Posted by: gillarbuthnott | November 15, 2020

Best Review Ever – The Real One!

A Beginner's Guide to the Periodic Table: Amazon.co.uk: Gill Arbuthnott:  9781472908858: Books

You may be thinking ‘I’ve already seen this post’, but don’t go – this is an entirely different sort of ‘best review ever’, sent to me by an 8 year old reader in the USA…

“My dad bought your science books for me when I was 4 – The Beginner’s Guide to Periodic Table, What Makes You You, What makes Your Body Work, A Beginner’s Guide to Electricity and Magnetism and Your Guide to Life on Earth and I loved reading them. They were probably the first books I read by myself and I have read them a million times by now. My parents tell me that I used to call my grandma and recite passages from the periodic table book to her. I lost that book just before we were moving to US and I was so upset that my parent bought me a new copy.

I wanted to thank you for writing about science in such a fun way. I have always wanted to thank you but did not know how.I discovered your website when I googled for you.I am doing a course in physics and chemistry meant for middle school grades and my instructor asked me what first attracted me to science and I told him – ‘ books by Ms Gill Arbuthnott’. I still love periodic table ( I know all the elements and their symbols now) and electricity and magnetism and genes and I still love going back and reading your books.”

Seriously, as an author, there is nothing that could have made me happier than this email. All I want to do when I write about science is make other people feel the same way about it that I do – to find it thrilling. At least I know I’ve succeeded with one reader! Deep joy.

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | November 14, 2020

Dipping my toes in the virtual water

Book Week Scotland programme launched – The NEN – North Edinburgh News

I’m a bit late to the party, but I am at last engaging with the idea of online events. My first one was last week, when I talked to the senior Reading Force book group about my novels The Keepers’ Daughter and Beneath. Actually, the conversation ranged over all sorts of things, from Netflix to snakes (memorably described by one participant as ‘giant worms covered in fingernails’!). Next week I’ll be having a conversation with the junior Reading Force group in an event that – uniquely – will be combining The Chaos Clock with What Makes Your Body Work… So we’ll be doing experiments on ourselves while discussing the novel! Possibly. Who knows?

Also coming up, as part of Book Week Scotland, is a chance to see a film of me prattling on as part of Leisure and Culture Dundee’s A View of my Favourite Things strand. The film goes live on November 19th and you can click through on the link above.

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | August 6, 2020

The Best Review Ever?

Fainting and Swooning – the Degrees of Syncope in the Victorian ...I hardly ever look at my books on Amazon.com, but yesterday I did and I found the most amazing review:

‘This book appears to be targeted at young children. It has bright and cheerful pictures and advertises it is ‘wacky’. Unfortunately it was not age appropriate (for any child). It contains dark and unnecessary subject matter.
There is nothing ‘amazing and wacky” about this book.
The nonchalant reference to the loss of human lives is morbid. This book talks A LOT about murder, assassination, death, war, disease, and witches. It is not fun and cheerful as the pictures and bright colors suggest.
I am appalled that the author and publisher thinks this is written for a child.
Towards the end of the book it looks as if the author got bored and threw numerous elements on one page with a short sentence for each. Some information was completely false, such as the dinosaurs and how they became extinct.

Science can be an enjoyable subject for children and it would be great to have resources to expose young minds to the fascinating parts without exposing them to darker parts of life and humanity.
The author has failed to write toward the innocent young audience this book was intended for.’ 

You won’t be surprised to find it was awarded 1 star, presumably only because 0 stars wasn’t an option…
My intention here is not to disparage the reviewer: everyone has the right to  think and say anything they want about a book they read: but I had no idea I’d written such a thrillingly transgressive book!
So if you want a disturbing read, A Beginner’s Guide to the Periodic Table may be just the volume for you…
Posted by: gillarbuthnott | July 3, 2020

Oh Happy Day #2: The Adventure Continues.

Use your contactless card on Lothian's bus services from today ... My emergence from hibernation continues. Remember these? Today I was on a bus for the first time in 100+ days. I rode that bus into Princes Street, to go non-essential shopping and there were other people there. The walks I took along Princes Street during lockdown were weird, post-apocalyptic affairs, as if  I’d been teleported into I Am Legend, but today there were normal people, just moseying around in a normal way.

Reader, I visited Marks and Spencer and bought clothes! New Clothes! I am wearing a new dress and some shoes as I type this. Call me superficial if you wish, but I swear I can feel evolution beginning again. Perhaps in a few days my knuckles will no longer brush the pavement as I walk…

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | July 2, 2020

Oh Happy Day #1

Independent Bookshops You Have to Visit in Edinburgh - DickinsA red-letter today, on the slow road out of Covid-19 hibernation. I was able to go, in person, to a bookshop, an actual, physical bookshop. Better still, it was my wonderful local independent The Edinburgh Bookshop. They’ve done a great job during lockdown providing sanity via click and collect, but it’s not the same – of course it’s not the same – as being able to chat to the staff and inhale the aroma of book. For the first time in 100 days, I was able to look at, touch and buy real ink and paper books, feel the weight of them in my bag and carry them home to the sofa where I now live. Heaven.

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | May 13, 2020

Lockdown Children’s LitFest

Sugar Rushed: Best Chocolate Cake Ever! #Tutorial #RecipeJust a quickie… I’m delighted to say that on Thursday 14th May at 2pm, I’m being interviewed online by Catherine Millar as part of her splendid Lockdown Children’s LitFest. You can send a question before or during the interview and you can join us here. I just hope Len the cat doesn’t decide to join in too. He’s turned into a bit of a diva since he got his own Instagram account…

The cake? It’s got nothing at all to do with the interview, but (almost) everyone likes a chocolate cake picture…

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | May 8, 2020

Adventures in e-publishing #2

Publishing - WikipediaIt’s nearly a month since I stuck my head above the parapet and put my book The Keepers’ Daughter on line as a Kindle download and POD paperback; so, what have I learned in that time?

First, I love the way I can track what’s been happening to it. I can check how many downloads there have been per day by using the KDP website. I could check hour by hour if I wanted to, using Amazon Author Central (but that way madness lies…). It has been downloaded (hooray) and has even earned some money (hooray, hooray) – not much, but more than an out of print book earns when no one can buy it.

On the down side, a couple of people have told me they have tried to leave a review and haven’t been able to, so (assuming they’re not telling porkies) I need to follow that up. Reviews would be very useful!

I made the book a free Kindle download a couple of weekends ago, and that certainly increased the number of downloads. Next, I will try making it a 99p offer – haven’t quite decided when.

I ordered the physical book to see what it was like. The print quality is pretty good, but it certainly doesn’t look like a ‘bookshop book’: margins are too narrow and it seems weirdly heavy. I also realise my cover choice was hopeless, so I’ll be changing that when I have time (bit busy with actual writing just now).

And of course, I need to try to engage with the whole marketing thing much more.

On the whole though, I’m pleased with how things have gone so far – this is, after all, my first attempt at all this.

Please let me know if you have any words of wisdom for me, and if you want to hear how things progress.

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | April 12, 2020

The Best Biscuits Ever

cookiesI posted a picture of these on Instagram and have been asked for the recipe. If you have a subscription to The Times you can find it on line, if not, here is a compressed version. I do hope I’m not about to be prosecuted for breach of copyright… The recipe is by Rahul Mandal, of ‘Bakeoff‘ fame and the cookies taste as good as they look.

1 Cream 50g butter, 40g tahini and 90g dark brown sugar. Add one egg and beat until well combined.

2 In another bowl, mix 100g plain flour, 25g cocoa powder, a quarter teaspoon each of baking powder and bicarbonate of soda, 1 tsp ground ginger, half a teaspoon ground cardamom (If you have it. Mine were fine without).

3 Sift half of the flour mixture into the butter mix and beat in. Sift in the other half and fold in along with 50g chopped dark chocolate, 75g chopped white chocolate and 30g chopped crystallised ginger. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours to firm up.

4 Heat oven to Gas 4/165C fan. Roll 50g lumps of dough into balls then roll in sesame seeds. Put on baking paper on baking sheet(s). They will spread, so give them plenty of room.

5 Bake for 10 mins then take them out and bash the sheet on the top of the cooker to help the cookies spread. Put them back into the oven for another 5 mins.

6 Cool on tray for 10 mins, then on a cooling rack for as long as you can resist them.

7 Enjoy!  Rahul’s recipe used double the quantities and froze half the cookies ready to bake.  They take an extra 5-7 mins to bake from frozen.

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | April 10, 2020

Adventures in e-Publishing

I am well known for my technomuppetry, so it was with major trepidation that I embarked on an attempt to publish my novel The Keepers’ Daughter as an e-book. It turned out to be astonishingly easy, so if it’s something you’ve been considering, jump right in. I used KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), which held my hand and walked me through the whole process. After only a couple of days, not only do I have an e-book on kindle, but Keeper’s Daughter is, for the first time in quite a while, available as a real, live, physical paperback. No one is more surprised than me that this worked; hats off to KDP, which really does seem to be muppet-proof.

Now comes the hard part: marketing. A particular challenge to a Scot with impostor syndrome. I shall just have to pretend I’m talking about someone else’s book…

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | March 27, 2020

Our Microbe Friends #6 Miracle Mould

Image result for florey and chainIn 1939 the search was on for chemicals that could treat bacterial infections – a really serious issue with war looming. In Oxford Howard Florey and Ernst Chain came across Fleming’s work and started to look at penicillin. They infected mice with pneumonia and injected half of them with penicillin. The next day all the injected mice were fine, and all the others were dead. Chain rightly described it as ‘a miracle’ and work began to grow large quantities of mould so that enough penicillin would be available to treat soldiers with infected wounds as well as everyone else who would benefit. It took a long time to find a way to do this, however.

Image result for penicillinIt was 1941 before enough penicillin was produced to treat the first patient. He began to recover, but the penicillin ran out before he was cured and, sadly, he died. In 1942, the amount produced was only enough to treat about 100 people. But by 1943 there was enough penicillin to treat every Allied soldier who needed it. Penicillin helped the Allies win World War 2 – not bad for a tiny mould!

Older Posts »

Categories