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Learning the hard way, or at least, the cold squelchy way…

Not that I’m melodramatic or anything … mwahahahahargh!

This holidays, McOther, McMini and I joined another family of friends skiing. I have never been skiing before, for the simple reason that from the age of about twelve I’ve been under doctor’s orders not to.

Some of you will know this, some won’t, but basically,  my knees have taken a bit of a pasting over the years; bone disease as a kid, torn ACL after jumping over a wall aged 25, and then twenty years later, a ‘possible’ tear in the other ACL (MRI ‘inconclusive’) after I rode my bicycle blithely across what I thought was an empty street and was surprised to catch a slow moving Ford Fiesta in the back. Not their fault I genuinely hadn’t seen them. I’m just lucky they saw me.

The net result of all this – apart from the fact the knees now match – is arthritis. First knee was knackered pre ligament reconstruction and arthritis is the natural result of soggy knee ligaments. The second knee is so arthritic after 25 years of taking the extra weight that even with an unequivocal MRI result, it’s probably reached a stage when reconstruction would make the arthritis worse. Which is why they can’t do the original, of course. The ACL damage doesn’t hurt but the arthritis in the knees does. Eight years ago they told me that were I sixty, they’d fast track me for a left knee replacement because it was so bad. Alas bionic knees only last 10 years, and you can only have two so no can do until I’m sixty. Oh well. Only another 12 years to wait.

So here I am. Aged 48, with knees that are, frankly, a bit fucked. A lot more fucked than they were when the first doctor ordered me to stay off the ski slopes. But, for the first time, I was in a position to try skiing somewhere that it wouldn’t matter were I unable to go piling up and down the slopes all day, because there’d be other stuff to do. And McOther is an excellent skier and McMini wanted to try it.

So, ever the adventurous one, I bought some huge knee braces like scaffolding, packed a HUGE box of aspirin and off I went. Here are some of the things I learned:

Spring in the mountains is hot.

No shit, Sherlock? I hear you say. But yes. I was thinking snow=cold, mountains=cold.

Schoolboy error.

It is is not true.

Here in Blighty we bought ourselves lovely thick warm coats to keep out all that cold mountain air. It does get cold but only at night. Also, as a novice to skiing I was tense, partly because it all happens a bit fast and partly because the feedback through my knees is less than sharp and I had an uncomfortable feeling, after waiting for 30 years and through a great deal of deterioration to flaunt doctor’s orders, that I was about to die at every turn. Rank fear aside, this is the kind of exercise that pushes your beats per minute up to one seventy something until you learn to do it properly, stop fighting and relax. Now even if it’s minus forty out there, beats per minute of one seventy plus is only going to mean one thing: a flop sweat.

But it wasn’t minus forty. Spring in the mountains is gorgeous; clear blue skies, lovely sunny days and temperatures of eighty degrees Fahrenheit (twenty something centigrade). Now if you’re going to do high intensity aerobic exercise in those kind of temperatures, take it from me, you’re going to get hot in a t-shirt and running tights. Thick gloves, huge woolly socks and clothing that is, essentially, a duvet, waterproofed and crafted into Michelin Man style duds is … less than comfortable in beachwear temperatures. To be frank after about ten minutes, it was not so much a coat I was wearing as a portable, always-on sauna. I didn’t know it was possible for a human being to sweat that much or for a t-shirt to become sweat sodden enough to wring out in ten minutes. So here’s an interesting discovery. It is and it can.

Nice.

You will discover new things.

Let’s talk about gloves. At these temperatures, your ski gloves will become very hot inside. So hot that you will discover the new and unnerving phenomenon of hand odour. Yes, put your hands in warm gloves and let them sweat profusely for three days straight and your gloves will come off soaking wet at the end of each day – sod days, in my case it was an hour and a half, tops. Even so, after 3 days they will smell like the rankest socks imaginable … until you smell your ski socks after a day in those hired boots and realise your imagination hadn’t even scratched the surface of the concept that is, ‘rank’.

These boots are made for walking.

I have many pairs of in line and roller skates and the boots are similar to ski boots. The rationale is that if you fall awkwardly you will break your legs, mid shin, rather than doing potentially crippling Potts fracture style damage to your ankles. The same rationale is behind ski boots. Only not. Ski boots were invented by the Spanish Inquisition in the eleventh century but shelved after they were deemed too inhuman a torture to inflict on mere heretics. A few hundred years later and here we are resurrecting them to protect ourselves from breaking our ankles. They are very good for this. And for skiing. But when the snow is melting, you also have to do a lot of actual walking in them. They are less good for that.

Walking in ski boots is clearly an acquired art. As far as my efforts went … hmm … well … let’s be generous and call them, ‘a work in progress’. People who have mastered the art have a kind of slowed down gait that’s a cross between a 1970’s disco swagger and someone walking on the moon. It involves putting all the weight on the most painfully arthritic bits of my knees and every walk was unspeakable.

There are many different types of snow.

Yes. This is so. And ALL are scary. I confess on the first day we thought we’d ski down the small looking hill to where our lessons were. So off we went. I snow ploughed as I’d been taught to do, a sure way to slow me to a stop and … ah … hang on … not stopping … at all. So I bailed and yes then I walked down the slope in those infernal boots. I was sweat soaked and knackered before I even got to the ski school. Because it was ice. And very slippery.

Skiing is fun … sort of.

Like that Scandinavian thing, is it Stockhausen syndrome? No, I don’t think so? Stockholm Syndrome? Possibly, that thing where you grow to love your kidnapper/abuser. Yeh, well, it was a bit like that. I didn’t like it to start with because, to use a technical term, I was shitting bricks. I was in a complete funk, most of the time, and when I say funk, I mean in the fear sense of the word as well as the smell. Then on the third day, suddenly, I relaxed. Not much, but enough to realise how people did it all day. They were not super-fit, just super-relaxed. My fear levels reduced a tiny bit as I began to feel more in control, beats per minute dropped to about one fifty and recovery time shortened to the point where I could do a run without stopping. Suddenly I got what the fuss was about and why people do it, which, I confess, I expected to do much earlier.

The great thing about it was that the actual skiing bit doesn’t hurt. Not at all. The time it hurts is when you stop. So that Wednesday, I even tried to go skiing with the others but realised, as soon as I got to the top of the mountain and put my skis on again, that the dicky knees were not up to more than an hour yet. So we had lunch up there and I crept home to the chalet and made full use of the spa, oh yes I did.

Will I be going again?

Amazingly, yes. Although I will try to manage my knees better this time.

What did I learn?

I learned that I am disabled. Genuinely, physically handicapped in a way I hadn’t actually grasped until I tried to do this. I have not been able to run for some years. There’s a reason for that. Days one and two I cried a lot. I cried because I was stiff and I cried because I knew, from the pain in my knees, that they were far, far more comprehensively fucked than I have ever given them credit for. The pain levels were about commensurate with the second week after I cracked my collar bone. So I had to take a long hard look at myself and accept some very unpleasant truths, one being that I may well end up in a wheelchair for a year or two before I reach the magic age of sixty and access to a NHS knee replacement comes. Because they seem intent on my having quality of life while I’m old, rather than now, while my boy is small. Me, I’d rather do the wheelchair later on but the NHS demurs. Another thing I learned then. If I carry on the way I am, I will be even more disabled. Soon. I will never play football with my boy, or any of the other things I still hope to do.

That was sobering and pretty grim.

IF I carry on the way I am. But there might be a get out.

So, before I ski a second time, several things have to give. I read somewhere about a thing called spoons. Run with me, I’m not talking sub duvet snuggling. It’s a way of explaining a disability. So the idea is that you have say, ten spoons each day and they represent your physical capabilities. Every time you do something that takes you over a certain level of pain/exertion/your disability you count it as using up a spoon. So you can do, pretty well what you like, but you have to ration your spoons so you can get through the day. If I have ten spoons in a day, an hour’s skiing is about seven. So I need to do two things. I need to balance it against the other things I do in a day and I need to find a way to extend the range of each spoon.

Next time I go I will be a better more confident skiier so a skiing lesson will use up less of my energy. That will help. However, because of the pain that comes after I’ve been skiing, I will have less spoons free each day, as the consequences of skiing build. I will also have to keep my eye on what happens afterwards, which I didn’t this time, which is how I ended up with a fair amount of pain and walking difficulties, which aren’t going to go away anytime soon – about three weeks, I reckon. In short, I need to make everything last longer, so I can ski more with less pain.

Back to the get out.

Over the past three years, I have been doing physio and going to the gym to try and keep myself physically fit and able and to prop up my knees. That’s good and it’s worked but, of course, I am also menopausal, which makes for a hard time losing weight. I’m also busy, which makes for a hard time losing weight – nothing causes a person to eat crap more effectively than their not planning their meals. And I have IBS, and nothing causes an IBS attack more effectively than changing your diet … except the 5:2 which is OK but gives me a mega headache.

Never mind. I’ve put on a stone of muscle under the same amount of flab as I had before. It should raise my metabolic rate but pre-menopause that’s less likely and I have to accept that it isn’t happening to the extent I’d like, or possibly at all.

So what I realised, through the medium of skiing, was that this extra stone could well be what has tipped my knees over the edge this last year.

Menopause, schmenopause, IBS, IB bollocks, this is not a drill. My back is against the wall. I have to lose weight or lose my ability to walk. I know this sounds melodramatic but that, in a nutshell, is it.

Not just a bit of weight either, a lot.

A whole effing stone. And to be honest, a second wouldn’t go amiss.

That’s going to be hard but the alternative: registering disabled, enduring a genuine physical disability, some impressive levels of physical pain and gradually losing my ability to walk without a rollator or sticks and while there is hope that I can avoid that before I hit 70, by any means possible, I’ll do whatever it takes.

So hurling myself down a mountain was a bit freaky but it wasn’t the daunting bit, not really. The daunting bit was the cold hard truths I have learned about myself.

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An Offer You Can’t Refuse on a day that, unless you’re British, you won’t understand.

A few bits and bobs today – first, yesterday. Well, that was a bit of a bonus. McOther had a rugby match to watch and it just so happened that the Cambridge Institute of Astronomy had an open day. I’ve missed it the last three years but this time? Booyacka.Yes! We were there.

McMini suggested this one … he’s rather better at eyebombing than me.

As a result, today McMini and I got to look at Venus, the sun and also a far off star through an 1830s telescope which was more steam punk than you could ever imagine, not to mention eyebombing the hell out of the place because … well … it was there.

There were 10 information points to go see, with interesting bits and bobs, stuff to buy but not horrifically exorbitant stuff – indeed I was well pissed off that I forgot to go back to the stall and buy a piece of meteor for a couple of quid. Maybe next year. We also experienced some wonderful glass art, planet like globes that flouresced under ultra violet light – I want one but they were £900 – just a tad out of my range.

It is Mothering Sunday here in the UK today. We not being disestablished, Mother’s day in the UK is set by the church of England, rather than Hallmark, and moves about each year because it’s dependent on Easter, which also moves. It’s usually the 4th Sunday in Lent, which, for any non Christians reading, is the long turgid bit before Easter.
So happy British Mothering Sunday to all the ladies out there.

In case the reflections make that too hard to read it says, ‘Mother’s Day Who needs flowers when there’s gin?! A sentiment I can only admire.

And now bookish things … yes there are some.

K’Barthan Box Set on Kobo for 30% off until 28th March.

First, if you have been thinking about forking out £6.99 or $7.00 for the K’Barthan Box Set, you can grab yourself a copy for a whole 30% less – which is about £1.75. Not sure what that is in other currencies but a fair whack, anyway. Obviously my box set is unlikely to hit the best seller curated content bits, and Kobo being Kobo it’s quite hard to find otherwise, so here are direct links for you to grab a copy from the ‘local’ Kobo of your choice.

If you want to buy the book, just follow the link, click to buy and then, at checkout choose ‘add promo code’ and enter the code MARCH30. You will then score a smashing 30% reduction on the K’Barthan Box Set. You can use the code as many times as you like on books that are in the promo. Kobo is easier to use than you might think. I have an app on my iPad and I can buy and download Kobo books on there without undue hassle … I can’t remember how I did it but I think it was fairly straightforward. Anyway … here are the links.

Kobo US: here
Kobo UK: here
Kobo CA: here
Kobo AU: here
Kobo FR: here
Kobo Ger: here
Kobo BR: here

If you’ve already bought the K’Barthan Box Set – or the stand alone books – or are just thinking, ‘sod that MT!’ never fear. There are many more books to choose from by other authors than me.

All you have to do is go to the Kobo promo landing page, have a browse, pick a book you like the look of and when you buy it, just enter MARCH30 at checkout. You can buy as many books as you like with the code and you can also have your Kobo search results return all the books that are in the promo by using advanced search.

Kobo Promo General Landing Page Links:

Kobo UK here
Kobo US here
Kobo AU here
Kobo CA here
Kobo Ger here
Kobo FR here
Kobo Brazil here

So there we go. I hope you find some interesting books to read in there and remember, you can use the code as many times as you like, which is nice!

For the next couple of weeks I’m going to be running around doing a very good impression of a headless chicken disappearing up its own bottom so you may not hear from me again until Easter. In the meantime, all the best, and happy reading.

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Can I have fried brains with that? Time management/productivity hacks for writers #amwriting #writingtips #timemanagement

The longest blog post in the world … probably.

This week I will be mostly talking about making something out of nothing, or as that pertains to my world: time management.

As many of you will remember, my lack of minutes in the day to do … well … anything much was a continuing trope in many of my posts last year. The frustration of not producing any meaningful work while any ‘free’ time melted away faster than the polar ice caps was strong, and the whinging on my blog extensive, as a result. Sorry about that.

However, good news, I think. It looks as if I’ve fixed it, possibly, or at least, bodged the problem enough for my writerly mojo to return. And as I bitched and complained my way through last year, I did realise that I’m not the only one who struggles with balancing their duties to others and their requirement to write. So I thought I’d share the stuff that has worked for me in the hope that, perhaps, it will help anyone reading this who has similar struggles. So off we go …

A long time ago in a galaxy far away …

Last November, actually, Mum was in hospital again, and as I tried to sort everything out, and write, and be a mum to my own son, a good daughter, and be happy, burnout loomed.

Once we got her sorted out, and back home with Dad, I knew that if I was going to carry on writing I would have to make changes, even if it was just changes to my attitude. And I was going to have to make them fast. I’m an old hand at this now. The trick is not so much as to solve the problem but to alter my thinking so I see it differently. This time the ‘solution’ I arrived at was twofold:

  1. I couldn’t write the kinds of books I had been writing and deal with the things I needed to do in Real Life. I would therefore write shorter, less complicated books.
  2. It was clear that many folks who read my books enjoyed the K’Barthan stuff best. And I knew K’Barth well. There wasn’t so much time for experimentation right then – so that was easy. I’d write shorter, less complicated stories about K’Barth.

Enter the new series of 99p K’Barthan Shorts. In a bid to discover more details about the ‘market’s’ demands I asked what people would like to see more of. Gladys, Ada and Their Trev was the answer from everyone.

Roughseas asked me to write on about how Betsy, on Turnadot Street, started her Bordello. The answer popped up almost immediately. Meanwhile there was another one about The Pan of Hamgee’s early years on the Blacklist. That popped up reasonably fast too. So I had two ideas for short stories ready to go. All that was left was to write them.

Keenly aware that I can’t actually guarantee myself more than about 40 minutes to write in each day, it occurred to me that one of the problems with my rate of production was that its slowness sapped my morale, resulting in even less speed. So making some steady progress was essential to keep up my spirits and keep going. Obviously, as an authorholic, I am, literally addicted – stopping would have been much more sensible but it wasn’t an option. I decided to try and find a way to write more efficiently. I had a bit of a think and I came up with five ways that I could, possibly, give myself a hand:

  1. There might be some book production tools I could use to speed up and ease the process – such as writing software or text-to-speech software.
  2. Planning and plotting a bit before I start would help if I could tie it into the way I write.
  3. Writing shorter and less complicated stories would reduce the cerebral load (as previously mentioned).
  4. If I could improve my time management I might achieve more in the moments I had,
  5. My brain was fairly porridgey and I needed to find a way to re-enthuse it and sharpen it up while avoiding burnout.

1. Production tools

Yes, I am aware this sounds nuts but it occurred to me that one of the problems I face, writing, is that I usually keep the whole plot in my head. This is fine until I’m sad, or  stressed about other stuff, or my writing routine is constantly interrupted. Then, I can’t do it. I lose track of who is doing what, and with what, and to whom. When I make notes to help myself I still fail to remember, or at least, I fail to visualise what’s happening where, so written notes are unhelpful. So back in November 2016 I was spending three quarters of each writing session working out where I’d got to and catching up, and then about five minutes moving it forward before I had to stop.

As I pondered how to solve this knotty conundrum I saw a free seminar by a bloke called Joseph Michael about using a writing programme called Scriviner. Now, I confess, I’d never thought about using Scriviner, it seemed completely pointless, but I couldn’t help noticing, as I watched this free seminar, that the way you lay out a project in Scrivener appeared to cover a couple of my big writing problems.

  • Finding a way to list major scenes in a memorable way so I can work out a cohesive plot
  • Finding something that can remember what’s happened so far, and where I’ve got to, when my head can’t in a way that’s instinctive and at-a-glance.
  • Being able to put bits I like but can’t use yet somewhere close to hand so I can just nip over and cut and paste them in and out and remember they are there.
  • Being able to flip from my writing to my research easily  if I want to.
  • Being able to fit more writing into a short time.
  • In short, having all the information and prompts I need to write effectively in one place without burying one room of my house in post it notes.

The way Joseph Michael had his demo Scrivener set up, everything was laid out on screen where I could see it. My mental filing system is visual and it works horizontally. My ideal filing system would be a huge long table, with all the work in progress laid out on it. I’d walk up and down the table and see what needs to be done. If I try to file things vertically, in stacked trays or in drawers I forget they are there and cannot visualise what I am supposed to be doing or the shape of my task. I lose things in a pile.

My computer is a drawer – even using WordPerfect to write doesn’t fully ameliorate the impact of that, despite the fact it has its documents in tabs and I can switch from one to another with a single click. Things get lost and forgotten in my computer. Important things. Scrivener looked as if it might be the computer equivalent of a table rather than drawers, and when I found it on sale for  75% off, I decided to try it.

Bonus! Except While it was, indeed, the closest thing a computer can produce, in organising and filing terms, to a table, it was incredibly frustrating to use because it’s very much NOT intuitive in some respects. So I bought the training course for a truckload of money. BUT ONLY because it has a 365 day money back guarantee. No 30 day nonsense. A whole damn year. If I get stuck, I look up the problem on the course site, watch the video, which lasts about 3 minutes and I’m set. I am quite quick to pick up computer stuff but even so this worked very well for me. The way it’s set out is like an encyclopedia you can look things up in, rather than a course of long lessons which you annotate. Thus you sidestep the thing where your mind wanders as you take notes and you leave out a crucial click or step, one that renders your notes worthless and necessitates spending 30 minutes of your 40 minutes’ writing time watching a video, from beginning to end, to sort out where you went wrong. It’s way more useful than I expected, almost indispensable. Indeed, it’s probably paid for itself already to be honest. Bugger. Won’t be getting that refund then.

Around this time, I also saw McOther dictating email replies into his iPad and a light dawned. I could speak my books. However, after discovering that there is no way to teach my iPad how to write ‘eyebombing’ when I say ‘eyebombing’ and having the same experience with many other words like that, I reckoned it would be more trouble than it was worth. Even doing some dictation for my non-fiction book where I used the word, ‘spectacles’ instead of eyebombing – with a view to using search and replace, later – it was, frankly, too much of a ball ache. It occurred to me that the whole process of teaching speech-to-text software to understand my vocabulary, the correct spelling for the word arse and all the rest might take a lot more time than it would save. Doubtless I will give it a go at some point, but for the moment, I think I’ll put it in the someday-my-prince-will-come section of my list.

2. Planning and Plotting

Obviously what I envisioned achieving for myself here is far removed from compiling a comprehensive plot and then sketching the story by numbers.  I am, at heart, a pantser. However, it did occur to me that I could save myself a lot of time if I could kick the habit of developing so much backstory that my first scene ends up being one of the last ones. This is how I write: I get to know my characters, get interested in their pasts and before I know it, a new story has emerged. It’s usually a better one but having it turn up a bit earlier in proceedings would save me … well 60k of wasted words last year so, in short, the entirety of last year’s output (some of those words will be rescued or recycled but not all 60k).

I heard about a free seminar promoting a course called Story Engines. Story Engines sounds brilliant, but I can’t afford it. It didn’t help that there was only a short window, during the zenith – or is that the nadir – of the Christmas and post Christmas bankruptcy period. Why does everyone who runs a $500 closed course think a good time to open it up is December when everyone is skint? Sorry, I digress. The seminar was pretty good and opened my eyes to the kinds of questions I should ask myself. Questions which I thought I was asking already but clearly haven’t been. However, I could only afford one course and I thought that, possibly, I would work out more of the plotting stuff on my own than I would the workings of Scrivener. And the Scrivener course cost less. A lot less.

And I still have about 335 days in which to decide whether or not I like it! So I bought it.

3. Writing shorter

An absolute epic fail. For example, I’ve binned 20k of the ‘short’ about how Betsy’s bordello opened and I’m now just bubbling under 29,000 words into the new one. I think I may squish it into about 40,000 but it could run to 60,000. On the upside, I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN. Yeh. Thank you, Story Engines free training and lovely easy-to-see-what’s-going-on Scrivener layout. The magic is still happening, the picture is slowly de-pixilating and sliding into focus and the process is fun again. I also have a very much clearer idea of how Space Dustmen, the new series I’m working on, is going to go, and I’m really enjoying making notes and thinking about ideas. The characters are more focussed and yeh, things are happening there, too. Oh and there’s a non-fiction book.

On the writing shorter books front, then, null points. But on the writing, generally, a massive booyacka!

4. Time Management

We talked about the minuscule size of my writing window. How to make those minutes count then?

Scrivener was surprisingly useful and the plotting was helping but it was only a partial success. My efforts to write were still resulting in redundant words. Cf that 20,000 odd I mentioned just now and the other 40,000 from last year. Even though I will probably use three quarters of them, tweaked, a bit later in their prerequisite stories it was fairly essential that I did something to increase my rate of production and increase the suitability for immediate use of the stuff I produced.

So far, I’d some ideas plotted that I was really chuffed with, I’d laid out the basic chapters I thought I was going to write in Scrivener, added some notes, done the cards etc. But I needed more.

Somewhere, I read that comparing notes with other writers and posting your progress daily can really motivate you so I started a thread on a forum I visit. I’d also read that doing sprints works well for many people. You set a timer for twenty minutes and write until it goes off, have a 5 minute break and then rinse and repeat. I thought I’d see what I could do with that. I reckoned if I spent the first twenty minutes planning the scene and maybe writing a bit, and then the next twenty, going for it, I might get somewhere. No distractions, nothing, just writing the rest. So that day, I started my thread and explained what I was going to do. Then I turned off the internet, opened scrivener, sat down with the pinger set to twenty minutes and off I went.

Well.

That was a fucking eye opener I can tell you.

First sprint: 400 words, second 1000. Smecking Norah! Four weeks later, I have 28,800 words down. Even a hard, pulling-teeth-style sprint nets me 400 words. Just three of those sprints, ie an hour and a quarter given over to writing, and we are looking at 1,200 words, minimum. My record in one 20 minutes is 1,700. Typing. Every morning I can wake up knowing that, even if I only have half an hour to work that day, I can get a few hundred words done. Few things boost a writer’s spirits better than being productive.

I love the sprints and I love the camaraderie of chatting on the thread where we encourage each other and compare results. Definitely a really effective strategy, that one.

5. Avoiding staleness: saying, ‘bollocks’ to social media and making it quality time

With the sprints, Scriviner and even the plotting going well. I wondered if I could work on my freshness of approach. What I mean is, trying to persuade my times of  maximum brainpower to coincide with the times I had available to write.

After a lot of head-scratching it occurred to me that this writing game is a bit like a relationship in many respects. Sometimes, with dating, less is more. Three hours of quality time are worth many more hours of half cock time spent not really connecting that just make the whole thing go stale. I realised that, when quality writing time was thin on the ground, I was spending hours on social media while I did other things looking at emails, or generally staring at my iPad and phone to try and keep myself connected to the electronic ether and with that, somehow, to my writing. Even sitting at home in the evening watching tv, or while I was cooking, or some other situation in which I could never hope to produce any meaningful content for my books I would be gazing soulfully at the screen convincing myself it would help.

It didn’t.

While, on one hand, all this screen time made me feel as if I was maintaining the connection, on the other it fogged it, made me feel as if it was sapping my creativity somehow. And the more in touch with it all I tried to be, the more time was sucked into this faux ‘keeping in touch’, and the less time I spent actually writing. Across my wider life, writing was all I was doing … Oh and panicking about having no time. I did a lot of that. So as well allowing my brain to be gloopified by the wrong kind of screen time, I was starving it of stimulation. No fuel. Poor brain. How could I expect inspiration?

More head-scratching, and then I decided to try and make all the time I had count, across the board, not just in writing but in everything. So I limited social media and marketing time and added other things to my day, experiences, like coffee with a friend, a walk, reading, listening to music, shopping, eyebombing, etc. I also tried switching off the computer at six pm and not turning it on again until the next morning. I still checked my emails and social media first thing as I sat in bed with a cup of coffee. However, I started writing a to do list for the day at the same time. Then when I sat down at the computer after the school run it was easy to reorientate myself. I started experimenting with using sprints to write emails and social media posts. I listed things I needed to look at, set up a sprint to do it in and then stopped when the bell rang. I found I could achieve exactly the same amount of interaction in a fraction of the time. In the evenings, in front of the telly, I stopped checking Facebook on my phone and started knitting socks. Um … Yeh.

The results of this have been amazing. I have way more creativity. When I started this, a month or so ago, there was only really room in my head for one project. After a week, I started having ideas about a project I’d shelved because it was too complicated. After two weeks the short had turned into a novel. After three, a non fiction project popped up. It looks as if I may finish a novel this year. One that I only started writing in earnest four weeks ago. It is as if this simple act of giving my brain time to rest has jump-started my creative mojo. Yes I still get tired, I still get sad about my parents, I still have the odd week of PMT when I can’t meaningfully achieve anything but I also feel fulfilled and fantastic because I am creating stuff – and when I feel like that I create more stuff – and even when it’s not books, it’s very comfortable socks!

Conclusion

So what gave I learned here that might help anyone who has waded through to the end of this? D’you know, I think probably this:

  • Being open to new ideas and open-minded about trying new things can result in solutions you never believed possible. I am really surprised at how helpful Scrivener is, for example, and would never have tried it had it not been flagged as a godsend by a couple of the book selling gurus I follow.
  • Looking at problems from different angles can really help to solve them.
  • A writer’s brain is just like a computer, you need to put stuff in to get stuff out – although unlike computers, I find that putting rubbish into a brain doesn’t necessarily diminish output quality. But the biggie is input. Input has to happen for output.
  • Avoid getting stale.
  • Keep trying! I’m beginning to think that the people who achieve stuff are the folks who never give up. And I’ve discovered this by achieving stuff (in my own very small way but it feels big to me) because I can’t give up. So I’m beginning to think that, within reason, if you try to achieve something for long enough, and work hard enough at it, something WILL happen, even if it’s not what you were expecting. Or to put it another way, when life throws you lemons then yes, take time, lick your wounds, nurse your bruises, regroup … and make lemon meringue pie.
20160412_mandslemon

Pie-ify me big boy!

 

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Filed under About My Writing, Blimey!, General Wittering, Good Advice, Useful Resources

Evolved or spun? Meet my shorts. Born Free: news, views and free books … #giveaway #sffbooks

First of all, thanks to everyone who responded – in the comments or by email – to my rant last week. My folks are a lot better, which is heartening, and their new boiler is fitted. Things are calm for the moment, although I’ll probably have to try and get them to a funeral some time in the next couple of weeks. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I also did reasonably well at the Bury Christmas Fayre this year, in fact I ran out of copies of Few Are Chosen, which was a good predicament to be in but also a bit annoying. I did £470 over three days, £12 more than I did on my best year, in two, but a full £170 more than last year – although they hadn’t put me next to a stall selling brand new, best selling kids and teen books for £1 a pop this year, which was a relief.

There has been more time to reflect over my life and career this week, to, and I am feeling on a slightly more even keel. I have stepped down as editor of the parish mag, freeing up a minimum of seven hours a month and after Roughseas’ question in response to my last post, I started a short story to explain exactly how Betsy Coed did end up running the Bordello on Turnadot Street. Amazingly, it’s moving along nicely and I now have a princely 4009 words in the bag – only 16,000 to go then. Not so bad; if I keep up progress at this rate, it’ll be done in 4 weeks. It won’t, of course, but I will be done a lot quicker than I usually am and might even manage to squidge a second in before the summer holidays begin.

At the same time, the longer stuff has started moving again, so I’ve written a couple of thousand words of the work in progress, too – which is the first in a series and not set in K’Barth. However, I have made the usual discovery, a third in, that what I’m really writing is book two. So I’ve had to take stock a bit, go back and start book 1.

Isn’t it bizarre? Nothing has changed, I’m still trying to write a mix of full length novels and, in an ideal world, some shorter stories to go with. However, instead of seeing it like that, I’ve simply switched priorities, put the short stories as the priority and the novels on the ‘in an ideal world’ back burner, swapped a difficult goal for an easy one. The result? Suddenly I’ve made more progress on both in a week than I have in the preceding two months! So it just goes to show how important it is to look at things in the right way – or perhaps, that I’m so credulous that I can even do spin and puff on myself! Or possibly CBT.

Anyway, a propos of the shorts, I’d really appreciate your help with something. If you have a burning question about K’Barth, the back story to the series, the back story to the characters, anything characters do ‘off stage’ over the story line of the series, can you let me know what it is in the comments? I will then answer it, using the medium of the short story, because a few questions will really help to get this kickstarted.

Second thing, I am taking part in a giveaway this month. A group of science fiction and fantasy authors have got together and we are all giving our books away for free. You don’t have to sign up to anyone’s mailing list or jump through any hoops, AND you don’t have to be tied to one particular book retailer. You can go to the page for your favourite retailer and download the books that interest you.

To find out more, just click on this smashing graphic, here.

pattyjansenpromodec16

 

 

 

 

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Filed under About My Writing, Author Updates, General Wittering

I want to be straight! (Yeh) I want to be straight! I’m sick and tired of taking drugs and staying up late.

It occurred to me, the other day, that it might be prudent to try and explain why it takes me so sodding long to write a book. So in this gargantuan half rant, half post with a dash of tirade I am going to try. Basically, it’s about admin.

Frankly, I think I may be unique in the extent of my total and utter inability to organise anything easily: be it myself, others, things I find it incredibly hard to sort them out. Indeed, I would probably have a second life to live if I could somehow claw back the endless hours I spend looking for my glasses and my keys.  Also my life is ruled by Murphy and his law, no, not Murphy; Sod. Presumably that’s why, in the perfect irony, I have been given a life where I have to organise a lot of stuff, mostly to do with other people’s lives. Because I’m shit at it and someone up there thinks that’s funny. Like the time I declared that I’d never ever marry a lawyer … and the right man came along and of course he was, indeed, is, a lawyer.

This time of year McOther’s working hours go crazy, he has corporate events to go to at the weekends, the NFL play matches at Wembley which, as he spent his formative years in North America, he is desperately keen to attend – also at the weekends – and they make a 40 minute game take hours … Suffice to say, McMini misses his calming presence. So do I. This year, my organisational inability over the months coming up to Christmas seems to be particularly bad. I know I like variety and I know I have a sense of humour but it would be nice if just once I could organise one single smecking thing and have it go according to plan. Not that I do plan. Ever. Because there’s absolutely no effing point. But I do kind of, prime stuff and expect … results of a certain nature.

Case in point. This week. This week is not so different from any other week in my house other than that it’s got me feeling a little down. I don’t know why because this is my life, this is how I live but I’ve found myself wishing I could be one of the normals. To explain what I’m talking about … well … here’s the story so far.

We arrived home from our half term trip abroad rested and ready for action, except my iPad – which I had dropped for the second time before we went away, breaking it for the second time, Gorilla Glass my arse – decided to die on the Sunday night. Properly. So, as the folks who were going to fix it for £50 when they got the screen hadn’t rung in three weeks I decided I’d better get my wallet ready for a spanking and try the Apple store.

A few minutes later, I walked into the kitchen and just happened to notice McCat popping in, with grey feathers hanging out of his mouth. He had a squint round as if checking the coast was clear and made to head out. I shut the cat flap knowing that there was a body out there, one he was going to bring in, disembowel and eat bloodily and messily on the beige carpet outside our spare room.

No.

Not happening.

Looking out into the garden to check I could see a lot of feathers in the light from the kitchen window. It looked as if someone had burst a pillow out there. So McOther and I concluded that there would, indeed, be a body. On his mission to put out the bins McOther had a look and discovered that contrary to our expectations there was a live victim. A pigeon, looking very sorry for itself, with few wing feathers, a bald neck and absolutely NO tail whatsoever. Inevitably, we christened him Kojak.

There wasn’t much we could do for Kojak at 8.00 pm on a Sunday night except leave him and hope he recovered, the reasoning being that he’d be gone or dead in the morning. Monday dawned and Kojak was not dead but unfortunately not gone either. I would have to rescue him.

Bum. I didn’t really have time for that.

So I chalked him up as another thing to do after the school run and my, now, inevitable trip to the Apple store with my smashed and non-functional iPad. I locked the cat inside and off we went to school.

Surprising joy from the Apple store. The iPad hadn’t really died, it was just pretending, the smashed glass was lifting and not conducting so well so the screen was beginning to stop working. I decided to skip the folks who hadn’t rung me about the screen in 3 weeks and took it to another store. Yes, the fellow told me, he could fix it and would do so by that afternoon at 4.00pm (thank you Sod, who rules my life and knows the school run has me going past there at 3.30pm).

I left it and went to the gym for dodgy knee maintainance. That done it was home to find out what to do with Kojak. After about an hour surfing the internet which only told me that a trip to Norfolk was required – 30 miles away but probably at speeds of no faster than 30mph the whole distance on a good day. This was not doable in the time I had left if I wanted to present myself at the school on time to get McMini. In desperation I rang the Vet’s.

‘Bring him here,’ the told me.

So I captured Kojak, which took a bit more doing than I expected, because he’d perked up quite a bit, and carried him round to the Vet’s in a box.

kojak

Kojak in his box looking surprisingly perky

Kojak despatched to safer climes, I returned home, released the cat, cleared up the thermonuclear weapons-grade pooh he’d done in his earth box, washed up breakfast and even managed to write about 3 words before it was time to go collect McMini. We faffed about long enough to be able to visit the shop mending the iPad at 4.00 and discovered that the people who mended it last cocked it up and broke some stuff – including the wifi transmitter, which explains why it was so shit. So he would get the parts and call me when they were ready. (Does this sound familiar?).

Tuesday passed without incident – or contact from the iPad menders. Wednesday was visit-the-parents-day and the journey to and from Sussex was surprisingly smooth. Only a small stop at the Dartford Tunnel where I received a text to say that my iPad was ready for collection and arrived home just too late to be able to pick it up. I also discovered that I’ve driven my car through a hole somewhere, the tracking was out and I had therefore spunked an extra £15 worth of petrol on the trip on a smooth journey with no major delays – it having used the entire tank instead of the usual two thirds. Having a quick look round the car as it was parked at the pump I saw one front tyre was a little low. I drove over to the air line, which someone else arrived at just before me, of course, and while they did their air I opened the boot and rummaged about for my car’s handbook.

I found it, but I also found stern warnings about putting air in when the tyres are hot. The car must have been stationery for 3 hours minimum. Then, I must drive no more than 1 mile from cold and then check the air. I must not drive no miles. One mile it must be, two was too many and three was right out, one and only one mile must I drive etc.

Overjoyed that here was another bit of administrative shite I could piss my precious time away doing, ie go get the tracking done and the tyres balanced and do the sodding air, I felt a little deflated for a moment. Then I remembered. Never mind, at least something had gone according to plan. I was going to get my iPad back.

Now, when I go in my car to my parents, my fibit thinks that I am running up and down 300 flights of stairs and walking about 40,000 steps. It kind of buggers up the averages so I take it off and do it up round my bra strap, where, strangely, it ceases to log all non-existent activity. Clearly despite being jiggly, my jiggly bits are not as jiggly as … well … you know. You get the picture. This means I had taken it off and snapped it round my bra as I left Mum and Dad’s. As I approached the traffic lights at the end of the road ASDA is on, I’d remembered I must put it on again. By the time I pulled up at the ASDA petrol forecourt I had, of course, forgotten all about remembering.

While I was filling the tank the empty road outside ASDA filled up with traffic as the council offices emptied at 5.30 so I took my place among their 8,000 employees, most of whom seemed to be in cars, queuing for the lights. It took me 20 minutes to get home and I broke the good news about the iPad to McOther and had a lovely chat with McMini. I went upstairs to have a shower and put my pyjamas on before supper at 6.30. Then I looked at my fitbit. It wasn’t there.

I took a rain check on the shower. Instead I searched my car – even under the seats, a process which involves feats of contortion few humans, other than lotus owners, are capable of – and failed to find my fitbit there, either.

Arse.

I drove to ASDA. Was it there? Was it bollocks?

I asked at lost property, ‘No,’ the lady informed me. ‘If it hasn’t been found after half an hour it probably won’t be but pop in when you are here next week.’

I trudged back to the car park, cursing myself for being such a spacker.

When I got home McMini threw open his arms.

‘Mummy, I’m so sorry to hear about your fitbit, come and give me a hug so you will feel better.’

As I hugged him tight and looked over his head to the kindly face of McOther it did occur to me that every cloud has a silver lining.

Sometimes life feels like this ...

Sometimes my life feels as if it’s like this. Other times …

Welcome to my world.

… it’s more like this. Welcome to my world.

Wednesday night poor little McMini had another bad dream about the air raid siren. Who thought World War Two was a good topic to teach 8 year olds? Seriously? Nobody with an 8 year old kid, that’s for certain. He was so scared he was shaking, a couple of times his fear has been enough to make him throw up.

Thursday I went to the shop to pick up my iPad. I discovered that the shop didn’t open until 10.00 am. As I was on the way back from the school run this was a bit of a pain. So I went and did some shopping, did another knee improving session at the gym and went back to the store at 10.30. It was still closed. No note of explanation, according to the door and their website, it was working hours and should have been open it just … wasn’t. I texted the chap who had let me know the iPad was ready, asking what gives. He explained that his colleague would be there on Friday, definitely and we arranged a time for me to pick up my iPad. Disgruntled at schlepping up the hill for nothing I grumbled my way home. Oh well, at least it would be there the next day.

In the evening, I went to a skiing lesson. Yes, buggered knees aside, I thought I’d give it a go because McOther and McMini can do it and want us to go on a family skiing holiday. But I have to see if it’s physically possible first. Hence the lesson, the third of three, which started at 7.00pm. It’s in Ipswich, 30 minutes down the A14 … or not because it was blocked. The minor roads either side were gridlocked and it took me an hour and a half to get there. On the upside, I found out enough in advance to leave early and only be 15 minutes late.

This morning, Friday, I locked my keys in the house. It says a lot for the regularity with which I do this that I forgot to mention it until the last edit of this tirade, and that I was back in, picking them up and locking up properly in about 30 seconds, causing McMini to exclaim,

‘Mummy you are just the best burglar ever!’

Pshaw! M T blows casually on fingers. We weren’t even that late.

But that’s what I mean. Nothing, and I mean nothing goes according to plan. If a simple 10 minute phone call can turn into five hours of endless buttock numbing tedium it will. If something that should be straightforward and simple like, ‘please can I have this?’ is able to turn into five days of wrangling, begging and pleading, it does. Nine times out of ten it’s my own fault or because I’ve been a total dork and missed a deadline or some step that the normals take in their stride. What is going on? Is everyone else’s life like this or is it just mine? Maybe my people skills are crap. But really, what is so difficult about,

‘Can you fix my iPad.’
‘Yes, you can pick it up tommorow.’
Next day: ‘Hi I’ve come to pick up my iPad. I see your shop is actually open at the times the notice on the door says, and at the time I arranged to pick up my iPad and pay you money.’
‘It is, indeed, madam. That’s how the retail business is usually conducted.’

This morning I made sure I was doing something interesting in the time until the iPad repair shop opened, at 10.00. I had breakfast with a friend. Again, I gave the shop a bit of slack. Again, at 10.30 they were still closed. I sent a stinking text to the fixit man saying his colleagues were tossers (politely, obviously) and asking when was he next in. So I’ll be picking it up on Monday.

And in the middle of all this stupid shit, I’m trying to write a book. And I had two hours to work on it today. But I couldn’t. Because I’m too smecking cross. So I did another welter of overhanging admin and wrote this, instead. If I could give up writing, I would, but I need it. It’s like some horrible drugs habit. I’m a high functioning authorholic.

You see this is the problem.

My brain hates admin. It wants to concentrate on the important things in life like making shit up and … I dunno, listening to music, drawing, or the view, or the next joke. If I have loads of crap to remember to do it gets kind of fried. So if all the stuff I have to remember, like making bank transfers, checking cash, booking dental appointments, going to them, booking a slot to get my car’s tracking done – going to the post office to collect the parcel that some dickwad has sent me with £2.00 to pay because they didn’t put enough stamps on it, in case it’s important (it never is) – if all that total wanksputle starts to overwhelm my brain it just thinks, fuck this for a game of soldiers I’m off and then it buggers off somewhere, and I wish I knew where but I don’t. It just switches off.

And it switches everything off, including the important stuff that I’m interested in and actually want to remember, like that cunning plot twist I’d thought of for my book, or remembering to put my watch/fitbit back on, or forgetting that my iPad cover comes off and it drops out sometimes … onto the floor … and breaks.

And I end up giving myself even more administrivatative shit to sort out because I’ve forgotten deadlines, and then I end up getting even more pissed off and frustrated and angry that the majority of my span on this earth is going to be spent sorting out mindless shitty shite for me and others who can’t do it without my help. For the rest of my days. Oh yes, and in between all of that there’ll be lots and lots of chronic knee pain. The outlook for the rest of my life is incredibly bleak.

No wonder I need to escape.

And yet … for all that. I know I’m happy. Because it’s friends and family and the people around a person who make their world, not this shit. I just wish … well … that there was a little bit less of the shit sometimes or that occasionally, just once or twice, when I tried to do something, it went … OK it’s never going to go according to plan but maybe if it could just go wrong the way it does for normal people?

So there you go. Here’s a joke. You have to read it out loud though .. and to be honest its a bit crap

What do the Portugese do with their cars?

I told you it was crap.

On a final note, McMini had a Boy’s Brigade meeting tonight about a mile from our house so I drove there and then went to ASDA to do the tyre pressures on my car. You’d think I’d have managed that but no, it turns out that air, these days, costs 20p. And I left my wallet at home and I don’t have a 20p piece anyway. So although I’ll be in the right place in the right circumstances tonight, nothing can be done. (There’s no kiosk at ASDA so I can’t get change and no other garages who do have a kiosk nearby). Then, as I unlocked the door upon our arrival home, I somehow managed to bend the yale key. I unbent it and it works now but not before we had to go through the conservatory door because, initially, it didn’t. And so the madness continues …

Joy unbounded.

 

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The difference between intention and delivery. How not to prepare for a charity walk. #girlsnightout

You may remember, a while back, I posted about a charity walk I decided to join in with for our local hospice. It’s a 6 mile walk through and around the centre of Bury St Edmunds, wearing flashing bunny ears and my pyjamas. Obviously I’m a middle aged lardette with completely fucked knees so this, for me, is …  a suitable challenge. Indeed, my knees were so shite I cannot actually run, not even, literally, to save my life (well … it was my son’s but that’s another story). Although I can walk quite briskly, and I can ride a bike. However, even so, what I’m saying is, I had clocked that if I wanted to walk 6 miles I should probably do some training but at the same time, I was thinking, it’s only six miles, what can go wrong? Quite a lot of things it turns out.

Time, like gravity, has not been my friend on this one and I suddenly realise that the walk is tonight – as ever is. Waterproofs optional but probably required. Note to self, don’t forget the light up stars umbrella.

And guess how much training I’ve done.

Mmm hmm.

In my defence, it was the summer holidays and I did go for a fair few walks, even if I couldn’t get to the gym, but then I got hit by a galloping dog which is surprisingly painful: similar results to a medium/hard cart horse kick although a friend of a friend ended up with a broken leg so I probably got off lightly. It resulted in an impressive 8″x4″ oblong bruise and some pain. While avoiding full impact with the dog I, unfortunately, did something to my hip. So when I went on holidays, where we were going to do a fair bit of walking, the hip based ‘something’ manifested itself, loudly, through the medium of pain. I grimly gritted my teeth and carried on and the pain got worse. Obviously, because I’m a hypo, I convinced myself that the dog bruise had resulted in dvt. I went to the Doctor when I got home.

Actually, I’ve just pulled a muscle in my hip. So obviously I wasn’t being a drama queen about that or anything.

Never mind, my legs hurt all the time and there aren’t many hills, I thought. Surely I can limp round. So I have rested it all week.

img_2404

A yes, the week’s ‘rest’. Now this is the kind of punishing training schedule I’m talking about.

As the crowning glory of my ‘preparation’. Last night, I went to bed early so that at least, if I wasn’t ready, I was fresh.

But unfortunately, I woke up almost immediately and then, in tag team with my son, spent the rest of the night enjoying some vile sweatathon chuck up bug which involved much enthusiastic driving of the porcelain bus. McOther blissfully slept through it all. Indeed at one point, I woke up on the bathmat in the bathroom – because I’d felt too sick to move back to the bed – bathed in sweat, face stuck to said mat with a pool of my own drool, to hear my son calling me. I called out to McOther, but all that did was bring McMini to our bedroom and from there to the ensuite, where he was treated to the joyous sight of his mother shouting ‘Europe!’ down the big white telephone while trying to hold her hair out of the way of the technicolour torrent, while at the same time, avoid getting any on her pyjamas or the lavatory seat.

On the upside, when I’d finished, I felt so much better and at least I could leave the bathroom long enough to take him upstairs and tuck him in, after which, everyone in the house went to sleep in their own beds until morning.

As McMini started his chuckathon a bit earlier than me he was, as he put it, ‘full of beans’ when he woke up while I definitely felt a bit ropey. However, after a very pleasant hour spent with him, sitting in my bed together reading and … well … he’s 8 so I’m afraid he was also comparing the intensity of our farts – his were smellier so he thinks he’s been iller than me … he’s gone to football club. Meanwhile I, I have gone to ground. Even the cat has let me sit here unmolested so I must look grim although I am feeling a little better.

If the walk had been this morning, I confess, I would have been in trouble. As it is, I’m sure I’ll be fine by tonight although I might give the bacon buttie and the pub at the end a miss. Most of these things only last a day or so. But with the Olympics just finished, and the Paralympics in full swing, it did make me realise how hard it must be for real sportsmen and women when they prepare for their events. All those hours spent training, the special diets, the sleep regimen, trying to time it so they achieve peak fitness on that one specific day and then the big event comes and they have a cold, or a period or a sick bug and suddenly their performance is 10 or 20 percent down or they can’t even compete and it’s all been for nothing. It just makes me admire their dedication and discipline even more than I did before because even after that, despite preparing for every eventuality, they are still at the mercy of random factors.

If you want to donate anything to the hospice for my undertaking this moronic exercise, you’re welcome to do so. I have raised £150 so far, most of it off internet, so at least I’ve reached the minimum target. You can find my just giving page here:

https://www.justgiving.com/Fundraising/M-T-McGuire

My cat has just typed this \\\\\\\\\\\\\\ which is clearly what he thinks of the whole thing and I feel like a gentle snooze with something warm on my stomach so I’m going to follow his example and get some serious rest in.

A bientot.

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Wait! I’m not ready! #GirlsNightOut, 26 days and counting!

You may, or may not, remember various posts I’ve done on here about my lovely bruv who runs marathons despite being ‘middle-aged, unfit and fat’ – his words and it’s a lie because he’s definitely NOT unfit – or that fat. Anyway, having seen his fine and shining example, watched him routinely raise over a grand, and given him a tenner each time, I thought maybe I should have a go.

I mean, how hard can it be?

Yeh. No. Actually I did know the right answer to that one.

As you may be aware, and if you aren’t, I may as well tell you, I am also middle-aged, comfortably upholstered fat, unfit and I have arthritic knees which contain one less sound ligament in each than normal people’s knees. This made me think, some years ago, that maybe I should eschew the idea of marathons or any other kind of run. Because I can’t run, because my knees don’t do that kind of thing any more, I can only walk, so I’d never qualify for a marathon. I wondered if I could find a cause I care about, with an event that has slightly less rigorous entry criteria, and try er hem … walking. Possibly even briskly (if I took enough chocolate along with me to power the effort) but never tracked one down.

I kind of gave up on the idea, I had a baby anyway, and we moved house and did child rearing and stuff. And it was all lost by the wayside for a bit. Except that in recent years, one night a year, hoards of ladies have walked past my house in flashing bunny ears. I wondered:

  1. what on earth they were doing and
  2. whether I should join in.

Two years ago I plucked up courage to open the door and ask one of them what was going on.

‘Girls’ Night Out,’ she said.

None the wiser I went and looked up Girls Night Out on the internet. It’s a sponsored actual walk! For a fantastic place, our local hospice.

Last year I nearly joined in.

This year … I’ve signed up.

It’s gentle 6k ramble round Bury St Edmunds, at night, wearing the aforementioned flashing bunny ears, yes, in the dark, in pyjamas. (Note to self: there are pyjamas and pyjamas, buy a set of pyjamas you can wear in public.) The local Hospice – St Nicholas’ Hospice – were wonderful with a friend’s relly when he was dying and since the question of hospices and hospice care is in my mind at the moment, for my parents, it is something that resonates with me. They ask each walker to try and raise £100 for them.

‘Booyacka!’ I thought when I read that. ‘£100 is easy money! I only need to persuade 20 people to give me a fiver. Surely that can’t be too hard? And 6k? No problem.’

Except that while it might have been easy when I signed up, that was the end of the summer term. After 3 terms of going to the gym 3 times a week with only the shortest of breaks in between I was at the apogee of my yearly fitness levels and the lowest yearly knee pain level. Anyway the walk was ages away, I had time.

However, the date of this walk is now coming up fast. And it’s in the first week of September, at my yearly fitness nadir, after I’ve spent 6 weeks drinking and eating more than usual, going on holiday, doing larks with McMini, ignoring my physiotherapy exercises or doing no exercise at all. Some of my shorts no longer fit and dressing myself each morning is more and more like draping camouflage netting over a Zeppelin.

Ah.

Indeed, now I’ve looked at the map and my thoughts are more like this:

‘Fuckorama! What have I done? Can I even drag my fat bottom 3k, let alone 6?’

Yes, I’m facing Blimpageddon!

And on top of that, I see far fewer folk in the holidays than term so I have failed, epically, in my mission to persuade 20 people to give me a fiver – although one kind soul did give me £10 via Facebook. Thank you, you know who you are.

In short, it looks, very much, as if my effort at charity fundraising is going to die on its arse. But it could be worse! I am sure it will be great fun, we’re going to the pub afterwards and I could have signed up for the 14k route.

So, the walk is on 10th September. I have about 3 weeks to try and get fit. Two of them are summer holiday blimp time so I will have to take moments out of eating, play and high octane resting to kick some donkey and get into shape.

On the up side, according to my Fitbit, I do walk about 5 miles every day, although I’m not 100% certain I can trust it. I mean, it thinks two hours sitting in my car driving to Sussex is a 5 mile run which either means it’s hopelessly inaccurate or it’s picked up on my mood and is lying to me to keep up my morale.

I am going to be updating my progress sporadically on the justgiving page they’ve … well … given me which is here. So if you want to read a bit more about my efforts I’ll be mostly talking about it there or using the #GirlsNightOut hastag on twitter – although, depending on the quality and availability of wi-fi on our upcoming road trip, there may be a two week gap and one week’s intense solid build up as I hone my athletic prowess.

If you want to take a look feel free, you can even sponsor me if you like. That said, sponsorship, though welcome, is certainly not required.

So here we are on Day 1 of my get fit drive. I have achieved 40 squats while cleaning my teeth and taken down a tent. Oh yeh. Go me.

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