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Alarums, excursions and jolly japes

This week, I am speaking to you from the past by the wonders of scheduling, as I do from time to time. When this post goes live, I will be at Dad’s memorial service, which, incidentally, takes place in a building that, with a few tweaks, became the High Temple in the K’Barthan Series. Here it is. It looks a bit frillier in this picture than it really is. I think I wrote in prettier chandeliers though.

This is where I went to church every other Sunday in term time, from eight weeks old to when I was a teenager. We sat in a stall; one of those raised seats at the sides, the second one on the left in this picture. As a small child, I remember playing in the Chapel (that’s its name) while Mum did the flowers. Running up and down the aisle under the kind auspices of Mr Kendall, the verger who would warn me not to run past the altar rail for fear of setting off the burglar alarm.

Once he gave me one of the hosts to eat. It was delicious! Just like a flying saucer only without the sherbet. I also remember playing with the hassocks, but they were blue leather, like cushions rather than the traditional home-embroidered, sorbet-rubber brick, so they couldn’t be stacked into walls or towers, and weren’t nearly as much fun as they should have been. It was a school, so they were probably designed like that deliberately. Therefore, I usually eschewed hassock-related japes in favour of running around. Sometimes I went down the stairs into the crypt, although, not so often after I fell down them and cracked my head open (3 stitches).

Later it wasn’t as much fun. If you will, imagine sitting raised up on high like that as a shy gawky teenager, looking out over around 500 or so boys who were sitting in the seats below. I was a shade of puce throughout the whole hour and it felt as if every single one of them was staring at me. I liked the music, I sang in the choir of the other church we went to and I enjoyed listening to most types of music (still do). The hymns helped, in that they were usually tub-thumpers and it was fun to listen to the boys and try and work out what their alternative words were; Glory, glory Brighton Hove Albion, with a small contingent trying to shout Glory, glory Man United more loudly, etc. But apart from that, mostly it was a pretty cringeworthy experience.

If you do that every other term Sunday, and get as many regular bollockings at your own school as I did (a different institution to the one attached to the chapel in the picture) you come out the other end almost unembarrassable … if that’s a word. I was so glad when I finally went to the school I actually lived in (girls were only allowed in the sixth form in those days) and I was able to leave the stall and disappear into the anonymous mass of pupils below. Actually I sat in about the position this picture was taken from.

Anway I’m wandering off topic terribly here, what I was really going to say was that I’m actually writing this from a few days in the past. It’s been a busy week but all in all, things seem to be going reasonably well.

First up, Mum. After discussing it with her financial advisor, we have decided it’s time to get Mum’s enduring power of attorney for her finances activated. I looked out all the paperwork we’d done on Dad’s and dropped the solicitor a line, by email, explaining what we were going to do and asking if she could send me the original document of Mum’s enduring power of attorney. I did it first thing but got one of those weird, ‘your message couldn’t be delivered so we’ll try again’ type things. Not an out-and-out bounce but a kind of, might have, maybe bounced.

After a bit of thought, I decided that the best thing to do would be to ring the solicitor, explaining what had happened and apologise for pestering her by phone as well if it had got through. The lady who answers the telephone there is great, we had a chat, I explained what had happened and I gave her as much info as I could. She asked the date Mum and Dad signed their powers of attorney and I reckoned it was 2004 but I had all the paperwork in front of me.

‘Give me a sec, I have Dad’s here, I’ll look it up,’ I said. I grabbed the document in front of me. ‘Oh … hang on,’ I said as I read the name on the front, ‘Um … this is Mum’s. Oh … I must have got you folks to send it through when I did Dad’s. That was … surprisingly organised of me.’

‘I bet it’s a nice surprise,’ she said.

‘It is but I still managed to forget, phone you lot and make a monumental twat of myself,’ I said.

She laughed, which was lucky. I doubt she gets many people telling her they’re twats. She told me she’d tell the lawyer I’d emailed that I didn’t need her to do anything and I thanked her and hung up. Then I made some toast by holding a piece of bread against my red face. No. I didn’t make toast actually even though I was quite embarrassed and my cheeks were burning. NO! The ones on my face you dirty bastards!

And there we have it. Three years ago, while sorting Dad’s enduring power of attorney I had been prescient, not to mention organised, enough to get them to send me Mum’s as well. It was heartening to know that I am capable of such giddy heights of organisational prowess, but it would have been more heartening if I’d remembered, or at least discovered my uncharacteristic attack of forward planning before I’d made a tit of myself.

Ruthless efficiency, and yet also, gargantuan twattery. Oh well, you can’t win ’em all.

Meanwhile McMini is enjoying his new school and is as nuts as ever. Lately, he has introduced me to the joy of ttsreader.com This is a site which allows you to type text into a box and it will then read it in an electronic voice. For some strange reason best known to ourselves, McMini and I find this unaccountably funny. Obviously, we don’t use it as it is intended. Although we do happily conduct whole conversations using it in about six times the time it should take were we speaking; laboriously typing what we want to say into the reader, highlighting it all and clicking play. Clearly we try to do more than talk with this thing, I think McMini has come closer than I to getting it to produce a realistic raspberry but that’s not for want of extensive effort on both our parts. All the while, as we pursue this ridiculous game, tears of laughter stream down our faces – because we’re really mature. Well, OK to give him his due, McMini is only eleven, after all, and probably is quite mature for an eleven year old. He already displays a great deal more maturity than I but then, I guess that’s not difficult.

Even McOther started giggling the other day, though, when McMini finally scored a realistic sounding raspberry.

On the books front. They’ve managed to squeeze me in at the Christmas Fayre so I am busy ordering books etc, which reminds me … Even better, the date of the new release creeps ever closer. Anyone who has pre-ordered it should get the ebook on Monday 29th. Woot. The paperback is coming later. I have also been doing lots of research into audio books. It’s kind of doing my head in because there have been a lot of changes to the audiobook scene just recently, with evidence that Findaway Voices might be edging ahead of ACX as a provider. I might post more about that as I discover it, or at least, some pros and cons if I can. But my own experience is going to be atypical because Gareth The Voice and I have done pretty much the opposite of what you’re supposed to! Mwahahahargh!

Anyway, that’s enough of that, here is a quick reminder about my two new releases … on about to come out and one out already. Pipple toot!

Small Beginnings, K’Barthan Shorts, Hamgeean Misfit: No 1

Available for preorder. If you are interested there is a page which gives you link to the main book vendors. Just click on the picture or follow this link here …

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

There will be print links, to follow. The print version is out on 23rd November.

Here’s the blurb:

Terry Pratchett meets Dr Who … sort of. When your very existence is treason, employment opportunities are thin on the ground. But when one of the biggest crime lords in the city makes The Pan of Hamgee a job offer he can’t refuse, it’s hard to tell what the dumbest move is; accepting the offer or saying, no to Big Merv. Neither will do much for The Pan’s life expectancy.

Future Adventures Box Set … Gorge yourself on free sci-fi!

This features full length novels from eight science fiction authors. I can vouch for the quality of the books in here, even more so now that I’ve read some of them!

But, if any of you haven’t read my first full length novel, Few Are Chosen, and would like to, it’s in this book, which is free, but more importantly it comes with all these other brilliant stories by seriously accomplished wordsmiths who really know what they are doing. So, you can grab a copy of Few Are Chosen with seven other books by authors who are seriously gifted and of whom I am, frankly, a bit in awe. And all for zero pence. If you want to pick up a copy, just click on the picture to visit a page of links to find it on all the major stores … or click on the link below:

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

 

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Ham, Jam and Spam.

Woah! There’s a whole gamut of stuff to talk about today. It’s been a chuffing amazing week and I am feeling happier than I’ve felt in years, which I am enjoying thoroughly! OK, maybe I’m owed some Karma or something but even the scam phone call we received yesterday morning did us all a favour. First up:

The Audiobook Project

Aroogah! Aroogah! Pretentiousness alert.

OK, now I’m going to get a bit artsy fartsy here and talk about the business of creating … um … can I call it art? Yes, I’m going to call it art! Snortle. What that means, for you, is that this next bit’s going to sound a trifle pretentious. Look I’ll try and keep it funny, OK. But it is a completely fascinating process this and one I’m really enjoying so I wanted to talk about it.

The thing is, I’d thought about doing my own audiobooks, I did stand up after all. I even tried reading a bit of Unlucky Dip. But there’s a big difference between being able to do funny voices and being able to actually act. Acting is an underrated skill. Yep, there’s a reason why these folks who cross into acting from other careers can’t always pull it off. When I played my recording back, I’d managed to make my story so boring and so lacking in energy, and my attempts at the accents were so hammy that I decided that, if anyone did it, it would have to be someone who could do it properly. Which definitely wasn’t me. And that being the case it also, definitely wasn’t anything I could afford. Because you can’t really join audible and offer someone a royalty split when it’s only going to be a couple of quid a month.

And then, up pops this lunatic called Gareth who wants to record my books on audio, lord help him! And he’s brilliant. And extremely professional about it, but not in a boring killjoy I’m-a-professional kind of way. He just is. On a point of honour, I have made it very clear to him that we’ll only make a few pence each a month if we’re lucky, but he seems completely undaunted by this triviality. Well, he enjoyed the books so he’s obviously a bit of a nutter but it does lend this project a whole aura of, is this actually happening?

This week, we’ve been trying to set what the main characters sound like, which is great fun and allows for total geekery. It’s hilarious trying to describe how you want something to sound when you’re not a good enough mimic to demonstrate. And I’m not. Instead I have to go, ‘she’s a bit like so and so in x, y or z film but a bit more gruff,’ or, ‘General Moteurs? Steed from the Avengers with a bit of that clipped Richard Burton delivery in Where Eagles Dare,’ and then he adds a tiny tiny sprinkling of ‘you my fire h-when ready’ Peter Cushing in StarWars because General Moteurs is quite up himself, especially at the start,’ and so on. General Moteurs is quite tricky because he has to sound like an anally retentive neat bot, but at the same time, he can’t sound too elderly because he’s only in his mid 40s and he gets it on with Deirdre. I’ve really enjoyed trawling my memory of old films for the voices I want. It’s like a competition for who can think of the obscurest mainstream film character – Donald Pleasance doing Blowfeldt anyone?

And then Gareth sends through a sound sample in which he talks in his normal voice about what he’s doing and then does thirty seconds of extremely sinister Lord Vernon, and then he flips out of it again and goes, kind of, ‘is that the sort of thing you meant?’ and it’s like two different blokes on the same tape and it’s gloriously bizarre, and, of course, completely hilarious. So I’m sitting there laughing like a drain and McOther is saying, ‘what on God’s earth are you doing?’ And I have to explain and he gives me the kindly smiling-at-toothless-simpletons look. The one he does when McMini and I get giggly about the Arnold’s Produce vans.

And all the time, these characters are becoming more and more real and I am ludicrously excited to hear them taking aural shape (is that a thing? Mmwahahahargh! It is now). I can tell you, for nothing, that if anyone tried to buy the film rights of one of my books, or make a film, and I was remotely involved in any way, I would probably actually die from the excitement. Luckily Gareth seems to be experiencing a similar Tigger-like enthusiasm for it all, so at least we’re both as nuts as each other.

It’s also weird that I have the character voices quite clearly in my head, but when I look at it, it’s more the tone or delivery technique than the actual sound. Does that make sense? So then there’s this odd dichotomy between what I ‘hear’ and what readers might be hearing and what Gareth, who knows and likes the books, hears when he reads them. And also what is possible with one person’s voice – although we haven’t hit any roadblocks on that score yet. So, interestingly, he’s always imagined the Grongles with American accents, like the British baddie thing in reverse, which would have been hilarious, but ill advised in the current climate, I think. I do visit the States from time to time and it would be a pity if I got set upon for dissing the mother nation, especially when so many of them carry firearms.

But the other thing is that the voices in my head are a lot more similar than they can be in an audiobook because they’re basically all talking with my voice, except for the ones I’ve given comedy accents; the Mervinettes and the Parrot and Screwdriver contingent. They need to be different so there’s some re-imagining required, which is where having an actual actor on board changes everything. He did a voice for Sir Robin which sounded exactly like my dad, which is how it is in my head. But then he did this other voice, which is a bit of a cheeky nod at Sir Alec Guinness in Star Wars and obviously there was no contest and the Geek in me chose that one! Mwahahahahrgh!

What I love about something like this is the whole collaboration thing. Writing is a singularly solo pursuit, and now the involvement of someone else brings a different slant to it all and opens all kinds of doors (Lordy me! Pretension anyone? I know, I’m sorry, but I can’t think of another way of putting it). But it’s like having someone else in on the jokes! Also I’m a great believer that a collaboration is just that, and that a person looking at my stuff as a reader will see things I don’t. So, while I’m choosing these voices, some of them are completely new and different to how I thought they’d be and bits of the reading a little different to how it sounds in my head. On the one hand, it’s old ground, on another it’s totally new.

It’s a hell of a thing.

Other news …

After you …

A while back, McMini and I entered a photography competition. It was themed around tall buildings, or at least things, because trees were acceptable too. There were two classes; under 18 and the others (I can’t remember what it was really called) and you could enter up to five photos so I entered five pictures into ‘the others’ section and McMini entered two into the under 18 class.

We were informed that three of mine and one of his had made the shortlist, which was very exciting as it meant they would be part of an exhibition and offered for sale to the unwitting public. We were asked if we could ensure that we, or a representative, came to the exhibition space for the prize giving on Tuesday. We duly turned up, me thinking that McMini had won something. I was dead chuffed when a mum friend from McMini’s old school got a highly commended, but then it turned out one of mine had come chuffing second!!! Fucking Ada I was floored. And then they handed me a big fuck off cheque, which means I can afford to print an eyebombing calendar this year at the kind of price which will give me a proper margin to sell it into other places. So I’m stoked.

For your delectation, the photo which won is the one on the right there.

McOther is also a great deal more relaxed this week, as we get towards a visit from his US-dwelling bro and our trip to Portugal so that’s grand.

Finally

Useful things come in odd guises. Yesterday morning some bunch of gitoids with an autodialler rang us early. The entire house was asleep and McOther leapt out of bed and answered. It was the usual recorded message, with a foreign accent, telling us that our internet would be switched off in the next 24 hours unless we pressed one to put us through to the help desk or whatever. Either way, it would be a premium rate line that would cost us £100 a minute or it would go through to someone who’d take a ‘payment’ to get our credit card details. Foggy with sleep, I looked at my watch. It was 7.57 a.m.

Shit!

‘I have some good news and some bad news,’ I told McOther as he returned to our bedroom. ‘The good news, is, that was a fantastic sleep we’ve just had. The bad news is we’ve both slept through our alarms and McMini is supposed to be leaving for school in three minutes.’

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck! Panic stations!

I ran downstairs and got his bag sorted, stuffing all the PE socks and other bits I’d washed and left to dry over night into it. McMini dressed in about seven minutes flat, McOther too, then with some cheese biscuits in hand (I’m not sure what normal people call those. Savoury crackers?) McMini and McOther fled to the car. McMini didn’t have time for a cup of tea, so he sniffed a tea bag before he left!

They departed ten minutes late and got to the school with five minutes to spare. Go McOther with your flash motor and McMini with your speed dressing prowess! Phnark.

Which just goes to show that even bad things can have good results! Thank heavens it’s half term next week I suspect we need it.

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More bad parenting.

Remember my post last week about my epic parenting skills well here is another instalment. I was going to tell you one from many moons ago but I don’t want you to feel you need to be sympathetic, I just want to raise a chuckle, and also, there’s a second instalment of last week’s debacle which you might enjoy. I’m afraid it’s not as funny but it’s the kind of thing that happens on a normal non-eventful day in our lives so it will give you the idea of the kind of life I lead.

This week I finally managed to go to the talk McMini and I enthusiastically tried to attend somewhat prematurely last week. Here’s how it went.

McMini is able to stay at home this time with McOther though, as in a rare moment of normal person working hours, he is home by six. Woot.

However, nothing is that simple and shortly before leaving I am faced with a new challenge. McMini explains that while at school that day, he took his watch off to do some painting and that when he came to put it back on again, ‘it wasn’t there’.

He’s McMini, he’ll have left it somewhere precarious it and it will have fallen onto the floor.

‘My teachers are going to have a really good look for it tonight,’ he tells me.

McMini is McMini. He is not one of the normals – CF this picture (left) – although he’s slightly better at pretending than I am. Also, he has time keeping skills like mine, as in negligible. This inconveniences him when he wants to watch his favourite TV programme, the Simpsons, which he loves, because he keeps losing track of time and missing the start. To combat this singular source of annoyance, he has set an alarm on his watch to go off at the time the Simpsons begins; six pm.

Cue 1950s Technicolor miraculous moment Oooo-aaa-aaah music.

Yes! I realise that if the watch is somewhere non-standard, which it will be because this is McMini, the caretaker or teachers may well have difficulty finding it. But should that happen, all they need to do is stand in the room where he lost it at around six o’clock, wait for it to start beeping and home in. It also goes off five minutes afterwards so even if they don’t quite manage to find it the first time, hang around for five minutes and they’ll get a second shot when it goes off again.

Following this blinding revelation comes another one – I know, two in one night! Steady on – but I realise that I’m about to go up to the school and actually be there at six pm. I reckon I can find McMini’s watch if I can persuade them to let me stand in the classroom for a minute or two. Excellent, the watch may have disappeared but I have a very real shot at finding it.

When I arrive at the school I discover there are two events going on and one of the ladies from the office is doing a meet and greet, pointing people in the right direction for each one. She steps forward the minute I appear and says,

‘Oh Mrs McGuire, about McMini’s watch, his teacher thinks it might be in his drawer. They all put their watches in their drawers before PE.’

‘Ah, I think McMini put his on again and took it off for art,’ I explain and then I tell her about the alarm that’s going to go beep at six and ask if I can go and stand in the classroom.

‘I can go and have a look for it if you like? If you don’t mind waiting here …’

‘Not at all,’ I say, ‘shall I carry on letting people in?’

‘If you could.’

So off she goes. I do what she’s been doing, press the button to let people through the airlock and tell them that the year two meeting is in bumblebee class and that year six parents are to go to the main hall.

Time ticks on. I say hello to various friends going into the hall for the meeting I’m supposed to be attending. Finally, when things are looking a bit worryingly quiet, the lady comes back.

‘You’re right,’ she says, ‘It wasn’t in his drawer but then I heard it beeping like you said, so I followed the noise and found it.’

‘Bonanza!’ I say, ‘Thank you.’

I take the watch and scuttle swiftly in the direction of the hall.

Obviously, I am last in, but to my complete amazement, the meeting hasn’t started yet. McMini’s class teacher rushes up to me to reassure me that all hands are to the pump in the search for the watch and I am delighted to be able to break the good news to her; that we’ve found it and I explain how.

‘That’s genius!’ she says, and appears to really mean it, bless her.

We exchange a few more brief pleasantries and I walk to the front and sit next to a friend.

All goes well until, a few minutes into the talk, there is an insistent beeping from somewhere. The speaker stops. As the beeping gets louder, and faster, people shift uncomfortably and rummage in their bags for their phones to check it isn’t them. That’s when I realise the noise is coming from my arm. The lovely lady who found McMini’s watch heard the alarm and used the sound to locate it, but it seems she didn’t get there in time to switch it off. That means the five minute snooze period is up and it’s going off a second time.

Luckily no-one really minded.

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