level like a good girl, rather than leaving brain particles ingrained in the wall behind him that someone would have to clean up.

After all, if the guy temporarily still in possession of his brain matter wanted another 3,000 years of fondling teenagers, he was going to have to pick up some supplies soon. When he did, perhaps I could persuade him to take me along. Persuasion is my business. Being part-siren helps. Carrying enough metal on my person to never be able to fly commercial often helps more.

Websites 101

Websites 101

Websites 101

Unless you live under a rock somewhere, you’ve accessed a website. They’re almost impossible to avoid. If you’re an indie anything, in my case author, having one of your own is almost a requirement if you expect to channel readers to your work without relying on the altruism (sorry, bug in my throat) of Facebook or Amazon.

  • The good: You can build a website without having a clue about what happens behind the pretty pictures and clicky things that take you to more shiny, interesting places.
  • The bad: Ignorance, say of something like the lovely new European data privacy laws (GDPR), is not a defence.
  • The ugly: If you don’t know what’s going on with your own site, you can’t fix it when it goes wrong.

Website building is one of the instances where more knowledge can mean saving money. For example, my two domains hosted with Jollyleaf, plus basic SSL and all the webmail addresses I can eat, costs me $3.99 US / month (2018). The equivalent plan from Wix would set me back $10 to $14 per month, and that doesn’t discuss email.

So here’s the basics that I found out that I wish I’d known when I started setting up my website.

The magic words – key things to know

…’please’ and ‘thank you’. Seriously, I thought I was kidding about growing up under the rock.

Domain name: You need one of these. An IP address is a string of confusing numbers and decimal points, and, like Vulcan planet names, no-one can remember that shit easily. A domain name is like a custom licence plate for your car – at the most basic level, it’s a custom name that humans can remember, linked in a database to the actual IP address where your website can be found.Pro tip – make it easy to remember, and make it logical. I’m an author writing as J C Steel, and my domain is jcsteelauthor.com. Simple, right?

Domain registration: This is how your domain name gets linked to your IP address. Generally, your hosting provider (keep reading, grasshopper) will handle this part for you, acting as a domain name registrar. ICANN is the Men In Black-style organisation behind domain name registration that you may want to read up on if you want to know more.

Web hosting provider: You need one of these, too. They’re the people who rent you a certain amount of space on a physical server to actually store the images and information that make up your website. I use Jollyleaf, but I recommend that you do some pricing and feature comparisons online (PCMag often has handy ‘top ten’ lists), and figure out what you need and how much you’re willing to pay for it.

Website creation tool, aka website builder: Unless you’re a whizz with HTML (in which case, why the hell are you here??), you’re going to need one of these, too. Joomla, Drupal, WordPress, Wix, Weebly – again, I recommend going and doing some hunting and figuring out your ideal features-to-competency comfort level.

Internet connectivity: …yeah, if you’re reading this, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume you know about this one. You need it to build your masterpiece and access other peoples’.

If you have all of the above, you’re ready to get started with your new website. If you’re only in need of one site, and you aren’t building a newsletter, doing any direct selling, and really just want an online presence you can put on your business card, you can go from there.

If you want to delve into the arcane and macabre, keep reading.

The arcane and macabre for websites 101 and beyond

CMS: CMS stands for content management system, and it governs, usually via a template (see ‘theme’), how your website looks and behaves. WordPress will try and jam their favourite themes down your craw – don’t feel obliged, there’s a multitude to choose from out there. I use Divi, which lets me do (almost) anything I want, and leaves me swearing helplessly the rest of the time.

HTML: Yeah, unless you know exactly what you’re doing and have hours to spend debugging lines, this is the ‘oh-ha-ha-no’ difficulty level. HTML is one of the basic programming languages underlying much of what you see online. Unless you happen to be an HTML expert, trying to code your own site from scratch will leave you with one of those lovely yellow text on deep blue background sites that screams ‘someone tried to party like it was 1999’. More detail on HTML versus CMS can be found here.

Child Theme: Don’t try to create one of these without backing up your site first. Really. A child theme will batten off your principal theme, and update with it, but maintain your custom elements (a custom copyright footer notice is a common use-case) through each update.

Custom email address: Not a must-have, but a nice way to brand your business communication. A lot of people will rely on Outlook 365 for this – personally I don’t recommend it, it’s expensive as hell and you can’t download emails from there to storage or elsewhere in bulk. A lot of hosting providers will offer webmail on the side, and often for free. It’s worth checking out, because it will save you money that you can then throw at something else, and you can still have your branded email address.

SEO: SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and at the simplest level, it’s key words – the terms people are likely to type into a search bar to find you, your website, or your work. You want to make sure that when a search engine crawls your page, the key things you want to appear high in search results for are basically sending up flares and generally making themselves obvious. As I’m shite making progress on my learning curve with SEO, I’m going to suggest you type ‘SEO’ into a search engine and learn from people who actually know what they’re talking about.

phpMyAdmin: Up top, I mentioned web hosting in terms of someone renting you space on a server for the files that actually make up your site. phpMyAdmin is one of the common database frontends (see also SQL) that stores and organises those files so that you can access the files when you need to. The function of the database itself is the internal referencing of your files so that when you click ‘contact’, you get the contact form of your site, and not a page advertising mail-order brides.

SSL: Means Secure Socket Layer, and short-form it’s security that lets people clicking on your site have reasonable certainty that it’s you. It’s part of what governs the ‘s’ in ‘https’, and the behaviour of that padlock symbol at the beginning of the website address. An SSL certificate is nice-to-have on a basic site like a blog, and becomes a must-have if you’re planning something like direct sales, where you’re handling financial information.

Add on domain: Now we’re getting kinky. Basically, a domain works very much like a folder structure (you’ve set these up on your computer, or in your email client, yes?). For example, your root domain (dear Aussies and Kiwis, please don’t get too excited here) would be your ‘Documents’ folder, and then when you open up ‘Documents’ you’ll have ‘Letters’, ‘Legal’, ‘Renos’, which would be sub- or add-on domains depending on set-up. An add on domain can be accessed completely separately from the root domain from the perspective of the end-user. I have a root domain, accessed with jcsteelauthor.com, and an add on domain, byriteofword.com, both of which have a separate file structure and are accessed separately by users. Courtesy of Bluehost: An add on domain is a domain name which points to its own folder within public_html and appears as a separate website.

Site back-ups: I really recommend doing these. Your hosting provider may do them automatically, but ‘doing’ and ‘giving easy access to’ are two entirely different animals. I use Updraft Plus for my WordPress sites – it gives me complete control over how often I back-up, where the back-ups are stored, and best of all, hassle-free file re-install as soon as I install the plugin. Oh, and the basic version is free.

Images: I use Pixabay, Pexels, and UnSplash for free images (donations optional). It’s not a good idea to simply nick shit from Google Images – it may be tempting, but first, you’re very likely trampling someone else’s copyright, and also the images are likely to be crappy resolution, which will make you look like an amateur. If you don’t mind shelling out some cash, Shutterstock and 123rf have a wide range.of images.

That’s all, folks

Well, no, of course it isn’t. But if you’ve read this, and looked at a few of the linked articles, you should have at least a basic understanding of what you need and why in your website, and where you can go to learn more. Depending on your hosting provider, you may be able to drag and drop elements – Wix is good for this – or you may need to know everything from how to set up an add on domain to setting a POP3 email account.

In general, I support knowing what you’re doing. It reduces the chances of you getting screwed on price, and it helps you understand what you can do, what you can’t do, and what you really shouldn’t do without making a full back-up first.

Happy webbing.

New Release – My Dream Woman, by C H Clepitt

New Release – My Dream Woman, by C H Clepitt

My Dream Woman releases 8th July 2018!

Do I sound a bit excited? Well, book releases are always exciting, and when they’re written by friends, even better.

My Dream Woman is the latest release from author C. H. Clepitt, genre-bender and netball defender extraordinaire, who I had the pleasure of interviewing a little while ago.

My Dream Woman jacket text:

When your dreams are real, there’s no-where to escape!

Andi is just holding it together. Working two jobs means she doesn’t need to rely on anyone, but doesn’t have much of a life. In her dreams, however, she is a hero: battling monsters and saving innocents. When her dream woman turns out to be very real, Andi’s life begins to spiral out of control.

Step into an exciting urban fantasy that will have you on the edge of your seat. Think The Book of Abisan, only sexier!

Currently available to pre-order on Amazon, or get in touch if you would like to order paper.


Read on for an excerpt!

As soon as this happens I am in complete control.  Every time. It’s like my brain senses the danger and everything becomes lucid.  I have swords. Two swords. Don’t judge me, swords rock! Way cooler than guns, and I’m a martial arts expert.  I twirl them theatrically, turning to wink at the boy.

“Don’t worry,” I say. “This won’t take long.” It’s the sort of cool thing heroes say, and he grins at me.  He can see how cool I am right now. But that’s where this one changes. Two loud shots ring out from behind the monster.  It starts, and turns, advancing on the noise. Two more shots and it staggers backwards towards me. When it’s close enough I decapitate it.

“Swords? Really?” The woman standing over the body, pointing two smoking guns, looks disapprovingly at me.  Not only does she have a face, but it is an incredibly attractive face. Amazing, sparkling brown eyes, full lips… way out of my league.  Normally. But not here, this is my place, I can control it.

“Swords are way cooler than guns,” I say firmly as I resheath them, crossed across my back.  “Takes no skill to pull a trigger. I’m like a frickin’ ninja.”

“Yeah, OK,” she rolls her eyes and puts her guns back in their holsters.  “Hey,” she looks beyond me to the boy. “Let’s find you somewhere more fun to be, shall we?  Pubs suck.”

He looks at her, and stands up, but he slips his hand into mine.  “Will you come?” He asks.

“Sure,” I grin at him.  “See,” I look triumphantly at the woman. “Swords are cool.”

“If you say so,” she turns and heads out of the pub.  We follow. I’m still not sure why, it just seems natural.

“So,” she says chattily to the boy.  By this point I’d have found him a unicorn or something and dumped him, but we’re walking through a field.  “What do you want to do now the monster’s gone?”

“Eat ice-cream,” he says decidedly, as though she shouldn’t have needed to ask.

“Good call,” she says, and an ice-cream van appears at the edge of the field.

He releases my hand and runs to it, disappearing into a  blur of distance. She turns to me smiling.

“Reckon we have a couple of hours to kill,” she smiles. “Wanna help me fill them?”

I smile.  I know what’s coming next, it’s inevitable, somehow.  I take her hands and pull her in, kissing her. It feels so real, her touch, her scent, she’s solid.  I can smell and taste her. That’s when I wake up.


C. H. Clepitt has a Master’s Degree in English Literature from the University of the West of England. As her Bachelor’s Degree was in Drama, and her Master’s Dissertation focused on little known 18th Century playwright Susannah Centlivre, Clepitt’s novels are extremely dialogue driven, and it has often been observed that they would translate well to the screen.

Since graduating in 2007, she gained experience in community and music journalism, before establishing satirical news website, Newsnibbles, in 2010. In 2011 she published her book, A Reason to Stay, which follows the adventures of disillusioned retail manager, Stephen, as he is thrust into village life and the world of AmDram. Clepitt’s feminist fantasy, The Book of Abisan, not only crosses worlds, but confuses genres, and has been described as a crime drama with magic. She has often said that she doesn’t like the way that choosing a genre forces you to put your book into a specific little box, and instead she prefers to distort the readers’ expectations and keep them guessing. Her 2016 work, I Wore Heels to the Apocalypse, does just that, as just like the characters, the readers won’t know what’s going on in this laugh out loud satirical sci-fi.

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