Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Call Me Rent A Crowd

I 've discovered an exiting new job opportunity!

Today, I shall begin phoning major retailers offering my services as 'Rent A Crowd'. It works like this:

The Job Description

I will walk into your empty premises. There won't be a customer to be seen. No purse or credit card waving citizen wil have darkened your doors for hours. I will browse the wide spaces of your aisles, the vast, uninhabited, savannahs between your shelves, looking for where you've hidden the item I came in for. Once I find it, and while I am debating the merits of the blue version over the green, I personally guarantee that: instantly, at least two people will materialize out of nowhere and stand in front of me, blocking my view of the shelves.
No matter. I will move off in search of a something else on my shopping list, only to discover the premises are now so crowded I am unable to move without being smacked by somebody's bag or basket, run into by a shopping trolley, or finding my way blocked by stationary shoppers who haven't seen each other for ten years and are intent on making up for lost time.

The Retailer Must Do His Part

Now, here's where you — the shopkeeper — can help. Should I make it to the next aisle, you must ensure that there is an abandoned metal cage full of cardboard boxes or products that do not belong in this part of the store, parked tight in to the shelves where the items  I wish to buy reside, blocking my view of and my access to those same items.

Your Benefits,  My Costs

With your shop now full to bursting with the foot-fall of an entire market town, I shall leave the premises — the sound of your tills ringing gaily in my ears — as empty handed as I arrived.

My charge for this service is ten (10) pounds sterling per visit which, I am sure you will agree, represents excellent value for money. If  you have any doubts about the efficacy of this method in raising your customer throughput and spend, let me re-assure you. It has worked unfailingly until now!

I reckon I can visit up to 10 shops per 8 hour working day, making me a nice little income of 100 pounds a day — which, unfortunately,  I may never get to  spend.

Friday, 11 November 2011

I'm Soo Good in Bed

Now that I have your attention, I must point out that this is not going to be a salacious account of my sex life. You'll find no reports of frenzied gyrations, no tales of nights of passion, no sweaty writhings here.

I'm sorry if I disappoint you, but what I'm referring to is how creative I can be between the sheets.

No. No. Really! What can you be thinking? This is a clean site.

 I'm talking about writing. About that creative germ. That idea that starts somewhere in the hind brain and, over a period of days, weeks, even years, worms its slow way forward into your consciousness. Here it explodes like an overripe seed pod scattering its contents into the forefront of your brain and, for me, this happens most often when I'm in bed. At night. In the dark. Just as I'm falling to sleep.

Unfortunately, it is a fragile thing. If it is still small it can be saved, relatively quickly and easily. But if it springs into my mind fully grown, fully formed, glorious in all its complexity, complete with street maps, dialogue and sub plots — then it is doomed. For there is no way on earth that my mind can retain the frail fullness of it before it dies and is gone. Sometimes forever.

File. Save?

Writing friends tell me they keep a notebook by the side of the bed for just such an eventuality. I find that the very act of fumbling for writing materials and switching the light on can kill the very thing I am trying to capture. By the time I am alert enough to take notes I've forgotten the smaller intricacies of the idea and, more often than not, the idea itself. It was about the gun wasn't it? How my sleuth found it? Or maybe how the killer got rid of it? I'm sure it involved the weapon being hidden in a blancmange in the fridge. Didn't it?

Yes, I write that kind of book.

In desperation, after losing my latest creative jewel, I bought a second hand dictaphone, a digital voice recorder. Now, instead of fumbling for pad and pen, I fumble with buttons in the dark, hoping my touch is true and I'm set to record and not delete. Then I mumble my deathless prose, my brilliant idea, my snappy, clever dialogue, my perfect ending — right into the bleeding pillow.

Engineering bofffin required. Apply within

What I need, I've decided, is a machine. It will have electrodes that I can attach to my forehead after I've got undressed, put my nightie on, pattered to the bathroom, gone through my nightly cleansing ritual to the strains of Keep Young and Beautiful, and finally retired to bed. There, warm and snug, with my mind roaming free in search of my muse, the machine will effortlessly record all my creative excess, my perfectly formed ramblings and store them. Then I can drift into sleep, happy in the knowledge that my nightly creation will be there for my excited retrieval in the morning.

So, all I want, all I'm asking for is an engineering genius with 22nd century technology to make it happen. And if he also happens to be young and handsome, I'm sure we could try it out together in bed.

Tsk, tsk. Shame on you.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Sign Up, Log In, Lose The Will To Live!

I've just done a quick mental inventory of all the various internet sites I belong to.  From Amazon to Yahoo, the number is about a hundred and that is probably well below average. Every single one of them has required me to sign up with my email address and a password. Which is OK, I suppose, unless you've got more than one email address. Or password.

The curse of internet security

For security reasons, we are told, it is better not to use the same password for all your sites — if the 'open sesame' to one site becomes known, then all the others — including your internet bank, your paypay account and the all-important Technophobes United membership — become vulnerable. For the same reasons  we shouldn't write down our passwords because, you know, if a burglar breaks in, the first thing he's going to steal will be the little book or diary you've stored all your personal doodahs in. Everybody knows that. Right?

Instead you should remember your passwords.

Hell's teeth! I can't even remember my own mobile phone number. Why should I?  I never call the bloody thing. So how can I be expected to remember a hundred different passwords and which email account they go with? What do these 'security' people thing I am?  A walking data retrieval system?

Time Wasting for Dummies?

Today I have lost close to four hours of my valuable time — time I could have spent writing or, at least, doing something more interesting, more life-enhancing — in simply trying to set up a link on this site to my book's page on Amazon. It should be simple enough, surely? Everyone else has one.
The problem is I set up the two accounts using different log-in details, so as I go backwards and forwards between them, I end up doing the sign in two-step.
Sign in
Log in
Sign out
Sign in
Sign out
Log out.

Aaargh! And do you see an interesting , shiny new sidebar to your right, giving you, the reader, an easy, one click option to view the details of my newly published book?  Do you 'eck as like.
So, for the moment, I'm just going to tell you that Chamaeleon: The Secret Spy, my fast-paced, exciting, fantasy adventure story for children aged 9 to 90 is available for you to look at by clicking (or copying and pasting) the link below. And I'm holding my breath that I don't have to sign out, in , out, and in again, in order to be able to do it!

Chamaeleon: in the UK

Chamaeleon: at

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Playing the Waiting Game

If I were to have a favourite prayer it would be, ' Oh Lord, give me patience — and give it me now'.

The cause of my current impatience is that I'm within an inch of being published at last.  Hurrah! My goal has always been to earn a living from my stories but if I'd known at the start how long I would have to wait to realise that goal, I might never have started in the first place. It has taken me four years to write Chamaeleon:The Secret Spy. Four long years of learning how to write, then writing, revising, re-writing, writing and editing. When at last I'd finished stripping it, jointing it and pulling it apart at the seams, there was a fair measure of relief mixed in with the elation. Finally, I had a completed story. I basked in the glow of being 'a writer' for several days before making the fatal error of telling people that Chamaeleon was done.

"When is it being published?"
"Have you got an agent yet?"
"When can I buy the book?"


With mounting horror, I realised I wasn't finished at all, was I?  I still had the long haul of finding an agent and a publisher in front of me. I still had to wait before I saw my baby in print. I devoured the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook looking for suitable agents. I read every website I could find about getting published. I learned everything I could about synopses, query letters and manuscript formats. I made lists and spreadsheets.

And for three months while I was doing this, I didn't write a single thing. The tales in my head were clamouring to be told but I ignored them. Not a word of them made it onto paper or screen, I was too busy scaring myself to death learning all the hoops I had to jump through just to find an agent — never mind the friendly publisher who would put me in Waterstone's. The chances of me ever becoming published were getting smaller by the day. By the end of those three months I felt so thoroughly depressed I decided to give it all up and find a job somewhere. If I couldn't stack my stories on bookshelves I might as well stack a similar thing in  a supermarket, right?

Wrong! Enter David Gaughran.

Call it serendipity, but I was lucky enough to discover David's excellent blog about self–publishing, three says later. This was it. I was going to publish Chamaeleon as an e-book. The wait was over.

Or not, as the case may be.

David's posts and his book Let's Get Digital told me I now needed an editor, a cover designer and a formatter.

If I'd had money at this point — instead of struggling along on a pittance — the next part of the long journey to be published, might have been quicker. As it was, after I'd paid my editor, had the file back and incorporated his suggestions and amendments, I had to wait while I saved enough money to pay the cover designer. Both the MS and the cover are now with the formatter. The whole process — editor, cover artist, formatter — will have taken a little over two months from start to finish. Whew!

Which isn't long to wait, really. Unless you're the impatient sort. Like me.

It will have taken nearly five years before Chamaelon:The Secret Spy is published. But soon, very soon, the waiting game will be over.

Sunday, 16 October 2011


My, how time flies! It hardly seems that long since I was preparing for last year's NaNoWriMo. I blogged about it then at:

For those of you who think I'm babbling (and who can blame you? I often do), National Novel Writing Month takes place every November and hundreds of thousands of people around the world join in — with the sole aim of writing a 50,000 word novel between the 1st and the 30th of the month.
There are many who sneer at NaNo, disdaining the amount of effort (and fun) involved. They see it merely as a waste of time, a dilettante's dabblings, a generator of crap. If you are going to write a novel, their argument goes, you would be better occupied spending your time in getting it right first time —not spending one month bashing out a load of drivel which you then either scrap completely or have to spend several more months,or even years, revising and editing.

Which rather misses the point.

Yes, you will write an awful lot of rubbish — even the founder of NaNoWriMo, Chris Baty, admits that — but you also learn something while you are doing it.

You learn:
  • How hard it can be to write 1667 words a day every day — which you must to reach the target of 50K words by November 30th. I normally average less than 1000 words a day.
  • The discipline needed to achieve the above, and discipline is what it's all about if you seriously intend being a writer and earning money from your work.
  • The benefit of having a plot — or at least an outline — before you start.
  • The perils of procrastination!
  • And that the support and encouragement you receive from fellow NaNoers is phenomenal. Last year I had writers in the UK, Australia, Sweden and Colorado all cheering me on over the finish line. Which gave me a nice warm feeling to accompany the delight of 'winning'.

Whatever the opinion of naysayers, and they are many, at the end of the month the chances are you will have a darn sight more than when you started. You will have something to add to and edit, something concrete, something more than the fuzzy idea for a story that you had before you started.

Last year I had an absolute blast writing 'The Crime Writers PA', scraping over the line with 50,131 words on November 29th. Without the impetus provided by NaNoWriMo, it took me until March 2011 to finish it and it stands now at some 78K words before editing. (What my editor, Harry Dewulf at Densewords Editing Services will make of it, is anyone's guess.)

This year I'm trying my hand again with 'Organized Murder' which will be the next in what, I hope, will become the CWPA series.

So, if you were always going to write that novel you feel is inside you one day, why not make that day November 1st 2011? You'll find the link below and I can assure you that you won't be on your own — last year there were close to 200,000 people world wide doing exactly the same thing.

Either way, wish me luck. If I surface from my keyboard for long enough, I'll try and keep you posted.


Monday, 1 August 2011

Daft headline of the week - 1

What delightful flights of fancy are conjured up every week by our local free newspaper. I imagine the reporter/editor/teaboy - all the same person, obviously, and probably a twenty-something  media studies graduate, ignorant of both syntax and spelling - sitting in his office on an industrial estate here in the heart of the shires, and praying for something exciting to happen. What else can explain this gem from last year:

'Leap frogging mayor bruises tomato'?

The local worthy was clearly not a vegetable lover. The mind boggles at what he might have done with a courgette.
Perhaps in anticipation of yesterday's round of the World Superbike Championship at Silverstone, last week's paper had this stunning page three headline:

'Dinner table in speed record attempt'.

 (I suppose I should be grateful for the absence of the usual page three 'big-breasted babe', featured in a certain national newspaper. Personally, I can well do without, 'Super, sexy Sharleen, 44-24-36'. And how can anyone have those measurements and still stay vertical?)

Sadly, I didn't read the accompanying story and can only hope there will be a follow-up. After all, if an item of local furniture sets the  world land-speed record, I think we should be told.

I can't wait for next week's edition.


Friday, 10 June 2011

Confessions of a serial procrastinator

I'm having one of those days where I can't seem to settle to anything. It isn't as though I don't have enough to do, it's more the need to just check out of the work hotel for a while.

I fancy a day pottering around the garden, tidying the flower beds, dead-heading the roses and re-potting the mint. Then I could attack the bramble that's coming through from the neighbour's garden and taking over the arbour. It is now so rampant, it needs to be given a short, sharp shock - preferably with a flame-thrower. I like this idea a lot, and the only thing stopping me going out immediately to the tool hire centre and coming home with a death-by-bonfire contrivance, is the realisation that it would also burn down my wooden arbour, the neighbour's fence, the neighbour's conifer and, with any luck, the neighbour's two-year old.
That would at least put paid to his mother's constant, half-hearted and futile attempts at discipline: "No, Josh. No, Josh, stop kicking your sister. Don't sit in the water feature, Josh. Ooh. I'll go and get you some dry trousers, Josh. Leave the cat alone, Josh. Put down that machete, Josh." All right, I made that last one up and I wouldn't seriously harm the child. I'd just prefer it if he lived somewhere else. Ulan Bator, for instance.

A quick look at the state of my finances, however, is enough to remind me that the garden will have to wait. As does an even quicker glance at the to-do list in my writing folder:

Complete first revision of 'The Crime Writer's PA', my full length whodunit.
Edit my first short story
Plot 'Organized Murder', the sequel to CWPA
Continue plotting and writing ' The Secret Behind the Red Door' my children's story
Write second short story

So much to do and no idea where to start.

I debate phoning my mother, that would pass an hour or so easily, if not painlessly, but l 'm trying to procrastinate not lose the will to live.

I could go for a walk but my shoes need heeling.

There are any number of things that a true, serial procrastinator might use to achieve their goal - I know, I've employed them all at one time or another. Anyway, I must get on with some work. I really should write something, anything, today.

Right after I've played this game of mah-jong

Monday, 6 June 2011

Why can't men . . .

. . . wash, wipe, and put away the dishes? If they can manage the first, why are they incapable of doing the rest, and vice versa? Why does it have to be either/or? Washing, wiping and putting away is ONE job, guys.

Why can't men wipe down the cooker. Or the work surface?

Why can't men put their own clothes in the laundry basket?

Why can't men go shopping without coming home with cheesecakes but no milk or toilet rolls? You know, the things they went out for.

Why can't men cook a simple meal without using every basin, pot, pan and utensil you possess? All of which need to be washed up later - see above. And why do they insist on preparing enough to feed an army, when there is only two of you?

Why do men mow the lawn but never clean the mower?

No doubt  you can come up with examples of your own - and I'd love to hear them.

I suppose, though, the biggest question of all is: why do we love them so?