Tag Archives: writer parent

Siberian hamsters and other alarums and excursions …

Well that was an interesting day. Or perhaps more accurately, morning. But it explains why there has been no blog post until now … that said, ‘now’ will probably be tomorrow (Sunday) in light of what time it is already, and the gargantuan amount of time that the activities of ‘this morning’ involved.

Originally, McOther and I were heading off to a car boot and from there to the garage to get his car fixed. However, when push came to shove we realised he wouldn’t have time to do the boot and the garage so he went to the garage and I eschewed the boot and went to the market instead. I also have some secret knitting that I wanted to do in his absence. More on that story … later.

McCat came running in and to my complete and utter horror, I realised he had something hanging out of his mouth. Something grey, with a tail.

Remember a few years ago when that McCat brought that vole in? I can’t find the original post but it ran under the fridge in the utility room and then to the units where it disappeared and I never saw it again. I always hoped it had found its way outside again but then the room began to smell and it wasn’t McCat’s earth box or McMini’s socks. Yes, it died and I did find a post I did later about discovering its lifeless body in the washing machine while I was on the phone to my mum, six months after its disappearance. If you need to jog your memory, it’s here.

So there’s McCat running about and there’s another chuffing vole with it’s tale and arse hanging out of his mouth one side and it’s head and front paws the other side. It’s squeaking,

‘You absolute cockwomble! Put me down immediately! Ow! That fucking smarts you smecking furry gobshite!’ etc. Actually I have no clue what it was saying but I think we could safely assume that it’d be something along those lines so that seems about right.

Come here you little bastard! I shout (because I’m classy like that) and rushed after him. I’m speaking to the cat at this pint, obvs. not the rodent in distress.

Luckily, I cornered McCat in the hall and because it was his vole and not mine and he was not dropping it at any cost. I was therefore able to pick him up and carry him to the door, deposit both of them on the mat outside, shut the door and lock the cat flap before he could bring it back in.

There was no rescuing the poor little critter now, so it was best to leave them to it so he killed it quickly. I grabbed my kit and ensuring that I didn’t let him in, I went to the market to do my shopping.

Upon my return, McCat was lying on his back on the door mat chirruping and burbling in his most loving manner. He showed me his tummy and it was clear that the dead vole on the mat beside him was a gift. Yes. This was an effort at reconciliation.

‘I know you are head of the house mummy,’ he was saying, ‘but I just couldn’t give up the vole. My natural instincts wouldn’t let me but you can have it now.’

Likewise, I cannot guarantee that was what he was saying but I know the mentalist tabby git so well now that I suspect that was a pretty good approximation.

Naturally, I thanked him for his gift, because it was only polite. Then I explained that it was a lovely thought, but if he didn’t mind, I’d just pick it up with this trowel here and pop it in the dustbin. I thought of burying it but he’d only dig it up again.

I went inside, put away my purchases and I was just bumbling about the house when I heard McCat scampering about. Uh-oh, that was the kind of scampering he does when he’s playing with Mr Squishy (his favourite toy) or when he’s playing with something else …

‘Squeak!’ said somebody, who was very definitely not McCat!

‘Fucking fuck!’ I yelled and leapt into action. McMini had a second vole cornered behind a box in a corner and of course I arrived, grabbed said box and the vole disappeared underneath the book case. But wait, not quite underneath. He was under the large books on the bottom shelf that stick out, leaving a tiny half inch gap between their bottoms and the floor.

I started removing the books but by this stage McCat had lost interest, the absolute bastard, or maybe he’d decided that I’d claimed the vole. Whatever the cause, he’d wandered off. The room we were in was full of places where a small vole could hide, die and then smell impressively. I was determined to ensure that when I poked it out from its hiding place, there were no other crannies for it to run to. In short, despite trying to rescue it from McCat I could have done with a tabby backstop and I’d definitely have preferred to let him kill it quickly it was that or a second round of let-me-die-under-your-furniture.

I surrounded the vole with a wall of heavy hardback books. Got a piece of cloth and grabbed it. I picked it up and took it outside. It looked as if it had had a nasty bump on the head but I left it to recover near the place where I thought McCat had caught it.

McCat locked in, I went out and had a look.

The vole was not well. It appeared unable to move its hands. It was clearly injured, it was squeaking and it was in distress. I rang the vet and explained that I had this rodent that was probably a vole only now … looking at it … I wasn’t 100% sure and could they help.

Clearly if my furry friend was, as I was beginning to suspect, a young rat, I wasn’t too bothered if McCat murdered its family. If it was a vole, I should probably take it somewhere for treatment and leave McCat locked in. McCat’s vet informed me that they had a pigeon and chicken specialist but nobody who was too good on small feral critters. They recommended I phone a different vet surgery, which I did.

I explained that I thought I might have an injured rat but that I didn’t know and though it seemed a bit nasty of me, I felt that, if it was a rat, I was OK about letting McCat out to murder the rest of its family, because there are millions of rats but that, if it was a vole, I’d keep him in. I also explained that I thought it might be dying, that the kind thing to do would be to kill it but that I wasn’t a farm kid and I doubted I could dispatch it cleanly without subjecting it to more physical and emotional trauma. Our cat used to catch mice when I was a kid and Dad used to have to kill the ones she hadn’t quite killed. He was really good at delivering a swift blow to the head but it always used to upset him … not to mention us.

Bring it in, the vet told me and they would take a look at it.

Going back to the ‘vole’ which very much might not be a vole, I decided I’d wear gloves to handle it. Good thing that, because it was a great deal livelier than it had been when I put it out and it bit me as I tried to catch it. Although the bites didn’t break the skin they did pierce the gloves. McOther was home by this time and helped me put it in a cardboard box. I walked up to the vet’s with it and they took it in to have a look.

Turns out I was right to doubt and it wasn’t a vole after all. Just call me Manuel but it was a bona fide Siberian hamster although it escaped the ratatouille so that’s nice. I do know we have rats in our garden, but … yeh. Probably a good thing if the cat eats them then. The rat did, indeed, have some kind of head injury which was making him unable to move properly and they put him to sleep so he didn’t suffer any more.

And the vole last time? Er hem. Yeh. That was a rat and all. Even with a light bite, the vet warned me about Weil’s disease and said that if I start to develop cold symptoms I must go to the doctor’s and explain what’s happened. Me, I’m just wondering what my half-rat-half-human superpower might be.

Other things

It looks alright on the claret one (right).

What I should have been doing this morning was working on my latest and top secret knitting project while McOther was out, which is his fabulous birthday present. OK, this is me, so you know, by now, that it’s not a fabulous present especially if it involves my knitting prowess, which is more knitting prowless to be honest. On the upside, it is something he’ll use and enjoy … he’ll use and at least there’s thought in it. It’s a wine sock. Yeh. Don’t all fall over with excitement.

People who like wine do blind tastings, which basically means you put the bottle in a sock, except socks are a bit shit because they make the bottom of the bottle uneven and more likely to fall over. Enter the um … wine sleeve? Wine sleeves leave the bottom of the bottle clear so it will stand up, no matter how drunk you are when you place it on the table.

I’ve made the bit for the neck of the bottle too short. The bit of metal over the cork can give tasters in the know a bit clue, so I need to unpick five rows of ribbing, add six rows of plain knitting and then do the ribbing bits again. It looks shit flaccid but when you put it on the bottle … yeh, OK, it still looks a bit shit until you get to a claret bottle … then … Oh yeh. Ish.

Oh alright. It’s a disaster really. I decided to use some wool I had left over from making a pair of socks for McMini and a pair for me. But there wasn’t quite enough to get it to the shoulders of the bottle. I didn’t want to buy another ball of wool to do three stripes of fancy knitting so I bastardised another ball of similar wool and to be honest, it almost looks deliberate. I will have to knit him another less bodged one as well, clearly, but this is a nice start.

Other news …

It’s a long time since I’ve mentioned McMini here. But rest assured he is no less eccentric. He is older, and even more sarcastic, but still a delight (to his parents anyway). He did once tell me that he wanted to do the teen thing and rebel against us but he liked us too much. I’m not sure that’s anything we did, it’s just luck of the draw. Luckily there are some people at his school that he prefers to rebel against more.

Anyway, last week we were we’ve been watching the tennis as a family and supporting one player, the underdog, naturally, because we’re British. The audience on the telly were mostly supporting the other more famous player. Between each point there were shouts from the audience,

‘Come on Oojah!’ or ‘You’ve got this Thingy!’ etc.

Then as it all died away after the ‘quiet please’ one bloke right up in the gods at the back shouted something that sounded like, ‘bollocks!’ into the silence.

‘That sounded like, “bollocks!”’ said McMini. ‘Did he just shout, “bollocks!”?’

Next point, same male voice did it again and again, McMini said,

‘I’m sure he said, “Bollocks!”.’

McOther and I admitted, giggling, that it did sound like it and he might be right.

Next up to serve was the player we were not supporting. She threw the ball up and as she swung to hit it, McMini shouted, ‘Bollocks!’ and she served a fault.

She served again and in spite of McMin’s rousing cry of, ‘Bollocks!’ it was in. The lady we were supporting returned it and as the other swung her racket to hit the ball back, I shouted, ‘Arse!’ and it went into the net.

‘Woah! She can hear us!’ shouted McMini.

It opened the floodgates. They played a tie-breaker with McMini and I continuing to shout bollocks, arse and for some reason, follicles. Our lady won. I made a cheer which reminded McMini of an impression I do of Dad doing an impression of one of his teachers dropping dead in the middle of assembly (he yelled ‘eeeeeruuuuuw!’ and keeled over apparently). So McMini adds the part of the story following that which is the boing, boing diddly boing this teacher’s wooden leg made after he’d measured his length.

Despite this coming out of nowhere, I knew exactly what McMini was referring to and started to guffaw at which point McOther who was actually watching the tennis turned to us briefly, smiled indulgently in an oh-here-they-go-again sort of manner and reverted his attention to the TV.

McMini and I sat there crying with laughter and all was right with the world.

It’s competition time …

OK. Have you ever seen extreme ironing? If you haven’t it’s worth looking it up because it’s mad.  Here’s a potted summary.

Let’s do our own variant Blog peps! Extreme Reading. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Here’s how it works.

1. Get one of my books. It has to be an actual M T McGuire book. No other authors’ books are admissible. You can use a paperback or your e-thing with your e/audio book open and showing really obviously.

2. Go the area you have selected in which to read in an extreme manner, be it upside down, hanging from the ceiling. Tobogganing down the Cresta run, *sitting in the fountains at Trafalgar Square in your swimming cozzie or whatever.

3. Get photographed in your extreme reading position and then submit your photos to me. I think I will probably put them to the public vote.

* don’t do actual this though. You’ll get arrested.

How do I submit my photo MT? I hear you ask.

Well, I don’t to hear you ask but let’s not complicate this. Let’s pretend, for the sake of making this section that tiny bit more interesting, that I did. Here’s what you do.

Attach your photo photo to an email. You’ll need to give me your name and me some brief details saying where and when the photo was taken (date, place/town and country) and any witty commentary you wish to make about it. Then send it to me by email with the header, EXTREME READING TOURNAMENT, like that to list at hamgee.co.uk. You can send a maximum of two entries and it will cost you nothing to enter.

If you want to, you will be able to share the entries you submit on the Hamgee University Press Facebook page. I’ll make a specific post and pin it to the top so you can comment and add a photo but that’s not obligatory because I totally get that not everyone does Facebook. I wouldn’t do much social media if I didn’t have to.

Small Print: Nothing above 3mb please or Google won’t deliver them to me and a maximum of two entries per person. You may have to resize mobile/iThing photos to get them to me.

Obviously, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t do anything dangerous or stupid. This is an extreme reading tournament, it’s not the Darwin Awards or a game of who dares wins. Happy snapping.

And finally …

The Last Word is available in Audio.

If you enjoyed the short story, The Last Word, the audio of that is also available or at least, still available. If you need it, here’s a quick reminder of the blurb.

When Mrs Ormaloo brings the terrible news to the Turnadot Street Businesswomen’s Association that the Grongles are going to burn some more banned books on the night of Arnold, The Prophet’s birthday, Gladys and Ada decide to Take Steps. They even enrol some of the punters from their pub to help out. The books are in a warehouse being kept under guard. Gladys, Ada, Their Trev and the rest of the group embark on a plan of devilish cunning to rescue as many banned books from the flames as they can. But the key player in their plan is Humbert and there is no guarantee that he’ll cooperate.

Corporal Crundy is determined not to mess up his first assignment since his promotion. It should be easy. All he has to do is guard some books. Yeh. It should be a piece of cake but somehow that’s not the way it turns out.

To find it, go here.

 

 

 

 

 

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And his mummy cried …

This week, I was thinking about discussing world events but looking at them … for fuck’s sake. I can’t bring myself to do it. Let’s look at the fact America has passed its first gun legislation since 1994! Bloody well done America, we’ll ignore your apparent descent into the abyss on the women’s rights front because let’s face it, nothing’s more important than life, including a life worth living.

Seriously though, we need to relearn the art of deep thought—or, indeed, any thought. Fast.

illustration

We have to learn that not everyone who is different from us is a monster.

There is a standard branding technique that is supremely effective it’s this: make people feel they are part of a group, part of a tribe. Make them feel they have found their home with us (the brand). It speaks to our most primal instincts. The trouble starts when politicians get hold of it.

First up, the most motivating thing to a primal critter such as a human is fear, so they aim to use that. At the same time, as politicians, they also want a certain amount of control because what they want is your vote. They want you to feel that by joining their cause you are part of a warm fuzzy loving community that is fighting against a dangerous and unseen enemy. They want you to feel the blitz spirit of WW2, except over things that are not nearly as serious a threat. But to get that motivation, that solid Dunkirk spirit, they have to scare you enough for you to feel as if they, you and the people with whom you stand are, literally, holding back the forces of chaos. They use strong NLP trigger words like ‘war’ to validate the importance of your fight and write robust and forthright articles showing you that you need to press your cause, for the public good and those who oppose you must be ignored or walked over, for their own good.

Example: We are at war with litter louts, the war on noise pollution, etc. It’s all bollocks and actually trivialises issues which, while not on a war footing, are still important.

Stupid twats.

Once they’ve got you scared enough to think you’re fighting a ‘war on …’ whatever it is, rape or incest victims I mean sorry, people who asked for it as we’re probably meant to call them from now on, or possibly dissolute women who can’t say no*, whatever it is this week, they want you to feel self congratulatory and smug. How do they do that? By pointing at other tribes and saying stuff like,

‘Look at these folks. They’re not like you. They’re scary. They’re threatening us. They’re taking our jobs. They’re not on the run from extremist states, they’re just here to sponge off our welfare system. We’re not undermining your human rights so we can take over. We are taking difficult but necessary steps because they are planning a bloodless coup. They have control of the mainstream media. We need to stick together and fight them, No is still the best form of contraceptive if they didn’t listen and screwed you anyway it’s your fault.’ etc.

* Yes that was inflammatory but I’m fucking angry.

This is, as one of the historical masters at the art put it, ‘persuading one group of people that another group of people is less than human.’ These days. There’s a lot of it about. Big business owns most things. The richest individuals own everything, including many politicians and the newspapers. Democracy and a fair society is not in their interest. Nothing must stand in the way of them accruing more wealth because the billions they already have aren’t enough.

On a side note though, have you ever wondered why, in the UK, people on the political fringes attempt to undermine the BBC? It’s because for all it’s flaws and Oxbridge elitism, it’s the nearest thing to an impartial press we have … oh, along with Private Eye.

I have friends from a wide range of social and political backgrounds as our common ground is often a hobby, such as detecting, writing, foraging, wine, music … whatever. I know seemingly benign and friendly folk who will turn round and tell me they believe stuff that is pretty fucking appalling. The thing is though, sometimes, not always, but often, they are people I get on with in the context in which I see them. Because we’re not talking about their offensive views, we’re discussing book marketing, or foraging, or some other topic upon which we completely agree. Sometimes I take the piss out of them for being very right wing, or out of myself for being the token bleeding-heart liberal in their life/club/forum whatever.

The way I see it, if I suddenly discover an author friend holds views that puts them close to being Marxist or something equally moronic, they are usually completely brainwashed into thinking that people of a different political persuasion are bad and that they shouldn’t mix with them. If all I can do is show them, by being the official bleeding-heart liberal of the group, that actually nothing is quite that black and white, then maybe I’ve done something good.

Sometimes, I continue to talk to people for the simple reason that, if they see that we agree on many things, there is a chance that they will understand that not everyone to the political left or right of them (depending where they are on the scale compared to me) is a threat to society, since I’m not.

Take away that ability to mix and people are sitting in an echo chamber and see nothing but their own views. Over time they find it increasingly difficult to mix with people who don’t believe the same things as them. After spending a lot of time on the internet, I, myself am finding this. Although I think our right wing, here in the UK, has moved a long, long way to the right of what ‘conservatism’ actually stood for when I was a kid. Either that or its PR has—presumably it’s gloating far right voters they are looking to steal, rather than centrists, like myself.

It’s important to be able to mix; I like to discuss stuff, you know, without evangelising or trying to win anyone over, but just because I’m really interested in what other people think and how they’ve come to their conclusions. I think, as human beings, it’s part of our nature to want to share our views so it’s important to be able to do so without getting too emotional, even if it’s hard. Take away this ability to share views and before you know where you are, you’ve got groups of feckless idiots smashing up synagogues and … the rest is history.

I’m not shitting you here, ceasing to engage, ghettoising ourselves or others … this is how wars start.

When you start to make people feel part of a tribe by playing on their fears of people or things they don’t know, pointing out the ‘threats’ posed by others, or as normal humans would call it, the ‘differences’ you get polarisation. The fact there are churches which will tell their congregations not to speak to, or mix with. non-christians … hmm, where in Christ’s teachings do we see that. Oh wait! I know. NOWHERE! That’s where.

Why are some people so bloody poisonous? But more to the point, why can’t they see? It’s like people are too scared to think. Too scared to face the grey areas between thou shalt and thou shalt not. It’s like a lot of people mull something over once and then decide what they’ll believe about it for the rest of their lives. Then, no matter how circumstances may change or what new facts may come to light they never revisit their opinion. How can people live like that? I mean sure, it’s nice and simple but it must be so empty.

Seriously, I am constantly revising my opinions on things. Is that weird? I think Brexit was a terrible idea but I’m interested as to why other folks disagree and actually, in many cases I totally get why they voted how they did.

Is it about confidence? Could it be? You see, I fuck up a lot, so I am not in any way afraid to admit to getting things wrong. You can only be carpeted by the headmaster so many times before you start to give a bit less of a shit about how other people see you and a bit more of a shite about how you, personally, see yourself and what you are actually like.

Maybe people perceive changing their minds as a sign of weakness which they’re too afraid to show. Certainly I know there are people who mistake my tendency to be accommodating with being a push over. But surely, if someone perceives changing their mind — or compromising — as a sign of weakness and failure, they’ll never be able to revise their opinions about anything. Whereas, if a person is genuinely strong, they will have the confidence to change their mind over things when new facts emerge or their experience alters. Let’s face it, no-one’s ever going to be afraid of people thinking that they’re weak if they know, in their hearts, that they aren’t.

Often, I wonder if a lot of these people who hold very fixed or hard opinions simply do so because they don’t have the strength of character to cope with a world where nothing is certain. It is difficult, I know but sometimes, there is grey. Sometimes it’s a case of ‘Usually, thou shalt not but in this case, if thou art just, thou shalt …’

On other topics …

Yes! I am still reading through what I have of the current book and yes, it’s going OK, indeed, I’m enjoying reading what I’ve written, which is a bit of a turn up! I am also continuing to make accompanying notes to be sure I smooth out the bits I’ve cocked up.

There’s a terrible lull which I need to fix but essentially, it zips along. I just need to figure out the end; simple or complicated, that’s my choice. Simple may still make it very, very long so I might do complicated as that will be two books. Once I have finished I’ll decide where to split it and then I’ll send it out to beta readers, get it edited and do a kickstarter instead of a preorder.

Also the cosplay … I looked for cloaks online and I found this … it’s velvet but it’s very cool and you can stipulate what colours you want. Oh yes.

And on a lighter note …

My audiobook sale is still on and (woot) the odd person has even bought one here and there.

Not nearly enough to pay for the cost of the advertising but hey, you can’t win ’em all. If you want one, grab them while you can. Or if you want to encourage your friends to have a listen feel free to do so by clicking or sharing this link: https://www.hamgee.co.uk/cmot

Last but not least …

I think this song is pertinent today. Personally, I think procreation isn’t the answer without some promise of a life worth living afterwards. Could I have an abortion, no I couldn’t. But if someone else needs to for their mental or medical health, it’s not my business to stop them. The original name for this song was The Vicious Circle. It’s also worth reading this article.

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Fucks given? Zero. And a book review

Today at church we were celebrating a new C of E service theme, Racial Equality. The service was brilliant, mentions of Martin Luther King Jr’s dream which seems depressingly far from coming true.

It all sounds a bit bland. Some might say it’s a message we’ve all hoisted in and no longer need to hear, others might call it ‘snowflakey’. I, on the other hand, think one of the saddest things about modern life is how desperately the world still needs to hear this stuff.

Seriously though? What happened to the way Britain was in 2012 when we had the olympics and smugly showed people what fair play and openness and an inclusive society looked like. What made people turn from being friendly and open to being so bitter and petty.

Melanin? Skin colour? How is it that anyone still gives a fuck about this shite? What is wrong with us? It’s all such absolute cobblers.

Guess what colour my great to the times of lord knows how many grandfather was? Black. How do we know? Because the boys in my grandfather’s family all had a blood factor that only occurs in North African black people and it only goes from father to son.

Know what colour I am?

Yeh. White. Skin colour means absolutely fuck all. It does mean we have black people to thank for the Crystal Palace though, even if they were white by that time (look it up).

You really would have thought that ‘love thy neighbour’ would have sunk in after all this fucking time wouldn’t you? But no.

The fact is, dickheads come in all shapes, sizes, abilities, colours and backgrounds as do saints. Not all Christians can love their neighbours, some seem to think the point of their religion is to judge people, or change them. That’s not your job if you’re a Christian. It’s God’s. Jesus said so. ‘Judge not, lest you be judged,’ oh and all that bit about ‘when I was poor you clothed me, when I was in gaol you visited me,’ etc etc. Nothing in there about, ‘when I was poor you told me it was my fault and that I was a scrounger.’

We have to start giving zero fucks about all this stupid petty surface shit.

Seriously.

Stop looking at the fucking box. It’s what’s inside that matters. Is this person good? Yes or no? Don’t read the Daily Mail to find out for fuck’s sake! Just talk to them. Often.

Years ago my Mum went to Worthing to collect me from school. She turned up early so she could nip to the shops first. When she got back to her car she had a flat tyre. She got the jack out, positioned it in the right place, ready, and then started loosening the wheel nuts — obviously, you have to loosen the nuts (without taking them right off) before you get the car off the ground while the weight keeps the wheel still otherwise it just spins.

Mum knew what to do, but the wheel nuts had been done up with one of those compressed air nut gun things and she couldn’t get them undone. I needed picking up from school, too far away to walk there and back before the time on the parking meter ran out and she got a ticket. She couldn’t feed the meter because she was supposed to park for two hours or less and then not return for an hour. So, leave the car she’d get a ticket but at the same time, if she didn’t leave the car, she’d have to leave me.

This was before mobile phones. No ringing the school. She had fifteen minutes. All was not lost. She was standing on the wrench, probably swearing a bit, and jumping up and down, when a group of really scary hell’s angels came by on choppers. They were properly frightening; smelly weed on jeans, chapter back patch on the jackets, german helmets with horns on (this was the 1980s so they still could) tattoos (in the 1980s it was still quite rare for normal people to have tattoos) the works. As one, their heads snapped left and they all looked at her as they drove past.

‘Yikes!’ she thought.

A few yards up, where there was a double yellow and parking wasn’t allowed. They stopped. They all got off their bikes and walked back to her.

‘Double yikes!’ she thought. ‘Hello,’ she said.

‘Here Mum. You can’t do that,’ said one. ‘Stand aside, we’ll fix this in a jiffy.*’

*That’s probably not exactly what he said, but it’s what Mum said he said.

The hell’s angels, or possibly just, ‘angels’ in this case proceeded to remove the tyre in record time and popped the spare on. It took them about a minute and a half and they put the spare back in the boot and the jack back in the compartment under the boot floor.

Then, with a cheery, ‘There you go Mum!’ they waved away her effusive thanks and buggered off.

Mum thought it was hilarious, as well as rather lovely. She told me about it when she picked me up in a kind of, ‘you’ll never guess why I’m actually here on time’ kind of way. Neither of my parents would judge anyone on what they wore, but the fact is, twenty hells angels ambling along the road towards you is always going to be a little bit scary. Perhaps less so now that my son is a metal head.

A while ago I was chatting to someone on facebook who had taken enormous umbrage with some blog post I’d done. I’m not sure how they found it, I think one of my more right wing friends had shared it—one who doesn’t self actualise by their political beliefs—and I guess it got seen by someone who did.

I think I’d said that there were some people whose political convictions were to the left of Attila the Hun who weren’t necessarily evil, or mentioned that some of my friends are Muslims or … I dunno … showed tolerance something. I’m not 100% certain but I think it was the Muslim thing that set them off. The basic gist was that this person had met a group of people from the middle east who were the absolute back end of awful and that, as these people were Muslim, it followed that all Muslims were awful. Other news and experiences of friends had bolstered this view.

As a woman, it’s difficult avoid taking a dim view of the way my fellow women are treated in some countries and this is where I have to fess up to the fact that I often do exactly the same thing. Yes, I subconsciously base my judgement of entire nations on their government or the idiots in the population who make world news. Other times, I’ll base my view on the few subjects I’ve personally bumped into. These things are so massive, you deal with them the only way you know how and often, that can only be on your own, inter-personal, small-scale level. Which is OK so long as you’re prepared to be surprised and … you know … wrong in your assumptions.

Because looking at my technique rationally, it’s like someone meeting me and assuming that everyone in Britain is a wishy-washy, liberal melt an Anglican/Episcopalian because I am. Or, it’s like someone thinking that, because I, the only Briton they’ve met, am a lady, there can be no men living in this country. Sounds ridiculous, right? But that’s the logic we are looking at here. The fact is any nation is only as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ as the people who lead it. During the 2012 Olympics, people probably thought Britain was lovely. Now they probably think we’re a bunch of absolute knobs. The people living in any nation are going to be the same mixture of saints, sinners, idiots, wankers and non-wankers as we find everywhere else.

But you have to make judgements don’t you? No. I’m beginning to think not. Sure we all go in with preconceptions but the point, surely, is to realise that’s what they are. To be prepared to be surprised by … well … you know … benign Hell’s Angels.

Making a fair judgement about anyone can only be based on actually meeting them in person. It never ceases to amaze me how many seemingly kindly, benign people I know will casually state that the homeless are there through their own fault, that anyone on benefits is a scrounger and that asylum seekers or refugees are just here to take advantage of our welfare system.

OK, so I expect some of them are, because, as I may have mentioned, the law of averages states that there will be wankers among any group of humans. Some. That’s my point. I find it really hard to understand how someone can condemn a brown man who leaves the Congo and comes to Britain with his 14 year old son because he doesn’t want the lad to be conscripted while, at the same time, lauding someone from Belfast who emigrates to America because they want a better, non-sectarian life for their children. Both are doing exactly the same thing. Why is one brave and good and the other a scrounger? I dunno.

If the person from Belfast gets a job in the USA, they’re broadening their horizons and taking a brave step to better themselves. Why is it that the brown man who comes to Britain, works for less than minimum wage and lives in a caravan without electricity, because there wasn’t electricity or running water where he came from, is ‘taking jobs from British people’. How come it’s perfectly fine for the company he works for to pay him a pittance because they won’t pay the minimum wage but he’s wrong to take what, for him, may be the chance of a lifetime? Why is it that we are happy to earn less and less than pay what things actually cost to produce and less stuff?

How is it that some people can look at the Kindertransport and see it as an act of goodness but the very same people are unable to see a modern equivalent, like, say, people rescued from a similar regime in Afghanistan as human? Is it because the Afghans are brown? Are we really that shallow? It fascinates me. Well … yeh, you know it does, I’ve written a 500,000 sci-fi series about this exact anomaly. That only people are good or bad and nations are the sum of the decisions made by their leaders.

Perhaps it actually takes bravery to be a liberal melt. Thinking about it, being open, putting aside your preconceptions and trusting people takes courage. Being generous of spirit takes resolution and effort. You are exposing yourself to looking a right dick if you’re wrong and possibly even potential harm. Maybe that’s it; perhaps with COVID and the fact that the world economy is pretty much down the lav people have a too much to worry about to care about being decent. Or maybe, after all crap they’re dealing with, there isn’t any spare courage left to be open.

Perhaps the only universal rule is that that there will always be wankers … and to give zero fucks … in the right way.

Which brings me on to the book I’ve just read.

Subject 21 by A E Warren.

This book is about a girl called Elise, who, as the blurb states is a Sapiens, ‘a member of the lowest order of humans. Elise and others like her are held responsible for the damages inflicted on the world by previous generations.’

Every aspect of Elise’s life is controlled by the two groups of humans above her, even her name has to reflect her status and can only contain two syllables. The top tier of human, the Potiors, are busy recreating as many extinct species as possible using DNA harvested from fossils, etc. These are then exhibited in a Museum of Evolution.

Some of the exhibits are Neanderthals. Our heroine, Elise, gets a job as the companion of a Neanderthal, number 21, who calls himself Kit.

This book is all about the idea that not all the gits in the top two tiers are gits and not all the supposed gits in the bottom layer are, either. Indeed, this is one of the many areas in which the book excels. It’s also about the inability of some members in each group to see those in the others as human and, of course, the inability of some humans—regardless of the order in which they belong—not to be complete and utter wankers. It’s an absolutely brilliant concept and I loved the way it was so realistic at the same time. The way some of the museum staff have completely de-humanised Kit and his fellow Neanderthals, was also, sadly, extremely human.

Other highlights, the plot, the whole concept is really left field, I loved it as an idea. It was deftly executed and the characters well drawn. I was fully invested very quickly and had trouble putting it aside to do other things. Definitely gets five stars from me. Recommended.

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This week I am mostly … wittering

So a quiet one this week. I’ve been trying to finish off some of the admin. I’m getting there but rather slowly. Big pluses this week, I have done my tax return! Woot. It’s always a weight off when I finish that. It was made easier this year by the fact I started getting the information together a while back and so I’d collated the various bits of paper I need.

The hardest thing is that originally, when I did my tax, I would have a four page short form which I’d fill out and send in. I just declared how much I’d earned, how much I’d spent and then any income from bank accounts and shares. Now that I do an online return, I have to fill in the long tax form, which appears to be written in a cross between legalese and accountant speak. Jeepers. Even the simple stuff is complicated. Where it was profits, turnover and loss it’s now turnover and ‘allowed expenses’.

Expenses used to be extra things you could claim, for example if you bought a computer you could spread the cost as a loss over three years and that was a business expense.

Now, I don’t actually know if the ‘expenses’ it’s talking about are business expenses, or the day-to-day costs of running the business. I’m allowed legal fees and accountancy fees but is paying my cover designer an ‘allowed expense’? I dunno. Everything is so much more complicated. Thank you, Gordon Brown, for mushrooming the amount of tax law from one weighty tome to an entire fucking truckload of weighty tomes.

Bastard.

Onwards and upwards.

As a person with discalculia, numbers are extremely difficult for me. We are talking wading miles up to your neck in treacle. Weirdly, I actually have some scientific and mathematical pragmatism and logic but numbers themselves are grey and amorphous. There is nothing to cling onto. I get zero intellectual traction.

Words are like bright sparks, glittering and zipping down my neural pathways at the speed of light. I can feel the tiny nuances in meaning between them. Words are sparkling, and razor sharp and glittery and accurate. Numbers are grey and insubstantial with nothing to hold onto, or they are cloying and impenetrable, like slime; thick grey slime. Words … if I hear a word for the first time in my own language, I know instinctively what it means. Numbers are drab and faceless, the dementors of my intelligence, their meanings unknown to me, their messages scrambled or parsed in a code to which I have no key. They’re like a foreign language but there is no dictionary and I lack the intellectual capacity to discern them without one.

It’s important that I take numbers very slowly, to the point where it might be close to retardation. My mind and thought processes are usually quite quick, so my incapacity it makes me feel very stupid. It would be good to be bright and not … stupid. No wonder so many of us dyslexics are chippy about our intelligence.

Put that next to the knowledge that, if I get this wrong, I’ll go to prison and obviously it’s a recipe for a neurotic hissy fit and stress fest!

Seriously though, I go through these pages and pages of questions just thinking, I have no idea what this means, I’ll leave it blank. Although I reckon if they are questions I can’t begin to comprehend, they’re probably not asking something that applies to me. Gulp.

One particular joy is that we have to declare all our foreign earnings. We have some foreign unit trusts or something and I have to declare the few quid a year I earn which are ploughed back into them. I suspect individuals such as myself are not the type of people for which this section was added. I have also told myself that I will definitely, definitely file the current year’s return as soon after 6th April as I can. Except that was what I vowed last year and here I am, filing it in during January when the do by date is 31st … then again, they’ve extended it to Feb so in theory I’m a month early. Ooo now there’s a result.

Obviously, once I have got used to it, I can fill it in much faster and I’m much more confident. However, they rephrase all the questions and change the entire form EVERY. FUCKING. YEAR. Ugh.

Next up on the admin list is to try and confirm when Mum last did a tax return. I have a vague clue but not a massive one although I think I’m homing in on that gradually. We have to dispose of Mum’s stocks and shares now because there aren’t enough of them for it to be a sound investment strategy. The balance will go into a high interest account and fund her care while we arrange to borrow a yearly sum for care fees against the house. In the UK healthcare is free unless you have dementia, in which case, you have to bankrupt yourself. When you get down to your last £23k, except it’s not really £23k it’s actually £14k, the local authority will step in to help rather than the NHS. If you’re lucky, you may end up in a decent care home. If you live in an area where there are more demented people than care home places then it’s either up to your relatives to look after you, or if they are busy doing things like jobs to pay their rent and feed their families, you get four twenty minute visits a day to serve you meals and help you dress and undress.

Mum’s local authority are very good. They were great with Dad, but even so … I hope the house is worth enough to last her out.

I was thinking about dementia, obviously, with the life I live (Thanks God, you utter, utter git.) I think about dementia quite a lot. Mum’s is different from Dad’s. Well obviously because Mum is different from Dad. That’s the thing of course, every individual is different so each person’s dementia attacks them in a different way. I guess there are general pointers which allow folks who know what they are doing to work out exactly what stage the person with dementia is at. It’s handy to have a handle on that when it comes to planning care and anticipating whether to ease off or step it up.

My grandmother ended up lying in bed for a year. She was totally unresponsive and Mum said that she used to go visit once a week. She’d just sit there holding her mother’s hand and cry. Apparently the sister in the home was lovely and used to tell Mum that it was alright and reassure her that my grandmother was different – in a good way – after her visits.

I could see Mum going that way, herself. If she did, I’m not so sure I’d mind so much. Surely it’d be better than the torment Dad endured on his darker days, wouldn’t it? I’d read to her I think. Whodunnits, or books that I knew she’d enjoyed like the Children of the New Forest, and Ballet Shoes. Or the Romany books.

On a happier note. My cousin came over this week and we took Mum out to lunch at the pub round the corner. She wasn’t in the best of form but the visit went well and my cousin had some prints of the school I grew up in which she offered to my brother and I, but I don’t think he was interested, which was handy as I’m very pleased with them.

Said cousin also kindly gave me a print of a portrait of my … I dunno how many times great grandfather who started a newspaper called Bell’s Weekly messenger. See picture. He looks worryingly like Fraser from Dad’s Army. I believe he’s responsible for initiating the use of the double s—before that they used an f. But that might have been his father. I get muddled because there were two John Bells in a row.

Even though he is wearing the most magnificent Dickensian coat—of which I am extremely jealous—I am fully expecting him to step out of the print and tell me I’m doomed.

Extra bonus content was a book of poetry by my great grandmother which I think might be termed as ‘sentimental’. It’s sort of good and also sort of hilarious, bless her. She clearly travelled to India and Kashmir and found it hauntingly beautiful. I can’t wait to show it to my Aunt, who grew up in India. I think she might appreciate the descriptions and find the sentimentality as amusing as I do, but at the same time, I think I could get away with us having a giggle about it without being disloyal.

I was going out to the theatre yesterday evening so McOther and I decided to have our big meal midday and we went out to lunch to a noodle bar in town.

What is it with people, though? We arrived early and there were only a couple of diners in there, one sitting at a table one side, by the window, the others sitting about ten feet away, at a table that was also by the window but on the other side. We sat further in, near the wall.

While we were there, four more groups came in to eat. One sat on the table right behind me, although that was still a good three feet away from ours. Another sat at the table right behind McOther which was also three or four feet away. Neither was too close but, at the same time, they could have sat a bit further away.

Finally, as we were just finishing our plates of noodles, and enormous Dodge Ram wanker-tanker pulled up outside. It backed up, parking across the drive of the house next door and a family got out. It looked like husband and wife with granny and young daughter. They were all quite big, which, presumably is why the four of them had to arrive a vehicle about the same size as some of the smaller-sized buses operating in the UK — although it probably does fewer miles to the gallon.

The presence of the daughter, who could have been anywhere between about four and seven, was notable, in that she should have been in school unless she’d had special dispensation, or was unwell. She proceeded to demonstrate that she was, indeed, unwell by producing a wracking cough, you know, the sort of thing you usually hear from people who have spent the last 40 years smoking sixty a day.

Clearly the little girl was off school, recovering from a chest infection, or possibly, judging by the sound of her cough, pneumonia.

There’s no way the kid had the Rona, nobody would be that thoughtless, but in these dodgy times, someone who is clearly off school sick, coughing as if they are suffering from TB is always going to be a bit disconcerting. Bearing that in mind, when it’s me, I will always be a bit embarrassed about it and sit a long way from anyone else, I was kind of expecting them to choose one of the empty tables away from other diners.

Maybe they’d had it up to their eyeballs with people looking askance at their coughing kid, I dunno. But they came over as very concerned that they should be allowed to exercise their own freedoms and rights but at the same time, not remotely bothered if exercising their rights and freedoms came at the expense of other people’s — parking across someone’s drive because it wasn’t illegal and nothing said they couldn’t, for example.

The restaurant contained about ten or fifteen empty tables. Including the other half of ours. Our table was the end of a table for six, comprising a four seater and a two seater, and it had been turned into a two seater by being pulled about six inches away from the other one.

Did the new arrivals go for the social distancing option and choose one of the empty tables that were a decent distance away?

No.

Of course they fucking didn’t.

They came and sat next to us. On the four person bit of our six person table. Right hugga-mugga pretty much on top of us. The daughter barking like a sea lion all the while as they took their places. I was fully expecting to see the poor kid’s lungs land in her noodles.

Not that we stayed that long. We made a very, very swift exit. But instead of enjoying the rest of our noodles and then sitting for a bit with our cups of jasmin tea, we shovelled them in as fast as we could, knocked the tea back and legged it for the door.

To be honest, these folks were clearly completely oblivious. The kid probably just had asthma. The hospital’s not far away, maybe she’d just been seeing the specialist, who know. I’m not blaming them. Folks pull this shit all the time.

However, it did get me wondering why we are such herd animals. It’s a bit like that thing when you park in an empty car park and return to your car to find that there are now two cars parked in the car park, and the other is next to yours, and parked so close that you can’t open the fucking door to get in. What is it about we humans that means we have to all huddle together in a crowd? To the point where it’s bloody irritating.

Why, in a restaurant with about seventy covers, did three quarters of the diners decide to huddle in a close knit group round our table? I have no clue. I am always one to find an empty space, if only so we can relax and converse unheard. The rest of them? It’s like they wanted us to listen.

Finally to round off the week, the theatre performance I went to was Jenny Eclair’s new show, Sixty FFS which was hilarious. I bought the last two tickets in the house for a friend and myself, in separate boxes one each side of the theatre. Then the booking office rang us and asked if they could change the tickets so we were in the same box, which was ace.

Jenny was absolutely as funny and as outrageous as I expected. She was particularly funny about post operation constipation – which is a factor of the painkillers (for more on that story, go here). She was also very funny about Nordic walking poles – we all end up using them because we’re arthritic – and she showed off her gilet ‘I bought it in yellow to go with my teeth.’

If it’s on near you and there are any tickets left. Go! It’s hilarious.

Oh and I’ve even done a bit of work on Misfit 5. Woot.

All in all, then, a moderately successful week.

And now for something completely different.

As per last week, another quick reminder about freebies and cheapies available from my fabulous portfolio of literature.

The Christmas story is still up for grabs, also, the audiobook versions of Few Are Chosen and Small Beginnings are down to 99c on Apple, Chirp, Kobo and my own Store. To find an information page, with links to buy, or to download The Christmas One, just click on one of these links:

Few Are Chosen (remember it’s Kobo, My Store, Chirp and Apple the other stores still have it at£7.99)

Small Beginnings (this one is free on my store but 99c/99p on Kobo, Chirp and Apple.

The Christmas One This one’s an ebook, obviously. Gareth is currently performing in Worms (snortle) but there is an audiobook scheduled for late February.

Shows the cover of The Last Word

The Last Word

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I ai’tn’t dead … honest.

Although I can forgive you for thinking I might have been because, I concede, it’s been ages since I’ve had time to write the blog. I’ve had to keep dropping it in favour of writing for Nano – which I ‘won’ – or doing other things. I even had two posts ready to go but ran out of time to upload photos and then didn’t post them. They’re a bit out of date now although I might post the one about NanoWriMo  midweek just coz … you know … I can.

Truth be told, it was my own fault. I stymied myself completely by ensuring that I’ve not a single clear day in the three weeks running up to Christmas. That wasn’t a good idea. My recent writing deadline of 15k words in three weeks has fallen by the wayside at 5k. Then again that is 5k I wouldn’t have written otherwise and I achieved it in 5 of the 15 days so I’ll take that.

Thursday: I should have realised things might not go the way I planned when I discovered, while having a mid-morning wee, that I was wearing my knickers inside out. No time to change them so inside out they remained. All day. Nice. I’d arranged to go round to a friend’s house for lunch and I discovered, to my complete and utter horror, that I needed to bring some food. This, at a point when the only cooking slot available was just before I set off. So no writing that morning either!

On the up side, once I’d finally got my head round the idea that everyone had volunteered to bring things, I was left with the something sweet brief. Easy, I would make chocolate log, except I’d make the ‘log’ into buns and ice them with a lovely piped rosette of chocolate icing. Mmmmm.

Luckily, it was McMini’s last day of term so we were all up early and the mixer was droning away in the conservatory, with the door shut because it’s a bit noisy sometimes, before McMini even departed for school at 8.10 or at least 8.25 because McMini’s interpretation of time is somewhat elastic. He is a teenager after all.

Talking of McMini, he is still hilarious. I sent him off to get a tea light the other day to go in the lamp on the table which we light at supper. We have three bags of the damn things, but two have been put away by McOther who has no idea where they are and, since they’ve been put away by him in a ‘logical’ place, the likelihood of my ever finding them is, frankly, remote. Luckily I’d bought a big bag a few days previously and kept hold of them in my office so I told McMini where to find them; on the floor by my desk.

The next time we needed one, I said, ‘Remember that you’ve already torn one side of the bag to shreds and turned it over to make it look as if it wasn’t you, so please don’t rip the other side open as well.’

He looked at me with a certain amount of horror the more than a hint of admiration and shock, as if I’d just seen into his very soul.

‘Blimey Mum, I swear you are telepathic or something. How on earth do you know I did that?’

I glanced over at McOther who had a huge grin on his face because he knew the answer, and then back to McMini who was still wearing an expression of complete disbelief.

‘It’s because the genes are very strong, and it’s the sort of thing I would have done,’ I told him.

The discussion then went on to how he was doomed because there was so much of my side of the house in him. Although luckily he doesn’t suffer from discalculia and has a science brain so he won’t have to go through his entire life trying to do arts with a science brain that he can’t use because he can’t speak maths, and being told how thick he is.

Result.

Back to the cakes. I put them into cup cake cases and didn’t bother neatening them up much because the mixture normally kind of … settles in the oven so they look normal. Needless to say, this one time, when I came to get them out of the oven, I discovered that they hadn’t settled and were still as lumpy and strange as they had been when I put them in.

Arse.

Never mind, I can do piping quite well so I reckoned I could squeesh a rosette of icing onto the top of each one, throw on a few chocolate stars, dust it with icing sugar and the irregularity of the buns underneath would be well hidden.

Next stop, while the buns were cooling, make the icing. This was butter, cocoa powder, icing sugar and a little milk. That done, I spooned it all into the piping bag. Buns now cool, I approached the first one, held the bag over it and squeezed. Nothing came out of the nozzle but big brown poo-like gushes of icing oozed out of the seam in a kind of star shape, landing randomly everywhere.

picture of untidy kitchenAh.

That wasn’t how I expected it to go.

The oozing was somehow extremely comic to watch, so of course now I was laughing.

On my own.

In the kitchen.

With a piping bag that appeared to have many extra orifices, all of which were producing something brown and very poo-like in consistency, apart from the one in the nozzle, as if they were the arse end of one of those poodles that shivers a lot.

For a moment I wondered if I should be asking myself some serious questions about my sanity but then I realised that if I was going to get to lunch with my mates at 12.30, I really didn’t have the time.

Onwards and upwards.

Nothing for it then. I turned out the lump of icing, scraped off the bit so f the icing bag that had dissolved and stuck to the outside. Oh dear, that left a lot less icing. Never mind, I washed the bag and threw it in the bin. Why did I wash it first? No clue. There you go.

Taking the pallet knife I smeared icing onto the cakes, but they wouldn’t stay still so the first problem was that my fingers got covered in icing and because of that, the lovely white pristine cup cake cases got covered in icing too.

That done I stood back to have a look. Oh dear. Something about the marks the pallet knife had left didn’t work for brown icing. In fact it made the cakes look like licked turds. Oops. Not the vibe I was going for.

Time for plan … heaven knows, I was probably onto about Plan F by this time, A, B, C, D and E having failed comprehensively. I got a fork and distressed the tops of the cakes so they looked sort of spiky. That was a bit better. Next I got a sieve and some icing sugar and sieved it over the top of them. That was a lot better until I dropped the sieve on the cakes, followed by the palette knife, and then had to do it again.

cakes in a plastic box that looks like abs

Some of the Cakes, this box is called ‘the abs’ although it’s more … the sumo.

Next I put some stars on them and some chocolate popping candy which neither popped nor tasted of chocolate before putting them into various tupperware boxes. Needless to say, we lack the right sized box to put all the cakes in one so they were added to several different lunch boxes in groups of anything from two to seven. Standing back to admire my handiwork I dropped one of the boxes, resulting in my having to return to square one with the fork fluffing and icing sugar sprinkling.

Head desk, or to be accurate; head counter-top.

On the upside, I did manage to get to my friend’s house with some of the cakes and arrived just as she was sorting out an electrical problem with her toaster. Too many crumbs in the bottom coupled with the fact a stray blini that she was toasting had somehow got across the divide so it was completing the circuit between some of the wires in a way that was not conducive to the happiness of either the toaster or the electrical system of the house. They’re buggers like that, blinis.

We had a wonderful lunch. I ate too much and the three of us consumed two bottles of wine. It was a few minutes before I left for home that I ran one hand across my face and a large lump of chocolate icing appeared on one finger. Turned out it had been hanging from one eyebrow like some giant clagg. Nice.

Thinking about it, I suspect it did me good to walk home in the fresh air. I finished the day feeling very tired, although the fact I went to bed at ridiculous o’clock the previous night and, indeed, had done all week probably contributed to that as much as the wine.

As it was McMini’s last day at school there was that magic moment at the end of the day which I always treasure, when I switch the 7.00 am alarm off on my phone. Sure I get two hours less in the day but lordy me I need the sleep! I’m at the horrible time in the month when I sleep really badly but mainly because I sleep too lightly rather than because I don’t sleep at all. As a result, a couple of extra hours in bed is a tonic.

The next blog post will be Christmas Day and I will be releasing a Christmas story for you all to read. Although clearly, since it’s K’Barth, it won’t be a Christmas Day story exactly, it’ll be about The Prophet’s Birthday, but that’s kind of the same thing.

Shows the cover of The Last Word

The Last Word

It’s called The Last Word … I think, although I’m also tempted by Trouble Afoot: Parrot Abroad, then again, I could use that as the subtitle quite happily. And I’ve sort of done a cover … just. In the end, after three years of not having a clue, I decided to learn to use my iPad and iPencil to draw something. Woah. So that was fun and although it’s still a bit half cock – a lot cock really – it will do until I can get my lovely friends at A Trouble Halved to design one properly … for now.

This is the short 10k version which I wrote for an anthology in the same manner as Nothing To See Here – same anthology too. In this case though, the anthology was never produced so I have it knocking about. As I did with the anthology version of Nothing To See Here, I have expansion plans for this one so it will become another novella – it’s 12k already. I might also, possibly use it as a mailing list exclusive for the series I’m writing now about how Betsy Coed’s guest house ended up becoming a brothel. Alternatively, if it takes ages to finish Misfit Five I’ll switch to this one, finish it and release it in February or March 2022 so that something comes out next year.

The Betsy story will take me ages because that’s a massive sweeping epic but I’m really enjoying writing it. Lots of new characters or at least bit people out of the other books. Doing the Pratchett take-a-sub-character-and-focus-in technique. Oh alright, attempting it, not doing it per se. Big Merv’s in it though and Trev is so lovely. I hadn’t realised until I started to write this one what an absolute sweetie he is. We find out a lot about him because he’s one of the main characters.

Talking about Misfit Five, or at least, I was a couple of paragraphs back, it’s coming on nicely. I have just shy of 65k of it at the moment although I’m thrashing with the wobbly middle before I can get the end done.

To my unfettered joy, I think it’s going involve a fight in a balloon warehouse full of helium canisters. I have warned Gareth because it seemed only fair.  Someone’s going to see the gas canisters and smack the end off one or shoot it thinking that it’s H rather than He and that it’ll blow everyone up, but instead it won’t and they’ll all end up speaking in very high voices like the Chipmunks or Pinky and Perky (depending on your age and country of origin). Obviously I’m looking forward to writing that bit immensely. There will be one cannister of hydrogen – or oxyacetylene, or something else flammable – because the warehouse must blow up. After all, you can’t go wrong with a good fireball and also I have this mental picture of The Pan and two other characters he’s working with walking out of the flames with a bag of Goojan spiced sausages. Thank you diddly guitar bit at the beginning of Coldplay’s ‘Slow It Down’ for that image!

The Hamgeean Misfit series is also turning into a bit more of an epic than I intended as The Pan gets inexorably drawn into Big Merv’s organisation and gets more and more trapped, while the net tightens around him from the other direction as it were, as Lord Vernon increases in power and influence.

There are only going to be six books in it too, because the way the relationship between Big Merv and The Pan is developing is not something I can string out much longer than that. Not if his fear of The Big Thing in Few Are Chosen is going to make any sense. What is fun about that though, is giving the low down on what Big Merv thinks. The Pan is so scared of Big Merv that somehow the idea that he really likes The Pan but is stern and bluff and that because of this, The Pan, mister zero confidence, doesn’t realise, actually works.

It’s weird. One of the things I really enjoy about writing is not really knowing where it’s going to go and the interesting journey involved in finding out. Somehow, I’ve managed to relax with that over the last eighteen months or so. I’m just taking my time and enjoying what I’m working on. Although I’ve resolved that I must finish the 5th Misfit before I work on anything else. The way my year tends to pan out, the release window is May at the latest, after that, it becomes summer holidays, there are trips abroad and then in September every single piece of admin I have to take care of comes up all at once. So basically, if I miss getting it to the editor before April, it doesn’t get released until the next year.

Also, while it’s nice having lots in progress it’s a shame if there’s nothing actually finished. And I want to release something each year which means Misfit 5 for 2022. But the fact I took a little longer over Too Good To Be True and let it rest before I published left me with a way, way better book.  Therefore, Misfit 5 has got to be done by the end of February if I stand a realistic chance.

If push comes to shove, next year, I’ll finish off The Last Word, publish that in March and do Misfit 5 later on in May or June. After that it’s summer holidays and I can’t write or work until October/November and then only if I completely ignore Christmas like I have this year! Mwahahahrgh! That suits me but probably isn’t quite so great every year.

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Filed under About My Writing, audio publishing, General Wittering

Birthdays and some inane wittering

Do you ever wonder what you’re going to be when you grow up? I was 53 yesterday so I suspect I should hvae grown out of the habit by now. However, I still look to the future and wonder what I will ‘be’. Well no, I don’t wonder that, being an author is definitely what I’m here to do but I do wonder if I will ever ‘make it’. Making it, here, is earning £20k a year. Even minimum wage would be nice. I was going to do a long post today, trying to put my jumbled thoughts about selling audio books in order. It’s a bit rambly though, so I’m going to leave it to rest in the faint hope that if I come back to it fresh next week I’ll be able to make it more articulate. Also,it’s my birthday weekend and I decided that, instead, I’d just describe some MTM-ness … so long as I can make it funny enough.

It was a hot day yesterday but I did some gardening so I am still bathing in that warm sense of fitness smugglers I get when I’ve taken enough exercise to get my fitbit in a dither. I was expecting to wake up with vertigo or at the least hayfever. It was hayfever only, which was grand, although not so grand when I had to sing a solo in church. My voice went all crackly on the low notes which was a bit of a bummer so I had to sing very quietly to stop the low notes coming out as more of a yodel. Plus points, well, it was mostly in tune.

Other domestic news and general goings on. It was McMini’s birthday on Saturday as well as mine. This being the case, yesterday, I set about making a cake. McMini being not the biggest fan of chocolate and me loving it, I have resigned myself to the fact I will never have a chocolate birthday cake again. On the other hand … there’s always stealth chocolate. The white stuff. Among my family and friends, I am renowned for my horrible looking, but quite tasty cakes. Thinking about it, there are probably photos deep in the archives of this blog of my cakewrecks from previous occasions. If there are, I will try and find them and dot them about this post when I’ve finished.

There wasn’t much time, when is there ever? But I reckoned I could bash out a fatless sponge (swiss roll cake to the uninitiated) and I had some white chocolate which I could melt across the top of it (Bury St Edmunds market, £1 per catering sized bag). Excellent. I made the fatless sponge and it being a hot day the eggs and sugar took about five seconds to get to the right consistency. Believe it or not, it can take as long as 15 minutes on a cold day, I suppose that’s why they used to recommend you did this in a bowl perched over the top of a saucepan of hot water. That was in the olden days of beating it by hand, of course. Obviously, neither I, nor Mum, who handed this recipe down to me, can be arsed with that sort of malarkey. Also, two words. Kenwood and Chef. Yep. I have two of these babies but McOther has put one away in the pantry under the stairs where I can’t remove it without kneeling down so that one is temporarily out of action. Instead I had to use the, supposedly mothballed, back up machine, purchased some years ago for £5 from a car boot sale. Note to self, remember to mention to McOther that he has mothballed the wrong one.

When I’d finished the mixture I discovered I’d made a bit too much so there were seven bonus buns as well. Jolly dee. I rustled up some icing for the middle; butter, sieved icing sugar, a couple of drops of vanilla essence to taste and then just mix it about and add sugar or butter as desired until it tastes like butter icing. It was one of those days when it all comes together straight away and tastes as if a real chef made it. I was very pleased with the results and even more pleased that I remembered to let the cake get cold before I slathered it all across the middle. Cake pretty much constructed, next it was time to do the white chocolate icing for the top. The trouble with purchasing catering sized bags of stuff is that they are big and this can led you to believe you have an inexhaustible supply.

Over the past few weeks, since I purchased the bag, I have been grazing lightly, on the white chocolate. Just the odd couple of buttons here and there, but when I came to examine it, I realised I might have been grazing a bit more heavily than I’d anticipated. There wasn’t quite enough of the stuff to just melt it and pour it over the top of the cake, indeed, there wasn’t nearly enough.

Mmm … cake!

Bollocks.

Never mind I would add icing sugar and butter, warm them all up in a saucepan and it would set hard with any luck. The result of my efforts was a ball of great-tasting stuff which, unfortunately, was not unlike pastry in consistency.

Right.

After a brief internal debate as to whether or not to ‘loosen’ it with milk, I decided not to because I didn’t have any ingredients left to start again if I fucked it up. Nope. I just spread it on anyway. It looked a bit flakey. In fact it looked like giant lumps of dandruff. And because fatless sponge has a sort of crumbly crunchy outside it didn’t stick.

Ah well, never mind. Nobody would notice if I decorated it with enough crap. I sprayed it with edible gold paint to give it a nice sheen, looked out the Happy Birthday candle that we light every year, and threw some white chocolate stars on it.

Then I discovered some Halloween icing decorations; pumpkin faces, Frankenstein’s monster faces, an eyeball and two severed fingers. Perfect for McMini then. On they want and hoorah, we were done. After a bit of trouble, I managed to remove the airtight box I keep cakes in from the under the stairs bit of the pantry by using a strange grippy handle thing which has been in the family for years. My mother remembers her grandfather using it to reach for high up blackberries when she was a kid. From an early age I spotted it at my grandparents’ house and have been fascinated with it all my life. When my grandmother died, I inherited this strange thing and I am still fascinated by it.

Sorry, digression there. ‘Cake’ made I put it in the airtight box to have on ‘the day’. Birthdaygeddon dawned and McMini went off to town with a friend and disappeared. On the downside, he did not return at teatime and I was agog to try the cake. On the upside, he has grown out of wanting a party. Eventually texted said friend’s mother at five, and asked her to tell him to come home because I wanted to eat the chuffing cake. He arrived at half past five. On the upside, the cake was delicious and the dandruffy icing turned out to be lumps of crumbly fudge (tablet, basically). The most important thing was that it tasted wonderful. Yeh. Job done I’d say.

Having stuffed ourselves with cake at a point in the day which was, if we were honest with ourselves, a bit close to dinner, McOther got the bar-b-queue on and handed me a bottle of beer and some nuts to enjoy while I was upstairs having a shower and getting into my pyjamas. Yes, I put my pyjamas on at about seven pm because I have come to rather dislike going out in the evening. Well, I am fifty three after all. And I already have arthritis and one replaced knee so I may be even older on paper, so to speak. Not that I was going to have time to enjoy the beer and nuts either, since he told me, cheerfully, that I had five minutes. As I mounted the stairs I took a swig of beer from the bottle.

Big mistake.

You know how the first sip of beer from a bottle causes this foam eruption that just goes on and on and looks as if it’s never going to stop. Yeh, well the bastard thing did that. By the time it had finished bubbling it’s guts onto the stair carpet there was only about half the bottle left. Well fuck. Since I’d been gardening all afternoon I needed that shower. I was stinky and dirty and appeared to have a bad case of greenfly … almost as bad as some of my plants. Three and a half minutes of mopping them with a hanky later the beer stains had disappeared. I belted upstairs and hurled myself into the shower. Sod it, I was going to be late for supper which the cook does not appreciate. Never mind better late than stinky, washed the earth off my legs, feet and hands but didn’t have time to rinse the greenfly infestation out of my hair. Oh well.

McMini’s Donald Trump bun … obviously having a plate like that to put it on helps.

Luckily supper was a bit late so I wasn’t and the McOther was not upset that we’d failed to enjoy his smashing cooking. McMini peeled all the coating off his burger bun and it ended up looking a bit like Donald Trump which amused me. An evening vegetating in front of Montalbano and McMini went off to bed. McOther disappeared upstairs to put his light out and after about twenty minutes I realised he’d done that weird thing blokes do when they just disappear up to bed without telling you and you sit there watching telly for half an hour and then suddenly realise that the rest of the house is dark and you can hear snoring coming from the bedroom.

Realising that it was bed time I set about going to bed when McMini arrived for our evening chat. McMini likes a chat before bed. He arrived with a balloon pump and set about trying to puff me to death, at which point I want and got my balloon pump and before long we were puffing things at one another, or he was trying to puff the birthday cards off the mantelpiece while I puffed at them from the other direction, trying to keep them upright. Standard procedure for us then. McMini doesn’t have a sibling but as McOther pointed out, because I am merely another child, he sort of does. Having finally persuaded McMini that bed and sleep would be a good idea, I got to bed at about midnight.

First thing this morning, McOther headed off to car boots. I woke up and discovered that I could hear strange thumping sounds. I couldn’t work out if it was the cat in his ‘bedroom’ which is the room below our en suite, or McMini who is a demi-floor up from us. Our house is the same height all round but there are two rooms on top of each other at the front and three rooms on top of each other at the back, which is weird but just the way it is. Seeing as McOther was not there I indulged my Chaucerian side and ‘lette flye a fart’. Unfortunately, even when I am alone the sound of farts makes me giggle and McMini heard and appeared with a build-your-own hydraulic hand model that he’d been given for his birthday, the previous day. Yes, it seems he had built it over night.

‘Have you slept?’ I asked him blearily.

‘Oh yes, but I woke up at 4 am and was bored so and built this.’

Gads. Four am. Urrgh. Clearly McMini is like his father in that he has never really got the hang of going to sleep, or at least, both seem to be pathologically unable to go back to sleep if they wake up in the middle of the night. Me, I grew up in a boy’s school so I have no trouble with this. Mind you, not being able to sleep again after being woken up would have resulted in something like the Russian Sleep Experiment for anyone living there. As it was, I learned to sleep through the sound of fireworks – but not bombs, it seems I can differentiate between the two – drunken shouting, loud music and the fire alarm – I will be burned in my sleep if ever a building I’m in catches fire and there’s no one else with me to hear the alarm and drag me out of bed.

McMini was very much awake and ‘tested’ the robot hand by throwing a ball at me with it, stroking my face with it and generally being an evil troll. And now we are just on the brink of going out for a walk, except by the time I’ve found the pictures and phaffed with the stupid keywords, it will probably be evening and we’ll probably have been for the walk before you see this.

In other news …

HUP Swishy new logo.

The results of the K’Barthan invective quiz are in. Mwahahahrgh! Boy oh boy this was close. There were two run-away winners but the rest of the vote was comprehensively split between about six of them. Here are the results:

  1. Smeck: Out-and-out winner this one with a huge 40% of the votes. Smeck is a word I made up that would sound a bit like fuck but not be as rude. I suspect I now need to think of something along the lines of Red Dwarf’s, ‘Better dead than smeg!’ Only in K’Barthan, using smeck.
  2. Arnold’s Y-fronts! Not a huge surprise this one because lots of characters use it. It received 35% of the votes.
  3. There are two in third position: Arnold’s conkers! and Arnold’s underpants! Hmm … do I detect a theme here? These two picked up 30% of the votes.
  4. Fourth equal – because my list making thing can’t cope with jumping to five the way I’m meant to after a tie – with 25% of the votes, we have: Arnold’s bum! Smecking Arnold! Arnold’s smecking sweaty … and a suddenly clean, Arnold’s eyeballs! and Arnold’s Armpits!
  5. Close behind these we have: Arnold’s earwax, Arnold’s toe jam! and Arnold’s plums.

There seems to be a theme here, which is that anything to do with bottoms and undergarments or the word ‘Smeck’ is a goer, along with dodgy effluvia such as toe jam and ear wax. I did write my books for people like me. Maybe there are more of them than I thought.

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Filed under General Wittering, Mary Fails at Modern Life

Floating aimlessly

Yeh. Welcome to my world, the world of what might be the most unproductive human being on earth.

Shit! A squirrel has just run under my chair. Sorry where was I? Apart from outside, I mean. No squirrels indoors at this point, I’m glad to say. Ah yeh. Being the world’s most unproductive human. Not true. I do understand that. It just feels like it sometimes. I need to relax and take a chill pill.

Well, I sort of have. It’s half term this week so I have put writing aside and instead have been Humaning. I enjoy Humaning from time to time, especially when I seem to be particularly devoid of any creative inspiration, as I am this week. By doing nothing on my writing stuff, it’s not as if I’m doing any damage. I did get my ten minutes of writing in on Saturday, Sunday and Monday last week, though. Woot.

As I type this I am sitting outside. Yeh we did that didn’t we? Anyway, it’s cloudy but warm so I am stolidly refusing to acknowledge that it is, actually, beginning to rain. Hopefully it’s just going to be a bit of gentle spattering that passes harmlessly by rather than a full-on, race-for-the-door, deluge. Maybe that’s where the squirrel was going then. Somewhere dry. Hmm.

It being half term for us this week, we went to see the in-laws after nearly a year and a half of their being ill, us being ill, COVID19 or Nicola not letting us in because we have English Covid Cooties. It was wonderful to see them again and check that they are OK. They have a fair bit to contend with but seem to be doing alright, which was a relief. And I think their finally being able to see McOther and McMini after so long must have perked them up a bit.

It was a short trip because we didn’t want to knacker them out. The weather was kind to us and we went to Kelso, where there is a gorgeous house that used to belong to the family that started Pringle. We went for a walk round the lake while McMum and McDad sat and relaxed on a bench. The McOther and I went back a second time because I’d left my glasses there – I’d put them in my glasses case and put on my prescription sunglasses. Then the box had fallen out of my jacket pocket. On the upside, though we did get home to discover I had not brought my specs with me, no water closets were involved. I did find them straight away upon my return too. Someone had left the case in a little hole in the seat, end up, so that it was really obvious and easy to find. Bless ’em.

Impending week of oops-I’ve-lost-my-glasses-and-I-only-have-these-prescription-sunglasses Roy Orbison-ness avoided? Check.

It was a gorgeous house. Big, but not massive. I could imagine that if you were as rich as Croesus you could run a really happy team of staff there. It was a lovely spot, with a very pleasant and peaceful feel to it, which was unexpected. The volunteers gradually doing it up maintain the grounds and there were beds of flowers, not corporate planting but sympathetic stuff that went with it all so well. Cracking job all round. There was a lake too … cf pics I took, shown below.

When we got back, after a very rainy Friday, we spent Saturday with some friends in a cottage they’d hired Burnham Market. We passed a beautiful field of blue flax on the way, which I failed spectacularly to photograph. I also failed to capture a record of the sign to a place called Pudding Norton.

When I was a kid we used to holiday there and the ridiculous place names used to make us laugh. Before he came back to Sussex and met Mum, Dad taught at a school in Holt. North Norfolk was a popular holiday destination, not just because of the scenery but because Dad and Mum could visit all his old friends. Usually it was a bit like an episode of The Road Trip, in that Dad was funny, and a great mimic, and Mum was just plain funny. The friends; likewise. The conversation was always absolutely bats and normally involved Dad or one of his mates doing impressions, be-it Dad’s famous impression of a teacher from his school days at Lancing, who had a wooden leg, dropping dead in assembly one morning, or um … other stuff. All were very wicked and probably quite un-PC except they were always delivered with such obvious fondness for the unfortunate victim. Thinking about it, looking at the way they took the piss out of one another, I doubt the objects of their ribaldry would have batted an eyelid if they’d been around to see it. They were probably similar.

Wells next the sea at high tide.

At some point we usually went to Stiffkey salt marsh for the day – at low tide – and walked four half an hour or so to find the sea. There’d be indentations in the sand full of seawater that had been warmed to bath water levels by the sun, there would usually be a seal pup or two and sometime fossils. Finally, after walking for half an hour or so, we’d find the sea and skinny dip in the ice cold water, an event which usually involved a lot of screaming.

This Saturday, visiting our friends, we went past Holkolm Hall, a place of many happy memories, and then all of us went crabbing at Wells Next The Sea. Well, the kids crabbed, we walked along the prom and back. It made me smile to remember the happy times I’d spent up that way as a kid. But it was also lovely to think that I was walking somewhere where my father had undoubtedly walked before he’d ever fallen in love with my mother, in a part of the country where he had been very happy as a young man … until someone broke his heart. That’s why he came back to Sussex; new job, new start.

The architecture and stuff up there is so different that it really is like visiting another country, you know, northern France or something. It reminded me of Valerie Sur Somme, right down to a similar little train! So that was a bit of a gas.

It was gloriously sunny, but with a cool breeze off the sea that took it from a bit much in the heat department, to just right.

Now it’s back to Real Life.

Sea rowers at Wells Next The Sea.

Since Lock Down is ending … supposedly … it seems there’s so much to do. I sat down in a free moment to write this yesterday but realised that I needed to sort out a method of giving away Unlucky Dip in Audio because I can’t set the price to free at all the retailers, although I can set it for 99c so I’ve done that. Then this morning, I realised that I’d forgotten to publicise the fact that my standalone ebook, Escape From B-Movie Hell, is at the promotional price of 99c or pence or whatever, this month. Tomorrow I also have a newsletter to write which will take forever because everything uses blocks and the blocks interface takes about forty seconds to a minute to load.

Fine, roll your eyes and tell me I should learn some patience. But actually that’s a massive time suck. Added to that, doing stupid blocks on here, as I am now, when our internet connection drops, which it does, frequently, it’s likely I will lose it all. Sure I do save from time to time but originally, when the internet dropped and the annoying stupid little circle thing started going round and round on the screen, I could just do select all and copy everything I had written. That way, if I had lost it, I could just cut and paste it all back in and save it when the internet resurrected itself. Can I do that now? Can I bollocks? Stupid knobbing blocks are set up so the CtrlA – or CommandA on an I thing – only saves one paragraph; the one I’m actually editing. How is that in any way helpful?

Creative mojo, a fickle and fleeting thing.

Worse, if you look underneath at the code, it’s exactly the same as the stuff I used to get when I typed it into an editor. Seriously there’s no reason for this blocks shit other than to make it really and I mean REALLY hard for people. Likewise, Mailerlite … I moved to them from Mail Chimp and it was like a breath of fresh air. I clicked to edit an email and up it popped. It was blocks but it was fast. No waiting ages for it to crank up before you could edit. Then you just dropped your block onto the page and wrote in it.

Now? Nah. You have a preview pane and you have to do a paragraph at a time in the side bar.

Just in case that’s not irritating enough there are several parts to the side bar for each block template and there used to be a scroll bar so you could move up and down. That’s now gone. So you get the thing where you’re editing a paragraph and the bit that lets you do bold or alter the justification isn’t in frame. So you have to click on the edge and use the arrow keys on your keyboard to make it move. But they don’t always work because if you click into a box by mistake it just thinks you’re editing that and doesn’t budge. What was wrong with the bloody scroll bar ffs? It didn’t take up any space but it meant I could do those edits way faster. Is this finger trouble? Am I such a moronic twat that I’ve somehow removed the scroll bar from my option and if so why the fuck is there no easy and obvious way to put it back?

At least with windows when I do that thing on the keyboard and the box suddenly appears saying, ‘do you want to turn on sticky keys?’ I can shout, ‘No! No! I fucking don’t!’ and click on cancel. Clearly I’ve borked something the same way but there was no, ‘Are you sure you want to remove this really useful scroll bar that you actually rely on rather heavily?’ box. It just disappeared! Poof! Gone.

Bastards!

Then there’s the fact that fucking Linked In randomly disconnects itself so when I come to publish it tells me I have to go refresh my connection to Linked In. Every. Fucking. Time. Why, Linked in, you total and utter cockwomble! Why? This is total bollocks and phaff that I do not need in my life. I’ve connected you to my blog because I want the two of you to be fucking connected. Randomly disconnecting yourself is not looking after my security. It is bing a fucking pain in the arse. If I wanted to disconnect you from my blog, I would disconnect you from my blog. I haven’t ergo I do not chuffing want to. How hard is that to understand, you absolute fucking muppet?

Yeh, I can imagine what anyone normal and sensible reading this is saying now. This stuff is chicken shit and doesn’t make any difference. Except trust me, it does.

Don’t believe me?

OK, here are some Real Life examples. When I drive to Mum’s on a Wednesday, it takes around two and a quarter to two and a half hours. In lock down, it took two hours. There was no difference in speed. I drive at 3,000 revs which is usually around 70mph give or take a bit – it varies a little with the weather, the gear I’m in and the speed limit, clearly. The reduced journey time was simply caused by the fact that I wasn’t dropping down to 57 as a lorry pulled into my path, or proceeding through the only two miles on the M11 where lorries aren’t allowed to overtake at 57mph, because some absolute bell end in one lorry was overtaking another gargantuan twatwank in another one, and neither of them was giving way to the other. Or, it could be that I wasn’t following a wide load down the double track bit of the M11 with a weaving escort vehicle that wouldn’t let anyone pass for health and safety reasons – even though there was room to put a couple of bloody buses past it side by side without causing the buses or the load any problems. Let alone my stupidly tiny, tiny car.

Likewise, many years ago, I used to commute to Birmingham from Ely. It used to take about two hours or thereabouts going at 70mph most of the way. Limited to 60mph, running-in my brand new Lotus, it took me about twenty five minutes less. Yes even running in at 60mph all the way, it was quicker in a Lotus than in a Triumph Spitfire going 70mph. Why? because those people who sit in the fast lane drifting along for miles and miles saw me coming and actually got out of the chuffing way. It’s the acceleration and deceleration time that drives the journey time up, so the smoother your journey the quicker.

This is not new. There’s a whole fitness and training strategy based on the little things, I believe. I think it was the Team GB cycling trainer who worked out that small things added up. An uncomfortable night with less sleep might make an athlete tired and not quite at their best, it might only make a couple of hundredths of a second to their time but in the velodrome, that might be the difference between winning or losing. So he hit on the idea that if he made sure that all these, seemingly irrelevant, pernickety things were right, the effect on overall performance might be quite substantial. Needless to say, it was. Suddenly Team GB were winning medals.

It’s a genius idea and over the course of my years doing motorway journeys I’ve begun to think that there is definitely something in it. It’s not about whether you blat along in the fast lane at 90mph, it’s about whether other motorists think you will and get out of your way so you can do a solid 3,000 revs all the time. That makes a huge difference to petrol consumption as well. It’s also whether there are a small enough number of other motorists for you to be able to drive smoothly at that speed. And of course, constantly standing on the anchors because a lorry has pulled out in front of you makes for inefficient acceleration and deceleration time. I suppose it’s only natural, there are many proponents of the ten minutes a day fitness regime. I did try doing a 6 minute, high intensity interval thing once a day for a couple of weeks and there was a noticeable drop in my resting pulse so I think there’s definitely something in that approach.

Similarly the ten minutes a day approach to writing, in the last year that I was able to keep it up consistently, 2019, it netted me a stupid amount of words at a point when they weren’t really coming that easily. OK, so, in 2020 it was different. I managed 55k in a couple of months as I changed my 30k short into Too Good To Be True. But that was because there was zero stress on the horizon. Right now I’m back to stressy hormonal can’t think straight so the ten minutes a day is a good discipline to resurrect.

So where am I going with this? Well, two ways, I guess. First I’m saying that the old adage that you should break a huge job into tiny pieces and deal with each of those pieces one at a time is great advice. But conversely it means that each of these tiny, pissy things that are sent to try us also add up; to something big and, in my case, cataclysmic. In lock down, all the pissy administrative shit went away. I couldn’t have a smear test, eye test, dental check or boob x-ray so I didn’t have to remember to book them, note the correct time/date and get to them. We weren’t going away so I didn’t have to remember to book the cat into kennels. I didn’t have to do social things which involved me remembering to shave my legs or find something that made me look slightly less like a parked zeppelin draped in camouflage material than usual. OK so I still had to make sure I did the wages and fix whatever the latest thing was that had broken at Mum’s house, from a distance, but that’s alright because there was only the one life I had to sort out: hers. Mine was on hold, as were McOther’s and McMini’s so no organising McMini’s bloody PE kit either.

The second point I wanted to make was that sometimes, you just have to let it all go. There is shit I have to do right now. And I have McMini’s birthday coming up which will involve doing stuff like making a cake. And I have some more boring pissy administria to do so I decided that I’d take two weeks out, one before and one after half term, to do it. It’s not going badly. I’ve signed up for too many promos so it will take me all day to sort out the mailing tomorrow. But I have planned time for it. After that there will be more humaning, which will be fun, and a bit more admin, which won’t. But if I can crack through it diligently enough then the week afterwards, with any luck, I may be able to do a bit of writing. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go talk to McOther about booking the cat into kennels … while I remember.

Award-winning fiction for a snip!

Escape From B-Movie Hell is down to 99c or p or whatever it is you do instead of cents or pence. In case you have forgotten, or for those of you who don’t know about it, here’s the blurb:

Escape From B-Movie Hell

Escape From B’Movie Hell

First contact, in films, was never like this …

If you asked Andi Turbot whether she had anything in common with Flash Gordon she’d say no, emphatically. Saving the world is for dynamic, go-ahead, leaders of men and while it would be nice to see a woman getting involved for a change, she believes she could be the least well equipped being in her Galaxy for the job.

Then her best friend, Eric, reveals that he is an extra terrestrial. He’s not just any ET either. He’s Gamalian: seven-foot, lobster-shaped and covered in marmite-scented goo. Just when Andi’s getting used to that he tells her about the Apocalypse and really ruins her day.

The human race will perish unless Eric’s Gamalian superiors step in. Abducted and trapped on an alien ship, Andi must convince the Gamalians her world is worth saving. Or escape from their clutches and save it herself.

If you’re interested you can find a page of links to the main retail sites here.

If you are not interested, do feel free to share it with your friends, family, the postman, the bloke who sometimes collects the empty cups at your local coffee shop and anyone else you can think of to spam, because it isn’t spam from you because it’s not your book.

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Life in plastic is fantastic …

Well, it’s been an interesting week. I’ve managed to do some more writing (woot!) but a little less because I had other stuff I needed to do as well. On the up side, some of that other stuff was proofing Too Good To Be True in audio. Oh. Yeh. It did not disappoint.

Other news, McCat has become rather too enthusiastic at jumping onto the back of my ball – phnark. I sit on a Swiss Ball to work. I do have one of those kneeling seats but I can’t quite bend the replaced knee enough to be comfortable yet so it’s short bursts for that. As a result, I usually sit on a Swiss Ball that’s specially designed for weight lifting so it will take my enormous bulk on a regular basis – plus that of the cat – without exploding.

McCat regularly jumps onto the back of it but that hasn’t caused any trouble until recently when he started reaching up and hanging onto it, with predictable results. As I sat on it yesterday morning, I thought I could hear a hissing noise. Hmm … Vos ist das? I wondered.

I was listening back to the speaky file I had been doing for the pronunciations and twiddly bits that needed changed in the audio, ready to send to Gareth, so naturally, at first, I wondered if the hissing was an unfortunate side effect of the piss-poor quality of my recording. I hit pause and listened. No. The hissing continued. Maybe it was ambient noise from my computer or my headphones. I took the ear buds out of my ears. Still the hissing noise continued.

The penny dropped. Maybe it was my ball.

Tentatively, I put a hand round behind me and felt about. Sure enough, I soon found a drought where air was not so much leaking as gushing out … of the ball, obviously, not my arse. At about the same time, I clocked that the desk seemed to be a bit higher than before. Yes. My ball was ruptured and I was sinking. Fast. Oops.

That’s not how it should look. It’s a Swiss Ball, not a beanbag.

I went into the hall, where the boxes I am supposed to be going through to sort my collection of tat into stuff for my office and stuff to store or sell still sit after about seven months. Somewhere in there, I knew, there was a back up ball. I couldn’t find it but McOther knew where it was instantly, bless him. Brilliant! Panic over. I bore the spare ball back to my office in triumph, where I was confronted with the true extent of the damage to my ball of choice, so to speak. It was looking a bit wrinkly and very, very small. Oh dear.

Dumping the alternative ball on my desk, I went to find a pump. After a bit of a rummage I realised it was in the cupboard in my office – I’ve sorted a couple of things out then – and went back to get it. On opening the door my nose was assailed by a very rubbery scent. The room smelled more like a rubber fetishists room of pain than an office. Hmm … and I was going to sit on this thing. No doubt my trousers would smell of rubber too after I’d been sitting on it a while. Jeepers, people would think I was wearing underwear like Dafyd, off Little Britain.

Mmm. I mean fine if it floats people’s boats jolly dee, but it doesn’t float mine so I don’t really want everyone to think I’m packing latex. I might be into vinyl but that’s records, not um … rubber. And the smell gets really a bit much after a while.

Yeh. Perhaps back up ball was not such a good idea. So I turned to t’interweb. Luckily, I was able to find an exact replacement ball for just over twenty quid. It’s coming next week. Until then, I’m stuck with the stool that’s not 100% comfy. Oh well, I suppose it could be worse, I could be wandering around stinking of rubber.

On the writing front, I have had trouble trying to write the thing I should be writing, which is, of course, another K’Barthan Extra. It’s time the poor Pan of Hamgee had to do another delivery for Big Merv, probably in torrential rain and storms after the weather has broken and with the usual nearly disastrous consequences. Naturally, because this is the one I need to write, my mojo is not playing ball. Instead, the first instalment of Space Dustmen seems to be unfolding merrily and there’s even been a bit of a break through in Traffick which is the sweeping epic one which might be a bit dark unless I’m careful. Never mind. You can’t win ‘em all.

Other news … well … there’s been very little. The weather’s been shit and I’ve been staying in doors and going out as little as possible! Also hay fever. I have vertigo today but luckily it was church and singing high notes does seem to help clear the sinuses so things are a bit less evil in that department. With any luck it’ll be gone by tomorrow, or certainly the end of the week when our wisteria and the lilac over the road will have finished flowering.

While ranting about my stinky spare ball, I mentioned vinyl which reminded me of the other vinyl, which I’ve been meaning to talk about for some time.

Vinyl?

Bizarre Beatles US import ‘juke box only’ coloured vinyls. Preciousssss

Yes, I’m going to talk about records.

McOther and I have always been big fans but over the lock down, we’ve been trying to have a bit of a life laundry moment and sort our stuff out. This hasn’t gone quite as well for me as it has for the others but it did mean I got my record player out. After eleven years in storage. McMini already knows the joy of playing records, we used to have a listening session with him just before bed time when he was small.

However, recently McMini has really taken to his music. He’s in three bands. He also loves records, so there are now three record players in the house. This might, possibly, be an extravagance but I do love having them. All three of us have somewhat eclectic taste. 70s and 80s music is a big plus, but think Ska and Punk, or stuff like the Smiths in the case of the McOthers, but also Talking Heads, stuff like that. It’s mostly alternative or indie. Stock, Aitken and Waterman are not on the agenda. The leaning towards punk is stronger in the case of McMini and I, and McMini ventures, alone, into metal, beyond Slayer, Metallica and the like into the realms of death metal. His father and I can appreciate the skill of the musicians and the musicality of the arrangements but the singing is … to be honest it sounds like someone doing a giant burp. He also listens to the non-Nazi black metal (some black metal isn’t pleasant) where the vocals sound like someone being murdered. Oh well, each to their own. He loves it.

McMini’s favourite singers rejoice in names like, George (Corpse Grinder) Fisher and the lyrics of these songs are hilarious; like a melodramatic fourteen year old boy trying to write about festering gore in the manner of Lovecraft – except totally exaggerated until it’s barking mad. I am pretty certain that, for the most part, it’s meant to be tongue in cheek. Naturally, McMini, micro troll that he is, loves the contrarian nature and general hamminess of it all. The bands are very interesting when interviewed. Some take themselves far too seriously, but a lot tend to be intelligent, amusing misfits. Ideal for McMini I guess. I’d have probably loved it all if I was younger. I do have this old fashioned thing about a catchy tune though.

After years I have unpacked my records and started playing them. I have reverted to my habit of wandering through charity shops buying vinyl albums and 45s. It’s bliss. There is also a record shop in town, which seems extraordinary but is true. Having been somewhat intimidated by its effortless trendiness, I eventually ventured in with McMini to hold my hand (he is a regular, needless to say). I have now managed to pick up a fair few singles I was after, either from there, or from second hand shops in town. I have started searching for the remaining quest songs, stuff I heard blaring out of study-bedrooms growing up in a school but couldn’t name. Things I remember from the John Peel show; heard once, thought were fab but couldn’t buy, on account of that I’d forgotten the name of the band and never heard them again. These days you’d just put some of the lyrics into Google and up they pop. In many cases, it’s a case of working out who is singing, since a lot of them were by groups or people who became famous later on. Electricity by OMD springs to mind, although I picked up the album with that on a few years ago (yes even though my record player was in a box in the garage at the time).

This last week, McOther arrived home from a car boot proudly bearing a copy of Video Killed the Radio Star, by the Buggles. Trevor Horn’s first musical incarnation and the venture that convinced him he wanted to be in a studio behind a mixing desk rather than out front, on stage. I also caved in and bought Size Ten Girlfriend, by The Chairs, from discogs for a whole four British pounds. Do I regret this? Not one jot! I have it on tape somewhere, taped from the John Peel show when I heard the first few bars and thought it sounded interesting. I never heard it again … until now and while it’s not quite as slick as some music – no auto tune in those days, remember – it’s still every bit as good as I remember it. Other delights include Being Boiled, by the Human League, although I haven’t managed to find a copy of Dare yet. I did score the Duran Duran album Rio the other day though.

Meanwhile McMini has started buying coloured vinyls; ELO’s Mr Blue Sky in blue … well … blue (yes, I’m as jealous as fuck) and he also scored a copy of his favourite Slayer album on pink vinyl the other day. To be fair, I’m less jealous of that one. I do envy the colours he’s managed to get though. I have a selection of Beatles singles in various colours but few things the gorgeous bright blue of his ELO single.

What a Waste – my signature song because I graduated in an arts subject during the massive recession of 1990

Indeed, through fluke rather than design, most of my favourites seem to be on red … with the exception of What a Waste, by Ian Dury and the Blockheads, which I have on yellow vinyl and which is my signature song, pretty much. While being worth jack shit in financial terms, it’s pretty much the pride of my collection … along with the photo of Jonathan Lyndon which he sent me, himself, a signed Hugh Cornwall album (lead singer of the Stranglers) and a signed photo of Paul McCartney which I have somewhere … but I’m not sure where. And the multicoloured Beatles singles … probably. Oh yeh and a red vinyl (see what I mean?) lip by the Ting Tings – I can’t remember the name of the album, it’s the one with That’s Not My Name on it.

Next stop, of course, is to rip my records to MP3 so I can listen to them in the car. This isn’t as difficult as it sounds, I have a plug that goes into the earphone socket of my computer one end and the output of my stereo the other which, as far as I recall, allows it to ‘listen’. I also have an ancient programme called LP recorder which should work for recording them all … unless I can get it to work on Audacity and then … yes … we shall be making playlists, or mix tapes as they were called when I was a nipper. Yeh, the name changed but the idea hasn’t.

Too Good To Be True in Audio, coming soon!

Too Good To Be True! In audio! Woot!

Yes because I’m ridiculously excited about this I’m just giving you the heads up here that Too Good To Be True will be available in audio format soon. As I may have mentioned, I am super-stoked about this because not only is it one of the more decent books I’ve written, and not only is it, to be honest, a bit funnier than some of the others, but Gareth has done a ridiculously good job on it.

With Audio, it’s not as easy to know when your books will appear as with ebooks. However, when I have a better clue of a release date you will be the first to know. It will appear on Kobo and in my web store within a couple of weeks, on other retailers it will take a little longer to filter through. Keep your eyes on your in box if you’re subscribed to my Readers’ Group, otherwise, keep checking back here or the K’Barthan Jolly Japery facebook group.

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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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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.

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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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