Tag Archives: writers

Lots of 99c and free books AND a giveaway! #funnybooks #99cbooks #freebooks #giveaway

Apologies to those of you who read my newsletter as well because this week’s blog post is, basically, what I just sent you. I know I’m a lazy, bad lady but I wanted to share the funny bits a second time.

Anyway, here we are, talk about time flying, I just blinked and it’s bye-bye January. Here’s hoping Nostradamus is wrong and armageddon, a 26 year long World War III (shudders, that’ll see me out) and all the rest, fail to materialise.

Luckily, I had other important matters to distract me this week as McMini required a bit of help from me to conduct his exhaustive research into the latest burning philosophical question that’s been bugging him:

Does Darth Vader poo?

Yep. And you know what? Amazingly, the answer is out there.

Straight up. It’s true. It’s amazing what you can see on YouTube these days.

Yes. We found it.

He doesn’t, by the way. Apparently he has bags and tubes around his armoured suit that collect er hem … stuff. He doesn’t have to eat, food goes in intravenously, but he does like a drink from time to time so he has straws inside his helmet so he can take the occasional drink. A bit like James Hunt then – or was it Nikki Lauda, or even Graham Hill? – one of them used to get thirsty during Grands Prix so had an orange juice delivery system rigged up so he could have a drink from a straw in his crash helmet. Needless to say, the first time he used it, most of the orange juice squirted in his face.

Anyway, burning question answered, McMini’s next quest is to find out weather Darth Vader has a willy, ‘because it might have been burned off when he fell in the lava after fighting with Obiwan Kenobe.’ He wants to know if prosthetics are involved and if the results are metal, plastic, etc, and whether the wires are properly insulated if it’s electronic, ‘because otherwise he will have an electric shock every time he has a wee.’

And I thought I was weird.

Odds are, by the way, that Lord Vader doesn’t have a willy. As one of the lovely folks who read my newsletter pointed out, wobbly dangly bits would be the first things incinerated in a lava pit-related plunging accident and it’s obvious he doesn’t. It’s why he’s in such a bad mood all the time. That and having sacks of pooh under his suit, next to his skin I expect.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes. To be truthful, I am very happy to lose myself in the bizarre world of my son, if it distracts me from the relentless horrors of the real one. It struck me that you may be looking for a distraction, yourself. If you don’t have anyone of your life of suitably distracting eccentricity, fear not. I have three ways for you to lose yourself in books this month. Because I’m feeling all technologically whizzy, I’m going to put the pictures in too. Oh yes I am.

THING 1: Patty Jansen’s Monthly Promo.

This month over 100 sff books for 99c or 99p etc. It runs from today through to Sunday 5th February, but some books may be reduced after that. To check it out, click this link: http://pattyjansen.com/promo/

THING 2: CCEkeke’s Monthly Instafreebie promo.
For a week in February, 22 books, all free in return for mailing list sign up.

This runs from 5th – 11th February but you may find the offers are on before or after those dates.You can find that here: http://ccekeke.com/february-promo.

THING 3: There is NO Thing Three.*

THING 4: Funny Five.
Another smashing giveaway in which you can win funny books.

This one runs from 1st – 12th Feb. You can win copies of:

  • Good Omens (Pratchett and Gaiman)
  • The Ultimate Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Adams)
  • The Princess Bride (Goldman)
  • Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
  • Novels and Short Stories of Kurt Vonnegut 1963-73.

If you enter, you will also receive a series of curated emails featuring free or bobby bargain humorous books (99c). You can find that one here: http://readfunnybooks.com/giveaways/funny-five-book-giveaway/

So there you are! That should keep everyone going for a week or two!

Enjoy.

* Sorry, I have to stop doing that joke.

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Do you believe in socialism or the labour party? And other questions. #rantmodeon

I’ve just been reading an excellent post on Jim Webster’s blog about education. If you haven’t tried Jim’s blog you really should, all his posts are thought provoking, interesting and grounded common sense. Jim is smart.

He talks about education: what we should teach our children, what he’d like to see them taught, how we should teach our children and whether, actually, everyone needs to go to university. He makes the good point that because so many of our political leaders have been university educated, they tend to think that what worked for them will work for everyone – ergo that everyone should be able to go to university. And Jim makes the point that we’ve sort of dropped the ‘be able’ from that sentence, so now it’s considered essential that you go to uni if you want to make anything of yourself. But it doesn’t always work like that.

And it got me thinking about Education, and politics and also thinking, ‘Yep.’ And before I knew where I was, up popped a parallel rant. My American friends will not like this, because I do imply, at one point, that America doesn’t always look like an idyll to me and I have learned this doesn’t always go down well.

OK so, first up, I should fess up that I am university educated. I went to university because I hadn’t a smecking clue what I was going to do with my life and uni meant three more years to think. You didn’t have pay nearly as much for it in those days, of course, so you could do that – they introduced crippling fee loans the year after I left.

To me education is a tool, and it’s a tool for life. So, to me children need to come out of it with life skills. They need to be able to run a budget, fix stuff and also be furnished with the knowledge to be able to think independently. The more facts you have at your fingertips, the more information you are exposed to, the greater your capacity for understanding, and rationalising, what goes on around you. But you do have to be taught how to use them. Once you are, the better you are at that rationalisation process, the less likely you will be to follow a political party, or extreme religion, blindly, like a brainwashed sheep, without any thought to the veracity, ethics or long term effects – let alone truth – of what they tell you you ought to believe.

What university did for me was show me that there is never any cut and dried, there are always shades of grey. And I wonder if maybe one of the problems the US is facing, now, is the culmination of years and years of every single issue being pitched to them as binary: Right or Wrong, black or white, a cartoon of life as it never has been nor ever will be; simplified into extremes without middle ground. I suppose if you bludgeon people into believing like that then, after enough time, they become polarised – look at any republican and democrat ‘debating’ something on Facebook and you will see what I mean. Each side sees the other as Morally Wrong, possibly even evil and there’s a trend to suggest that the tactic on both sides is ‘he who shouts loudest and acts nastiest wins’. In many instances, it’s a simple slanging match and no actual debate is ever entered into. If it is there tends to be a suggestion that whatever each protagonist’s party says is right because the party said it. Like the party leaders did the thinking so no-one else has to.

So the first thing I’d teach kids is the difference between old-fashioned, proper right and wrong – you know as in not being a complete and utter bastard to everyone you meet or behaving like a shit – as opposed to the pseudo spun political party ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ that some folks put into the void in their soul where the original sentiment should be. And then I would teach them to judge everything against that knowledge of good and bad.

These days, I find it impossible to look at anything without seeing the grey. Lots and lots of grey. Which is how I find myself in the odd position of having voted for all the major political parties here in the UK despite being, pretty much, a socialist – yes I genuinely believe we should re-nationalise our assets. BUT in a radically different way than was done before. I suppose that’s the point, I believe in socialism, but not necessarily in the Labour Party.

Then, perhaps our Government could do something radical too – it could set an example. At every level it fails to do this. From letting Google off masses of tax because it’s too busy chasing the 0.08% or whatever it is who are supposed to be defrauding social services. The logic of that is like turning your back on a suitcase full of easy money and, instead, concentrating on chiselling off a 50 pence piece that someone’s glued to the pavement for a laugh. Here’s another one, stating that you’re not going to condemn torture, because you want to strike a deal with the saviour of the American Way – or alternatively the Nylon-haired hate-carrot – from across the water who thinks torture is a Good Idea.

Here’s another example at grass roots level. My granny was a school governor. She said that the school she was a governor of needed new portacabin classrooms for the cost of their budget for the whole year. They asked for funding from Government/Council and were refused. So then they worked out that if they were really thrifty they could save enough money out of their budget for the classrooms over five years. They put this to local government and were told that any unspent cash at the end of the year is evidence of over-provision and it would be cut from the next year’s budget. If that’s how bureaucracy rewards long term planning how is anyone going to learn about saving up versus instant gratification? How will it help people whose ambition is ‘to be famous’ accept that unfortunately, their entire class cannot all be the next Katie Price.

So somehow I think we also need to find a way to educate kids that there is more to life than digital options: more than black or white, success or failure. There is the middle ground of contentment. At the least we ought to define ‘success’ slightly differently – as happiness, perhaps? It seems to me that we have a nation of people who aspire to degrees and business and money. Yet again and again, the successful people I meet who are happy are the artisans, engineers … people who MADE stuff. Then again, I suspect, that because the successful people I meet are inventors, the underlying trait in them all is actual brain power rather than education level. Interestingly, most cite things like family, or job satisfaction as s source of happiness, rather than what they earn doing it.

Also, while the world is never fair, I wonder if it would be good, at school, to ask kids this:

Imagine you live in a country where there is a civil war. Imagine what it would be like trying to earn a living, buy food, get an education for your kids, get health care, dental care. As well as that, imagine that in this war torn place, you live in the equivalent of a garden shed, with no heat, no electricity, no running water and you cook on a fire. You walk everywhere because you can’t even afford to buy a bicycle. There’s not much food so you have to grow most of what you eat. You don’t eat meat. A constant supply of eggs is far more valuable than chicken stew for a night. Yet, imagine that among all this, you still have a mobile phone, that you can see the internet, and you see pictures of people in a country where there is no war and even the poorest people earn more in a year than you can imagine earning in a lifetime. They have heat, light, bicycles, cars and free healthcare. They have public transport and free education. And they are complaining that they have nothing and saying they will not work for this unimaginably huge salary they are earning.

What are you going to do when you see that? Well, I don’t know but I imagine you look at that and you think that yes, you could go there, because you have never had a lot of the stuff they take for granted, and you wouldn’t need it. You could live as you are now, but there, saving yourself the cost of the luxuries they assume as their right and happily do those jobs they won’t or can’t do for a profit. I’d guess you’d think, ‘I’ll be minting it!’ Your children would be educated – something you could only dream of where you are. They will learn English, maths and science. They will be able to become something instead of dying in this hut or being drafted into the army and shot in battle before they are twelve.

Now I know life is never fair, but McOther grew up in North America: the US first, for a couple of years, and then Canada. Originally he came from Scotland. In Scotland, McOther’s dad played in a band every night, worked a day job and repaired other people’s washing machines at the weekend while McOther’s mum looked after the kids. Even so, money was still tight. Then, when McOther was ten, someone in a park asked him if he was Catholic or Protestant. He gave the wrong answer and the person smashed a bottle over his head. His parents decided they would move to a place where their kids would get a good education, everyone could afford a car, the standard of living was higher and no-one did that moronic, brainwashed, dickwad sectarian shit.

Does that make them bad people? Wanting a better, safer future for their kids?

I’d say not. They left their home, their family and everything they knew and made a new start. For their kids.

These immigrants aren’t ‘taking our jobs’. They’re doing stuff we refused to do or just weren’t doing – for whatever reason. Maybe, the reason all those Polish plumbers came to Britain was because, after years of Blair, our young people had been taught that they were above going into a trade, so there weren’t enough plumbers in the UK. Back in the late 90s, I lived in East Anglia and if you wanted anything more than small job done, every plumber had a waiting list months long.

People from third world countries can live a lot more frugally than we do, even here, because the stuff we see as our basic right is untold luxury to many of them. Should we blame them that they are able and prepared to work for less, or should we be blaming the businesses who were happy to employ them for those wages? Or should we be blaming ourselves, for insisting on rock bottom prices, for shopping in supermarkets who pay their suppliers less for the goods than they cost to produce. Or a system which thinks that leaving over 70,000 perfectly edible cauliflowers that are too bumpy, too small, or the wrong colour for the supermarkets in a field to rot is a ‘good’ result because a few extra thousand were sold in the ‘knobbly’ range. Perhaps those 70,000 cauliflowers in that one field, multiplied to the power of however many fields of cauliflowers there are, is the difference between the farmer using cheap imported labour and being able to source labour locally, or employ casual labourers. A friend’s son has autism, he finds it very hard to hold down a conventional job but he loved doing casual farm work. He was good at it too. But now there are no jobs for him, the work is contracted out to gangers who provide itinerant labourers from abroad.

So yes, by all means put some limits on immigration but show our kids the value of the freedoms we have, that we take for granted, that these people can only dream of.

Edited to add: Also, right now, there are refugees. We are talking about a situation we haven’t seen since the 1930s. At the moment, if you read up on how we treated Jews, fleeing Nazi persecution and how we are currently treating refugees, our forefathers look a lot more generous of spirit and kindly than we do.

Lastly, shouldn’t be be teaching kids what the world is actually like, and how much stuff actually costs rather than that it’s their oyster?

Should we be teaching our kids that they can’t have it all now? Should we be teaching kids to save up, and ourselves to pay what things actually cost so British workers in the few industries we have left can earn a living wage? And shouldn’t our government be going after the big money: making companies like Google actually pay their tax? And telling people who endorse torture that the British nation does not.

I guess what I’m saying is that maybe education should be a bit less about the facts kids know, and more about what they learn, which, over and above the facts and figures, should be, basically, how to be this bloke.

bethisguy

Picture scrounged from Oldroadapples

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The traditional MTM Christmas Post #scrooge #bahhumbug #chaosfairies #jollyjapes

Well, that’s everything done for another year, despite small scale assistance from the Chaos Fairies. Presents given, card sent … well, OK, they’re sitting in the post box still I expect but I put them in there before Christmas day, on Christmas Eve to be precise, so it’s done.  I even managed to get a newsletter written to go into them, despite 40 minutes of making paper jam until I realised that the printer had eaten the small cloth I use to clean my glasses and it was clogging everything up in there. Well … it is in a rather dark corner, but I did feel very middle aged when finally, with the help of a torch, I discovered the cleaning cloth, which I hadn’t, hitherto, seen, in my defence it was black – despite multiple openings of the printer and inspections of its innards.

To my unbridled delight, the Christmas pop songs in the shops until our ears bleed (from about September) factor has now passed. Let’s listen to the Phil Spectre Christmas Album. Mwahahhahargh! No. Let’s not.

We’re in Scotland this year, which is always a longer visit than when we go to my Mum and Dad so there was even less point in decorating our own home than usual. Even so we put up a tree and in a fit of rare unscrooginess I went and got some of those gel window decorations, you know, like stained glass: two reindeer, two snowmen, two Santas and two er … penguins? Mmm. First window done, and with a snowman on the second only half complete the cat had already eaten one of the Santa’s hands and a leg. I had to guard them jealously after that but apart from a brief run in, during which one of the penguins nearly lost his feet, they have survived. Note to self, might not do this next year.

The journey to Scotland passed uneventfully enough, although there was some massive rain and we drove through some of the biggest puddles ever! Much to McMini’s joy as it does all fly up well if you trundle through at speed – aka hit an unexpectedly deep one. We did some last minute shopping, sent the last cards and then I managed to drop my mobile phone down the toilet. Sadly this was as I stood up to flush. On the up side, no number twos were involved. I grabbed it out of the loo yes my desperation not to spend £500 on a new smartphone was enough for me to plunge my hand into a loo full of wee without a thought. I suppose my Dad has weed over my feet enough times, during loo assists, for me not to care any more. I did run the phone under the tap in case the wee was corrosive. Then I took it to bits and laid it on a paper towel over the radiator to dry.

After borrowing a phone from McDad in-law, I then took McMini to one of the best Christmas Even Christingle services I have ever been to. Hello to all at Melrose Episcopalian Church, thank you for that. Basically, short prayers to begin and end and a strong onus on learning through play: a dimly lit church, plus torches for the children, a hunt for a selection of knitted crib figures, ‘I need you to look for Joseph and Mary now … yes … they are both wearing skirts … well, every marriage is different.’

It was a very amusing script which made all the main points without labouring them and was delivered very well by a bloke who looked and sounded like he was Armstrong – or is it Millar’s? cousin. Even better there were loads of kids, far more kids than adults. McMini had a gas and so did I, especially singing the Calypso Carol which I haven’t sung since I was in the school choir aged 10! Mwah hahaahrgh! Ah memories. It was even warm in there, too.

Church ticked off our list, it was back to check on the phone. I took a bit more of the back off and discovered a few more patches of ‘water’ which I dried off. But luckily the main foreign body present appeared to be pocket lint: still dry. I need a smart phone because I have to be able to run secret squirrel dual authentication on my parent’s internet banking app. I do need a new one, and I’m saving up and will have the money in a few months but it isn’t there now. So I really didn’t want to shell out for a new phone, or even buy a £20 cheapy one. So I waited, with every appendage crossed and hoped that my phone would survive it’s excremental dunking.

Probably the best present of all, for me, was the moment when, late on Christmas Day, I put my phone back together, powered it up and … it worked.

However, the whole episode made me think of a TV programme I watched a couple of years ago, when they were talking about the kind of yuck you find on every day items. They took swabs. The results were gross. My wee phone, which actually really is a wee phone, now, in the truly urinous sense of the word, would clearly have had them all gagging.

I have to report that it was only 24 hours before I said ‘aye’ for the first time instead of yes.

Afore I go, if you’re looking for interesting books, I wanted to give you the heads up about a promo that’s currently running over at sci fi author Patty Jansen’s site. Basically, Patty has noticed that there are a lot of authors out there who are struggling. Perhaps, it’s because, as she herself points out, when life is tough, often, one of the few ways a person can still earn is through writing.

The books are all full price in this one – although ‘full’ in most cases is still excellent value for money – there’s a giveaway to win one of Patty’s books and there’s a donate button which is the main point, as she is using those donations to give grants to authors who are struggling financially.

So far I haven’t read all of the books but the ones I have read have been excellent, so if you think you’d like a look, or think you would like to recommend you can find it here:

christmaspromo

And that’s it. Merry Christmas and all that malarky.  I hope your festive period has been eventful and fun – in the right way. I see that Death Year 2016 is doing it’s best to carry off as many people before it ends – although deaths peak at this time of year, anyway. Good riddance to it, anyway. Here’s to 2017. All the best to everyone and may the phone of your endeavours never fall into the lavatory bowl of failure.

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Evaluation is the name of the game … or is it just spin? Some career decisions

Have you ever had one of those days when the cold hard truth hits you right between the eyes? Yeh, well, I’ve been having a bit of a wake up for some time now but last week the shit hit the fan. Then, a comment from one of you lovely peps made me think, a lot. More on that story … later.

There is a nagging worry, in the back of my mind, that I’ve come over as a bit maudlin recently. It’s not my intention and I am basically happy but I have realised something about what I thought was my current, temporary, state of affairs. It’s not temporary. In fact, while there may well be different people involved, I’m probably looking down the barrel of the rest of my life.

This raises an issue.

Some days I feel a bit like this.

Some days I feel a bit like this.

Like everyone, I want to be a good mother and wife and a kind and dutiful daughter. However, if I’m going to be those things to any effect, I must ensure that I also have an identity and a life beyond them – even if there’s only time for it in a low key way, it has to be there. My problem is that with the way things are now, I can’t do all those things at the same time. Not to the levels I have set myself. I have to lower my sights. And I have to accept some home truths.

  1. If I am unhappy and unfulfilled I am crap company.
  2. To be happy and fulfilled I have to like myself.
  3. In order to like myself, there are certain commitments and duties to others that I am required to perform.
  4. It is essential that I am a sane, level-headed and likeable human being.
  5. There is a certain amount of me time, and sense of having my own life that is required for me to be a sane and likeable human being. There has to be space for things that aren’t my duty: interests hobbies and yes, my job.
  6. My duty is taking too much space for the career plan I have followed up to now and that is making me frustrated and irritable.
  7. The duty can’t be shirked although it can be streamlined a bit if I can get myself to relax and reduce tension levels enough to increase my efficiency … or just achieve anything approaching efficiency, full stop.
  8. The career plan therefore has to give, or at least be altered to one that’s achievable.

In short, I have to re-establish the illusion that I am in control of anything beyond my reaction to events (even if it’s not true).

The fact is, sitting in hospital with my mum on Sunday was one of the most harrowing things I’ve done. She clearly felt terrible, she was unable to speak – or at least unable to say the words she was thinking after the first few minutes awake. And I didn’t want her to suffer, but I didn’t want her to leave me. I knew she would, most likely, be fine in a few days but even so, bringing in the DNR notice for them to see was difficult.

She’s a lot better, and though she’s still in hospital it is mainly because the Social Worker can’t see her to evaluate her until Monday and I haven’t the stamina to get her home and then try and organise that on my own right now. And I think she needs evaluated.

So all this stuff, all the administrivia that surrounds looking after Mum and Dad; dealing with the NHS, the social, their finance people, their carers, their bank, their utility companies, the folks who deliver their milk … all of it takes time. On top of that, watching my parents suffer takes emotional stamina and energy. My concentration span is drastically reduced, and my frustration at the way every tiny task seems to mushroom into a Herculean labour, normally through my own stupidity or forgetfulness, means my default state is one of intense frustration. My anger-o-meter is always at the red end of the dial, even though I am, essentially, happy.

Other days I feel more like this.

Other days I feel more like this.

On top of that, I’m a mum. For those of you who haven’t had kids, having a child is like having your brain stirred, constantly, with a huge wooden spoon – especially if your kid is as adept at mental par cour as McMini. It’s wonderful but it coddles your thoughts. And while I can express the frustration I feel about my life to him, through the medium of humour usually, I must be careful I don’t unwittingly take it out on him in other ways. And sometimes I know the anger is in my voice, anger that has nothing to do with him, and I have to reassure him that if I sound angry, it’s just frustration with other things, and not his fault.

The net result for me, is that I feel as if I am clinging onto my own identity by my fingertips. That I am little more than a kite buffeted back and forth in the air currents of other people’s neediness. This is not a good place for anyone long term. I have to look after my parents. I can’t not. I have to look after my son. I can’t not. But I also have to find some way, among that, of looking after me. Because if I go down, they all do. And that won’t help anyone.

So, apart from running away from my life and never coming back (not an option) how do I sort this out?

Well, the writer bit of my brain that is bored stupid with Real Life and wandering off is still well and truly with me, but as careers go, my authorly efforts are not going that well.

Basically, I thought that with each book I wrote I’d make roughly the same amount of cash. However, I seem to have plateaued at the K’Barthan Series. After I’d finished the four K’Barthan novels I really needed something straightforward so I wrote a stand alone, Escape From B-Movie Hell. It bombed. I naively thought that everyone who read and enjoyed my four other novels would automatically think, ‘Yeh, I’ll buy this one.’ They didn’t. To be honest, I think I’ve sold less copies of Escape this year than I sold of K’Barthan 3 or 4 in my worst month. Therefore, since 2015 I’ve been kind of stuck in a rut going nowhere, a four book wonder, because in real terms, for all it’s done, I might as well have sat on my arse from July 2014 through to December 2015 and not have written the fifth book. It’s a pity as I had a gas writing Escape and I love the results. I just re-read it, it’s far and away my best book yet but the market begs to differ.

Thus, I have learned that new stuff is not working, and that I can’t afford to take 18 months writing a book which doesn’t work. And THAT means … well, it means I have to make a plan. Also because my periods of writing time are shorter and less frequent, I take a greater proportion of the hours available getting back into the plot of a big complicated book, slowing it all up even more. So, here’s what I’m thinking …

Though my brain is desperate for the regular escapes from Real Life that only writing can deliver, it is in a state of permanent mental exhaustion.  That makes the risk of burnout omnipresent. Full length novels are tricky and another series like the K’Barthan Series will be extremely difficult.  Scratch 6 years for a four book series, in MTM’s new reality we’re looking at a minimum of 15. That’s a long time to wait before I have another two or three books that my readers – or possibly a new group of readers who like that series – want.

However, I need to achieve stuff outside the care zone. My brain needs to write, for sure, and it needs to see projects start and evolve and finish so I can earn enough to pay for my mailing list and the production of new books. For that to happen, with the hampered state of my mental capacities right now, I need to write is something simpler or shorter. So that’s what I will do; write shorter, less complicated books, which I will sell for a cheaper price. And they’ll be about K’Barth. The stories will tie in with the big books and when there are enough, I will have one of the 20k books permanently free, give one or two of the others to folks who’ve signed up to my mailing list and charge real money for the 100k plus behemoths.

Two cyber buddies in writing in my genre started producing short stories as well as novels last year and I have been watching their results with interest. One’s publisher had a minimum ebook price for a novel that was quite high, so he decided to write some shorter things that he could price lower, one just wanted uncomplicated as well as complicated. Both have found that folks are reading their low priced short stories and then moving on to the longer more expensive stuff. They are also getting less complaints about the more expensive stuff being … well … expensive.

So that’s Plan A sorted. MTM’s planned releases for next year: three short books about K’Barth – if I do well – or two if hospital time is at a maximum. They’ll retail at 99p/99c and Gladys, Ada and the punters at the Parrot and Screwdriver will definitely feature in one or two of them. If you have any favourite characters you’d like to know more about, let me know in the comments and I’ll do something about them. So far I have a lot of votes for Gladys and Ada, several for Big Merv and one for General Moteurs. I’ll try to keep the shorts coming reasonably regularly, although if either parent dies I probably won’t write anything for ages afterwards, but I digress.

As my brain can’t do complicated right now – even if it does want to do writing – this looks like a neat solution. Even starting the first short, last week, took the pressure off. Suddenly the full length novel I’m writing, which I’d got a bit stuck on, has started moving again. It’s not about K’Barth so even when it’s done, only a handful of people will read it, but I’ll like it and that’s what matters, so that’s plan B, write a big novel at the same time as the small ones.

Which brings me back to the comment. Someone pointed out that my blog is quite informative and is kind of a book on its own … and that got me thinking. The thing about the blog is, it’s all planned out, well, it isn’t but I know what I am going to say before I start. So it did occur to me that I could write a generalist series of pamphlets about publishing books yourself. It would be a series called, ‘I fucked this up so you don’t have to’. OK no that’s the only-in-my-dreams working title. It would have to be called something a bit more anodyne and sensible like ‘Mistakes I made so you don’t have to’.

The point is, I wouldn’t have to think much to do those, it would just be a case of crafting them. The knowledge, and the trains of thought, are already in my head. I wouldn’t have to imagine or research much. I’d just explain what I have learned. It might be fun. So that’s plan C.

And there, finally, you have it. MTM cares too much. MTM is an authorholic. MTM will switch the pressure from completing long books to completing some short ones that are fictional and non fictional and then the long books can go quietly on in the background at the same time.

The strangest thing is that’s not a huge change in plan. I’ve just shifted the emphasis to shorts in the foreground and behemoth novel in the background. However, somehow, put that way, it feels like it might be achievable.

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I want to be straight! (Yeh) I want to be straight! I’m sick and tired of taking drugs and staying up late.

It occurred to me, the other day, that it might be prudent to try and explain why it takes me so sodding long to write a book. So in this gargantuan half rant, half post with a dash of tirade I am going to try. Basically, it’s about admin.

Frankly, I think I may be unique in the extent of my total and utter inability to organise anything easily: be it myself, others, things I find it incredibly hard to sort them out. Indeed, I would probably have a second life to live if I could somehow claw back the endless hours I spend looking for my glasses and my keys.  Also my life is ruled by Murphy and his law, no, not Murphy; Sod. Presumably that’s why, in the perfect irony, I have been given a life where I have to organise a lot of stuff, mostly to do with other people’s lives. Because I’m shit at it and someone up there thinks that’s funny. Like the time I declared that I’d never ever marry a lawyer … and the right man came along and of course he was, indeed, is, a lawyer.

This time of year McOther’s working hours go crazy, he has corporate events to go to at the weekends, the NFL play matches at Wembley which, as he spent his formative years in North America, he is desperately keen to attend – also at the weekends – and they make a 40 minute game take hours … Suffice to say, McMini misses his calming presence. So do I. This year, my organisational inability over the months coming up to Christmas seems to be particularly bad. I know I like variety and I know I have a sense of humour but it would be nice if just once I could organise one single smecking thing and have it go according to plan. Not that I do plan. Ever. Because there’s absolutely no effing point. But I do kind of, prime stuff and expect … results of a certain nature.

Case in point. This week. This week is not so different from any other week in my house other than that it’s got me feeling a little down. I don’t know why because this is my life, this is how I live but I’ve found myself wishing I could be one of the normals. To explain what I’m talking about … well … here’s the story so far.

We arrived home from our half term trip abroad rested and ready for action, except my iPad – which I had dropped for the second time before we went away, breaking it for the second time, Gorilla Glass my arse – decided to die on the Sunday night. Properly. So, as the folks who were going to fix it for £50 when they got the screen hadn’t rung in three weeks I decided I’d better get my wallet ready for a spanking and try the Apple store.

A few minutes later, I walked into the kitchen and just happened to notice McCat popping in, with grey feathers hanging out of his mouth. He had a squint round as if checking the coast was clear and made to head out. I shut the cat flap knowing that there was a body out there, one he was going to bring in, disembowel and eat bloodily and messily on the beige carpet outside our spare room.

No.

Not happening.

Looking out into the garden to check I could see a lot of feathers in the light from the kitchen window. It looked as if someone had burst a pillow out there. So McOther and I concluded that there would, indeed, be a body. On his mission to put out the bins McOther had a look and discovered that contrary to our expectations there was a live victim. A pigeon, looking very sorry for itself, with few wing feathers, a bald neck and absolutely NO tail whatsoever. Inevitably, we christened him Kojak.

There wasn’t much we could do for Kojak at 8.00 pm on a Sunday night except leave him and hope he recovered, the reasoning being that he’d be gone or dead in the morning. Monday dawned and Kojak was not dead but unfortunately not gone either. I would have to rescue him.

Bum. I didn’t really have time for that.

So I chalked him up as another thing to do after the school run and my, now, inevitable trip to the Apple store with my smashed and non-functional iPad. I locked the cat inside and off we went to school.

Surprising joy from the Apple store. The iPad hadn’t really died, it was just pretending, the smashed glass was lifting and not conducting so well so the screen was beginning to stop working. I decided to skip the folks who hadn’t rung me about the screen in 3 weeks and took it to another store. Yes, the fellow told me, he could fix it and would do so by that afternoon at 4.00pm (thank you Sod, who rules my life and knows the school run has me going past there at 3.30pm).

I left it and went to the gym for dodgy knee maintainance. That done it was home to find out what to do with Kojak. After about an hour surfing the internet which only told me that a trip to Norfolk was required – 30 miles away but probably at speeds of no faster than 30mph the whole distance on a good day. This was not doable in the time I had left if I wanted to present myself at the school on time to get McMini. In desperation I rang the Vet’s.

‘Bring him here,’ the told me.

So I captured Kojak, which took a bit more doing than I expected, because he’d perked up quite a bit, and carried him round to the Vet’s in a box.

kojak

Kojak in his box looking surprisingly perky

Kojak despatched to safer climes, I returned home, released the cat, cleared up the thermonuclear weapons-grade pooh he’d done in his earth box, washed up breakfast and even managed to write about 3 words before it was time to go collect McMini. We faffed about long enough to be able to visit the shop mending the iPad at 4.00 and discovered that the people who mended it last cocked it up and broke some stuff – including the wifi transmitter, which explains why it was so shit. So he would get the parts and call me when they were ready. (Does this sound familiar?).

Tuesday passed without incident – or contact from the iPad menders. Wednesday was visit-the-parents-day and the journey to and from Sussex was surprisingly smooth. Only a small stop at the Dartford Tunnel where I received a text to say that my iPad was ready for collection and arrived home just too late to be able to pick it up. I also discovered that I’ve driven my car through a hole somewhere, the tracking was out and I had therefore spunked an extra £15 worth of petrol on the trip on a smooth journey with no major delays – it having used the entire tank instead of the usual two thirds. Having a quick look round the car as it was parked at the pump I saw one front tyre was a little low. I drove over to the air line, which someone else arrived at just before me, of course, and while they did their air I opened the boot and rummaged about for my car’s handbook.

I found it, but I also found stern warnings about putting air in when the tyres are hot. The car must have been stationery for 3 hours minimum. Then, I must drive no more than 1 mile from cold and then check the air. I must not drive no miles. One mile it must be, two was too many and three was right out, one and only one mile must I drive etc.

Overjoyed that here was another bit of administrative shite I could piss my precious time away doing, ie go get the tracking done and the tyres balanced and do the sodding air, I felt a little deflated for a moment. Then I remembered. Never mind, at least something had gone according to plan. I was going to get my iPad back.

Now, when I go in my car to my parents, my fibit thinks that I am running up and down 300 flights of stairs and walking about 40,000 steps. It kind of buggers up the averages so I take it off and do it up round my bra strap, where, strangely, it ceases to log all non-existent activity. Clearly despite being jiggly, my jiggly bits are not as jiggly as … well … you know. You get the picture. This means I had taken it off and snapped it round my bra as I left Mum and Dad’s. As I approached the traffic lights at the end of the road ASDA is on, I’d remembered I must put it on again. By the time I pulled up at the ASDA petrol forecourt I had, of course, forgotten all about remembering.

While I was filling the tank the empty road outside ASDA filled up with traffic as the council offices emptied at 5.30 so I took my place among their 8,000 employees, most of whom seemed to be in cars, queuing for the lights. It took me 20 minutes to get home and I broke the good news about the iPad to McOther and had a lovely chat with McMini. I went upstairs to have a shower and put my pyjamas on before supper at 6.30. Then I looked at my fitbit. It wasn’t there.

I took a rain check on the shower. Instead I searched my car – even under the seats, a process which involves feats of contortion few humans, other than lotus owners, are capable of – and failed to find my fitbit there, either.

Arse.

I drove to ASDA. Was it there? Was it bollocks?

I asked at lost property, ‘No,’ the lady informed me. ‘If it hasn’t been found after half an hour it probably won’t be but pop in when you are here next week.’

I trudged back to the car park, cursing myself for being such a spacker.

When I got home McMini threw open his arms.

‘Mummy, I’m so sorry to hear about your fitbit, come and give me a hug so you will feel better.’

As I hugged him tight and looked over his head to the kindly face of McOther it did occur to me that every cloud has a silver lining.

Sometimes life feels like this ...

Sometimes my life feels as if it’s like this. Other times …

Welcome to my world.

… it’s more like this. Welcome to my world.

Wednesday night poor little McMini had another bad dream about the air raid siren. Who thought World War Two was a good topic to teach 8 year olds? Seriously? Nobody with an 8 year old kid, that’s for certain. He was so scared he was shaking, a couple of times his fear has been enough to make him throw up.

Thursday I went to the shop to pick up my iPad. I discovered that the shop didn’t open until 10.00 am. As I was on the way back from the school run this was a bit of a pain. So I went and did some shopping, did another knee improving session at the gym and went back to the store at 10.30. It was still closed. No note of explanation, according to the door and their website, it was working hours and should have been open it just … wasn’t. I texted the chap who had let me know the iPad was ready, asking what gives. He explained that his colleague would be there on Friday, definitely and we arranged a time for me to pick up my iPad. Disgruntled at schlepping up the hill for nothing I grumbled my way home. Oh well, at least it would be there the next day.

In the evening, I went to a skiing lesson. Yes, buggered knees aside, I thought I’d give it a go because McOther and McMini can do it and want us to go on a family skiing holiday. But I have to see if it’s physically possible first. Hence the lesson, the third of three, which started at 7.00pm. It’s in Ipswich, 30 minutes down the A14 … or not because it was blocked. The minor roads either side were gridlocked and it took me an hour and a half to get there. On the upside, I found out enough in advance to leave early and only be 15 minutes late.

This morning, Friday, I locked my keys in the house. It says a lot for the regularity with which I do this that I forgot to mention it until the last edit of this tirade, and that I was back in, picking them up and locking up properly in about 30 seconds, causing McMini to exclaim,

‘Mummy you are just the best burglar ever!’

Pshaw! M T blows casually on fingers. We weren’t even that late.

But that’s what I mean. Nothing, and I mean nothing goes according to plan. If a simple 10 minute phone call can turn into five hours of endless buttock numbing tedium it will. If something that should be straightforward and simple like, ‘please can I have this?’ is able to turn into five days of wrangling, begging and pleading, it does. Nine times out of ten it’s my own fault or because I’ve been a total dork and missed a deadline or some step that the normals take in their stride. What is going on? Is everyone else’s life like this or is it just mine? Maybe my people skills are crap. But really, what is so difficult about,

‘Can you fix my iPad.’
‘Yes, you can pick it up tommorow.’
Next day: ‘Hi I’ve come to pick up my iPad. I see your shop is actually open at the times the notice on the door says, and at the time I arranged to pick up my iPad and pay you money.’
‘It is, indeed, madam. That’s how the retail business is usually conducted.’

This morning I made sure I was doing something interesting in the time until the iPad repair shop opened, at 10.00. I had breakfast with a friend. Again, I gave the shop a bit of slack. Again, at 10.30 they were still closed. I sent a stinking text to the fixit man saying his colleagues were tossers (politely, obviously) and asking when was he next in. So I’ll be picking it up on Monday.

And in the middle of all this stupid shit, I’m trying to write a book. And I had two hours to work on it today. But I couldn’t. Because I’m too smecking cross. So I did another welter of overhanging admin and wrote this, instead. If I could give up writing, I would, but I need it. It’s like some horrible drugs habit. I’m a high functioning authorholic.

You see this is the problem.

My brain hates admin. It wants to concentrate on the important things in life like making shit up and … I dunno, listening to music, drawing, or the view, or the next joke. If I have loads of crap to remember to do it gets kind of fried. So if all the stuff I have to remember, like making bank transfers, checking cash, booking dental appointments, going to them, booking a slot to get my car’s tracking done – going to the post office to collect the parcel that some dickwad has sent me with £2.00 to pay because they didn’t put enough stamps on it, in case it’s important (it never is) – if all that total wanksputle starts to overwhelm my brain it just thinks, fuck this for a game of soldiers I’m off and then it buggers off somewhere, and I wish I knew where but I don’t. It just switches off.

And it switches everything off, including the important stuff that I’m interested in and actually want to remember, like that cunning plot twist I’d thought of for my book, or remembering to put my watch/fitbit back on, or forgetting that my iPad cover comes off and it drops out sometimes … onto the floor … and breaks.

And I end up giving myself even more administrivatative shit to sort out because I’ve forgotten deadlines, and then I end up getting even more pissed off and frustrated and angry that the majority of my span on this earth is going to be spent sorting out mindless shitty shite for me and others who can’t do it without my help. For the rest of my days. Oh yes, and in between all of that there’ll be lots and lots of chronic knee pain. The outlook for the rest of my life is incredibly bleak.

No wonder I need to escape.

And yet … for all that. I know I’m happy. Because it’s friends and family and the people around a person who make their world, not this shit. I just wish … well … that there was a little bit less of the shit sometimes or that occasionally, just once or twice, when I tried to do something, it went … OK it’s never going to go according to plan but maybe if it could just go wrong the way it does for normal people?

So there you go. Here’s a joke. You have to read it out loud though .. and to be honest its a bit crap

What do the Portugese do with their cars?

I told you it was crap.

On a final note, McMini had a Boy’s Brigade meeting tonight about a mile from our house so I drove there and then went to ASDA to do the tyre pressures on my car. You’d think I’d have managed that but no, it turns out that air, these days, costs 20p. And I left my wallet at home and I don’t have a 20p piece anyway. So although I’ll be in the right place in the right circumstances tonight, nothing can be done. (There’s no kiosk at ASDA so I can’t get change and no other garages who do have a kiosk nearby). Then, as I unlocked the door upon our arrival home, I somehow managed to bend the yale key. I unbent it and it works now but not before we had to go through the conservatory door because, initially, it didn’t. And so the madness continues …

Joy unbounded.

 

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A little light relief #jollyjapes #sillypictures

Things have been tough recently at home. Just trying to help my parents who are elderly and suffering from a fair bit of memory loss, sorting the care, trying to keep someone between them and the horrible folks who keep ringing them and duping them out of money. We are winning but it’s tough. So I have neglected my blog somewhat. My heart is too full to say much so I’ve not said anything.

Although on the upside I have been making quiet progress on my books, the Box Set of the K’Barthan Series is in final, final, edit and review copies have gone out to my fabulous Reading Ninja team. So until I have more information for you here are some pictures. A kind of trade test transmission*, if you like, only funnier.

It's Sean the sheep, it's Sean the sheep ... he even hangs around with those who ... actually I'm not sure who he hangs out with to look like this. He was Meditarranean chicken.

It’s Sean the sheep, it’s Sean the sheep … he even hangs around with those who do not … throw food away … ever. He was Meditarranean chicken. Two months ago. Gulp. It wasn’t my fridge.

McMini and I had haircuts last week, I swept up the cuttings and put them in the compost bin. Later when I opened it I found something that … well, check this out. Donald Trump’s ‘hair’ has escaped and is hiding out in our kitchen bin.

hairtoday2

 

I don't think he approves ...

I don’t think this guy approves of my jokes …

* only a tiny fraction of you will be old enough and British enough to know what this is, by my theory is that even if only one person will get the joke, it should be made!

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Lost: My marbles, reward for their safe return.

Yes, have you seen my marbles because I’d really like them back.

Seriously. D’you know how mad I’ve become? Last week I leant my bike against a wall and upset some woman who thought I’d leant it against her planters. As I had taken express care to mind the planters when leaning it there I felt really put upon when she leap out from behind a wall, in her slippers, and started having a go at me. Obviously, she’d had to wait 10 minutes or so while I bought eggs and plants and chatted to her neighbours.

Then as I was leaving, out she popped. She’d clearly been waiting there since my arrival, letting her anger build, getting more and more irate while she waited to ‘have a word’. Suffice to say it was so clear she was a) not in the right frame of mind to be polite and b) very possibly a bit of a troll. Yes the smart thing was NOT TO ENGAGE. But what did I do? I had to try and be conciliatory. So she had a go at me and then I went and answered back and that just made it worse – but I had the presence to walk away then, I suppose, so a partial success there.

IamGoingNutsWhen I got home, instead of forgetting about it, I found I couldn’t let it go. So I made her some please keep off the planters signs, really nice, polite ones. I encapsulated them, put them on posts so she could stick one in each planter, stuffed them in an envelope and posted them through her door with the envelope labelled: ‘life is too short for bad karma. These might help to reduce the number of cyclists who annoy you.’

I wasted two hours doing that. All because I had to let the crap go, for my own sanity preservation, and I couldn’t do it any other way. And worse, her nastiness left my brain so coddled that a few minutes afterwards, when I popped into a shop, I left my wallet behind. After wasting two hours on the miserable Mrs Mangle-alike (80s Neighbours joke there) I wasted another two looking high and low for my effing wallet until I worked out where it was, by which time it was school pick up time and I had to rush, via the shop. When I went back and asked, they had it! Wahoo! But it took ages for the sales girl to get it from upstairs.

20150402_120319So when it was returned to me £5 lighter, there wasn’t time to say anything. Anyway, £5 is not enough to complain about, not enough to conclusively prove – certainly not until I’d checked all my pockets, handbag etc first which I didn’t have time to do on the spot because I was going to be late for school pick up and get a bollocking from the school. Later I did check. It’s not there. Someone in the shop nicked it; either the person who handed it in, or one of the staff.

In my life as it normally stands, that’s an exceptionally crap day. By 2016 standards it’s quite a good one.

However, it doesn’t stop there, oh no. A new and worrying trait has cropped up. I seem to be turning into a nimby-magnet. Yes it seems that I’m a red rag to the kind of person who feels it’s in the civic interest to tell people off.

Let me explain …

TwoWayForBikesThe latest incident in a long line was this afternoon.

Yes, once again the cause of contention was the sign at the bottom of the lane in which McMini’s school is situated or at least, the apparent invisibility of this sign to motorists. Bridewell Lane is two way for bikes and one way for cars but the sign that states this is easy to see if you coming from one direction but regulars using it from the other tell me they hadn’t noticed it until I posted a picture of it on Facebook. So I won’t be as rude as I was going to be about my antagonist this time but …

Today, as we cycled down the road on our way home, a dark blue Skoda estate stopped and waited for us. I thanked him and as we went by and I noticed he had his window open his head leaning, ready to have a word.

Clearly my troll-dar was down because I suspected nothing at this point or I’d have been sensible and ridden straight past but I thought he was going to say something nice about my son, people often do, so I slowed up.

No. He turned out to be another observationally challenged spoon having a go about my riding the ‘wrong’ way down a ‘one way’ street.

So here we go again. At what seems like an appropriate pause in the conversation I attempt an interjection.

‘Did you look at the sign at the bottom?’ I am amazed by the calm in my voice. Booyacka! Go to the top of the anger management class and take an A star MT.

That’s when I realise he isn’t actually listening. He has not paused for more than that brief moment to draw breath. He has no interest in hearing what I have to say. I suspect this is because I might be able to justify my actions, leaving him with egg on his face. Instead, he is merely spewing words over me, a spiel he’s mentally prepared while waiting for me to arrive alongside his car, a lecture I am supposed to stand and listen to, without replying. A lecture at the end of which he can drive away feeling smug and self satisfied, knowing that he’s done his civic duty in protecting the populous from ghastly women on bikes with no respect for the law! Heaven forfend that there might be a reasonable explanation for my actions. Nothing I say can possibly have any value … and of course, if it was be reasonable and he might have to adjust his view or, heaven forfend, apologise for maligning me. So he’s certainly not expecting me to answer back. Speaking is not a luxury he has envisaged for me in this scenario.

He carries on, ‘This is a one way street.’

‘No it’s not,’ I say. The tone of my voice has risen a little, less of an A star for anger management now and more of a C minus. Oh dear. I mustn’t shout at him in front of the boy.

Never mind, after the last myopic angry man had a go I have taken a special picture of the sign on my phone, I can show him that, and he will see reason. Except that it is approximately one million keystrokes and 100 years of waiting to even activate the screen, let alone find the picture and show it to him. There will be no time to explain myself before his tirade is over and he closes the window and drives away.

Arse.

‘I hardly think it’s very clever to ride down a one way street the wrong way with a child,’ he is saying.

Yeh I’m sure you hardly think full stop mister because you’d be right if it actually was a one way street.

I am thinking that it’s very stupid to have a go at random strangers unless you are certain of the facts. Although, judging by my own experience over the last three months I appear to be in a minority with this view. I am also thinking that he’s on shaky ground criticising others quite so vehemently if he hasn’t actually read the sign. However, despite the C minus state of my anger management mechanisms, I manage not to say any of those things. A small personal victory to take away from this then.

He has finished and he drives off without giving me time to reply, just as I suspected he would, presumably with a feeling of smug self satisfaction at having struck a small blow for right thinking people everywhere.

But he hasn’t closed his window.

And before I can stop myself I shout:

‘Try reading the sign you blind bat!’ at a volume that would be the envy of fishwives everywhere.

Oh me.

I tell my son that it is very wrong to behave the way I just did in public, whatever the provocation.

A little bit of me dies, inside, every time I do this. But still I cannot stop myself. I still want to smooth things over, to explain. Why does it never dawn on me that these people are not seeking an explanation. They are not expecting any interaction. They are expecting to castigate me mightily for their own personal edification and then go home thinking something along the lines of, ‘hurrumph! That told her!’

Do. Not. Feed. The. Trolls.

Do. Not. Engage.

And yet I do. All the time.

I seem to have become a nimby-magnet and it’s turning me into a shouty nutter. Maybe I need anger management.

So, there it is, missing, one set of marbles: mine. If found please let me know. £5 reward for their safe return.

 

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