Tag Archives: Snurds

All I need is Little Nellie! Learning to love #Christmas (and myself).#scrooge

Christmas. The traditional time of unfulfilled expectations and almost unfailingly the death of a friend or relative. I have to admit that the best bit about Christmas, for me, is the day we get back from whoever we’ve been staying with that year, and I can relax in the knowledge that it’s all over for another 12 months.

It pains me to confess it but I am the original Scrooge, although this year I think I am finally beginning to understand why. If it’s OK, I’d like to share my breakthrough with you (phnark). So let’s have a rummage through my season-specific navel lint.

Warning: this one’s outrageous and fairly lavatorial.

Right then.

Here goes…

When I was a kid, I thought that Christmas would always be a time of fun and light and laughter. Strangely, when I look back over the actual Christmas Days I can remember then 99.9% of the time it is exactly that – even the years people died or got sick.

Yet it hangs leadenly on my spirits and I dread it more with each passing year.

Looking at it, the big thing, for me, has always been that I’d like to ‘do’ Christmas, myself. My Mum always told me that once you have kids you can put your foot down with the grandparents and tell them that from now on, you’ll be having Christmas at home. My Mum did this successfully. However, she was younger when she had my brother and I. Furthermore, both sets of grandparents were hale and hearty and perfectly able to hop in the car and drive to us if they wanted to. They were only about 45 minutes away, anyway.

Our world is different.

Nonetheless, the dream persists of waking up in my own home on Christmas morning. In 20 years. we’ve managed two home Christmases, yes I’ve managed to cook two turkeys (and a goose but that’s another story). Both those Christmases were lordy-never-again style jobs. One because McOther and I were going through a rough patch, I didn’t even know if we’d be together in a few weeks’ time and we had to present a united front to the visiting grandparents for 8 days when I had no idea if, in 20 days, we’d still be an item. McOther was at work the whole time anyway, to the point of spending two hours in a conference call on Christmas day. The next year, the other set of grandparents stayed for less than 24 hours and gave us flu. I spent the turn of the millennium in bed with it. Later, my father’s condition, coupled with the cold temperature of our house, meant that if he visited us in winter he went completely loolah (too cold = not enough blood to the head) so that was out.

In other words; we know Christmas at home doesn’t work. Now that neither set of rellies can actually stay here, we also know that, were we to tell them, “We were having Christmas at home this year,” we would have the most awful time, sitting at home feeling guilty. We’re talking a level of guilt that eating our free range, local butcher’s, locally sourced turkey with actual red meat; that having our boy get his stocking in one hit, because we haven’t had to leave the 3/4 of it that doesn’t fit into the car on his bed at home and pretend Father Christmas delivered here too; that being around to help with the Church flowers etc and even finding a lonely local to invite, would not do anything to assuage.

Why then? Why this endless longing to make Christmas my own instead of bolting onto other people’s? It’s a completely insoluble problem. And yet once I actually get to whichever set of parents house it is, then, even with its strange or too-distant bathroom, the strength sapping levels of vigilance required to take a lively small boy and incredibly clumsy mother somewhere else for a week without their accidentally breaking something precious or spilling something dreadful or eating something they shouldn’t, it’s actually fun.

Yes.

I do enjoy myself. We all do. And it distresses me deeply that I feel this utter misery and curmudgeonliness about going to see people who I actually want to see and love dearly.

Why the dread?

Well I think I’ve finally sussed it out.

It’s the travel. I loathe and detest using the British motorway network. However, at Christmas when there are high winds so the QE Bridge is closed and we have to queue for hours to get through one side of the tunnel. Or when we are driving through six inches of freshly fallen snow for two hours, with an ice covered road beneath and a sheer drop into the River Tweed a few feet from us pretty much all the way and meeting something coming the other way on. Every. Single. Blummin’. Corner. It’s really grim.

In a nutshell, Christmas is an absolutely rubbish time to attempt to travel. It’s not just because every other git in the UK has climbed into his car to clutter up the roads. It’s because the weather can be unremittingly awful and we all get stuck in it.

Borne out of the travel comes the second downer: organising stuff. I am incapable of organising a piss up in a brewery. Lord knows I try but even when McOther organises everything – because he is a control freak who runs like a smoothly oiled machine – I still manage to balls up the few things I’m supposed to be doing. There is always the Eureka moment, as I unpack the stuff in the kitchen at whichever of our victims we’re descending on that year, and I remember about the very important thing I’ve left on the kitchen table at home. Something without which the other five bags of gubbins I’ve brought are completely pointles… you know… something like… the turkey or the pump for McMini’s blow up bed.

Naturally, the reason my organisational skills are so poor is because I actually dislike organising things.

After travel and my piss poor organisational skills we come to the third factor: my social lumpiness. The minefield of staying with other people and trying to adjust your routine to fit in with theirs when what is natural and instinctive to them is less so for you.You know deep eternal questions like these, which are all real:

  • Is there enough hot water/time to wash my hair this morning or do too many other people need the shower for us to a) all shower before we go out or b) for me to spend the prerequisite 10 minutes rinsing my hair?
  • If I don’t have a shower, will I smell (I usually have a cold so can’t tell).
  • Will I manage to get through the whole week without having an IBS attack?
  • Talking about IBS. When’s the time the other members of the household are statistically least likely to follow me into the loo for at least an hour – or to put it another way, can I have a poo now, or will I be asphyxiating a whole succession of subsequent lavatory and/or shower users?
  • How many times can I ask for seconds before it becomes rude?
  • What are those odd noises in the night?
  • Are those really bits of wasp coming out of the cold water tap and is that why the loo cistern won’t fill up? Because the outlet on the header tank is clogged with dead wasps?
  • Will next door invite us all round to drinks and poison us with dodgy pate?
  • Can I make my way to the loo without falling down the stairs?
  • If my knee clicks on the stairs in the dark can I manage to yell quietly?
  • Can I get past the stair lift to go down to the drawing room and retrieve my iPad/Phone/Book without falling and waking the rest of the house?
  • Will I successfully fill up the cistern using the bath tap and the bucket provided, or will I spill a whole load, sending a flood of water through the ceiling onto the lap top at the desk in the room below?
  • Have I remembered my torch?
  • Have I remembered my cough lozenges?
  • Do they have a dog? How much of it’s attention will it give my crotch? A: all of it’s attention. If dogs are the rule of thumb I have the smelliest girl parts in Christendom.
  • Where are McMini’s pyjamas? A: on the kitchen table at home.
  • Should I put this utensil away where I think it’s kept and risk unwittingly hiding it from my hostess forever, or should I ask her for the umpteenth time? Is the least irritating course of action to leave it on the table?
  • If both the taps in the guest bathroom basin bear the letter H, which one is actually the ‘real’ hot?
    It’s the left hand tap*, by the way, if you ever visit my parents.
  • Will I leave my horrible gacky ear plugs under the guest bed?
  • Will I snore loudly enough to keep people in other rooms awake? I am more than capable of this.

This is not a side of me I like. It feels disloyal and mean to dread going to see the grandparents – especially when I love both sets so dearly. They would be horrified to read this!

But at least I’ve spotted the difference between Christmas when I was a child and now; why it was different when we did pretty much the same things. Amazingly, I think I’ve hit on the answer and it is all down to journey time. My family was local. It was 45 minutes to each set of grandparents so even if we weren’t at home on Christmas Day, itself, it wasn’t a big deal because we woke up there and we went to bed that night in our own beds. If we had to be on our best behaviour and not eat too much, not spill anything and help out in a succession of relations’ strange kitchens day after day over the Christmas period it was OK because at supper and breakfast we were in our own.

WE NEVER STAYED THE NIGHT.

And that’s it in a nutshell. None of the worries I have about my social lumpiness are ever going to impact on a day trip, hence it was a breeze as a kid. But on a week long stay, when I’m also responsible for the behaviour of my own child it’s very different. They become monstrous spectres in the days and weeks beforehand. I even have dreams about stuffing it up and letting down smoothly oiled, robotically organised McOther. There’s nothing I can do about it but at least, now that I know what it is, I should be able to deal with it better next year.

Furthermore, if I could find a way to do the two journeys in say, 35 minutes… or maybe an hour… I could pop home to poo, or wash my hair on a morning when everyone else wants to use the shower, or relax about cutting myself shaving without noticing and bleed happily over my own scabby (rather than someone else’s nice guest) towel. Hmm… Flying’s no good, sure it’s 35 minutes in the air, if that, but it’s still two hours each end phaffing about in an airport and an hour in a taxi at the other end.

Snurds may be imaginary right now and a magic thimble is right out. But I think I have the answer.

Yeh. So. If you’re listening, Father Christmas, I’d like a gyrocopter, please.

See that? That’s me that is, nipping home for a poo.

What I want to know is, am I the only person who gets all worried like this? Tell me about your experiences peeps!

* That’s a faucet, if you’re French or American.

 

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Secrets of the K’Barthan Series unlocked.

One of the great things about being an author is that you get to be a bit… hmm…. let’s call it, ‘eccentric’. It is one of the parts of the job I truly delight in – and probably the bit I am best at. Certainly I’m far better at being a bit weird than I am at writing books, but I digress. One of the things I get asked sometimes, apart from, ‘Are you mad?’ is where I get the names from.

Well, clearly we authors can make some of them up, like The Pan of Hamgee, while others are normal, like Ruth or Lucy or a bit comedically untrendy, names normally associated with the elderly, for example, like Gladys and Ada. Then again, judging by the amount of Masies, Ediths, Dots and Daisey’s under ten there are now, and the rate the real Gladys and Adas are dying off, there will probably be lots of toddlers and babies named Gladys and Ada before long. Christened by people too young to remember that no-one under 70 was called Gladys or Ada for many years.

In other instances, if you’re looking to name characters you can turn to the world around us… things like this:

philip softone2

Yes, Philip Softone got his name from some lightbulbs. Ever since I saw the first advert for these in about 1989 I have been giggling quietly to myself about who Philip Softone is and wondering what he is like.

Meanwhile his assistant…

20140627_154147

I know, I know… I really should grow up. 😉

There must be a way I can work Clancy Docwra in there somewhere – just because it’s such a jolly silly name (sorry Clancy, if you’re reading this). Indeed, I reckon I may have to write some wild west punk specifically for him, because with a name like Clancy, he can only be a sheriff or a sharp shooter right… or do you think he might be a card shark? Hmm not sure.

Another rich source is place names. When I’m driving along and I see signposts to places like Leighton Bromswold and Carlton Scrope I immediately start wondering who they are, what they do and what they’re like. It’s easy to pick and choose, too. You can go for something off a random signpost sighting, like Carlton Scrope, or you can choose something more simple like Alton, Ashington, Norton, Dacre, Derby or even Troon. You can put them together to make first names and surnames: Alton Troon, Norton Dacre etc. If you want to get seriously wacky you can go off piste and try another country.

So if you’re about to name your main character Kyle, hold up! Why not see if there’s an interestingly named town near you?

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Help! Help! It’s the Chaos Fairies… and some other stuff…

First up, I’d like to thank the host of brave souls who have started following this blog recently. I really appreciate it and I apologise that I haven’t been able to pop over and visit everyone back. The spirit is willing but, as those of you who have been reading this blog regularly for a while will know, my life is a bit chaotic.

However, while I freely admit that my general organisational life plan seems to be reactive – as in lurching from one oh-shit-did-I-forget-to-do-that crisis to another – I feel that today there were mitigating circumstances. The Chaos Fairies were with me. I was very organised this morning, I dropped off McMini and put a wash on nice and early. The first inkling that the Chaos Fairies had turned up was when, after about an hour I went back to see if the washing was done and discovered the machine had switched itself off.

Dan dan daaaaaah. It was an old machine and I kind of thought this.

20140707_153254

Yeeeeeeek! (Yeh yeh. Eyebomb, therefore eye am.

Luckily it was only the plug. I fixed it. No more harm done than an hour of sunlight and drying time dropped.

A few moments later I returned to my computer to start on my to do list. I managed a couple of things. Booyacka! Then, while my anti-virus programme updated itself I planned the flyers and bookmarks I was going to make.

Or not.

When I tried to open my dtp programme I discovered that my anti-virus had taken the unilateral decision to quarantine the executable file. I couldn’t get it out so I had to reinstall. Then it decided that the latest update of flash was also malware. Then I switched it off file checking and left it to look at e-mails and the internet stuff. I should probably look into that one sometime. In the meantime I’ve managed one book mark and trust me, it was a major achievement.

So I trundled off to collect McMini having pretty much blasted my only day to work this week into nothing. The handlebars had come loose on my bike and were wobbling about. Luckily it was just a case of them moving up or down rather than turning while the wheel stayed pointing straight on but it was… odd.

On the up side. I found the shoes I wanted to wear – which I haven’t been able to find all week – stacked neatly among McOther’s. What the hell was I doing when I put those away? Perhaps the Chaos Fairies felt a little bit guilty and pointed me in the right direction. Or maybe not.

However, it’s probably going some when you come close to forgetting about the launch of your own book. Which is on Saturday by the way. Gulp. Yep, as usual my effort to effect a smooth, ritzy launch is a complete shambles. I’ll be clicking publish on Amazon slightly early, for the ebook, for the simple reason that I will only have patchy access to the internet from Friday morning onwards and it would be a pity if it didn’t appear on the day it was supposed to. If you want to make sure you get your copy it is available to pre-order in all formats pretty much everywhere except in the case of the ebook on Amazon. Phnark.

Never mind. It’s not all shambolic. I do have a signing coming up in Diss, just down the road in Norfolk. Details coming soon.

Right then. For now, here’s a list of the places where you can get hold of an advance copy of Looking For Trouble.

The cover of Looking For Trouble

The cover of Looking For Trouble

To preorder multiple formats – as they become available – click on the links.

In ebook format…
Kobo
Smashwords
iBooks
Barnes & Noble (nook)

In print:

The Book Depository.
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon US.
From your local Amazon, if you live outside those two.
Waterstone’s

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Cover Reveal. K’Barthan Trilogy, Books 3 and 4. Yes, you read that correctly. ‘Trilogy’ and ‘Book 4’.

Yes…. I can reveal the cover of the third and fourth book in the K’Barthan Trilogy. Yes I’m a writer but I never said I could count. If you want the honest truth, book 3 was so huge that it was never going to approach commercial viability as a paperback, so as it has two distinct halves, I divided it.

So here we are. Artwork. Mmm Mmm. Am I chuffed with this? Oh yes I am.

One Man: No Plan, K’Barthan Trilogy: Part 3.CoverOneManNoPlan

And here’s the blurb….

Confused ex outlaw, pardoned for all misdemeanours, seeks answers… 

The Pan of Hamgee has a chance to go straight, but it’s been so long that he’s almost forgotten how. With a death warrant over his head he is released, given a State sponsored business, and a year’s amnesty for all misdemeanours while he adjusts.

He doesn’t have a year, though. In only five days Lord Vernon gains total power. Unless The Pan can stop him, K’Barth is doomed. The future hangs by a thread, and the only person who can fix it is The Pan: a man without a plan.

And here’s the back…

One Man: No Plan M T McGuire

The back cover of One Man: No Plan by M T McGuire

The snuff box posed a bit of a problem but the choice was pretty slim, not much call for pictures of snuff boxes. The back… well yes, I was extremely pleased with the back.

Looking For Trouble, K’Barthan Trilogy: Part 4

CoverLookingForTrouble

Cornered Hamgeean, with nowhere left to run, seeks time…

The time has finally come when The Pan must stand up and be counted. He must face his demons and rectify the chaos he has caused. He can stop Lord Vernon, and he’s going to, but with a three day wait, the timing is crucial.

To succeed he has to stay alive, a possibility if he keeps his head down and maintains a low profile. But that’s not an easy task for The Pan.

And here’s the back, which I’m insanely pleased with. Sans blurb at this stage.

Back cover, Looking for Trouble.

Back cover, Looking for Trouble.

So there you have it. Book 3 will be out in April and depending on how the editing and beta reading goes, book 4 will be out at the end of April or in May.

This completely excellent cover art has been done by A Trouble Halved, who are ace and can be found here.

As ever I am intrigued to know what you think…

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Author Interiew

Bit of a re-blog this one. Joo’s Book Reviews (and interviews) blog has very kindly interviewed me and you can find out what we talked about, my feet get a mention… and the telly. If you want to have a look it’s here.

You can also find Joo’s review of Few Are Chosen, here.

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Am I what I eat? I hope not.

It’s Friday, not much is going on, McMini is upstairs ‘playing’ with a cross trainer, which is somewhat worrying but hey, he’s enjoying himself, taking some exercise and it’s keeping him quiet. Actually, it’s not, he’s shouting cheery numbers down to me as I sit here in the kitchen.

“One hundred a million!” clunk clunk, “seventy zero” clunk whirr clunk, “fifty a hundred three!”

Which reminds me, I don’t think I’ve posted anything about the conversation we had in the supermarket the other day.

After our splendid trip to Alsace, McMini has developed a liking for frankfurters or “les knack” as they are known in Alsace.

Dinosaurs meet.

Dinosaurs meet.

So I tend to buy them in packs of four, one sell by quite soon, one with a date a bit further away so I can keep it in reserve for later in the week. So there we are at the cold meats section and I’m rootling about at the back looking for one with a longer date. McMini is idly looking at the packets of stuff asking random questions and I am marvelling at the way his mind works.

For example, his question about precut salami: “How big is one of these sausages, Mummy, if it’s not cut up?” you get the picture, I’m sure. anyway, there we are.

“Mummy…?”

“Yes.”

“Do you know what this meat is?”

“No,” I say, because Mummy is not really looking.

“It’s pterodactyl meat.”

I grab the latest sell by date knacks I can find and pop up to see what he’s looking at. Pancetta, cubati de.

“Is it really?”

“Yes. They catch the pterodactyl and then they kill it, and cut it into tiny pieces and then WE eat it.”

“I see. That’s… very interesting. Did your father tell you that?”

“No, I made- I found out all by my own. I know all sorts of interesting things.”

“I’ll say.”

At this point I notice an elderly man who gives me a lovely smile and walks away chuckling.

Later, on the way home, he says. “Mummy, I love you and Daddy and God more than anyone else in the whole WORLD even more than my best friends!”

This is how a five year old thinks and talks, I suppose and it’s really rather wonderful.

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How to get fit without trying.

It’s the time for adventure, the kind of adventure that means I must bicycle very fast from A to B in the early morning, which is, of course, the time when I am least equipped to do so.

Last week, the bearings on McMini’s borrowed balance bike seized half way to school. We chained it to a lamp post, he jumped on the back of the bike and I caned it to school. At least I only had to maintain high speed up one of the hills, we’d already done the other one!

This morning, the McLotus was our doom. It ran out of battery. I hadn’t used it for 3 weeks – you know how it is, it’s only a mile to school and there’s not even time for the oil to warm up and it’s just…. cruel. I had to go out in it on Thursday and when I started it, it went wauh nuh very slowly. But that’s the thing with a Lotus, really it only has to manage one turn and it goes, if you can get a wheezy ‘wauh’ out of it, it’ll start. So I’d taken it on a little run and checked it started OK when I got home. It did, I relaxed.

So… this morning we were late, so late we had to go in the car but when we got in it didn’t ‘wauh nuh’ it didn’t even go ‘wauh’. It just went click.

Keenly aware that I had to go 4 miles to the hospital for physio, up and down five hills, I thought I should try and charge it. I have a solar powered trickle charger which I thought I could use, plug it in and leave it outside the garage door. But it wasn’t long enough and the car wouldn’t move – you can’t even take the hand brake off and push it. When they say it has an ‘immobiliser’ they mean it. Normally, I’d just leave the door open a crack. However, today it was all complicated by the arrival, in a field near us of some people in caravans. There is a group wanting to settle somewhere in Bury who are regularly moved on but are staying round the town. It could have been them or one of the other perfectly decent groups… but it could also have been one of the groups that comes complete with a spike in the crime rate.

There was no time to do anything more so I shut the garage door, and we had to get on the bike, McMini on the back because it would take too long if he scooted or rode his own bike and I had to do a seven minute journey in about three into a strong head wind. It was… interesting, especially when an old lady overheard me muttering “fucking wind” under my breath and thought I was swearing at her. At least I think she did because she shouted “Well Really!” and there was no other reason I can think of… so if you’re reading ma’am, I’m very, very sorry. I promise I wasn’t talking to you.

With the physio appointment looming I was keen to get it charged up. I feared I’d have to ring the man from Lotus assist and I was pretty sure he wouldn’t make it out to me in time. And then a thought struck me, ergo that McOther and I drive stupid cars and have ALWAYS driven stupid cars and that my Triumph Spitfire, and his, had permanently flat batteries and that, in short, we had a trickle charger.

Amazingly, when I looked, I discovered we have. Even more amazing it was one that you can use to start the car and it was in the first cupboard I’d opened.

Never have I averted car trouble so smoothly. And as if to bless my happy outcome, I saw a d type jag in a garage on the way to the hospital and it was so lovely that I didn’t even notice the Ferrari F430 that pulled out ahead of it until it drove away.

lovelydtype2

Yes, I’m afraid I went up the dual carriageway, round the roundabout, back down the dual carriage way the other side, round the roundabout at the other end half way along the dual carriageway and into the garage to photograph this one.
So it’s official. I’m a sad sack. I just wish I’d got the Ferrari as well.

lovelydtype

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