Tag Archives: Mary Fails at Modern Life

And finally …

Finally – in the ‘at last’ sense – all round this week.

First up, and briefly, I went to get my jab yesterday morning – or my jag if you’re Scottish – so I started quickly typing this before my arm went dead. In what was possibly a foolish move, McOther and I ordered a takeaway for yesterday evening from one of the town’s two Michelin starred restaurants. This is the French one that’s had a star for some years, but our other favourite restaurant, just round the corner from us, was awarded a Michelin star a couple of months ago, too, which is fab. Amazingly, there were no side effects post jab that detracted from my ability to enjoy an epic meal … not until afterwards anyway. As I sat watching telly with the boys I suddenly began to feel rather cold. I then proceeded to run a high temperature and methodically work my way through the side effects listed during the night. I even scored some of the rare ones – nausea, dizziness and stomach cramps.  Oh and a resting pulse of 110 bpm (instead of 67 ish). If that’s a few light side effects, I can’t imagine how grim Covid must feel if you get it properly. Needless to say, McOther had nothing more than a slight headache, because he is a spawny so-and-so.

The other, more significant ‘at last’ is the novel; Too Good To Be True. I had wondered if I’d be able to write a novel, ever again, and so it was fabulous when this one pretty much wrote itself in Lockdown One. I just have to write another one now. Er hem, yeh. Joanna Penn talks about starting energy and finishing energy in her podcasts. I’ve been in finishing mode for some months now, topping and tailing and generally sorting the book out. I’m looking forward to switching to ‘starting energy’ and beginning a new one, I think having the jab will help with that as ultimately it’s one source of stress removed. Priorities are to write Misfit 5 and get my finger out of my arse and do something meaningful with Space Dustmen. But the one I’m constantly drawn to is the one about how Betsy Coed’s guest house ended up becoming a brothel. It lets us in on what Trev, Gladys and Ada are really up to. The extent of their exploits is only hinted at in my published books because we always see them from the point of view of The Pan of Hamgee and he has no clue.

Finally, the penny dropped that the only way I can relate the clandestine activities that go on at the Parrot and Screwdriver is if I write a story about it in which The Pan doesn’t feature. Over the last couple of years, on and off, that’s what I’ve been doing. I am really enjoying it but I am aware that as marketable assets go, it isn’t really the project on which to concentrate. No. The one I really need to make a proper start on is Space Dustmen. That said, better make a start on Misfit 5. And there’s another K’Barthan Extra about Gladys and Ada which would do nicely as a lead in to the sprawling how-Betsy’s-Brothel-started epic that I’m writing now.

Most likely, it’ll be whichever bunch of characters manages to shout the loudest that wins. I’m looking forward to writing again. It’s always lovely, that feeling of looking out over the face of the waters of my imagination, where dark is separated from night but not much else, and turning it into some new and barking world. Yeh, rubs hands together. That’s going to be fun.

Launch update on Too Good To Be True … was it?

If K’Barth were a lava lamp. Weird and yet … cool? Er, yeh. Hopefully.

No, I think it went actually went quite well for someone with a very small fan base selling something with about as much instant appeal as a fart in a lift. Folks definitely have to live with the smell of K’Barth a little while before they begin to appreciate it … like … the scent of a rubbish dump, or perhaps, a path lab … um … like truffles. Or possibly Goojan spiced sausage.

First up, felt as if I’d got production down a bit more pat. I was slightly up against the deadline at the end there, what with Mum having a stroke, but it wasn’t too bad. Maybe I’m better at separating out my emotional and work life than I was, or at least, the work admin side – because a launch is admin, really. Creativity at times of emotional turmoil is still a bit of an ask. It’s possible I spent a bit more time sitting at my desk than was properly healthy. However, it all seemed to go reasonably smoothly. I haven’t tried using beta readers for a while and it had spectacular results. A novel that was close to four times the length of the previous book took a great deal less editing, which saved time and money so I’m chalking that one up as a win. Am I going to carry on using beta readers? You bet your arse I am! 🙂 If they’re all prepared to carry on reading my drivel. Thank you to any of those lovely beta readers reading. You are awesome.

Second, when it came to launching it … there’s a theory that you have to tell people about something three times for it to work. At the same time, I have no desire to spam people so I always have trouble with creating too much buzz around a book launch. You know how it is; sometimes a bit of buzz is good, other times it’s wasps. However, I have mentioned the book more often in the run up to the launch both here, on the blog and to my mailing list – I think I mentioned it twice in a row to them and three times to you lot. I may yet send out one more final reminder to the list though so they get two reminders about the the competition – because obviously, there’s a competition (more on that story … later). Mwahahahrgh. What was interesting about the three mentions thing was that there were sales each time, which suggests that there is something in the jog-the-memory a couple of times approach.

I’m still at the stage of clutching these to my breast and going, ‘Mine! All mine!’

That said, I didn’t really do much to launch the book as such. I’m bad a tying myself down to dates in advance. That creates pressure and pressure tends to do for creativity. No interviews, no blog tour, not even one of those things where you answer questions on Facebook. Other authors do all sorts of live stuff on line and they also set up a street team of super-fans to post about their book in all those groups where it would be spam if they posted it themselves. That’s something I want to do eventually, get people who like the books to post in the book groups they’re in, just to amplify the noise so to speak. Not sure about the tours, questions and stuff although I am wondering about rabbiting on, on video at some point. But that would just be things like this post, spoken. On the whole though, I think most of that is for writers with a bigger fan base than me.

The thing is, the standard practice for launches is that you build up a buzz, get loads of people enthused and then unleash hell in the hope that you will tip the algorithms in the stores to the point where they start recommending your book to new readers. But you need a list with about fifteen thousand people on it to do that because you need about three or four thousand people to buy the book in the first week. Because of the way my author eco-system, genre and budget work I have 2.5k people in my fan base (phnark) and that’s my mailing list so some may not be fans yet. On the up side, quite a few of them do appear to be genuinely interested. The size of my operation being what it is, the slayer tactic, for me, is always going to be about how many of the folks who sign up to my list actually open the emails, click on stuff and generally interact. Until I reach the point where something magic happens, more people join the newsletter group than leave of a month and it starts to grow in size it’s all about getting to know and engaging the folks who are on it as much as possible. I have got the open rates up from 13% to 30% so I’m getting there but these things take time. I just want to enjoy writing and bring anyone who wants to tag along on the journey with me!

Bearing all that in mind, I aim to try and make 50 sales over the course of the pre-order period and the first month.

Obviously, it’s a bit early to tell if I’ve done that yet. Total so far is – don’t laugh – 34. This is not as many as Escape From B-Movie Hell but I launched that one at 99c so I think quite a few folks took a punt on it because of the price. Also it was straight comedic sci-fi which made it a lot easier and you could make a new release more visible with the right keywords, alone, back in 2015. But with my size of operation, reducing the new book isn’t going to change anything – by catapulting it to the top of the best seller lists for example. And I’m leery of that sort of thing unless it’s going to achieve something meaningful. I’d rather discount it on my own store and give something to my regular readers that way.

Are there any differences? Yes. This time, I have sold way more books via my own web store, indeed, my web store was second biggest source of revenue after Amazon. That might be because I did discount it a bit there, but it’s lovely that folks are beginning to buy direct from as a way of supporting my efforts.

A side note, the third place for revenue was Kobo – God bless you Kobo! There was also a first in that I sold one on Barnes & Noble which was my first sale there after going direct.

Another striking difference, people haven’t just bought this book, there’s been a little blip sales for all the others in the Misfit series at the same time. People have bought K’Barthan Series books too, the box set or the first one. I guess that might have been happening over the other launches a bit but it looks as if there are more of those companion buys at this stage. Unless it’s just more noticeable now there are three other books in the series as opposed to just one or two.

The web store sales might make for a lower ranking on the retailers and less visibility with them, but unless the rank is high enough to make a serious difference – top ten at the least – it’s all just vanity metrics anyway. The lovely thing this says to me is that I am gradually managing to engage with all the folks who have signed up to receive my emails. And that’s bloody marvellous.

There are unique aspects of operating on my shoestring level which mean I kind of do the audience thing backwards.

OK, so, what normal authors do is this: they make a first in series book free on all the retailers or 99c. They advertise their free/cheap books, folks see the ads, download the books and the books start to rise in the store rankings and more people see them and download them. Some of the readers enjoy the books so much they sign up to the mailing list – usually via a link in the back.

Folks who join the mailing list like this are called organic sign ups. They’re folks who love your books because they’ve read one and decided they want to know about everything you do. They are golden.  The point is, it’s a combination of adverts and the stores that are bringing the people to the books and the books that are bringing the readers into the mailing group.  This is a brilliant strategy but works especially well if your books are hot property, or even lukewarm property, or appeal widely to Americans but I’m not quite there yet. In addition, people can just stumble on the free/cheap books on the stores and download them. Sometimes the store may promote the free book if it’s something people want, or sits well within an easily identifiable genre, mine are quite niche so that doesn’t happen. Also, the stores are gradually learning that they can skew the results. In Amazon’s case KU books are weighted in the ranking so they are more discoverable. Then authors do Amazon ads, so Amazon pays a 70% royalty and gets half of it back as advertising revenue. As far as I am aware, the only store where this isn’t particularly skewed in favour of exclusives, advertisers, trad or whatever is Google, which still works on SEO principles I’m told, so you can just put a free book on with the right keywords and people will find it.

This Google thing is something I’m testing. I have two free books on there now and hopefully, I’ve set that up so that any people reading the free books and going on to the others will be reasonably easy to spot.

Anyway. Most of these strategies involve throwing a stack of cash at promos and ads which put your book in a place where it’s visible. As a plankton level author, I haven’t enough cash to make that sort of difference so I get more bang for my buck by advertising the mailing list, which is quite odd but is how it seems to be working out. I would advertise the perma free books but they’re shorter stories so most promo sites won’t take them (note to self, write more novels). However, sign up to get a free book, read it and depending on the results, decide to stay or go, I have this weird thing where my mailing list is stuck at 2,500 and has been for five years. Most of those people are different from the ones who were on there five years ago, but not all. There are about 600 who are really enthusiastic. The way I see it, if I can get to the point where I have 2,500 people who are as enthusiastic as that 600 the compact and bijou size of the list will be less of an issue.

Why do I need a newsletter? Because, like this blog, it’s good to be able to let people know when I have a book out, share stuff I’m working on, and generally not be operating in a vacuum. I like to feel I’m doing this with people rather than doing it alone.

Which reminds me … the competition …

______________________

It’s competition time! Oh yes it is.

Bling your morning cuppa or amaze your colleagues with this K’Barthan Hamgeean Misfit Mug!

If you do end up reading and enjoying Too Good To Be True, you can use your incredible knowledge of the plot to enter a prize draw for this smashing K’Barthan mug worth a small fortune.

Oh alright then, it’s worth £15 which would be very small as fortunes go, although it was probably a decent amount of cash back in the 1600s. Er hem, yeh. Moving on.

The rules are simple. All you have to do is read the book and answer a question about the story. If your answer is correct – don’t worry, if you’ve read the book it’ll be easy – you will be entered into the draw … unless it’s illegal to enter raffles in your country, in which case, please don’t enter.

The draw will be open until the end of March. Panic not if you’ve blown your book budget already this month, Too Good To Be True should be available in many libraries across the UK, US and Oceana. You might have to ask your librarian for it though.

Click here to enter.

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Thinness, lacklustreness and bling …

Thinness.

Well, here I am. I told you I was a nutter. Something clicked on Tuesday. I hit the afternoon

Mum’s semi domesticated pheasant. He’s a big boy.

and didn’t feel so bad. By Wednesday morning, with five hours on the motorway network ahead of me, you’d have thought I’d be feeling extremely mortal but no, I felt a lot better by then. I felt even more chipper when pulling up the first part of the drive I discovered a pheasant in my path. I dug some more holes in Mum’s garden in the rain and got rather more soggy than I’d realised. I didn’t find much just a very pretty little butterfly and a thimble for someone with very tiny thing long fingers, like maybe Groot? Or a child, but it would go over the top joint it was that long and weird. Brass by the looks of things and probably Victorian but late on. It would have had a fruit tree standing on top of it for most of the twentieth century though so I’m guessing it was from the days when the house was still a cart shed.

Anyway, it was all normal and I’m delighted and grateful that I’m no longer feeling the thinness of the barrier between this world and the next. And relieved to still be here. McMini helped hugely. I explained it to him and we made endless jokes about my impending doom. It was all a lot easier after that. Onwards and upwards via a bit of a dip.

Lacklustreness

Here’s the butterfly I found at Mum’s

Not sure what was going on on Thursday but I had a terrible attack of the meh. I felt tired, sad, and because the stress has ramped up over Mum I’ve started putting the weight back again. Sigh. It all felt a bit lacklustre. I had a think and I suspect the basic gist of the problem is this … During the first half of lockdown, I was going up to town to run small errands or just have a walk most days and, it being Bury, I usually ran into someone I knew so I didn’t have the feeling of being cut off which I might have had. Then, I had to islolate before the knee op and I didn’t really get out and about much again before the more catching versions of Covid started popping up. No-one appeared not to give a shit in public spaces, Bury wasn’t as bad as some places but it still wasn’t great. Personal space was at a premium and I just felt a bit vulnerable. I really do NOT want to go getting covid. So I started going out less.

On top of that, I was trying to get the book done and Mum wasn’t handling this one well and needed me to phone more, which took time, and I had to make sure I remembered, which was a task in itself. We’ve upped her care time a little now and of course there’s been the stroke. The constant flutter of nerves in the pit of the stomach is back. I’m back to jumping every time the phone rings in case it’s ‘the call’. I’ve put on four pounds in three days – that’s just under two kilos in new money. Looks like it’s back to piling on the weight now. Never mind, at least I know it’s possible to lose it if the stress levels drop again.

Friday, it was time for my fortnightly zoom call with a bunch of lovely local writer friends. I decided that I needed to smack the meh on the head beforehand and thought I might have worked out how. Popping out to get some Mother’s Day presents on Tuesday so Mum and I could have NOT Mothering Sunday on Wednesday, I met a friend from McMini’s old school and had a lovely chat to her. I realised that single piece of interaction had significantly reduced the meh. Therefore, it seemed logical that popping into town for some bits and bobs, would, most likely, lead to some human interaction and whack the bleargh. It seemed to be a theory that was worth testing anyway.

One of the joys of living in Bury is that I seem to know a lot of people. I’m not sure how this has happened but it is rather lovely because it means that if I go out, I often end up meeting someone I know on the street and we’ll have a chat. In these strange times this is a lot more social interaction than many people get.

Thus it was that I put my cunning plan into action and headed out to buy some cat food, grab some shampoo and stuff and pop into church to have a gossip with the ladies ‘invigilating’. You know, sitting there and then cleaning everything after any visitors have gone. I gave them something to do by putting my potentially covid-infested bottom on a chair and it was just lovely to have a chat to someone again. Following on from that was two hours chatting to the Bury Writers on zoom and then a zoom call to wish my Aunt a happy birthday with all my cousins.

Source of meh identified? Check. Cure, go out and bump into more people.

Interestingly, I read an article someone shared on Facebook recently called, ‘Why the pandemic is doing our heads in.’ If you’re interested in having a look at it you can find it here …  The basic gist was that the human brain is not designed to cope well with constant prolonged stress. Short bursts of the hard stuff, fine and dandy, but endless grey, grinding, worry-filled days? Nah. Not really. What amazed me was some of the things they listed as side effects. These included short term memory loss and cognitive impairment.

I may already have mentioned this (sic) but these articles about the impacts of lockdown are incredibly comforting because they explain exactly what has been happening to me for the last twelve years. I went seamlessly from baby brain to stress brain. I’ve had a hard time remembering my own name without cue cards since about 2008. Now, I understand why. I have years of it to go, but at least there is a logical explanation for it and Mum’s dementia has been so much kinder to her so far, so maybe the levels will be lower than they were for Dad. Who knows?

There we are, anyway, meh-buster now sorted.

Sneaky covid vaccination attempt …

Closest I get to a science picture; weird wax formations in my lava lamp

McOther, being sixty, was called in for his Covid vaccination recently. He booked one of the centres and was then contacted by our local GP surgery who could do it earlier. I mentioned this to a couple of people who said that it’s possible to get an early covid vaccination sometimes if you go along with someone who is eligible. The sources were good, and I know it does happen with the flu jab, so I went along with McOther when he went to get his shot this morning. Seeing the queue, I was pretty sure they’d have matched people to slots and orders of vaccine very carefully, but I queued with him anyway.

After an hour, we got inside and I discovered that, while spousal sneak-in may be possible at the centres, it wasn’t at the surgery. I didn’t go into the consulting room with him but there were permission forms to be filled in and all sorts of stuff first so I doubted they’d just go, ‘oh do you want one while you’re here?’ the way they do with flu jabs sometimes. That said, I double-checked and was glad to see that despite giving me a ‘no’ in answer, they clearly didn’t think I’d been mad to turn up and ask, but sadly they had ordered the amount of vaccine for the amount of people and there wasn’t any spare.

If you hear that rumour, then, take it with a pinch of salt. It’s definitely not the case in Suffolk. But it might work somewhere else or possibly with the vaccination centres. It was an NHS worker I heard it from so who knows, maybe I was just unlucky. I guess it might work on slow days at the centres, I’d heard rumours of the equivalent of stand-by where you can turn up at the centres and wait and if they have a spare slot or someone doesn’t turn up you’ll get a shot. Something to try in the week, possibly. Although presumably I’ll get the call in a couple of months anyway.

Bling …

As far as I can work it out, I have now done everything required to launch my book, which is a first. OK so there’s not been much advertising but I have got the paperback done and all the ebook versions locked and loaded and Gareth will start the audio after the book he’s doing now so it should be done mid April … fingers and toes crossed.

Too Good To Be True? It does feel like it …

It arrived in the middle of a zoom call with the Bury writers so it was great to be able to show it to them. It does feel a bit too good to be true. I’m bound to have fucked something up but so far, nothing obvious. I’ve even remembered to do one for the British Library although I haven’t ordered it yet … which reminds me I’d better do that in a minute.

You know how these things are, you’re never sure how they’ll turn out. I was stoked because the docket said not to expect them until Monday. I only ordered a few, and one copy of all the newly re-vamped books with the logo and everything attached. I’m really glad I put the original K’Barthan Series into matt covers, they look much smarter. Anyway for your delectation, somewhere near this bit what you are reading now you will see a picture of the Too Good To Be True paperbacks. Though I say it myself, they are lush and this time, I just went for it and did the font a decent size. As a result it even looks decent inside too. And it’s the first full length novel I’ve written from scratch since 2014 (Escape From B-Movie Hell was a rewrite of one I’d written in 2007). So it’s kind of a landmark.

_________________________

Dispel the meh with a funny book! This funny book.

Too Good To Be True  is out on 18th March in ebook format and 22nd March in paperback. This one is sort of a stand-alone. Officially it is, although I realised a moment ago that I do not, at any point, mention that Grongles are green. Not once in the entire book. Ah.

On the other hand, amazingly, I have, finally got my shit together and it is live for pre-order everywhere – if buying from retailers is your thing. Or you can still pre-order it from my website or my web shop for a whole £1 less than it is everywhere else! Mmm. By Grabthar’s Hammer! What a savings!

Anyhoo, here’s the gen …

Too Good To Be True

When the trouble comes knocking, meet the only man dumb enough to answer the door!

When The Pan of Hamgee encounters some mudlarkers trying to land a box on the banks of the River Dang he is happy to help. Having accepted a share of the contents as a reward he cannot believe his luck. It contains one of the most expensive delicacies available in K’Barth, Goojan spiced sausage. If he can sell it, the sausage might spell the end of his troubles. On the other hand, knowing his luck, it could bring a whole load more.

Suggested UK cinema rating for this one PG (parental guidance) there’s a slightly saucy bit and a bit of light violence. Even so, this is a humorous science fiction fantasy story set in a parallel reality.

To find out more, and for links to pre-order it if that’s your thing, go here: https://www.hamgee.co.uk/infotgtbt.html

 

 

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So much cobblers …

Weeks and weeks of this … ugh.

This week has been quite odd. I’ve been feeling a little out of sorts emotionally. I think that’s partly down to the weather. We’ve had a peppering of cold sunny days, one warm one and the rest of the time it’s been a high of five degrees but the wind chill will make it feel like minus fourteen. OK not minus fourteen; according to the ‘real feel’ thing on my phone it’s usually minus one or zero but it’s all pissy and grim.

Alexa has been giving us a permanent flood warning since about mid December and it is either pissing it down, snowing or horrible yellow/grey smeary skies, pregnant with impending snow, like the one in this picture, taken just now.

Every single permutation of weather we are given involves an icy north or north east wind and being fucking freezing. Being cold is getting fucking old. I am wearing a thick Norwegian style jumper, a polo shirt, silk thermals, a vest and a green v-neck Wallace-style tank top. I’m still cold.

God bless the electric blanket and all who sail on her. That’s all I can say, although it is annoying, now that we don’t have an en-suite anymore, to have to go up to the the next floor for a wee in the night. In theory we do have an en-suite but the loo broke and a plumber came and looked at it about three weeks off, went away to get a part and … Schlepping up to McMini’s loo tends to wake me up in a way that staggering a few steps to the en-suite doesn’t. On the other hand, at least the knee is past the crutches stage now. Yeh, I know. Listen to me, whinging cow! First world problems.

The other aspect of emotional out of sorts-ness is is down to difficulties with what Mum and I refer to as ‘the tentacles’ which has left me with a rather unsettling feeling that I’ll be dead by next Tuesday. I know. A bit stark isn’t it?

On the other hand, it does give me an excuse for a ‘where do you get this shit?’ style post. This is going to sound weird but I’m going to explain to you the tiny grain of … thing … upon which I constructed the giant sandcastle of bollocks that is Natterjack’s box of frogs in the K’Barthan Series. Ready? Right then, off we go.

As well as the Discworld novels, Terry Pratchett wrote three other books which are more straight sci-fi. One of them, I think it was called Strata, is about this race of people who have what they call ‘future echoes’. They’re not exactly precognitive, they just get deja-vu a lot and … it’s a long time since I read the book but I think they sometimes know the future in small ways. Say X and you will have a row with Thingwot, say Y and you won’t kind of stuff.

The thing is, from time to time, I do have a vague fuzzy outline of the future in exactly the same way. Yep. I get future echoes myself – as does my mother and other family members. There. I’ve said it. Except we call the whole ‘sensitivity’ thing, our ‘tentacles’. The biggest problem I have with future echoes is that I tend to try and read too much into them. Which leads to a certain amount of unnecessary worry. There are a LOT of future echoes in my life right now. Which is a little disconcerting and part of the reason I thought I’d talk about them now.

As a nipper, right through to the age of about 16 I used to have precognitive dreams. Lots of them. It was all very simple. I’d have a dream that felt different to proper dreams and was about normal life. While I was dreaming, I’d also be able to observe what was happening and think about it with non-dream, spectator cogency. I called them deja-vu dreams because they used to come true.

There were three types:  the first was about a choice, talking to someone I could say x or y and two different outcomes would occur. Usually it was about falling out with someone or … not falling out with them. Second, there was a, if-you-do-this-it-means-you-have-irrevocably-changed-the-course-of-time-and-x-y-or-z-thing-will/will-not-happen. The third type would be just a snippet of me wandering about during a normal day. Usually the bit that was predictive was simply because I was wondering about during a normal day in six months’ time and the background knowledge in my head contained events that hadn’t happened yet. Looking at that background knowledge during the dream I’d be having conscious thoughts along the line of, ‘Oh! Oojah is going to buy a red bicycle!’ or whatever and I would remember these thoughts, as well as the dream.

On the whole, despite having remembered thoughts about them as I dreamt them, it was only as the events I’d dreamt in advance began to unfold that I’d remember anything. Hence my calling it ‘deja-vu’. That meant that the I-know-X-will-happen-because-it’s-part-of-my-background-knowledge-during-the-dream, dreams were pretty rubbish and the, if-this-happens-x-y-or-z-thing-is-irrevocably-set-in-stone dreams were absolutely fucking pointless and about as much use as a chocolate teapot. That said, the knowing-what-to-say-(or-not-to-say)-to-Thingwot-to-avoid-a-row type of dreams were actually quite handy to a hot-headed child with a tendency to state things rather baldly.

There’s a long conversation between Sir Robin Get and The Pan of Hamgee in Few Are Chosen (it’s Chapter 35 if you’re interested) when Sir Robin explains how small and seemingly inconsequential decisions can change the course of events. And also how Arnold, The Prophet, had to predict the future. All that stuff about walking either side of a lamp post and changing the course of time? That’s a slightly inflated version of the premise behind the knowing-what-to-say-(or-not-to-say)-to-Thingwot-to-avoid-a-row type of precognitive dreams. Obviously in real life these decisions don’t necessarily alter anything as drastically as Sir Robin says! Or at least, not as far as I’m aware.

As a small child I was intrigued but also quite sceptical and I tried to pursue an exhaustive scientific testing programme, in so far as you can be scientific about something as intangible and bizarre as this. I tried to remember scenes from my dreams and generally spent a lot of time attempting to note and remember markers over the course of each dream to see how ‘true’ they came, how long a period of time the whole deja vu thing lasted for and if there was anything constructive or helpful I could do with my slightly rubbish gift.

If I could remember the dreams far enough in advance then would I be able to help people? The way it was, my gift of … whatever – precog lite? – wasn’t really much good for anything, except, perhaps, avoiding the occasional argument. But imagine if I remembered, beforehand, that I was going to get bollocked for not doing my homework! I might remember to do it as a result of a dream and avoid a bollocking. That would be epic. And useful. If I could only remember the bloody dreams for long enough after I woke up to write them down. But how?

In the 1980s I had no idea where someone with this sort of affliction would go for advice, training or whatever, outside the crushed velvet and melodrama brigade. Remember, Hogwarts was not a thing at this point, indeed, I’m not sure JK Rowling was even born and even if she was, I doubt she was any older than I was. I hadn’t read Strata at that point either, so it wouldn’t have occurred to me to write to Terry Pratchett, who had described the exact same thing, presumably from his own experience or that of a loved one, and called it future echoes. Anyway, email for the normals was another fifteen years away so the gatekeepers would have chalked me up as a nutter and it’d never have reached him.

One day, watching a film on BBC2 in the 6 o’clock spot while the normals were watching the news on BBC1 or ITV I discovered that I could remember about twenty minutes of the scene I was watching word-for-word. This one was vivid enough for me to be able to say the lines before each of the characters. It wasn’t a film I had consciously seen although I didn’t rule out having seen it and forgotten (it would have been the first and last time but still not ruling it out). But that was a hell of a lot to remember from a very ordinary scene. It wasn’t like I’d remembered the script from any of the exciting bits. Something was definitely going on. I decided I would tell Mum. So I had a chat to her.

‘Mum. Every now and again I have these dreams that aren’t like other dreams and I think they’re coming true.’

‘Do they scare you?’

‘No.’

‘Good. Well, I wouldn’t worry darling, I had those, too. They wear off when you get older.’

Was I weird? Possibly, but at the same time, if Mum had those dreams then, only a little. Was I unique? Not particularly. Was I relieved? Hell yeh! Gotta love Mum.

Things came to a head when I was sixteen. I dreamt my brother was injured and I was holding a bowl of blood. He was in bed, and I didn’t know if he was going to live or die. This one was different. I knew that whatever had smashed my brother’s face in, and caused him to bleed into the bowl I was holding in that dream, had happened in a game of football. I also knew that said game of football was about three weeks away. I’d never had any useful information like ‘when’ in a deja-vu dream before. I also knew, instinctively, that I would remember this one after I woke up. At this point a voice in the dream explained that I could choose to refuse this gift. If I wanted to accept then, when I woke up, I could write the dream down. If I did that, I would remember it and retain the gift. If I decided not to write it down, it would be taken as refusal.

I woke up, turned on the light and had a quick cry, as any rational human being would when confronted with this sort of nuttery. I also got out my diary and a pen just in case. Now to think practically about this. What did I know? That the injury was football related and would happen in three weeks. Presumably a Tuesday or a Saturday then.

OK that was the knowledge. What could I do about it? Well, I could warn my brother. But what would that do? Scare him? Yes. And would I be able to stop my brother from playing in the school team? No. Should I? No. And if I did, could I prove that my intervention had saved him from anything bad? Unlikely. And then we came to what I didn’t know. What would I be saving him from? If it was just a black eye and a broken nose he wouldn’t care, it isn’t pleasant but it happens if you’re the goalie. All I really knew was that he was going to get a kicking. How serious was it? I didn’t know.

Plus there were all sorts of social sides to it, ‘I can’t play because my sister has had a premonition,’ maketh not for a safe spot as the first eleven goalie. On the other hand, what it does do is to turn Bruv into a laughing stock. The only thing accepting the gift would do was equip me to embarrass my brother and make myself look like an absolute lunatic.

Also, I’d had enough deja-vu dreams by this time to know that they were usually a bit crap. This was about the best it got. Usually, there was enough information to get me rattled but nothing that would be any help avoiding whatever disaster appeared to be looming. If you dream you’re reading in the newspaper about a friend’s death, in an air crash, months in advance but have no flight number, airline, country, date or time it’s fuck all use really. Yeh. Thank you but no, I decided, dried my eyes, put the diary and pen away and went back to sleep.

Three weeks later my brother got kicked in the face playing football exactly as I had dreamt. He had a broken nose and a black eye and had swallowed a lot of blood which he threw up into a bowl, which my mother handed to me. At which point I thought, Hmm, this seems familiar … hang on a second! That was the bowl of bright red liquid I’d thought was blood in my dream and, as I stood there holding it, I remembered everything.

Naturally, I spent a night worried that the dream meant more. That things would go wrong and my brother would die. I also fessed up to Mum about the dream and refusing the ‘gift’ because precognition seemed a pointless source of misery unless it contained the kind of useful intel I could do stuff with. She proceeded to share some of her experiences with both precog and creepy dreams and I suspect that made us both feel better. Most importantly, she reassured me that the dream was just that. A dream. It foreshadowed my brother getting injured but nothing more. It didn’t mean anything. As Dad later said, ‘you have to be very careful with these things because it’s so hard to see what is something else and what is your imagination.’ It’s true. It is what it is. The way to react to is is, ‘oh, I think I might have had a dream about that, moving on …’ It’s always unwise to speculate or seek meaning.

Refusing the gift hasn’t really made much difference. I do still get deja-vu but less often. I had one about my then completely bald baby boy having tumbling blonde curls which, when his hair finally appeared, he did. But usually when it happens it isn’t quite the same. I don’t immediately remember that I’ve dreamt it or recall what’s going to happen next with the same vividness as before. I do know what people are going to say but the whole choices aspect has gone. Which was the only useful bit, to be honest. The only one that still works, really, is the pointless if-this-happens-x-y-or-z-thing-is-irrevocably-set-in-stone dreams, except it’s no longer x, y or z thing it’s just SOMETHING which is even more fucking useless than the original.

Other times if something major is about to happen, I wake up, aware that I’ve been having deja-vu dreams. I get that sort of heavy, prescient feeling you get before a thunderstorm when your head feels all buzzy. Or it’s as if you have tentacles and someone’s standing on the end of one. Hence Mum and I call the whole thing ‘tentacles’. The events can be good or bad, but unfortunately, deaths tend to make for wobbly tentacles, as a result of which any kind of tentacle-based disturbance in the force makes me very nervous, no matter how much the sensible rational part of my brain is pointing the finger and laughing at the superstitious stupidity of the other bits.

In these instances I always assume someone is going to die, and while, occasionally, they do (and it’s never the person who looks most likely) I find that more often it’s just a precursor to big changes. As if they are like thunder in the distance and I can hear them coming. Precog dreams and recognition of them is rare for me these days but I am having them now and after a particularly strong if-you’re-doing-this-you’re-fucked one while I was putting the washing out yesterday they are making me very jittery.

Looking at what’s going on in the world and the pandemic, and also where I am, personally, it’s clear that a lot of changes will be happening over the next few months and years. That’s not exactly a hard thing to spot. Plus, I’m about to release my first full length novel since 2015, and  that seems to be, like its title, too good to be true.

Indeed, I’m now at the point with Too Good To Be True where the epub is formatted and uploaded everywhere and I am starting on the paperback. It was touch-and-go whether I’d get them all done in time for the pre-release deadlines but it’s happened! The first one is on Monday.

For all the hard bits in life, I am, basically, happy. And I think there are times when believing my future is … short … is a way of manifesting a feeling of not deserving to be happy, or loved or all the things which I actually am. This is also too good to be true. It can’t last. Something’s going to fuck it up. I know! I’m going to die, that’s what it is! Yeh. I’m going to peg-it because that would be fucking inconvenient right now. Even though I am much less of an idiot than this post makes me look, and I can see and appreciate the factors I’ve just outlined, I am still completely convinced, as I write this, that I, or someone or other of my loved ones, will be dead by the end of next Tuesday.

A bit grim but, on the other hand, it will make for a joyous evening on Wednesday if we are all still here and nothing’s happened.

Incidentally, I would like to think I approach the whole precognitive thing this with what I’d call open-minded scepticism. I suspect it’s probably rubbish, but if there is something in it, something that can be explained by science like … I dunno, folds in time or similar, I wouldn’t be surprised. When you hop in the car and McMini says, ‘we are going to see the street sweeper today’ and he tells you exactly which road and describes the vehicle. When it then appears, on cue, exactly where he said for the first and only time in two years of commuting along the same route, three times weekly. When he tells you he knew it was going to happen because he dreamt it, it’s difficult not to be intrigued. We’ve had the tentacles conversation too and I played it exactly the same way my Mum did. I also know her father, my grandfather, had them too. Four generations then.

Many years ago, when I was still writing Few Are Chosen, I went to my writers’ group and read out the thinly veiled description of my tentacles, pitched as a conversation The Pan and Sir Robin Get have about poor old Arnold trying to get his prophecies right. One of the ladies cheerfully piped up, ‘Oh my son is a theoretical physicist and he’s been working on this, do you know anything about …’ I think she called it, ‘black physics?’ or possibly dark physics? I replied that I didn’t and that I’d just made this up. But apparently no. It is a thing – or at least a grain of it is, naturally I have taken that grain of vague theoretical truth and used it basis upon which to concoct a gargantuan sandcastle of bollocks. Because I’m a writer and that’s what I do.

Although having said that, maybe I’m not so nuts after all. This is a health advice site. I was intrigued precognitive dreams were even mentioned there. https://www.healthline.com/health/precognitive-dreams

One day, if I can stump up the courage, I’ll tell you my theories about telepathy and esp. As it is I think that’s enough weirdness for one day.

Briefly … Mum was even more chirpy this week. We went out into the garden and she sat on her rollator and chatted to me while I dug holes in her lawn. I managed to unearth a fabulous button; Royal Dragoons from between 1797 and 1820. Was it dropped by a soldier? Or did it fall off an ancient trench coat at the turn of the 20th century? One which had belonged to the farmer’s Grandpa in the Napoleonic wars, perhaps? Then again, I think they were a cavalry regiment, therefore posh so possibly not, unless he was there to look after the horses. Anyway, I was chuffed. Here it is.

_________________________

If you’re interested, and you feel like it …

Too Good To Be True is out on 18th March, fingers crossed. Amazingly, I have, finally got my shit together and it is live for pre-order everywhere – if buying from retailers is your thing. Or you can pre-order it from my website or my web shop for a whole £1 less than it is everywhere else! Mmm. By Grabthar’s Hammer! What a savings!

Anyhoo, here’s the gen …

Too Good To Be True

When the finger of fate points … hide!

When The Pan of Hamgee encounters some mudlarkers trying to land a box on the banks of the River Dang he is happy to help. Having accepted a share of the contents as a reward he cannot believe his luck. It contains one of the most expensive delicacies available in K’Barth, Goojan spiced sausage. If he can sell it, the sausage might spell the end of his troubles. On the other hand, knowing his luck, it could bring a whole load more.

Suggested UK cinema rating for this one PG (parental guidance) there’s a slightly saucy bit and a bit of light violence.

Even so, this is a humorous science fiction fantasy story set in a parallel reality.

To find out more, and for links to pre-order it if that’s your thing, go here: https://www.hamgee.co.uk/infotgtbt.html

 

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Filed under General Wittering

That was … a hell of a week.

Last week, I’d made a list of stuff to blog about. I had a particularly productive few days because my brother was down at Mum’s so I didn’t need to ring her every day. I love chatting to Mum so it’s no bother but recently, it’s taken her longer to get up in the morning so instead of being able to phone her at half nine or ten and catch her just after she’s finished breakfast, I’ve discovered that if I ring her as late as half ten, there are mornings where she’s still been in her bedroom getting dressed.

Clearly, I don’t want her to be sitting on the bed in the nuddy with one sock on chatting to me for half an hour. She’ll get cold. The thing is though, I want to ring at the times when she’s alone. She likes some time alone but she also likes a chat during her alone time if someone rings … so I do. As phoning at eleven meant the carer was often there already, I started ringing in the afternoon, after the carer has gone, which is hideous for me because it’s slap bang in the middle of the biggest chunk of time I get to write. As a result, not having to make that call meant I got quite a lot done!

Reading on down my list of stuff to mention, the second entry says, ‘blind in office falling down onto desk and knocking over pint of water. Subsequent (somewhat miraculous) survival of electrical equipment. That was rather a narrow squeak but with distance between the event and me, it’s not one I wish to relive. Suffice it to say all was well and the blind is back up again.

Then there was the joy of bicycling. No really. I am working on making my knee bend as much as possible and trying to get it as straight as possible. While the scar tissue is still healing doing this hurts like a bastard but unless I push it – for push read hurt – it will heal with less movement. The trick is to push it enough to keep the range of movement improving without doing so much that you really hurt it and have to rest up for a day or two – which isn’t ideal because it allows progress to drift back a bit. I fell off the wagon with the physio over christmas so in this last few weeks before I am left with whatever I end up with, I am keen to make as much headway as I can. To that end, I’ve reverted to doing physio but instead of three sessions of ten reps I’m doing one bigger session of twenty first thing and then a bit more later if it seems to be stiffening up.

What about the cycling? Well I have a very nice bike. I saved up for it for about six months, popping £10 or £20 in at the bike shop every now and again until I had enough to buy something decent. The result was a fluorescent-orange, hard-tail Rock Hopper. It’s a joy to ride and it being a mountain bike my knees are about by my ears somewhere on the up pedal. I reckoned this would be a good way of bending my new knee while it was supported but at the same time, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to bend it enough to actually pedal yet. Turns out I can’t quite … except that, if I just push on through, I can. So I’ve started cycling for about 20 minutes each day because it means I do loads of reps bending it a bit further than it really wants to go and after the first hundred yards or so it’s pain free. Woot. The rides are short – twenty minutes to half an hour – and not physically demanding, I’m going easy on it, so it’s gear down to the granny ring to go up the hills, but it feels wonderful to be drifting along on a bike again. I haven’t used it for a year.

Then there was the joy of getting my iPad back. The keyboard/case may be a bit sub-par protection wise – then again, I guess most things are a bit sub-par when it comes to protecting fragile electrical equipment from the somewhat rough and ready usage to which I subject it – but I’m gradually getting it sorted. I can back it up to the cloud so when the replacement – or scrubbed original, it was a replacement this time though – arrives I can just put in my apple ID and it’ll install everything that was there originally – even the settings. I’m always impressed by this, although it never backs up the file that saves all my passwords which is really annoying as it means I have to methodically visit all the sites and apps I use while I have said passwords to hand so I can input them and tell it to remember them again. It’s very annoying to get caught short at Mum’s unable to get into my blog etc.

On the book side of things, my latest arrived back from the editor and she asked me to give her a slot it would be done by so she could schedule the re-read – she’s well busy. I had to give that some thought so I hung fire on emailing her back.

Also, having got my whizzy new logo and revised book covers, I started uploading them all to Ingram. This went fine until I realised that there’d been a mix up and the designer had put them on the wrong templates. I re-uploaded them. As a member of the Alliance for Independent Authors I have a code to do this for free which is one of the reasons I migrated from Lightning Source (wholly owned subsidiary of Ingram who do NOT honour the code) to Ingram, who do. I input said code, the £50 upload fee reset to £0 and on I went.

Except I didn’t. The following day discovered that I’d been invoiced £150 for this session and they’d taken the cash from my credit card. I appealed, they agreed they’d refund but then came back to me saying they wouldn’t because the code expired on 31st December. Interestingly, it worked just fine for previous sessions earlier in the week and it appeared to work for this last one. I’m unsure as to whether they are going to honour the new code but I’ve looked it up and sent it to them anyway. I do wish their system was less glitchy. With any other discount system I have encountered anywhere else in the entire world, an expired discount code wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t even appear to work. The system would just spit it out and make me stump up the cash or input a different code that worked. Ingram? Oh no. Make it look like everything’s tickety-boo the customer’s end, lull them into a false sense of security and then take £150 off their credit card. £150 which would have been £25 if it had spat out the code the way any normal, configured-by-humans system should. Because I would have gone straight to the Alliance website to check for a new code and if I couldn’t find one, I’d never have spent more than £25, £50 max because I do not have £150 to spaff up the wall in one go on that! Seriously, though, why the fuck, Ingram? Why?

The Ingram interface is horrifically bug-infested. It might be slightly easier to take if the number of areas functioning without glitches was greater than the number of borked parts. Unfortunately, smooth functionality appears to have been very low on the list when it was constructed, either that or they launched it before it was even half built. When something runs smoothly and does what it should it’s certainly the exception rather than the rule. I haven’t dared try it again in case they don’t refund me the original £150 on the grounds that I put in an old code – because the ceiling is £200 and since I can only go another £50, that will have to be ring-fenced to pay for uploading the cover and innards of Too Good To Be True, should anything go wrong and the code be non-functioning. I appreciate that I get the money back but it has to be in there to go out and it won’t be if I’m not careful.

Anyway, that was the stuff I was going to blog about last week, except in a slightly longer-winded and funnier manner. But then Friday happened.

Yeh.

Friday.

It started well enough, but then I got a call from my brother who’d been down in Sussex with Mum. He was leaving that morning but at breakfast she’d keeled over onto my sis in law, who happened to be standing beside her, and now appeared to be paralysed down her right side.

Oh.

Could she speak? I asked him. Yes but it was slurred and a bit jumbled.

Had he done the stroke test things? Yes, Bruv and Sis in-law had.

Hmm. I mentioned that it sounded like a stroke and Bruv and his wife agreed that yes, they thought it was … or a TIA.

Did I need to come down? I asked.

He thought no because his in-laws are both doctors so he’d rung them up. They thought it sounded like a severe TIA at this stage, rather than a full-on stroke. They had called Mum’s doctor who agreed because, as he had delicately put it, she had remained continent and she hadn’t had a grand mal seizure which is, apparently, a frequent occurance when you have a stroke. Also, with a TIA you recover faster. On the other hand, with a mini bleed like a TIA you don’t normally end up with one leg paralysed. Her doctor felt a trip to hospital to A&E to see what was going on would be a good idea and that Bruv should call an ambulance.

The problem is, Mum’s local hospital is riddled with covid so if they took her in for observation she would have to isolate in there for two weeks before she was allowed out again. Bruv decided no and stayed on.

But at the same time, having rallied just afterwards, Mum’s condition seemed to be worsening as the day wore on. At three thirty Bruv rang me and said she was worse, that he’d called the doctor again, and that the doctor had stressed, again, that she should go into hospital. Bruv ascertained that while they’d give her a brain scan, they wouldn’t be doing any clot busting or similar – she’s very frail and it would probably do for her. So while nipping down to A&E and having a brain scan was one thing, nipping down, having a brain scan and being kept in was another.

The thing is. Mum is DNR, which stands for Do Not Rescusciate. If she ever has a stroke, her wish is to die at home without any intervention. I knew that she wouldn’t want to go anywhere near a hospital and relayed this to Bruv. Bruv and Sis in-law were aware of it and totally agreed with my reading of her wishes. I told Bruv where the paperwork was (Lasting Power of Attorney over Mum’s health) and explained that if she couldn’t speak he’d have to wave it at them and speak for her. No hospital. (Say that in the same voice the suit designer in The Incredibles uses to say, ‘NO capes!’ for extra effect.)

Bruv agreed but what neither of us could tell is how serious it was which made the decision tricky.

Dad went into hospital with a chest infection towards the end of his life. If it was pneumonia, I’d have said make him comfortable but don’t treat him. However, withholding treatment for a chest infection is different. Sure if we did, it might turn into pneumonia and carry him off (he was DNR/no life extending treatment too) but it was a step over a line that I can’t cross. Also it might just have meant he felt really shit for three weeks and got better anyway, which is unkind to an elderly gentleman who is suffering from Alzheimer’s and has enough to contend with already. The problem we faced with Mum was twofold. One: we didn’t know if it was chest infection-level serious or into the DNR zone. Two: we did know that if Mum was stuck in hospital at the rock bottom level she was at now, a lady who was already a bit confused from time to time and for whom, since she’d just had some kind of brain bleed, that confusion was currently compounded … she was unlikely to come out again.

Except that Bruv suspected he did know the answer to that how-serious-is-it question. He said he thought she was dying, that he might have to call an ambulance and that, should he do so, he probably would have to let them take her to hospital if they insisted. He suggested I came down because it wasn’t just him who believed that, if Mum went into hospital, she wouldn’t come out again. Her doctor agreed. I said that if he dialled 999 he was to stall them and not let them take her away until I had got there to say goodbye. Then I packed a bag, leapt in the car and set off.

I had no clue what the Covid rules were on my bubble with Mum impinging on Bruv’s bubble with Mum. It was probably a Bad Thing of the highest order. Then again, he believed Mum was dying and to be honest, I did too. A hurried consultation with The Rules online and I discovered that they do make an exception for visiting dying close relatives. I decided that if it was a choice between staying here or saying goodbye to my mother it was a no-brainer.  If Mum was about to die, she was going to do it with her loved ones gathered round her bed, and, come hell or high-water, I was fucking well going to be one of them.

I packed a bag, and my metal detector because I reckoned I might need the odd sortie in the garden to restore my mental equilibrium, and went.

Unbeknown to me, at about 4.30pm, as I was joining the M25 at the bottom of the M11, Mum rallied and had a biscuit and a cup of tea. Bruv and Sis in-law constructed a make-shift commode using a loo seat riser and a couple of buckets and she had a wee and felt a lot better. By the time I arrived she was very frail and her face had an unpleasantly grey hue to it, but she could move her leg again, even though she couldn’t walk unaided. From where I was standing, she looked as if she was about to peg-it any minute but I could tell, from the huge sense of relief emanating from Bruv and Sis in-law, that she was a great deal better than she had been. Bruv confirmed that she’d been completely unresponsive at half three when he called me. To the point where he and Sis in-law took her pulse and put a mirror in front of her mouth to see if she was still breathing. We got her to bed and she spent the weekend in bed.

I took my nephew and niece metal detecting on the lawn and we found a fifteenth century hammered coin from Spain … in a ex farmyard in Sussex. Well it was a big commercial area until cotton supplanted wool but I was intrigued. The only other hammered coin I’ve found on there is a 17th century Portuguese one. Bizarre. There’s also a bit of Mum’s lawn where I joke to myself that HG Well’s time machine fell to bits. It’s full of brass bits of what was clearly, once, some kind of Victorian piece of technical equipment.

As for Mum, she’s is still here. Which is an enormous relief, even if it means I’m probably in breach of The Rules and liable for a hefty fine for going to see a dying person who wasn’t dying after all. I’m not sure what the view on death bed recovery is and I couldn’t find anything about it on the Government site. We looked after Mum and on Sunday afternoon I left and came home. Bruv left Monday morning and she got up and got dressed when the carer’s came in and went downstairs. She has been frail but on better form as the week has progressed. I went to see her on Wednesday as usual – that is allowed because she’s in my bubble. She was very quiet but also calm and relaxed and I went out and detected on the lawn again for twenty minutes and found a couple of interesting bits which she was intrigued to see. She’s better but not right yet which, according to her doctor, probably means that it was a small stroke she had, rather than a big TIA.

It was also wonderful to see my brother and sis in-law and spend some time with my nephew and niece. We also cooked up a storm, or at least sis in-law mostly did, including these hilarious mutant yorkshire puddings! Bonus! I’ve had similar results, myself, from doubling the number of eggs but this was her usual recipe and they have never done it before. All very strange.

In the end we had a lovely weekend, even if we were all still rather worried about Mum. I guess every cloud has a silver lining, light and shade etc because while the situation with Mum was horrible at first, once she was on the mend it was just a case of taking stock, sorting everything out and enjoying being together until it was time to go home!

I feel … how do I feel? Well it was really lovely to see my brother and his family, really lovely. But over all I guess I’m a bit shocked.

Dad’s death was a good death, it was clearly his will and there was nowhere else to go. It’s hard to explain. But with Dad it was very clearly the end of the road. He had extreme unction (which is a phrase that always makes me chuckle because of the way the word ‘extreme’ is used about other things, ironing for example). He was ready and he was OK. That week before he left us he was in a state of grace, he was calm and I know he was totally at peace, and ready, and alright.

The thing with Mum is that this feels the same. She’s calm, quiet and in a similar state of grace to the one Dad was in. That’s good but also a little unnerving. She is not afraid and we have talked a great deal about her wish to die at home and what to do if she’s taken ill. Two or three years ago, I told her that if something happened when we were together I’d have to call an ambulance and that they’d probably ask me to do CPR. Her reply, which I may already have posted,

‘Well, you can try if it makes you feel better but I won’t be coming back.’

So I guess I’m worried because I’m aware that folks who have a small stroke often have another one soon afterwards. I suspect she is aware of that too, although she doesn’t seem remotely bothered. Like Dad, it’s more a sense of waiting. Also like Dad, she has a very strong faith and she’s totally unafraid. But I suppose the biggest thing is that Mum’s dementia is very different to Dad’s. She may not remember stuff and that is incredibly sad sometimes, but her personality has stayed pretty much constant. She’s been a bit more brusque than usual at times over the last two years or so, as she’s realised how much of her memory she is losing, and I suspect that’s because she’s been a bit scared. She has always said she wouldn’t like to ‘lose her marbles’. Also, she was as traumatised by the way Dad’s dementia ravaged him as were Bruv and I. She doesn’t want to be like that. Although luckily, the nature of her dementia is such that it’s looking increasingly as if she won’t be.

This means that, in some ways, it’s easier because the dementia side of it, while grim, isn’t as utterly heart-breaking as Dad’s was. But in other ways it’s harder because Mum is still very much herself so there’s no difficulty keeping close to her, she can follow a deep conversation, or a light one. I admire my mum hugely, just as I admired my dad. The way I see it, Mum and Dad are/were everything that is right and good in a human being. We know Mum may not be around for long and I know, on paper, that when she goes it will leave a huge, huge hole in my life, and probably my heart. But I haven’t thought about it head-on much so I think that, though we are all prepared for events like this, it was the most serious so far and was quite a shock.

Then there’s the fact that I have reached a point in the care for vulnerable parents process when I am quite exhausted – doubtless Bruv is too. When you have a duty of care to someone and you are worrying about them, sometimes you forget the point of what you’re doing. So, I think it was a bit of a wake up call for me, because in all the planning and trying to look after her and ringing her every day and worrying about her I’d slightly lost sight of the fact that the whole point of it, the whole reason I do all that stuff, is because I really, really love her.

It feels like …

I’m at boarding school during the term when I’m not enjoying it, and she’s just dropped me off, I stand at the window, waving stoically, as she drives away. I’m trying not to cry, and in the car, though I don’t realise it at the time, she’s probably doing the same thing. She’s reached the end of the drive. The rear lights of the car glow a brighter red as the brakes come on. She’s waiting for a gap in the traffic to pull out. I see the lights of the cars on the road passing in front of her in the autumn twilight. I want to run after her. Tell her to wait. Beg her to take me with her. But I can’t. She goes and I’m left behind. I turn and walk slowly back along the empty corridor.

So yeh, bit of a rough week in some respects.

Other news, despite not being sure what would be happening this week, I managed to go through the first run of edits on Too Good To Be True. I emailed the editor from Mum’s to say I hoped to have it all back to her by this coming Tuesday – well … I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. In the event, I got it done by last Thursday. I thought I may as well send it back in case she had time to look at it and, to my delight, she had some space to make a start before Tuesday so with any luck we will get it to and fro enough times to sort it totally and get it uploaded to the stores in time for launch and to send to Gareth when I actually said I would … It is going to be a bit touch and go and I will probably have to delay it a week on Smashwords. It won’t hit the launch date for the print book either but that’s OK, I haven’t entered anything on Ingram. I know not to do that or it’ll glitch and I’ll find it’s locked and going to take me two weeks to change the price or something.

Anyway, that’s been my week and that’s why you didn’t get a blog post last week. I’m off to write to Mum’s vicar now, just to let her know what happened!

_________________________________

If you’re interested, and you feel like it …

Too Good To Be True is out on 18th March, fingers crossed. Amazingly, I have, finally got my shit together and it is live for pre-order everywhere – if buying from retailers is your thing. Or you can pre-order it from my website or my web shop for a whole £1 less than it is everywhere else! Mmm. By Grabthar’s Hammer! What a savings!

Anyhoo, here’s the gen …

Too Good To Be True

When the finger of fate points … hide!

When The Pan of Hamgee encounters some mudlarkers trying to land a box on the banks of the River Dang he is happy to help. Having accepted a share of the contents as a reward he cannot believe his luck. It contains one of the most expensive delicacies available in K’Barth, Goojan spiced sausage. If he can sell it, the sausage might spell the end of his troubles. On the other hand, knowing his luck, it could bring a whole load more.

Suggested UK cinema rating for this one PG (parental guidance) there’s a slightly saucy bit and a bit of light violence.

Even so, this is a humorous science fiction fantasy story set in a parallel reality.

To find out more, and for links to pre-order it if that’s your thing, go here: https://www.hamgee.co.uk/infotgtbt.html

13 Comments

Filed under General Wittering

Well! There’s a thing …

OK, on the downside – let’s get it out of the way before we begin – I have not written anything new, although I’ve been working on some edits for the sweeping, complicated epic K’Barthan sff book which I pick up and prod at from time to time. We have just finished introducing the main characters and setting up what they want to achieve and who is stopping them. I’m about 120k in. Oops.

That said, there’s a reason for the lack of writing. I do most of my writing in Scriviner on my iPad because the mousepad on my computer is really irritating. It used to be excellent but then one of Windows’ many updates borked it. Now it picks up the heat from my thumbs and randomly moves the cursor to other parts of the page when I’m typing. I don’t always look at the screen when I’m typing so this can result in a few minutes typing nothing, because the cursor has suddenly landed somewhere neutral, or a whole bunch of stuff in the middle of an earlier paragraph. Most annoying.

The editing in question has been the equivalent of printing it out and scribbling on it, in this case, sending it by PDF to my remarkable tablet and scribbling on that. I cannot say enough good things about the remarkable. I bought the Remarkable One for about £300 off kickstarter after seeing a Facebook ad.

It was a huge gamble. There are many, many scams – do NOT contribute to the pocket Windows PC, for example – and I did get a bit nervous at the end because it was nearly a year before it shipped but it was brilliant from the get go. Even better it had a plastic screen. It took them a while to build all the functionality. It couldn’t convert handwriting to text or import pdfs to edit originally but as people used them they discovered what we needed and built it in.

The only points of pain: it took ages to boot up and it had three buttons at he bottom which didn’t do much but I kept pressing them inadvertently with my hand while writing and opening a new notebook, or closing the one I was writing in, or going to a new page.

Sad sack branded cover to keep my Remarkable safe!

After a year of seeing adverts for the second generation, I recently took the plunge and stumped up the cash for it; the Remarkable 2. It turns on instantly, it’s even more like writing on paper and the look and feel is really cool; sleek gunmetal grey … er … metal and it’s really thin, about 4mm I think. You can turn the pen round to rub out things now as well. They basically took everything that made the Remarkable 1 hard to use and fixed it. Only one problem … it now has a glass screen. Ulp. I give it a few weeks before I break it. Which is a pisser. But you can’t win ’em all.

To try and keep it going for a bit longer I’ve bought it a case from caseable (it’s the same size as the first ever iPad so luckily it is possible to get a customised cover for it). Hopefully with a bit of protection it will survive a year or two before I smash it.

Another upside, I have won £5 in the Alzheimer’s lottery which I play every month and a princely £25 from the Premium Bonds – so that’s a bit of a bonus.

Also, I’ve had some other unusual luck. The Chaos Fairies are clearly feeling a bit guilty for repeatedly doing me over, as, frankly, they fucking should. But I am eternally grateful that their sense of intense guilt at repeatedly fucking up my life appears to have resulted in some kind of unborking intervention with the version of Windows 10 that my lap top is running.

You see I have two main issues with Windows 1o. First, I bought a lap top with a small fixed state drive (128gb) and a 1terrabyte external drive which I intended to use instead. For three months or so this was brilliant. Then an update to Windows gave the external hard drive the equivalent of an invisibility cloak. It wasn’t just that my computer could no longer talk to the drive. It couldn’t detect it at all. I had to boot up my old lap top – a process which, in itself, takes 40 minutes – and then copy everything from the external hard drive to a usb stick, and from there to an older drive which my brand new lap top could still see. The second piece of Windows 10 based cockwomblery was with my printer. It suddenly stopped printing pdf files. It transpired I’d inadvertently upgraded my version of windows from 34 bit to 64 bit. Naturally there was no roll back. I was stuck with 64 bit. No more freehand illustrator ether. That only worked with 34 bit. The net result of this was that there wasn’t a fix and if I wanted to print the pdf documents I had to buy a new printer.

My only point of pain with the HP was its massive footprint so, after a bit of research, I decided to buy an Epson. I picked one up for a song and it had a scanner on top – also handy as the non-replaceable bulb in my excellent Epson Perfection scanner had just gone. My old printer will print in black if the colour cartridge has run out and will print in colour if the black one is empty. It will print until all the colours in the colour one run out – but I discovered that the drawback with three colours in one is that they don’t all run out at the same time. Usually the yellow dies first, then blue and then you are printing all your documents in pink for a while before that, too, dies and you have to buy more ink. It’s expensive but I can get refilled ones for about £15.

When I bought the Epson printer, which I had to do, urgently, so I could print some pdfs for the Christmas Fayre back in 2019, I made certain to buy one that that had all the colour cartridges separate so I could replace the yellow without feeling a bit wasteful throwing away a cartridge that was still healthily full of magenta and cyan.

Knowing the quality of the scanner I’d had, I thought an Epson printer would be a good idea. I was so, so wrong. It is, frankly, one of the most horrific pieces of shit I ever had the misfortune to buy. It was £35, which, incidentally is exactly half the price of a new set of printer cartridges for it. Not only that but while you can get a set of refilled cartridges for £15 or thereabouts, the printer has some kind of chip in it which tells it they are not ‘proper’ Epson cartridges and it refuses to print in case the sub standard ink breaks it somehow.

I wouldn’t mind so much if it was like the HP cartridges I use, where there is a lot of electrical gubbins on the actual cartridge but this is basically a tank full of ink. Although looking at the price, I suspect there is a great deal of liquid gold inside and possibly some crushed diamonds for sparkle. No wait, those would be cheaper than whatever is in these tiny tanks of ink. It’s supposed to print 400 pages, frankly I’d estimate it’s closer to something like 50. Worse, if a single one of these cartridges runs out of ink the printer won’t print anything.

When it’s midnight on a Sunday, nothing’s open and you need a document printed for Monday morning do you care if it’s blue? Of course you fucking don’t. Something is better than nothing Epson, you bell ends! Seriously. No yellow? Unlucky. Want to try printing in black? Sorry. Nah-uh, not printing in black until you fork out £20 for another yellow. I reckon my Epson prints at about £1 a page. I hate it.

Enter the chaos fairies who appear to have decided to give me a break. A few months ago, I discovered, serendipitously, that my computer had suddenly started printing pdf documents on my old printer again. The elderly A3 Hewlett Packard desk jet I have had for the last 20 years rides again. Jolly dee.

This week, tidying up my desk drawer, I happened upon the spiffy 1 terrabyte external hard drive. It’s so cool. It’s about the size of a cassette tape box – look it up younglings – with a cable and a blue light that comes on when it’s running. I thought about the pdf printing thing and looked at it and wondered …  I plugged it in and it worked. I still can’t quite believe it. So now I have reverted to the original plan, cleaning out my hard drive and putting it all on the external drive – but still backed up to the desk top drive my computer has been able to read all along.

Wow! That’s a bonus. OK so the mouse pad is still all over the fucking shop but as the great Canadian poet Meatloaf once said, ‘two out of three ain’t bad’.

Except, I’d better not speak too soon because I see that Windows has installed an update and would like to restart …

Updates on the stuff I mentioned last week …

Remember that book with the wrong innards? Well, on the upside, I managed to sort all of that out and all the books in the Hamgeean Misfit series on Google are now correct; right covers, right links inside, right series name in the book and on the metadata. Woot. Another major win, I also got the right files to the people who’d got Small Beginnings when they should have had Nothing to See Here. On the downside, nobody reviewed it so I sweated a lot to no useful effect.

Arse.

Second thing … remember the logo? Yeh, well, check this. I think it’s fabulous.

So that’s now on the spine of all the books … when I upload them.

I also managed to fix the hideous Small Beginnings/Nothing To See Here faux pas so that’s done (phew!).

Aaaaand! Dum dum daaaaaaaaaah! Too Good To Be True has gone to the editor. Woot!

In an effort to up maintain my output of at least one book each year I have been sorting out. Tasks include unbodging my website or at least, bits of it, and renaming the K’Barthan Shorts series as K’Barthan Extras.

Sorting the site is … a challenge. I haven’t got that far but I do now have an audiobooks page that is within the main site, rather than drifting in purdah somewhere. I also have a mailing list signup page in the main menu which is the same information but just in a more prominant place position. That caused a bit of a headache as I had to change the name of the directory where some of the pictures are kept from freebook – which is what it was called when I imported it – to images. Luckily I have code view and I was able to use search and replace. Phew. The question is whether https://www.hamgee.co.uk/books/hm is better than https://www.hamgee.co.uk/infohm.html one is shorter but the other is slicker and doesn’t have the stupid html bit on the end that marks me out as the bodging noob I am.

Changing the series is taking a while as K’Barthan Shorts is mentioned in the ‘other books’ section of every single ebook.

Mmm.

Then again, the audiobooks don’t have one! Woot! So that’s just the three Misfit/Extras books for those.

Sorting out the massive update the ebooks project, it seemed best to start with the four books in the K’Barthan Extras, Hamgeean Misfit series. To that end I have pages of notes and tables with tick boxes and itemised lists and all sorts of other lunacy to work through so I can tick each thing off as I go and know exactly where I am and what I’ve done … rather than spending about fifty minutes working it out every morning.

All all the relevant records on the ISBN database now have changes submitted – although they might not necessarily be live for another month or so – and the covers, files and blurbs for the K’Barthan Extras books are done on the Google Store and Too Good To Be True loaded for pre-order.

Next, I have to work out how to change the name of the actual books on Ingram – because I didn’t manage to suss how to do it in their dashboard last time I looked. If I don’t then, when I upload the covers for Extras I can see them just pulling the whole lot from sale because the series name in their meta data is different to the one on the covers. Although I should be able to upload the K’Barthan Series covers straight off and Too Good To Be True shouldn’t be a problem, either, because, what with it not being added yet, they don’t know it isn’t ‘Shorts’. We shall see how that goes.

And at some point the iPad should come back, or at least, a replacement.

Hmm … should be a busy week then.

If you’re interested, and you feel like it …

Too Good To Be True is out on 18th March, fingers crossed. Originally, I’d hoped I’d have got my shit together and managed to set it up on all of the retailers so anyone who wants to could pre-order it from anywhere they like. But you know me. My shit still very much scattered to the four winds. For a start, if I upload it directly to Apple, which was my intention, I have to have an iPad because they insist on two tier authentication so I have to have a code number sent to my iPad and I have no iPad ergo … no code and no entry. I’ll probably end up going through D2D to them. Barnes & Noble hasn’t gone live yet – I’ve gone direct to them, too for the first time – but you should find working links to Smashwords, Google Play, Kobo and Amazon

On the other hand, you can pre-order it from my website or my web shop for a whole £ less than it is everywhere else! Mmm. By Grabthar’s Hammer! What a savings!

Anyhoo, here’s the gen …

Too Good To Be True

When the finger of fate points … hide!

When The Pan of Hamgee encounters some mudlarkers trying to land a box on the banks of the River Dang he is happy to help. Having accepted a share of the contents as a reward he cannot believe his luck. It contains one of the most expensive delicacies available in K’Barth, Goojan spiced sausage. If he can sell it, the sausage might spell the end of his troubles. On the other hand, knowing his luck, it could bring a whole load more.

Suggested UK cinema rating for this one PG (parental guidance)
This is a humorous science fiction fantasy story set in a parallel reality.

To find out more, and for links to pre-order it if that’s your thing, go here: https://www.hamgee.co.uk/infotgtbt.html

9 Comments

Filed under About My Writing, General Wittering

Dunce hats on casa McGuire … yes, once again #youstillcantfixstupid

There are only so many interesting headlines I can give to all these blog posts about my, apparently limitless, ability to fuck things up. Meanwhile I appear not to have come anywhere close to exhausting my ability to bomb in flames, even if I have run out of witty headings to put on my blog posts about it. No matter how earnestly I repeat to myself that we are not at home to Mr Cock-Up, life continues to prove otherwise. Indeed, it’s fair to say that Mr Cock-Up appears to have taken up permanent residence in our spare room, as my professional life lurches from one embarrassing faux pas to the next. Never mind, if I write comedy, living something like a bad sit com is probably excusable, it might even just be part of the job description.

First up, a moderate success. In the absence of an open shop, my iPad with its broken screen has been whisked off by courier for evaluation. I’m told they are normally fixed but that, since it’s a pro, they’ll probably just replace it with a fixed up second. If anything fails QS at the factory the offending part is replaced, a new battery, back and and screen are put on and then it’s sent out as a ‘new’ replacement for the cracked iPads of clumsy dunderheads or heavy cat owners such as myself. Fingers crossed that will be OK then.

In other news, there was a couple clearing out a house across the road and with their kind permission I liberated a table lamp and a couple of giant candle holders for a friend, which turned out not to be the thing she had asked me to liberate. I liberated a table lamp and a couple of other candle holders for us, too and a table lamp for her.

Cleaning the pair of giant ones ready to offer them to a different friend I thought I’d use a brush to gently sweep the gritty bits out from inside. Very carefully I swept the bits out of the first one. Started on the second and … managed to smash a hole in the glass with the top of the brush.

Twat!

Kicking myself.

So now I only have one to offer to my friend. She may not want it anyway but ho hum … my life really does seem to be one balls up after another at the moment. Often all that is necessitated is my mere presence for things to break. I don’t have to actually drop them myself. Clearly I’ve taken my eye off the ball. I wouldn’t mind if the off-ball view was even marginally more interesting than the shite the rest of me is seeing.

On the books front, the odd small success and some salutary learning experiences – or as I like to call them, absolute fucking disasters.

After thinking about it for a while, I decided that, what with the length of Too Good To Be True, I should bite the bullet and change the name of the series from K’Barthan Shorts to K’Barthan Extras. To be honest, this makes sense but I can’t really do it properly until I have new covers for all of them with ‘Extras’ instead of ‘Shorts’. I guess the thing that really tipped me over was discovering that I was able to change the name of a series on Amazon a great deal more easily than I’d realised. After years of being told by Amazon that they would not change K’Barthan Trilogy to ‘Series’ they gave us options and I changed it, I thought, but this simply resulted in them calling it ‘K’Barthan Trilogy Series‘ Arnold’s pants! I managed to change it properly, to ‘K’Barthan Series’ last week, although I didn’t find a way to edit the series name so I just removed all the books and set up a new one. So the original four-and-a-short book series is now called K’Barthan Series everywhere! Woot.

On the down side, I’d quite like to do sub-series so they’ll all be K’Barthan Extras but cross reference. You know the same way all Terry Pratchett’s books are Discworld but some are the Tiffany Aching series and some are the Witches etc, I was hoping to do K’Barthan Extras Hamgeean Misfit and K’Barthan Extras, Tales from the Parrot and Screwdriver or whatever. My cunning plan was to add books to two series. Sadly it seems this isn’t possible. That means they must all be K’Barthan something. That’s because, as I may have mentioned last week, no fucker can spell McGuire the way I do, therefore it has to be K’Barthan something so I can tell everyone to search for K’Barthan and my books will pop up.

There is a fair bit of work involved in changing the series name, it means changing it in the back matter of every single ebook and paperback, and of course in the opening and closing credits of the audiobooks. Then there are the covers of everything too, including the paperbacks. So essentially, I’m looking at reloading every file. Except with the audiobooks.

In March, Ingram Spark, who do the paperback print on demand thing for my books, are going to raise their prices. They always do this and it was never a problem but these days, if your price is different to the one on your book – even if it’s lower than the printed one – they simply remove the book from sale. Then you have to change the price which you can only do on one particular day once a week and it takes several days to show up – so often you can’t tell if it’s worked before the next week’s deadline for submissions has passed. This is an issue because, due to the unfortunate fact that I’m a bit of a moron, my book covers have the retail price on and after the next price rise, if I stick to that retail price, there are going to be some titles on which I’m going to be paying Ingram for each sale. The upshot is that I need new covers for the whole lot without the prices on. That’s not so bad. I have a new book looming so that’ll need a cover anyway and I can get the designer to do them all when he does those. Also, I wanted replace the shiny covers on the K’Barthan Series Books with matt ones and that requires putting the design on a new template. Now seems an excellent time to do that as well, and as I have to change the K’Barthan Shorts to K’Barthan Extras in addition to taking the prices off those and take the price off Escape From B-Movie Hell.

Since I have to have new artwork for all my paperback book covers anyway, it occurred to me that I could have a proper logo for Hamgee University Press to go on the spine. Clearly the obvious candidate for that is Humbert the Parrot. So I had a go at drawing Humbert.

Humbert in black and white but with one claw on the frame

On the one hand, I’d never have credited myself with the ability to come up with an expression of sarcastic intelligence quite like that. On the other, Humbert is pretty bald so either this is a very young Humbert or he has been photo-shopped extensively. Or maybe it’s just the artist doing the portrait, who is flattering his subject the in the manner of Joshua Reynolds and his ilk.

Humbert in colour but minus the claw on the frame

While I’m mentioning books, remember that one I gave away, Nothing To See Here? Well one of my lovely readers contacted me and said she’d downloaded it from Bookfunnel and got Small Beginnings. I checked, and sure enough, the Kindle/.mobi version was, indeed, Small Beginnings.

Gulp.

I’d asked everyone to post a review on Google too. That’s going to look good. People swearing blind they are reviewing Nothing To See Here but patently obviously describing Small Beginnings.

Bum.

Then I had an even more alarming thought. On the whole, I get the .mobi file from Draft2Digital. I upload an epub there and they convert it to a number of different formats and distribute it to libraries, about 101 tiny ebook sellers and of course, Barnes&Noble and Apple Books. What this meant was, that I have, very possibly, had Small Beginnings on sale as Nothing To See Here with all those sellers. Thinking it wise to double-check that, I had a look, and … joy of joys … was it Small Beginnings? Of course it fucking was. It would be wouldn’t it?

Erk.

OK on the downside, that was quite embarrassing. On the upside … actually, no, thinking about it, there is no upside.

Bollocks.

Since I was going to have to redo it as an ‘extras’ anyway, I decided to revisit Nothing To See Here a.s.a.p. and sort out some of the other glaring errors it contains. First of all, we know The Pan of Hamgee was blacklisted aged sixteen. There’s a scene in there where I talk about him being blacklisted three years previously but then I’d put that he was twenty years old. Fuckwittery entire or what? Never mind, I changed that back to nineteen. I also managed to describe the security forces uniforms as black and white with the odd red flash on the collars epaulettes and cuffs when they’re black and red. OK so the officer in question had the odd flash of white on the epaulettes, collar and cuffs because he’s an intelligence officer. Shit. And Gareth’s done the audiobook and everything.

Head Desk.

Except hang on … I’ll have to get him to record the intro and outro anyway because they have to be K’Barthan Extras, now, instead of shorts. So there’ll be some cock up-mending recorded bits to add on the bill for the next book anyway so he may as well do those couple of sentences can do them all at once. OK that’s probably going to work then. He should be able to start recording mid March. Hopefully he’ll be alright with that. At least it won’t be too unexpected. After all, he knows I’m nuts.

Then, of course, having fixed the book, I had to reload the pukka version to Draft2Digital … about fifty times because I kept finding glaring howlers I’d missed and of course I ticked the box to supply it to Overdrive by mistake when it’s already going to Overdrive from Kobo. Then I downloaded the correct Kindle version and uploaded it to Amazon, uploaded the correct epub to everywhere else just in case, and corrected the special word document I have to submit to Smashwords and uploaded that too … and the epub. And then I realised I’d spent the whole day fixing the horrendous results of my never-ending twattery and then I realised THAT is why I write so slowly lovely peps. Because I’m an absolute knob and I have to keep going back to fix stuff I have fucked up. If I could get back the time I spend fixing the dog’s breakfast I make of most things I’d be producing books a lot quicker. Rather in the way that if I could get back the time I spend looking for my keys – which are usually in my pocket – or my mask (ditt0) or my glasses – mostly, they’re perched on top of my head – I’d have so much free time I wouldn’t know what to do with it.

Then there’s Facebook. Pestering me to make a shop to sell my ebooks and audiobooks. So I spend Monday making a shop and they approve everything except the ebook and audiobook of The Wrong Stuff and Looking For Trouble. I reapply. The audiobook version of Looking for Trouble is turned down again on the grounds that it’s a digital download and they explain that selling digital downloads of any description through Facebook shops is against the rules. Then they approve the ebook versions of both. Nothing is said about the fact I have 14 other approved products in my shop which are also, all, digital downloads and, therefore, breaking their rules. The obvious answer is to delete my shop, except they’ve approved it, so what’s with that? Do I keep it or will I end up getting rumbled and thrown into Facebook gaol forever somewhere down the line. Did I spaff Monday up the wall for nothing? Head desk again.

Why is AI so unbelievably shit? And if it is demonstrably bollocks, which it clearly is, why do Facebook, Instragram, Amazon and a whole host of others insist on using it to do jobs that it’s just too fucking moronic to be left to do at this stage?

Ugh.

Never mind. Onwards and upwards. Next week, if I remember, I’m going to talk about my latest writing aid, my Remarkable 2. If you ever wanted to feel like Captain Kirk should feel when someone hands him one of those kid’s plastic drawing things to pretend to sign that’s how I feel using this thing. It’s the thing the TV people wanted us to believe Captain Kirk was writing on. Except this one has a glass screen and in light of my current rate of smashage for such things – not to mention McCat’s – that’s a bit of a worry.

____________________________________

And now for something completely different

Last week I had the joyous delight of being interviewed on the Slice of Cake Spot on fellow author Clair Buss’ blog. It was great fun and although it was quite long, I’m hoping you’ll enjoy it.

If you think you’d like to have a look at it, click here: http://butidontlikesalad.blogspot.com …

While I’m mentioning it, I have to say that ‘ButIDontLikeSalad’ just the best name for a blog ever!

There you go, anyway! Enjoy!

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Filed under General Wittering

MTM fails at modern life … bleargh and t’ing … but then again #AtHomeYALC

Mary fails at modern life

Good morning, I am feeling monster lethargic this week. I have two book reviews to write, and haven’t and I have to do this and we’re going out tomorrow to some friends. That bit is good, in fact I’m really looking forward to seeing them. But I always have to drive which will be less good. It’s just over 50 miles and 45 minutes, a lot of which is crappy speed cameras and pointless speed limits round Cambridge – lots of points potential for the semi-somnambulant driver late at night. And because the McOthers always fall asleep after the late ones it’s even harder to keep awake because it’s like being the driver for a mobile dormitory. A mobile dormitory that is my husband’s car, too, which always adds that little frisson.

This meh I feel is the famous lockdown fatigue. I’m pretty sure of that. I feel like it all the time, and for the exact same reasons so it’s just an extra dose. I’m just … properly knackered all of a sudden. I have no more capacity to deal with idiots abroad and I’ve had the worst month of book sales since October last year. I’ve also had some lovely correspondence from folks on my mailing list but it’s been slightly clouded by one really pissy one. Because I’m an artsy numpty and the dark side weighs heavy … fork sketch brain.

Re the sales … having managed to increase them I really hoped it might be going to stick for a bit but … no. Sighs. And I really have to release some more stuff that’s not K’Barthan. K’Barthan is marmite. People love it or hate it. But the hardest thing about K’Barthan is that despite many people liking it when they finally read it, I swear that persuading them to open the book in the first place is the actual thirteenth Herculean task.

That said, I need to refresh my facebook ads and I’m going to try some BookBub ads for audio and for a freebie I’m running. The first in Hamgeean Misfit series will be zero pence all next week. I think the sales situation is a part of the meh, too, because they haven’t just tanked, they’ve imploded. Without the new release I’d be back to $35 a month, and that’s with the advertising. This is where I point out that all my books, audio, paperback and ebooks are available from any library. Check your app and if it’s not there, just ask.

Also, despite feeling a bit meh, I know I’m not alone and if you’re with me, neither are you. It seems to have hit us creatives like the plague … oh no wait, that’s the Rona. Gareth and I are in the throes of doing another audiobook and he confessed to feeling totally lethargic, himself. So that’s two of us. I bet there are more. Lock down fatigue is a thing though. So much a thing that I’ve found this link about it. It’s all about the limbic system, which is actually the same thing that makes us suddenly think that cleaning the grout in the bathroom is the most important thing in the world rather than that urgent project we have to finish by this afternoon.

Anyway here’s the gen on why lockdown makes us feel totally meh…

I’ll be fine again tomorrow. I think part of it was because I had a very lengthy and vivid dream that I was taking part in a quiz game with Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and my husband at a golf club somewhere. It went on for a sod of a long time and at one point Dudley went off to the loo and his suitcase burst and we were trying to stuff all his things back into it but they were just coming out of the tears in the fabric.

The whole ridiculous escapade ended up with me following my parents and uncle along a river with McMini until it went underground. It was hard to keep up because they were moving faster than us and when it forked I wasn’t sure which tunnel they’d taken and took the wrong one. Then we ended up confronted with a cave wall and I turned round to discover that the walls had closed in and we were stuck in a bubble in the rock that was about the size of a small car. That was the point at which I thought, ‘this dream is fucking stupid,’ and woke up. But after concentrating so hard on the quiz first and then on not losing sight of my parents and Uncle, and keeping McMini with me, I woke up absolutely fucking knackered. Mwahahahargh!

In case anyone was going to attempt dream interpretation, yes, I know that dream is about feeling trapped and that I have no control of my life. Every single dream I have is about that because yes, even now, I haven’t quite grasped that the only thing we have any control over is how we react to what happens to us.

And as for travel. What I need is a giro copter … or the fucking transporter off the Enterprise. Where the hell is science though? Seriously. I know I ask this often but, ‘where the fuck’s my flying car?’ Instead we can invent packaging for meat that is so strongly glued together that I’m beginning to suspect it’s held together with the same stuff they use to glue the wings on Jumbo Jets or put McLaren’s together. MTM rolls eyes. I spent five minutes releasing a rib eye stake from it’s plastic carbonite, yesterday. It was so bad I made a film of my attempt to release the second one. You can enjoy that, if you’re so inclined, by clicking on the thing below. Most of you already have I think.

Publishing Industry news: the storm in a teacup award goes to …

This week one of the big boys of the indie book industry, Mark Dawson, has caused a stir by allegedly gaming the bestseller list. I signed up for his Facebook Ads course back in 2014 … or possibly 2015, I think I was in the second or third round of students anyway. I liked his dry sense of humour and he had a different approach. Didn’t seem to be bothered by the trappings, which made this whole incident come as a bit of a surprise to me.  That said, it could equally have been a case of curiosity more than anything. He is always trying new stuff.

The story is, he did a UK only hardback edition for one of his books and his readers in the states wanted it. He realised there was an opportunity to experiment and bought the books from one of the shops where sales count towards bestseller status. He needed 400 books and it got him into the top 10. This it didn’t go down well. He has since had the ‘ranking’ removed but only on the grounds that the books were for sale to people abroad. And people have done this before and the listing stood but was marked with a dagger, which would suggest this sort of stuff goes on and is viewed by the establishment with ambivalence.

What surprised me was not so much that he did it, I mean, a lot of people do. Brian Epstein went round all the chart shops buying Love Me Do to get it into the charts. What surprised me was that a) anyone cared and b) that Mark Dawson gave a hoot about bestsellerdom since he’s incredibly successful in his own right. Did he really need that stamp of approval? Personally I avoid bestsellers, if something hits the bestseller lists, it’s odds on I won’t enjoy it, you know, like the film Titanic, which was utterly shit and made worse by the fact the ending wasn’t even going to be a surprise.

He does seem to have recovered his sense of humour over it though. After a jokey facebook post, by another author wondering if he could get into the top 25 by buying some of his books and sending them overseas, I was amused to discover that Mark’s reply was, apparently, ‘What could possibly go wrong?’

To read the article that kicked it all off, click here

Do bestseller lists mean anything?

You know what, from my own personal point of view, I genuinely think the answer to that is no. Then again, that may just be me. The whole NYT bestseller or Times Bestseller thing strikes me as a load of piss and wind. I wouldn’t game them like that, and I wouldn’t say no to the label but … am I That bovvered? Ner.

As a dyed in the wool indie music lover, I don’t discount chart bands out of hand, some are great but the chart is not the place I turn to automatically. With books it’s pretty much the same. If you read all sorts of books you’re not necessarily going to be searching the best seller list for new reads. Then again if it finds new fans, I suppose it’s a thing and I should take some notice. Can’t be arsed though. One of my crimes is enjoying mashed genres, especially when they can’t help themselves. The fact that thrillers about real science are beginning to wander into the sci-fi zone is not just brilliant, it’s a whole blog post on its own.

Thinking about this writing gig, though, the big thing is still to share the story. It’s something I am completely driven to do. The title of this blog is the truth as well as a joke. I am an authorholic and it is like a bad crack habit. So earning enough money to not have to do anything else is my real aim I guess. I would be over the moon with say £20k per annum. That would be nice. If I work it out I probably earn about three pence per hour for my creative endeavours. But I keep hoping that if I carry on publishing books, eventually there will be enough cash coming in to draw a salary. Pretty much all the books I sell are the result of my own personal attempts at marketing. Also, the more books there are, in theory, the more people will read because there will be a wider choice, more books different series … win win.

But do I want to be a big hitter, mover and shaker? Nah, not really. Too much like hard work. Even so, the aim is lots of mailing list sign and giving people free books … MTM hobbles on stage in black child catcher outfit with a sack barrow full of books. ‘Try my K’Barthan crack people. Yesssssss. Soon you will be hooked and you will be mine all mine! Mwahahahargh!’ Etc.

A while back, you could do keywords to make your books more visible and I know Amazon used to recommend them to people (case in point Gareth). However, I doubt keywords work that well anymore or that sites like Amazon recommend books the way they used to. As I understand it, those spaces are given to trad, or in the case of Amazon, you now pay for them. As a result, because I still sell more books there than anywhere else, they’re kind of on the back burner as I would like to grow sales elsewhere. And also when I do free runs on other sites, Amazon often price matches so I get readers there that way.

Likewise, I’m not sure that anyone just happens upon my books anymore, except during a free run – but obvs, you have to limit those or they lose their effectiveness. The telling thing, for me, is other authors talking about how many folks have signed up to their mailing through the back of books. In my case, it’s hardly anyone, but judging from the feedback I get, this is not because my books, or list, is unpopular. I suspect it’s simply that most people who read my books are already on my mailing list. Which is good because it does, at least, mean that my efforts at marketing in that direction are reasonably effective.

Events! Woot.

Next week, I am hoping to do a podcast which should be fun. I’m going to be doing the, Biblio Files podcast with Bonnie K.T. Dillabough. The topic we will be discussing is jemmying writing into the kind of life where there isn’t really room! So if you’re interested that’s on Tuesday 4th August at 6pm British Summer Time, I think. Or possibly 5.00 … I’m going to be on standby from then because I don’t know if British Standard Time means British Summer Time or Greenwich Mean Time because I’m so smart.

Feel free to join me a week on Tuesday, or if you’d like to see some of the other podcasts you can find them here

It’s quite new but there are some interesting things discussed. I particularly liked the one about the process of cover design.

Today! At Home Yalc!

Yep, this afternoon, Saturday 25th, at about the time I publish this post – 1.00pm GB time – an author of Young Adult books, Rachel Churcher, is putting on an on line version of the Young Adult Literary Convention. Mainly because the real live one is cancelled. This is basically a whole bunch of authors posting readings back to back. There are giveaways and all sorts of other smashing stuff. The authors are all using twitter and making live broadcasts so if you want to have a look, you can find all the details here.

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Also, if that little lot isn’t enough to get your teeth into, starting on American Sunday – so that’s about 1 o’clock our time and sometime in the evening for my readers in Oceania. I am giving the first in series of the shorts away for zero pence. Hamgeean Misfit number one is going to be free from 27th July until 17th August.

If you are interested you can find more information on this page here.

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