Tag Archives: women writers

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

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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

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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

What? More twattery? #youcantfixstupid

So a lot of time has passed and there’s not been much blogging. To be honest, I’ve been feeling a bit meh and I have learned not to do things when I lack the energy. It’s cold and I’ve just binned the crutches so I’m tired, and sore and a bit stiff. I popped out for a walk round the garden while I spoke to Mum on the phone so I’m even more stiff now! Never mind.

The fur is not enough. Other people are cold too.

Jeepers it’s freezing out there. She hadn’t slept well so she wanted to talk. She had popped into a different room to the one she usually sits in to put the phone away and ended up chatting to me. While we were talking she sat down, on the wrong kind of chair. She was clearly bored and up for a chat, but it was only after she’d sat in it that she told me she was sitting somewhere from which, I know, she has great difficulty getting up. Oops. I think she was a little mithered as well – she often is after she’s had a bad night. I was rather pleased that I’d managed to ring at a time when she was bored and wanted company.

Mission accomplished.

So we chatted for a while and then, since she was in the wrong kind of chair and I was a bit worried she wouldn’t be able to get up again, I suggested she kept me on the line while she got up and went through to the drawing room. That way if she encountered any difficulty or fell over I’d be there to ring for someone to come and pick her up (or warn the team so the person on their way knew we had a woman down, so to speak).

‘Alright, I’ll just see if there’s a stick around here somewhere,’ she said, in answer to my suggestion.

‘Haven’t you got one with you?’ I asked.

‘No.’

Uh-oh. Why the hell not? Had she forgotten it? Yes, probably.

‘Well … how did you get in there from the kitchen?’

‘You know, the usual. I just hang onto things and move from one thing to another.’

‘You didn’t use your walker or a stick?’

‘No,’ she said, a little sheepishly and we both giggled a bit because that meant she’d been a Bad Pensioner.

‘Is that wise?’

‘No,’ she said and then cut off any further argument by adding, ‘I’m going to put you down now while I stand up.’

Gads …

Mum did manage to get up and then one of her lovely carers arrived for the next shift and shepherded her back to the drawing room where her chair is. I had a quick chat to say good bye and left her to it. She was slightly at sixes and sevens but this week she’s been on really good form. I suspect it’s more to do with the fact she’s had some good sleeps and has had people standing over her to make sure she eats her supper (in the nicest possible way, obviously).

Mum is needing a bit more care and she’s not coping with this lock down so well so I’ve started the weekly visits up again. A kindly friend found a Q&A on the BBC website; Health England answers your questions and sent me a screen shot before it disappeared again. Someone had asked if they could drive 90 mins to see their elderly mother, with whom they were bubbled. The answer was yes so I decided I can too.

That’s a bit of a weight off. Bruv came down to see her as well.

Lockdown seems a bit meh this time. I guess the weather isn’t helping. I am bored stupid with being cold and being pleased at how warm it is when we get 2 degrees. Ugh.

Also I’ve managed to smash my iPad screen … AGAIN. Another ten-out-of-ten for fuckwittery there then. I discovered it yesterday when I looked at it and noticed a hair stuck to the white bit at the edge in one corner. Closer inspection revealed it to be a hairline crack, rather than a hair, with another tell-tale crack on the white bit at the other corner, indicating that it goes right across.

Fucking arse!

Sure enough, it does. On the upside you can only see it if you look carefully. Clearly a stress fracture then, but I’ve absolutely no clue when it would have happened which is annoying. It is insured but the shop is shut for lock down so I can’t take it in and I suspect the insurance end date will come and go before lock down ends, which is a bit of a pisser.

The case is a bit useless that way. It’s a hugely expensive Belkin Slim Combo keyboard and hard case. The keyboard is excellent, really comfortable to type on. However, when the case is closed the lid part slides around and if you’re not careful the corners press on the screen and if it gets bashed they smash it. Putting an elastic band round it helped sort that out, although for £150 you expect a bit more. Worse, the iPad clips into a protective shell but it’s able to work its way out of that sometimes. Not so it falls out but just so that it no longer has the protective lip round the sides and it’s surface is flush with the edges of the case. Then pressure on the middle of the lid will crack the glass. I am guessing that’s what happened. Indeed, I’d lay bets that faticcus caticcus stood on it at some point while it was sitting on my desk with the lid closed.

Why do they put glass on these things? My Remarkable and my lap top have plastic screens. Yes, the picture isn’t as crisp but I’ll take that if it means it doesn’t smash every time a gnat lands on it. Bummer, because I love my iPad. I do have a phone number for the insurers so hopefully I can ring them to make a claim and they will honour it when they are allowed to …

On the books front, I’ve been adding the alts to the final version of Too Good To Be True. The last beta reader sent comments in today so I should have those done and dusted ready to send to the editor for a mid Feb slot.

Cockwomble that I am, I’ve ballsed up the name of this series the way I stuffed up the last one.

Originally, I had this idea that I could cross reference series. So I could have K’Barthan Shorts, for shorter reads (under 40k) and K’Barthan Extras for longer ones. Then I could class the books in … sort of sub series … by theme or character, ie Hamgeean Misfit. So the current set of stories are K’Barthan Shorts, Hamgeean Misfit Number … whatever. It seemed a good idea because I thought shorter stuff would be good as entry-level, cheaper, try-me-out kind of books. It wasn’t. Being short bars it from all sorts of stuff promo-wise even though there may well be books the same length included because their authors have not been stupid enough to call them ‘shorts’.

The next Hamgeean Misfit is not a short, it’s a novel, which makes it a K’Barthan Extra. So the title for this one should go, K’Barthan Extra, Hamgeean Misfit: No 4. And that’s the point where I realise I’ve put Hamgeean Misfit in the wrong place because as a K’Barthan Extra it’s number one. So now I have a conundrum.

The KDP series button came too late for this so neither Amazon nor Audible will be changing the name. It doesn’t look like I can change it on Ingram either – which is a bummer because on Lightning Source, I could (and did).

However, I can change it on Nielsen by the looks of things, and everywhere else, as far as I recall – after all I’ve done it before – and as I have to take the prices off the covers, and change the shiny ones to matt, now is the time to make changes, if I’m going to. Sure, they’re humorous books and I can make a joke out of the fact the ‘short’ is a long but I’m inclined to simplify things.

Plus points for changing it from shorts:

  1. I have to change all my paperback covers because Ingram’s prices have reached the point where I will have to pay them to publish a book, come March, if I don’t.
  2. Calling them shorts is too specific – if it’s an ‘extra’ the long ‘short’ is, suddenly, eligible for a bookbub – which it isn‘t now because they don’t accept shorts and I doubt being a novel called ‘short’ will cut any ice.
  3. When the more commercial straight sci fi series is finished, a section of those readers might enjoy the K’Barthan stuff and want to read these books so they probably are worth sorting out.
  4. The 20k ones can still be useful as toe-dipper, try-out books at entry-level pricing for folks wishing to dip a toe in the world of K’Barth for less cash.

Plus points for keeping it as is:

  1. Amazon will refuse to change it (series predates the KDP series button). Therefore Audible won’t change it either.
  2. In the last six years, I’ve only had two international bookbubs anyway, for 99c rather than free, so getting a bookbub featured deal is probably not a consideration I need to factor in.
  3. If Ingram insist on a new ISBN I’d rather not waste one.

Third alternative:

Just switch the names round so Hamgeean Misfit is the main series title but then the subsets become the main series and I could see that becoming a mess … or do I mean even more of a mess.?

Fourth alternative:

Just take the K’Barthan Shorts bit out and leave it at Hamgeean Misfit. I might get away with that on Amazon and could add the subtitle ‘a K’Barthan story’. All these books need to have ‘K’Barthan’ in the series or book title or in the subtitle. This is because of the number of other McGuires now writing stuff means readers looking for me by name have to wade through pages of books by my fellow, way more successful McGuires before they find me – in my defence, I was the only one when I started. Additionally, there is the fact that most people can’t spell McGuire – even if they see it written down – and search for Maguire, MacGuire, McGwire or even (shudder) McQuire instead. One lovely person leaves glowing reviews on many of my books but spells my name ‘Maguire’ in every single one.

Everything is a lot simpler if I can tell folks to search for the word, ‘K’Barthan’ and even better it works. As a result, I think I’m going to change the series name to ‘K’Barthan Stories’ and leave it at that.

_____________

On a different note …

I’m giving away one of my books until 31st January – because I feel like it. That means you have just over twenty four hours to grab your copy, if you want one. Obviously, the book in question is the Christmas one, Nothing To See Here. If you haven’t got it, now’s your chance. Here are the details.

Nothing to see here

It’s midwinter and preparations for the biggest religious festival in the K’Barthan year are in full swing. Yes, even though, officially, religious activity has been banned no-one is going to ignore Arnold, The Prophet’s birthday, especially not Big Merv, who orders The Pan of Hamgee to deliver the traditional Prophet’s Birthday gift to his accountants and lawyers.

As usual, The Pan has managed to elicit the unwanted attention of the security forces. Can he make the delivery and get back to the Parrot and Screwdriver pub in time for an unofficial Prophet’s Birthday celebration with his friends?

Just in case you’re havering, it got this review, which is about the best review any of my stuff has received, ever:

‘It is a gem of a story, polished and with every facet cut to just the right angle.
A real joy.
This is the wardrobe entrance to a whole new world
Thanks Jim Webster. 🙂

I’m giving this book away from my online store. Here’s how to get hold of a copy.

Go to my shop and download it – this may sound daunting but it’s OK, Bookfunnel will also send you the book by email so if you have any problems loading it you can get it from them AND they will help you. To grab your book, just go to my payhip shop, here: https://payhip.com/b/nYoz click to buy and enter this code at checkout, exactly as I’ve typed it exclamation mark and all.

WipeMyConkers!

Download page: https://payhip.com/b/nYoz
Code: WipeMyConkers! – it’s case sensitive so cut and paste and remember the exclamation mark on the end.

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Filed under General Wittering

There is no end to my unending twattery.

Christmas has come and gone. Christmas is usually about other people but this year, thanks to COVID, we got one for us. Not that we had a choice but it was wonderful, just this one time, to ditch the travel. Our lovely rellies will all be there next year and we’ll be into the car again and creeping through the packed motorways to their various houses and I’ll be whinging about the travel even though I love them and wouldn’t do anything else. Mum’s turn next year.

Meanwhile, COVID aside, I was kind of congratulating myself for managing to limp through this year without making an absolutely monumental fuck up of anything. Or at least, nothing stupendously moronic enough that others could specifically point to, while going, ‘bloody hell! Look at that!’

However, it turns out that is not what I have done. Indeed, quite the opposite. After managing to avoid overt wankerdom for quite a lot of this year, I pulled some absolute blinders out of the bag at the end to ensure that my reputation as a vacuous airhead remains untarnished. Yep, I may be dim but my reputation for knobbery is shining as brightly as ever. Since I can’t so anything to ameliorate my twattery, I feel we may as well have a chuckle about it here. It’s good for naught else after all! Off we go then …

First, I managed to arrange an extra special shit show for myself over a couple of hours on Christmas Eve …

Six o’clock; it was dark and everything was closed. Time for shower and pjs. Got undressed, replied to a couple of texts and dumped my phone on a chair in the bathroom next to the shower. As I put it down a solitary card fell out of the case. An M&S card. I picked it up and checked the floor around, nothing else had fallen out.

Good.

Putting the card back in the wallet bit of the phone case, I discovered the reason nothing else had fallen out. It wasn’t there.

Not so good.

Indeed, more like aaaargh! Yes, a handful of business cards were gone and I was happy to lose those but I was less happy about the absence of my debit card and my driving license, which was only in there temporarily anyway because I keep having to do things that require ID and it was pissing me off having to go and find it.

Shit.

I scrabbled round under the chair but there was no sign of the cards.

Double shit. Now what.

Well, I decided, since I was already in the buff and the water was running nice and hot it was a pity to waste it. Yep. I may as well have a shower. Then I could put joggers over my pj bottoms, an anorak over the top and trace my steps round the town to see if I’d dropped the cards during the walk I’d taken earlier to deliver Christmas cards. I sent about three, the ones I could deliver on foot, and that was it.

Why did this stuff always happen after I’d run out of time to fix it? I asked myself. Why indeed. Thank you 2020 for a final fuckery fuck. I hate you. Except I sort of don’t because lockdown has been very, very kind to my stress levels.

Showered and changed I went downstairs to the McOthers, grumpy to a point where I might just possibly have been the grumpiest bastard on earth at that moment, and explained what had happened.

‘When did you last use the card?’ asked McOther.

‘Pffft! Yesterday, the day before, last week? How should I know?’

I could see the enormous concentration it took for McOther to stop his eyes rolling. Obviously I’d not the blindest, chuffing clue when I’d last seen the cards, natch. We decided that I’d search my office, and look down every sofa and chair I’d sat in since June. No wait, no need. McMini remembered that they all fell out the previous evening and he climbed over the back of the sofa to retrieve them for me as I lay on the cushions like a giant fat baby bird making pathetic noises, arms, legs and crutches akimbo and ice pack applied to my knee. Thank you McMini.

We started the search and McOther, god love him, donned his coat and retraced my route round the neighbourhood to see if he could find the errant cards on the pavement. Why to god do I not keep these in my wallet? He asked me before he left. I explained that I have a wallet but there are slots for cards on my phone case and so I split my cards between the two. Bag snatched? Never mind you still have money. Phone lost, never mind, you still have a credit card in your wallet in your bag. Left one or the other at home? Never mind, you are still financially functional.

McOther returned from his search of the streets empty-handed. Having searched everywhere while he was gone and also found nothing, I resigned myself to the horrors that had overtaken me. I was going to have to pay twenty quid, or whatever it is, for the pleasure of losing my driving license and I’d have to stop my debit card.

Ugh.

Maybe I should take one last look in the bathroom, I thought, even though McOther and McMini had both looked there and found nothing. I went up, and looked at the chair. Underneath it, standing neatly against the side of the shower cubicle are a couple of bottles of spray cleaner. One was slightly skew whiff. Could that be? Maybe … yes! There were the offending cards! Still bunched together in a fat oblong, jammed in between a bottle of Cillet Bang glass cleaner and the side of the shower cubicle. I put them in a different part of the phone wallet, where they cannot fall out.

To begin with, having been forced to make some unscheduled after-dark perambulations, McOther was unamused. However, he did eventually see the funny side.

Christmas almost ruined but thankfully, not, after all.

Further news, I decided to buy myself a pair of spiffy new boots this week. I duly searched for them on line and, finally, discovered a pair in a colour I like and a size that would fit. Joy. As usual when I came to buy them the ruddy site wanted me to join. I get so fed up with this having to join up to everything. Yet more emails I don’t want and another password for an ‘account’ I’m unlikely to use ever again; a password I am even less likely to remember. The worm turned and I gave my address but wrote my feelings in the name box. I paid by paypal so they’d be using those details anyway. Right?

Hmm. Apparently not. Now they keep sending me emails addressed to, ‘Dear I don’t want to join anything I just want to buy some shoes’.

All I can say is, I’m glad I didn’t swear. This made me unaccountably giggly, which just goes to show how much of an idiot I am, because it’s not funny, except that I find it chuffing hilarious. Presumably because I’m a twat. As well as arsey. An arsey twat, then. But we all knew that anyway.

Well … Tis the season to be merry, after all …

Originally, I thought I’d have a new release to share with you. Yep. I was hoping I’d have managed to get a story in this year’s Christmas Lites. However, after a horrific two months for the producer, which included her getting COVID,  it will, most likely, be postponed until next year. I will keep you posted on that one. In the meantime, there is always last year’s which you can find here. It’s great as always; beautifully presented and full of cracking stories although not one of mine that time.

There were also glitches in the admin. There are times when I think it would be really great to actually be able to remember something occasionally. The kind of shite normal people don’t even think about having to remember. Stuff they remember as easily as they remember to breathe. Clearly it is not to be. Lorks though! Imagine if you did have to remember to breathe … every … fucking … breath. How much mental time and energy would that take up. You’d get fuck all done right? Yeh, right. Well, that’s where I am with admin. And there is a LOT of admin in my life. I need to speed up my mental cogs, I need to think faster so I can write faster and be, if not on top of then, at least, a few inches off the bottom of my admin.

On the upside, after about 21 months, West Sussex Social Services has finally got round to invoicing me for Dad’s care home fees. Luckily, I had the money ring-fenced and I have paid so that’s the last of the Dad stuff … er hem … except interring his ashes but we’re going to batch him with Mum so at the moment his mortal remains are still with the undertaker.

Further strange adventures on Tuesday. I received a mysterious email from DPD warning me that they were going to make a delivery today. I was surprised to discover they were delivering to Mum. I have a lot of stuff on order so I pinged a message to the lovely folks on the care group warning them that I may have sent my bras to Mum’s in error. This was particularly annoying as I am not now going to Sussex for the foreseeable so I was wondering about the logistics of getting whatever it was, but I was pretty sure it was bras, back to me. I spent some time going through all the ‘your order is dispatched’ emails and discovered to my horror that yes, there was one. Mum sends gifts out to all her nephews and nieces. There are a fair few of us and so depending on the status; vegetarian or not vegetarian, they get smoked salmon or cheese. At the moment, although there are two vegetarians, one eats fish but the other doesn’t so I send her cheeses from a fabulous company which used to come to the Ely Farmer’s Market. I order them with Mum’s card but I always put my number and email address because Mum doesn’t look at her emails anymore. I used to do it for her but now that everyone who matters knows she doesn’t read them there isn’t really much point.

Bollocks. It was obvious what had happened. I’d somehow managed to stuff it up and have the cheese sent to Mum instead of my cousin. Arse-ity arse, arse, arse! Yet, when I looked I had got the delivery address right. Bum. Now I’d have to complain. Except that, hang on, hadn’t my cousin had her cheese? I was sure she’d mentioned it. What was going on then?

Before I could investigate further the phone rang. It was Mum.

‘Darling, something’s arrived. I don’t know what it is.’

‘It’s OK Mum, I think it’s cheese,’ she starts slowly and deliberately reading the label.

‘Do not leave, deliver or return to depot, open at once …’

‘Mum,’ I feel guilty about interrupting her but we’ll be there all day. ‘Are you able to bring it inside and open it?’

‘Of course, good idea.’ We chat about this and that as she makes her way into the house and takes the parcel into the kitchen. I hear her put it on the table. ‘I’m going to put you down now while I open it,’ she says.

Clonk. Scrabbling sounds.

I wait.

‘Are you doing OK?’ I shout after a minute or two.

‘Yes he’s coming this afternoon,’ she bellows back cheerfully.

Riiiiight. OK so she can’t hear me. I wait, and wait, and wait … Then after a little while, I wait some more. Hmm, has she forgotten I’m there, I wonder. A couple of days before, while we were chatting on the phone, she fell asleep. Luckily I made the call so I was able to hang up and redial, the ringing phone woke her up. No, wait. She isn’t asleep there are still scrabbling noises. It’s just the sound of someone with arthritic fingers trying to cut through sellotape with a kitchen knife. Please God don’t let her cut herself.

Clunk. Ah she’s picked up the handset again. ‘It’s jolly difficult to open!’ she says. Clunk, I hear as she puts the phone back on the table and starts sawing, afresh, at the sellotape before I can reply.

I wait … and wait … and wait a little bit more.

‘Oh …’ I hear her say.

‘Yes?’

Clunk scrape click, ‘Darling, it’s definitely cheese. One with red writing on, one with green and two blue.’

‘No, Mum, I think the two blue ones are the biscuits.’

‘Oh so they are. And there’s a jar of something.’

‘Onion marmalade?’

‘I haven’t got my glasses but yes … I think so.’

Arsocks! Now I know it’s my cousin’s cheese.

At this point the carer arrives, and she does have her glasses with her so she’s able to read what’s written on the packets. Then we discover a note in there.

‘Many thanks for your support at this difficult time. We hope you enjoy your cheese. Stay safe. Tim Jones.’

Well … that’s not my cousin’s cheese. But they’ve sent Mum the same cheese selection she sent my cousin. Bless. Part of me is delighted for Mum, another part of me is green with cheese envy and wishing it was sent to my house. But the biggest part of me is extremely concerned. I know that these guys do a number of farmers markets in their area, Stamford, Oakham and similar. Ely must be about as far east as they come on a regular basis. They also come to the Bury Christmas Fayre, they must sell a tonne of cheese there, and doubtless they do Norwich Cathedral Fayre and many others round about – they come from Rutland so I’m guessing they do everything within a 100 mile radius. Those events were all cancelled this year and just talking to the chap on the huntin’/shootin’/fishin’ stall at the market who makes 12 bore cartridge Christmas Lights, it’s a lot of revenue to lose.

So now I’m rather worried about Mr Jones and his holstein cheesemaking helpers. I hope they are OK because their cheeses are absolutely fabulous. I’m going to go and buy a big hamper of cheese from them right now. Because they are awesome and I want to keep them going. And if you want to try some of the best cheddar cheese in the world – I kid you not, this stuff is gorgeous – just visit www.lincolnshirepoachercheese.com It’s expensive, but it’s worth it for that sort of quality. I also notice they won a gold medal at the 2019 Artisan Cheese Awards in the Hard Cheese category. I find that unaccountably amusing, although I suspect nobody says ‘hard cheese’ anymore. I’ll have to put the phrase in a book so it’s preserved for posterity. But an award would be anything but hard cheese I’d have thought.

There we are, it’s all go here at locked down towers. I have to go to emergency code red London on Monday for an appointment with the knee consultant at London Bridge Hospital. I’ve decided that public transport probably is a bit dicey so I’m going to drive. They do let you park there in situations like the current one. Woot for the vaccination when it comes. In the meantime. Wish me luck.

_____________

On a different note …

I’m giving away one of my books until 31st January – because I feel like it. Obviously, the book in question is the Christmas one, Nothing To See Here. If you haven’t got it, now’s your chance. Here are the details.

Nothing to see here

It’s midwinter and preparations for the biggest religious festival in the K’Barthan year are in full swing. Yes, even though, officially, religious activity has been banned no-one is going to ignore Arnold, The Prophet’s birthday, especially not Big Merv, who orders The Pan of Hamgee to deliver the traditional Prophet’s Birthday gift to his accountants and lawyers.

As usual, The Pan has managed to elicit the unwanted attention of the security forces. Can he make the delivery and get back to the Parrot and Screwdriver pub in time for an unofficial Prophet’s Birthday celebration with his friends?

Just in case you’re havering, it got this review, which is about the best review any of my stuff has received, ever:

‘It is a gem of a story, polished and with every facet cut to just the right angle.
A real joy.
This is the wardrobe entrance to a whole new world
Thanks Jim Webster. 🙂

I’ve decided to give this book away from my online store for the whole of January. Here’s how to get hold of a copy.

Go to my shop and download it – this may sound daunting but it’s OK, bookfunnel will also send you the book by email so if you have any problems loading it you can get it from them AND they will help you. To grab your book, just go to my payhip shop, here: https://payhip.com/b/nYoz click to buy and enter this code at checkout, exactly as I’ve typed it exclamation mark and all.

WipeMyConkers!

Happy New Year, and Happy (belated) Prophet’s Birthday. Here’s hoping you and yours stay safe and well and warm, or cool if you’re mid summer right now. For the rest of us, here’s to spring! Let’s hope it hurries the fuck up!

Here are the details for the free book again:

Download page: https://payhip.com/b/nYoz
Code: WipeMyConkers!

Blurry Pyramid Orchids at Mum’s

 

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We’re not at home to Mr Cock-up … Ah. It seems I’ve just told a lie.

As I dot and carried down the hall and stopped to pick up this year’s obligatory longways Christmas card which inevitably slides off any surface upon which it is put if so much as a gnat flies past it – let alone a fat woman on crutches – it occurred to me that I haven’t written a blog post for a sod of a long time.

This is my attempt to put that right. It’s the product of ten minute intervals throughout the week.

Where’s the cock up in that? I hear you ask. Well … more on that story, later.

So the post operative stuff is coming on but mostly … gah! I am having a great deal of difficulty getting the knee to straighten to the extent it’s supposed to (hurts a lot so it’s hard to push, only gets there by the end of the day and the results never stick – next morning we are back a few paces and have to start again). That said, miracle of joyous miracles I can now sleep better. The worry, on the extension front, is the threat of more intervention.

Yep. If I can’t persuade it to not only extend but also for that extension to stick, I will have to go into isolation for another two boring weeks and then be anaesthetised and have it manipulated until it bloody does go straight. This is not an enticing thought. I’ve had enough pain to keep me going for some years this last seven weeks, and now that the levels are finally dropping to manageable I have no desire to go looking for more. On the up side it fared reasonably well after a trip to Mum’s and back this Wednesday and then, to my joy, the physiotherapist reckoned it was extending fully if pushed but just not going on its own because it was swollen. Woot. So I will continue with the ice packs and the weights of doom – sitting with the knee across the gap between two chairs and hanging an oven cloth with a 1kg weight in each hand hole over the top of it.

Onwards and upwards.

A grim discovery.

Oh dear …

Over my knee recuperation period I’ve discovered I need to drink  more at night. For some reason the water out of our taps tastes gross unless you run it for a bit, unfortunately the tap has one of those water saver things on it which means it takes a long time to get much out of it. Case in point it takes close to five minutes for the water in the basin to run hot. It’s only one basinful of water but the water saver attachment is very efficient. Even more so now it is clogged up with scale.

Anyway, the long and the short of this was, I brought a glass up to the bathroom so I could fill it before I went to bed at night with fresh water that doesn’t taste of metal. Some nights I forgot and just drank the remnants of the previous day’s.

Meanwhile in another part of the house, I was a little worried that McCat didn’t seem to be drinking his water anymore. Then again it was throwing it down with rain most days and he was probably hoovering up the contents of the puddles in the garden; not to mention the pond. That’s what I assumed anyway … until one morning I found him in the bathroom with his head in the glass drinking my water.

Yeh. So now I have a lid for the glass and every morning, before McCat is released from his ‘bedroom’ I empty any remnants of water down the sink and turn the glass upside down. The levels in McCat’s water bowl are now dropping as normal which can only mean one thing. I think I may have to sanitise my entire digestive tract. Then again maybe that’s why I’ve lost some weight. Perhaps sharing my water with McCat has given me worms.

Probably.

Garden detecting … sort of …

This afternoon, I doubled the last two physio sessions into one long one and rewarded myself with an hour metal detecting in the garden. The aim is to gradually build up my stamina (phnark) so I can detect for a morning without knee-related repercussions. But it also serves as a good way of taking an hour’s gentle exercise when I haven’t done anything all day. Er hem. Like today.

Type V tongue/chape to hold the buckles on dandy shoes.

Today’s session got off to a wobbly start. As usual I found a lot of foil and interestingly, a large metal tray about a foot across.

Then things began to look up a little. I found a musket ball, at least I’m pretty sure it’s a musket ball, I’ll need to examine it in better light as it has a blob on it which might be the remnants of a rusty hook, which would make it a weight. Then, with the last signal of the ‘day’ because it was pretty much dark by that time, I found a type V chape, which is the thing you would put behind a shoe buckle if you were a gentleman living between the years of 1670 and 1720. Mine is late and may even be after 1720 because the double pronged ones are usually later. Shoe buckles came in two parts; the chape/tongue and the buckle. Put them together and you are able to buckle up your shoe, clearly, but the joy and practicality of them lies more in the fact you can take them apart.

People in the seventeenth and eighteenth century were a lot more sensible than us in many ways, they used a system for buckling their shoes that allowed the metal buckles to be moved/reused. This was because metal was expensive but also … fashion. This way they could swap the buckles over to different shoes which meant you didn’t have to buy a new set of buckles if you got some new or different shoes. If you were loaded it also meant your manservant could easily swap sets of buckles from your collection between different pairs of shoes or conversely, if you had more than one set of buckles but only one pair of shoes you could swap different sets of buckles around without any particular trouble.

So there we are, now we know a little more about the workings of the Scarlet Pimpernel’s foot attire.

This has not been my first foray into the garden. It started, rather boringly, with a ‘hoard’ from the lawn. Unfortunately said hoard was modern coinage to the tune of nine and a half pee. I think the lawn comes from elsewhere as about a foot down you come to an old carpet. I should imagine any interesting Georgian relics are underneath it.

The next session went rather better. I tried the jungle; an overgrown piece of ground near the back of the house where there are fruit trees and an extremely thuggish shrubbery which has subsumed most things. Nobody will be saying ‘Ni’ round here, unless it’s a ‘Ni!’ of disappointment on the grounds of impenetrability. Anyway, on Tuesday, I managed to dig up a medieval jetton from the mid 1700s which was rather exciting.

It’s worn smooth and shiny by din’t of being held and used which is rather lovely. It’s rose and orb type – ie a supremely unexciting one of which there are many. I think it’s an earlier one though, because it’s hammered and the metal is better quality and less pitted than they usually are.

Interestingly, well for me but probably less so for you, I also discovered a pile of what looks like three hammered coins rusted together. They are irredeemably knackered so I am in the happy position of being able to test restoration techniques on them. This is another word for ‘break them’. So far having read a report from a university in the Balkans somewhere, I’ve hit on acetic acid – or a dilute solution of white vinegar. Quite a lot of the kack has come off but I’m none the wiser as to what this thing really is. Never mind. I have also found another musket ball and another little bell since.

Each day I go out at about three and do forty minutes before it gets too dark to see. I got all giddy and excited today because I thought I’d found one of those little lead pots they used to put the gunpowder in. Turned out to be a piece of old shite but you can’t win ’em all. I did find a £2 coin today which I thought was a bit of a win. Needless to say the squirrel appears to be stealing those chocolate pennies you get around Christmas time and burying them. I keep digging up the foils along with little caches of nuts. Just more proof positive that the squirrel is a complete and utter bastard, then. Not that I needed it.

My lord, shall I prepare the guest room for Mr Cock up?

Yes, now we come to Mr Cock-up, a gentleman to whom, it seems, I am always at home.

That’s right, it wasn’t breaking the coins or sharing my night time water with my skanky cat. This one’s to do with books.

One of the good things about lock down this year is that I wrote a novel for the first time since 2015. It’s not my best, I kept it simple for one thing, but it’s alright. On the downside, I need to have it edited. One of the difficulties I have with editing is that I do not have the kind of life that allows me to hit deadlines. Let’s face it, I don’t have the kind of personality that allows it either, but with a bored demented Mum who rings to talk at the most inconvenient moment possible every day – unless I head her off at the pass by phoning her in the morning, which I do usually do. And there are the Wednesday visits, and THINGS happen and I have to try and fix them. But yeh, I daren’t book stuff, even months out, because I hate dicking people around and the only thing I can guarantee about any deadline I commit to is that something will go tits up and I will spend the run up when I’m supposed to be preparing putting the wheels back on my – or someone else’s life – and I won’t be remotely ready for it. CF the last deadline I set myself; my father died, which rather put paid to that one.

Clearly, with a 20k novella this isn’t quite such an issue because the editor is great at squeezing it in between other jobs. However, when the novella has mushroomed to an 85.4k novel it puts a different inflection on things.  It’s not the kind of thing anyone could squeeze in between other jobs. My bad. Once again, the inhuman organised people win at life and those of us who are not, or do something a bit random like caring for someone, miss out. This time, with the knee and all, I was even less keen to book a date for editing than normal.

Luckily, my usual editor has a slot but not until mid to late February – which isn’t too far away. BUT it’s also the point when Gareth reckons he’ll have a space to do the audio.

Gah! Curses!

OK so with any luck, Gareth’s schedule might slip a bit, and it’ll all work out. Or he might manage to squeeze it in before the next job.

From my, and your, point of view though, it means the book is not going to be ready for March the way I’d hoped and it definitely won’t come out in Audio at the same time as it comes out in all the other formats. If I can get as much of the ‘this doesn’t make sense’ or the ‘have you forgotten a bit here, I don’t think this was mentioned before,’ kind of stuff done before it goes to edit it will a) cost less and b) be quicker.

To that end, I have two plans. One, I’m going to try a kind of self-edit and two, I’m looking for beta readers. Not normal ones who are booked up for the next six months or charge money, but a bunch of folks like me who are happy to read my book on a whim and ask me any pertinent questions. I need people to ask questions and flag up things that make no sense. People who will spot the odd typo but, mostly, spot the other things. Nobody with a rigid To Read ethic, people who will go, ooo yeh, I’ll have a look at that.

Not hugely likely is it? Hmm. I have cocked this up a bit really. Never mind. I do have one volunteer, which is excellent news. And since I’m here, and doing a blog post for once, I may as well ask, anyway. So if you’re not too worried about bumping something into the middle of your to-read list, can get the comments back by the third week in January 2121, and if you fancy bagging a free book in return for doing a favour for a well-meaning idiot … just get in touch or leave a comment.

Looking for something to keep you entertained this Christmas?

Why not try one of my audiobooks? Available from my own web store for a sod of a lot less than they cost elsewhere, narrated by the ridiculously talented Gareth Davies. To browse my web store just click here:

Alternatively you can bag two audiobooks for free if you join my mailing list: Night Swimming – a mailing list exclusive story and a bit later on, you’ll receive another one: Unlucky Dip prequel to both the K’Barthan Series and the K’Barthan Shorts Series to try the short and join the list, just click here.

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Ouch. Post surgery blues … they come to us all

Today, I’m going to talk about pain management. Because pain management is quite a big part of my life right now. It does feel as if my full-time job is doing physio, three times a day. Having pathetic walks – three twenty-minute walks a day. Little and often works, but one big walk just makes it stiff. It’s particularly irritating when you have to get the anorak on and wrap up warm for a pathetic amount of time. Then there’s icing my knee. This has to be done five times a day for twenty minutes with the swollen limb higher than my heart. So that’s lying like a beached whale on the sofa with one leg in the air.

The hardest thing about the five 20 minute icing sessions is that you have to keep the swollen thing higher than your heart. That means lying with your leg above your head icing your knee and I always bloody go to sleep. Which is not really helpful because I need to be dog tired to sleep at night … and there’s only time for four. I’m probably supposed to do one when I wake up.

Then there’s three – or ideally four but I can’t squeeze the fourth one in – physio sessions every day. And of course, if you go for the third walk after three thirty, you’re going in the bastard dark. And it’s damp and the crutches slip on the sweaty pavements – or the ice (insert as appropriate) – so you have to be careful. Note to self, if I ever have to put myself through this purgatory again, I must do it in summer.

That’s the first golden rule then. If you’re looking down the barrel of major surgery with a long recuperation period, and you have a choice, do it in summer. Especially do not do it when you are looking down the barrel of a five hour car journey way before you are well enough. It’s got to be done but it’s going to hurt. Thanks for that Boris you honey monster-shaped git. And for keeping the window nice and small so the entire chuffing nation has to go at the same time thus clogging the roads. Never mind it hurts awyway so that probably won’t make much difference.

Seriously though, how do people do this? I mean, if I add in the odd household chore here and there, which, because I’m on crutches, I achieve at a pace slightly slower than that at which continental drift moves. Doing the washing up in the morning, and putting a wash on, hanging it out and folding it up is pretty much all there is time for over and above the stupid recovery routine. Then I have to ring my Mum, every day, and it takes an hour, and I wouldn’t begrudge Mum the time or the call, it’s just that it’s another thing to remember when my brain is addled, first with pain meds, and now that I’ve kicked those into touch, with … well … pain.

That’s been interesting this last couple of weeks.

The day before lock down a friend of Mum’s popped round for a visit. They had a lovely time except the following weekend, friend in question discovered she had covid. So as she came out with it less than five days after seeing Mum, Mum had to go into isolation for two weeks. Except that then someone looking after her on the Thursday also got Covid within five days, so the isolation period became even longer, moving from the Tuesday to the Thursday.

It’s been coming, in fact it’s miraculous it hasn’t happened but obviously it had to happen now. Three of Mum’s care team got Covid. Two testing positive and one with exactly the same symptoms but testing negative. I still can’t drive and so we decided it probably wouldn’t work if it was limpy looking after dotty. Instead my lovely sister in-law went down there, along with the one remaining carer still standing. During this time, Mum had an eye appointment on the Sunday which none of us clocked was actually a five hour laser surgery session. Meanwhile I was getting regular calls from Track and Trace asking how Mum was getting on with her isolation. Did she need help?

No, I expained, she was fine and sis in law was there. Finally one Sunday, after trying a longer walk, I’d dropped off, as usual, during the post perambual knee icing session. I was rudely awakened by the phone. Someone wanting to talk to Mum. I explained I didn’t live with her, but I could give them her number, except she would be off out to the hospital for an eye appointment soon. To my horror the voice on the phone told me she hoped not because Mum was supposed to still be in isolation. There would be a fine and legal action if she had.

Fucking fuck. Why does this stuff happen when I’m so ridiculously under par.

Ah, I said. I explained that I was addled and recovering from knee surgery but thought the folks down there would be sensible to put two and two together and not go. Did I want to ring and check? She asked me. Yes, I said, I probably did. She was actually lovely about it and said she or one of the others would call back later.

I rang Mum. No answer. Sod it, they’d already left. Rang Sis in law, brother and everyone else I could think of. Finally sis in law answered. Hopefully we didn’t break the rules but she had to go in to explain what had happened, at which point she discovered that what we all thought was a routine eye check for Mum was a 5 hour laser surgery. Oh shit. Hopital team were very understanding and Sis in law returned to Mum, who, thankfully, hadn’t got out of the car, and took her home. It was like a French farce!

Mum was very cross and wanted to make a complaint but I guessed that since the carer who would have originally taken her was one of the ones off with covid, she probably was waiting to tell Mum nearer the time so she didn’t get all of a dither. Over the course of this week the plague carers – and the non-plague plague carer – have gradually returned and everything has gone back to normal.

Meanwhile Mum is in a dither about plenty of other things, getting the right prayers for this week’s church so she can look at the right readings on the right day, and increasingly phoning me to explain that she can’t get the phone to work. She has started to muddle it up with the TV remote. Yesterday she hung up on me twice while she was trying to turn the telly off, eventually, I managed to talk her through using the right one. Then there’s trying to do proper admin on the group of authors campaigning for fair treatment from Audible, I’m not pulling my weight there at all.

I’m just a bit burned out because Mum … and I didn’t see the Mum stuff coming. I should have known, Dad would always take nose dive every November, but because Mum hadn’t reached that stage until now … and because we think she has vascular dementia … I had kind of hoped it would be different. Maybe she hasn’t. Maybe hers is Alzheimer’s. On the up side, I have now convinced her to have it investigated. The Doctor wanted to start the investigation into Mum’s mental health with some blood tests and offered these about a year ago but she decided against it. However, now she is finding her lack of memory a right pain in the arse and decided she’d like to know. I’m guessing if he’s starting with blood tests he might be wondering about kidney efficiency. She has told me she needs to go to the loo rather suddenly and can’t always get there. How brilliant it would be if the lion’s part of this turned out to be a UTI.

‘I really don’t expect to have to go changing my nappy in the middle of the night! It’s very irritating!’ she said yesterday.

Bless her. I also understand why she refused to have this knee op in 2012 when I was urging her to do so. I can’t imagine what it would be like looking after someone with dementia in this state. Well no … I can … that’s why my sister in-law did it! Thanks Emily! 🙂

It hasn’t been a huge help that all this has co-incided with the bit, five or six weeks after any big injury/surgery etc when I get weepy. This is like when I tore my ACL. It was so painful and it went on and on, grinding, awful, spirit-sapping pain. It was six months before I could walk without a stick. There would be points where I’d get really blue and just want to cry at how mind numbingly slow recovery was. This … this is very like that. And there were a couple of days this week where I just wanted to cry. It is a bit disheartening waking up every morning with your leg set in position like a brick and having to gradually work on it. Over the day, I get to the point where I can straighten it and bend it just over ninety degrees. Then it’s back to bed and the same shit the next day. I wouldn’t mind if straightening it all out wasn’t so effing painful. But it is. And of course that means the pain now is slightly worse than it was two weeks ago, which feels particularly bloody if I’m honest.

Having a of sense of humour failure with the speed of recovery is perfectly natural. I know what’s happening, I know what it is. I just wish I could shut my eyes and fast forward through this bit, or crawl into a hole somewhere on my own, away from other people until I was done so I didn’t have to be a pain in the arse to anybody.

For anyone doing major surgery, it is important, going in, to realise that you will feel less disheartened sometimes, and that you’ll get to a soul-crushing bit where you are just dragging yourself through each day and feeling as if you aren’t getting better (you ARE getting better but because it’s so slow you aren’t noticing).  It’s a pain in the arse but … yeh … I know. I’ll be 8 weeks out by Christmas. If I can just work hard enough now, I should get the ambient pain levels far enough down to cope with the Christmas uplift. Because they will rise over Christmas, they can’t not, because you can’t spend five hours each way in a car – on the two single days when Boris has doomed the entire long-distance-Christmas nation to have to travel at once so it may be more –  go to someone else’s house and spend the entire day putting ice packs on your knee, going for pathetic walks and doing physio … and if the loo is at the bottom of the sweeping, majestic stately-home-sized staircase, and your bedroom is at the top, you’ve got to suck it up. But that’s probably part of my frustration now. Because if I can get it right enough before I go, it should be fine. If. And if it isn’t it’s no bother. I just take a sleeping bag and an airbed and I can always kip downstairs in the dining room if it starts playing up and getting really stiff at night or something. It will be OK, it just adds to the frustration.

________________________________________

Want something to take your mind off the nightmare that is 2020?

The lovely people at Kobo have a Black Friday/Cyber Monda Extravaganza Audiobook sale this weekend. If you’re in Canada and the US, many audiobooks are reduced to $4.99 or less, including mine. Likewise, you can pick up Small Beginnings there for the princely sum of 99p. Woot. Find out more here: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/audiobooks

Or if you really want to push the boat out, there’s something else. There is the Bury St Edmunds virtual Christmas Fayre.

🎄The Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre is one of the largest in the UK, and this year it’s online! Head to https://exploreburystedmunds.com/the-virtual-bury-st…/ to browse for fantastic Christmas gifts – including books! Yes, the Suffolk authors are back, with a virtual stall and signed books for all the bookworms on your list, delivered to your door*.

Choose from a series of crime adventures set in Suffolk, a tale of dark magic in a mysterious English village, a life-affirming journey on the Greater Anglia rail network, a near-future UK-based dystopia, and a comedic sci-fi fantasy series. Or buy them all, and treat yourself! 😁

Tell your friends, tell your family, tell the person two metres away from you in the queue at Sainsburys. Christmas, sorted! 🎄👍

* Please note delivery for some of the books is UK only.

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Operation ouch …

Ha! No blog so far this week. Bet you were congratulating yourself on escaping the massive ‘my operation’ post weren’t you? Unlucky. I’m an eighth French and what that means, my lovely people, is that if you ask me how I am – or even if you don’t – there’ll be none of that ‘mustn’t grumble’ shit from me. No. You ask how I am and I’m going to tell you. Here, in a departure from the norm … on a Monday is the My Operation post …

I’ve had knee surgery before, so I was, undeniably, nervous about this one. It didn’t help that every single person I encountered who’d had it or knew someone who’d had it came out with a variant of ‘it hurts like fuck but it’s worth it’.  I know it hurts like fuck. It’s a knee. I’ve done labour, not too much, I give you, but enough to know that it has to go on for quite a long time before it passes ripping your ACL ligament on the pain-o-metre. Mmm.

Everything was packed and readied, including crutches because I already have some and, bizarrely, they aren’t covered in the cost of the insurance. We duly got up as sparrow’s fart and drove to London where, with a cheery wave goodbye to the boys, I was absorbed into the bubble. My room was at the back looking out into a light well rather than at the front, overlooking the Thames but hey, you can’t win ’em all. It was comfortable and well laid out.

The NICKERS.

On the bed were the THINGS I must ware; a lovely purple disposable robe, a pair of totes toastie socks – in beige – and a pair of dark green pressure socks.  I was instructed to put them on, with only one green pressure sock on my good leg, so I obeyed orders and waited. Also included were … THE NICKERS.

Suffice it to say, the first time I encountered a pair of these I genuinely believed they were a hair net and put them on my head.

They leave nothing to the imagination but I suppose they stop stray pubes from getting into things, I don’t know. Anyway there they were.

My operation was scheduled for 11.30 which meant I was number three in. I was quite tired, because we’d been up at four in order to get to the hospital for seven am, so I dozed a bit, not that I had time to doze much because a whole host of people popped in to see me, including the surgeon, Mr Davies. He gave me a bit of a look and I confessed that I might have peaked too soon with getting the kit on. See me rocking it here.

We had a brief chat, in which I said I was a bit nervous because he was, basically, going to be sawing the ends off to of my big leg bones. He said, ‘I prefer to call it a light resurfacing procedure on your knee joint’ at least I think that’s what he said but as you can imagine, what I heard was, ‘I’m going to cut up your leg with a big electronic saw.’ Demonic laughter optional. I signed a form to say that I was alright with that, using his extremely swish Mont Blanc pen and handed it back so he could draw a very discreet arrow on my leg. You might just be able to make it out in the picture. There are certain aspects of talking to Mr Davies that remind me of McOther. He’s gloriously understated. He asked me if I had any questions – I didn’t really – ‘splendid, I’ll go and get my pyjamas on now,’ he said and headed off to green up – or at least blue up.

The rest of the morning passed in visits from various people. I had a chat to the anaesthetist, the physiotherapist, I think and a couple of others, all of whom gave me forms to sign saying that I understood what I was doing and that if they accidentally killed me then, short of negligence, I understood it wasn’t their fault. They also took copious quantities of blood. I discovered I couldn’t get the safe to work for my valuables, which stern signs all around the room warned me I must do, so they assured me they’d fix it. When the time came, two cheery porters appeared and put me in a wheelchair.

The lift was a large metal box with two blue circles stuck in opposite corners where people need to stand for appropriate social distancing. They both seemed quite surprised when I said it reminded me of the transporter in StarTrek but they laughed so I chalked it up as a win. Next it was into the anaesthatists’ area. There were two cheery gentlemen with accents I couldn’t place until one of them explained that he was Greek and his name was Adonis. How golden is that? He was a med student and would be asking the questions today, overseen by the actual anaesthesitist. I duly informed him that he had the best name in the world because it would be very churlish not to. His colleague was called something equally fabulously Greek, which might have been Netzahualcoyotl but he’d stuck a cannula and rather a lot of pain med into me by then so I failed to remember it. I’m quite pissed off about that because it was a wonderful word, with a whole stack of syllables beginning with Netza-something.

Greeks at the gates then. My mother spent a lot of time in Greece as a child just after the war while my Grandfather was helping set up the Bank of Greece. It used to take her and my Uncle one and a half days to fly there in a Dakota for the summer holidays. Consequentially, when I was a child, she and Dad took my brother and I back there for a succession of gloriously bizarre holidays. And a special detour to Corinth to see the ten seater loo. Being anaesthetised by Greeks was like being given a little benign blessing.

Introductions made, it was all very business like. I suspect people are often scared so they make it like buying a cup of coffee. Anyway, at that point Netza-not-Adonis (but with the equally fabulous name) told me he was giving me the general anaesthetic and the next thing I knew I could hear voices and the little machine that goes beep. Hoorah, I was awake. I had learned the hard way that no matter how interesting the sounds of the recovery room DO NOT TRY TO WAKE UP QUICKLY AND TAKE A LOOK ROUND. So I just lay there drifting, thinking, ‘I have a new knee.’

The nurse was quite stern and as I drifted in and out of consciousness I heard her saying that I’d been there two hours at one point and that it was probably time somebody came and took me away. There was a slightly strained tone to her voice, as if I was cluttering up the place. Two porters arrived to take me back to my room and they warned me to keep my eyes shut. I had an oxygen tube up my nose … not right in there just up. I felt as if I’d had about fifty pints so was happy to keep my eyes closed if it meant it was just me that moved and the walls and ceilings  stayed reasonably still. They were kind enough to wheel me quickly as well, for which I was eternally grateful.

Back at my room I was informed that there was a front room available and that if I liked they could move me into it. Yes. I very much would like. I drifted in and out of consciousness and finally managed to tackle supper, an omelette and sticky toffee pudding and a flask of coffee McOther had made for me. I rang people and then I went to sleep. I was woken regularly during the night for blood pressure tests and pain meds. I began to be aware that my knee hurt. A LOT. Not so much I couldn’t admire the view though, although I took this picture much later, on my last morning.

The staff were gloriously multicultural, from absolutely everywhere in the world and were utter darlings, every man jack of ’em. I’d forgotten how multi-cultural London is and how much I loved that when I lived there.

During the night the mattress on my bed deflated, which made things a lot more comfortable for my feet but which, apparently, was a bad thing. They pumped it up but it wouldn’t stay full, instead gradually deflating or, if left on, starting to beep after a few minutes and continuing to do so until someone came and turned it off and it went down again. They gave it three strikes and then swapped my bed with another one.

The physio popped in and we had a little walk and she showed me some more exercises and I realised that my leg was turning blue.

Seriously, here are my legs, as they are now. A lot of the after pain is caused by those bruises. The left leg is probably about three or four inches greater in circumference than the right leg.

I was also brought a commode and urged to have a crap. Since they seemed very keen that I do so I obliged. I didn’t fully appreciate the importance of this … By Thursday I was ready to go home. The lady from the pharmacy arrived with what looked like a bag of duty free but which was, in fact, a massive bag of drugs to keep the pain at bay. I noticed it also contained a box of sennacot and what looked like a jeroboam of some other laxative.

Ah.

By Saturday morning, despite taking extra care to dose myself up with the laxatives, as proscribed, I was wondering if I would ever poo again. Ah the joy of opioids. At the moment, things get too painful to stay in bed after about 5 am so I come downstairs, make a cup of coffee, do my first round of Physiotherapy exercises, take the first set of paracetamol for the day and then doze on the sofa in my room of shame. This one morning, I was particularly knackered after a night of needing to … you know … go and yet at the same time, not being able to. There’s nothing more disheartening than sitting on the bog with stomach cramps, and a bottom that feels as if it might be actually tearing … but with no action.

Nurse! Forceps.

So there I was downstairs, having to eat because, ibuprofen, but nervous that I was in very real danger of filling myself to bursting point, like Mr Creosote, because there was nothing coming out the other end. And I noticed, by my bag, a one use surgical glove which had fallen out of my ‘filling up with petrol in times of Covid’ pocket. And I had an idea. An idea of such complete and utter brilliance … but also horror.

I mean … how did they unblock particularly difficult cases?

Did they …?

No.

I looked at the glove.

Surely they had to ‘help’ sometimes didn’t they? If I put on the glove and—

Gads! No!

Could I though?

No.

Than again, maybe it was better than the alternative, I thought, as another wave of stomach cramps hit me. And I swear that bastard glove winked.

Operation one; dignity, nil.

Suffice it to say I an not taking any more opioids, even though I probably should and joy of joys my insides are back to normal, even if my leg is still purple. Strangely, despite the ongoing pain, I can feel that there are things which used to hurt which no longer do, and most of the stuff that does hurt is due to swelling and bruising. It takes my weight and I am taking small walks each day and doing three sessions of my physio exercises, hopefully I can work that up to four later in the week. I’ll see what gives when I go to my first, post-op physio session on Thursday. Also, I’ll discuss pain relief when I go see the nurse practitioner to have the staples out on Friday.

In the meantime, I suspect that, for the next couple of nights at least, I’m just not destined to sleep much. If I get truly desperate, I’ll do a midnight physio session, as the physio seems to help at the end of the day when it’s starting to stiffen up.

Onwards and upwards …

_________________________

If you need something to take your mind of that, my audiobook test is still on.

Yep, I’m still doing my beta test for distributing audible via my own site. Or at lest via my own site an alternative way. If you’d like to give it a go, you’ll need to download the bookfunnel app or join bookfunnel. If you’re happy doing that feel free to help yourself – the link is below.

It’s in beta, yes you are testing. That’s why you get a 13 hour audiobook for free read by one of a man who can seriously do funny; Gareth Davies. The fellow who made Roy Hudd laugh … and laugh enough to be asked back to do it again.

Once you click on the link, below, you’ll end up on a download page for the book. When you click listen/play it will ask you to download the bookfunnel app and enter this code, which it gives you right there so remember to write it down.

When you’ve done all the installing malarkey and you click to play it’ll ask you for the code you jotted down. I don’t know if the code is case sensitive but I’d presume it is!

This is a brand new app and brand new audio player, and Bookfunnel appreciate any and all feedback. If you get into trouble, or can’t get anything to work, contact their help address – which is given on their site, help @ bookfunnel.com – with a header: ATTN: Julie.

Here’s the link: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/fxd6bnoy7k

If you decide to listen to the book. I hope you enjoy it. I leave you with this fabulous book-shaped light. Rock on the lovely gift/interiors store on Peebles High Street. Go there, buy stuff. Oh and pop down the other end and have a sausage roll as well!

Wink wink

 

 

 

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If I die before I wake …

Doubtless you’re delighted to see that I’m not starting off with a melodramatic title or anything, because clearly, I would never be a drama queen about having a totally standard operation or anything. Snortle. All the same, I am nervous so this will be a brief post, because I have an operation on Monday and there’s not much of practicable use bouncing about in my brain. We drove down to London yesterday for my pre op tests which included a Covid19 test where, I swear, they pushed the swab into my actual sinuses. Despite the fact the lady was brilliant and actually very gentle, it was not a good scene.

Rotherhythe tunnel

One of the things I particularly enjoy about visiting London is the stuff you find. We went through the Rotherhythe tunnel, opened by in 1908 by Edward, Prince of Wales who became George V on my and McMini’s birthdays. That was amazing. Filled with porcelain glazed bricks to reflect the light, like the early tube lines; Piccadilly, Bakerloo and Northern. It makes a rather good picture. Who knows when I’ll need a light at the end of the tunnel type shot. It is also a very rare example of a tunnel where pedestrians, cyclists and traffic all go through the same bore.

This morning, having remembered to pay the congestion charge for yesterday and Sunday, ooo get me doing one of them in advance, woot! I realised that I’d forgotten to book any physio so I’ve been looking up the physio peps on my insurer’s books with a view to getting my rehab sorted out. I’ve found one that looks good and they have sent me a message which is handy.

In the spirit of if-I-do-this-hopefully-nothing’ll-happen, and not because I’m a batshit crazy old crone, no siree, I wrote The Letter. You know the one, where you add any bits to your last will and testament that you forgot at the time, or write one, tell your McOthers you love them and give them the passwords for your computer so somebody else can profit from the enormous earnings of your literary empire after your death.  Then you sign it, fold it up, write, ‘Open if it all goes horribly wrong and I snuff it!’ On the front of it and stick it in your desk drawer.

No shit, I even broke down how the film rights get divided up. If that isn’t some kind of optimism, despite the overall pessimism inherent in the act of writing the letter, I dunno what is. Mwahahahrgh! What am I like?

In a packed afternoon’s activity, I also sorted out the blinds in my office, finally. Now, instead of blinds on one window, I have blinds on all of them. Which makes it a bit snugger at night. Obviously this has left me feeling that I am a complete household goddess … and with some unfortunate red pen marks all over the paintwork.

There’s me thinking, ‘I know! I’ll use a dry wipe whiteboard marker and then it’ll just wipe off.’

Yeh. That went well. Let’s label it option a shall we? Note to self, dry whiteboard markers do not wipe off vinyl silk gloss. It’s clearly not glossy enough.

Ho hum, can’t win ’em all.

Other news, I just want to briefly update you on the bit I posted about Audible last week. As an author colleague noted, when you upload your books to either Amazon or Audible, you know you are supping with the devil. And she has a good point.

Audiobooks are great, and Audible is great, but I suspect it needs to get its shit together. Fast. It also needs to accord the people it does business with the basic courtesy of transparency and honesty in its practises. We know these companies are gorillas. We know their contracts probably have a sub clause pertaining to the sale of our very souls, I have probably sold my soul several times over since I’ve signed contracts to access Apple, Windows, Amazon and Audible.

No mention that this is a ‘return’.

Nobody wants Audible to go bust but it would be good if they could stop behaving like idiots. I used to work for a UK household name, I know what big companies are like, but they have taken the crappiness and run with it. Plumbing new depths I’d never have believed possible.

Who knows where the future of creative material is going. In an ideal world, the targeting would become more precise and the algorithm at the vendors better at matching products and consumers that suit each other. If that were the case, the slash in royalties that inevitably comes with streaming would be less of a hit. But of course, it’ll be pay to play, so however excellent the algorithm, it will never be left to work on its own. It’s not as if I or anyone else who is worried about this ‘returns’ thing believes the world owes us a living. But I also reserve the right not to work with wankers more than I have to. Audible is 60% of my audio sales but if they and ACX get too much like hard work I will probably give up on them. For now, I’ll hold off with the new release until they can provide me with some basic, reliable information. Some is there, I just need the rest, as do all of us. All we need to know is:

1. How many books I have sold.
2. How many books have been returned.
3. How much I am being paid for each borrow/read/purchase.
4. Ideally this would be real time.

Over and above this, it would be good to know which books are in this Audible plus thing. Are mine in and being ‘lent’ or are they not? I dunno.

Then there’s submitting books to Audible which is a nightmare. The usual channel is ACX, which is owned by the same people, and kind of a sister company, until you want something looked into in which case each one can tell you it’s the other’s problem. Things that do lie squarely with ACX, though, are the interface, which is abysmal, and the reporting, which is also abysmal and the massive delays, which … well it’s great that a human listens but they still need to tell you where in the 200 chapters you’ve submitted the extra second of silence is, otherwise you’re going to be flailing about, resubmitting that book again and again. No wonder they are inundated. Half those books are probably on their third or fourth submission.

Hopefully, if enough writers, producers and narrators of audiobooks can join together to try and open some dialogue with Audible and ACX we might succeed in getting a bit more transparency and a better service. Things that will help them as much as us.

Remember I told you about the K’Barthan Box set, how I submitted chapters for four books which had already been approved, and waited from July to October for them to, basically, approve the opening and closing credits? Yeh. A lot of authors are abandoning ACX because of that. Likewise, the number of people going exclusive with Audible appears to have dropped. So far, there are – again unsubstantiated – claims that the time ACX is taking to approve files has improved drastically. We need to collect more data on that.

I have, at present, unsubstantiated intel that Findaway to flag any returns on their reports from Audible. I have asked them but haven’t heard back yet. I will keep you posted as to whether these efforts to persuade ACX and Audible to listen turn into anything.

In the meantime, remember there are alternatives to audible, Kobo, for starters. But also Google Play, iBooks, authors websites – including mine – and Chirp – which is not available everywhere at the moment but I hope soon will be. There are alternatives. Better alternatives. Go for it. Look for them.

___________________

If you haven’t tried audio, you can, for free.

Yep, I’m still doing my beta test for distributing audible via my own site. Or at lest via my own site an alternative way. If you’d like to give it a go, you’ll need to download the bookfunnel app or join bookfunnel. If you’re happy doing that feel free to help yourself – the link is below.

It’s in beta, yes you are testing. That’s why you get a 13 hour audiobook for free read by one of a man who can seriously do funny; Gareth Davies. The fellow who made Roy Hudd laugh … and laugh enough to be asked back to do it again.

Once you click on the link, below, you’ll end up on a download page for the book. When you click listen/play it will ask you to download the bookfunnel app and enter this code, which it gives you right there so remember to write it down.

When you’ve done all the installing malarkey and you click to play it’ll ask you for the code you jotted down. I don’t know if the code is case sensitive but I’d presume it is!

This is a brand new app and brand new audio player, and Bookfunnel appreciate any and all feedback. If you get into trouble, or can’t get anything to work, contact their help address – which is given on their site, help @ bookfunnel.com – with a header: ATTN: Julie.

Here’s the link: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/fxd6bnoy7k

If you decide to listen to the book. I hope you enjoy it. I leave you with this fabulous book-shaped light. Rock on the lovely gift/interiors store on Peebles High Street. Go there, buy stuff. Oh and pop down the other end and have a sausage roll as well!

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Let’s talk about Things …

One of the things I tidied up was my room of shame … well … a bit.

Blimey, it’s already that time of the week again when I’m supposed to be writing a blog post. It’s been a bit of a clearing up week this week.  I’ve finally finished my story for Christmas Lites. It’s absolutely terrible but it’s done. I’m supposed to have sent it off today, but I need to put the last batch of edits in – and possibly write an additional scene. Which reminds me, I must email the organisers begging for clemency.

That said, although it’s terrible, it’s only the first part really. I could probably tidy it up a lot more if I had the actual event they’re trying to sabotage taking place at the end. Then our band of heroes and heroines could all stand about looking smug as their Grongle overlords commit what they think is an act of extreme sacrilege to upset the locals but … well … isn’t. I might miss the deadline if I do that though. I mean, really miss it. And also I doubt I could do it in under 4,000 words and I only have 3,000 to play with. And I have to prepare for my hospital trip.

I also tidied my desk … sort of.

First up I need to work out what I’m taking and I have a lot of paperwork to read about what I should bring, papers to sign about covid and other stuff to bring along. There’s also a lot of stuff I don’t know, which I do hope they are going to tell me. Soon. I’m guessing I’ll need to wear track suit bottoms. I have a mask with a filter in it that’s good for about 700 hours and I’ve bought one of those plastic face screens to wear as well. While I’m writing, I ought to give you the heads up that there may not be a blog post next week. It depends but I suspect I’ll be on the go driving down to the hospital to have my premed appointments. McOther and McMini may drive me but it depends because I don’t know how long these appointments will take.

The knee is really appalling now. I’m so glad I’m having it done, as I can only do tiny stints of walking before I have to go and have a sit down. I did manage to rake the leaves off the path today and clear away some of the dead and dying veg plants from the garden. I brought the things I’d like to try and keep alive over the winter indoors to the conservatory and I have also managed to make a few more inroads in my room of shame office. See photos.

Squee!

Meanwhile, Gareth is working on the next audiobook, Close Enough, at which point we will have my entire catalogue recorded. So in theory the next book, Too Good To Be True, should be released with an accompanying audiobook, and a lot fewer mistakes because Gareth is very good at spotting typos!

As usual, the chapters he’s sent so far are brilliant. Woot.

As always, he asked me, at the start, if I have any preferences for any of the new voices. On the one hand, it’s hard not to be like a kid in a sweetshop, on the other, I don’t like to be too overbearing. Even if I do stipulate something, I try, really hard, to keep it general and not be any more specific than, what about … accent a or b? But at the same time, Gareth can do pretty much anything I throw at him. I suspect he might surprise himself sometimes on that score. Also, he comes over as a man who enjoys an acting challenge, I sincerely hope so.

That said, I do try to stick to things he might not have thought about doing and stay within the parameters of what his particular voice can do rather than push him miles out of his comfort zone. The aim is for a positive reaction along the lines of, ‘oh yes, that’ll be fun.’  Part of the sheer joy of it all is feeding the ideas in and seeing what he does.

There’s a character in this one called Marcella the Pirate. I have slightly based her on Edward Teach – also known as Blackbeard. Originally she was a guy but then the idea of having her as a lady began to appeal because it made her seem even more of a scary psychopath. So I did that instead. I haven’t really a voice in my head for Marcella short of hard and nasty.  Gareth asked if I had any particular ideas on how she’d sound. When I came to actually think about it I wondered if Edward Teach was from the West country and thought maybe that would work. I checked with Google and sure enough, he was, so I suggested hard and nasty West Country and let him get on with it. Mwahahahrgh, he has not disappointed.

Just on a quick tangent here, Edward Teach was from Bristol. Could that be why pirates traditionally speak with a Bristolian accent? He used to plait his beard and hair and attach firecrackers to the ends of his plaits. I thought he got this a bit wrong at one point and blew himself up. Na-uh. He was actually ambushed. He was shot 20 times, stabbed five more times, then they cut his throat after which, just to make absolutely certain he was dead, someone chopped his head off. Well. There’s nothing like making sure of something I guess but that, right there, is fear of your enemy.

Also on the audiobooks front, Audible have finally released the box set of the K’Barthan Series. To my complete and utter amazement, it sold 33 copies in the first five days. So at least the royalty cheque I send Gareth in however many months it is won’t be quite as risibly small. At the moment I transfer them with ridiculous references on them like ‘HugeRoyalty’ ‘MassiveCash’ etc.

The conceived wisdom on all this is that big books go well on Audible and small books go well on Findaway – though library borrows mainly. I am discovering this to be true. Neither Audible nor Findaway reports completely in real time, Audible seems to update more or less once a day, give or take. Findaway is quite random. So far, the last month’s sales have all been for library borrows with only three or four of the full length books being sold and absolutely zero sales of the Box set.

Going forward, I suspect what I should have done is kept the box set to myself and sold it via my own site for a reduced amount. I will probably do that with the pending K’Barthan Shorts box set. I have to write seven now, as well, because One, Two and Three make a nice novel length book. Four is a novel and Five and Six … well … I suppose they might be longer but I doubt it so I may need a Seven. Although I think The Pan is going to be getting into more trouble with Marcella The Pirate so I doubt it’ll be too tricky. I will probably sell all the books for a bit less on my own site when I get it sorted. At the moment I’m doing that through Author’s Direct. Gareth and I share a 70% royalty on anything I shift there. However, books I published weeks ago still haven’t appeared on my Author’s Direct dashboard so I’m hoping that eventually, I’ll be using the alternative platform that I’m testing alongside (CF the free book last week).

I’m wondering if those 34 people who bought the box set on audible are people who listened to the free book from the link I provided here. It’s difficult to say. It’s stopping now, but it does appear to mean that 34 people were waiting to download it, which is nice. I wonder what sort of royalties we’ll get paid for an audible token purchase. Probably about £2.50.

Audible/ACX does worry me a bit though – ACX is the platform run by Audible to which you upload books. I’m not even sure if I can remove my books from sale once they are on there, which is the bit of a worry with the subscription model looming. You can’t choose where you distribute either, so you have to put up with two listings on Apple, one which pays 40% royalties and one which pays 25%. You can contact Apple and ask them to give the 40% version precedence though. If I go through an aggregator to Audible/ACX, I think can take my books off there more easily but Gareth and I would take a big hit – we would earn 40% of the 25%  royalty that Audible/ACX pay us to go direct.

Also, their exchange policy is concerning. It’s fine returning books you’re not enjoying. I have zero problem with someone downloading my book, loathing it and returning it. But audible encourages readers to ‘exchange’ a book and re-use the credit. They pitch this as one of the benefits of joining. That means an audible user who has enjoyed my book may well decide to ‘exchange’ it for a different one, Audible pitches this to customers as working like a library but as I understand it, they treat exchanges as a return. That means the author and narrator do not get paid and if they have already been paid Audible will claw back the money from future payments. Readers can ‘exchange’ books for up to ONE YEAR after purchase and yes, if it happens in that time, ACX/Audible will take back your money.

So if you’re an Audible user maybe avoid ‘exchanging’ books by authors and narrators that you like eh? Well … if you want them to continue putting books on Audible.

Authors and narrators are getting wise to this, though. Many are now distributing ‘wide’ beyond ACX/Audible while a growing minority are no longer uploading their books to Audible at all. Add to this that if you don’t go exclusive Audible slash your royalties from 40% to 25% – yeh, how dare anyone put their books in libraries – and although it’s supposed to take ’30 days’ for them to approve a book, in reality it takes three to six months to get a book approved and it’s a bit of a kerfuffle. Case in point, the K’Barthan Series Box Set was uploaded in July 19th and went live on 9th October. The glorious illogic of this was that, barring the five second beginning and ending credits, the entire thing comprised files that they had already approved and which were on sale as individual books. So that’s six months to check the beginning and end credits of the book – about 20 or 30 seconds of audio? Something like that.

In addition I encounter many tales of audible rejecting books after three months with a generic message such as – there is too much background noise. What they don’t tell you, of course, is where that piece of background noise is. Bear in mind this may be a 12 hour book with 70 chapters. At one point they changed the length of the silences they required between chapters, books where the silence had been within guidelines when they were up loaded were rejected because they now were not.

All the author or narrator can do is check their books and resubmit – there are actually pieces of proprietary software that enable you to do this. Not from Audible/ACX, obviously because that would be helpful. Another three to six months later it may well be rejected again. Some authors are resubmitting again and again because even going through their books with a fine tooth comb, they can’t find the place where the ‘mistake’ is and get this … Audible doesn’t tell them. Imagine if school was like audible.

‘Here’s your essay back, there’s a mistake in it.’

‘Oh, what did I get wrong.’

‘It’s not my job to tell you what you got wrong, you should know.’

Contributors check, and recheck, and scratch their heads. They resubmit what looks to be a perfect book, completely within all guidelines and it’s rejected again and again. There are stories of people discovering .5 of a second too long a silence at the end of one chapter in 60, resubmitting and it going through. Folks checking the chapters and over the book and then discovering an extra second on the silence after the opening credits. Seriously, how hard would it be to say, chapter 45 has .5 of a second of extra silence.

Audible/ACX is swamped with submissions but if they identified the mistakes how many hundreds books in the queue for checking would have passed by now. I know authors with books which have been going round and round since February. Would these books be clogging up the system had Audible/ACX taken the simple, blindingly obvious step of identifying where any errors actually are. Even ‘there’s an error in chapter six, you know the one, the forty minute one, it’s in there’ or maybe, ‘here are your first five errors, there were more,’ would be better than what they currently do which is: ‘here’s twelve hours of audio, somewhere in there, is a single, tiny background noise/a silence that is 4 seconds long instead of 3.5. It’s not our fucking job to tell you where it is because that might actually be of some practicable use to you. Now piss off and fix it.’ It’s extraordinary. And worse, people who’ve read too many Geoffrey Archer novels and seen too much shit on TV like Madmen are beginning to think this kind of shambolic, unprincipled, bollocks approach is how actual business works. I don’t think so.

It’s also the reason why, most of the time, any folks using Audible who want to get my books the same time as everyone else have to borrow them from the library. 🙂

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On a lighter note …

Do you remember in this post here, where I talked about doing a podcast interview? Well the interview is now live, so if you’d like to watch me shooting the breeze for half an hour on Bibliofiles, with Bonnie K.T. Dillabough you can. It was great fun, I really enjoyed it although I will have to try a different camera angle next time I do something like that! Double chins anyone? Anyway, if you’d like to give it watch, you can find it here:

 

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