When the luck unicorn farts …

You’d better be ready.

Yes, smashing things are afoot, in writing world anyway, and for once it’s not me blundering into something and breaking it.

Escape From B-Movie Hell.

Something unusual and rather wonderful has happened this week, my book, Escape From B-Movie Hell has been accepted for a bookbub promotion.

Now, I can imagine you might be thinking,

‘Mmm yes MT,’ as you stifle a yawn, ‘but what does that have to do with me?’

Well, Bookbub is the mother of all promotion sites. You get your book featured on there and many, many folks will discover it. A Bookbub feature is one of the Holy Grails of authordom. Any author angling to have their book included will need a LOT of persistence, possibly in conjunction with aligned stars, the fumes of potent upwind unicorn farts, and a dash of fairy dust. But while the unicorns and fairies and proper authors were looking the other way it seems my book sneaked on!

What does this mean for you?

Well, if you want to read Escape From B-Movie Hell, then from sometime yesterday, 20th July, until Sunday, 23rd July, it’s going for a song.

Bookbub will be promoting my book to squazillions of people in India, Canada, Australia and the UK. And in return I reduce it to 99c, or p, or 65Rupees.

Now the squazillions don’t include anyone in the US, or RSA or New Zealand, which seemed unfair. So I’ve reduced it to the equivalent price in those places, too.

So there you go, if you are interested in reading it, click this link for more info and links to buy:

http://www.hamgee.co.uk/escape.html

There’s another thing I’d like to share with you. Today, I bring you a new word: the verb, ‘to bald’. McMini uses a lot of wonderfully bizarre language and this is one he came up with when I was talking to him the other today. He was talking about pretending to be a certain footballer, a fellow with a shiny round billiard ball of a head. No hair.

‘We balded ourselves and ran around shouting, “Goooooaaaaal!”‘ He told me.

The thing that made me laugh most was that I knew exactly what he meant straight away.

So there we are. If you have a LOT of hair, and you then sweep it back off back of your face and flatten it against your head, roll-on deodorant style, so that you can pretend you have no hair at all and show your giant forehead to the world, the technical term for your action is, apparently, ‘balding yourself’.

The baldest thing I could find at short notice.

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Meh and un-meh. Thoughts, ramblings and a progress report.

It’s confession time. I’ve been in a bit of a slump recently because we’ve reached a new stage in Dad’s illness and I’m still adjusting to the grimness. If someone you love has dementia then there will be stuff they say when you know it’s the illness speaking, rather than them. Over the last three of four months, Dad’s condition has deteriorated rapidly to the point where his illness is doing far more of the talking than he is. It’s been pretty stark.

On the upside, there have been a lot of big events in the family and among friends to keep me busy, although some of them are going through tough times too. But there’s been less down time and no more than a few hours in any of the last five weeks to plan, gather thoughts and generally sort myself out. If I’m a bit maudlin, this is usually good. The more I socialise and the more stuff I do, the less time I spend in the Slough of Despond. Also we all know the writer who wants to get stuff out of their head has to put stuff in. I even have a book cued up to read for the holidays. I think it’s called put your pants on, or possibly pull your pants off but it’s about finding ways to plan your writing more effectively. I’ll review it when I’m done!

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, hectic life. When things get too busy the time for everything else but the household chores disappears and trust me in this house, even they are a bit, er hem, rushed. Or neglected. Phnark. And my house is hardly a smoothly oiled machine at the best of times. I mean, it has McMini and me in it. But if there’s not even time for chores or the myriad stuff I have to remember for McMini’s school (sad stuff there too) I do tend to get a bit flustered. And guilty. And sad. And on top of already sad, that’s not good.

And what with the state of the world right now, and the shit we’re all in, I slightly feel that if I can’t say anything positive it’s best not to say anything at all. Hence the significant lack of posts on here and the shockingly low quality of my email newsletters. Sorry anyone reading who also receives my emails. The interesting stories will return. Soon.

Because I’ve realised something.

It’s time to have a word with myself!

So, first of all, I apologise if my posts and emails seem faux jolly, as if I’m going through the motions (when they appear at all). In a sense, they are and I am. But it’s important that I continue writing them. A huge part of the trick of managing life-grimness, for me, is to keep on keeping on. The small every day things become harder and harder to do, but doing them anchors you in reality, in normality, and stops you from floating away into some kind of mad disjointed netherworld of despair. That’s why I write, of course. Because – don’t laugh – writing all this stuff that is madder than a box of frogs keeps the rest of me sane and grounded.

Keep calm and carry on. That’s my life and I’m this bloke.

Right, that’s that off my chest, let us move swiftly on to other things.

News

Mmm. The 10k short is with the editor, although she has RSI and due to the vagaries of the power companies where she lives she is currently in the process of going off grid – ie switching to solar – so I’m not sure when it will come back. Which reminds me, I must look and see if there was anything I was meant to be doing to it.

Meanwhile, McMini’s birthday party is finally in the bag so I must do an invite. It’d be much easier to draw one but the lamp in my scanner has gone so I suspect I will be doing something with clip art. Oh dear. He and 9 other little darlings are going to do den building and fire building in a local park. Luckily I have help in the form of my friend Jill so if it all goes tits up at least we can laugh about it later.

With this and the rest of the holidays fast approaching my writing may well slow but I’m going to try and do the 20 minutes a day thing because that worked really well.  Whatever happens, I will be doing some reading. Both the aforementioned keep your pants on book and one of my own for editing/developmental purposes. I’m 40k into a 60k novel. It’s not my greatest work because I’m experimenting with keeping both my plots and my books simpler and shorter so I can sell them cheaper. However, it’s not bad and I think it could well be better by the time I’m done with it.

If the pants book helps I hope to be doing a bit of outlining over the holidays. There have also been more developments with the one about the ex gigolo space dustman who lives on P deck. I’ve been working out how he gets there – I think that will be a long short that I can give away to folks who join my mailing list (or who are already on the other one). Also working on how he gets his ship – I think he builds it from scrap but I’m not sure. It may be a lease ship. And how Admiral Ash, the female lead, ends up being de-thawed from her stasis pod. Thinking she might be in his ship with him now, rather than in space. Depends if he builds it from spare parts. I also need to draw a cover for Jump because I can’t afford a proper one. I should be able to use the scanner in my parents’ printer for that one but the invite is more time critical. It has to go into school tomorrow because it’s the last week.

On the eyebombing book front. I am slowly getting there with working out kickstarter layers. It’s really hard to do because I have no cash so it has to be benefits in kind, like taking them for an eyebombing walk, so I’m scratching my head about international sponsors at the moment. All I can give them is books and their name in the front. I have to get about £15 for each book to be able to afford to have it printed and send it to them. Thinking this might have to be more of a local endeavour. We shall see. Might have to look at a different size too. I was going to do stocking filler 6″x6″.

Also, if anyone’s thinking of forking out for Escape From B-Movie Hell hold off, I’ll have some good news for you on that front next week!

That’s all for now, pipple toot!

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This week, I have been mostly thinking about #marketing #bookmarketing #indiereads

Oh yes I have.

Several things got me started, Tricia Drameh’s post:
https://authortriciadrammeh.wordpress.com/2017/05/28/become-a-millionaire-selling-books-on-amazon-or-not/,
Then something similar on Chuck Wendig’s blog about giving books time to ferment:
http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2017/05/30/dear-writers-a-book-needs-time-to-cook/
And following on from that, a post doing the round on kindleboards:
http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,252168.0.html about what makes a 6 figure author.

Chuck Wendig’s words about letting books cook particularly rang true with me since I temporarily abandoned a new series I was working on recently, in order to try writing simpler shorter stories that are easier to handle with all the other shit that’s going down. The second of these; Jump, is a story about The Pan of Hamgee and it’s with the smashing editor now. The first has turned into a novel; 40k and rising, so it’s unfinished as yet.

This picture has absolutely nothing to do with what I’m saying but it adds colour and makes the Facebook post more interesting.

However, while I was working on all these other projects, the new series cooked away quietly in the background and has really begun to crystallise. My hero is now a one-legged, muscle-bound ex gigolo with scar down one side of his face. He was working on Terra, the capital planet of the system, serving a niche market: rich trophy wives who wanted to pretend they were being ravished by an orc, only in the safety of their own homes by an orc who is keen to ensure they enjoy the experience. Naturally, he is very careful about who his clients are and insists any ladies who are attached tell their other halves – this is a different planet remember so most of them regard it as a nice thing for the wife to do, a bit of recreation that saves them a job.

Unfortunately, despite his precautions, he is stitched up by an angry husband. It’s not relevant to the plot really, it’s just his background but it’s how he ends up in the Salvage Zone, trawling the asteroid belt for space garbage to pay off his debts, and living on stinky P-Deck next to the Sewage Processing Plant in the Orion Space Station. Meanwhile my heroine has been in stasis for four million years and is currently floating around deep space in a box but she’s heading for the asteroid belt and guess who’s going to find her. It’s all stuff that wasn’t there, and has only arrived since I’ve left the story stewing. And it made me think that maybe, for the most part, I’m not letting my books cook for long enough – don’t laugh I know they take 2 years each but sod it, I’m working faster these days, the first one took 13. And my point is, there are bits of the new series that I could write down straight away, and I can see the characters so clearly in my head. It wasn’t like that before I gave up on it temporarily.

To get back on topic, I suppose what I’m saying is that it takes a while to tease my stuff out from being random fragments of ideas to something coherent with a point – not to mention a plot. Unfortunately, the marketing strategy that appears to work best: high volume, low price – mass production if you will – is untenable for authors such as myself, whose books, for whatever reason, take time. But does that mean we will never succeed? Well, thinking about it, the ebook thing probably hasn’t been going on long enough to know with any certainty. However, through my own mistakes and total unsuitability to the author career thing I have learned some stuff the hard way which I will share with you now.

To write to market or not to write to market? That is the question.

I spent too much time trying to be this guy. Yep, there’s me wanting to make my own way home when I should have hailed a taxi like all the others.

Actually, it’s probably not. Somewhat naively, I set out to write the kind of book I always wanted to read that didn’t exist yet. The reasoning was simple, I believed that if I liked my books other people would. While this might make sound creative sense, I’m beginning to suspect it’s commercial anathema.

The thing is, by very din’t of being an author I’m probably already several bricks short of a hod, all authors are. Therefore, we have to accept that what floats our boat is likely to have about as much appeal to the rest of the reading public as taking a lava shower! So over my five books and eight year writing career, I’ve learned that there’s a very good reason why the books I always wanted to read don’t exist. And that reason is that nobody else actually wants to read them. It doesn’t matter if they’re good, or even if people like them once they’ve read them. The point is, they don’t appeal initially so it takes a long time (if at all) for anyone to pick them up and start reading.

Sure, I still want to believe I’m an outlier but I have to accept that it looks unlikely. So my advice is that anyone who wants to write for financial gain should avoid genre mashing and make at least a cursory nod to market tropes when they start writing. Because I’m beginning to think that what people actually want to read is lots of versions of the same book, but slightly different, again and again.

Maybe what an author should ask herself, starting out, is this: are you going to write what you want to write or to make money? Maybe the folks who succeed in this game are the ones who manage to combine the two.

Ebooks have an eternal shelf life.

What!!!!? You are shitting me!!!

Bollocks they do!

Why do so many of the writers who are more like robots, or able to stop time, or who’ve made a pact with the devil or have supersonic typing hands (or something) absolutely insist that for success you must spew out a book every three months, like a Canada Goose crapping every 90 seconds on the grass of a London park?* I’ll tell you why, ‘the 90 day cliff’. After 90 days, there are various lists and initiatives on book retailers that your book will be removed from, lists and initiatives that get a LOT of traffic. Ebook or not, your work has a 90 day shelf life the same as a book in the shops because that’s what the algorithms on the book sites give it. Yep, just like the old days.

However, where there is a difference is that once someone reads your new book, the others are all there for them to find via the other books by links if they want to read the rest of your back catalogue. So they won’t be going out of print.

Know yourself, and understand your product. If your books were cars what would yours be?

This is not a quality issue, it’s more a case of are your books abundant or are they … rare.

Are your books one of these?

So most of the really big indie authors have a big backlist, or they are releasing books at the rate of knots. I have no idea how they do this, c.f. Mr Wendig’s remarks about books cooking. I need more books in the pot, I suspect. However, the point is, what they’re doing is the same thing as a company like Ford. Good product, high volume of production, low price and low profit per item but the millions sold make up for that. The high volume, low profit model is the best and easiest way to make cash doing anything. However it usually requires a big outlay up front; you have to make a lot of product before you start to earn your profits or spend a lot on advertising. Basically, you’ll have to bankroll your overheads with something for the three or four months it takes for the profits to a) turn up and b) actually reach you. Most arenas of consumer goods selling are similar. Why do you think there are so many huge companies that own everything? Yep. That’s right.

THIS is what the Kickstarter campaign will be about for my eyebombing book. Buying enough copies up front to get a low, low unit price and paying for production and design costs.

Or maybe your books are more like one of these …

Or you can do it another way. Because if you write one 200k, meticulously researched historical novel every three years, it is very difficult for you to be Ford. Sure you can do some shorts but it’s still tricky, even those take time. So you have to pitch yourself as Aston Martin, a premium product, hand crafted and painstakingly produced over a period of years, by craftspeople. And you have to make your unit price higher because, theoretically, there’s more ‘work’ in each one and there are less units produced.

Low volume, high profit margin.

This is the way I should go and have not gone. This also means that on sites like Kobo, you will be more likely to be accepted for a promotion or sale since a reduction from £6.99 to £1.99 is much more attractive than a reduction of £3.99 down to £1.99. If you try this with me though, you want to make sure you don’t get into a DFS situation, where you have so many sales that anyone who buys your books for  standard price is a mug. It’s also tricky to make the switch if you’ve been selling your books for reasonably low volume prices. Especially if your books are neither bespoke niche nor mass produced but something more like this …

Yes … we all think it looks cool but does anyone actually want one?

If you’re a natural Aston or er hem, grass covered ute, can you turn yourself into a successful Ford?

Sighs … I wish I knew.

Over time I’ve been writing books, it’s become painfully clear to me that if a person enjoys – if that’s the right word – the levels of demand upon their time and emotional energy that I do, trying to write stuff at anything approaching a sensible rate of output for a high volume low profit production model is extremely difficult. The more I see of this, the more I realise it is about four things:

  1. You need to be a reasonably prolific author in the first place – I actually am, I write a lot in the time I have there just isn’t much time available.
  2. You must be time-rich, or exceptionally good at making time, sleep like Margaret Thatcher (4 hours a night) and be extremely emotionally stable and/or emotionally robust so the difficult times don’t throw you off your game.
  3. Another thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of the folks doing well are extremely well organised; either with their marketing or their writing or both. So I think if you’re the kind of person who spends three quarters of each day looking for your keys, glasses, phone, trying to remember your own name etc, you’re probably stuffed, or at least, you’re going to have to work harder. So yeh, six figure authors appear to be ruthlessly efficient with their time.
  4. They are flexible. They seem to react swiftly to new developments in the market.

That, there, is not everyone’s personality or life. But then, not every car is mass produced. Aston Martin are successful, right?

Oh blimey! I only write one book every three years, what can I do? I’m stuffed!

Is your book a lemon?

Well, perhaps not. So don’t panic! Not yet, anyway.

Even though I know my life circumstances render a career pretty much dead in the water it seems that hope springs eternal. If you, like me, still keep trying and keep on writing because you have to, I sympathise. I’m an authorholic, completely addicted, and I really can’t stop so if that’s you, too (and I suspect there are plenty of you out there, c.f. my earlier statement that most authors are a bit nuts) welcome to authorholics anonymous.

Slow authors can up their rate of production a bit by writing shorter books, and folks like me, who’ve been selling at the wrong price point for years can then put the shorter books at a lower price point so at least people with less cash to flash still have something to read.

But I have stuffed the marketing up a bit. Quite a lot, actually. It’s not like I don’t know what I’m doing. I was a marketing manager with a household name here in the UK. But I’ve still managed to build a base of readers who are almost certainly expecting something very different to what I’m offering, and a stable of four books that, are a really hard sell and one that is a complete and utter dud. I’m not talking about whether people love them, they do, but getting them to read the darned things is properly difficult!

Yep.

Frankly, if I was still a marketing manager, I’d sack me.

What have I learned from my many mistakes?

Lots, so here are some of the many things that I’ve learned the hard way so that you don’t have to:

  1. Despite being as ancient as the hills the best and most reliable way to keep direct contact with your audience still appears to be a mailing list. You just have to make damned sure it’s worthwhile and interesting.
  2. After a certain point, mailing lists cost money. That means you need to make sure you know how many books you will have to sell each month to cover your costs. You should also aim to pick your mailing service provider very carefully and keep an eye on the market so you can jump ship if another cheaper provider pops up who provides as high a level of service for less. I started with Mailchimp because the deal breaker was automation. However, MailerLite do automation now so I’ve just bought a year with them for the price of two months with MailChimp. I will keep a free MailChimp account but I am moving pretty much everything.
  3. This is a crowded market so it’s worth factoring that in. Things may take longer to happen than you expect: So if you are giving away your books with a view to people signing up to your mailing list, reading your free books and buying the others it’s worth noting that lead times have extended. I am now allowing four years, from sign up, to them actually reading the book and buying another one. That is how crowded the market is. When I started my list, odds are that 10,000 readers would be enough to get a newly launched book doing well enough to get some traction on the book sites. I’d say it may be more like 20,000 now, unless I’m launching in a couple of years when more of my lovely peps will have had time to read the free books I gave them. But I may just be really bad at this. Phnark!
  4. Plan for the long haul. On the whole, I think the only part of the multi-million sellers stuff I do well is reacting to new developments. The trouble is, my time constraints being what they are, I will always be behind the curve by the time I implement anything, even if I am one of the first to start.
  5. Write. Keep writing. Because the deal breakers seem to be volume of books as well as speed of output. If you can’t do speed go for eventual volume. Even if you only write two words today, they’re two words that weren’t there yesterday. It all adds up.
  6. Mix things up! If you write long expensive books try writing some shorter, less expensive books. If you write books that you love which are a hard sell, maybe try writing some that adhere strictly to one genre. If you’re writing the book equivalent of an Aston Martin remember that just like the real thing, not everyone can afford one. Shorts are good here. I’m currently trying to lob some 1970s Fiat 500s into the M T McGuire literary mix.
  7. Be realistic about what you want. Sure I’d love to make it big, but my real ambition for my writing is simply to earn enough from the books I have on sale to be able to produce the next one. I haven’t. But it seems to me that the trick is to just keep on keeping on and quietly dropping books out there into the void.
  8. Accept that sometimes, your principles may hold you back. I loathe the current fashion for having thin attractive women on book covers and I’m not overly keen on ripped man torsos either. I believe it is damaging to people who are not stick thin or ripped. I have banged on about this before so I won’t do it again, but I suspect the fact I refuse to feature idealised humans on my covers or keep the colour scheme to black plus one other may well explain why my sales in fantasy – which used to be good – are now even more piss poor than my risible showing in sci-fi.

Do us folks who write a little bit slower than the speed of continental drift stand a chance?

You know what, I sincerely hope so. The nearest successful author to me I can find – or at least the nearest in outlook – writes 4 or 5 books a year. She has been a midlister for sometime but I’d say her career has really taken off this year. She’s practical and no-nonsense and her advice to those like us would be to get the mailing list going, a website, a blog (possibly) and write. Because she says, again and again, that her income rises with the number of books in her back catalogue. She says you don’t have to be writing best sellers all the time if you have enough decent books in your backlist because each person who reads one will read them all. As the number of books grows, your sales grow and your author ‘score’ on the retail sites grows. There may yet be a chance for us molluscs to creep into profitability through the back door.

So that’s what I’m going to do. Keep writing books and see. Because it takes as long as it takes; and that applies to both success, on whatever level I judge it, and writing the books.

Relax and enjoy the journey.

The most important thing is to relax and enjoy the journey.

All we slow writers can do is put the framework in place and hope that after ten or twenty years, when we have twelve plus books in the ether, the chance to earn a decent living from our work will still be there for us.

*Factoid Alert: I’m afraid this is actually true.

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And now for something completely different … #eyebombing #eyebombthereforeiam

Eyebombing: the art of spreading googly joy

Saddled as we are with a thoroughly grim world landscape right now I thought everyone could do with a bit of cheering up. So it occurred to me that it would be fun to start a group about one of my favourite hobbies, eyebombing, possibly with a view to doing a book later on … if it goes well.

Eyebombing is the art, if that’s the right word, of adding googly eyes to inanimate objects to give them a personality. When I write, I love putting obscure jokes in my books; things that only a handful of people will get. Eyebombing has that exact same appeal. If I stick googly eyes on something, odds are only about one in ten people will see it. It’s a secret joke between a tiny and exclusive club of eagle-eyed, uber-noticing folks.

And it’s a little bit naughty …

and I’m not meant to …

and yet, it’s mostly harmless.

And it’s a lot more interesting than running through wheat fields! (Sorry, bit of British political humour there, although, to give her her due, running through wheat is a lot more outrageous than it sounds, she’d have got a proper bollocking from the farmer if he’d caught her.)

Eyebombing is something I’ve been doing since before McMini was born. Over the years I have built up a sizeable library of photographs. Looking at them with a couple of friends, the other day, they said, ‘why on earth don’t you do a book about this?’

So the long term project will, indeed, be to produce a book on eyebombing. But it will be a long ride because this is something that only, really, works in print, and as a result, it means that not only will it be a more expensive sell but I’ll also have to try and flog it to book shops and funny only sells there at Christmas which means I’ll have to work on the book all this year, get it ready to promote next spring – because book stores choose their Christmas funny in about March. Then I will launch it, officially, in October 2018.

To fund stock, editing and design I am toying with the idea of a crowdfunding campaign. If I do that, I can give backers their copy this year, a whole year before release, and sell any left over pre release copies at the Bury Christmas Fayre – if I get a stall this year – or keep them until next year.

Royal Mail being what it is, the postage outside the UK will probably cost slightly more than the book and the crowdfunding thing may not work. So I may have to get a ‘proper’ publisher. However, for now I’m setting up a group to share pictures, both mine and I’m hoping other folks will post their eyebombs too. It’s just something I thought I’d do and if it adds ‘social proof’ to applications to publishers, or my efforts to sell the book to bookshops, jolly dee. Going forward, if I do have to mount a crowdfunding campaign, am hoping folks in the group will share the link as much as possible.

If you want to follow the fun …

If any of these kinds of japes appeal to you, and you think eyebombing would amuse you, I’d be delighted if you joined me.

To follow the development of the book, not to mention any eyebombing activities undertaken, there are three ways you can keep up with it all online.

If you want to join in …

If you already have a packet of googly eyes burning a hole in your pocket are welcome to join in; posting your own photos, chatting about eyebombing and generally shooting the breeze on the very nascent – I formed it just a couple of weeks ago – EyebombThereforeIam facebook group. You can find that here:

Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/369964093397829

Here are those links again:

Follow on instagram: https://www.instagram.com/eyebombtheschoolrun/
Follow on facebook: https://fb.me/eyebombthereforeiam
Join the Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/369964093397829
Join the Eyebombthereforeiam e-mail Newsgroup here http://www.subscribepage.com/eyebomb

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The Daesh: it’s not because they’re Muslims, it’s because they’re tossers. #WeStandTogether #LondonBridge #wearenotafraid #thingsthatgetbritainreeling

Cynicism/Satire Warning.

This is a very cynical article which generalises a tad, here and there, and I swear and get political in places. And I call ISIS the Daesh all the way through because I gather they don’t like that.

I am also rude about President Trump and anyone else who is stupid enough to think that just because this was done in the name of Islam, all Muslims are bad. Because that’s bollocks. Most of them are pissed off and/or embarrassed.


After last night’s attack I looked at the internet: lots of tweets from very right wing people against Muslims which, barring different words to describe the targets, read like the kinds of tweets the Daesh put out, because whatever they think they believe, extremists tend to be carbon copies of one another, and too fucking stupid, to a man, to realise that, of course.

Go Beer Man!

To that end, I had had an attack of What Would Jesus Do? And I sat down today at my computer thinking that it was important that someone normal spoke out and said something to stop all the over-reactive wanky shit being spewed about Muslims. But there wasn’t anyone normal available so I realised I’d have do it instead.

Luckily, after an American newspaper described us as reeling and panicking because that’s what they would have done, other faster, quicker-witted British people woke up, while I was still phaffing around, and did this: #thingsthatgetbritainreeling

Ah yes, nobody does gallows humour like us Brits.

Seriously though, why does anyone bother to do terrorism here? Barring a brief hiatus where the IRA/UDA and the Daesh did a high five and swapped, we’ve pretty much all grown up with it. And the few of us who haven’t grew up with the war. Keep calm and carry on, etc. It’s just same old same old to us.

More tea vicar?

In the 1970, 80s and early 90s there was a lot of sectarian violence. Basically what happened with that was that two groups of Christians spent a lot of time and effort kicking the living shit out of one another in Northern Ireland and also in a lot of the main ship building cities in mainland Britain when many Northern Irish who’d come from the mainland a generation before, transferred their skills back again. And when nobody took enough notice, they started kicking the living shit out of everyone else. I come from a little village just outside Brighton. One of the groups of Christians blew up the Grand Hotel, one of the biggest in the Borough, along with half the cabinet at the time.

Trust me on this, I saw the hole that left. No photograph does it justice. If you go there today, you can still see how massive it was because the balconies they replaced are slightly different. You could put several houses and a Zeppelin into that hole. It was fucking enormous. But did anyone say, ‘These Christians are all bastards! They should be sent away.’

Nope. Don’t recall it. But then, I suppose they were white and Christians (about as un Christian in attitude as they could get but hey) and a lot of Americans were funding them anyway. Maybe there’s a crossover there.

Later, I lived in London during the bombing campaign in the 1990s. Apparently they sent coded messages beforehand sometimes. But I don’t recall that ever stopping the carnage. I heard two bombs go off, but didn’t see them. Conversely, two of my flat mates were standing outside the Sussex pub in Covent Garden when it blew up. That was pretty grim.

But you know what the people of London did when these charmers bombed the shit out of us? That’s right, we extended the middle finger, just the way Manchester has done recently and London is doing again now, and we carried on. And yes, I’d say we may even have kept calm. Like this guy.

How many pints this morning Mrs Spigot?

It’s weird, but bombing Britain is pointless, because you should know by now, all we’re going to do is make tasteless jokes about it and ignore you. And what have the recent attacks done? Really? They’ve had Mancuinans and Londoners helping one another, offering strangers, food, tea, blankets and beds for the night. People of different cultures, backgrounds and ethnicity reaching out the hand of friendship to one another. Paying for taxis home for people, putting them up in hotels. For all the sadness and anger, what these acts of hate have also done is cause an outpouring of kindness, love and understanding.

Likewise, I may be a bit out of step with the zeitgeist here, but from what I recall, as I was growing up, most people realised that the people who committed these acts of terrorism back then were not doing it because they were Protestant, or because they were Catholic, not even because they were Irish. Indeed, maybe, by that time, they weren’t even that bothered about acting in the name of their cause. No. The reason they bombed people was actually because they were wankers.

Likewise, the Daesh are not committing atrocities because they are Muslims. They’re doing it because they’re cunts.

What a total bell end.

I think it’s important that people hoist that in – I’m looking at you Trump with your stupid tweet about how much safer it would have been if it had happened in Amurka where everyone is armed. Because yes, three blokes intending to kill can do so much more damage with a knife each and a van (yes it’s a van not a truck you orange, nylon-haired retard) than with the uzis or sub machine guns or whatever they’d have bought over the counter for the purpose in the States. So much safer over there Mr Trump, especially with you in charge.

OK, but on a more serious note now. If you were in last night’s attack, or if you know anyone who was, or even if you end up seeing something similar in future, I think it’s important that I point this out.

One of my flat mates got PTSD. So if you were there, even if you were Beer Man strolling away from the carnage with your pint, you might find it affects you. If you get flashbacks, have trouble sleeping, if you’re afraid of every little noise outside, if you’re afraid you’re being followed when you walk down the street at night … well, you know there might be a reason.

Back in the 1990s my flatmates and I, we didn’t know about PTSD. Looking back on it now, I realise that is what my flatmate suffered. She’s fine now but for a while she had a really hard time. She saw some pretty horrible shizz. People covered in blood, screaming, someone lying on the pavement covered in blood who wasn’t moving. Stuff that haunted her. She also had a disability, so she knew that when it struck, she would lose consciousness and be dependent on others to help her and I think seeing that from the other side, albeit in a totally different way, made it worse.

So, if you or someone you love was there in London, or in Manchester, and survived, it’s absolutely OK to seek help. In fact it’s probably sensible, because even if you don’t realise it, you may need it.

We are going to London in a couple of weeks for a birthday treat. I admit I am nervous but we are still going to go. Indeed, I almost feel it’s my moral duty to do so now – a bit like my parents going on an art tour of Iran three months after 9.11 (‘It was wonderful darling, there was hardly anyone there!’ but that’s another story). And especially after the Manchester kids who were affected exorcising their fears – and demons – by going to the benefit concert, a couple are singing in the choir. That said, I freely admit that I will be having The Conversation about what we would do if horror struck, because I can’t run. Whether, with the adrenaline pumping, it would be possible I don’t know, but I can’t normally because of the pain. So I have to sit McOther down and explain that if the shit hits the fan, he must take McMini to safety and leave me to hide. I will have a phone, after all, and as soon as it is safe, I will call him.

Lastly, if you are worried about relatives or friends who may have been in the London attacks, here are two numbers you can call:  0800 0961233 or 0207 1580197

And Manchester too.

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A Charming Child: guest post by the inestimable Tallis Steelyard #newbooks

What can I say? We have a guest, my writer friend Jim, Webster, along with the inimitable, the one and only Tallis Steelyard who is here to tell us a little tale. Thank you Tallis and Jim, for stepping in and giving me something to share with everyone at the end of a week when gastroenteritis has left me short. On you go, Tallis.

—o0o—

A Charming Child.

Having your illusions shattered can be hard at times. One clings to them with the tenacity of a shipwrecked sailor who grasps the spar with a death grip. They are all you have to help you navigate the storms of life. But one has to be brave and when the evidence is presented, one has to admit the new reality into your life.

Thus one evening, as I dined with Shena, my lady wife, and Mutt, I learned something new. Now Mutt is aged about ten and has accepted some element of domestication to become Shena’s employee. That being said, he has his own extensive business interests within the city, and appears to maintain a group of street children who look to him as their master and provider. As we ate I commented that Avia Hassenbut was a charming child. Mutt just looked at me as if I were a total idiot and said, in terms of obvious admiration, “She’s devious is that one.”

This surprised me as Avia and Mutt hardly move in the same social circles, but there again I have learned never to disregard Mutt’s comments. So I asked him to elucidate. The story he told struck me as so far fetched that I felt the need to check the facts. Alas it is largely true, and it is this largely true version I shall now recount.

It seems Avia had taken against her nurse. Whether she felt that at the advanced age of eight or nine she ought to have a governess I don’t know. Perhaps nurse had in some way crossed her, but Avia decided that nurse must go.

Now a lesser daughter would undoubtedly have approached her father, wheedled and pleaded, and achieved little. But Avia was cut from different cloth. She was prepared to plan. The first thing she did was look at her potential assets and allies. She turned her attention to Dame Ballot’s School for young persons of breeding. This was an exclusive academy, by which I mean expensive. Perhaps a score of children attended and were given a solid grounding in the basics, (reading, writing, rhetoric, accountancy, character assassination and social climbing.) Now one of her little playmates was Tonks Valin. He was the son and possible heir of ‘Barbarity’ Valin, extortioner, racketeer and thug. Old ‘Barbarity’s current wife, known universally as Mistress Valin, had decided that it wouldn’t hurt if the family moved up in society and had enrolled Tonks with Dame Ballot. Society in Port Naain can be fluid at times; it’s barely two generations since they last hanged an Oeltang for brigandry. So Avia had Tonks invited to her house to play, and whilst there she introduced him to the litter of puppies that had just been born to one of her father’s hunting dogs. With parental permission, Tonks was promised a puppy and from that point onwards he was Avia’s most devoted servant.

At this point it appears that I enter the picture. Madam Hassenbut was a patron of mine, and one afternoon I was asked if I could keep Avia amused for an hour because her parents had to spend time with lawyers, attorneys and similar such individuals. I realise that this doesn’t really fall within the duties one should expect of your poet, but one does try to help a patron so I agreed. It was a wet afternoon and I kept Avia amused by playing a storytelling game. One of us would start, the other would continue the story, and we’d take turns trying to bring it to a suitable conclusion. Time flew by so fast that frankly I was surprised when Madam Hassenbut came into the room and apologised for being away for two hours. She was generous with both her praise and her silver and I hadn’t got it in my heart to complain.

Obviously I must have given Avia ideas, because a fortnight later I was asked by Mistress Valin if I would organise a children’s entertainment for her. Now let me state, categorically, that I am not a children’s entertainer, I am a poet. But to be honest I have always felt that it was wise to oblige free-spending patrons, especially if they might take refusal badly.

Now I confess to being both surprised and relieved when I discovered that there were only a handful of children, which included Tonks and Avia. I’d dreaded there being a horde of the screaming little beggars. Four or five is manageable. So I sat down and asked what they would like. Avia piped up immediately and asked me to tell them a story.

“Which story?”

She smiled a little slyly and said, “The dark tale of Bethom baby eater and her gang.”

I smiled back. This was one of the stories we’d built up together when we’d played the game, and I’d promised that one day I would show her how to tell it properly. Indeed I quoted one of the ancients to her, “I’ll add plenty of corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.”

So I told the story. I wove it into Port Naain, mentioning places, hinting a people, tying it to dates and places and generally doing the job properly. The children loved it. So, apparently did the adults.

What I haven’t mentioned is that each child (with the exception of Avia) was accompanied by a couple of heavies who acted as bodyguards. They were there purely to ensure nobody got any silly ideas about kidnapping expensive children. They sat around the room, drinking fruit juice and eating cake and trying to look fierce in a restrained and domesticated manner. Of course they listened to the story, and seemed to enjoy it at least as much as the children. Indeed so much were they enjoying it that I brought them into it, tying in details such as the disappearance of Bouncer Queel and the unexplained death of Blabs Joggan.

I finished the story in the usual way. “And so children, even today nobody knows who Bethom baby eater is or who is in her dark gang. But luckily you’ve got such good men to protect you.” This remark had assorted heavies sitting up a little straighter and surreptitiously checking the placement of concealed weapons. Then I concluded with, “Which is lucky really because more than babies, Bethom especially loves to eat rich children because they’re so tender and nicely fed and taste delightfully sweet.”

Personally I thought no more about it, but apparently one of the little horrors had nightmares about Bethom the baby eater. Mother summed a thug to ask what on earth had been going on, and the thug recounted my story. He didn’t do it word for word, or mother would have recognised it as the elegantly constructed tale that it was. No he told it in his own words which made it more real. Mother, not entirely convinced talked to other mothers. Of course they’d all got a similar version from their own hired bruisers and so Bethom became real.

Once Avia knew that the story had spread, she too had nightmares. Hers were more specific. She woke up screaming that Nurse was a cousin of Bethom baby eater. Madam Hassenbut have never heard of this person but thought it wise to check with Mistress Valin. The tale she was told was enough to chill the heart of any mother. When a few simple checks showed that nurse did indeed have a cousin called Bethom, (a ladies’ hairdresser in Avitas), nurse was dismissed with a month’s salary in lieu of notice.

It has to be said that I take a degree of comfort from the thought that by the time young Avia comes into her full powers, I will almost certainly be safely dead. It’ll be up to Mutt and his generation to cope with her. I wish him joy in it.

—o0o—

Thank you Tallis, that was awesome! Jim, do you have anything to add?

I do. You might not realise that Tallis Steelyard has just produced his second book of stories and anecdotes. This is book, ‘Tallis Steelyard, a harsh winter, and other stories,’ is available from the first of June.

The book is available to all discerning readers at £0.99 from
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B071LH1THB

or $1.28 from
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071LH1THB

Were Tallis less busy he’d doubtless remember to thank me, Jim Webster, for the efforts I make on his behalf. But you know what it is with someone like Tallis who is constantly in demand. So I just get on with writing his stuff down for him and from time to time making collections of his wit, wisdom and jumbled musings available for a grateful public.

Tallis does have a blog, it is apparently de rigueur now for all writers. It is available at

https://tallissteelyard.wordpress.com/

Riding in on his coattails I’ll merely mention that my own books can be seen at Jim Webster’s Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jim-Webster/e/B009UT450I

or here: https://www.amazon.com/Jim-Webster/e/B009UT450I

Thank you, Tallis and Jim.

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Welcome to my GORGEOUS Life! On humorous giveaways and being embarrassed by your kids.

Jeez, well, this week’s been interesting. Welcome to what the lovely Dame Edna Everage would call, ‘my gorgeous life’ in all it’s technicolour glory! (Phnark.)

So, this week McMini had pukka actual gastroenteritis. He started feeling ill, was sick a lot, and then he was sick a bit more and then, just for a change he was sick again.

Then he was hungry so I gave him some toast.

Which he sicked up.

Rinse.

Repeat.

On Tuesday he was so lethargic and ill that I left him to sleep, sat in the next room and wrote 3,000 words! Yeh, a week and a half’s quota in 3 hours. That’s a seriously ill small fry. I thought it would pass though and he hadn’t thrown up … until 3pm.

Tuesday afternoon, he started being sick again.

‘Hmmm,’ I thought.

McMini is lively, and alert, and … well let’s just say there are a lot of donkeys around here with no hind legs and it wasn’t me who talked all of them off. He is full of beans and a chatterbox even when he’s ill. But he wasn’t, which was a bit of a worry.

Early on Wednesday, finally, we got the lovely green sick.

‘Ah.’ I thought.

I don’t think he feels very well …

He was getting incredibly lethargic now and with the green sick and him beginning to hurl more often again I was wondering about appendicitis, or dehydration – except the … er hem … wee colour was fine – or low blood sugar levels – snortle I nearly typed blud sugar there … you’re sugar’s low blud! Thanks dude – sorry, where was I yeh, with a sick McMini.

Clearly the time had come to take my little boy to the Docs. I checked his wee colour again and it was ‘silver’ as he called it – to the rest of the world that’s normal green. So I convinced myself that something worse was definitely going wrong. Because I am not a helicopter mum or anything. Mwah hahahrgh! But I was thinking blood sugar. So I took him down to the Doctor’s for their not quite emergency oops-you-haven’t-got-an-appointment-but-we-appreciate-it’s-serious-so-if-you-come-and-wait-at-11.30-a-doctor-will-see-you clinic. Snappy title huh?

Long and short, we ended up on Rainbow Ward at the West Suffolk with suspected appendicitis for evaluation, hello LOVELY people on Rainbow Ward. Yes, they genuinely rock.

The first thing they gave him was anti-sickness drugs.

McMini didn’t like the flavour. He made a face.

‘This is disgusting!’ he whispered, because he still felt to sick to talk. ‘Persevere, you need this,’ I told him. ‘Take it in tiny bits.’
‘OK,’ he whispered .

I don’t like it.

The nurse went off to get a glass of black current with the kinds of salts and sugars in it that people who haven’t eaten anything for four days are likely to need. When she came back he’d eaten all but a tiny bit of the dose of anti sickness. He had a 20ml dose of the fluid with the sugars in and took the last of the anti sickness with it. Suddenly, he was talking. Loudly.

‘How can you give me this stuff?’ he asked her. ‘You do know it’s disgusting don’t you? Seriously, it’s completely vile.’
‘Well it’s clearly made you feel better.’ I told him.
‘Yes but seriously Mummy. It’s revolting! It’s like that stuff you give me when I have a cough’ [medised] he turned to the nurse. ‘You’ve probably traumatised me for life! You know that don’t you?’
‘That’s not the way to go on mate,’ I told him. ‘Sorry,’ I added, to the nurse, as I cringed with embarrassment, ‘my son is a fussy little bleeder and he’s a bit of a thespian, to boot.’
‘It is vile though!’ he said clearly to get a laugh but I was extremely worried she wouldn’t realise and might take it the wrong way. Luckily she didn’t. She just said,
‘You feel better, though, don’t you?’
‘Yes,’ he said and then, beaming, added, ‘I can talk now, I felt so sick before, I could only whisper.’

We saw a student doctor first and while he examined us and asked questions, I had to feed McMini 20ml of salts and fluids every 10 minutes.  Two doses and McMini was firing on all cylinders again with added exuberance at feeling if not well then, a sod of a lot better than before. The Doctor was a lovely chap who laughed at McMini’s jokes and waited patiently while he answered yes or no questions with lengthy anecdotes and stories (can’t think where he gets that from). Then he got the non student doc he’d been shadowing in to see us. She was also lovely, telling us she was in hulk mode today (her top was green). We were probably quite lucky they had senses of humour as he did the whole ‘I’m traumatised for life’ routine again with them.

McMini has now served his 48hour purdah and I have unleashed him on the world again. Joyously, while I thought I was going down with it too, it may be that I just had an IBS attack. I love you Buscopan. Althogh McOther, ringing from Lisbon, had to hang up for a few minutes to hurl. Although he came back a lot perkier and thinks he might have sunstroke.

While I was telling to one of the lovely ladies who cleans our house about what McMini had said told me her daughter gave the nurse the bird when she had her polio injection. She was very good, didn’t cry but then as they got the door, her daughter upped her middle finger at the nurse and said venomously, ‘I hate you!’ She said she’d never been so mortified in her life and was wondering where the hell she picked it up. I told her about the time McMini got done for saying ‘Bollocks!’ at school and when they asked where he got it from McMini said, ‘Mummy.’ Jeez. Kids!

On the upside, on Wednesday morning, just before we went to the Doctors, ill feeble McMini said,

‘Sorry Mummy, I don’t mean to treat you like staff. I just feel so sick and ill it’s really hard to move.’ Which seemed surprisingly emotionally mature.

Then Friday morning, probably about the time McOther’s plane was taking off to fly him to Lisbon for the weekend, the phone rang. Mum’s carer. Mum had a ripping headache and thought she might be having a stroke. We had a chat about it. I did the whole fact thing with the carer and then I spoke to Mum. Mum does have ministrokes, and according to scans the bleeds are where her head was hurting, but her speech centre has always been the bit that goes first, so far.

So the carer and I discussed it a bit and decided that since we both know Mum hates hospital, rather than ring 999 and have her whisked in where she’d sit in a ward all weekend waiting to be evaluated when the non emergency staff came back to work on Monday, we would start by seeing if a local GP would come out to her.

Up side of that is that it’s probably not a stroke, Mum won’t have to go to hospital. But she might be sickening for something. On the down side, Dad has really sore feet and when the Doctor looked at those the news was not so good. She reckoned this was down to blood flow and that he probably has a blocked artery somewhere in his upper leg. She said they’d operate in a younger person but the risk would be too high to Dad. They treat this with blood thinners in the elderly and as he’s on those, anyway, there’s not much more to be done. So a bit of a worry about Dad but no mercy dash required which is, frankly, a bit of a … well … mercy.

So, after a week like that – spot the really unsubtle segue – I could do with some funny books to read, as you can imagine. So it’s just as well because there is a funny book giveaway going on. Mine is included, of course, along with a whole heap of others – 24 – from all sorts of different genres. These are all Instafreebie books so you are asked to sign up to the author’s mailing list so they can send it to you, but you can always unsubscribe and if you feel like a bit of levity in your life, this one is worth a go! It’s running until Midnight on Sunday 21st May which is probably midnight somewhere in America. And apologies for only posting this now. I meant to do it this morning but at least you have a day to fill your boots and some may still be available for a day or two afterwards.

Anyway, I hope you find some interesting books to read and I hope next week will be quieter or at least, a little less action packed. If you’d like to check out the books the link for the giveaway is here:

 

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